This week has been hard. We almost lost our beloved 14-year-old cat, Spicey and sadly we are not out of the woods just yet. On Wednesday night, I knew something was wrong when Spice turned his nose up at his dinner. 24 hours later, and we found him looking sick and disheveled; cocooned between a bookshelf and a bicycle in the back corner of the shed.
When my son and I examined Spice, we noticed a big, fat, purple tick embedded in his neck. After removing the tick, I felt certain that he would make a full recovery - after all, it seemed logical that the tick bite had been the cause of this rapid onset illness.
But last night, the poor guy became shaky, dehydrated and lethargic; his breath was labored and he could no longer use his back legs. Fearing the worst, I took Spicey off to our local vet this morning.
'It doesn't look like tick poisoning, but it could be a snakebite,' said the vet. 'It's also possible that his kidneys are failing, or maybe it's his liver? 'These things are common in older cats.'
After running some costly tests this afternoon (that led to the elimination of snake and tick poisoning), Spice had not shown any sign of improvement and the vet was no closer to making a diagnosis. What has become apparent, is that Spicey's kidneys have been compromised - which could either be a symptom of dehydration or the cause of it. In the end, I was given some antibiotics, that may or may not work, and advised to keep a watchful eye on him over the coming days.
The fact that it is not tick or snake poisoning, could be considered good news.... right? The bad news however, is that our cat won't eat or drink and we have no idea what the hell is going on.
I couldn't help thinking that if this were a person we were dealing with, then we would not rest until a diagnosis had been made. Although on second thought, maybe that is because we have free access to public hospitals for humans in this country.... or perhaps I have just watched one too many episodes of House.
Either way, I do feel like there is a strong possibility that our beloved cat has been sent home to die.
I want to make it known here, that the lack of a diagnosis is in no way affiliated with the level of care or capability on the part of my vet. He did make it known to me, that if the antibiotics don't work, a chest x-ray might reveal a different set of issues that could not be determined by the blood or urine screenings.
However, my decision to hold off on the offer was based on two reasons - both of which are equally depressing.
First of all, our cat is old and in terms of recovery it is suggested that the older the animal, the less chance he/she has of recovering from invasive treatments and serious illness in general.
I am not suggesting that an x-ray is invasive, but should the x-ray reveal anything serious, then invasive treatment would most likely be required.
Second, on a scale of one to insanity, the money involved in veterinary procedures would topple what most sole-parents earn in a year, and to cover the cost will often require that you sell your own kidneys on ebay.
When our six-year old Labrador was hit by a car a couple of years back (and left to die on the side of the road), I spent $3000 to repair his hip bone that had split off in three separate places. One surgery, one infection, two x-rays, three blood tests, two courses of antibiotics and a few metal pins later, and I am still paying that bill off in weekly instalments!
But when it comes to forking out money for our beloved pets; those creatures who stand by us through thick and thin, day after day, year after year and bring us immeasurable comfort - how much is too much money?
And how can we possibly put a price on that which we hold so dear?
If Spice gets worse and dies, then that is something I know I can prepare for. He is an old cat, who has had a great life, in which we have all loved and nurtured him deeply.
But if Spice gets worse and requires expensive tests and treatments, that may or may not help him, then I honestly don't know what I will do. He is old and I am cash poor, but we love him with all of our hearts. Sadly, this is a difficult situation that I may be required to face in the coming days/weeks ahead.
*(A week later and Spice is out of the woods and on the mend).