Last Wednesday, we adopted a new cat. His name at the shelter was Bucky, but we named him Alex. We used a local non-profit animal rescue group that makes a big deal out of adopting healthy animals that have been thoroughly checked out, neutered, and microchipped. They were even having a special in order to move as many cats out of the shelter as possible, so he wasn’t expensive. It seemed like the stars were in alignment.
Well, they were in a negative alignment, it seems. The first day, we noticed he made an odd cough and that he seemed warm. Just in case, we separated him from the rest of the house so he couldn’t infect our existing cat. The second day, he coughed a couple more times, more severely, like a wet bronchial cough. The third day he had his wellness check at the vet, where he was diagnosed with a viral infection and to bring him back in a couple of weeks if he wasn’t better. The next day he was listless and his breathing had become bubbly. The next day he was worse and I called the shelter where we had gotten him. They scheduled a vet visit for the next day.
We took him in and they diagnosed him with pneumonia. After a brief inner debate as to whether he should be hospitalized, the vet decided to send him home with me along with a number of treatments: antibiotics, appetite stimulants, subcutaneous fluids, a nebulizer, and a syringe for force feeding him if necessary. I steeled myself for ten days of cat nursing.
The first day went fine. At his fourth nebulizing treatment I noticed that the inside of his carrier was getting wet and musty, which they didn’t tell me to watch out for (they didn’t give me any instructions at all, really), so I got it all cleaned out. His breathing went back and forth between improving and getting bubbly again. He still wouldn’t eat, so we had to syringe feed him. He didn’t like it, of course, but we managed to get a syringe full of food into him.
He spent that entire night moving around the entire room about once every half hour. It reminded me of Yin-Yang before he died, who just couldn’t get comfortable and kept moving around. I couldn’t sleep for the sound of his bubbly breathing: it was awful. He was laying in weird places, too, as well as laying very limply. He may have already been on his way out.
The next morning, it was time for more antibiotics, food, and nebulizing. He had trouble with his pill and I had to try twice to get him to take it, and I’m not sure if he ever swallowed it properly. Then we tried to feed him, which was much more difficult than it had been the night before. I took his resistance as a sign that he was feeling better so we burritoed him in a towel like we had seen on the internet. I knew to keep him in a sitting position much like he’d be in if he were eating normally so he wouldn’t choke, but this feeding was not going nearly as smoothly as the one the night before. Whenever he appeared to be having trouble, I’d stop and let him settle, then try again.
Then towards the end of the feeding, he opened his mouth wide, arched his back, and went limp. We laid him down, he exhaled, and he didn’t inhale again. It was horrifying. I’ve never seen anything die in front of me before, and I still can’t help but think that it was my fault somehow. Everyone tells me that it’s not, especially since he should never have been sent home with us in the first place, but still. I feel so terrible. I was trying to help this poor creature get better, and now he’s dead from that very treatment, even if I was merely hastening the inevitable. I just wish that his last few moments hadn’t been so tortured. That’s what I feel the worst about, that I may have inadvertently caused this poor creature agony in his last moments. I didn’t mean to, and I’m so sorry. I’m so, so sorry Alex.
I wish that they had kept him for hospitalizing on Monday instead of sending him home with me. I wish that they had realized last week that he was sick and not adopted him to me in the first place. I wish that I had said no, I don’t want a cat with a history of an upper respiratory infection when they told me he’d had one while in the shelter, even though he’d been treated for it (not well enough apparently). I wish that they had given me better instructions for how to care for this obviously very, very ill cat. I wish that I had more experience in caring for sick cats and doing things like syringe feeding. I wish that I had stopped the instant he looked like he wasn’t digging the feeding and just called the shelter again, but I had never done it before and didn’t know what to watch out for and he really needed to eat. I mean, you’re force-feeding a cat: there’s going to be mess and unpleasantness. I wish for so many things that might have changed what happened yesterday morning.
Even though he was only with us for a week, he was still part of the family, and we treated him as such. He got the same treatment Yin-Yang and Babalon did when they died: I wrapped him up, smudged his body and his grave, and we said some words over him before burying him with his head towards the West. He’s next to Yin-Yang, who will hopefully help him on his way to the Great Catnip Field in the Sky.
As for us, we’ve spent the last 24 hours sanitizing as much as we can so the other cats don’t get infected. To a certain extent all we can do is pray, because he was out and about for a while before we knew he was sick. God only knows what he touched with his face. I can only take comfort in the fact that the germs will die by themselves in a few days, and within 24 hours if they get hit with proper cleansing and some Lysol. I’ve done probably a dozen loads of laundry to clean every single thing in the room he was in, vacuumed the carpet with germicidal baking soda, Lysol’d the areas he spent the most time in, and am fumigating the air with more germicidal oils. Anything that can’t be washed has been sprayed with Lysol and left out in the Sun. And I’ve done similarly to the whole house since his disease may have been airborne (in which case the horse is out of the barn anyway).
It would be bad enough if our own cat, Samadhi, gets ill because of Alex. It would be even worse if the two kittens we are fostering got sick because of him. I would be up the ass and down the throat of the shelter who gave us to him in the first place to make these kittens well. So far everyone has been healthy, and it’s been about a week since anyone was exposed to anything Alex might have breathed on or touched, so hopefully we’re in the clear. I won’t stop holding my breath for at least another week, though, when I know it’s been two weeks, which is how long the shelter tells people to isolate pets to ensure health. If nothing is wrong within two weeks, everything should be okay.
And they’d better be, because we like these kittens and are thinking of adopting them. We were a house of three cats, and we’d like to be so again.
*shakes head* It’s just not right, but I’m going to try and make it right. This summer can just kiss my flabby white butt.