Losing a pet is incredibly difficult and painful. Read more about what we have learned and how we have coped with losing our kitten to FIP.

Cleopatra “Cleo” April 1, 2016- September 6, 2016: A Month Called “September”

In Blog, Projects for our fury friends, Uncategorized by Megan Hodge25 Comments

Losing a pet is incredibly difficult and painful. Read more about what we have learned and how we have coped with losing our kitten to FIP.

“Grief is the last act of love we have to give to those we loved.  Where there is deep grief, there was great love.” -Unknown 

September feels like a strange month.  Partly because it has been both high and low all at once.  My brother and his fiancé are getting married, and we are overjoyed and excited to celebrate with them.  And, it has been low with going through the grieving process of losing our beloved kitten, Cleo.  Ian and I, both, feel numerous mixed emotions, and I am emotionally exhausted. We are very much looking forward to the wedding, and the time we will spend in Houston.  It’s going to be comforting being surrounded by people that love and care for us, while also celebrating a new union.  Although this month has been painful, it has also been quite beautiful.

Losing a pet is incredibly difficult and painful. Read more about what we have learned and how we have coped with losing our kitten to FIP.

It may sound strange, but there is beauty and renewal in the midst of loss.  That is not to make loss sound glamorized or easy.  It is on the complete opposite spectrum of easy.  Every day is a challenge, and learning how to cope with loss is one of the hardest things we all experience in life.  I see loss as bringing a sense of renewal because it can change perspectives.  Loss helps you see life differently, and for some it helps them celebrate life differently, live differently, and love differently.  Loss opens my eyes to new insights and perspectives.  It makes me realize how so very precious our time on this earth is, no matter how short or long it is.

Losing a pet is incredibly difficult and painful. Read more about what we have learned and how we have coped with losing our kitten to FIP.

Cleo’s time was too short, but she gave us all the time she could possibly give.  I will be the first to tell you that this loss has been devastating to our family.  In our family, our pets are members of the family.  While Cleo was with us in our home for a far too short 3 months, she impacted our lives more than we realized.  We loved and adored that kitten.  And, she was the absolute sweetest soul you would ever meet.  She even turned me, a die-hard dog person, into an instant cat person for life.

Losing a pet is incredibly difficult and painful. Read more about what we have learned and how we have coped with losing our kitten to FIP.

We lost Cleo to FIP.  For more information on this horrible viral disease or make a donation to aid in finding a cure, you can go to ZenByCat.  Peter Cohen created this non-profit to raise funds and awareness to help find a cure for FIP because, currently, there is no cure.  There is no way to save a cat who has FIP.  You can give them medication to make them feel comfortable and deal with symptoms as they come, but it is practically always fatal.  All we could do was make Cleo as comfortable as we possibly could, until it was her time to go.  And, that is exactly what we did.

We made the most of our final days together.  I wanted to do a final photo shoot, and I wanted it to be whimsical and beautiful.  I made myself a flower crown, and Cleo a collar corsage.  I thought it was the perfect way to capture her love for life, and her love for us.  There is a big part of me that wishes I took these photos sooner to capture her joyful spirit when she was feeling well, but I had no idea our time was so limited before that point.  She was a beautiful girl, with a beautiful soul, and a loving spirit.  She was also my first cat, and the first pet I have lost (outside of birds, but this loss was very different). I had no idea how much she impacted my life, and how much I cared for and loved her, until she was gone.  You can see past posts that have included photos of Cleo here, here, and here.

Losing a pet is incredibly difficult and painful. Read more about what we have learned and how we have coped with losing our kitten to FIP.

