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Posts Tagged ‘kidney failure’

A lot of people have asked me how Yang, Yin’s brother, is doing now that he’s by himself. I have to admit that he’s been practicing being a solo cat for a couple of years, hanging out with his brother only for meals and the occasional fight or stair chase.

My mom says that animals know what’s going on in the household probably more than we do. I suspect that he knew his brother was very sick; a couple of times in the week before Yin died, I saw Yang sniff his brother and give him a quizzical look. I think he was also giving food to Yin. For the past few weeks he had been leaving food on his plate that Yin quickly scarfed up; once Yin was gone, he began eating every bite.

He’s been a little snugglier, and he’s slowly learning to ask for meals and snacks (Yin was always the town crier when it was food time). He hasn’t gone around the house looking for his brother; I think he knows Yin is gone for good. So, in a word, Yang is OK. And the rest of the household is well on the way to OK, too.

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At 8 a.m. on Friday, what was going to be a return checkup for Yin will instead be our peaceful goodbye to him. He’s been putting up with treatment for his chronic renal failure, but he’s tired. So tired. He doesn’t feel good, and he doesn’t know why.

I think he would keep taking pills and subcutaneous fluids for as long as his little body would hold out, but those treatments just don’t seem right anymore. He hasn’t gained any weight. He spends his days and nights on the refrigerator, coming down only to eat and seek out the litter box. He eats like a champ, but then tucks himself back into his spot on the fridge, displaying varying stages of discomfort or, mercifully, falling into a deep sleep.

I’m tired, too. I lie awake at night, terrified when I hear a noise downstairs, even more terrified when I don’t.

This is the bravest, kindest and most difficult decision I’ve ever been a part of.

A couple of times a day, he’ll perk up and almost resemble his old self, meowing at the top of his lungs for tuna or climbing onto my shoulders pirate cat-style for a ride around the first floor. These episodes give me pause, but I can’t make him go on just for the sake of an occasional glimmer of hope.

His work is done here. To paraphrase one of my favorite professor’s favorite quotes, there will soon be a Yin-shaped hole in the universe. I can never fill it, but at least I’ll always know that I let him go with dignity.

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It’s Thursday, and both husband and cat are still alive.

It turns out that Yin’s unwillingness to chew anything for more than a decade makes hiding pills in his food pretty easy. And he doesn’t seem to mind the sub-Q treatment as long as somebody is handing him snacks. So for now, he’s a willing patient who seems to be getting back to his old self. We’ll see how next week goes.

As for the husband, I haven’t had to hide any pills in his food yet. Again, we’ll see how next week goes.

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14-year-old cat requires four medications per day, plus subcutaneous fluids. Husband has a dermatological bandage to be watched and changed. The refrigerator is making a noise reminiscent of angry bees.

I have never felt more grownup, married or inept.

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So my husband says that if I write about this, I’ll feel better, but I’m not entirely sure that’s true because I don’t know what to write.

One of my cats is dying. Hell, ALL cats are dying, this one’s just on a downhill path: chronic renal failure, the kidney malfunction associated with bad luck and old cats everywhere.

Yin is 14 years old. That’s apparently the equivalent of a 70-something-year-old person, so it’s not entirely unexpected that he should have issues. Frankly, however, his brother has always been our “issues” cat, so I didn’t see this coming.

I’m sort of OK with the idea that he won’t be around much longer, more OK than random outbursts of tears and total lack of appetite would indicate. What I’m not OK with is that I just don’t know what to do. We were sent home today with antibiotics, blood pressure medicine and CRV cat food, among other gels and pills.

The most confusing bag, however, contains a big bag of subcutaneous fluids and a box of 100 needles.

Sure, I watched the vet give a demonstration of administering the “sub-Q,” and I’m pretty sure I can do it, but I’m not sure if I SHOULD do it. I don’t want to turn my cat into a patient, waking up each day only to await a needle and a bunch of pills. It seems … undignified. Especially if he’s not going to be himself, and he HASN’T been himself in a couple of weeks. He used to make every step I made, spend at least half the night sleeping beside me and bound upstairs every morning at 5:15 to wake me up. Now, he lives in the kitchen. Preferably on top of the refrigerator. I might add that he jumps on top of the refrigerator himself, so it’s not a mobility issue, just a lunatic issue. He’s always been a bit of a mad hatter.

I never thought I would miss my 5:15 wake-up meow, but I find myself wide awake at 5:20 every morning, wishing he would scamper up by my pillow and voice his discontent right next to my ear (he totally knows what ears are for). I’ve realized that I’m even going to miss the scratches on my arms, just because I’ve gotten so very used to them (Stockholm syndrome + bad cats go hand in hand).

OK, maybe I do feel slightly better. But I still don’t know what to do. Other than text message my mom because I didn’t tell her about the cat this weekend because I didn’t want to send us both on an apocalyptic crying fit that would pretty much screw up both days for everybody.

Being a grownup sucks. Being a control freak faced with an array of decisions with uncertain outcomes sucks even more.

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Remember training wheels? For me, they were the last bastion of bike safety, and they became more of a security blanket than a training tool. I remember being reluctant to let my dad take them off, until one day I realized that they didn’t seem to be touching the ground anymore. Sure enough, I took a short test drive on a neighbor’s non-training-wheeled bike, and I could totally ride on two wheels.

I could also totally crash on two wheels, as evidenced by the latticework of tiny souvenirs on my knees and elbows.

I’m still removing metaphorical training wheels from my life, some 30 years later.

Two weeks ago, we had one very sick cat. Yang was showing signs of kidney failure, a diagnosis that would have fit his age of 13 years.

I spent four days and nights convincing him to eat and drink. I drove to three supermarkets in search of no-sodium-added tuna. I baked him a chicken and made a salt-free stock. I woke up at 2 a.m. every day to check on him. I made sure my phone never left my side so that the vet could give me the results of the blood tests the minute they came in.

Most surprising of all, I made peace with the situation.

I realized that it was the first time I had truly been in charge of an animal’s care. Sure, I had pets as a child and even as a teenager, but my mother was, in the end, the decision-maker, the one who had to decide on treatments, the one who had to decide when to let go.

It’s not a small thing, deciding when to let go.

In the end, the blood tests came back normal and Yang started eating like a lumberjack again. It does appear that he and his brother have permanently added a couple of servings of baked chicken and homemade broth to their daily menu, but that’s a small price to pay for the return of a healthy cat.

I realize I’m not out of the woods on this forever. I have teenage cats, and they won’t live forever. Pets break your heart, every damn time.

I won’t say that the decisions I’ll be faced with one day will get any easier, but I’m on two wheels now, ready to brave the hills.

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