These last few days have been extremely stressful. There’s a lot going on–some good things, some bad things–and I’m still trying to process it.
The good things will get their own post, probably later this week, but I have to get the bad things out. Writing is pretty therapeutic for me, so here it is…
My cat, Dylan, is not doing well. REALLY not well, actually. I wrote here several months ago about what’s wrong with him. Since then, my father-in-law had been continuing to treat him with a long-lasting antibiotic shot because there was no way we were going to get pills down his throat. That shot was supposed to last about two weeks at a time. At first, he only needed it about once a month. Then it was every two or three weeks. Then it was only giving him any relief for about ten days. His stomatitis went into remission for a little while late this winter and it was great. He seemed a lot happier and, for the first time since he came to live with us, he ate enough to become plump and sleek. He was well on his way to becoming positively fat like our other cats. Then the stomatitis came back with a vengeance, and the shot stopped helping him. He began to throw up what little he was eating and his meows sounded wobbly and wavy, almost like he was underwater.
So, last Thursday morning, my father-in-law got Dylan ready to pull all of his teeth, which is the only real cure for stomatitis. As he was prepping him for surgery, he noticed something odd at the back of his throat. My cat had two large growths on/around his tonsils, even into the crypts, and either attached to or touching his tongue and the roof of his mouth. They were partially blocking his throat. My father-in-law removed everything he could, and sent off samples from one of the growths (which was about the size of the tip of my thumb, pretty substantial in the mouth and throat of an 8-pound cat) to the University of Georgia’s veterinary lab for testing. Len has seen a lot of things in the 32 years he’s been a veterinarian, but that was something he wanted the scientists to check out. He also cleaned Dylan’s teeth while he was in there to see if any of them were worth saving, and other than a few he was missing, he said they were actually just really dirty. None of them were loose or decaying.
In the meantime, Dylan is staying up at the clinic. He hates it there, but he doesn’t get along with the other cats at the house, and he really doesn’t need to be getting in any fights as he tries to heal from his surgery. He is not terribly interested in eating, which is pretty common in hospitalized animals, especially cats, and with the surgery he had, it’s to be expected anyway. I’m glad we got a little extra weight on him when he was feeling good and that the growths were discovered before he had gotten sick enough to lose it again. I’ve gone to visit him, and I’m actually afraid those visits have done more harm than good because he cries incessantly for me once I leave. It absolutely breaks my heart to have to close the kennel door and walk away.
If those growths are cancerous, the most humane thing to do would be to put him to sleep, and no matter how hard that is for me, if it comes to that, I will be there with him–I owe him that much. If whatever he’s got is treatable, we’ll be doing the research and figuring out the next step. I haven’t slept well since sometime around last Tuesday, when we had the “we gotta do something about his mouth” conversation. As of the end of business today, my father-in-law hadn’t gotten anything from UGA’s lab (they fax him test results and their ideas on that particular patient’s prognosis, based on the information he gives them about the animal’s age and general health information and what they determined from the tissue samples); he said given their usual turnaround time, he’d really expect to hear from them sometime tomorrow. So tonight will be another sleepless night.
I’m terrified right now. From what little we’ve been able to figure out about Dylan, he most likely is an older cat who’s been malnourished or sick for most of his life. He was not neutered when he wandered into our lives, and he didn’t have the icky male cat musk smell, we never saw him spray, and he didn’t have the big fat “tomcat” face you generally see on older unaltered male cats, so we thought he might be a younger, very unlucky cat–but his teeth (what’s left of them) seem to indicate he could be eight or nine years old. He’s got some rough areas on his ribs that almost feel like badly healed breaks, which makes me think he may have been kicked around or attacked by something at some point in his life. I know over this last year we’ve given him a far better life than he had immediately before he found us, and maybe it was the best year of his whole life.
If I have to make the decision to put him to sleep, at least I’ll know that for this year, he had all the food, attention, affection, safety, and medical care we could collectively give him, and that he has been a very well-loved member of this family. That won’t make it easier if that’s what has to happen, but at least I know that euthanasia would be a much more comfortable way for him to go than starving to death or being killed by something larger and more aggressive. If the predicted outcome for his illness is not good, I think it is a lot kinder to give him that peaceful death than to let him suffer until he can’t take it anymore.
I know that I have the information to make the right decision, if a decision is to be made. It’s just going to be very painful for me. But in this situation, I don’t matter. Dylan’s comfort is the most important thing. And as much as I don’t want to have to think about signing that form, giving my father-in-law legal consent to end my cat’s suffering, as much as I don’t want to be in that room trying to make sure Dylan knows right to the end of his life that I love him too much to watch him waste away, I am not optimistic that the report from the lab will be loaded with good news.