Holly, May 18, 1996 – October 18, 2012

Holly had a couple really good days last weekend, but she had a serious coughing fit last Sunday night, and by Monday, her breathing had gotten pretty bad. On Tuesday, the vet drained some fluid from her chest, and her breathing got a little better — but it still wasn’t normal, and apparently her tumors had grown even more since the previous week. The vet increased her diuretic prescription (to help get rid of some of the fluid) but said that the remaining breathing problems were mostly caused by the solid masses, not by fluids.

I took most of the week off work. On Wednesday night, she seemed to rally. She’d been lying beside me on the couch, and then she did something that she’d done a thousand times before. She went into the bedroom, found Thunder lying on the bed, and meowed loudly. I came in and sat on the bed; Holly jumped up and walked over to Thunder, who proceeded to groom her thoroughly while she purred. It was the most normal moment we’d had since she’d gotten sick. Then she slept all night in her usual spot, curled up next to me.

On Thursday, she just seemed really exhausted. She did eat a couple times, but she spent most of the day either on my lap or right next to me, sleeping or just focusing on breathing. Thursday night, I had a vet come to the house and euthanize her.

Holly and Thunder in better days

I miss Holly’s purr, and I miss seeing her and Thunder play together. Thunder was pretty depressed that first night, but he seems to be doing okay and possibly even enjoying the extra attention I’m giving him. Every so often, though, he’ll go to a chair she spent a lot of her time on or to one of the cave-like cat beds I bought for her when she was sick and just sniff it thoroughly. They weren’t inseparable, but they were friends, and he’d lived with her since he was ten weeks old.


61 thoughts on “Goodbye

  1. theresa


    I’m glad that you and Holly and Thunder were all able to have this time dedicated to saying goodbye (which is just a series of hellos, if you think about it). It doesn’t make it any easier, and I know it was horrible to have to make that choice. Having made it myself before, I’ve learned from how you approached this moment, and hopefully will be able to use it next time I’m in that position. I’m sorry that Holly is gone. :-(

    1. Laura Post author

      Thanks, Theresa. I really feel like the Wednesday night snuggle-fest was the perfect goodbye. I actually don’t think cats have the concept of “goodbye”, but it turns out I’m perfectly capable of believing both those things at the same time.

    2. cindy hand

      It sounds like you gave Holly a lot of love and Thunder too. My cat Rufus has lung cancer for a year now. He has lasted a lot longer then the Vets said he would but, just over night he has gone from doing fairly well to bad. He has developed a lot of pain and can hardly walk. He will eat and purr and sit by me and his breathing is good. He has a tumor in one lung only but I am thinking the cancer must have moved to his bones because he hurts so much. Rufus is a very loving cat and loves to be carried around like a baby. The more attention you give him the more he wants. He will be 16 this April 3rd. But I don’t know if he will make it. If the pain doesn’t improve. I love him so much just like you loved your Holly. Thank you for your post on Holly and Thunder it helped to read it. I wish you and Thunder the best and rest in peace Holly. I am so sorry you lost Holly here on earth but know she is in Heaven safe and health and happy again and you will see her some day. Cindy H.

  2. Kitten Thunder's Girl

    Oh noes! I didn’t even know you were going through this. So sad.

    I lost Poco three years ago and, even though we have Obi because of her loss, I still miss her every day. We just have to take comfort that we loved them as much as we could while they were here. And that they had good endings that were also full of love.

    Purr therapy, coming to you long distance from my Thunders to you and yours.

  3. spilledinkguy

    Oh! I’m so terribly sorry to hear about Holly…
    I guess in my mind I had somehow convinced myself she was getting better (I mean… I knew she was very sick, but I guess… I don’t know… I just didn’t realize… somehow).
    I know it doesn’t help much, but at least Holly is no longer suffering…
    I’m very, very sorry, Laura…

    1. Laura Post author

      Thanks, SIG. Holly did seem to be feeling better for a while (even though the tumors were growing), and the vet was trying some drugs to try to slow the progress of the disease, so I was pretty hopeful — not that she’d recover, but that she’d have more time — most of the time I was posting here.

