FatCat leaves the fambly

Grandma’s FatCat has been having difficulty for a while, with heavy, labored breathing, though she’s shown no other symptoms. I got an appointment this a.m. for her to see the vet, who took a quick look and whisked her downstairs for oxygen and an X-ray. I’d assumed it was probably bronchitis or pneumonia, even though I couldn’t hear any weirdness in her lungs (probably wouldn’t, without my ‘scope), but no. It was much worse.

Poor kitty had pleural effusion. Lungs are covered with a membrane called the pleura. Between the pleura and the lungs is the pleural space. A little fluid is in here to lubricate things while you breathe. Sometimes, the lining or the space will get inflamed or infected, giving rise to pleurisy or pleural pneumonia (what people erroneously call “plural pneumonia”) or any of several other things.

Some sort of fluid (probably pus [pyothorax] or chyle [chylothorax, not sure I’m spelling the “chyle” right) had been building up in FatCat’s pleural space for heaven knows how long. The space where lungs are is supposed to be black on an X-ray; on a cat, maybe 10 or 12 square inches (the X-ray is two-dimensional). FatCat, poor baby, was working on about three square inches of gray; no black at all. She was drowning.

The X-ray also showed a metal pellet up near her spinal column, so at some point before Grandma adopted her someone had shot her with a pellet gun. It’s conceivable that that had passed by a lung and started the problem, years ago. Or not. Often, nobody knows what causes it in cats. Other times, it’s related to heart disease, tumors, or other things; it’s usually a secondary problem. Cats are notorious for not showing symptoms until they’re really, really sick, and FatCat sure hadn’t.

The vet said that even if everything went well, fixing poor FatKitty would be a long, expensive, harrowing ordeal and that most likely she wouldn’t survive anyway. I sure didn’t want to make that decision for Grandma, so I went back to her place and told her what he’d said; also that we could take her to the emergency clinic where they were equipped to do thoracentesis (draining fluid from the chest), chest tubes for drainage, etc., and could do cytologies and other diagnostics quickly. Long story short, I took FatCat to the emergency clinic, got an estimate for treatment cost from them, then went back to Grandma and explained what they’d have to do. She opted to euthanize, so I had to go back and have that done.

Having to make the decision to take the life of a creature you’ve loved, or that someone you love has loved, is wrenching and painful., even when you’ll be sparing the critter physical agony. If the pet dies on its own, that’s much easier to handle than standing beside it and watching it go from alive to dead in the space of a breath. One second, breathing; the next, not. You can’t take it back or change your mind. No “wait, that wasn’t what I meant to do.”

Grandma insisted she didn’t want another cat. She’d made arrangements for someone to adopt FatCat after she died, and here FatCat dies first, and at only 9 (about middle age for a cat). But she needs a critter. She’s spent her life taking care of people and she really needs something to care for and fuss over.

So I went up to the shelter and told them the story, talked to the lady in charge of fostering cats. They have quite a few who’ve had an elderly owner die, who are accustomed to one person and a lot of lap-sitting. I told Grandma about it and filled out the form for her. Told her I wasn’t going to force her, but that she’d be doing some abandoned cat a favor as well as getting a critter as a companion. She was already missing FatKitty pretty badly, and she’d been trying to keep herself occupied (playing bingo!) most of the afternoon. I had Rob with me and by the time we finished eating and hearing a couple of Rob and the Bus stories, she’d decided maybe another cat wasn’t such a bad idea. Not as a replacement, but as a new friend. I think it’s marvelous that she’s so open to new affections (in people as well as animals) when, at her age, life is mostly loss. She is one tough cookie.

Tomorrow, I’ll talk to the foster cat lady. See there, Northwood and Snaotheus, even if I did have 500 cats in my old age, it might be for a good cause! 😀

Posted by wordsmith

Leave a Reply