I took the photo above just the other day during Lakota’s first shift as self-appointed studio supervisor. It took him no time at all to know exactly what to do in his new position.
But the old man isn’t feeling well. After improving tremendously from the weak and unhappy cat who came here June 16, gaining weight and strength and his own personal bearings, I saw him slip precipitously over the past two days. He’s weak with anemia, which could have many origins, though with blood tests none of his blood values are good, kidneys are pretty bad. It could be a blood parasite, it could be a mass somewhere in his abdomen, but without the time to do a variety of tests to determine exactly what it was today, the veterinarian decided on a course of antibiotics for the possibility of a blood-borne parasite and prednisolone to help with appetite and energy, and we’ll check back again in a few days.
When I had brought Lakota and Jojo in I called my veterinarian and we discussed a plan of action for them. They’d most recently lived in a cage in a basement or garage or porch because they weren’t permitted into the places where their person was living. Because I didn’t know anything about their veterinary history I had no idea when they’d most recently had vaccinations or if they’d ever had FIV or FeLV tests, and they could possibly have been exposed to it during the time in the cage outdoors, we decided that I would observe them, get to know them better, for the two-month period it would take to get an accurate test and they’d have their first exam at that time, unless something else came up.
I’ve seen nothing but improvements since they’ve been here. Jojo was shy and timid, and vomited frequently. Lakota was lethargic and less than social with constipation issues. Both were dehydrated with tangles in their dry fur. But they ravenously ate their canned food with water and pumpkin added, and in time Jojo relaxed and Lakota began exploring the bathroom, and both of them greeted me when I entered. And they loved their catnip toys.
Once Lakota began feeling stronger he began demanding to know, in that Siamese voice and manner of his, just why he had to stay in this room. So in the heat, I blocked the top of the stairs with a baby gate and let him wander at will, exploring all the corners of the upstairs. He wasn’t able to get over the baby gate or up onto my chair or my bed at first, but after a few days of regaining his muscles he was up on windowsills, then over the baby gate.
I set up a more permanent block for the upstairs, Jojo politely stayed in the bathroom but Lakota could wander and visit me in the studio while Mimi and her children could get to me as well, and he was more vocal with his greetings and orders all the time.
I was still careful they didn’t come face to face without the reassurance of the FIV/FeLV test, and relied on the unaggressive personalities of Mimi and her children to make it work, and it did. I made plans to call my vet and begin a plan of integration.
They were just beginning to co-exist up here without coming face to face when just three days ago I noticed Lakota was showing up for meals but not eating much though he was the same as ever aside from that. Then two days ago he was eating less and was less active, staying near me but sleeping, not interacting, and I called my veterinarian, who was going out of town. We decided I would help him with the constipation and get a few doses of fluids into his mouth because he’d quit drinking as much from his fountain and not any other changes. I let him sleep on my bed overnight too, as it seemed to help him relax.
Yesterday I could see he wasn’t improving, only getting more lethargic all the time and not eating at all, and had great difficulty in the box despite my efforts at helping him, and the most unnerving thing about him was his absolute silence, a very bad sign for a vocal cat. On a Friday with my vet out of town I have limited options, but contacted Frankie’s Friends since they were having a clinic over the weekend in the same building as the HCMT clinics. They invited me to bring him up, and Jojo too just in case it was something that would affect both of them, and Dr. Morrow would see them between spays and neuters.
Very anemic, yes, lethargic, yes, likely kidney issues and the beginning of jaundice, meaning his liver is involved. I mentioned that his breed normally has blue eyes and while they do fade with age I’d told my veterinarian that his eyes looked rather green when he arrived. We’d talked about jaundice and in a few days his eyes faded to a gray-blue, but that and the lethargy and weakness might have been an early indication of this current condition. They took blood and ran blood tests, and the results were pretty poor. The only positive was that he was not dehydrated, and negative for FIV and FeLV.
I also discovered that sweet little Jojo actually has a poorly-healed broken jaw. I had notice her mouth was misshapen, her lower jaw and chin very narrow and her upper incisors at odd angles, but Dr. Morrow opened her mouth and pointed out even a portion of it apparently missing. Dear little girl, how did that happen?
So was he slowly fading but perked up when he came here with a more stable environment and just the excitement of change? Likely so. For both humans and animals our intellectual and emotional selves respond to change as we acquaint ourselves with new surroundings through sensory perceptions, it’s part of our survival instincts. Oddly enough I’d seen that happen with my parents as they moved through the system of personal care to skilled nursing, suddenly alert and aware on arrival at the hospital or when they’d arrived at a new living place, even conversational though each, in their own ways, were falling ever deeper into dementia, then falling back to their weakness, confusion and silence.
Right now Lakota is sleeping on my bed after his first doses of medications. I will try to force some baby food into him after he’s rested; for now he’s had enough. The antibiotic and prednisolone will help him feel better but it will likely be a temporary wellness based on the medications because his organs are also involved, and I know it’s time for a decision. Another veterinarian may have looked at his numbers and his age and advised me to euthanize him now. I considered it, even yesterday when I knew intuitively what was likely an end-of-life condition. He is accepting of where he is, I could see in his expressions, and we will give it this one try, but I don’t feel he’s interested in any prolonged ranks of medications and treatments.
This is not a surprise. I knew their health was perilous when I took them in, and was glad to see both improve. But I also know they are 19 and 20 and most of their lives are behind them. It’s part of what I agreed to when I said I’d take them in, knowing our time together would likely be brief in comparison to other cats.
On the way home, Jojo was softly meowing in her not-very-pretty rusty gate meow. At a stop light I reached back and put my fingers through the door on her carrier, and the little girl who’s not terribly demonstrative grasped my fingers in her paws and vigorously rubbed her face on them. Thanking me? Encouraging me? Perhaps both.
We never know how long a life will be, we never know exactly what we’re getting or how it will all end up, but that’s part of what we agree to when we adopt or foster or rescue, knowing their lives are shorter than ours to begin with. And when it’s a geriatric cat, I’d be a fool to think I have a lot of influence over the outcome when they’ve got all those years of living that’s made them who they are—and not to underestimate the fact that part of the reason they achieved that long life was through their own will to live and thrive. I learned with Peaches to just let her find her own comfort and she would take care of the details, and to make each day important. So I did with these two. Lakota has been very, very happy and I have been looking forward to his company in the months to come, big fuzzball that he is and so affectionate, a little concerned about his possessiveness but I knew we could work that out. But if this is all we have, it’s certainly better than nothing at all, and I’m glad to have been able to make him happy for his last few months.
You only avoid the pain of loss by never letting yourself fully love, and the pain of my guilt at not allowing my love for these two to grow as it should would be far worse than the pain I will feel at losing them.
I will give updates on his condition, and in the meantime, send him lots of purrrrrs.
(On Sunday morning, the day after this post, his condition and manner are unchanged. Once you’ve started the “antibiotic and steroid route” as I call it when we pull these somewhat desperate measures at then end, there really isn’t any place else to turn, but perhaps a few more days will make a difference.)
. . . . . . .
On this rainy summer morning as I considered Lakota’s condition and what decisions I may need to make it seemed eerily familiar; it was a rainy summer morning almost a year ago that I lost Kelly, and I’ve been deeply remembering her as this anniversary approaches.
Browse some rescued cats and kittens!
Read more about the Petties in this post.
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