  4. kelly

    Wow. I just randomly found your Unlikely Explanations blog via the Blogess. I happened to see “My Depressing Cat Blog” in the sidebar and I thought, “Wow! Someone else who keeps a depressing cat blog!” As it turns out, you just said goodbye to your 16+ year old kitty just one week after I said goodbye to mine. I am so sorry for your loss.

    Thank you for posting, particularly, about “knowing” when it’s time — I really struggled with this as well. People say “You’ll just know!” but I always felt, “Really? How? When?” My darling Kaesea initially got sick over 3 years ago and people told me I should put him down then. Turns out, he had a lot of living left in him.

    My point? None, really. Just dropped in to say hello. Hope you’re doing okay — people say it gets easier. I look forward to that.

    (You can read all about Kaesea at his blog:

    1. Laura Post author

      Thanks. I’m so sorry about Kaesea. Looking at the pictures on your blog, it’s pretty easy to see that he knew that he was really and truly loved.

    1. Laura Post author

      I’m sorry. Give your current cats a hug for me (I don’t comment nearly as often as I should, but I love the cat pictures on your blog).

  5. joehoover

    Sorry to hear this Laura, and for the delay saying so, I only just noticed the blog. She’s gorgeous. I would be devasted if Lily got sick and the massive hole she would leave in my life.

    1. Laura Post author

      Thanks. She really was gorgeous — I wish I had more pictures of her, but she was actually pretty camera shy.

      Thunder misses her more than I expected — I always thought he was mostly indifferent towards her, but he’s needed a lot more attention since she’s been gone.

  6. Astrid

    I came across your post and my heart broke :(. 2 of my cats, sister and brother, died of lung cancer in 2010 and 2012 respectively. The experience was horrifying both times. It definitely was the hardest decision having to let them go, but also the easiest knowing how much pain they were in. I still miss them so much and so I know how hard this must have been for you. Sorry for your loss :(

      1. Anonymous

        just been told today that my darling miller has lung cancer he is 14. i am hesrtbroken and can’t make the decision. i go on holiday next week. he is still eating and loving. wish he could tell Me what to do

  7. Sue

    I just read your blog and am crying. I know how hard it is . . . I’ve lost a few cats over the years and now, just last night, I found out that my 16 year old “Audrey” (Maine Coon cat) has tumors in her lungs and I need to put her to sleep tomorrow, to end her suffering. It hurts so much to have to make the decision . . . thank you for sharing (I feel better knowing I’m not alone in this).

    1. JEC

      So sorry for your loss. We had to put our boy to sleep last week as he had lung cancer. He was obviously ill, but I still wonder if I did the right thing. His passing wasn’t peaceful and I do feel I let him down. As you say, it does help to know there are other people that understand the pain.

      1. Laura Post author

        I’m very sorry. I know you did your best for him, even if the ending wasn’t as peaceful as you’d hoped. Try not to get so caught up in the end of his life that you forget the rest of the time you had together.

      2. JEC

        Thank you. I’m hoping that in time I’ll be able to remember the good times we spent together. It’s really hard just now. We honestly believed we were making the best decision for him – and I still do believe he would have suffered if we’d let him go on – but the procedure at the vets was horrendous. It was rushed and the poor cat suffered. I’m going to make a formal complaint as soon as we have the ashes back and feel a bit stronger. I always thought vets could be trusted implicitly, but would now advise people to be very wary.

  8. Jon

    I just found your blog. First I’m sorry for your loss. I know how hard it is to make the decision to end a pets suffering. I had to have a 17 year old cat put down due to renal failure after a year of fluids.

