Opinion—Pets speak, but we have to understand their language (part three)

Opinion

Read part one and part two.

We got Zoey the Cool Cat (ZCC, but only for our purposes here) on September 21, 2007. Our agreement with the El Cajon Animal Shelter required us to take her to a veterinarian within seven days for a checkup. That was the first time I took her to a vet.Zoey the Cool Cat at the vet

The second time was July 9, 2018 (picture at right).

Jim’s brother had a stroke on
March 19, 2018, relegating him to the hospital. He had a cat named Ninja, and since he lived about 120 miles from us, we went to get Ninja and bring her to live with us until Jim’s brother was out of the hospital.

Ninja the Visiting Fat CatNinja was a severely overweight cat and was supposed to be on prescription food, which we did not know about. Nonetheless, Ninja stayed with us until April 12, 2018.

After we had taken Ninja home, ZCC proceeded to put on six pounds in six weeks. I was concerned that, perhaps, Ninja had some sort of virus or disease which ZCC had caught. So off to the vet we went. The results came back as a healthy cat.

I was having my own problems in July, having gone off on a (failed) suicide journey from July 23 to August 1, so ZCC was not at the top of my list of concerns. Zoey the Cool Cat and her red ringWhen I got back, though, I noticed that ZCC was not doing cat things anymore—playing with her strings, jumping up on chairs and beds, and playing fetch. She was just laying around. I chalked it up to her being depressed over me having gone missing for ten days.

Turkish Van cat at Friends of Cats sanctuary in El Cajon, CaliforniaIt wasn’t until I started volunteering at a cat sanctuary housing about 300 cats that I realized something more serious might be ailing ZCC. I took her to the vet. I wasn’t satisfied with the diagnosis, so I took her to a pet hospital for a second opinion. They wanted to do blood work, urinalysis, and a poop smear. I authorized it. ZCC was not cooperative, though, so all they got was a blood sample and left it up to me to get the other two samples. I have problems getting samples of my own for the doctor, so I wasn’t keen on getting samples from ZCC.

And I didn’t.

Zoey the Cool CatInstead, I took her to another pet hospital that a friend recommended. Said friend fosters a few billion dogs each year, so I trusted her about the second pet hospital. They got blood, urine, and fecal samples. That was on August 13. The results came back on August 18. ZCC was “borderline diabetic,” but she was above the borderline. The vet prescribed Hill’s W/D weight control food, and scheduled a follow-up visit for six weeks later.

At the follow-up visit, the prescription diet was working. ZCC had lost 3½ pounds and was safely under the borderline. The vet, however, said to keep her on the prescription diet and bring her back for monthly monitoring.

I was happy with her weight loss and being safely under the borderline, so I didn’t see any reason for monthly monitoring. I did weigh her each week, though.

Zoey the Cool CatThe prescription food was $45 for 24 cans of wet food and another $45 for a five-pound sack of dry food. As I was buying the food for the first time, I thought to myself, “I could be buying fresh lobster at these prices.”

I continued the Hill’s food and weekly weighing. She got down to 11.6 pounds but she still looked like she weighed 18.6 pounds. I now know why, which I’ll get to shortly. Her weight loss, though, resulted in her becoming a very bony cat. I could feel and see the bones in her back, her legs, everywhere. I thought she was too skinny. Yet she still looked fat. So I started mixing four cans of prescription food with one can of regular food, and four cups of dry prescription food with one cup of regular dry food. I now know that was just one of many significant mistakes I made.

Zoey the Cool Cat plopped in front of the refrigeratorZCC made one final attempt to jump up on chairs and beds, but after a week, she gave up completely and laid on the kitchen floor in front of the refrigerator. Along with that clue, the way she laid was concerning. No longer did she flop. Instead, it took her about ten seconds to lay down, and her rear legs always were stretched out. No more breadloafing. Still I did nothing, other than pick her up to give her love.

Zoey the Cool Cat on her catioFor ZCC to get to the catio, she had to go through a hole cut in a low kitchen window. The step up and down was about eight inches. When she was having problems doing that, I should have taken action. I didn’t.

One day when I was clipping her nails, I noticed a side nail that I had missed for some reason. From the look of the extreme curling growth, I had missed it many times, and I could see that it was digging into her paw. I tried for several days to clip that nail, but I couldn’t get to it. I could tell that it was affecting her, so I took her to Banfield Pet Hospital, located in Petsmart, which was where I bought her prescription food. The vet got the nail clipped and asked me to bring her back in three days to make sure the puncture wound in her paw was not infected.

