My Sick Kitty

Katie, the older of my two cats, is sick and I think she’s dying. I had sort of noticed that she was losing weight for some time. Back at the end of June, I went to Costa Rica for nine days. When I got back, its as obvious she had lost a fair amount of weight. Even though my friend Justin was stopping in to feed them and play with them, I figured she didn’t eat much while I was away. (I’ve noticed in the past that if I go away for a day or two, they don’t really eat until I get back.)

Katie’s sick

Katie on top of my old computer

I took her to the vet to see about her weight loss and for a regular visit. She had gone from 9+ pounds to 6+ pounds in 2 years. She still had a great appetite, was playful when I got the laser pointer out, purred the second I touched her, and seemed generally happy. The vet couldn’t find anything wrong with her, but did some bloodwork. While the results of the bloodwork were back in a few days, it took another week for the vet at CityPaws (14th and Swann Streets) to return any of the three voicemails, or two messages I left with staff. I was pissed and about 1 call away from filing a complaint with the veterinarian licensing board. The bloodwork was fine.

She said that it could still be cancer, but might be an inflammatory bowel disease. She recommended two pills and a special, non-allergenic, diet. Neither was a big hit with Katie. She may look weak, but when you hold her down and try to pry her mouth open to shove a pill in it, she can put up quite a fight. When I tried hiding it in her wet food, she’d either eat around the pill, or ignore the whole thing if I had crushed it. Neither cat would eat the special food. Since it cost $55 a case for the wet version, I’m glad they had a money-back guarantee.

So, I figured that wasn’t going to work. If she’s dying, I don’t want her last days/weeks/months to involve me holding her down every day and shoving pills down her throat. It was traumatic for both of us. I decided I’d get a lot more liberal with the wet food (which used to be only a special treat) and just try to fatten her up and keep her happy. I did figure out that I can dissolve one of the two pills in the wet food juice and she’ll eat that, although they often switch bowls, so Alex is probably eating as much of the medicine as Katie is.

Katie seemed to be doing well for a while. She was a little weak; I’d see her hesitate before jumping onto the couch. But, she seemed to be doing ok, holding steady.

Katie surfing the web

Katie surfing the web

But this last week, she’s been getting visibly more frail. She won’t jump up on the couch or the bed, at all. If I lift her up, she is still affectionate and happy, but if she walks near the edge, she’s likely to fall off. Two nights ago, I heard her fall off the bed, so I haven’t put her up there at all. At times, she stumbles when she’s walking. Her legs seem to get tangled up and trip her. She can only turn to the left and at times appears to not be able to see well. This morning, she stepped in her wet food, but then couldn’t seem to find the bowl, until I rattled it against the floor.

Katie’s history

Katie with one of her toys

I’ve had her for about 10 years, and she was 1-2 years old when I got her. She’s always been a sweetheart of a cat. I got her at a pet adoption day that was held at Petco in Pittsburgh. She was the third cat I played with. When they brought her into the little room, she immediately jumped up on the bench, laid down beside me, and started purring. I knew instantly I was going to take her home.

Most young cats like to tear around the house and destroy things. (Alex! Stop that!) Not Katie. She would go to bed with me, and sleep the entire night, only getting up to move if turned over. Even when I got Alex a few years later, who bullies her, Katie remained a sweetheart. She would walk up to Alex and try to rub noses. It usually ended in hissing and a fight.

What next?

Despite the fact that I made Katie and Alex both promise that they’d never die, I think Katie’s dying. It’s very sad. If I think about it too directly, I can feel myself tearing up.

She still seems happy. When I pick her up, she purrs almost instantly. She spends the night sleeping next to the bed and follows me around the apartment constantly. She’s moving more slowly, and at times stumbles and falls. I got the laser pointer out yesterday, and she tried to chase it, but seemed to have trouble seeing it. She’s grown old gracefully and stoically. She doesn’t seem to be bothered by the fact that she can’t do many of the things she used to.

I’m hoping that when it’s her time, she goes to sleep and just doesn’t wake up. I don’t want to have to take her to the vet to have her put to sleep. She’s terrified of the pet carrier, and

Alex humoring me by wearing a hat

Alex humoring me by wearing a hat

the vet’s office. I don’t want her last memories to be of fear. And on a more selfish note, I don’t think I can sit there and hold her and tell her how much I love her, while they put her to sleep. I can barely even write about it. It’s hard to see the screen with tears rolling down my face.

I guess that I’ll have to do it, if she gets to the point where she looks like she’s in pain. Until then, I guess I’ll just pick her up and pet her as much as I can. I’m also trying to get Alex to be nicer to her. For a few weeks, she was nicer, even going up and licking Katie’s face while she slept. But lately, Alex has been back to her bullying, hitting or bitting Katie when she walks by.

