Little Bear had to be put down this morning after a long weekend at the SF Veterinary Specialists hospital. It happened so quickly, but looking back, the signs were there and we just didn’t see them.
Apparently, she’d been suffering from pancreatitis for a long time, a somewhat mysterious affliction in cats (after I learned that 80% of cats suffer from periadontal problems as well and having her front teeth removed). At first, it seemed like she wasn’t eating because her front teeth were coming out, causing her pain. After coming home one evening to her sticking her tongue out to keep from having her incisors punching into her lower jaw (and consequently slobbering all over the place), I took her in to have them removed. She returned home to eat a bit, but soon stopped again. Later on, her skin started turning yellow.
After looking things up on the web about cats and yellow skin, it seemed like I needed to get her to the vet ASAP. Thanks be to our Flexcar account, I have been using the car repeatedly to make these trips to the vet! The vet took some blood samples and sent us home with a syringe to have me try to feed her. She tolerated it, but didn’t like it and soon was throwing up what little I gave her.
Getting her blood work back, the vet at Especially Cats said it was important to get her to an emergency care facility where more tests could be done, as her skin color and lack of apetite was cause for concern. Her emergency trip there on Friday turned into a several night stay where she was diagnosed with pancreatitis–blockage of the gall bladder by a swollen pancreas–which cause the bile to go into her system and give her skin the yellow color. They tried giving her hormones which decreased the swelling, but her red blood cell count continued to diminish. Plasma was given, but this didn’t seem to help increase the count. It looked bad, and there is not cure for pancreatitis (nor is there a known cause). The doctor said that the feeling, as described by humans, is “like being stabbed repeatedly in the stomach.” Gah.
Everyone at the hospital said she was a real trooper, and that she was very kind and didn’t fuss or cry. Her spirits seemed to rise each time we went to visit her (which was encouraged, to my surprise, by the hospital), but at four this morning the doctor said her red blood cell count was down to 10 and she needed a blood transfusion to keep her going. She still hadn’t eaten, and was expected to need a nose feeding tube to be inserted. She was so skinny and getting thinner and more tired each time I visited.
This morning the doctor called, after I had already visited after taking Da to work at 7am, and said she would need hospitalization for the next few days just to see if the treatment was working and to have her fed. She didn’t seem to be improving the way he had hoped from the past night. I decided it just wasn’t going to help make her life any better and went in to help with her passing.
I never thought much about my cats–I mean, a dog is quite affectionate and needs feeding and care every day. Cats seem like plants, they take water and feeding and a place to go to the bathroom. I’d gotten these guys almost nine years ago after volunteering at the SF SPCA during a time when I was moving out of a shared living space into a small apartment. It was almost a whim–adopting two cats because they were a bonded pair. She and her sister, Emma, were practically drawn specifically for the cover of the January 20, 2003 cover of the New Yorker, and it was a great gift from my best man, Owen, on my wedding day–she and her sister in our apartment, her walking in the front door while her sister waits on a chair at the kitchen table. What I realized after a seemingly long weekend which now seems so sudden, is how much she was a part of our family. Her love and affection, her bad behavior (yes, she could be vindictive), her weird, horsey-gallop and awkward slips, her graceful posture (she was always my little Audrey Hepburn), and the dependence on her sister in her bond was always around.
Now she’s gone, passing sleepily away with her head on a towel while I put it gently between her paws. The vet asked if it was my first time and I couldn’t answer “yes” for being so choked up. It was always my parents who had done this, I was always away from home when this sort of thing happened after years with a family pet. Now it was me having to help her through this and it seemed not as simple any more. I tried everything, but it just wasn’t going to change–I don’t think her life at home would have gotten any better and it seemed like she was being brave to the end. She was a good girl, but it was time to say goodbye, it just seemed all too fast.