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Small Blessings: Or, 2016 Has Not Killed My Cat
toon
lilmissnever
I may be tempting fate, posting this with a day left to go, but 2016 has not yet killed my cat. Perl is fifteen years old. She is a frail and skinny thing. The last time I weighed her, she was 6.6 lbs. She has cataracts in both eyes and she moves slowly because she has arthritis. When she started losing weight very quickly this year, the vet diagnosed her with hyperthyroidism, which meant pilling the cat every day. In October, she stopped eating and started vomiting, which having developed a strong sensitivity to old cat problems after Ada, led to another trip to the vet.

Perl hates the vet. She gets carsick. She makes a sound like a baby being stabbed the entire time she is in the car. It is the most piteous wail. J and I have spent a lot of time at the vet in 2016.

It turned out that Perl was exhibiting the symptoms of either irritable bowel disease or a very low grade cancer, both of which are treated with steroids. After a couple of days in the Very Expensive Pet Loft, getting stabilized, we brought Perl home and added steroids to regimen. At this point, Perl required four pills a day. J and I got very good at pilling the cat.

Perl perked up, but she didn't quite recover. After a few weeks, she stopped eating. She just curled up on the same spot on the bed day after day and turned her nose up at the many kinds of food I brought her. Eventually, she could not get up to pee and I had to change all of the bedsheets. When she could no longer use her hind legs, we took her to the emergency vet, who kept her overnight again. It turns out that the steroids were making Perl diabetic. My tiny cat's blood sugar was so low that if we had waited until the next day to bring her in, she would have died.

Around this time we started having to inject our cat with vitamin B12 once a week.

On Christmas, J and I took Perl to the vet for her a recheck. We noticed that her recovery was a little shaky, but we thought it was just a matter of finding the right balance in her medications. Instead, the vet did a set of initial tests and then called us into the an examination room, looking grim. Perl was anemic--and not just a little bit anemic, but so crazily anemic that if she did not resume producing red blood cells, she would need a transfusion.

This is fine. This is fine. How much does a transfusion cost? $600? This is fine. We have already established that we are the sort of people who will set a mountain of money on fire to keep our cat alive. But it won't solve the problem? It's a temporary measure? It buys us time? By which you mean a couple of weeks. Oh.

Oh.

Oh.

But in the meantime, here is the saline for the subcutaneous fluids you're going to give her and needles for the very small amount of insulin she needs, because she is borderline diabetic. Stop her thyroid medication. Give her more steroids. Your cat is a bag of bones, held together with pills and needles and your checkbook.

My few remaining readers, there may have been some crying at this juncture. J and I went home and I put away towels and wailed. Cat lives are short and human lives are long, but J and I have had Perl for longer than I've been writing here. And this feeling is not new--Ada died slowly and expensively and all of her organs failed at once--but it is different when you know the time is coming and all that you can do is make her comfortable before she runs out of life.

This evening I got a call from the vet, who informed me of the results of the more detailed tests they ran on Perl's blood. It turns out that she is not quite as anemic as the quick test had indicated and she appears to still be making more red blood cells. J and I have given her subcutaneous fluids and fed her her steroids, but we haven't quite figured out how to give her a half dose of insulin because the syringes we have aren't small enough. Perl will die, but this is one sliver of misery I will not lay at 2016's feet.

Some things we save for next year.
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Oh, no. How well I know this spot you are in. You write it so vividly and, dare I say, beautifully. Perl is lucky to have such attentive and loving caregivers. May you find much sweetness and love with her in these days, between the pilling and the fluids and the bedsheet changing, you hold on to such love.



It's going to break my heart when she goes, but I'm so glad it's not this year. Thank you.

I am so sorry. I hope she can be comfortable for the remaining time she has left.
Love to you, J and especially Perl
<3


She is a sweet cat and we have had her for many years. I will try to make 2017 as pleasant for her as I can.

Which insulin? Is it a U40 strength or U100? (feel free to poke me offline/email; I had years and years of experience with a borderline diabetic cat, and got extremely well trained at small insulin doses).


I have gone to the vet for smaller syringes, but if this continues to be a problem, I welcome your advice. Because Perl is so tiny and sensitive, I am very worried about giving her too much insulin and sending her into a coma.

Shoot me an email or let's talk in person.


After consulting the vet, I have fixed this problem with science. I draw a unit of saline and a unit of insulin into the syringe, mix, and inject one unit into my cat. In hindsight, this is a very obvious solution.

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