I’m hoping to get through writing this without crying. Our beloved Little Blue (or “LB”) is entering the stage beyond the twilight years – she’s firmly in borrowed time territory.
Although G (the husband) thinks she’s been on borrowed time for the last five years, she’s really just been a bit more aged-looking than usual.
LB’s health issues are stacking up against her – while there are only a couple of issues, one is steadily worsening. She’s on three different meds per day, as well as three additives to her food.
How it all started
She arrived in the practice I worked in 12 years ago in a bit of a state. I noticed she had a tendency to tip her head fully back and circle, so I asked a vet to give her a neuro exam. Which he did. But not before saying how ugly she was.
The neuro exam didn’t yield anything, except maybe me loving her a little more. Beauty is in the eye of the beholder, and all that. Plus, I worked out the head tip was – because her forehead was so large – she couldn’t see your face unless she did that, while she circled, because she was happy.
She came home for two weeks as a foster cat as she didn’t like the hospital. That was 12 years ago. She came home on G’s birthday and made a beeline straight for him. She obviously knew he was the one to win over and she’s been his baby ever since.
A different pet
She’s not everyone’s cup of tea, however. She’s a Persian to start with, and not really the best effort of a Persian either. She’s got a slightly wonky face and now she’s got one eye she’s really rocking the “old lady” look.
It’s their birthday this week. LB was estimated at 8-10 years old when we got her, and as this was a charity hospital estimation, I think it’s fair to say it erred on the low side of her possible actual age. While we’ll celebrate her 20th birthday this week, we know we’re raising a paw to all the happy days we’ve shared and hoping they make up the majority of her life.
To clarify, this is an actual party. We’re having drinks, party hats, gifts, LB’s heat pad turned up to maximum (you’ll know how it is when you’re older). We’re celebrating this birthday as its most likely the last one. In fact, I’m preparing G for the possibility she might not be with us for Christmas.
Some thinking to do
I’m contemplating the question we as the veterinary profession get asked often: “How do you know when it’s time?”
LB is lucky. She has me as an owner along with G. I can look at her like a patient and think objectively about her quality of life, while G can be the emotive loving owner – between us we can make good decisions.
I’m still struggling to be the objective owner, to be fair, but I know I must do it. I want LB to have a dignified parting from this world – she has given us so much and it would be unfair to keep her alive once she is too painful to go on.
It is the pain that will take her from us. Not the kidneys, thyroid or heart. Not any of the classic older cat diseases. Until recently she has refused to succumb to any of these – it’s her arthritis that will take her. The profession/industry is now acknowledging feline arthritis and pain and it’s great. Arthritic pain is not just for labradors.
Comfort for cats
To combat this we’ve already been taking steps to control the pain.
I’ve told you some of the things we do in previous blogs – there’s the home care of heat pads and comfy beds, the pain relief from Metacam and the acupuncture. It’s helped to get her to her to borrowed time.
With her meds increasing and time decreasing, there’s side effects. Her main issue has been constipation, thought to be from a combination of her issues. However, she’s taking this all well and is happy, the difference is she’s sleeping more and looking for affection less.
I know it’s the start of the sliding scale – counting the good days and bad days, weighing up if a trip to the vets for acupuncture is in her best interests, using diagnostics only if desperately needed.
We know time is limited with her. We’ve set out what’s good in her life and what she enjoys. We’ve seen the move from elderly cat to geriatric to actually, there’s an element of illness disputing her everyday routine.
We’ve corrected as much as we can of the illness. We know it won’t stop it but it’s enough for now.
She can borrow as much time as she likes. She’s deserved it.