Friday, January 15, 2010

True Adventures and the Nine Lives of Oreo the Cat

In the late summer of 1993, a small kitten, born in a barn, decided to bite what was likely the first human it encountered. That bite landed the kitten in quarantine ensuring that rabies weren't present. When I heard about the kitten (the human was a family member), I knew that I had to save it. And I've been saving her ever since ;).

At 10 weeks old, the kitten adopted me. Her name was an evolution of sorts. I was an English major in college, and wanted to call her Shakespeare, which was given a big thumbs down. Since she was black and white, that morphed to Othello, which also didn't work. Domino? Dominoreo? Ah -Oreo! And that was it - the kitten had a new person, and a new name.

In 1995, when Oreo was just 2 years old, I relocated us from just outside of Toronto, to Cambridge, MA. I knew not a soul here at the time, but Oreo made the long car ride with me, packed in with my clothes, a lamp, plants and other important belongings, and was my constant companion. When, in the first 6 months of my time here, I cried and wanted to go back "home", Oreo was always there as a source of comfort and stability. I could count on her being there when I got home from work, and she was a confidant as I worked to settle in to my new "home", listening to all of my trials and tribulations along the way.

Mike eventually came into our lives, and Oreo accepted that there was this new person around. Early in our relationship, Mike and I entered my apartment to the smell of gas. Somehow, I must have bumped one of the knobs on my stove enough for it to emit gas, but not to ignite. The gas stoves were an anomoly to me anyway, and kind of scared me. This made me really nervous, and I suspected that we had poisoned the poor cat! So, I opened some windows to air the place out, and we left for an overnight. I should mention that it was March, and it was COLD. When we came back to the apartment again, Oreo was nowhere to be found! In a panic, I searched, and finally found her burrowed under all the covers in the bed - trying to stay warm. OK - we hadn't poisoned her with the gas, but we had almost frozen her.

In the morning, I awoke to find Oreo covered in some nasty stuff, and assumed that she had been sick. I cleaned her up and went back to bed, thinking nothing of it. When we finally awoke, she was covered AGAIN, and it was then that I noticed she hadn't been sick at all, but was actually oozing out of an open wound on her throat/chest. It was Sunday, I hadn't yet found a vet in the area, so a few phone calls later, I took her to an emergency clinic in Arlington. The vet was concerned about how she had gotten the wound - any other cats? No. Does she go outside? No. We were all perplexed. Mike and I left her with the vet to determine what the trouble was. A few hours later, he called and wanted to know how on earth she had managed to swallow a sewing needle! Yup - swallowed the needle and lacerated herself from the inside out... And now, surgery was required to remove said needle.

I called the vet multiple times a day to get an update on how Oreo was doing. Continually, I received disheartening news - she wasn't responsive, not doing well, etc. After 4 or 5 days, I knew that something had to be done, and that this was NOT my cat's behavior. I was really led to believe that she was suffering greatly, so after much crying and a great deal of torment, I made the very difficult decision to have her put down. I went so far as to pack up all of her things in the apartment. Mike intervened, though, and told me that I had to at least go and see her one more time. "But I can't", I lamented! How could I see her after making this decision??? But, off we went, together, back to the vet. Imagine my surprise when Oreo was brought out, and she looked at both of us as if to say "Woohoo! Get me the heck out of this place!". We decided then and there that we were taking her back home. And, given my state of financial instability at the time, Mike paid the vet bill, making me the first person ever to have had a lien on her cat ;) (FWIW, I paid it all back!).

Oreo and I continued to live in our apartment through the summer, and then moved together into Mike's apartment, before we finally all moved into the home we have been in now for 13 years. She's had a pretty good life here, and been a pretty pampered kitty. She has her own door, and we built what we called her "office" which was a place she could go and do her "business" in private ;). We continue to say that really this is her house, and she just lets Mike and I live here.

In 2003, Oreo began not eating, and having some other issues as well. Off to the vet we went, and over the course of that year, we spent a lot of time (and money) at the Lexington Cat Clinic. First, we had a diagnosis of kidney disease, necessitating a new diet, and some prescription medication. Another diagnosis was that she had an issue with her thyroid. We started medication for that and we ended up with the ONE cat in ONE MILLION who is allergic to the medication! As it turns out, that was a mis-diagnosis anyway. Later in the year, she had surgery to remove two large bladder stones, and then even later in 2003, a complete dental cleaning. That's a LOT for a small kitty, who was only 10 years old. We continued to monitor her, and she rebounded well with the treatments we ended up with, and lived out another number of years healthy and happy.

In July of 2009, Oreo turned 16. It's a good age for a cat, but the month before that, we were informed that the kidney disease had progressed to the point where regular sub-cutaneous fluids were going to be required. I had to go into the vet and learn how to administer the fluids, which involves an 18-guage needle, and in IV bag. Now let me just tell you that if someone came at me with this needle, I would fight like a banshee - the thing is HUGE!

We settled in to a pretty good routine of adminstering the fluids once/twice a week. Then, in December, Oreo's health seemed much worse. Due to the closing of the Lexington office of my vet, we tried the Bedford Cat Doctor, a mere 5 minutes down the street. Mike and I went together to learn that Oreo was now in crisis. Neither I, nor the vet thought that Oreo would make it through the weekend, and I, and Mike were devestated. We were going to do whatever we could to help her, but were also very cognizant of her quality of life. Our fluids went to a daily activity, and we were now also adding potassium and an antacid, as well as appetite stimulants to try and get her eating.

I became vigilant, and learned about creatin numbers, red blood cell counts, and was excited when her weight went up by mere ounces. After a week with the fluids, we added potassium tablets in addition to the potassium in her fluids, hoping to increase her appetite. We fed her raw steak (that's all she would eat). We tried liver (yuck - and Oreo agreed). We were at the point where if she would eat something, we fed it to her. Then we learned that with the increase in fluids, she had become anemic, with a red blood cell count at 16 (healthy is above 26). This brought another injection 3 times a week to increase the red blood cells.

I am happy to report that the perserverance is paying off. At our last vet visit, Oreo weighed in at 7 lbs 3 oz, almost a half a pound heavier than her visit three weeks prior. Her hydration level was good, her skin pigment had returned to pink and her red blood cell count hit 32! We've readjusted again, and now have fluids every other day, and the anemia shot only once a week! We do continue though with the daily potassium and antacid. For now, things are good. We have a 16.5 year old cat who seems happy, and with the aid of medications, has resumed a level of health.

I've lost count of where we are in the nine lives, but I'm pretty sure we have at least a few more left! Hopefully she continues to let us poke her, prod her, and stuff her with pills, all so we can all have a good cuddle in the end.


megA said...

Oh Cathy!!

I love happy kitty stories! You guys rock!


Michele said...

I'm glad Oreo is doing well! We've been going to the Cat Doctor for years and have seen all three vets. Oreo is in good hands.

claudia said...

Oreo is looking great!

All those people running geriatric homes for aged felines, please raise their hands.....

tmc said...

Yay, Oreo! Glad she's doing well!

Velokat said...

I'm so glad to hear she's feeling better!