Man, there are sentences you never imagine you’ll find yourself saying, and one of them is, “Yes, I need the number of the cardiologist you recommended for my cat?”
A week ago, sweet Cal suddenly fell over. He was sort of prancing through the living room and then slammed to his side, looking stunned, staying still. I’ve seen a cat have a seizure before (I will spare you the link to the Lillith story), and this wasn’t quite the same, but it was scary enough that we took him straight to the vet. We were about to take him anyway, as it was time for his check-up and over the past week we’d noticed that when Cal would get to really purring in the morning, his face would twitch. Mostly the whiskers and eyes, little ear twitches sometimes. Cal has nerve problems from his tail stump, and lately his back pops and crackles when he twists to lick his hind legs or curl up on a lap, so I wondered if maybe the nerve damage was spreading, or perhaps purring kicked in something wonky.
The emergency vet looked Cal over and said there wasn’t much to do since he was no longer seizing and was just sitting there with a grumpy expression, looking a little tired. We took him to his regular vet the next day, where they did a few tests. She was checking on his heart, because she thought she heard an arrhythmia. He’d had a heart murmur in the past that some vets would notice and some wouldn’t. She wanted to see if that was getting worse, so she ordered an x-ray. He’d also lost some weight since she’d seen him last (which she’d asked for, but he’d lost a couple pounds more than that). But what she found was unexpected.
An abdominal mass, possibly from his intestines or kidneys, possibly cancer. And he was in moderate kidney failure, which may be due to the mass, which was probably making him not eat very much. Plus he had the arrhythmia, which may be caused by the mass, which might also be why he’s twitching. But the twitching could be from his kidneys out of whack, or it could be that it is cancer that has already spread to his brain.
We saw another specialist for an ultrasound. At this point I should mention that other than getting finicky about his food and not wanting to sleep with me like he usually does (I think he gets hot), he’s been his usual Cal self, running around, playing, watching the neighbor’s cat through various windows, being silly and goofy, chasing toys and hanging out. He’s eating a little less, but he does that when it gets hot, and he’s not throwing up or having any problems with the litter box. If we hadn’t seen his spill last week — which the vet now thinks was from the arrhythmia, and possibly he fainted or got light-headed — we wouldn’t have known this was going on. Basically, right now Cal’s acting like, “You guys! I love all this attention. These really are the best days. Where else can we sit while you pet me for as long as I want?”
The results were inconclusive, and now they want to remove the mass and biopsy it, but they don’t want to until a cardiologist checks out Cal’s heart to see if he could handle anesthesia.
Poor sweet Cal is fifteen or sixteen and seems in happy spirits. Even when he’s purr-twitching, he doesn’t seem to notice. The thought of putting him through surgery is stressing me out, but if it turns out it wasn’t cancer and was just something he ate that got stuck in his intestines, turned into a mass and then ruptured, the surgery could very well give him another couple of years. If they do the surgery and it turns out it is cancer, then they discuss chemo (which is much gentler on cats than people — it doesn’t cure it, just puts it in remission for a little while). I have read all of the Internet on all of these symptoms and possible treatments, including a suggestion that the twitching might be caused by a calcium deficiency from the kidney problems. You should see the shelves of various cat foods and treats Jason has picked up for this cat in the past four days. We tried giving Cal some CatSip as it’s fortified with calcium and the lactose in real milk makes him throw up, but he took one look at CatSip and was like, “What is this hippie nonsense? I’ll be over here waiting for you to refill my coffee cup with fresh water.” (That is how he prefers to drink water these days.)
I hate all of this and I love this sweet cat and I know some of you love him too, so I figured I’d share this story. My mom said, “I know you must be sad. He’s your baby.” And I thought, “No, he’s not my baby. He’s my friend.” A baby can’t find you when you’re crying and sit with you until you feel better. A baby doesn’t stand between you and someone you’re fighting with, acting like a protector. A baby doesn’t walk with you from room to room to watch you sit at your laptop or lick your head after you’ve gone for a run or stretch out slowly toward your cereal bowl hoping today is the day you forget to take it from him before he gets a bite of your Raisin Bran. This cat is my friend and he’s been a good friend for a long time, and I’m determined to find the best way to care for him now that he’s the one in need.