Lessons Learned from Losing Cleo

  1. There will never be quite enough time to spend with those we love.
    1. This was the hardest lesson for me to accept. It doesn’t matter how long or how short you have had with someone or something you love, the loss is painful no matter what, and it still feels like you needed more time to show your love.  This was extremely painful with having Cleo for only 3 months.  I felt robbed and cheated.  I wanted more time with her; I needed more time with her.  But, she truly gave us all the time she could possibly give.
  2. It doesn’t matter how small you are or how small you feel. You are more resilient than you realize. 
    1. Cleo was the most resilient little thing I have ever seen. The reality is she should not have lived as long as she did.  A few weeks after we brought her home, she became very sick.  It was a miracle she made it through her initial illness.  We thought she was in the clear to live a long, healthy life, but sadly this was not the case.  Even on the day we had to put her down, she spent the morning playing with me, wanting to jump around, and interact.  She fought until she could not walk anymore, and, even then, she was still trying to move and show me she was not going to go down without a fight.  She wanted to be present with me for as long as she could.
    2. I became stronger from losing Cleo. Ian was at work, and I had to be the one to drive her to the vet and take care of her in her final moments, until Ian met us there.  I didn’t fold under my emotions.  I realized that in extreme sadness and pain, I could still be strong, and do what needed to be done in order for Cleo to be comfortable and pain free. Losing a pet is incredibly difficult and painful. Read more about what we have learned and how we have coped with losing our kitten to FIP.
  3. What happens to us, does not define us.
    1. This was a huge reminder I have been needing for quite a while. Even though Cleo was sick, it was not something that defined her.  We still loved her the same even if she was healthy and well.  She proved to us that she was not allowing FIP to ruin her spirit and love for life.  She did not allow it to define her, change her behavior, or the way she interacted with us.  Cleo came at a time when I was dealing with past trauma, and there are so many days, I struggle to not allow those experiences to define who I am as a person.  Sometimes, it is easy to forget who we are and who we know ourselves to be when we experience something deeply painful.  Cleo’s life, reminded me to move forward with my life, and stop allowing the past to define my present.  I am stronger than what has happened to me, and it does not define who I am as a person. Losing a pet is incredibly difficult and painful. Read more about what we have learned and how we have coped with losing our kitten to FIP.
  4. Loss helps us evaluate who is important and what relationships are meaningful to us.
    1. We live in a world where it is easier to be inauthentic and fake, than it is to be authentic and genuine. As I have gotten older and lived life, I have learned that not all relationships or people are worth the time and energy to hold onto, particularly if that relationship is toxic and draining.  With the loss of Cleo, I saw who the people are that truly care about me.  They reached out to me, and did not shame me for being upset and heartbroken about losing a pet, or as I say “fur baby.”  I saw the people who cared for my health and well-being, and those who loved me unconditionally.  If anyone shames you for losing a pet, you do not need them in your life.  Loss is loss.  It doesn’t matter who or what it is, or how long or short your time with them was.  It is still deeply painful, and it takes time to go through the grieving process. The loss of Cleo reminded me that we all need genuine, authentic relationships in our lives. Losing a pet is incredibly difficult and painful. Read more about what we have learned and how we have coped with losing our kitten to FIP.
  5. Love does not know time.
    1. This the true beauty of love. I never realized how I could instantly love something, and how deeply that love could grow in a matter of moments.  When we found out Cleo had FIP, I was already devastated.  All I could do was hold her, cry, and tell her how much I loved her.  In those final days, I realized how deep my love for her had grown, and I realized the gravity that this loss would be for me.  She was my soul kitten.  My deepest sorrow is not getting to spend more time with her, hold her, and love on her even more. Losing a pet is incredibly difficult and painful. Read more about what we have learned and how we have coped with losing our kitten to FIP.

What I want to remember about Cleo:

With my grief, I have been completely caught off guard by an overwhelming fear that I will forget Cleo.  I am terrified of not remembering absolutely everything.  I have spent most of my days thinking through the day I met her, the day we brought her home, her favorite spots in the house, the way she would curl her tail all the way around her front paws when she sat down, and how she loved to sit on my cookbooks when I had them out. My only guess is that I feel this fear because we had her for such a short amount of time, and I longed for more time.  I also feel this sense of guilt and asking myself did I do enough for her, did I spend enough time with her, did I honor her as best I could, and could I have done more for her.  I know the answer to all these questions.  I did everything I could do for her, and I made the most of my short time with her.  But, it is difficult at times not to doubt.  Despite these fears, I know Cleo would want us to remember our fun times with her.

Losing a pet is incredibly difficult and painful. Read more about what we have learned and how we have coped with losing our kitten to FIP.

When we brought Cleo home, all she wanted to do was cuddle all day.  She was the ultimate lap cat.  And, every time you pet her, she would instantly purr.  We would call her our “purr machine.”  Even up until the final moments of her life, she kept purring when we pet her.

Cleo had a favorite spot in every room of our house, but she particularly loved the bathroom, for whatever reason.  Usually if I had run errands, I would come home to find her chilling in the sink or hanging out in our claw foot tub.  Then, she would meow until I turned on the water faucet for her, so she could drink.

