I write this with the heaviest of hearts. On Tuesday May 22nd 2018 my vacation was unexpectedly cut short. We were not prepared for the news we were about to get from our pet sitter. Our beloved Tito was found passed away on our kitchen floor and his death is unknown.
Zack and I adopted our first pet, Ingrid, in fall of 2016. We had just moved to Denver May 2016 and I was committed to adopting a pet. We are both cat and dog lovers so cats, being the “easier” pet to care for especially when traveling (so we assumed) we were on the lookout.
I went the Denver Cat Co on Tennyson street to work. There they have 8-9 cats running (or hiding) and all of them are adoptable, well unless there is already an adoption pending. I had gone a couple of times alone and then I knew I had to bring Zack.
There was this tuxedo cat named Sylvester. He was about 5 years old and playful. I liked the idea of adopting an adult kitty because kittens always get scooped up, at least I thought they were preferred.
When Zack and I went on a Saturday early afternoon together, Sylvester was still there and so was a little 3 month old kitten named Ingrid.
She was snuggled up on a chair and I was petting her. She woke up and her curiosity took over and she began walking from the chair to the top of the table. She made a risky move extending herself forward with her hind legs on the back of the chair and her front paws on some books. Did she make it across?
Not quite. Her little kitten-ness got her into a little slip up, she stumbled because the weight of her teeny, tiny body made the books slide and she fell. She caught her self and was able to get back to all fours no problem.
Kittens are resilient.
I posted up at that seat she walked across and so by the time she brushed off her fall, she made her way back to the seat then up on the table and nestled right on my laptop.
She claimed me, right then and there.
I wrapped my arms around her, looked at Zack with big glassy eyes. I didn’t have to verbally let him know what my body language was already telling him: please let me take her home.
Sure enough, he was just as smitten for this kitten, only he insisted if we put in an application to adopt little Ingrid, that we have to take Sylvester home too. They would be siblings and play with each other and be the best of friends.
As I filled out the adoption papers for what would be my very first pet that I owned I got word that I was the first one to submit papers for her. She had only been there since that Thursday. Glad I made moves as soon as I did because unlike Ingrid who had no papers, Sylvester already was spoken for by 2 other people. I was the third one to submit adoption papers for him.
Applying and adopting a cat is not as easy as sign, seal deliver. There are screenings. You need too have references, and show you’re a good candidate. I feel like I shine pretty brightly on paper and I told elaborate stories about how I would create the dream life for my newly adopted kitty, Ingrid if I were lucky enough to take her home.
By the following Wednesday, I was back at the cat cafe with a brand new blue cat carrier. I was going to be Ingrid’s mom.
Life with a 3 month old kitten comes with plenty of kitten shenanigans. I have so many videos and pictures and endless memories of Ingrid running up our curtain,
running wildly across our comforter.
She practiced her hunting skills on my duvet-covered limbs.
She was acrobatic, doing 360’s and gainers off our bed.
She even played fetch.
Basically, what Im trying to show is that Ingrid had energy! How can I keep up with it? What was the best way to make that dream life for my cat come to fruition?
Well, if you know me , you know my favorite things in life is family & family dinners. Having siblings myself I know the bond is the best feeling in the world and it was decided. Ingrid was getting a brother.
The quest for Tito began.
So this may not be looked highly upon but when Zack and I decided we needed to extend our family and have a second cat, we wanted a boy. Okay, I especially wanted a boy. Call me crazy, but I was trying to mimic my own brothers and sister line up: girl, boy, boy, girl.
Since Ingrid was female, my next pet would be a male cat and I did want to adopt a kitten. The search began as the first one had on pet finder, and I knew the cat cafe was also just a 15 minute drive away.
I began looking in the search query of petfinder.com for ‘male’ + ‘kitten’ in Denver. It wasn’t as plentiful of a results page as I had thought. It was January and that’s a bit far from what is known as “kitten season”. But I knew when I saw the little kittle I wanted to meet that it would be an instant Yes.
But wait, why look for a cat online and then go adopt? Why not go to the adoption clinics themselves and find a kitty there. Simply put, I can’t make decisions if I’m caught up in the feels. Something needs to be objective to help me process.
