Josh Versus The Grim Reaper


Josh has had three death sentences since he arrived at The Duncan Home For Wayward Cats in March 2021.

First, he tested FeLV+, then in July 2021 he developed FIP, and now in Jan 2023 a deadly tumor in his chest and accumulated fluid in his chest are trying to suffocate him.

How much can one little guy be expected to overcome!?

Josh is FeLV+ and he also developed FIP. He completed FIP treatment and observation in December 2021 with excellent bloodwork and no symptoms. 

Then he began to be less interested in playing and his appetite decreased. He began sleeping much more than usual and then occasionally vomiting a little which he had never done before.

On 01/07 I noticed swelling in his jaw area which can be seen in this photo and I took him to the vet thinking he might have a dental issue that was causing his appetite loss and occasional vomiting. Also, his resting breathing rate was around 40 bpm and should be 15-30 bpm so it was time for a vet visit.

As always, Josh willingly climbed into his carrier and we were on our way. He is such a remarkable boy.

After his teeth were checked out by the vet and no dental issues were discovered, a sonogram revealed issues that needed x-rays for further inspection and I had to leave him at the vet for the x-rays.

The vet called me later that day and recommended not waking him from the x-ray sedation after they had extracted 120 ccs of sanguineous fluid from his chest. (It was not FIP fluid) 

Josh's 01/09/2023 x-ray is on the left and a normal x-ray is on the right.

Josh's x-ray
Click image for more of Josh's x-rays
Click image for more instructive x-rays.

The vet's interpretation of the x-ray which provided better insight into his condition than the sonogram, is that he had significant fluid accumulation in his chest  possibly originating from the large calcified mass occupying much of his chest cavity. Initially, the mass was assumed malignant, but two biopsies later it was not deemed cancerous (as of this writing). However, the mass is compressing his trachea and chest organs.

I had taken Josh to the vet thinking he might have a dental issue and need a tooth pulled only to discover he had life-threatening issues… again.

I had left him alone at the vet who was now calling me and recommending that he be euthanized.

At some point in our life, we will leave a friend or loved one for the last time without knowing it.

If I agreed, then when I left Josh at the vet would be the last time I ever saw him alive.  I would never see that remarkable boy alive again. I was NOT prepared for that.

I could not bear the thought of never seeing him again without having said goodbye. 

He is asleep on the vet's table right now and I am afraid that I may not be able to help him fight any longer.

Against the vet's recommendation, I am going to go pick him up and bring him home right now and then decide what to do, even if it means this is his last night. 

Josh is home with us now and the vet had drawn about 100 cc of fluid from his chest.

His resting/sleeping breathing rate is currently about 30 bpm which you can see in the video below.

Before fluid extraction, it was 40-43  bpm.

He has had one dose of pred at the time of this video and this post.

Does he look to you like he is ready to pass?

Other than mass size and compression of his trachea and chest organs, it does not seem to be affecting other blood or organ functions unless am I missing something.

His bloodwork and chemistry on 01/09 seem normal.

However, this mass may not be treatable or operable and continued fluid accumulation is almost certain, so it seems that suffocation may be the biggest threat to his life at this time.

A second vet opinion may be needed to determine that.

I am faced with deciding whether or not to help Josh continue to fight a third battle for his life by pursuing further treatment (possible chemo or surgery).

If I do not, then how can I justify euthanasia when he has no other detectable issues except lethargy and decreased appetite with the mass and fluid restricting his breathing?

The mass does not appear to have yet compromised other bodily functions according to his bloodwork.

I am really, really struggling with the euthanasia recommendation.

The last time I was responsible for authorizing a euthanization, (Dragon) I did not sleep well for a month and I still get sad just thinking about it.

For Josh to lose his life by my hand is a horrible, horrible thought and it haunts me while he is still alive, so I cannot imagine what it will do to me afterward. 


  • Praying for a miracle for Josh. And strength for you Phil. You’ve shouwn him so much love and have gone the extra mile for him. I can never thank you enough for giving all you have for him. —Judy Smith

  • I am so sorry, Phil…you are truly dedicated to providing , not just a safe place to live, but, the well-being and health of your cats. That is a horrible decision to have to make. This is just my opinion, but, if Josh is not in pain and he seems to not be…I would let him live out his days with you and be happy.
    I admire you for what you do for all those babies….I have 2 and my oldest will be 10 in May….he is my baby…he knows my voice and responds to me when I talk to him. My youngest is almost 3…I love them so much. Trust God…He will take care of them.

    Always, Sharon Collins

  • Phil…… I too struggled with that decision with my dear sweet Olive recently when we learned of her congestive heart failure issue. She was definitely uncomfortable as I am sure sweet Josh is as well. The problem is that cats hide their pain so well…… and difficulty breathing causes a depleted oxygen situation in their blood which can cause muscle cramps and other painful issues that you may never be aware of. I could not bear the thought of my sweet girl suffering another minute….as the constant buildup of fluid was making it hard for her to breath and was getting worse by the minute. I had to let her go……and even just this morning I had a dream that she was on my pillow again….. she was a little bitty thing just like she was when she was a kitten. She was looking at me purring so loudly. I woke up calling out her name and when I opened my eyes she was gone. I believe she was letting me know that I did the right thing.

    I pray you find peace with your decision. I know you will do the right thing.

    Gary Stewart

  • Phil….I so feel your love, and I KNOW THAT Josh does too. He wouldn’t have made it this long workout your devotion. I will pray for comfort and peace for you both. God give you the strength to do what you decide, but always believe YOU are their savior.

  • So sorry for you and Josh. I know our 6 fur babies might as well be my actual children. I love them dearly and cannot in good conscience give up on them as long as they have the will to keep fighting. For me, is the outcome worth fighting for. Will they benefit from the continued fighting or will it prolonged their suffering. As long as there is hope I cannot throw in the towel. But what ever decision you make Phil, I’m sure it will be the right one. Prayers for you and Josh.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Scroll to Top