They say animals and their owners grow to resemble each other, but this is ridiculous. In a spooky echo of my own diagnosis, there I was yesterday afternoon in the vet’s, looking at an X-ray he had taken of the nether regions of our 11 year old moggy, Charlie, hearing him say ‘I am very suspicious that we are looking at a lymphoma.’ In other words, it looks like Chaz has got cancer too.
This would be blacky funny if it weren’t horribly true. And when our lovely vet went on to start talking about cat chemo, I fear I did actually smirk. Who knew cat chemo existed?! Extraordinary.
We knew something quite bad was wrong. Towards the end of last year, our enormously long, fat cat, who had been on an expensive dry prescription diet for five years to try and get him down from nearly 6kg to under 5kg, with absolutely no discernable effect whatsoever, suddenly stopped eating, starting vomiting and lost shedloads of weight. He didn’t eat for nearly a week until I tempted him with some posh wet food, but he’s now around 3kg, so he’s lost half his body weight. After 10 years of bracing ourselves to pick him up, we now shoot backwards on lifting him because he’s light as a feather.
The vomiting continued, on and off, to the point that we are nervous about what we’re going to step in in the mornings when we come downstairs, and what little gift he may have left on the sofa. He alternates between refusing all food and raiding the kitchen worktops, famished. His coat is still glossy and his eyes are bright, but apparently cats are better at hiding pain than dogs, so he may well be in a lot of pain or discomfort.
Obviously it was time to take him to the vet. I know, we should have gone months ago. But, again spookily, he started being sick the week I was diagnosed with breast cancer, and in the shock and whirl of tests and scans and starting chemo, we were just hoping he would get better, I suppose.
When I told the vet Charlie started being unwell at the same time I was diagnosed, he didn’t look at all surprised, and just said ‘animals pick up more than we know’. I’ve heard about the dogs that can smell certain types of cancer, and a neighbour of my sister’s also had cancer at the same time as his dog. Who knows what subtle links we have with the animals we live with?
Anyway, the vet is currently running more tests to rule out pancreatitis, then we can give him a course of steroids to treat any inflammatory bowel disease, which might make him more comfortable and reduce the vomiting. But basically it’s a quality of life issue, and as the vet said, while doctors pledge to prolong life, the vet’ s oath is to end suffering. Quite a different basis for treatment choices. So in a couple of weeks we are probably going to have to make a very tough decision, because there’s no way I’m putting him through an aggressive treatment like chemotherapy.
I cried all the way back from the vet. I feel very bad that he’s been uncomfortable for so long. I feel bad for not being kinder to him and just being annoyed about the sick every morning. I feel bad that he has been at the bottom of the food chain in our house since the kiddies came along, and I haven’t loved him enough or given him enough attention. He was a wedding present from our best friends, and we picked him up the week I went freelance in 2001 – he was a rescue cat who was found on Purley tip – when we lived in our first tiny house in Croydon.
I noticed his absence even just yesterday morning when he was being sedated. If we have to say goodbye, it will leave a cat-shaped hole in the energetic fabric of our household. Poor old Chaz.