Posts Tagged ‘cat’

Farewell, Mister Puck, Greatest Cat of All Time

Today has been a day of mourning here at Chez Mack-Bain. We had to say good-bye to our beloved feline friend Mister Puck. We got to spend just over twelve years of our lives with him, and in that time we came to love him more than we can express.

Puck as a kitten on our dining tableHe was born in early November of 2004, and we adopted him on March 6, 2005. It had been a case of love at first sight. Kara spotted him, a shivering orange-and-white fluff, across a crowded room at the Union Square Petco. She knew the moment she saw him that he was the kitten for her, and for us. I wasn’t so sure, but her passion for him persuaded me.

He had come to us slightly feral and terrified. When we first got him home, all he wanted to do was hide. To get him to eat, Kara had to feed him bits of wet cat food from her fingertips.

Puck as a kitten in his towerIn time he learned to be less scared, but he was always a clumsy thing, and small for his age, probably due to a period of malnutrition during a crucial early growth phase. His rear feet were absurdly pigeon-toed, and as a result he wobbled when he walked, and when he ran he sometimes hopped like a bunny. He was perpetually skittish, terrified of his own shadow, and a neurotic creature of habit.

Though he never really warmed up to strangers (with only a few rare exceptions), he soon came to be very affectionate with me and Kara. He would lounge behind our heads when we sat on the sofa; hip-check our heads as he strolled along from one end of the sofa to the other; flump against me in the mornings (or afternoons, when he felt I had slept in too long); cuddle up against Kara as she went to sleep at night. He loved his spot under the sofa, atop his kitty tower by the window, under the bed in my office, and on top of our radiator in the winters.

Puck asleep and awkward in his tower.Aside from some plaque on his teeth, his last physical had turned up nothing out of the ordinary. So we were concerned when his behavior changed abruptly after the holidays this year. He became asocial, choosing to hide from even us, and his appetite deteriorated. As a lifelong companion of cats, I knew these were bad signs.

We brought him to the vet in early January of 2017; the first visit turned up nothing amiss. His blood work was perfect, all tests of his organ function were optimal. His weight was down a little, but there were no warning signs for diabetes or hyperthyroidism, or anything else. We were baffled, but thought maybe he had just gone through a blue funk of some sort.

A couple of weeks later, while petting Puck’s face, Kara felt a hard mass under the skin on the left side of his throat. We immediately took him back to the vet, and this time we insisted on x-rays, which revealed a tumor-like mass. The doctor took a sample for biopsy. The plan was, if the tumor was benign, just an annoying fatty tumor, we would surgically excise it. That threatened to be an expensive process, but I was prepared to pay the cost. “Let’s go to work,” I told the doctors.

Puck in a WindowA few days later they had the biopsy results. It was a malignant squamous cell carcinoma, and it was not just in his throat but attached to his jugular vein, which meant it was both inoperable and imminently terminal. There was nothing we could do but try to make him comfortable for as long as we were able.

We soldiered on, in denial, for the last two and half months. I was especially heartbroken at this news because Puck was only 12 and in good health otherwise; we should have had years more time with him. Adding insult to the injury, this type of cancer was the same thing that had taken my beloved Ripley six and half years earlier.

Puck's Box (exterior)A few days ago I noticed that Puck’s tumor had broken through the surface of his skin, bringing with it the putrid reek of infection. Puck had reached a point where he could no longer open his mouth to eat or drink. That meant I could no longer give him medicine. There was nothing more that we could do for him. From that point forward, his quality of life could only decline, his discomfort could only increase — and through it all he would be starving but unable to eat. The point at which I finally knew for certain it was time to contact the doctors was when Puck emerged from under the sofa late one night, looked up at me, and tried to cry — but couldn’t open his mouth to let out his cry.