Ingrid and I had an immediate connection at the cat cafe but that was a little different because she was the first pet. I wanted to make it easier on myself and by saying yes to a kitten beforehand, I knew it would make it easier to say no to other kittens. It would be so much more difficult to “choose” if I didn’t already know ahead of time.
Anyways, that was a long way of saying I knew what I wanted and wanted to follow a system. This system involved pet finder, screen shots, text messages to Zack while he was at work “look a this little dude”.
We ended up finally finding 3 adoptable kittens all in “Denver” 2 orange kittens and 1 black and white one, named Tito.
Did we want another orange kitty? Ingrid was the literal best so maybe the orange -cat genes also mean a great personality. But Tito was so cute with his little black nose and white gloves for paws. We were honestly just looking at pictures and names.
But then I thought, wait, I want a second kitty for Ingrid to have a brother. Do I want to separate 2 brothers so I could have a brother-sister cat duo? Immediately I was like nope, we’re submitting an application to adopt the little Tuxedo cat named Tito.
I got an email back almost immediately. This was great! That was when we found out that little Tito was actually in Oklahoma under foster care with the Miami Animal Alliance.Then I got pictures sent over of what he looked like when he was first found in the engine of a car and a few more of him from present day, playing and posing for pictures by his foster parents.
The Miami Animal Alliance in Oklahoma partners with a few denver area shelters so people who live in Denver can adopt some of the poor unfortunate strays of Oklahoma. Apparently OK has really poor pet regulations. They are not as on top of the animal birth control methods as other states, so there is an abundance of adoptable kitties and doggies.
The Miami Animal Alliance drives all of the pets who have been spoken for to a place in Aurora and there is this great big party to celebrate Gotcha Day!
Gotcha Day is the day most celebrated between parents and adopted pets because typical birth dates are unknown when you #adoptdontshop .
I went through the same screening process I did with Ingrid only I had to arrange for Zack to pick up little Tito on February 13th because I was in Florida. Wow, just realized how full circle that is. I was in Florida the day we brought Tito home and I was in Florida the day Tito died.
Back to the happier times, Zack was FaceTiming me from the event while he was looking for Tito. Miami Animal Alliance also had a facebook Live going on their facebook page to show all of the families taking home their new family members. Dogs were barking, cats were meowing. Tito was especially chatty.
When Zack was taking Tito into his arms to put him in the carrier, he was surely spooked by the commotion, which makes sense. Tito was no more than 4 pounds and had endured a long drive. But when Zack got the tiny tuxedo kitty in our cat carrier and into the car, he called me and let me know they were on their way home and would FaceTime when Ingrid and Tito met.
I have so many screen shots of that night. I will never forget sitting on my parents couch and taking screen shot after screen shot of both Tito and of Ingrid.
Per usual cat fashion, Ingrid was a little bit hesitant to this new feline friend. After all she had established her home base and so who is this guy to come in and start drinking from her water bowl and sleeping on her couch, playing with her toys?
It was not a violent interaction by any means but more so just a cautionary one.
I was on my way home by February 16th and couldn’t wait to see my two little loves snuggling. When I got home they still were not the best of buds but certainly not violent towards each other. It was very expected how they behaved, probably even better than expected because Ingrid is just such a lady, and Tito was just a playful little guy.
Days passed and I’m still a remote health coach so I worked from home, perfect scenario for new pet owners.
I will never forget the moment I saw my 2 cats laying, sleeping next to each other. I walked away from my desk and at my desk I had 2 separate chairs that I made into a little bench type seat by laying a blanket over both seats.
After getting up and leaving soft blanket accessible to both kitties, it didn’t take long at all for them to post up. I was enamored at the bond they were starting to form.
Pretty much from there on out they were best buds.
They would spoon and fit together like oppositely colored puzzle pieces. Ingrid was this gorgeous, orange sherbet colored female cat. Tito, was our little punk-y black and white kitten who was all snuggles and play! He never really had a “middle ground”.
