Tuesday, September 21, 2010

that darn cat

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.


  1. Oh boy, I feel for you!!! Our 11 year old Rot has decided to have accidents in the house....its driving me up the wall!!!!

  2. I love that you choose compassion over ease. Might as well let old Violet live and hunt.

    I fail to have a hard and fast rule for deciding what to treat and what is best left to run it's course. We spent a fortune having our Bad Bella's stomach pumped after she poisoned herself with People Medicine a couple of years ago, but the dog who has seizures is not given medication. We just let the seizure happen, and sit with him until it passes.

  3. This winter might be a good time to transition her to being an inside kitty... I've known many other cats who have made the change.. when it gets cold outside, have her in and keep her in. By spring, she'll kind of want to go out, but will have forgotten most of it.

  4. Oh, that's tough. We loved our cat Katey so much, and suffered through many problems with her, until it was too much for her anymore.
    I'm sure you're adding so much happiness to her life.

  5. This is a tough one, for sure. I hope that it works itself out without too much pain.

  6. The problem with "pets" is that they do not live long enough! We do have the choice of taking them to a better place...but, it is sad.

  7. Oh that's a rough one. Those little animals have a way of squirreling into our hearts, don't they?

  8. Even though I'm not an animal person, I recognize your dilemma and applaud you for trying to give Violet the life she wants to live.

  9. Live longer or live happily? Happy always wins with me, but I know what a difficult thing it is to make that decision.

    My heart is with Violet (a most wonderful name, to be sure!) and you.

  10. I doesn't sound like she is really suffering, but you might be with cleaning up after her.

  11. I'm all for letting a cat walk by herself and ending suffering when it all gets too much for her. Cats are best when they have all the freedom in the world... and they HATE being unwell.

    I so miss having a cat around the house...

  12. Violet's lucky to have found you--someone who understands cats. Try not to feel too guilty. You've given her a good life already.

  13. Oh, honey. I'm sorry. You know I've been through the extreme pet care wringer, so I feel like I should have some words of advice. But I don't. You just have to figure it out as you go along. And you have to be kind to yourself, and forgive yourself for being pissed about the poo. Because poo? Is gross. No matter how saintly you might be.

  14. we just lost another cat! just left! at least...that is what I'm telling the kids..."no...i didn't hear the coyotes last night" lol

  15. My sister's cat Max had the exact same problem. But in the end he couldn't walk anymore and she ended it. She rescued him from a shelter, and gave him a happy and much longer life than he otherwise would have had.

    Poor Violet, and poor you. I think living happy is better than living long. You gave her a good life, what more could she ask for?

  16. That's sad. I'm an animal person only in the sense that I like animals, but not necessarily look forward to having pets and taking care of them, but often get suckered into rescuing cats because they are SO DARN CUTE and friggin' ADORABLE and I CAN'T HELP MYSELF. Needless to say, we just got back from the spca and the inevitable is beginning to happen. Having said all THAT... there's no easy answer. But it's better to be happy and free than caged and miserable. I think euthanasia is a viable solution, both to resolve a difficult situation and allow her the last bit of happiness possible for her, instead of imprisoned and prolonging the agony. With lasting damage to her colon, it's merely a matter of time. Having had to put down several animals myself, I find that it is sometimes the kindest thing to do. But it's really between you and her. Only you know what the best thing to do is.

    Dignity and quality of life overall. I believe extending life is not necessarily choosing the better course... quantity over quality. Sometimes I think this way about people too.... (I'm not very popular at cocktail parties, I tell ya.)


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