Our cat Isis (whom we call Sissy because she’s fair too laid back and down-to-earth to be an Isis) turned 16 years old late last year. While she does run around and keep somewhat active even at that age, she has been slightly deteriorating over the last few months.
When I took her in for her annual check-up in July 2019, our vet Chantal noticed that Sissy needed her teeth cleaned again, and there would be some teeth removed possibly. This wouldn’t need to be done until more towards the end of 2019. As we were going to America at the end of August, and Sissy notoriously loses weight while she is at the kennels, and we were back in mid-October, I discussed whether we should book her in after we returned from America. Chantal advised against booking her in if she was underweight, but to wait until her weight returned to normal as she is a pretty small cat to begin with and if she is at her normal weight, it would be easier to administer anaesthetic to her during the cleaning. More on that a little later.
Sissy always has been a very picky eater. One time, they didn’t have the tinned tuna in jus that she always ate, so I bought some tins of tinned tuna with tiny shrimps in jus (so same thing, just with tiny shrimps), and she refused to eat it. Her older sister Phoebe was alive at the time, and her attitude was: “Hey, if you aren’t eating it, I will.” And she did.
Last year, the company that made that tuna in jus that she loved stopped making it. It took a while to find this out because, well, whoever is in charge of their communications department needs to be fired and replaced with someone more competent. I’ve dealt with government departments respond faster (and that’s saying something).
So we went on this really long hunt for another tinned tuna which she would eat. I bought cans of this and foil tins of that, and each night, we tried a different one, and each night, she’d either lick the gravy or jus off, or she would ignore it entirely. (Don’t worry; she still had dry food which she ate.)
Finally we found one in the same range that had more gravy and the tuna pieces were small morsels instead of the longer pieces of tuna fish the can had. This was in a small square dish with a peel-off metal foil lid. And she loved it, so that took a weight off our mind.
I need to interject that we went to America after finding out her favorite food was no longer in production and finding a suitable replacement. Sissy loved the new food, and there were no issues.
Once she came back from the kennels (where she stays while we are away), we found out she had lost weight again. I chalk this down to her being fussy about what she is eating, and maybe a little pining and a bit more exercise there than she is used to getting at home. And the weight loss wasn’t drastic this time, but it was still there.
So we held off on the teeth cleaning until she could gain back some of her weight, which she did.
But then, after eating the new food day after day — and I increased the wet food so she was getting it morning and night, as per the information on the packet, because it had more gravy and less meat than her previous favorite — Sissy started getting diarrhoea. Bad.
I took all her bowls (water, food) and utensils I used to serve up her food and put them through a super-duper wash in the dishwasher just in case. I wash them in dishsoap and hot water every day, but we have had times previously where something on one of the items isn’t quite right, and she has an upset tummy. I thought it could be something as easy as that.
No, that didn’t solve anything.
Since she was now 16, I thought it could be her food was too rich for her. She’s always had a sensitive system. I did some research and also visited some local pet shops for advice, and I came home with some new food alternatives for her.
The first few she did not like at all. No way. Eew. Yuck. What is this crap you are serving me, Mum? Eew.
Then I tried the Royal Canin’s Ageing 12+ soft cat food, which comes in pouches.
You’d think I’d given her the best meal she had ever had.
She wolfed it down. As in, I have never seen her eat so much so quickly (except one time when she came back from the kennels. That’s another story).
So the replacement for the replacement was easy. Phew.
We kept her on that food for a while, and she seemed to start gaining weight back again. Her digestive tract returned to better-than-normal, so that was a relief too.
But then we noticed her breath was starting to smell a little bit more than usual, and we knew now that we had her weight back to somewhat normal, it was time to book her in for her teeth cleaning / removals.
That took place yesterday. Leading up to it, I had a growing sense of dread, as if something bad was going to happen. Not knowing what the future would hold, I gave her big cuddles and lots of love the night before, and did the same in the morning before taking her in to the vet’s office.
The vet nurse on reception said she looked pretty spritely for a 16 year old — and yes, Sissy is pretty bright for a cat that age, and does look a bit younger — but asked if I wanted to have blood work done on her while she was sedated. Yes, I definitely wanted that because, well, she’s older, and things change as we all age. She would be no exception, right?
When I got into my car in the parking lot, I felt that dread. So much dread. And I did cry a little.