The four of us had lived in our 1 bedroom apartment with our 2 kitties but not for very long. We moved a few blocks away into a new apartment, one that obviously allowed kitties.
I’ll admit though, we never actually told our apartment management that we had two kitties. I had to “sneak” Tito in. How did I do that?
It was quite easy, a actually! He was still a tiny thing and they knew about Ingrid. I brought Tito in first in the carrier while Pip stayed put in my car that was parked right in front of our new apartment building. I let him explore our new place while I went back downstairs and took Ingrid in on her leash and harness.
They were both champions of this move. As we loaded in the boxes of household items we had moved and collected since May (when we originally moved) the cats were just exploring away, sniffing the boxes, getting into the nooks and crannies of all the junk we had.
It took us about 3 full days to “settle in” and we had a blanketed area set up for the cats so they could have at least 1 full bed to lay on.
That was March of 2017. Zack and I were on apartment 2 with pet 2. Happy as could be and it was easy to find a pet sitter to pop in and check in on the kitties when we had traveled to San Francisco in October. Our good friend, Amy, who I met at the Denver Cat Cafe was my first pet sitter and honestly, can you think of a better fit? She was just as much of a cat lover as me and I trusted her to know how to take care of the cats and deal with the less desirable things like cleaning the litter box. I’m so grateful for Amy and her time spent with my kitties.
Still, with 2 cats, I worked remotely and I really loved the idea of fostering a dog.
Belinda came into our lives on 11/22/17. Less than 24 hours after our “Foster” relationship, Zack was like “we’re keeping her”. I had already known that I would keep her. She was gentle, didn’t go after my cats which was the biggest thing for me. My dog whenever I got one had to get along with my cats. My cats needed to feel safe and secure and with minimal disruption to the unit if and when we got a dog.
Well, since Belinda never showed any aggression and the cats, well they were acquainted, Belinda was adopted on officially that weekend.
Our family had grown to 5. Now adopting Belinda did mean that I broke the pattern I was after, the girl, boy, boy, girl because if it were the case our third pet would have been another boy and so I thought we would be adopting a boy dog. I even had some screen shots of potential doggos but Zack was a little bit more reserved about that decision. Belinda was an exception, a great, wonderful exception.
I was a 24 year old cat-lady, dog-mama living in a 1 bedroom apartment in Denver. I wasn’t surprised at all because I have always, always grown up with dogs and cats (a few hamsters, and a snake at one point too).
To be 24 and an owner of 3 pets is costly and takes strategic planning when traveling.
When we adopted Belinda, we already had plans to fly to Florida for New Years. We had arranged for my best friend Frankie, who lived in Aurora at the time, to pop in and take care of the kitties and we were going to have to board Belinda.
Frankie worked as a server so she got to visit our kitties later in the evening and we FaceTimed. My little kittles were well and fed. I couldn’t wait to get home. Belinda was also well and fed. She got along great with the dogs at the boarding place called Sparky’s! They have a live camera we can watch.
The live camera thing was such a good idea. I was adamant we got a nanny cam to keep an eye on the kitties when we traveled to Florida again in May,
The End Days.
Just a few weeks before our family vacation to Englewood, FL we had planned to make arrangements- get the cat sitter, book the week to board Belinda at Sparky’s.
Unfortunately, my best friend Frankie had moved. Amy was a busy bee studying nutrition and working, she wants to be an RD(!) and another cat-owning friend of mine was vacationing in Hawaii. But we did set up the Nanny cam!
It was important to me to find someone I trusted and knew what taking care of kitties was like to tend to my Ingrid & Tito. Honestly, its really not much work. Simply checking in, making sure they are still alive and topping of water and food bowls as needed and cleaning the litter box.
They say that you can leave cats with food and water for a week and they’ll be fine.
I wish that was ALWAYS the case. For my Tito, it was not.
We will never know how he died, but on Saturday May 19th at 5:30am, I said see ya later to my little Ingrid and Gooseman, that was one of our nicknames for Tito because he looked like a goose sometimes. I wish I knew it was goodbye to Goose.