    I have a 15 year old who has had a slowly growing tumor in a lung. Starting a few weeks ago she’s been looking for a lot of attention. She’s never really been a lap cat and so I think she may know that things are getting worse.

    Soon after she’s been coughing semi regularly. I’m really not sure what to expect with her. I assume she’ll cough more frequently and for longer periods of time. I’ll just have to make a judgement call at some point. The poor girl also has arthritis and kidney issues that have responded extremely well to fluids.

    1. Laura Post author

      I’m sorry to hear about your cat. I was lucky to have a vet who was patient enough to talk through all the different options and possibilities with me. Maybe yours can as well.

  9. Renee Ferguson

    Hello Laura

    My cat Kipsey has a large mass in one lung. I am afraid and worried that she will suffer. I am a nurse who lost a friend to cancer and I watched her suffer emotionally and physically. Only for the cancer to return in virulent manner. I do not want Kipsey to travel down this road with trauma. I have decided on palliative care. Kipsey is 10 years old; I found her in the alley and gave her a home with love. I have read online that cats with lung cancer, depending on the cancer cell type, typically live months to two years. Was that the case with you beloved cat?
    I try to be realistic and honest with my feelings. Not looking for false hopes. However, I want my Kipsey to be given the best medical care with love and comfort. Please any insight you could share would be helpful. Renee Ferguson

    1. Laura Post author

      I’m sorry to hear about Kipsey and about your friend. Holly only lived a few weeks after being diagnosed; however, her vet (an internal medicine specialist she was referred to after getting her diagnosis) said that it was an unusually fast-growing cancer. So there’s every reason to believe that Kipsey should have more time.

      My experience, both with Holly and with other cats, has been that veterinarians are generally very good at focusing on maintaining a cat’s quality of life when you tell them you want palliative care. I think all you can do is find a good vet, make sure they understand your priorities, and give your cat as much love and attention as you can each day. I wish you all the best.

  10. Ashley

    Thank you. Three days ago I found out that my cat had lung cancer & I had to let her go. I met her when she was first born, before her eyes were even open. I had 13 wonderful years with her, she was my little bundle of happiness. I’m having a very hard time right now but reading this has helped me a little.

  11. sbry21

    Thanks for this blog.

    Earlier today I had to say goodbye to my loving and loyal companion of the last ten years, Kelvin. Two days ago he was having difficulty breathing and we took him to the vet where after a radiological exam, he was found to have a mass in his left lung. After a day at the vet, he was stabilized and we were able to bring him home. Within a few hours of his return home, his breathing difficulties returned. By morning, there was absolutely no doubt about what he needed. We sat his cat carrier on the living room floor expecting a struggle to get him into it, but instead of a struggle, he climbed into the carrier on his own…

    I’m very greatful that he got to spend that last evening at home and I’m just as greatful that I found Holly’s story on this first evening that I will spend without him.

  12. steve

    Salem Midnight Barrett
    Salem was my best friend for almost 14 years. He passed away Monday January 27th, 2014 from cancer of the lungs and an enlarged kidney. He also had diabetes. He started to show signs of being ill on Christmas Day, but still managed to open his presents. Salem would greet me at the door when I got home and give me a big kiss and jump in my arms. He would squeeze me tight and I would carry him upstairs and tell him about my day and ask him about his. I would then get him some food, he loved to eat. Ham was his favorite and he got so excited when I would bring him some as a treat. On Thanksgiving, while the turkey was cooking, he would sit by the stove and wait for it to be done. He was always the first one in the family to jump on a chair and be ready to feast. Not a night went by that he didn’t want to snuggle or get his back scratched. Every morning, he would sit in the window and watch the sunrise. Salem had a brother name Astro who loved to play with him and took good care of him when he got sick. He also had two sisters, Luna and Nova who loved him so much and would get so excited when he walked aroung the hosue they would rub up against him and kiss him. They are all grieving for him now and miss him as much as the family does. Salem went on trips with us, would go for walks and playtime in the park. He would always stay by our side and never wonder off. He would sit in a car seat and take it all in as we drove. He is now with his sister Tippy who passed away in 2011. I hope that someday, there is a way we can all be together again and I can once again hold him in my arms and tell him one more time how much I loved him.

