Last week, we left The Swamp to spend five days in The Desert without internet access. I didn’t advertise this ahead of time, and I had posts scheduled, but I tried to make sure they were non-controversial because I wasn’t going to be around to approve or answer comments.
On the last full day of our trip, the cat-sitter phoned, concerned. Our cat Stormy had hidden from her the first few days (totally expected–in her view, individuals higher up the food chain are only waiting for a moment to pounce on you) but that day, she hadn’t hidden, and in the cat-sitter’s opinion, she looked lethargic and skinny. We confirmed that the cat had lost weight, and the vet had noted it too but ruled out any major problems at her last check-up. Plus, at fifteen years old, she seemed to have arthritis, and she moved slowly.
The cat-sitter wanted to bring in her boss, and we said sure. There was some convoluted process involving leaving a key under a rock in our yard, but an hour later the Grand Owner-Operator of Angelborough Cat Sitting had gotten in to see Stormy and thought maybe she looked dehydrated. She suggested bringing her to the vet, so we said sure.
We weren’t worried. Stormy might have been moving slow, but her appetite was terrific. Due to details I’ll omit from a family-friendly weblog, we’d discontinued giving wet food to either of the other two cats, but we would give it to Stormy if she was alone in the kitchen. Consequently, she got really good at sneaking down to the kitchen when the other two weren’t around in order to get bonus food, which she’d then eat (or not eat, if I had the nerve to give her a flavor she didn’t like.) I’d also started leaving a bowl of water downstairs for her, since she was hanging around more down there.
The vet called back later saying yes, she was dehydrated, but there was more. She had a mass in her abdomen, only they couldn’t tell via x-ray what it was. He wanted to keep her over Friday night and do bloodwork. Sure, we said. We’d be back late Saturday evening, so it was better to keep her there anyhow.
At 5:15 on Saturday, the morning we were going to go home, the vet called and said Stormy was having trouble breathing. He’d put her in an oxygen mask and said we had two options: send her to another hospital where she’d be put on a ventilator and they could attempt surgery to identify and remove the abdominal mass, or euthanize her.
I said — just sedate her. Keep her calm and pain-free until we can get there tonight. If she dies, don’t stop her. But someone’s got to feed the hospital’s boarding animals, right? We can get there then and say goodbye to her. She’s been our cat for fifteen years. She should have the right to have one of us there when she passes.
The vet refused. Why? Because if he sedated her, she might die.
I want you to process that. He recommended euthanizing the cat because if he sedated her, she might die.
I repeated that to him, and he admitted it was just as stupid as it sounded. But he still refused.
In the end, after we talked it over, we told him to put her to sleep. We didn’t want to hurt or scare her with transport and aggressive treatment she probably wouldn’t survive. We were nine hours away from coming home. She just didn’t make it that long.