We have a semi-stray cat living with us. We found her on our property six years ago. Technically she's "our" cat, as far as cats belong to anyone. She lives inside and outside at her will; we've provided her with a name (Violet) and food, veterinarian care, water, a litter box, daily treats and surgery to prevent any unwanted pregnancies. She provides us with that intangible coziness that cats bring a house. She's on the front porch when I pull in the driveway. She hops up onto my lap in the evening hours when the house is quiet. She purrs, she never hisses or bites or claws. She's a small cat, but a fierce mouser. The front porch is constantly stained with the carnage.
Violet's tail broke some time ago and resulted in nerve damage. Now her colon is shot to heck. Consequently I feed her canned food and give her 2 daily doses of a laxative to keep her stool soft so it can pass through. But her steady diet of fresh meat when she's outside blocked her up pretty good by the end of September. Occasionally a little nugget of poop drops out, she's unaware of it happening, so her "surprises" get discovered all over the house. The smell could make a battalion of soldiers keel over at times.
Our vet, a compassionate man, told me she'll eventually block herself to the point of starvation--when her colon is full, the system overflows to where no food can get into her stomach. Her life can be longer if she never eats mice or moles, birds or rabbits. But she's always been an outdoor cat--she doesn't want to stay cooped up inside with a dish of Fancy Feast. Do we make her live longer or live happily?
I decided to let her live happily all summer and by the end of August she was full of bones, stool, fur and feathers. In September the vet gave her an enema to effectively empty her and my pocketbook. He wrote a prescription for a stronger (and more expensive) laxative and told me he didn't know how long we'd be able to stay the course.
Will Violet live another year?
Another three months?
Five more years?
Get into a fight with a rabid rabbit and die tomorrow?
As the weather gets cold, she'll stay inside more and hunt less. The day after her enema treatment she brought a mouse to the door and called me over. I praised her and then took the dead mouse by the tail and flipped it into the garbage dumpster. But it's only one mouse, she'll catch and kill and eat a hundred more if she likes--if she's outside. I cannot track her all day, pitching her prey into the dumpster just so she doesn't eat it.
I've never been much of an animal person--I have allergies, so I have to wash my hands every time I handle Violet and keep her far away from my face. But we're "involved" with each other. I feel compelled to do my best for her--but only to a point. I'd prefer not to blow my budget again on her colon cleansing and she wouldn't have lived this long without us. But what kind of a life is it for her to be confined to the basement all night (because I cannot bear to go around the entire house cleaning up after her) and staying inside, away from the thrill of the daily hunt? I'll grant you, our basement is bigger than many people's apartments where pets are kept confined and happy, but the guilt. Oh the guilt.
And the new, improved, softer stool? Requires scraping. With a putty knife. And then scouring the floor/rug.
The vet told me I've done what I can. There's no surgical cure, no other medicine. It's irreversible nerve damage. Violet can stay the course, but eventually she'll get plugged up again and eventually I'll be forced to put her down because I certainly won't let her starve to death.
Oh, that darn cat. If only I didn't like her so much, this entire business wouldn't be so difficult.