Sunday, November 26, 2006

Pernicious the cat: 1989 - 2006

There are few better ways to celebrate Thanksgiving than to watch your cat finally succumb to old age and disease. Pernicious always had a sense of timing.

Some of you may remember I posted about him back in August, when we thought he was suffering from a stroke. It turned out that his blood sugar was extremely high, over 2000. However, after a weekend of IV fluids, insulin, and constant monitoring, he was able to come home, and after putting him on a new form of insulin (Lantus), he recovered almost completely. Most promisingly, he started gaining weight again. He was bouncing around like his old self, imperiously ordering us apes around. We began to think that we finally had his diabetes under control to the point where we could worry about the thyroid problems and the on-and-off-again bladder issues. But then a couple of weeks ago he started acting sick again; he wouldn't eat, but he was acting like his blood sugar was getting insanely high. He was also showing blood in his urine periodically. The last time that happened the urine culture came back negative, but the vet thought that may have been a lab-related issue. He had to spend another weekend at the emergency clinic hooked up to an IV. The urine cultures came back negative, suggesting that the bloody urine was not due to a bladder infection. However, he started vomiting after being fed, and started having diarrhea as well. Last Tuesday, he had an ultrasound examination to find out what was happening.

The news was not good. The immediate problems were an inflamed bowel and an inflamed pancreas; that explained the blood sugar issues and the lack of interest in eating. In addition, he was showing signs of heart and kidney disease. The vet suggested a steroid treatment for the inflamed bowel; the immediate problem was his lack of interest in food, and everything else came in second to that. They gave him a steroid injection Tuesday afternoon and kept him overnight to monitor him. He would not eat on his own, but the first couple of syringe feedings were staying down. Since the vet would be closed on Thanksgiving, we picked him up Wednesday evening and brought him home, with the understanding that we would take him back in on Friday to follow up and see how the steroid was working.

It was pretty clear on Thursday that he had hit the end of the line, and there was really nothing more we could do for him. He spent most of the day asleep, refused to eat, and had trouble drinking. He acted confused, seemed not to recognize us or the other cats, and didn't make a sound. We weren't even sure he would last the night. We started discussing how we would do it. We were hoping that our housecall vet could do it at home, where he was comfortable, but she was out of town until Monday.

Friday morning he seemed a little bouncier, making us somewhat hopeful. We decided to take him in, telling ourselves that this was just going to be the followup to see where he was, but as we took him to the exam room we knew it was time. The vet agreed that there was really nothing left to try. She understood our desire to have it done at our home, but she couldn't come out that far, and we knew we couldn't make him wait for the other vet.

They started with some ketamine to sedate him so he wouldn't have to be restrained. We let him enjoy the pretty colors for a few minutes, and then it was over.

People have wondered about the name "Pernicious", but it was well-earned. My wife and her first husband had gotten him shortly after they married. He was about 18 months old, and quite a little terror. Whoever had him previously had him completely declawed, front and back, which probably contributed to his temperament. When he bit you, he threw his head into it, understanding the principle of momentum. This was aptly demonstrated the night that he punched through a screen door to attack a stray cat that had made its way into the yard. When he ran back in, his face and chest were covered in blood, but after cleaning it off, it turned out that none of it was his. Amusingly, Michael (my wife's first husband) had named him Pernicious before they really knew his personality; Michael just thought it would be cool to have a cat named Pernicious.

The classic Pernicious story took place one night when my wife and her first husband were getting ready to go out, and the cat complained to Michael that his litterbox was dirty. Michael ignored him, so Pernicious went out into the living room, pulled Michael's leather jacket off of the chair, and stood over it, waiting. When Michael came out of the bathroom, Pernicious waited until Michael was looking at him, and then peed all over the jacket.

In fact, peeing on things was Snick's preferred mode of showing displeasure about something. He was a neat freak of a cat, and had the misfortune of living with slobs, so if clothes got left on the floor, he would pee on them to remind us that they needed picking up. He once peed on a workman's toolbelt that had been left on the floor when they were repairing termite damage in the house.

This has been especially hard for my wife, because she and Pernicious went through some pretty rough times together. Michael was schizo-affective (combination paranoid schizophrenic and bipolar), and a few years into the marriage he started getting sick. It turns out that most people with that affliction tend not to make it past their thirties, and Michael wasn't an exception. Pernicious was extremely attached to Michael, and after he died Snick dropped all his fur; stress + obsessive-compulsive grooming = bald cat. My wife says that Pernicious was Michael's one bright spot in his last few months. We're having him cremated, and will spread his ashes in the same area that Michael's ashes were.

Pernicious: 1989 - 2006

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