Wednesday, March 5, 2014

The Million Dollar Cat

Her name is Gwenstopher.

Ok, it's really Gwennevere, but somewhere along the way, I called her Gwenstopher on my blog and it stayed that way.

She's the most common looking cat.  Every cat food box features a cat that looks just like her.  Her markings are really cool, but she's pretty much what many people think of when they think "cat".

In fact, we had a cat in the '80s, named Missfit, who looked like her except Gwennevere has white under her chin where Missfit did not.

I got Gwennevere in the fall of '96.  Yes, that means she's almost 18.

I was looking for a kitten and someone knew someone and the next thing I knew, I was driving to a duplex near the dump and choosing between her and her brother who had a crooked tail.  I figured I'd take the less disfigured one and I thought choosing a female was wise because I had always heard that male cats have super strong smelling pee.

Like the family who owned them, their mother was very alley cat looking.  They all looked like they'd been living outside.  Scrawny, probably full of worms and fleas.

And since they lived across from the dump, I always associate her with trash.

That and the fact that she has ripped open many a trash bag and eaten out of it in her time.

She's pulled raw chicken off the counter as it was thawing to eat it on the doormat (her "go to" place to bring stolen food to eat it.  Have you ever walked into your house with groceries in your hand and slid across the doormat on a raw chicken breast?  I have.)

She's stolen bagels out of my school bag and nibbled just enough to make it not worth trying eat around what she ate.

She's pulled freshly baked muffins out of the muffin tin that was cooling on the counter.

Yes, the lesson we have learned here is this:  do not leave food on the counter because Gwenstopher will take it to the doormat and eat it, no matter what it is.

She has had a fascination with baked goods since the day she pulled the blueberry muffin out of the tin and she will go to town on a load of bread if you're not careful.

She's also completely lactose intolerant as we discovered when she was allowed to lick the pudding bowl and then hosed the entire living room and the inside of k-ster's shoes within a matter of seconds.  This episode was repeated a couple of times before I realized she was actually allergic (don't we always see drawings of kittens lapping up bowls of milk?)

The night I got her, I didn't have a cat carrier and figured she was young enough not to be afraid of the car, so I just threw her on the backseat and off we went.

And she spent the 10 minute drive home emptying what had become the liquid contents of her intestines all over the inside of my pale blue Oldsmobile Delta '88 interior.  That's a smell I can still smell today.

I should have known this would be a bumpy ride.

For the most part, she has been an easy pet.

I got another kitten to try to keep her company but that just set her up for like 10 years of torture that I didn't know she was enduring and when that cat disappeared, she became a whole new cat.   I thought she wanted a companion  but she liked being alone!

She had a couple of run ins with someone that put a big hole in her face, twice, and that was pretty pricey.

But otherwise, she's been fine.

Recently, she's been losing weight and drinking excessively.  She's highly antsy when we're home and can't sit still.  Her breath is more foul than it used to be.

If you're like me and read things and study things, you know these are signs of something.  Probably kidney or thyroid or diabetes.  In humans as well as animals.

She's supposed to go for her yearly check in the spring, but when I realized just how many times in an evening I heard her drink water from the toilet (because it's colder, right?) I decided to take her in for a check now.

I've gone to the same vet for my entire life.  In fact, when I went in with her the first time, he was like "didn't you already have a cat that looked like this?"

I've asked him before about her breath and he said it was tarter.  She hadn't lost weight before, so he said to just let her eat what she wants, when she wants and let her be an old lady.

This time, I told him what's she's been up to and she had lost 2 pounds.  That's huge in a cat, in less than a year.

So, he took her away to take blood and urine.  While they were in the other room, I could hear her carrying on and having a total fit.  She takes no crap from no one and gets very vocal about being unhappy.  She was once called "fractious" when she had to have surgery because of a bite, and even I could not get her out of the cage to come home because she was acting so wild.

He came back with her swearing at him and gave me this.

That's correct.  A bill for $255.55.

AND to check her blood pressure for $26.25.  That's right.  Not $26 even dollars.  $26.25.

Once they revived me, I went on my way, waiting for a call the next day to tell me the verdict.

Now, some of you, especially dog owners, will probably say that is totally reasonable for a vet visit.  I don't think it's reasonable and it's maddening, actually.

Because she's a cat.

Let's say it together.  She'

I am an animal lover and don't believe in animal cruelty, but I am not one to go over the top for any animals.  I don't buy crazy toys and special foods.  She's had 2 special beds in her life which she uses 1.4% of the time.

Because she'

So, the next night, he called to tell me the verdict.  Kidney disease and a slightly overactive thyroid.

So, in a house where the humans do not take any medicines, including vitamins, where we pride ourselves for our good health and not buying into the latest pill fads, we now have this.

For a cat.

I now get to start (or end) each day by giving her half of one of these.
If you've ever tried to administer anything to a cat (drugs, nail cutting, creams, love) you know it's pretty much impossible.  I am the Gwenstopher whisperer and I have managed to convince her that nail cutting isn't so bad (treats are the best!) and when she's had to take an oral antibiotic, we've somehow managed it with no one leaving scars, mental or physical on the other.

The face bite that required surgery also required that every day for a week, I had to hold a warm compress on the draining wound.

I should have had k-ster film it because this was never a cat who anyone would imagine you could hold in your arms for minutes at time with a warm, wet cloth on a wound, but we did it.

So now, half a pill has to go into her mouth and actually stay there.

The first one was such a breeze, I'm pretty sure it fell out and I just can't find it.  Maybe it really will be that easy.  We can't do the fold it in cheese method because she's lactose intolerant (pudding episode) but if I have to, I might be able to wrap it in a piece of muffin (muffin and bagel episodes).

And now, for the best part.  I've always bought fairly cheap cat food because, let's say it, she'  But apparently with reduced kidney function, the store bought brands allow for too much ammonia and the kidneys can't handle it, so it gets into the blood and that's why we are where we are.

She will continue to get worse and be miserable if we don't change something.  I'm not about to put her to sleep because she's still happy.  And I can't let her just get worse and die a miserable death.

So I am now the proud owner of this.

 Cat food that now costs almost 3 times what I used to pay for dry food.  For a cat who would be happier if I put rotting food in a trash bag and let her rip it open.

 But, it has her picture on it, so it must be right for her, right?

And, of course, it's a new shape that cats prefer!  That makes me feel like I'm spending my money wisely.

Unless it's in the shape of a bird or a mouse, I don't think anyone's preferring anything.

And while I slowly introduce the new food, I now get to play kitty gourmet.
The best part of the conversation on the phone with the vet was when he told me that the food could prolong her life 2-3 years but then he was clear that he was not saying she would live 2-3 more years, but she could.

Because his mantra for the last few years has been: she's not going to be around forever!

Thankfully, I'm such a realist, I know this and don't get upset when he says it.  Because, she'

A cat that I am now paying crazy amounts of money to feed and maybe make better.

A cat whose breath actually stunk up my whole car on the way to the vet.

A cat who could walk outside tomorrow and be snatched by a coyote (she doesn't go out much so it's probably not something I worry about).

A cat who deserves to feel good in her final years but does she really have to cost this much?

Because she'

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