|Mouse decided to sleep on my basil starts.|
There is a certain art to sharing your home with a geriatric cat. The truth is that it is all too easy to find yourself dreading the what-ifs and whens instead of appreciating the time you have with your companion. Yesterday I spent some time angry with the gods, because they seemed to be delivering the exact opposite of what I’d been praying for – That my beloved Siamese, Mouse, would pass peacefully in his sleep and not have to take the stressful trip to the vet in his final moments. This day, however, has turned into a slightly better outcome I suppose. Mouse will be 20-years-old in July. He has been in my life since I was 9. My fiancé and I took him in when my mother was no longer able to take care of him due to moving, and he has survived two moves of his own with minimal adjustment problems. At 19, he experienced a 5 hour car ride, nearly being overdosed on Valium due to inadequate vet care (I’m saying this as nicely as I can, but I hold a lot of anger and resentment towards the vet in question), and relearned how to master going up and down stairs with stiff hips. He discovered a passion for canned food and mashed potatoes. And he generally gets attention lavished upon him even when he is being an annoying jerk. Granted, age has not been kind to him, and unfortunately I didn’t listen to my intuition telling me to get him into the vet sooner. And, once again, little day-to-day changes tend to not be noticed until it’s too late. Therefore, my gigantic 35-pound snarling, biting watch cat has been reduced to a very frail 4.3-pound cuddle monster that tends to forget to wash his face. We were gone over the weekend to New Orleans. My mother took care of him and Jasper while we were gone, dutifully coming to fuss over them twice a day. Our departure, though, depressed Mouse. One day he came half-way down the stairs to see who came in before going up to his room. After a couple days he simply quit coming downstairs, having given up on us coming home. When we got home on Monday, he was happy to see us. But he’s always been a moody fellow, so on Tuesday when he didn’t hobble down the stairs I didn’t think much of it. Well, that’s not exactly true. I thought he was mad and sulking. Plus some days he simply sleeps all day, so it’s not unusual to have a Mouse-free day downstairs from time-to-time. On more than one occasion, I stopped to wonder where he was but talked myself out of checking on him. I was wrong. 6:30 PM passed, and I finally went upstairs to ask him if he was hungry. He usually starts bugging me for food about 4:30, though daylight saving time isn’t something he really grasps the concept of. When I walked into the room he spends most of his time in, he lifted his head and let out a helpless cry. It was then that I realized something was wrong. I rushed over to discover that our modem cord had dislodged from its space. Somehow Mouse had managed to get himself caught in it. I couldn’t get it off of him, and I couldn’t figure out exactly where it even was on his body – Though I was immediately thankful it wasn’t around his neck. The cord had wrapped tightly around his loose skin in front of his right hip, and somehow it was wrapped under his leg pinning it in an odd position. He was too weak to put up a fight with me when I started trying to get him untangled. He didn’t fight when my fiancé stepped in to attempt the same thing. It didn’t take long for me to decide we needed to cut it off of him, because there was no way to pull it without possibly hurting him. Not knowing exactly where the cord was wrapped made that an even scarier prospect. So the fiancé carefully snipped him out, and the cord that came off of him was completely disfigured and twisted. There were no teeth marks. It’s hard to say how long Mouse was trapped, which has a heavy weight in regards to guilt. He’d wet himself, he was dehydrated, and he was too weak to stand. I gently picked him up and put him by his water so he could drink, which he did, and when he was given his canned food he gobbled it down. Then he started walking, though it was obviously hard for him. He stumbled about and limped. His hip seemed to be sitting in a weird position. But he was putting weight on it, and he wasn’t trying to get away from us fussing over him. Eventually he made his way to the litter box, and with some struggle he used it. I brought my mom over for another pair of eyes to see what was going on. She was surprised to see him doing as well as he was considering what I’d told her over the phone. So the three of us decided we would wait it out and see what happened instead of taking an emergency trip to the vet. Later in the evening he came downstairs. Yesterday came. I stayed at home to watch him. He didn’t go very long with walking before laying down and sleeping. He seemed very uncomfortable. But he was still nibbling on food, drinking water, and urinating. Then our other cat started hovering with