    — Steve, Lost without him

    1. Laura Post author

      I’m so sorry for your loss. Salem sounds like the kind of cat who just radiates love and joy. It also sounds like he had a very happy life and must have known how much you loved him.

      (Also, I’ve edited your comment a little to remove some text at the beginning that looked it was accidentally pasted in).

  13. Anonymous

    I’m sorry to hear about your loss Steve. I understand how painful it is. I hope you can find some peace in the knowledge that it was you who had the wonderful opportunity to be with Salem throughout his life & that no one else could have loved him more.

  14. andrea

    Is there any advise u can give me? My baby, Birdie, that is my cat who is 9 just was diagnosed with lung cancer. As u can imagine, I am beside myself. I have four cats, no children, and my animals are my children.
    She is having trouble breathing. This is what alerted me that there was a problem. She is still eating and drinking like crazy. She is still purring and loving all the extra love and attention. It has been a week since I first noticed the breathing. She has been to the vet three times. They gave her lasix. The third xray looked like it was improving, but I asked them to do blood work that day so we could tell if it was cancer or pneumonia.

    Unfortunately, it showed severe anemia, which pointed to cancer. They say they cannot see a specific tumor, but on xrays it can look just like fluid.

    Is there anything I can do to help her breath better? Will I know when it is time to put her to sleep? I’m a wreck. My heart is broke. If u have any advice at all that can help me help her, please email me @

    Thank u! I am very sorry about or loss. U can telll u gave or cat a good life filled with a lot of love.

    1. Anonymous

      I’m so sorry about Birdie. I lost my cat nearly a year ago. She was coughing for many months (diagnosed with asthma) before we learned that she actually had lung cancer. We learned the truth & had to let her go within a five hour window. She was happy, purring, eating until the very last day. I would say that she absolutely let me know when it was time. I completely understand your pain but please keep in mind that if Birdie is happy & eating then she’s probably not in pain right now. I believe the best thing you can do for her is to continue to be her loving friend & keep her happy. She is so lucky to have someone who loves her this much & you to have had the opportunity to be with her. Ashley

      1. Heather

        So glad to find this page. Glad to not feel so alone. I cry as I type this, as my heart is breaking. My beloved cat Harley was diagnosed with lung cancer this week after a chest X-ray. Aside from the coughing, he seems to be a happy, eating, purring kitty. He is purring at my side as I post this. Harley is the sweetest kitty ever, but he hates the vet! So I am leaning toward not taking him to a specialist and instead just doing what I can to keep him happy and purring for as long as possible. My question is to those who did go to the specialist, did you find that helpful? Did you feel it helped your kitty? Also how will I know when it is time to let him go? I want to love him to the very end, and make decisions based on his wellbeing, not for my selfish reasons.

        Thanks for the support! Heather

  15. steve

    Depending on the severity of the cancer, there are some drugs that you can get to give Harley that can prolong his life. For Salem, his cancer had spread too much that the drugs would not have helped and there was nothing they could do for him. But there are options out there for you to try. I just hope you have a good vet. The one I had for Salem diagnosed him with a cold, not cancer and it wasn’t until the day I had to say goodbye that they finally found he had cancer. Needless to say, I now have a new vet for his brothers and sisters and I am doing pro-active care for them including getting X-Rays to see what is going on internally.
    As long as Harley is eating and drinking and not suffering you can enjoy those days with him. When he stops eating or drinking it goes downhill fast and that is when you will know its time.

