This post is not about a horse, but it touches on a topic that we all face when part of our family includes pets. Let’s face it. They simply do not live long enough. And when they come to the end of their lives, it’s really, really hard to know when the right time is to help them over the rainbow bridge.
Pounce, the cat on my lap, has been part of our family for 18 years. That’s a pretty good lifespan for a cat and he’s had a few lucky escapes. He was found, as a kitten of about 5 weeks old, on the streets of Waltham. Alone. He’s lucky to have survived the experience. My daughter, who was then four, wante
d a black girl kitten. It turns out there were no female black kittens in a fifty mile radius, so I told the animal control officer in Waltham to lie. Which she did. It was several months before we explained that we’d made a mistake and Pounce was actually a boy. By then, it didn’t matter.
Because he was so tiny when we got him, or maybe because he was feral, Pounce bonded fiercely with his family. I guess he thinks we’re all cats or he’s human. He’s not allowed strangers near him until the last year or two, when he finally decided it was too much trouble to run away from everyone.
For many years, Pounce was an outside cat. That’s before the population of coyotes and fischer cats around us burgeoned. He was a good boy and always came when we whistled for him, but once or twice he came in looking wild eyed and skittish. We transitioned him to an only indoor cat after that. He complained for a few months and then decided to relax and rule the house.
Two years ago, Pounce was diagnosed with kidney disease. He showed all the symptoms: excessive thirst, weight loss, and lethargy. Blood tests confirmed he was high stage 3 and my vet started to prepare us for a shorted lifespan. With the help of a friend, who is a vet who takes a broad view of treatments, we chose to put him on a raw food diet instead of prescription kidney food. While it might not work for all cats, Pounce rebounded. A year later he had regained all he weight he lost and his blood tests showed him at mid stage 2. My vet admitted she would not have recommended our approach but it had worked.
Right before Christmas this year, we discovered that one of his toes was inflammed. Thinking it was an infected nail, we took him to the vet. Unfortunately, it wasn’t so simple. It turned out he had a cancerous tumor on one of his toes. His chest x-ray looked clean (cancer in cats often start in the lungs and then metastisize to the toe). We had his toe amputated and he’s been recovering well.
But, it’s not that simple. It turned out that the cancer did originate in his lungs, so removing the digit fixed the short term problem, but did not eliminate the cancer. At 18+, with chronic kidney disease, he’s not a candidate for further surgery, especially as there’s not telling where else it is in his body. We’ve been told to keep him comfortable, give him lots of loving, and when he stops enjoying the things he loves most (sitting on my lap and eating) to help him along. The vets told us he might live only 2-4 more months, which is very hard to imagine as he’ll leave a huge hole in our hearts.
I don’t want to be selfish and prolong his life at his expense. But I’m not ready to give up yet, either. Today he’s still feeling good. Sure, he’s limping a bit from the amputation, but I’m not entirely sound, either. Since it won’t do any harm, and may actually help, our next step is to try a less traditional approach. Tomorrow Pounce will go see a vet who uses more holistic treatments, including CDB oil and mushroom compounds that have been shown to shrink cancerous tumors in cats and dogs. If we can keep him happy and comfortable, I want him to be part of our family for as long as possible Eighteen years is simply not enough.
Have you had pets that beat the odds? I’d like to hear some success stories!