Tuesday, October 2, 2012

It's trauma for the whole family!

We finally took our cat back to the vet's yesterday. About six weeks ago, after a night out on the town (for the cat) I noticed that he was really lethargic, and that he was limping. So we took him to the vet who put him on antibiotics and sent us home with instructions to monitor him. When Zap (the cat) was still pretty young, he got out one night, got into a fight with something, hurt his back a bit, and got a small infection. So this seemed like par for the course. (His back has been fine for a long time, don't worry.) No big deal, right?
Except that this time, instead of getting better, Zap just stayed the same. Still sorta lethargic, still severely limping. When he hurt his back I was able to lift him under his front paws so that he was standing on his hind legs and walk him around like that to get his muscles working again. (His hind leg muscles had atrophied from disuse. He looked like a cat version of Joe Swanson.) Shane was amazed that I didn't get my face clawed off, but it worked.
I tried doing that a couple of weeks ago and nearly did get my face clawed off. My poor cat was obviously still in pain, still not doing well. He was still seeming lethargic, not his usual bouncy, curious, cat self. I told Shane that we needed to take Zap back to the vet but Shane just said, "Let's wait and see a little bit more."
Finally, last week I put my foot down and made an appointment. I had to make it for this week, when Shane would be home and I'd have a vehicle, but I was done waiting and seeing. Zap was making little noises of pain every time he jumped and still wasn't putting any weight on his rear left leg. He was still lethargic and quiet.
So we took him to the vet yesterday when I was done with work. Right from the start it was awful. We'd borrowed a cat carrier from friends. It was the same one L and I used last time we took the cat to the vet and, unfortunately, he recognized it. As soon as I pulled it out he got really low, stared at it for a second, and then tried to slink away quietly. Shane and I together couldn't force him into it (partly out of fear of hurting him more) and he wasn't going to allow himself to be quietly wrapped in a towel for the car ride. Shane finally pulled out the big dog kennel and I feel so bad because the cat saw it and went, "Safety!" and leapt into it. I tossed the towel in after him, we closed it, and took it out to the truck. He looked so betrayed.
Then he peed. And it got all over him on the short trip. Then it got all over me because I was the one who mostly held him, poor guy. I tried to make him feel safe.
The vet examined him and said that there was something moving which shouldn't be moving near his hip. So, X-rays. And a sedative for the X-rays. Poor Zap. Instead of his usual strident "MROOOOW!", when they were manipulating him for the X-rays all he could do to protest was a low "mmmrrrrrrrrr" noise. He couldn't move. I ended up holding him while we waited for the X-rays to develop, and while the vet saw another patient. I took the opportunity to weigh him (he hadn't been weighed since he was a kitten) and found out that even in his weakened state he weighed 16.5 lbs. I knew my cat was big! (The ideal weight for the average domestic cat is 8-10 lbs. 16.5 probably means that Zap has some Maine Coon in him, along with the strain of Russian Blue we already knew about.) No wonder he feels like he can take on the world.
The sedative made it so that he couldn't even lift his head. Any time I shifted his weight (I was holding him for about 20 minutes, after all) his head would fall to the side. It was heartbreaking. My cat also doesn't like being held for too long, generally, so while I enjoyed getting the snuggles it sort of added a whole new level of pathos to the whole situation.
The vet took one look at the X-rays and said, "Oh my gosh. Well, yep, that's the problem. I've never seen anything like it, though." The bit of bone which connects the hip ball to the rest of the femur was pretty much completely shattered.
That's the area there. The vet just kept saying how he'd never seen anything like it before and couldn't quite think of what would cause such an injury. His hip hadn't been dislocated, which in a way added to the mystery. What would cause such a catastrophic injury that wouldn't also get the hip ball? Since Zap was, once again, running a fever the vet speculated that perhaps there was some sort of bone infection, but we didn't run any tests for that. He's on more antibiotics and on kennel rest for one whole month. At the end of the month we'll take him back for more tests and X-rays. Fun, right?
When the vet said a whole month of kennel rest Shane said, "And are you willing to give us a month's worth of sedatives?" He was only half joking. We asked for ideas about how to keep him entertained and all the vet could really suggest was catnip. If anyone out there on the internets has ideas about how to keep a normally very active but caged cat entertained for a month, please let us know.
As if all of that trauma wasn't enough for my poor cat, as soon as we got home I had to give him a sponge bath to get the pee off of him. The poor guy tried to run out of the kennel but was still under the effect of the sedatives and his leg was really hurting so he couldn't really run. I had to corner him and listen to the most pitiful crying while I wiped him down with a damp towel.
The dog freaked out, not knowing what was going on, and wouldn't leave him alone in the kennel. At first it was funny, then it was just annoying. After I fed the cat the dog kept scratching at the door because she wanted his food.
And the kennel isn't going to be big enough. I know, the whole point is to keep him essentially immobilized. But this kennel is about the size of the tote we use just as his litter box. Putting a shoe box in there full of litter wasn't cutting it. He ended up pooping in his food bowl and then peeing all over himself again. Shane cleaned up the poo, I once again cleaned up the cat. The smell of the poop got to Shane, who threw up, and I got scratched by the cat. Everyone had a great time.
So when I'm done with work today, we're going to figure something else out to keep him in relative comfort. Something at least big enough for a litter box he can use. I might try to set it up by the windows, too, so that he can at least see what's going on outside. Maybe that will keep him from crying all day? That's all he did last night--cry and scratch at the door of the kennel. Shane said, "Well, at least we know what the saddest sound in the world is."
Our cat is still pretty young. He's only 4, and the average lifespan of a male domestic cat is 12-14 years. If he was older, I'm not sure what we'd do. But this is (hopefully) going to be worth it to save our young cat. Worst case scenario, a total hip replacement. Slightly better case scenario (and probably the most likely), he's crippled but mobile for the rest of his life. I'm not holding my breath for a full recovery, and I feel like the worst cat owner ever.
Probably the best decision we made last night was to not cook dinner. When we were still at the vet's I asked Shane, "How about we get takeout Thai food instead?" So Shane picked that up after dropping me and the cat at home, while I was trying to get the kennel somewhat comfortable and clean up the cat pee. I tried to be mad at myself over the garbage produced by getting takeout. Our Thai place uses plastic tubs and Styrofoam containers. But I was so drained by everything else that I thought of it and then mentally shrugged.
Every time Shane says, "This month is going to suck," all I can think is, "YOU'RE GOING TO BE GONE FOR THE NEXT TWO WEEKS! I'm going to be the one taking care of everything, it's going to suck for ME!" But I've managed not to say it...more than once. Yes, October is going to be long and it is going to be painful.
Adding to it all, I seem to be coming down with a cold. La vita e bella.

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