Losing a pet is incredibly difficult and painful. Read more about what we have learned and how we have coped with losing our kitten to FIP.

Cleo also loved to help us cook.  She had to know what veggies we were chopping, and she made sure she smelled absolutely everything.  She mastered the art of begging from her 3 siblings.

Cleo was a fashionable girl, and we both shared the same love for leopard print.  I’ve posted many photos on Instagram, usually with her curled up on a certain leopard blanket.  That blanket was with her all the way to the end.

Losing a pet is incredibly difficult and painful. Read more about what we have learned and how we have coped with losing our kitten to FIP.

Cleo was extremely affectionate, and she loved nothing more than to be with us, soaking in all the time she could give to us.  She also refused to use her own water bowl, separate from the dogs.  Our guess is she wanted to be a part of everything, including sharing the same bowl our 3 dogs drink out of.  She loved her siblings, and her siblings loved her.

Now, I have numerous photos to keep her memory alive, including our final photo shoot together.  While it is still difficult to accept Cleo is gone, I take heart in knowing that she is no longer in pain, and she is in a better place now.  A piece of my heart went with her soul, and my heart has a hole that will never be completely filled… until it’s my time to go home as well.

Losing a pet is incredibly difficult and painful. Read more about what we have learned and how we have coped with losing our kitten to FIP.

To Cleo: You will always be our sweet baby.  You are unforgettable, and your love is something we will cherish in our hearts forever.  You inspired us to live life to the fullest with deep appreciation and love, enjoying every moment along the way no matter what life throws at us.  It was a true honor knowing a soul as beautiful as yours, and I am immensely grateful you came into our lives, even for a short time.  If for some reason God does not allow pets in heaven, I am certain He would make a grand exception for you.

“Sometimes the smallest things take up the most room in your heart.” –Winnie the Pooh

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  1. Lisa Lucik

    Your tribute was beautiful, and I am certain God allows pets in heaven. It just wouldn’t be heaven without them! I’m so sorry for your loss.

  2. Jill Coffey Kelley

    The tears are rolling down my face as I read this. Thank you for giving her so much love. I’m so glad your were her family tho her time was short. I know she experienced true love in her life. That’s all we could ever ask for. Her foster mom and I have both shed tears over passing. I truly hope more treatments become available to protect these beautiful darlings from FIP in the future. It comes as a thief in the night taking our precious babies and it so hard to loose them. We are sending Prayers to you and your family.
    Happy Paws Kitten Rescue

    1. Author
      Megan Hodge

      Jill, thank you so much for your kind words and prayers. I am thankful for you, the fosters at Happy Paws, and the work you are doing and have done to save so many cats and kittens and place them into good homes. We are so honored and grateful we had Cleo in our lives.

  3. PJ

    I know time doesn’t care sometimes. So sorry for your loss. Get another kitty to love when you are ready and let the kitty pick you.

  4. Sandra McGowan

    Love you Megan! This is so beautiful. You have such a wonderful gift of sharing words that describe heartfelt emotion. Thank you for your sweet spirit and love of life.

  5. Melissa Lassiter

    This is beautiful! I just lost my precious fur baby last Friday to FIP. I too had only had Meeko a short while. He changed my life. I miss him so much. These are the thoughts I’m feeling exactly. Prayers and hugs to you.

    1. Author
      Megan Hodge

      Melissa, thank you so much for sharing. I am very sad you have had to go through the same experience. I have no doubt Meeko was extraordinarily loved and cared for by you. I am sending my thoughts, prayers, and hugs to you as well.

  6. Claude Boutin

    Dear Megan,
    I am still crying after reading Cleo’s passing. I am so sorry for you! I know you very well I think after all these years, and I see that your heart has an extraordinary dimension for Love! Yes, I am still cruing when I write this. I think that with God, everything is possible and you will one day, be reunited with Cleo! Why not? We will just know..when we get there!
    I can tell that it has been a huge loss for you, and I am so sorry that it happened. Yes, you will have to forget with the time, maybe not completely, but it will not be as vivid as it is with a sudden separation.
    I know that it troubles you a lot, but you need now to turn the page as we all do when we heve to cope with adversity. God gave us that huge gift to HEAL with the time. So, you will accept this loss because there is nothing that could be done. Your love is genuine and since I know you, I knew you were like that. I told your Mom about it.
    I wish you and your family, the best for the years to come, and I will be praying for you every morning. You are now part of my daily praying list.
    Thank you for the feelings you have for life. It is also a gift from the Lord.
    Blessings to you and all your family.
    Claude Boutin

    1. Author
      Megan Hodge

      Mr. Boutin, thank you so very much. Your words mean the world to me, and thank you for your prayers. And, I agree. I think I will be reunited with Cleo one day too. 🙂 I wish you the best as well.