I realized the crying is out of a space of love and care for Sissy. She is a loving, affectionate cat whose world is literally Noel and me and inside our house mostly. That’s it. So she relies on us a lot.
On the way home, all these really strong emotions kept washing over me, and in one way, I was glad I was feeling things, but on the other, the intensity felt too much. And I think, pre-depersonalization, I felt these emotions like this too, but they seem so much more intense because I went through a period without accessing them at all.
Noel went out to do some errands after I got home, and not too long after he left, Chantal called. I need to admit that I was listening to music on my iMac with my phone right next to it, so when I hit the “play / pause” button on my keyboard, I assumed it would stop the music. No, it didn’t. It answered my phone. On the iMac. With the music shifting to the next song, which was a music video. Awesome.
Chantal said that she had the bloodwork back, and everything was okay except Sissy’s kidney function was reduced. This happens sometimes to cats as they age. Chantal added that the kidney function reduction could be related to the teeth needing to be cleaned, as there were some definite extractions there, and also a bit of advanced gingivitis.
With the reduced kidney function, the risk of Sissy being injured or incapacitated or dying rose a bit. Chantal would give her fluids to help her body process the anaesthetic as the kidneys play a major role in doing this naturally when healthy; the fluids would just assist in this process. If this didn’t happen, the risk of Sissy going into shock, and therefore having major complications, would rise. (Of course I said yes to everything.)
After our conversation (and she was seeking whether or not I wanted to go ahead with the cleaning), I told Chantal that we know for a fact the teeth are bad, they need to go, she needs to have the gingivitis cleared, and that all could be affecting her health. We know the risk was elevated that she might be injured, or die, but that was not a certainty, and the level of risk was not super-high as her heart was strong and normal, everything else about her medically was fine, so I’d take the risk on eliminating what we knew was happening for a fact and that could be hurting her now as opposed to avoiding that risk for something that might have a slim chance of happening.
Chantal agreed totally with that. She said she’d call me back late morning or early afternoon after everything was done.
Anxiety central. I tried to do some writing but I was distracted. I felt like I wanted to take a nice long walk somewhere, but another part of me wanted to stay home so I could take the call when it came. And, of course, that came at 1 PM, which was on the later end of early afternoon, so my anxiety was kicking all sorts of scenarios into my head.
All fine. Sissy had most of her teeth removed, so she only had the four fang teeth and some incisors left. That would be her last teeth cleaning, probably.
Sissy was very loopy on the pain killers, Chantal said, so they were keeping her on fluids to help that clear too. (I didn’t have the heart to tell her that Sissy is always loopy after she’s had surgery and is on pain killers, but maybe this was even more loopy; I don’t know.) Instead of the normal time of picking her up — around 4 PM — we would pick her up later, nearer 7 PM, to give the fluids a chance to work.
Chantal wanted Sissy off solid foods and only on to the wet food. I told her what we were feeding her, and how she was absolutely in love with that food, and Chantal seemed very happy. We now need to switch from 1 wet food feeding a day and dry food on demand to 2 wet food feedings a day.
Just as well the 60 packets of Royal Canin’s Ageing 12+ food I ordered the other day arrived yesterday morning.
After I finished the conversation with her, and felt a lot more relieved, I realized I had a bag and a half of dry food still in the cupboard. What are we going to do with that, I asked Noel.
Simple. Watch, he replied.
He grabbed the dry food bowl out of the cupboard (where I put it so Sissy wouldn’t eat it while she needed to fast), put more food into it, then took it outside. He called Jack — the neighbors’ cat, the ginger boy you might have seen on this blog or on my Instagram — and, sure enough, Jack arrived, saw the food, and started eating it. Problem solved.
(On a side note: Jack also is eating Sissy’s old wet food that gave her diarrhoea.)
We went to pick Sissy up from the vet, and she was very high on pain killers. So high, in fact, she was drooling and probably seeing pink elephants. But when we got home, she was very hungry, and we fed her in increments as not to upset her system. And, of course, we gave her a lot of cuddles, although it did take her a while to settle down, but she finally gave in and fell sleep in the crook of my arm for a while, and also on Noel’s lap for an even longer while.
So, Sissy. She is getting older. And she has good days and bad days. But all we can do now is keep her comfortable, happy, warm, and well-fed.