It's good to see this thread today. My cat had cancer. Three days ago he died at home in my arms, and we buried him yesterday.
For almost ten years he was the picture of health, active, loving when we were ill, a little clown if we were sad. Only last summer, his behavior changed radically. He started coming up and trying to get my attention, more and more urgently, scratching and even biting me. After that, he stated to vomit. Cats who reach their teen years often throw up, but projectile vomiting is not normal. We took him to the vet, who X-rayed him and found GI cancer. He said it was incurable and that out cat would die in a month.
We took him to another vet who charged $800 for an ultrasound and said he could live another 20 months if I gave him prednisolone for a month and a chemo pill every three days, with Tramadol suspended in cod liver oil for pain.
The treatment was hell for us and agony for him. He wasn't getting better. He lost weight, stopped eating, and I had to beg our vet to at least give him something stronger than Tramadol for pain. They invited me to come to the clinic and learn how to inject a cat with something called Buprenorphine. A very nice person taught me how, and said she would send me home with two vials and a bag of syringes to get him through a couple of weeks.
While we waited for this prescription to be filled, I noticed another tech on duty talking in the back of the office in a low, surreptitious and clearly angry manner to the girl who had just helped me. After 20 minutes of arguing, the secretary brought out a bag filled with sterile needles, syringes, and vials with treat samples and such. The Buprenorphine cost us $131.
Imagine my surprise when I opened the bag and found they had sold us not two, but ONE 2/3 empty, used vial of this stuff. I had told them money was no object, but this was ridiculous. The bottle was unmarked and had fingerprints on it. It had no effect on my cat. The tech who showed me how to inject told me specifically that this medicie has a very bitter taste. When I saw that it wasn't helping my cat's pain, I put a drop in his mouth. He clearly didn't mind the taste, so I tasted a drop. It was WATER!!!
I immediately informed the clinic about this, but the vet never called me back. The person who answered the phone admitted that it was a used vial, but that was all she would say. By that point both my husband and I were suspicious that the pain meds at that clinic were being absorbed by humans, not cats.
So, our beloved, poor little guy who had been the light of our lives died. My husband called to let them know. A secretary sent us a form e-mail letter expressing sympathy. Obviously the vet was too busy (or worried about malpractice) to do so. Her name wasn't even on the letterhead.
Lesson: If your cat starts trying to get your attention in ways that he never has before, take him to the best vet available. Be aggressive about pain management. Our kitty tried so hard to tell us he was hurting long before we took him to be examined. I will never forget the look in his eyes when he was dying. This experience will haunt me for the rest of my life.