Sometimes I wonder why we even bother to have pets if they’re going to get old and die. And apparently, cats lie, so don’t believe them when they make a promise to you.

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7 responses

  1. dear shawn…i am really sad to hear about katie’s progress. you can never assume a cat has cancer just because her blood test did not show anything. I recommend you take katie to another vet or a second opinion. Cats are very good at hiding their pain and can also purr when they are in pain. She may need palliative care or may indeed have a treatable condition. I don’t want to give you false hope but I strongly recommend you get her reassessed. Goodluck.

    1. Thanks, Rayya. I wasn’t sure there was anything a vet could do, if she was already comfortable. I didn’t know cats can purr when they’re in pain. I’m definitely going to try to get her in at a different vet this week.

  2. Shawn,
    I am going through the exact same thing right now with my beautiful boy Rocky. I have had Rocky for 10 years. He is somewhere around 12-years-old and I rescued him from a shelter in Alexandria in 2001. Three weeks ago I notice he was losing weight, drinking a whole bowl of water in a day and urinating about 3x’s as much. Yep…he is diabetic. My mammoth maine coon had gone from roughly 19 lbs last year to 15.7 (19 lbs is normal for a male maine coon). So know he has to get two shots a day and I hate doing it. I just had him back to the vet yesterday and he isn’t getting better yet. So we have up’d the dose of insulin and we are playing a wait and see game. He still purrs loud and proud, he eats like it’s his job, but he just isn’t as playful. He is also EXTREMELY arthritic, so that can also account for his lack of “jumping” skills.
    I agree with your vet friend above…definitely get a second opinion because it sounds like she is having some neurological issues, but those may be attributed to diabetes. Older cats tend to be more apt to spontaneously become diabetic, so it could be worth another pet visit. If you are willing to make the drive with her, I HIGHLY recommend the Cat Clinic in Kingstowne, VA. They whole staff is amazing. Please keep me informed as to how Katie is doing. I am moving back to the area over Labor Day weekend, so hopefully we can meet up for drinks sometime. You are not alone in the pain you feel…know that…I feel it at least twice a day as I shove a needle of insulin into my beautiful boy’s back. My thoughts are with you!

    1. Thanks for the thoughts. The original thought was she was either diabetic or hyperthyroid, both of which would have been treatable, but her bloodwork for both was normal. I really don’t think she has cancer, as she has a great appetite. Every time I’m in the kitchen, she’s underfoot begging for food. As a person-doctor, I think she may have had strokes. If I saw a patient with poor eyesight, and difficulty walking, I’d think stroke. Don’t know if there’s anything to do about that. But, definitely want to make sure she’s comfortable and not in pain. Overall, if she’s happy until the end, I’ll be ok. It’s all a part of life. Sad, but a part of life.

  3. Hey big brother, I am really sorry to hear about Katie….you are right, she is a big sweetheart!!! The few times we got to visit you she was a really great cat while we were there. I know how you feel about the vet and putting them to sleep…..when dad and I took Rascal, that was the hardest night of my life……my work on the ambulance doesn’t even get to me as bad as that did(and we see some really nasty stuff!!)….call if you need anything….i wish i could give you some great words of wisdom, but you are right, this is an unfortunate part of owning a pet….they are family and a very important part of your life….Love ya!

  4. Oh now I am crying too 😦

    When my Cindy had cancer, and she could already not get around well because of her arthritis, it was the hardest thing ever. I spent every weekend at home for months. If it is time you will know. For the most part she had a good appetite, things still made her happy, had good days and bad. But then one day she couldn’t walk up the stairs to my apartment, stumbled, and just looked at me for help. It was so hard but it was clear to me.

    Someone recommended we go to a vet who also had a holistic approach. She was still a real vet – but she wasn’t going to suggest extraordinary measures for a doberman that was probably 15 years old and well, well past the average life span for a doberman.

    I hope you find a caring vet who can help! I am so sorry to hear she is slowing. Our pets are never here long enough.

  5. I am crying reading this. You know we have been there so many times. Yes, cats lie and try to make us feel better when they know they are going. I tried the foods, pills, etc., too. I waited too long with Minnie, but she was doing the same – purring, lying beside me, sending me those adoring looks, etc. I think it is us who have trouble with the goodbyes. I finally took Minnie to the vet after spending a night sleeping on the floor with her in the guest room and she was down to < 5 pounds. She hated riding in the car and going to the vets. She usually got sick along the way. She was so frail by then that she did not do that even though I held her on my lap instead of using the carrier. I held her while the vet "put her to sleep", and Ken drove us, trying to see the road through his tears. She is buried with Lucy and Rocky, her best friend who died 5 months before. I am thinking of you & Katie, Shawn.

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