That wasn’t the last time I saw Tito. We saw him on the camera on Sunday at sometime. He was laying on the grey blanket we have laid over the back of the couch. Usually Belinda sits there, so it was funny to see Tito take the spot.
That was the last time I saw him alive.
We had been checking the camera throughout the day Sunday and Monday and Tuesday. We saw Ingrid, but no Tito.
You got to know that cats like to hide out and knowing this not seeing him didn’t really worry me. Tito especially loved sleeping in the closet on some comforters. He had a perfect little nook. Sometimes he would sleep in an open storage box I had clothes in.
Once, I even found him sleeping underneath a blanket that was covering Zack’s old sub woofer. I just saw his foots. I was nervous when I saw that, but I in that moment was just being an anxious pet owner.
I’ll always remember the moments I asked Zack “When is Ryan getting to the apartment”. I didn’t want to be an anxious cat mom. My cats would be fine. At least, you know I thought. I remember vividly asking “what time will he be there , again?” And Zack said that Ryan had to run a quick errand after work then was visiting the cats. I vividly remember walking down he stairs of our vacation home thinking “that’s fine, honestly it’s just a couple more hours, my cats are fine”.
On Tuesday May 22 around 8:00pm EST 6:00pm MST I was watching dolphins and then a manatee just as the sun set behind the gulf. I saw the manatee take a breath, caught it on Instastory and then traveled along the beach to follow.
I wasn’t seeing him anymore. I turned my head to the left and in the near distant I saw Zack. He was on there phone.
Why is Zack on the phone?
Why is Zack standing away from his family?
Why is Zack on the phone ?
Why is his face like that?
What the fuck is going on?
A mother always knows.
I ran to Zack and in a moments breath he said “Tito died”
I crashed. Fell to my knees on the damp sand in shock and in panic. What the fuck what the fuck what the fuck. That was on repeat in between every 3 what the fucks was “My Tito!” I was crying but no tears would come out.
I think no tears came out in that moment because I was still trying to convince myself it’s not real. I was clinging to the possibility he was still alive and just needed emergency care.
I kept thinking and trying to convince myself that this isn’t real. This isn’t happening, and I cannot cry because then it will be real.
It was real.
I ran upstairs. Undeniably, I made a scene. I was panting, hugging my heart, saying over and over again, my Titterson, my Tito , what the fuck why .
But seriously, why?
We’ll never know why or how and that’s the worst part.
When Ryan found our Tito lying on the kitchen floor there were no obvious signs of anything.
Tito was lying in stillness. His claw was in he kitchen carpet but it was insignificant and could have been a post-mortem response. We got a picture sent to us. I will not show that.
There was a little poop on the floor, but no obvious blood.
Did he choke on something? Did Tito eat something poisonous and if he did could pip eat it to. You might be asking yourself that and believe me I keep asking myself that too, even after talking to the vet.
I’m writing this on the airplane right because obviously my vacation was completely done the moment I got the news that my little Titterson Leonard was gone forever and I never got to say goodbye.
Thankfully Ryan was such a helpful, amazing guy who made that awful phone call right away, laid Tito’s lifeless body in a carrier and drove him to our vet, Vida Vet Care on Warren. I called Vida Vet Care to tell them: “Hi my name is Monica, I am on vacation and my pet sitter just called and found my cat dead. He is coming to bring him there. Can you examine him, or maybe even revive him?”.
Revival was not even at all possible but I was still clinging onto that possibility, kind of like Tito’s claw was stuck into the thread of the carpet in that photo Ryan sent (which I am not showing). Tito had likely been dead hours based on his state of rigor mortis, the stiffness a body develops after the last moments of life.
My vet was kind enough to let me know of my options.
Unfortunately there are no real true signs that indicate how Tito died. Tito was an extremely healthy, normally behaving cat. He had no records or labs. I have major cat-mom guilt for not bringing him to the vet yet. But the vet assured me that the causes of acute death that could have been caused by a neurological or cardiac event would not have been detected by a wellness exam.
I had to process this clinically after hours of sobbing and yelling and cleaning my snot.
