Our Friend Cal

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.

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  1. Katie L.

    Sending you and Cal good thoughts…

  2. Scott

    Damn it, Pamie. That’s about 8 times you’ve made me cry in the last week.

    Truly hoping for the best for Cal…sounds like he is a great friend.

  3. JoAnna

    So sorry to hear about Cal. My pets are my babies, and they’re all seniors (many also have special needs as well). I know I’m going to have to start making choices like you are, and I dread that day. My thoughts are with you and Cal. I know he’s in good hands.

  4. Pamela

    I’ve got my fingers crossed for Cal. Sending both of you my very best thoughts.

  5. Monica W

    Dang it. I have every kind of people cardiologist possible on my speed dial, yet none for cats. I hope all goes well for you and Cal. Cats really are the best friends.

  6. David Grenier

    Cal’s awesome. I hope everything turns out okay.

  7. Maggie

    Regarding the kidneys, my cat has been in increasing kidney failure for the past 3 years now (she’s 18 or 19 now) and we give her fluids subcutaneously every day (started every other day). That seems to have kept her going and happy.

    She has a heart murmur and on drugs for that. She’s also on an anti-seizure med because she was starting to have a bunch of those. The vet figured it was a type of brain cancer cats get that is apparently 100% curable by surgery, but she also indicated that the surgery might be worse than the cure at this point.

    There’s the fact that she might not be able to take the anesthesia, but there’s also the overall trauma and stress it would cause her. That much stress might both shorten her life as well as make the time she has left really unpleasant. We’re definitely into palliative care for her and as long as she’s content, we’ll keep working to make her happy and comfortable. I’m not sure this helps, but I just wanted to express that the more extreme/invasive options aren’t always the best ones.

    I don’t know what the right thing for Cal is, but I’m sure you will find and do it. All the best.

  8. Steph

    Ugh, this totally hits home today. I just dropped my cat off at the emergency vet because she was chewing on a lily (which was 100% my fault) and she has to stay for at least 24 hours, if not longer, so they can make sure her kidneys don’t fail. And turns out she has a heart murmur too. It’s horrible. I hope she and Cal are both OK.

  9. Jen

    Dammit, why do these furry things have to mean so much to us? (P.S. Cancer SUCKS.)

  10. Shawna

    Remembering when you first got Cal, and Taylor was less than amused. Remembering SLEN! Wishing for health and wellness for your sweet kitty. And calm comfort for you while you navigate the uncertainties of what’s best for him. Long live Cal!

  11. Katie

    Sending love and healing energy to you and Cal. Vets can do amazing things sometimes – here’s hoping this is one of them!

  12. Krista

    Oh, Cal.

    I know you’ll make good decisions for him.

    Bloodwork with kidney values, total calcium, and ionized calcium should be able to tell the vets if there is a calcium issue to be addressed. There is a site with a ton of information on feline renal failure (in case you didn’t come across it) – http://www.felinecrf.com/

    As wacky-hippie as it sounds, whatever you do or don’t do for him medically, consider a good veterinary accupuncturist. It’s like magic, and if theres no change in about 3 sessions for cats, you probably won’t see anything. But it seems to have really helped my cat (calcium issues, liver issues, kidney issues, vestibular issues), and most times chatting with people in the waiting room there are stories more dramatic than hers.

    Good luck :-)

  13. Stephanie

    I’m thinking good thoughts for you and Cal. Making the best decision for people and animals you love is always difficult.

  14. Mels

    *hugs* speedy recovery to Cal and good things to you and Jason for helping him! <3

  15. lowecat

    So sorry to hear of this. Anytime a furbaby is sick, it makes one worry. Try Catmilk from whiskas. I had a lactose intolerant kitty and he loved that stuff. He’d drink it down and ask for more.

    Keepin’ all y’all in my thoughts.

  16. Alyce

    Just another soul putting out good thoughts for you and your best friend. Cal is lucky to have you. Thanks for fighting for him and for letting us know.

  17. Susan

    Aw, sweet Cal. I hope he stays happy and that you get some answers soon.

    I always thank my cat for being my kitten friend, I love how you described it.

  18. Michelle

    Shawna beat me to slen. SECOND!

    What you call “friend,” in my house we call “good company”—same same, I imagine. So that’s why I love MY cats. What I don’t really get is why I would love a cat I’ve never met. But I do love Cal, kind of. Or at least I have the world’s longest-standing unrequited crush.

    My own sixteen-year-old, half-diagnosed, generally-decrepit-yet-cheerful stripey cat would probably want me to pass along a message for your guy: if there’s some way Cal can successfully fake the symptoms of an unspecified pee-pee problem, his vet might just say the magic words that mine said to me last week: “As much wet food as possible.” At least til everything’s diagnosed, and treated, and fixed right up. Which I hope will be ASAP for you and your lovely silly cat. Dream big, and then get better, Cal.

  19. Kristina

    Get better soon, Cal! Fingers crossed you guys come out of this with nothing worse than a pile of vet bills (which: always worth it for our fur-friends).

  20. Sarah

    So sorry to hear about Cal. Will be keeping both of you in my thoughts.

  21. Meghan

    Give Cal a big squeeze from me. If I was there I’d give you a big hug too.

  22. Heidi

    Hugs and head scratches to your big boy and hugs and much courage and clarity to you as you wade through the inconclusives. What’s so very important are all the things you mentioned about how Cal has been, most significantly that he’s happy and feels fine and thinks he’s fine.

  23. Kellyim

    So sorry to hear about Cal! My husband calls our cat, Tiny, our other roommate. Not a baby, but a friend. It’s uncanny how Tiny knows when I need some comforting, and I can’t imagine how much I would miss him trailing after me while I walk through the house, or keeping me company while I cook every day. I hope you get some good news about the options from the cardiologist.