  7. Quincy Hodge

    Megan, thanks for sharing your heartfelt words, soothing to the soul. We fell in love with Cleo in the few short days wet were visiting you and Ian. Praying for you and the rest of the McDodge household.

  8. Sabrina McAllister

    I know this loss firsthand times two. We adopted two sibling kittens last June 2015. Diesel left us in January 2016 and his sister Bailey left us in July 2016. They both had FIP. It is truly a horrible disease. I miss them terribly but carry them in my heart. <3 Your photo shoot is beautiful.

    1. Author
      Megan Hodge

      Sabrina, my heart breaks for you. I cannot imagine going through this loss twice. I know Diesel and Bailey are watching over you. Thank you so much for sharing your experience with me. Sending love and hugs your way.

  9. Cat Warren

    Megan, thank you for this loving memories of your sweet Cleo. I am going through trauma of learning that my rescued kitties have FIP. I have been doing a small old dog and feral cat rescuing for over 30 years. Work had me move from California to Kentucky. I moved my rescue to Kentucky. I am attached to a 501 covered cat rescue and have been helping them by fostering and hand feeding mamas and kittens and orphan sweeties. My older rescued cat started swelling and having pain, so in we go for lab work. Molly popped hot for FIP and we lost her that day. I am just learning about FIP and trying to understand it and the devastation it does to the cat world. My Matilladaa is a dark Torti with “wonky” eyes and I have had her 1 1/2 years since hand feeding her from 3 days old. Her eyes, one was white and blind and the other had the retina detaching. Last week the white started bulging and scheduled her Monday for surgery. Dr. Davis looked at her and started doing xrays and blood testing to see what else was going on with her. She popped hot for FIP.I really considered putting her to sleep, but Matilladaa has quality time left. So they did surgery and removed the eye. She is loving, sweet, great appetite, and no other symptoms. I have 6 other cats and kittens at home, so we have a FIP positive home and we closed down on all other rescue efforts. I feel strength from your tribute to Cleo. I will give these kitties the best life for as long as they are able go. Cleo is watching over you and the family. One day all will be together again. Thank you

    1. Author
      Megan Hodge

      Cat, you are such an incredible, kind hearted person. I cannot imagine what you are going through. I admire your strength and the love you have shown to so many precious fur babies. I have been trying to research everything I can about FIP since we found out Cleo’s diagnosis, and I am still learning. It was also difficult deciding when it was best to have her put to sleep. The day we had her put down, I told Cleo in the morning to let me know when she was ready. FIP took her out that afternoon. I was in shock with how sudden everything happened. You will know when it is time. Thank you so much for sharing your story with me. I cannot tell you enough how much I admire you. Those sweet babies are receiving the best love and care from you, and I know all the animals you have fostered hold a special place in their hearts for you. Thank you so much for your kind words.

  10. Yvette Ferguson

    Megan, Beautifully written! We know the loss of precious fur babies, and I believe we will be reunited in heaven. Praying for you and Ian.

  11. Carol Walker

    Dear Lady, thank you. And thank your little Cleo. I know the road you walk. My Merlin Kitt’e left this earth the last morning of August 2002. I did not know the demon called FIP before our diagnosis. Oh, I had heard the letters whispered in the Vet’s office, but did not know that taking in an orphan kitten would eventually take eleven beautiful souls from our lives. I did not know the things that life and study have taught me. I greedily follow WINN Veterinary and Tuffs studies in the hope that therapies and cures will someday save pet parents like us from losing the little stars that shine so brightly in our lives. I would not give back one moment, not even the bad ones. These little souls love us unconditionally and teach us how to make the most of every sunray, every butterfly, and every quiet moment……..Again, Thank you and Bless all who love such splendid spirits.

    1. Author
      Megan Hodge

      Carol, thank you so much, and thank you for sharing. I’m so sad to hear how much loss you have had to experience with FIP as the culprit, but I know those sweet souls were immensely blessed by you. I love that you wouldn’t give back any moment with them. I feel the exact same about Cleo. Blessings to you as well. I hope one day we can live in a world without fear of FIP.

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