Shades and Sony were our first pets together. Mrs. Rattitude and I had decided it would be good to get ourselves a family pet … I don’t recall if she knew about my ideas about pet adoptions, but it was actually shortly after we were married and something of an anniversary present to ourselves. We had met the previous year in July. Sony and Shades came home with us. Our kids, who really were not big on our choice at first, became nearly instantly attached to our new family members.
Sometimes you take a chance on adopting from the “pound” and our poor Shady-cat had his trials. He was about six years old when he was nearly struck down by “crystals”. There are numerous causes, none of which I know enough about to discuss properly here. Simply speaking, though, Shades’ urinary tract was becoming increasingly blocked by crystallized nodules that were forming in his bladder. He had started to reach a very serious, if not critical stage of distress.
Now, I don’t remember how or when but we had happened to come across a vet that would make house calls, would you believe that? It’s been so long now that I do not remember this doctor’s name, but he arrived very shortly after being called and made a quick examination of Shades (and Sony), and said Shades needed to be hospitalized … now. The vet took Shades with him to a clinic across town. We lived in the downtown core of a large city at the time and the clinic was in the west end.
The vet contacted us with his treatment plan. A catheter and intravenous fluids were to be set up to both drain off the excess urine build up and to help flush out the crystals. This was the initial treatment, if this plan did not work Shades would require surgery to essentially turn Shades from a boy to a girl … this was also an extreme last resort. We agreed to the fluids and catheter treatment plan and made arrangements to visit Shades at the clinic as the vet expected he would need to stay for several days.
We found our way to the “clinic” where Shades was being kept. We also found a typical vet cage with an IV, a catheter, a bowl of wet food, a bowl of water, a small litter box and Shades in one of those plastic cones around his neck to prevent him from pulling out the tubes. The combination of all these items had left Shades not able to actually eat the food in the bowls. Mrs. Rattitude started hand feeding Shades the food from the bowl as I tracked down a clinic employee to help sort out this problem. Shallower bowls was all it took, but … well … a few more visits and about a week’s worth of time in the clinic and Shades was home … his old self, with all his original parts still attached. The vet gave us some continuing care instructions about Shades’ diet to help minimize the possibility of recurrences.
The crystals problem never came back, and in the meantime we moved from downtown to the suburbs and found a great veterinary clinic just around the corner from where we live. This was fortunate as about three years later Shades started having problems again. Similar to the symptoms that he had when the crystals originally occurred but not quite the same. We took Shades to the vet.
A thorough exam, some blood work, urinalysis and the tests showed Shades had developed diabetes. We went through what seemed like several months of visits and blood work and insulin adjustments before Shades reached a point of stability. Eventually Shades was going for yearly check-ups and generally staying just fine. We would often have discussions with the vets at the clinic about getting Shades on some sort of diet, we tried many things but never to much good. We finally said, “we feed him dry Original recipe Iams, and Fancy Feast wet food, anything else he eventually will not tolerate and we end up cleaning up a mess.” It was also important to know that we had five other cats at home with Shades and they had to be on the same diet, too.
Shades was always a big cat, ranging typically above the 20 pound mark on the scales, but usually not higher than 22 pounds. He wasn’t fat, just a big, solid, lovable, teddy-bear kind of cat. He liked to have his chin scratched and his nose rubbed. He would tolerate a belly rub, but he never demanded them. He would play when he wanted, sleep when he wanted, and always ate his morning and evening meals with intent. He never lacked an appetite.
We noticed that his stomach seemed a little larger than usual and I thought he was just putting on some extra winter weight. The winter cold hadn’t really started, but was just around the corner, so I didn’t think much about it. When I noticed that his stomach was getting hard and he was vomiting up clear fluids, we began to get concerned. Shades vomiting was nothing unusual, we had seen it many times over the years as his diabetes and insulin levels sometimes were out of sync, but this was starting to go on for much too long … and something was just not right. Shades seemed to take a turn for the worst and we immediately got an appointment with our vets and took him to the clinic. Shades was extremely dehydrated and would require intravenous fluids. He was going downhill quickly. When he vomited on the exam table in the clinic there was no question he needed to be hospitalized and treated.
They started testing Shades’ blood, his urine, there was significant fluid build up in his abdomen, which was drained and tested. His blood-sugar levels were “excellent” for a diabetic cat, but his urine indicated a significant kidney problem, and the fluid from the abdomen was not giving any real information, or at least not much I understood. We continued to let our veterinarian treat Shades. This started on a Monday. I visited Shades after work on Tuesday and he was not eating on his own, more fluid had been drained from his abdomen. I visited Wednesday evening, and his condition was still guarded. I didn’t make it back in time on Thursday, Shades passed in the late afternoon. It was small consolation that our vet told us he was going to recommend letting Shades go that same evening, “it was his time”.