  24. Omar G.

    Oh no! Get well soon, Cal. I have so many fond memories of reading about him. He does feel like a friend.

  25. Heidi

    Meant to add, too, that I second Krista’s req on an acupuncturist, and if you can find a holistic vet who also does kitty chiro, that could help with the joint issues.

    (Also love “friend.” I always said my animals were my children. But even child somehow falls short. My animals were truly my companions. I am very fortunate to work at home, so we were together in a way that was unmatched.)

  26. Bunting

    Aw, Cal. Hope he’s feeling better and you’re not stressing out too much. They get to a certain age, and you really have to weigh “am I doing as much as I can” versus “is this just stressing him out.” Hobey doesn’t get semi-annual EKGs anymore, because he hated them, nothing ever changed, and as Dr. Madden put it, “He’s 17. We don’t have a cure for that.”

    And he’s basically fine — eats, sulks, wants to marry lemon yogurt. Same old Hobe. But there are times when you wish they spoke English so you’d know for sure what to do.

  27. Annie G.S.

    Love to Cal and to y’all! You two have brought me such joy all these years. Wishing you the best.

  28. JeniMull

    Sending good thoughts to Cal. He feels like a friend to me too after all these years.

  29. JK

    I’ve never been one of those people who thought of herself as a “cat mommy” or whatever. My pets have always been my friends, not fur babies. Just not the dynamic I have with my animals, I guess.

    Sending good vibes to you can Cal from me and Margo.

  30. Suz’s cat

    Yo, Cal. Glad to hear you have them treating you right. Now’s the time to demand fresh caught goldfish, or walks on a leash around Hollywood. Go wild. There’s a lot of us felines out here wishing you the best. (what? Do they not think we can read the Internet? Why do they think we sleep on the keyboard?
    Peace, brother.

  31. Paul Tabachneck

    Give Cal a tummy-rub (if he likes those) for me and wish him the best. Aww, Pam, I’m sorry. It feels like it’s so soon after Taylor, even though it’s been what, two years? Kitties are so great and cancer can TOTALLY suck it.

  32. Sister Surprise

    Totally see where you’re coming from – sending you both hugs & chin scritches.

    I just got off the phone with my vet, trying to schedule the…passing on….for my 14+ dog, Jake, in a few days. Watching him only eat if nagged and cheerleaded tells me it’s time, even though some might say it’s a little early.

    I’d rather suffer my grief than his pain, and taking the pain away is the least I can do to thank him for the years of joy he’s shared with me.

  33. Nichol

    I agree with the acupuncture suggestion. We’ve had great success with a variety of problems getting better (including liver and kidney function improvement.) Dr. Michelle Fuller just opened Village Vet in Silverlake and does acupuncture. She is absolutely amazing. Our beagle has had a murmur for years (it’s about a 4 out of 5 – five being worst) but it hasn’t progressed since they found it (nor has she needed to be medicated for it.) Dr. Arndt at City of Angels is our cardiologist and he’s wonderful. So sorry for you and Cal. I know how stressful this is and that there will be lots of second-guessing yourself in the days to come. Trust that you love him enough that any decisions you make are the right ones for him. I wish him much improvement!

  34. Jeanette

    I’ll throw in for acupuncture too. My kitty’s chronic diarrhea is gone from it and she’s back to being a total witch. I’ll ask both my kitties to send your boy Cal healing purrs. (I’m really not a crazy cat lady. I swear!)

  35. Lisa E.

    Oh, the tears. THE TEARS!!!!

    I love Cal so stupid much, and am so glad that you two have gotten to be together all these years. You will absolutely make the right decisions for him, whatever they are. It’s the worst position to be in, and I feel for you so much that my throat is a little closed up right now.

    Sending good thoughts your way, hoping this will result in much more time with your dear, funny friend. And I have to say, a cat that is so happy that his intense purring leads to twitching, is one lucky cat.


  36. Shane

    I came here tonight because an interview with Jeremy Lamb mentioned you and I reminisced that Pamie’s Panties was one of the first blogs that I ever followed, (I think) before RSS existed to follow them.

    No offense, but I haven’t been following in a while. I was married during most of the ’90s, and my wife was jealous of the fact that I was keeping up with your life, so I stopped after reading “Why Girls Are Weird.”

    But I remember Cal. I remember when he was the new cat, and occasionally wrote his own troglodyte mewsings on the blog. I can’t believe he’s so old now. I’m so sorry he’s ailing, and I hope it’s something that you and he can beat. I wish you both the best.

  37. pamie

    Giving a little Cal update, as he’s sleeping beside me right now on the couch.

    After two inconclusive aspirations and a visit to the cardiologist, Cal is now on a tiny dose of daily beta-blockers, and some IV fluids occasionally to help with any dehydration. He’s still playful and silly, but a little slower and sleepy due to his medication.

    He keeps to his rituals, and stays close most of the time. He cuddles with housesitters. He will only water from his Oprah Winfrey coffee mug. He didn’t gain back the weight he lost, but he hasn’t really lost too much more in the past couple of months. The biggest issue is food, as some days he’s less interested than other days, but he does eventually eat — especially when I bring it to him and let him eat whatever it is straight from my hand.

    He has another vet appointment this Friday. We opted last month not to do exploratory surgery, as there was a chance he’d be opened up only to discover there was nothing they could do and then he’d only be weaker afterwards. He has become a sweet older cat in the past few weeks, one who seems to sometimes get a little lost on his way down the hall, who loves his toys and his treats and any available lap. He’s still sweet Cal, but not the big, crazy cat of his youth.

    I appreciate everybody checking in on him with all your good thoughts and warm wishes. I’m grateful for every day Cal’s still here and happy, as I love him endlessly.