Zoey the Cool Cat on her catioMeanwhile, ZCC was not squatting anymore to pee or poop. She was walking and squatting on her hind legs instead of her hind paws, which started getting messy when she eliminated. I could see that her paw was not getting infected, but I kept the Banfield appointment to ask about her problem with her hind legs. The vet mentioned possible diabetes and arthritis.

Well, it couldn’t be diabetes because we had that under control. So I went with arthritis.

Zoey the Cool CatSince I had gone on a weekend, their specialist vets were not available. So I made another appointment for a week later, the earliest available, to meet with a specialist to determine what we could do for her arthritis. That appointment was for June 23, a Sunday. When I got to Banfield on June 23 at 3:10 p.m., the vet wanted to take the regular blood, pee, and poop samples, but the results would not be available until Thursday. I didn’t want to wait that long. Banfield recommended an emergency vet just a couple of blocks away that has its own lab and could provide immediate results, so that’s where we went. Said emergency vet was closed on Sundays.

Zoey the Cool CatI wanted to get help for both me and ZCC. All the vets and pet hospitals I normally go to are closed on Sundays, many on Mondays, too. Finally, on page 2 of a Google search for “emergency vets near me,” I found Pet Emergency & Specialty Center (PESC). I knew exactly where it was since I used to drive by it several times a day for ten years or so.

Zoey the Cool CatI called PESC and was told that they did not take appointments, were open 24/7, and could see ZCC. We got to PESC in about five minutes since they were about a mile from where I had parked to do Google searches.

PESC was busy. Wow. I don’t think I’ve ever seen a vet or pet hospital as busy as PESC was. Although they took ZCC from me immediately and had me sign various papers to authorize testing, shots, etc., it was almost three hours before they called me in. During that time, it got even busier. People bringing in dogs, cats, snakes, birds, even a bearded dragon. People walking out without their pets. I now know that many walked out because their pets were left behind for testing, but some walking out because they had to say goodbye to their pets.

Zoey the Cool Cat, Olympic boxing championThe vet I met with, Dr. Dwan, was extraordinarily competent and compassionate. They had given ZCC a pain shot, and a preliminary examination indicated severe problems with her back legs.

Dr. Dwan asked me about her habits, how much she ate, how much she drink, how much she eliminated. Well, ZCC ate a lot, drank a lot, and eliminated a lot. Kind of. Her pee balls were the size of grapefruit, but very little fecal material in her litter box. Dr. Dwan told me the I was describing diabetes. Nope. I had diabetes under control. I mentioned arthritis. He said it was a possibility, but arthritis wouldn’t account for the excessive eating, drinking, and huge pee balls.

Zoey the Cool CatI authorized him to do any and all tests, costing $672, that he thought necessary to get ZCC some help. I can afford the $672, but I was still of the mindset from decades earlier, “$672!??? It’s a cat! If it dies, I’ll get another one.”

They allowed me to leave while they did those tests. That’s when I realized that not all the people leaving were leaving because they had to let their pets go.

Zoey the Cool Cat on a pedastalI went home, since that was only 2.9 miles away, and waited for a call, which came 90 minutes later. It was as Dr. Dwan suspected, diabetes, showing classic diabetes symptoms. Unfortunately, though, I had waited too long, and ZCC was permanently crippled from the diabetes having destroyed the muscles along her spine and back legs. He was surprised that she had any rear movement at all.

Zoey the Cool CatHer urinalysis showed a glucose level about four times the normal level. Dr. Dwan said that even with daily insulin injections, ZCC probably would be dead within a couple of weeks. She was too far gone. Additionally, with literally no hope for a full recovery, and with her glucose levels being so high in her urine, if I wanted to go with treatment, ZCC would get two double-dose insulin injections each day, and she would be in their pet hospital for probably seven days. I would not get to take her home until they got her diabetes under control.

Zoey the Cool CatTotal cost for 7 days of treatment and hospitalization would be about $2,000. I can afford $2,000, but I was thinking more of ZCC not making a full recovery and not having long to live anyway.

