Chronic Illness in Senior Cats

Senior cats are expensive and complicated. It’s not something you think about when you get kittens, that eventually, if you are lucky, they will turn into senior cats. It’s certainly not something I thought of when I was 11 years old and got the three kittens I had longed for most of my life, even though our previous cat had just passed away at 15 years old due to kidney failure. Children are blessed with a lack of care for the future though, and so, at 11 years old  I never imagined the day I would have senior cats with a series of chronic medical conditions.  So here I am, 16 years later with two senior cats whose bodies are starting to shut down on them, as all aging bodies do. All things considered my cats look damned good for 16 years (so says the vet, though perhaps not in those exact words). Despite outward appearances though, they are old and fighting the diseases that plague senior cats. My Crash in particular has more than his share of issues.

His favorite blanket! He can't even wait for it to come out of the laundry!

Several years ago Crash was diagnosed with hyperthyroidism and a heart murmur, a side effect of the thyroid issues. Then he had his first bought of pancreatitis (which we eventually figured out was being triggered by his liver’s response to the Methimazole tablets he took for his hyperthyroidism). Then came kidney disease/chronic renal failure (CRF).  Most recently it has been high blood pressure and possible heart disease.  Not to mention severe dental disease which can not be taken care of because he can’t be anesthetized due to his heart condition, and a growth on his side which keeps getting bigger, which can also not be addressed. Then there is the suspected IBD and/or lymphoma which cannot be properly diagnosed because the doctor needs a tissue sample from his intestines which she cannot get, again due to heart issues Stupid heart murmur and heart disease.

When I took him in for his bi-annual visit on Monday the doctor suggested we do a blood test to check something to do with his heart, which would give an indication of whether or not he had heart disease. His levels came back at over 700, they should be below 100. So she suggested I do a cardiac ultrasound, given the family history with Sam and his suspected heart attack. I want to do this for my boy. But I have to stop and question it. What if he does have heart disease, is it worth it to put him on more medicine? He already gets three medicines daily, an injection every three weeks, a supplement in his food daily and lactated ringers (sub-q fluids) three times a week  because if I do it any more frequently he runs away and hides from me. Is it worth extending his life a little longer to put him on another medicine?

This question is so difficult for me because he has a great quality of life. Other than needing to eat small meals multiple times a day, you would hardly know he was old and sick. He still has bundles of energy, loves to chase his tail and swat at dangly things, and is very demanding of attention. So it’s not like he is suffering or anything. He is just an old cat who is probably hanging on a little longer and perhaps has a better quality of life because of all the treatments I give him. It is just so stressful for both him and me for him to be on so many medicines. (Not to mention everything his sister is on).

Then there is the question of cost. Something I know I shouldn’t worry about, as my parents have repeatedly said they will help pay for veterinary expenses. A cardiac

One of his favorite spots, my bed, stealing the pillows, stretching out towards the nightstand.

ultrasound is expensive. I certainly don’t have the money to pay for one. And part of me feels guilty being able to spend several hundred dollars on an ultrasound for my cat when there are people all across the world who cannot afford even basic medical care. I know that the argument is rather disjointed, just because I don’t spend the money on his ultrasound  doesn’t mean I am going to donate it to someone so they can have basic medical care. Still, I can’t help but feel that somehow, there is an injustice there. Not an injustice I can directly address by not getting medical treatment for my cat, but an injustice nonetheless. I feel guilty for even considering not getting the ultrasound for him. I would do anything for my baby boy, regardless of cost and stress to me. So I am sure, in the end I will get this ultrasound for him. It’s just, one of those things that has made me think and  wonder and question everything. Where do I draw the line? When will I know? How will I know? I have told so many people that they will know when it is time to draw the line, to say good bye, but really, I have no idea if this is true. I have never had to make that decision for a cat before, and it is  going to be impossible for me to make that decision for Crash, my first love and my baby all in one. The cat who saved me in so many ways.

So I will continue to spend half my income on medical bills, prescription drugs and tons of cat food to make my cats happy. Because I made that commitment to them 16 years ago. And because my heart will break when I lose them. Either way, I think a “sponging”  a couple hundred bucks off my parents is worth it for the cats.

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