I got the vet on the phone and the 4 theories of causes of death in a young ( 18 month old) cat were this:
- Acute trauma, a fall of sorts. But this was unlikely because cats will always land on their feet and are just resilient. I immediately remembered when Ingrid fell.
- Urinary Obstruction- a male cat’s urethra is only millimeters wides. Urine can become concentrated and form micro crystals so small but even that could cause secondary inflammation and lead to complete obstruction and eventually kidney failure. This can happen in 24-48 hours. The only preceding sings would be a cat yowling in his litter, which we wouldn’t have been able to notice from a Nanny camera and possible little puddles of pee around the house, indicating that the cat was negatively associating litter box with pain, but the pain as so severe that only tiny puddles of pee would and could come out.
- Neuroligcal event like a stroke or a seizure.
- Cardiac event like a heart attack.
Options 3 and 4 would be unlikely in a cat Tito’s age but can happen. I read forums about ‘sudden death in cat’s that were just heartbreaking. Out of no where a cat can undergo a cardiac event. And the shitty thing is that something like that could have happened so suddenly even if Zack and I went out to dinner.
Option 1 was again so unlikely because there wasn’t any sign of obvious outward trauma and cats just don’t lose coordination. They are agile, athletic, and again resilient creatures. The highest vantage point was our fridge, which yeah, Tito could and has got up there before but for him to fall and be unable to stand up. Only an underlying issue would make him that susceptible to death by a 6 foot fall.
That leaves us with option 2- a urinary obstruction.
It fits the awkward time frame we have to work with, Sunday through Tuesday late afternoon. It’s something we would have been able to only correct if we heard him crying out uncomfortably and acted on immediately since from start to death can be as few as 24 hours. Its also a more common thing vets see especially in male cats because the urethra is so small. What causes micro crystals? The science isn’t clear.
People process emotions differently. I am very emotional, especially with my animals. The 1 way I can ever move through these extremely hard times is by becoming objective about a situation.
Talking to Dr. Vincel , she assured me that nothing I did or should have done would have prevented this. She told me that even she will leave herd cat for 3-4 days and then have someone check in on him. Leaving cats is pretty normal.
Zack’s mom is having a care taker watch their 3 cats. They ll go outside, the oldest one, Lu, is actually at his vet right now because of a possible infection from a wound.
I mention that just to say that cats get into shit and they fight back. Since I don’t and will never know what ended my amazing little Tito’s life, I need to find a way to cope and I just hope that whatever happened to him would have happened even if someone else was his mom.
Is that twisted to write or even think? I don’t know. I’m a wreck. I’ve cried so many hours and had a really shitty night of barely sleeping.
It was more like laying in my bed distraught that my cat was dead. gone. My worst imaginable, anxiety-provoking thought I can have when I leave my babies actually came to mother fucking fruition.
I’m the biggest animal lover I know. I come from a family of animal lovers. Its literally in my genetics to take care of and become family with dogs and cats.
Zack and I will need to find salvation as we spend the rest of our time off from work in our 1 bedroom apartment in denver with our now only 2 pets 1 cat and 1 dog. I am dreading having the conversation with them. Ingrid, I can’t believe I’m telling you this and you probably already know…
Your little brother is gone and I am so so sorry.
If you made it all the way to the end, thank you for your time. I will be okay . We will be okay. We have to be okay. Every single person who loses a loved one, human or animal has to be okay.
Life isn’t permanent and we can only spend the time we do have enjoying it and snuggling and hugging and laughing and making memories with our communities- the human and animals we meet, and especially the ones we make family.
I’ll miss my Titterson “Tito” Leonard. We are having his remains cremated and a mold made of his tiny little black bean toe paws. I’ll miss his little white gloves. And if you are wondering we had at least 11 total nicknames for him:
Crackman (because he slept in he crack of the couch cushions)
I’m going to close my computer now. With 2% battery it’s going to die soon. This I can see coming. I’ll spend the rest of my flight looking at an album of Tito pictures I made on my drive to the airport. All 480 photos and videos of him. I have even more in text messages with Zack.
Leaving you with these last few words:
Love your pets, never take them for granted.