Monday, April 16, 2007

Nobody Gets Nine Lives Here

Pumpkin is sitting in the sun now, gazing quietly out the window. These last few days he's been gentle, friendly, almost like a normal cat.

Nothing like himself.

Nearly three hundred dollars in vet bills later, we still don't know what's wrong, beyond the side issue that he has a bladder infection and crystals in his urine. That is in spite of the fact that throughout his short life he has had food specially formulated to maintain a healthy urinary tract.

Now he has new "dissolution formula" food, and a course of antibiotics, which we might actually succeed in administering if he stays this quiet. Neither of these are likely to do anything about his vomiting. In fact, if he keeps vomiting, neither are likely to do anything at all.

It could be a foreign body - surely it could, seeing how he has always loved to chew on things (even though he has never bothered to chew his food at all) - but the vet was puzzled by the lack of any signs of internal bleeding other than the low platelet count. She said another possible explanation for that low count was a type of cancer.

Not again.

Marshmallow, the sweetest cat in the world, had cancer. Hers was obvious, as lumps on her belly, though we didn't notice them until she got sick with a sore throat and bladder infection. I didn't spend nearly as much on vet bills with her, even though she was much dearer to us. When the first round of antibiotics didn't clear up the infection, I decided I didn't want to struggle along, trying to keep her health up, knowing that the cancer was slowly killing her anyway.

She was a beautiful cat, short-haired, white with orange tips, just like a lightly toasted marshmallow; and her eyes were blue. Even more beautiful than all that, though, was her personality. She charmed everyone who encountered her. When Garth was away (which was a lot that winter, as he stayed several nights a week at his apartment near his work in Moosomin), she slept on our bed, curled softly against my ankles. She seemed to love everyone she met - even the vet.

I remember rushing out of there, the decision made; no, I didn't want to be with her at the end.

Pumpkin is so very different. He certainly cleared up any delusions I had about taking credit for Marshmallow's sweetness. He came to us younger, probably only a month old, instead of six weeks. Maybe the early separation from his mother and siblings made him incurably belligerent. At any rate, our influence didn't make him sweet.

He seems fond of people, in his own cold and prickly way. Once, during his first year with us, we had a large group of people over to try some music. I was astounded to see Pumpkin walk right into the middle of the circle and flop down on the floor, totally unconcerned with all these strangers. Some cats would have disappeared for hours after an invasion like that, but not him. If a person is in the house, he will come and lie down nearby. He won't rub up against them, and if they try to pet him, he will probably leave, or lay back his ears, or swat, or do all three in reverse order; but if they leave him alone, he will stay close.

What should I have done today? I agreed to his sedation and testing, partly just so they could give him the full checkup that he had never had. At his last two visits for vaccinations, they had to wrap him in towels because they couldn't stuff the blur of teeth and claws into a cat bag. This way he would get his checkup, and we would get some information to go on.

What should I do now? Keep his box clean, so we can tell whether he is passing anything - but if not, then what? Would I pay for surgery? Could we keep him comfortable while letting nature take its course? He doesn't seem to be in much pain now, but what if that changes? The decision with Marshmallow was wrenching, but there was almost no struggle; just a word to the waiting vet, and a quick turn out the examining room door.

And a bill.

Over the last year or so, I've had a growing sense that a housecat is an absurd luxury, at least the way we've been keeping this one. Sure, we live on the edge of town, right up against the old "brick ponds" with their rank grass providing lots of cover for mice and rats, so a cat is a nice protection against rodent damage. I've never seen any sign of rodents in the house, or even in the sheds, but the cat could be a deterrent. Then again, there are so many wild cats around the neighbourhood, I doubt that any rodent would survive the trek across the lawn. Anyway, when I think about ways we could live with less, spend less money, work less for money, and have more time to grow or make the things we need, one of the first unnecessary expenditures that comes to mind is the keeping of this cat.

I was the one who insisted on the expensive cat food. I'd seen too many neutered male cats spend their last hours in agony from urinary blockages. And now I find out he has crystals anyway.

I was the one who insisted on keeping him inside. I had read the studies about housecat predation on songbirds, and I didn't want to contribute to that. Of course, there are plenty of wild cats out there catching the songbirds anyway. Meanwhile, our cat has been eating expensive food instead of free mice; and out of boredom, he may have eaten a twist tie or something. He loves to play with twist ties. We take them away from him, but he comes up with new ones so quickly that Ruth suspects him of conjuring them out of thin air.

Right now, though, I don't know if he would even look at a twist tie. He has spent the whole day either curled in his carrier (his favourite daytime sleeping spot) or lying by the window, gazing outside. He hasn't kept any food down, and except for a single meow at lunch time, he hasn't asked for any.

If he would just quietly get quieter, I think I could let him go that way. If he should start to purr in pain - I don't know.


Granny said...

I don't know either. We always have cats and they're almost always strays who have wandered in and stayed.

Some leave again, some we find other homes for, some thrive, and some don't.

I can usually manage to spay them and feed them from a 20 lb sack of dry food but that's all the budget can stand.

It's not much but I tell myself they're better off with me and even if it's a short life, it's a happy one.

I hope your kitty recovers.

arcolaura said...

Thanks, Granny. He's clearly in pain this morning, but there are lots of birds outside the window and he seems content to be watching them.

My guess is he can't recover without surgery, and even that would be a big gamble, and then there is the unexplained urinary problem that we would likely have to manage on an ongoing basis.

I think I will take him back to the vet later today. This time I'll stay with him, and bring his body home so we all can return him to the earth.

Madcap said...

Sorry, Laura. I think you're right, though.

arcolaura said...

Thanks, mum.

Persephone said...

Just wanted to share our own experience with 2 of our male cats. They both had the same thing your cat had. The crystals are caused by hard cat food. There is not enough ash in hard cat food to dissolve the crystals. Your cat needed some wet food with at least 4% ash to dissolve the crystals. Your cat's urethra was blocked and he got uremic poisoning. A very painful way to go. It's a common problem with males. Not so much with females. Wet food should be fed on a daily basis.

arcolaura said...

Thanks for stopping by, Persephone. I still don't know for sure whether the crystals were the root of the problem, or a side effect after his system was thrown off by some sort of intestinal blockage or injury. It is disappointing (to say the least) to have this happen after I specifically asked for food that would prevent it. If we get another cat, I'll have to look into the wet food angle, but I really don't want another house pet. Not sure where cats fit into my future - I appreciate the rodent control, but not the bird predation, and a purely indoors cat seems just a luxury.

Persephone said...

I agree. Indoor cats are a pure luxury. Right now we have 3 that live indoors, 2 that go in and out and 2 that stay outside all the time. Talk about a madhouse. I'm really sorry about your cat. It's heartbreaking. Ours give us so much love that I know for sure that our lives would be poorer without them although our pocketbooks sure would be more full. LOL