His longtime veterinarian kindly agreed to make a house call today, on his day off, a day when his office is normally closed, to ease Puck off this mortal coil. I visited their office yesterday to fill out all the papers and pay all the fees. When that was done, I bought some supplies and brought them home to prepare for our final good-byes with our beloved golden prince.

Puck's Box (interior) Flowers for Puck Puck's Burial ShroudI remembered that when we had to put Ripley to sleep, I hadn’t realized the doctors would need something in which to put my cat after it was done, so that they could take her away for cremation. We ended up wrapping her in an old pet fleece, because it was all we could find on short notice. I wasn’t going to let that happen to Mister Puck.

To allow him to make his final exit with dignity and beauty, I emptied the box that had brought the copies of my latest book. I used some shiny metallic-silver gift wrapping paper to decorated the outside of the box, and all its top flaps. Two and half jumbo bags of cotton balls formed the cushion in the bottom of the box and a pillow; a pair of somber-colored but tasteful pashmina shawls from a discount store provided the box’s lining and Mister Puck’s shroud. Last but not least, I bought some fresh flowers and pre-cut their stems to fit inside the box.

When I had finished all these preparations, I broke down and cried for a while.

Today, the doctors came to the house at roughly 2pm. They gave Puck a mild sedative so that we could spend some time with him without him being terrified. They gave me and Kara a generous period of time alone with Puck, and when we said we were ready, they delivered his final injection while we held and soothed him. After the doctor pronounced that Puck had passed, Kara and I wrapped our furry little man in his shroud, and then we lowered him into the box. I arranged the flowers on top of him, to tell whoever might open the box, “This beast was loved.” And then I taped it closed, to preserve Puck’s privacy, which I know he would’ve wanted.

The rest of today has been a surreal blur. This is a pain Kara and I will feel acutely for some time.

Mister Puck, you were the best of all cats, and we gave you the best possible life that we could. All we ever wanted was for you to be happy, comfortable, and healthy. I wish you hadn’t left us so soon, but these things are rarely if ever up to us.

Requiescat in pace, beloved cat.

Mister Puck
November 4, 2004 – March 26, 2017

Mister Puck

Our first Freddieversary

Today marks one year since I brought home the ever-adorable Winifred (more commonly known around our house as “Freddie”), who was flown all the way from Houston, Texas, to Newark, N.J., by Amy Sisson, and ferried home from Newark to New York City by the steadfast Glenn Hauman. (Read the original blog post here.)

This was the wee kitten then:

This is the happy beastie today:

Kara and I remain grateful to our friends Amy and Glenn for making possible our adoption of this beautiful (if occasionally vexing) creature. Here’s hoping for many, many more years of feline companionship with the Freddie-Cat.

Today’s Expensive Mistake

This past Monday, Kara and I had our new kitten, Freddie, spayed. The kitty came home with a “cone of shame” — an Elizabethan-style plastic cone that kept her from licking at her surgical incision and possibly tearing open her sutures.  The kitty knocked off the cone four times the first day. It was hard to believe how much she hated the thing. Even once she seemed to resign herself to it, she became lethargic and sort of pathetic.

On some friends’ recommendation, I decided to try an alternative to the cone of shame, the BiteNot collar. Our friends said they’d used it with their cats and had found it much better than the cones. So, eager to make things better for our new kitten, I ordered one of these collars and had it shipped by overnight express. Cost: more than $50 with tax and shipping.

The collar arrived this morning. I removed the cat’s cone and tried to put on the BiteNot collar. The cat despised the collar even more than the cone. Worse, because our kitten is so small, she pushed the collar off with ease, despite its “patented strap” which is supposed to prevent that from happening. To keep it on the cat for even a few minutes required wrapping it rather tightly — and the moment I did that, the cat had a major wiggins.

Freddie began huffing, wheezing, growling, and gurgling, so I got that thing off her and put the cone back on. She ran and hid for a while. When she found me again an hour later, she sounded as if she were gargling, and the part of her cone in front of her mouth was wet with saliva. I knew something was wrong, so I ran her to the vet’s office.

