Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Sometimes a Case of The Mondays Does Not End Well (A Tale of Cats and True Love)

I am a Crazy Cat Lady.  There. I said it.  It's true.  At least that's what some people think, I'm sure.  We have four cats -- Canvas (10), Bunny (3), and a sibling pair, Nicky and Nora (2) -- plus our dog, Lotus (7), and Paloma the Betta Fish (who knows?).
Nicky and Canvas
Nora and Lotus
Bunny the Parrot Cat
I love my furry babies.  And yes, I consider them my babies: I sleep lightly and listen for their cries, I feed them better than I feed myself, I take a million pictures of them because I think they're the world's most adorable babies.  I give them love and discipline and trips to the vet or chiropractor and keep a mental log of the funny things they say (yes, I have very verbal pets) and do and I'm always watching for signs of illness.  The latter stems from my paranoia over losing any of them.

When Hero, our older cat, died a little over two years ago, I was devastated.

Hero and Honey sometime during summer 2009

For a woman who doesn't always seem to be as prone to crying as television and movies would have one believe about the "fairer sex," I was a wreck -- sobbing and staying in a darkened room for the weekend.  Three things got me through that time: Bunny, Nicky, and Nora.

Hero was diagnosed with kidney failure in the beginning of 2009.  I knew that I would want to get another cat once she was gone, but I was (for the most part) content with waiting to find that new cat. Content, that is, until Megan, the wife of a former student, let me know that the emaciated stray cat she took in was actually pregnant. And then she gave birth to kittens. And two were manx.

The manx breed is my favorite, probably because of Hero.  Sometimes they're called dog-cats or man's-cats because they seem to be very pack-oriented. They are loving and verbal and generally smaller than most other cats.  Oh, and they have odd tails (or, in the case of Hero, no tail).  When I saw the two black manx kitties they were just three days old. How could I say no?  Honey agreed after a day or two, a bit hesitant about bringing in two kittens when we already had two cats, but they were manx and we knew we loved that personality.  We agreed to pick up the kittens when they were 12 weeks old (so they had plenty of time with Mom and Siblings to learn manners), I would drive them immediately to get spayed and vaccinated and then bring them home.  Hero would be tolerant, Canvas would hide (as usual), and the pain in my heart would be eased ever so slightly when Hero left.

Visiting the kitties when they were around five weeks old
The best laid plans...as they say.  The kittens started to get sick, probably something from their mother.  And Hero got worse and worse until one night I heard her call (like I said, I'm a light sleeper) and woke to find her struggling to move in the kitchen. I picked her up, held her, cried, and by the time dawn arrived she was gone. Sometimes I think that she knew it was time and that others needed me -- after all, I couldn't bring sick kittens into the house while I had a dying cat; I didn't want her immune system compromised. With the passing of Hero I contacted Megan, who said that the kittens were on a course of treatment from the vet. They were still young, just under ten weeks, and so I was content to have them wait and finish the treatment in the hopes that they would get better.

Meanwhile, on craigslist, I saw a post for a year-old cat from the animal shelter. She had been adopted and then returned, which is usually a death-sentence, but some employees wanted to give her another chance.  She had two weeks.  When I saw her face, I fell in love.  But we already had two kittens on the way!  Could I get Honey, the person who never had pets indoors until me, the person who said "One is enough" and then "Two is more than enough" and then "Two plus a dog is it" to agree to all these extras?  It was starting to sound a bit crazy even for me, but I blame my grief -- and the fact that Bunny's personality shone through her craigslist picture. Honey saw it immediately, too, and said "Well, if you meet her and she seems like she'd fit, then okay."  I called, met her, loved her, and took her home as soon as she received a clean bill of health from the shelter.  She was -- and is -- perfect.

As Bunny settled in, I waited for word on the kitties.  Unfortunately, the kittens were not getting better and Megan was becoming exhausted from caring for five sick kittens plus a cranky mommy cat and her own confused male cat who wondered what all the commotion was about in this tiny one-bedroom apartment.  I picked up Nicky and Nora (named after our favorite detectives -- because the kitties are black and white like the 1930s and 40s films) and took them straight to the vet.

We came away with medicine and a strict quarantine. I placed the kittens in the bathroom downstairs, made them warm and comfortable, and visited as often as I could for loves and to deliver medicine.  It was an exhausting process made even more so by the need to keep a routine as close to a hospital clean room as I could manage so that the illness didn't spread to the other pets.  Cover in smock. Enter room. Love pets. Leave room. Remove smock and place in washer. Scrub hands. Resume normal life. Repeat multiple times a day.

They just weren't getting better and after two weeks I was exhausted. I took them to the vet, who kept them over the weekend for treatment and monitoring. After two nights of rest, I was ready to tackle the issue again -- which was good because the vet said that there was no improvement, but the kittens seemed to be social.  Perhaps they just needed more love?

I knew the solution -- although I didn't tell the vet's office.

A kitty sling!  I could give them the love and attention they needed, go about my business, keep them away from the other pets (at least far away enough), and they would get better.

