I took the cats to the vet this week for their annual check-ups. Two kitties are doing well; the third is not. He's lost weight; he's got a heart murmur; he's coughing; he has fluid in his lungs; his kidneys are smaller; and he's "side-breathing," which I gather means that he's using his abdominal muscles to help him breathe because his lungs aren't working well enough to do it on their own.
The vet says he has both kidney disease and congestive heart failure. The tricky thing, she said, is that the treatment plans for those two things are opposite---and in fact, treating one could push the other one over the edge. Georgie is 15 years old, and she said even if we did a bunch of testing to discover exactly how bad each situation is, it would still be difficult to get a treatment plan that would...well, that would WORK.
I croaked out something about how long would he....? and she said it could be months or it could be weeks (she did not say years), that it could happen suddenly or that he could start struggling to breathe. It's so smart of them to keep boxes of tissues handy. I mouthed "Pain?" and she said no, not usually, but that he could start panicking and feeling like he's drowning, and if that happened we might want to "keep him from suffering." She said if he seems okay now (he does), we can just, as she put it, "enjoy each day with him." But that if he seems to be struggling and suffering, we could "bring him in."
Here's the part that got to me: she said we didn't need to do the usual vaccinations. She put away the little filled needles. Doesn't that sound like a "hospice" kind of move?
Here's another part that got to me: he's very allergic to fleas, and he recently apparently got bitten by one because he has a huge itchy patch. I asked if he could have a shot of whatever they gave him last time to make the itchiness go away faster, and she said it would put too much strain on his heart. She said it could just...and she snapped her fingers and pressed her lips together.
So now we are on full kitty-spoiling mode. Does he want some cheese? A chip? Ice cream? Kitty treat? ANYTHING? He's always liked people food but we didn't like to let him have very much of it, but now that seems like an unnecessary limitation, if the situation is so dire that he's not going to have vaccines.
He likes to sit on my shoulders, which can be inconvenient. But what's a little inconvenience? What's a little claw-puncture here and there, between friends?
And incidentally, if you're trying to conceal a double chin in a photograph, I highly recommend using a cat.
Now and then I see a post with the theme "What makes you feel like a grown-up?" The answers are always so cool: when I started doing my own taxes; when I realized no one was going to clean up that barf except me; when I bought my first set of dishes; when I had to start paying for things like furnaces and roofs; when I started buying pictures for the walls instead of posters.
And this is another one for me: When I had to make a decision about a pet's life. It's hard to be responsible for deciding whether someone else lives or dies, and when the suffering justifies the intervention, and this is the first time I've had to do that. Georgie was the first kitty I adopted on my own, as opposed to my parents adopting a cat for the family. And he's the first pet I've had on my own who's been in this situation: I've never had to make end-of-life decisions before, or wonder what is supposed to be done with the body. Do we....bury it in the yard? The last time any kitty of mine died, it was a family kitty and my parents handled it entirely.
I'm fretting, too, about how to talk about it with the kids. I had a brief talk about death with Elizabeth the other day, and it didn't go well: she immediately started talking about how she didn't want any of us to get any older because we might die, and about how after her BIRTHDAY would SHE be old enough to die, and so on. Ack.
On the other hand, I'm grateful to have this warning. The vet said that with heart disease, sometimes the first sign of it is when the cat dies. I am glad to have this time to give Georgie extra treats and pettings, and to take his photo, and to be extra sweet to him. Want to sleep on my favorite blanket in the sunshine? And can I bring you a Pounce treat?
Life-improving products, part 4 - (Continued from part 1, part 2, and part 3.) Stearns Youth Life Vest (photo from Amazon.com). I’d been too scared to take the kids to any body of water oth...