Saturday, February 09, 2013

A Sad Day


It's been a sad 24 hours here. Last night, one of my best friends had to put down one of her cats. She brought home two brothers, Calvin and Magic, ten years ago. She had intended to get only one cat that day and fell in love immediately with the lovable Calvin. He was the friendliest, most laid-back cat ever. Nothing ever phased him. Magic, on the other hand . . . he found a home only because he was Calvin's younger and more skittish brother, and my friend knew in her heart that she could not separate them.

The boys turned ten in October. There was an annual trip to the vet for shots and the vet pronounced both in excellent health for senior cats of their age. It was later that month that Calvin's problems began. Mama came home one night and was surprised not to find Calvin waiting for her at the door. He came up from the basement a short time later, and it was instantly apparent that all was not well. He wasn't his usual animated self and seemed to have balance issues. An emergency trip to the vet soon followed, where he was diagnosed with an ear infection.

A few weeks passed and when he had not improved, it was time for a return trip to the vet. They drew blood and he was diagnosed with diabetes, easily manageable with regular insulin shots. Diabetes is common in heavier, older male cats. While Calvin was not overweight, he was nearly 20 pounds of muscle and had recently turned ten. They started him on a twice a day regimen and all was well through December. On December 30, his blood sugar crashed, resulting in yet another late-night trip to the emergency vet. He was taken off the insulin for a couple weeks and seemed to have stabilized. Calvin was not happy with multiple trips to have his blood levels checked. They eventually put him back on insulin, but rather than twice daily, only once every other day.

Still, it was obvious something wasn't right. He kept tilting his head to the right, then stopped eating the crunchy cat food, would only eat the soft canned stuff. This led the vet and vet tech to wonder if perhaps he had an abscessed tooth. So, back in he went on January 28 for surgery. Except--when they put him under they found his teeth were all fine. The vet did a little exploring and discovered a tumor inside Calvin's ear. He removed it, hoping he got it all. It's a little difficult to see inside a cat's delicate ear, not to mention how dangerously close to the brain and optic nerves it is.

The vet wanted to keep him for two days after--partly because it takes a lot longer for cats to recover from the anesthetic than dogs, and because there had been a little bleeding. Calvin ended up staying an extra night due to that heavy snow storm I documented last week. His Mama was rather upset Thursday evening when she brought him home and he immediately dove under her bed and refused to come out. Friday, he came out to eat, then went to hide again. I spent the weekend over there as friend was pretty upset by Calvin's atypical behavior.

 All weekend we saw improvements. He would come out to eat, then stayed with us for longer stretches of time. Though he was still a bit off-balance, that also improved a bit each day, and he had a good week. Friend told me that he seemed more his old self every day. Though he still wasn't up to playing with his brother, he was getting up on furniture he knows he isn't supposed to be on (ie: kitchen and coffee table), sleeping on the back of the couch again, jumping into the front window . . . It seemed like he was really getting better.

And then Friday rolled around.

His mama was already stressed by Thursday's snow storm and the car getting stuck at bottom of her driveway. She had been out several times during the night to clear away snow (the wet, heavy kind) and try to dig out the car. She worked at home Friday so she could work at digging out the car in between conference calls (which she finally did with help of a neighbor). It turned out to be a good thing she was home.

Magic and Calvin (right), 2011
  Calvin was snuggled up against her while she was on a conference call when he suddenly had a seizure. A couple more small seizures occurred during the afternoon. When she called me soon after she got home from work, she had already consulted with both her vet and brother, and her brother told her if nothing major happened over the weekend, he would go with her Monday, in case it was . . . time. Well, after a stressful 24 hours, she went to bed early, Calvin snuggled up next to her.

Around 10:30 last night, Calvin woke her jumping off the bed. A few minutes later she heard what sounded like something falling over, followed by Calvin mewing in distress. She rushed into the living room to find him having a grand seizure. She calmed him as best she could, but unlike early in the day, the seizure didn't seem to stop and he started growling and scratched her. She called the emergency vet, who instructed her to bring him in right away. When she called to let her brother know, he (wisely) commanded her not to drive, to call Mom to come get her, which she did.

She managed to get Calvin into his carrier while waiting for Mom, then called me. I did my best to reassure her it would be okay, no matter what happened, that we were all here for her. While we were talking, Calvin started having another grand seizure in his carrier. You all, I cannot even tell you how awful that was. I could hear him thrashing about in his carrier, his mewling cries, and knowing there wasn't anything either of us (especially me, not actually being there) could do for him. I was almost sobbing as hard as his mama at that point. As she ran out the door, I reminded her that she could call me or one of our other friends no matter how late it was. I couldn't go back to bed after that, so hopped online. I could see lights on in another friend's house across the street, and knowing how tied to her phone she is, I sent a quick message asking if she was still up. She called me a few minutes later to ask what was up and I filled her in. It was just past 12:30am when we got the call we were dreading. They couldn't get the seizures to stop and had to put Calvin down.

Fresh cat nip, 2012
 My heart is breaking right now. Though he wasn't mine, I've spent enough time at her house since they were kittens to become attached to both cats. There have been times both cats blatantly ignored Mama and looked to one of their "aunties" for snuggles and attention. Neither was starved for attention or affection. Just talked to friend again and she says so far Magic has spent all day curled up on her bed. Which is pretty normal for him.

Since he has gotten used to Calvin leaving for a couple days at a time over the past four months, I think it will be a few days before he truly senses that his brother isn't coming back. Mama is already worried that he will be too lonely by himself (this is the skittish, clingy one), but is afraid Magic won't accept another cat in the house. As we have all told her--including the vet tech--it might take a couple weeks, but he would adjust. It has also been suggested she get a female, rather than risk bringing another alpha male into the house.

I think, once she has grieved a bit, that there will be a new cat in the house. I don't think it will be long . . .

Rest in peace, Calvin. We're going to miss you.

Calvin sleeping in cat tree, 2012


My anxious life said...

Dealing with cats with diabetes is VERY difficult. I have two cats with it... I actually blog about it:

I try to get information out there to other people going through the same thing. It sucks.. that's for sure.

Shelley Munro said...

Oh, I'm so sorry. I know how hard it is to lose a beloved pet.

CountryDew said...

That's sad. I'm sorry.

Heather said...

Thanks Anxious, Shelley and Anita. Although Calvin wasn't my own, I've known him since he was a kitten. It's going to feel strange not seeing him next time I'm over to K's house. Spoke with her a few times this weekend. We were going to get together today with another friend but decided roads were too icy and stayed home.

Jana said...

Oh, no. I hate to hear this. I know how precious pets can be and it's so incredibly sad to lose a beloved one. My heartfelt condolences to you and your friend as well as to poor little Magic. :-(


Heather said...

Thanks, Jana. It's going to be a bit strange being at her house this coming weekend and not having Calvin all over me. K said Magic wandered the house crying all Sunday morning, but seems to be coping okay so far.

Another friend, KR, found a couple of kitties for adoption at Angel's Wish and is encouraging her to adopt a female kitten named Bling. I have a feeling Magic won't be alone for long...