Sure enough, it worked. By the end of the week they were almost completely back to normal. Nicky always had a bit of a wonky eye (both almost lost their eyesight), but other than that they were fine.  They gained weight and pretty soon were up to 2.5 pounds, big enough to get them fixed.  Life was grand once again and the kittens fit into the household.

They played with Lotus.

And napped with Lotus.

Nicky even tried to nurse with Lotus.

They cuddled with Bunny, left Canvas alone, and every day I could walk into the kitchen and find a pile 'o kitties made even more adorable by the way they seemed to blend together.

As any other concerned and proactive parent would do, I researched vaccinations (deciding on minimal vaccines because they are indoor cats), found the best, holistic pet food, and gave them lots of play time and love.

We had one issue -- Nicky managed to knock Honey's stereo system off the desk (how??) and get tangled in the cords, which meant that he pulled his back legs out of the sockets trying to escape.  I took him to the chiropractor (she's amazing!) and within an hour he was fine.  Other than that, no issues.

Okay, they maybe, occasionally, stalk Canvas.
Nora is "my black fox."  She has fox-like features, she's fast and feisty.  She's also vocal.  And she wants to be the center of the world for everyone.  If I'm giving another pet attention, she'll push her way over to join.

If Bunny is on the couch, Nora snuggles up.

 If Lotus is sleeping, Nora will join her.

Nicky is my "chunky monkey." He's always been content to find a spot and sleep.  Sure, he's active if he finds a bug, hears a bird, or notices I've walked into the bathroom (he careens in and then flops over on the rug with a little "Pet my belly!" meow. Don't ask me why. But he does it. Every. Single. Time.).  Other than that, you can find him in a comfortable place, content to purr and give loves whenever someone joins him.  At night, he becomes very vocal. "Meow-row-row-row" he says, which I take to mean "Mom, where are you? Come get me!" I hop out of bed, find him in the bathroom (always), and put him on the pillow next to my head. In the morning when I wake up, he's still there, sleeping.

At the start of the new year, I decided that Nicky Chunky Monkey and Bunny-Bunny Fat Cat were taking after their parents a bit too much -- we could all use a bit of a slim down.  Everyone went on a bit more of a monitored food intake system and the results seemed to be positive for all concerned.  Bunny's still a bit of a fatty, but she's slimming, and Nicky seemed to slim down very quickly.

Too quickly, I realized several days ago.  As of January 13, I could pick him up, notice he didn't have much of a belly left, but not be too worried.  After all, Bunny gains/loses weight quickly, and Lotus has her weight fluctuate as much as three pounds in three days depending on her activity level and if anyone is indulging her with too many treats.

By January 18, Nicky was looking a bit too thin for my liking.  Then on January 19 our basement was flooded and I spent the next two days cleaning up that mess.  By Saturday, January 21, I picked up Nicky and panicked.  He was so bony!  What happened?

I called the vet (closed by this time) to see about getting an appointment first thing in the week.  And then I waited and watched, and watched and waited.

Sunday I knew that he wasn't eating.  That afternoon I realized he was sitting by his water dish but not drinking, much like Hero did in her final month.  I researched things online, praying it wasn't what I feared: CRF. Chronic Renal Failure.  Or, because of the seemingly sudden onset, Acute Renal Failure.  Highly unusual in a two year old cat!  But the symptoms fit, and , like I said, I'd seen this before.

Sunday evening Nicky seemed to perk up a bit.  He drank some water, tried to eat (although he was not successful), and moved around a bit.  I called the vet on Monday, not waiting for a return call from my panicked weekend message, and they were able to see me immediately.

It's a two-hour round trip to our vet, but it's worth it -- that's how good they are.  And I never worried here, like I did elsewhere, that they'll try to make up tests or expensive procedures.  They did a blood test, as I knew they would, and it came back as I feared: little or no kidney function.

I left Nicky there for fluids (to flush toxins) and observation.  It was the first time he was ever apart from Nora.  I tried to hold it together all day, but at night when I didn't hear his little voice I cried and cried and cried.

Today I waited.  The first news was good: after some fluids he seemed to perk up. He was sitting up, talking with everyone as they passed, and even ate a bit of food.  The latest news, however, was not good.  He still had not peed, even with several IVs of fluid, meaning that his body was holding all the toxins with no way to flush them out of his system because his kidneys were not working at all.

The vet is keeping him another night. They will try a medication to see about kick-starting his kidneys and then they'll give more fluids and once he is able to use the bathroom they will re-test the toxin levels in his blood.  If he is able to use the bathroom.  If not...well, that's the phone call I'm worried about.  And I expect to hear in the morning.

I expected my babies would be happy and healthy and full of life for at least 20 years.  After two years, it just feels like I've been cheated.  I haven't been able to focus and get much work done because all I really want to do is curl up and hide and hope that this is just a bad dream.  It would not be true to say that I can't imagine life without Nicky (or any of the others).  I can.  It's just that I don't want to.

1 comment:

  1. So, I'll admit, I'm not a cat person. We tried it once, but after a year (we adopted him from the shelter) he decided it was a good idea to bite my upper lip and slice it open when I was pregnant.

    But your post wasn't about cats. It was about love and friendship, and that I can relate to. Hoping that Nicky is comfortable, whatever the outcome is. Please keep us updated.


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