One exam, one x-ray, one new prescription, and $205 later, it’s been determined that the collar placed too much pressure on the kitten’s cervical vertebrae, with as-yet-unknown consequences; that the stress of fighting to escape the choking collar triggered an asthma attack; and that she has a significant amount of fluid in her lungs. She received oxygen therapy, subcutaneous fluids, and an antibiotic injection to help clear her lungs.

For now the vet says it’s more important to keep the kitten calm than to keep her from her sutures, so he says forget about the cone. The kitten is home now, but apparently is feeling rather antisocial, the first time I’ve seen her like this. The worst part of this is knowing that it’s my fault for trying to put that asinine collar on her instead of just letting her mope along with her cone.

The vet offered some other equally distressing bits of speculation in today’s diagnosis, but for now I need to worry about the problem in front of me. The rest can wait until the kitten pulls through.

All I can do for now is sit, watch, listen, and worry.

Feline update: Ripley

The vet just called. My cat Ripley’s blood-test results look good; all her numbers are normal. The doc wants to keep Ripley on her meds, since they seem to have stabilized her.

As for the lump under her jaw, he says it might be a benign bone mass, or it might be cancer — but that there’s not much we can do. Because the cat is already on Prednisone, radiation and chemotherapy are out. And because of her advanced age (18 years) and low body weight (7.6 pounds), surgery would be extremely high risk and have a low probability of success. And even if the mass could be excised, the post-op recovery phase would not be pretty; Ripley’s quality of life would be significantly worse than it is now.

All we can do now is keep her stable and comfortable, and monitor her behavior. As long as she continues to eat well, drink fluids, and pass them (despite doing so outside the litter box, much to my chagrin), we’ll continue her diet and medicines.

On the face of it, this seems like good news, but I can’t shake the feeling that my beloved old cat might not make it to her 19th birthday.  All we can do is hope for the best.

Next: our younger cat, Mister Puck, goes to the vet for his checkup and vaccinations on Thursday. Wish me luck — he’s impossible to catch…

Good Cat News

Miss Ripley: seventeen & spry!
Miss Ripley: seventeen & spry!

At the risk of jinxing it (knock on wood), and because some of my friends have recently endured sad pet-related life events, I just thought I’d share some good news about my seventeen-year-old feline companion, Ripley.

She had her semi-annual checkup (with full blood profile, etc.) on Monday, and I’m happy to say my sweet ol’ girl is in pretty good health for a cat her age.

For the past three years or so, she has been taking a steroid called prednisone to relieve her arthritis and the pain of her hip dysplasia. The drug can sometimes cause complications with an animal’s organ functions, so its effects need to be monitored at regular intervals.

Well, so far so good (and knock on dense plant fiber again). All her blood chemistry tested as optimal; her mobility, strength, and weight are good; her teeth and gums are healthy; her appetite is good; etc.

Here’s hoping the ol’ girl has a lot of high-quality life left in her.

Cat Matters

What a fun day I’ve just had. Yes, that was sarcasm.

I’ll spare you all the rather stomach-turning details of my elderly cat’s medical tribulations and sum up: One week after a veterinary exam and a (very expensive) blood test had resulted in a healthy prognosis, my cat was back at the vet today for treatment of a rather unpleasant problem.

The upshot was that, after a nearly two-hour visit to the vet, I brought home one stinky kitty. She had to be barred from certain areas of the house until I could un-stink her. But first, I had to clean up the house, change out the cats’ litter completely, and draw the cat a warm bath.

Yes, a bath. All in all, she took it rather well. I guess, considering the horrible day she has had, this was among the least-terrible things she’s had to endure.

I am now thoroughly soaked, mildly scratched, and completely exhausted. And dismayed at how skinny my sweet old cat looks when she’s wet. Poor kitty.

Sigh. This is a Monday I will be glad to have behind me.