Friday, February 08, 2008

A Pet as a Child

I almost cried reading this article:

What I Wouldn't Do For My Cat

By Ada Calhoun

Feb. 8, 2008 | Our cat is 6 years old, black and white, and he spends most of his time lying on his back, a loudly purring pillow for our 1-year-old son. He is so loving and gentle that when a hippie neighbor gave him to me and my husband as a kitten, we named him Ferdinand after the peace-loving bull in the children's story. Our Ferdinand carries stuffed animals around in his teeth and leaves them at the foot of our bed each night. I love our cat.

And yet, I still don't know if he's worth $1,300.

One morning, as I was making coffee, I noticed Ferdinand seemed sluggish. In the past, he'd had some urinary tract trouble, common among neutered male cats. When we'd taken him in for this complaint, he'd been treated with a change in diet and occasional tablets. So I called the vet's office expecting more of the same. But when I described the way he was acting, they seemed to think this was more serious.

"You have to bring him in," the receptionist said.

"Now?" I asked.

"Now."

My husband, Neal, rushed him over, then called an hour later to say the vet had put in a catheter and was keeping Ferdinand overnight.

"The vet said he could have died," Neal said, "that it's good we got him there in time. He said it's very common and easy to fix, but that he'll have to be kept at the hospital for a couple of days."

I was alarmed that the cat had been so close to death. If he had died, I would have been devastated. And yet, with some guilt, I also worried about the cost.

"How much did the vet say it would be?" I asked.

"Hundreds. And then the vet looked at me like he was daring me to flinch."

Neal handed over his credit card.

Two years ago, Nate and I began the saga of dealing with feline breast cancer. I didn't even know cats could get breast cancer, but yes, they can. It started with a swelled nipple on Brooksie's tummy that when examined, discharged pus. A search of the internet convinced us it was a blocked duct, to be treated with warm compresses. After two weeks, with nothing making it any better, we took her to the vet, and a biopsy was done, confirming a diagnosis of a mammary tumor.

Like Calhoun, for Nate and me, the cats are our babies. It was a terrible decision to make, weighing the pros (we loved Brooksie that much, she was only 9 and had a good 6 years left in her, she was Charlemagne's best friend) and the cons (how could we come up with the $8,000 to remove her mammary system?)

I know what you're thinking--$8,000? Take out the whole system for one small tumor? Well... we learned that the feline mammary system is a giant web, and pieces of the tumor can easily break off, get caught in the web and plant somewhere else, so the best way to fix the problem is to take out everything.

After a week, and weighing our options, we opted to take out three of her eight mammary glands; the one with the tumor, the one above it, and the one below it. It cost $2,000, put on a special "Care Credit" account. We paid it off that August. And she went through the surgery beautifully. We had a wonderful year and a half together.

Until the cancer appeared again. A piece had broken off, and it planted itself in her lungs, and grew very quickly. For a few weeks, we noticed her wheezing, thought it was a cold, nothing serious, and then one night it got too bad, and she went back to the animal hospital. X-rays were taken, and we looked at Brooksie's fossilized lungs. We had to put her down; she would have suffocated in the next day or so.

I miss Brooksie everyday. Not that I don't love Tessa, our new cat, but she doesn't get along with Charlemagne very well yet, and it's hard to think of how we used to come home to Brooksie and Charlemagne cuddled up in a cat puddle on the couch after work, and we'd take them to bed together.

And even as we scrounged to remove Brooksie's cancer, it made me sad to think that most people don't get health care as good as we gave to our cat. We didn't know that we'd only get a year and a half after that operation, but I'm still glad we did it. She was worth it.

2 responses:

Milena said...

A sweet post. There is commitment people take on when they adopt a pet. It's not there just to make you happy, you are promising to make it happy too, that includes health care. Regrettably, my husband is nicer to the dog I bought when I was 14 (yes, 14) than my family ever was. We never abused Kiynago, never left him outside, always fed and walked him, but it was like we were okay with that bare minimum, didn't think twice about shooing him away if we were in a bad mood or closing doors to our rooms when he just wanted to hang out. Those may seem like minor offenses, but when I see Mike with Kiynago, he treats him like a true friend, and my relationship with him since he moved in with us changed too.

Angela said...

My dog is my "baby" so I totally know what you mean.

"...it made me sad to think that most people don't get health care as good as we gave to our cat." I often think about this when I seek medical care for my dog. It's a sad thought - one I hope we can soon change.


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