  16. Hazel

    I know it has been a few years since you lost Holly, but I wanted to thank you for sharing your story with her. I found your blog last week when I found out my own kitty Sidney had secondary tumors in her lungs and elsewhere. Reading your story was helpful to know I was not alone and helped me to realise I may not have as much time with her as I wanted.
    I got her as a senior just over a year ago and last week she was having lots of trouble breathing. When I took her to the hospital, I was expecting to find out she had heart failure (she had hyperthyroidism which commonly causes heart failure) only to find out she had a pleural effusion and tumors in her little lungs. I was extremely heartbroken but so thankful I’d taken her when I did or she wouldn’t have made it. I decided on palliative care and my regular vet prescribed her prednisone and she improved greatly but only for a few days until I noticed her breathing was faster and more laboured again and her tummy was getting swollen with fluid once more. So I made the decision to say goodbye and had a vet come to my house.
    That was a few days ago and I am still so heartbroken but the only comfort I get is from knowing that I made the right choice. It would have devastated me if she had suffocated/drowned to death by herself. I understand what you mean about cutting it a few days too early rather than too late…in the end that is what I chose. She was the sweetest little girl, greeted me at the door every day and followed me around the house and loved cuddles and sat on my lap for hours at a time.
    I’m so sorry you went through a similar experience, but I hope you can tell me it gets easier with time…

    1. Anonymous

      Hi Hazel,
      I’m so sorry to hear about Sidney. I hope you can find comfort not only in the fact that you made an important decision about when to let her go but also this – you chose to make bring her into your life, and to bring yourself into hers & love her. I have no doubt you made her so happy. I lost my girl (B.O.T. -“ball of terror”, pronounced like “Odie”, Garfield’s dog, but with a B) two years, a month & some days ago to lung cancer. Ripped my heart out but what helped, sort of, was the realization that she was loved as much as possible while she was here. That’s all we humans can do :-) Try to keep in mind over the next few days…you made Sidney’s life fun, secure, happy & when it came time to make the hardest decision – you did what was best for that little girl. I know it seems impossible but it will get easier. Ashley

      1. Hazel

        Hi Ashley,
        Oh my goodness, thank you so much for your kind words. You have no idea how much they helped me. You make a very good point, it does help a lot. Honestly, your message brought me to tears and helped me so much. I am sorry to hear about your B.O.T. she sounds like she was a beautiful little cat but I am so happy you, too, got to experience the joy of her love.

  17. Megan

    I know this is a few years old, but I wanted to thank you for taking the time to describe the journey, and the emphasis you put on quality of life. I just lost my beloved baby of 15 years to this yesterday and am just heartbroken, even knowing we did the right thing. Thank you.

  18. Vicki

    I love that people have come here years after Holly. People are still seeking solace or help with a decision. At the moment my gorgeous boy, Ajax, and I are enjoying our last days together. He has lung cancer. I just can’t let him go but I know it’s better for him if I do. He is still eating, drinking and spending some time outdoors. He has a short wander around the garden before he gets tired and lays in his bed under our verandah. It’s spring here in Melbourne (although it is a little cool for November) so he enjoys the sunshine streaming through the verandah roof. He purrs as he always does when I brush him. So I tell myself that his quality of life is still good and that it’s not time. But his breathing is not easy, and he is mostly tired, even though he has managed to jump on my bed the last two nights. He is super fussy with food, more than he used to be, and he is on diuretics to drain fluid from his lungs. He is on gabapentin for pain, not just in case of cancer pain, but because we stopped his arthritis med (metacam) due to his kidney enzymes. It all seems to be working, and to be honest the gabapentin seems to do wonders for his arthritis. And then I read Laura’s blog, and somewhere I read that it was time to let go… she was just tired. And I look at my boy and I see he is tired too. We have been battling this for many months, he has seen specialists, had surgery to remove primary lung tumours months ago. The surgeon said 6 months without chemo, 12 months with chemo. Ajax’s specialist said cats don’t suffer like people on chemo. Everything I read said the same. He had his first chemo 5 weeks ago. He showed no side effects. Everything seemed good. But last week’s ultrasound showed that the chemo didn’t work at all. The cancer was so aggressive it had spread quickly. They said further chemo was not advised as it won’t do a thing for the cancer, and his kidneys wouldn’t fair well. So now it’s palliative care. He seems to be doing his normal things, but I think he has had enough. The whole family is sad. I have cried and begged for this not to be real. I asked Ajax to hold on till his 15th birthday in late January, but he can’t. We lost our german shepherd cross to a stroke 5 years ago, I’m still not over it. I’m going to lay Ajax next to him in the flower bed. And then I’ll have to give lots of extra attention to Ajax’s brother (and litter mate) Atlas, who has been with him since the day they were born.
    Megan, I see you lost your little one only a few weeks ago, I hope you’re feeling a little better. And I’d like to thank Laura for the blog, and everyone who left their comments. Reading other people’s stories has helped. I’m going to let Ajax go and rest in the next few days. I know he’s had enough.