I made the decision, without Jim’s input since he was at work, to let ZCC go in dignity rather than try to carry on to satisfy my own ego while knowing that she was suffering. I didn’t want any more pain and suffering for her.

A study in symmetry with Zoey the Cool CatAfter I made the decision, Dr. Dwan consoled me, had me sign papers, brought ZCC in to allow me to take as much time as I needed in order to say goodbye, and allowed me to hold her in my arms while he administered the three euthanasia drugs. ZCC was alert and active, but when that first drug took effect, ZCC’s head fell into the crook of my arm and her last breath came out as a soft, quiet snort. That was her last movement.

After administering the other two drugs and checking her heart, he softly said, “She has passed.”

He allowed me as much time as I wanted to grieve over my deceased little one. I cried for a couple of minutes, put ZCC down in the pet bed, took a picture of her, covered her with a towel, and left.

Zoey the Cool Cat in bedThe people in the lobby that I had been talking to for several hours all knew that I was leaving without my little one and that I would never see her again.

The total cost for ZCC was $1,126, but $321 of that was for a private cremation with her remains being returned to me. I got word yesterday that her remains will arrive on Monday between 11 and 12:30. I am going to bury her in the side yard where I often sit and read. I’m hoping to put a little memorial stone there as well as some flowers, something like a hibiscus or a crown-of-thorns since they are ever-blooming in our climate.

Here’s the page from her test results showing the extraordinarily high glucose levels:

Additionally alarming were the two x-rays:

X-ray for Zoey the Cool Cat

If you look closely, you can see balls of fecal matter in her intestines. That’s what was making her look fat. She was unable to eliminate all that because her rear muscles had atrophied so badly. Fecal matter does not weigh as much as bone, fat, fur, and muscle, so even though she weighed only 11.6 pounds, she looked like she weighed much more. A deadly illusion.

So what have I learned from this emotional and trying matter? Well, first and foremost, a cat IS NOT JUST A CAT!

Zoey the Cool Cat was not just a cat. She was a member of our family. She loved us and we loved her. The only thing I can do now is ensure that our new member, Olivia, gets regular checkups at the vet. She has her first visit this coming Wednesday. At PECS. I really liked everything about that place.

Second, although everyone hates to spend money needlessly, spending money on loved ones is not needless. When I look at the $1,600 I spent on vet bills during the past year and divide that by the 12 years Zoey the Cool Cat was with us, $150 or so per year is about the cost of an annual checkup, and the results are much easier to deal with. Olivia will be getting annual checkups at a minimum.

Lastly, pet insurance. We all hate insurance until we need it, and then we love it. Olivia will have pet insurance.

Here is the last video that I took of Zoey the Cool Cat from June 19:

Here is the last picture I took of Zoey the Cool Cat:

Zoey the Cool Cat at peace and free of pain

Zoey the Cool Cat died at 9:35 p.m. on June 23, 2019. I took that picture at 9:37 p.m.. I held her and cried for two minutes, trying to console myself by telling myself that she was not in pain anymore. I was in tremendous pain, though. Still am.

Zoey the Cool CatThank you, Zoey the Cool Cat, for all your love and antics, for being a part of our lives for twelve years. I’m so sorry that my ignorance, stupidity, and irresponsibility did not allow me to do more for you.

Rest in peace, little girl.

I love you and will always remember you.

This three-part post has been very therapeutic for me, and if you’ve made it all the way through, I thank you. I also did this because I know my blog posts get a lot of love from the search engines, so with appropriate keywords as well, perhaps my experience here can save someone else the same experience.

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17 thoughts on “Opinion—Pets speak, but we have to understand their language (part three)

  1. philosophermouseofthehedge

    I grateful you have a good vet – and Zoey went softly.
    Part of her legacy will be the knowledge gained and shared with us – it will help another animal.
    When you take an animal in, you are charged with doing the best you can for them. We are human and fail, but can learn. I watch elderly RC Cat closely, knowing they share their lives with us for less time than we wish.
    Flowers and a spot where you read – perfect. Peace and well missed, Zoey

    Liked by 2 people

    Reply
  2. cat9984

    Mr. Russel – We would like to let you know that Zoey the Cool Cat would not blame you for what happened. She knew you loved her very much. And humans, unlike cats, are not perfect. She had 12 wonderful years that would not have happened without you. Purrs, Snoops and Kommando Kitty

    Liked by 2 people

    Reply

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