When is a cat not just a cat

My cat Banjo has had a rough week, and presently is in critical condition. What follows is the story thus far.

On Saturday of last week, I got back from work and found a number of piles of vomit around the house. I have two cats, and as any person who has had cats for a while knows, cats vomit.

Later that day, I hear this sound coming from the hallway. I run over and see my older cat Banjo wretching. I quickly move him to the kitchen to complete his vomiting, safely clear of the carpet. All that came up was foamy water. Hmm…
Well, I had some sausage that had been sitting around for embarrasingly long that appeared to have been disturbed. I just figured Banjo had gotten into the sausage and had a case of “Garbage Gut”. Well, he did it two more times at least while I was there, and I started doing research.

Cat vomiting can be caused by so many things, ranging from excessive shedding to kidney failure. I decided to give him overnight (most places said over 24-hours of vomiting should warrant a vet call). I got up two times during the night, and both times he was sitting in the same position, facing the same direction. Sunday morning, I decided (after consulting my mother) that I should call the vet and ask him if this deserved an emergency visit.

The area on-call doctor agreed that it would be wise to look into it. Banjo got some x-rays and a thorough prodding (both with much protest). the conclusion: he ate something that wasn’t agreeing with him, and was having bowel pain (based on the gas pockets in his intestines). He was give three shots – one for nausea, one for stomach acid and one for pain. Ironically, the pain killer shot inspired more hissing and growling than I have ever heard from Mr. B. All this for the low-low price of $250.

It seemed to help. After the insult wore off, he perked back up and started drinking and eating again, although he was still cranky (he kept trying to bite me… – I blame narcotic pain meds)

Monday night, around 1:30am I awake (after some very strange dreams) to the huk.. huk.. huk.. and find several yellowish splotches on the carpet, in addition to the fresh ones right in front of Banjo. I take away the food and water, and get out the spray bottle and paper towel to clean up the messes. As far as I know, he didn’t vomit anymore that night. Before showering, I put some water out for them – they were both thirsty. I go into the basement for some socks, and there are a couple fresh puddles of water-vomit. Oi.

The vet looks at the x-rays, checks him over and thinks he probably has some intestinal inflamation, and prescribes two drugs – Reglan (anti-nausea) and Famotidine (antacid). Lovely, I get to give pills. (But hey, this visit was much more reasonable at $55.)

Well, they seem to work – no more vomiting Tuesday. Wednesday he fights his evening pill very hard – unwilling to open his mouth.
I don’t really notice him eating much though, or drinking for that matter. The water dish and cup upstairs are not emptying at nearly the usual rate. Banjo does not sit on my lap like usual. He doesn’t really purr much, and remains disinterested in shoelaces (normally irresistable to him…).

Friday morning I used a new method to give him his pill (holding the head up), and it worked like a charm. Friday night he resisted even this.

After I got the pill in him, I carried him to the bathroom for a drink. He jumps down, and immediately starts vomiting again. Twice. Given that he is taking anti-nausea drugs, this is not cool. The vomit looks like water vomit but was a dark yellow – it looked like urine.

I knew he was going in for another vet visit in the morning, and I doubted sleep would be forthcoming, so I headed in to work to try and make up some of the lost hours and medical fees.

Called the vet, and he decided that we should probably do some bloodwork. Understandably, he fought going into the carrier this time, but not too hard. During the drive there, I could tell something more serious that tummy trouble was wrong. His voice had changed. It sounded flat, pitiful, weak. He smelled different too.

I got nervous.

He had gone from 15.8 lbs to 15.2. After removing him from his carrier, he just layed down, didn’t make eye contact. This again, made me nervous.

I was seeing a different doctor because Dr. Menard was not available. She checks his mouth and finds that he has some gingivitis going on – the discovery of which involved a yelp from Banjo. She takes his blood, and Banjo and I wait for 20-minutes or so.

The doctor comes back in and says “Well, we found what’s causing Banjo’s problems.” She is the sort of person with a chronically happy face – I could not read it, but I knew what was coming.

“His kidneys are failing”

I’m shown an estimated bill for the hospitalization service – $400. She says it’s possible he got into something that damaged his kidneys, and now they can’t catch-up. The hospitalization has a 50-50 chance of working. Now, I have to decide – spend $400 on a 50% likelihood of success or put him down. And I need to decide right now.

During the drive to the vet I considered this situation. I thought I might have to put Banjo down, and it didn’t upset me much – he is just a cat. I wondered (as I sometimes do) if Iam losing my ability to care.

Well, faced with the decision, I found out that I am still human, and I fought very hard not to break down in front of the vet. When she left to let me think about it, I broke down.

Here is this cat – this funny little man – who the thought of actually losing brought me to tears. Should I put him through it with such odds? I was leaning against it. I called my Mom – she recommended researching the results. As the possibilty of hope crossed my mind, I was able to regain my composure. Yes, I will do research.

After some soul searching (could I live with myself if I didn’t try?), some research (some numbers were ok while others were high, but could have other causes), and some happy rationalization (I’ve already spent so much on him… it would be foolish to give up so quickly) I decided to go for the treatment. I don’t know what I would do without my little man. The thought of losing him is devastating. He may be a cat, but he is also my best friend. For a while, my two cats were my only friends. He got me through the darkest times in my life when I felt hopeless. He is more than “just a cat” to me.

So back to the vet, with a hopeful heart.

Just in case, I decide to have Molly tested as well, since they pretty much share everything. While waiting in the lobby, a girl is finishing up a visit with a kitten who looks just like what I imagine baby Banjo looked like. The vet comes out and tells me he is doing better today. And that I can come back and see him. He gets up and and meows a few times, and even purrs a little. When I got there he just about walks out of the cage to rub up against me. He was so happy to see me. His voice was still a bit off, but it definitely sounded better. One of the techs said that yesterday he wasn’t interested in contact, but was being extremely snuggley today, and he hasn’t been messing with his IV. He really is such a good boy. I tell him every day, but I’m sometimes amazed by how true it is.

Molly’s blood is normal. (Phew)

Banjo’s kidneys have been damaged for unknown reasons (He has Acute Renal Failure). While the doctor suspects poisoning of some kind, I cannot think of anything (besides old sausage) that he could have eaten.
While some of it may be reversible, he will not live as long as he should. Maybe months; maybe years. Also, he will have to be on a special diet, and monitored for signs of further failure (aka vomit checks).

Now that Banjo has been gone from the house for a while, Molly has noticed. It is as if she is calling for him, and expects to see him when she hears noises. If Banjo doesn’t make it, she is going to need a companion. Even though he is only in the hospital, her cries are heart-wrenching. It would seem that Banjo is more than “just a cat” to both of us.

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