I wrote about my cat Pan being sick a month ago in Sad Kitty, and people have been asking how she’s doing. I appreciate the concern and wanted to follow up. For a while, I was both too exhausted and too afraid to post anything. It seems as if every time I said she was doing better, she got worse. Then I told people she was worse, and then she got better. But this past week, she’s come back to her energetic goofy self. So I’m taking a chance.
We took Pan to the vet on a Friday, and they kept her until the following Monday after telling us we’d have to put her down. It was heartbreaking. They did an ultrasound, and her liver looked terrible. You could see that she was jaundice, so that wasn’t a surprise. They threw the C-word at us a lot, but that didn’t seem to fit her blood work or anything else. They suggested a biopsy, and we said no, it felt wrong. They gave us 50/50 chances if we took her home to care for her versus them taking care of her. But we know our Pan. She’s a homebody. She hid in the basement for the first two weeks we lived in our house. It turns out she was terrified of the ceiling fans. Once she got over that, she was fine, but it takes her a while—high anxiety. We knew bringing her home offered her the best chance, mostly because my husband was home that week and I would be off for Christmas break soon after.
She was quiet on the ride home, and you could feel how much lighter she’d become when we lifted the carrying case. We were so sure we were bringing her home for her last few days. They sent us with food and meds but figured we’d be back in a day or two to put her to sleep. Pan looked all Frankenstein’s Monstered. Lots of her fur was shaved for treatments and the ultrasound. There was an IV under an orange wrap on her right front leg and a feeding tube coming out from her neck under a blue wrap. They told us not to feed her until the next morning. That night we all slept on the sofa so she wouldn’t have to use the stairs. I went to work the next day, the next night was the same and again work. We wanted to give back to her for all the care she gave me while I was sick, so I let her lay on my legs as often as I could. If she wanted to sleep on my legs, she nudged me until I put them out straight for her.
That first night I curled up with her skeletal frame, telling her we’d care for her if she wanted, but if she needed us to put her to sleep, ok. But she bounced up on her dirty paws and waged her thumb length tail. I ran my fingers over her ribcage and spine that felt like a carved turkey on a Thanksgiving, and deep down, I felt the tiniest vibration of a purr. Usually, you can hear her purr from across the room, but I felt it from deep inside her. She gave head bumps and just seemed happy to be home.
The vet called my husband for an update the next day and were surprised at her turn around. They told David to bring Pan in to remove the IV. It was left it in to make it easier to put her down. With the IV out, her walking improved, but she still limped. I discovered white medical tape stuck to her white paw and pulled it (and a bunch of toe fluff) off. She walked normally after that.
So we started feeding her through the tube every couple of hours, flushing her with water and giving her meds. It was not fun for anyone. It was messy, and the food smelled horrible. The house reeked of it. Pan seemed nauseated every time we brought it near her. On Christmas Eve morning, my hubs found the orange tube at the foot of the stairs. She had thrown it up and chewed it off.. The vet replaced it. I picked her up later in the day, and they warned me not to let her eat or drink while she was still wobbly from the anesthesia. By wobbly, they meant walking around the house like a drunken sailor. I followed her around to make sure she didn’t fall down the basement steps or off the sofa. It was pretty amusing.
The day after Christmas, I watched her projectile vomit the feeding tube and chew it off. The tubing left in her throat made her breathing difficult. So I took her back to the vet. This time I said no more to feeding tubes. It wasn’t working. The goal was for her to eat independently, but we were pushing up to 2 large cans of food and a ton of water daily. She was never hungry, and the smell of the special food made her gag as much as it did me.
This time it was make or break it. Pan had to eat. Not eating is what caused all of this in the first place. We still aren’t 100% sure why that happened. Pan is typically a 16 lbs Maine Coon Japanese Bobtail mix who had dropped to half her body weight. Which lead to liver issues and jaundice, which caused her to smell terrible. Not to mention low B12 and pancreatitis. I took her home armed with wicked expensive, stinky food, cannabis appetite stimulant, and a kitty who had to make a choice.
Ok Pan. Pan Ok. We had one of our long talks and she ate nothing the first night. The next morning more food stimulant in her ear and still nothing. A couple of hours later, after trying different things, I opened a can of tuna. She ran to the kitchen but only sniffed the can. I followed her over to the sofa and her favorite blanket where she’d set up her hospital ward. I dipped my fingers in the tuna water and put it on her nose. She hesitated but eventually licked it off. I put more on the fluff over her mouth. She licked more. I dipped my fingers in the tuna water and let her lick, which I repeated until I felt her teeth search for more. I took little tuna flakes and mashed them up with my fingers and thumb because her throat was sore from the feeding tubes. She had little bits of flake until she stopped. This took hours.
Then I opened a small can of cat food with gravy and dabbed some on her nose to get her intersted. Pan sopped up all the sauce, but not the meaty bits. Then I’d open a new can. Same. This went on for a few days until she started to eat. Each day her energy picking up. The folds of her shaved skin filling out a little at a time. Pan thanking us with head bumps and leans and purrs. Drinking up all the affection we gave her.
She’s taking in six little cans of food a day now as we work her back up to her proper size. I’ll have to stop that at some point, but not until she’s ready. We spent a ton of money on the vet, and she needed it to kick start her journey back. We lucked out that David was off, then I was off for Christmas break. With so much on hold due to COVID, she had our full attention. If anything was different, I’m not sure she would have made it.
Each point that we thought we were doing better, something happened to set us back. She started eating, and then her neck swelled around the vampire holes from the feeding tubes. There were internal stitches, but the outside needed to drain and was left open. I could smell the yuck coming from her neck and the clementine sized goiter. David knelt in the same spot I did while getting her to eat, as he drained and cleaned out with tweezers the gunk from these two wounds. He used a pad to encourage drainage and a bandage around her neck for the next few days. The kitty sulked each time he had to rewrap the wound. I don’t blame her, but it needed to be done.
That first teary night Pan was home, I texted my mom that I could feel her purring after they said they didn’t think she’d make it. My mom replied, “how do you put a purring cat to sleep?” I agreed. So, I cleaned her fur all matted up by the vet and snuggled with her trying to keep her warm with almost half her fur shaved and half her body weight. Her left front shoulder is still bare and makes her seem so vulnerable and small. We cared for her any way we could think of while still running our lives. She’s just a cat, we know, but Pan is our cat with all her little quirks and eccentricities, and we agreed to try our best but also not make her suffer. We got lucky.