me, not going beyond a few feet of Mouse at any given time other than the hour we played fetch together. In the afternoon, I couldn’t take it any longer. I’d gotten online to read about senior cats and started worrying about all the other problems we’d had for years with him – Most starting so long ago that I just thought they were normal. Eventually, I couldn’t take it any longer. He seemed so weak and frail, and he was starting to be a little unresponsive when it came to me petting him. I called the vet and was told to bring him in. Mouse didn’t put up a fight yesterday at all, which is unlike him even in his old age. While I waited for my mother, I went into the bathroom and cried – Afraid that I would upset my precious cat if I got too emotional around him. He’s always been one to come and check on me when I’m crying. I genuinely thought I would not be bringing Mouse home at all, but at the very least I’d not be bringing him home the same day. An hour later, I received the phone call. It was both good news and bad news. First of all, he was sore and probably had pulled a muscle in his hip. But nothing was broken or out-of-place skeletally. This was good. However, the vet was quick to say that Mouse is suffering from kidney failure. It’s to be expected in older animals – Only three weeks ago my mother’s dog was diagnosed with the same problem, though other health issues resulted in having him euthanized not too long after that. The vet said that Mouse will just have to deal with his injury’s pain, because his kidney function is so low he didn’t want to give him any medicine for it. I agreed that was a good idea, because really he wasn’t in extreme pain. Having a pain disorder myself, I’ve got a decent understanding of pain and what it does. But I feel confident in my decision to agree with the vet – By the time we went to pick Mouse up he was moving better than he had in days. What the vet did suggest, though, was to start Sub-Q fluid therapy if we felt comfortable doing it. After discussing it just a little (say about 20 seconds), my fiancé and I decided that we were willing to consider it. While there, I asked the vet to show us how to do it, and I felt a little more comfortable with the idea after seeing how well Mouse reacted to it. Granted, he wasn’t feeling well, and once he gets feeling better it may be a bit more of a fight. We’ll see, though. We will have to give Mouse injections of fluids every other day under his skin. He is decidedly going to be swollen and lumpy from the liquid. I’m obviously terrified of this, but everyone keeps assuring me that we’ll all get used to doing it very quickly. Right now I’m not as worried about the actual poking part but making sure all the tubing is hooked up right. I’m sure as soon as I have it all put together and have the needle in hand, I’ll feel the grip of fear there. The good news is that after 24 hours, the first treatment given by our vet has brought about a lot of changes in our dear friend. He has taken to talking to me again, though his voice isn’t as strong as it used to be. For the first time in I’m not sure how long, he has started to sit back on his rear end instead of letting it hover on the ground. And last night he put up a hissing and spitting protest to Jasper trying to clean him – A good sign that he’s getting his fight back. That’s just the thing… Mouse is not ready to leave his life. Inevitably he will at some point, but today just isn’t the day for it. He’s more interested in sleeping on my basil starts or eating mashed potatoes. And honestly my fiancé and I aren’t willing to have him leave us before it’s time. He’s been in my life since I was 9, after all, and as long as he’s still fighting and coping with his illness I’m willing to help him embrace the journey of his life. I’ve known him long enough to know to understand what he’s telling me. And he’s telling me he’s not done living just yet. Am I worried and scared? Yes. Do I realize that taking care of a special needs cat will probably require more time at home? Yes. But in the last few months, oddly more than any other time in my life, I’ve learned that I’m tough. I can handle this, and when I can’t I have my fiancé to pick up when I need help – That is one of our greatest strengths as a couple, and when it’s needed I do it for him, too. This is our family, after all. Unconventional perhaps, but family all the same. We all love each other, and we all care for each other. So we will do this with dedication and grace. And through all of it I will work my hardest at taking this journey with Mouse as a spiritual path – Practicing the art of living in the present instead of the future or the past. When I look at it that way, at the beginning of the final stretch, I find myself almost thankful that I’ve been given the opportunity to experience not only the unconditional love of a warm soul but also the chance to learn how to enjoy the little things that makes life so truly special.