    1. Vicki

      As an update:
      Ajax was put to sleep on November 28th, 2016. He was failing those last few days. I was with him till the end. Most of the family couldn’t bare to come to the vet. My dad came to the vet but was too worried and had to leave the room beforehand. But i really wanted to be there. I wanted Ajax to know I was with him, holding him. I haven’t been able to come back here till now, 6 months later. I still cry every day, some days more, some days less. I have his brother Atlas to remind me of our daily routines, and it aches that Ajax isn’t here. I go out to the garden every night and say goodnight to him and the dog we lost in 2010. And I cry. Fortunately I have supportive family & friends, all with much loved pets, who understand the grief I have for Ajax. I always hoped, almost believed, our cats could live to 18 or 20. Their dying was always far in the future. Now it feels so real. And so I worry more about Atlas. (That’s why he gets even more hugs & kisses than he used to, much to his annoyance.)
      Right now it doesn’t seem as though I’ll ever stop crying, and thinking of Ajax every day, and at the moment I don’t really want to.

  19. Megan

    Vicki, I’m so sorry to hear Ajax isn’t doing well. So many hugs and love to you and him and his brother Atlas. There is no easy or right answer. It’s truly one day at a time, up to and after they leave us. It’s been a couple of weeks for me, some days are better than others, overall I am still heartbroken and still look for him in every corner, and still think I see him in the house behind a chair or the couch. He visits me in my dreams at night, and I miss him so much. Today is Thanksgiving, when we’re supposed to be grateful for all we have, and all I feel is loss and emptiness on a day where I usually get accosted for turkey leftovers by two yowling cats. I am so grateful for my healthy girl but miss my boy so much, there are no words.

  20. Keisha

    Thank you for sharing your experience, Laura, and for leaving your blog up after so long. It’s a small comfort to understand one another. My husband’s 17 year old cat got an x-ray today because he’s been coughing. Turns out he has a large lung tumour. He seems otherwise ok, for now. I know my husband and I both hope to choose the right time to say goodbye.

  21. Amy

    Thank you so much for sharing this. My 17 yr old ginger girl Astra was diagnosed with lung cancer 2 months ago and I’ve been worried every day since if she’s in pain and if I should get her euthanised. But I know now she’s still got a long way to go…her auto-purr still activates when I go near her or talk to her :) xx

  22. Eli

    Considering this is 6 years old, doubt you’ll see this. Thank you for writing this. Someone is coming tonight to help my Obie pass over. I didn’t know he was so sick. I took him to the vet and he had a massive cancerous tumor and fluid in his lungs, Dr. Thought it would be a few days at best and wanted to euthanized him right there. It’s very hard on me because he’s my best friend cat. I decided to take him home and I’ve been talking to him and petting him. I’m so very sad and heart broken.

    1. Steve

      I can feel your pain as I have lived it. Lost my best friend quickly to cancer in 2014. All I can say is let him know he is loved and enjoy all the minutes you can together.


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