Friday, July 22, 2016

Bella’s journey

I've been putting off this post about our cat Bella (All posts that mention her are tagged "Bella"), partly because we didn't have all the information at first, and also because I wanted to avoid it. I felt that maybe if I didn’t say anything, it would just go away. But, it hasn’t, and we must face reality: Bella’s journey is coming to an end.

On Sunday, I took Bella to the vet because she wasn’t eating much, and she’d lost a lot of weight. The vet said she did have a couple bad teeth—the reason I’d made the appointment—but before treating them he needed blood tests, first to make sure there weren’t any other problems, and also as an assessment to see if she could tolerate the general anaesthetic.

We got the results on Tuesday, and it turned out that her liver was fine, she wasn’t diabetic, but her kidney function was awful. We brought her in that afternoon and they gave her a subcutaneous injection of fluids, and put her on renal diet food. Fortunately, she loved that food, and by the evening, and again in the morning, she was a bit better.

We took her back to the vet on Wednesday morning, and she stayed there the next two days on an IV drip in the hope the protein levels in her blood and urine might return to normal levels. That didn’t happen: Except for a tiny improvement, she remained about the same. This means her kidneys are barely functioning.

So, this afternoon we brought her home so we can care for her, and so she can spend her last days in her home, with her family. We have drugs to help keep her comfortable, but there’s nothing the vet can do, so the end of her journey is now inevitable.

The vet thinks she may have a few days, a couple weeks at the very most, but even with more invasive support (like daily subcutaneous injections of fluid), it would at most merely delay the inevitable by maybe a couple months if we were lucky, but not even that would prevent this. And she’d need to be on drugs twice a day for pain, among other drugs throughout the day, her special diet, and she’d be jabbed with a needle every day. And all of that wouldn’t change anything, just give us a little more time with her, which seems to us to be selfish and cruel.

Our first reaction on receiving the news was to try and think of something—anything—we might have missed that could have tipped us off earlier that there was a problem—but there was nothing.

We first noticed there was a change when she started eating less, but she often does that when she has a furball, and she coughed one up last week. So, at the time, we thought nothing of it. But her eating didn’t improve, and she took to sleeping outside—even in the rain. We thought she had tooth problems, which made it painful to eat, so we gave her tinned cat food, and she gobbled that right up, reinforcing the idea that it was her teeth. Turned out, of course, that it was her teeth—but so much more, too.

There was nothing else that tipped us off that anything was seriously wrong. Her fur had thinned a bit, especially her bushy tail, but that coincided with the change of seasons, and she’s about nine or ten, so we also thought it might be ageing. As recently as three weeks ago, when I was taking photos for Sunny’s birthday, she seemed completely normal.

What all that means, really, is that we can’t think of anything in her behaviour that could have alerted us that there was a problem—up until this week, the week before at most. But it was just this past weekend that we became worried and decided to take her to the vet. Up until that point, she seemed a bit off colour, but otherwise not sick or anything.

So we’d been expecting a simple resolution, then, after the first results, we remained hopeful that Bella would recover, probably requiring a special diet, but have a good life all the same. It wasn’t to be.

The vet told us that over the next few days, she may actually improve a bit, partly from being home. If so, we can have the vet give her those injections to keep her comfortable. But we still know how this story ends, because we’ve been there before, of course.

And so, we’re profoundly sad. The little girl who chose us to be her family back in April, 2010 after a life as a stray, will soon leave us, and, damn it, we don't want her to go. Such is the way with furbabies, who steal our hearts and refuse to give them back. And despite the pain, we wouldn’t be without them.

Right now, I need to go give Bella a cuddle. There’ll be a fair bit of that in the days ahead.

Update – July 31: Bella is doing pretty well, all things considered, so I've published an update post.

The photo montage of Bella up top is from January 2015. It’s always been one of my favourites of her.

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