In the spring of 2003 a box of kittens was left at the back door of the animal hospital I was working for. The kittens were 3 weeks old at best. There were 2 black ones, one calico and one orange and white tabby. They had to be bottle fed for the first few days until they learned to lap some kitten gruel (milk replacer mixed with kitten food) and drink water on their own. They figured it out pretty quickly! Except for the little orange and white tabby. He didn’t quite “get it” and we still had to bottle or syringe feed him.
Animal hospitals that are not open 24/7 still have patients that need tending to, boarding animals that need to be fed and walked, etc.; so during the hours that we are closed someone has to come in and take care of the critters that are in the hospital.
During this particular time in my life, Chris and I lived in a four-bedroom house with one cat and two dogs. We didn’t have any kids, and we had one bedroom that was basically unused other than for storage. After a week of having these kittens that were already, pretty much, eating on their own, I thought I’d take them home on the weekend for socialization and to give the weekend staff a little break from having to clean up after these mini-monsters! Plus I find kittens to be fun and enjoyable.
Apparently I’m not the only one who finds kittens to be fun!
Over the course of about 2 more weeks, 3 of the kittens thrived! One of the kittens, however, was losing weight and simply not thriving. It was the little orange and white one. He was the sweetest of the bunch (of course) but just wouldn’t take to the bottle and was not “getting it” when it came to eating on his own. I had to force feed him when he was at home with me.
It was getting down to the point at work where we had to make a decision about this one kitten. He was not doing well. He was bony, not eating, having diarrhea, and just overall pathetic-looking. Because I so foolishly thought it would be a good idea for me to take these kittens home on the weekends, I became quite attached to them (DUH!). I hated the idea of having to euthanize this innocent little sweetheart of a being, but realized it was in his best interest. I told the staff to give me just one more day. I then whispered to this little guy, “if you live, I will keep you.”
I $h1T you not, by the next morning this pathetic little kitten started eating like it was having it’s last meal, had a normal stool and was meowing and climbing the kennel door like he was saying “let me outta here!”
I couldn’t go back on my word. I took the little stinker home and we appropriately named him Lazarus.
Fast forward several years…
Lazarus has been nothing but a joy in our lives! He was NOT personable like Penelope. He HATED other people which baffled us with all of the attention and socialization that was offered to him as a young’n. As an adult, when people would visit our home he would disappear. Most people had no idea we had more than one cat!
In 2012ish Lazarus developed a low-bowel problem. He had some abnormally large stools that often caused blockage. We’d have to anesthetize him every few months to relieve a stool blockage while we tried to find a diet remedy that would help him. We had tried different medications (mild laxatives, medications that sped up gut emptying, etc.) to little relief and no avail.
After one incident of him having to be anesthetized and unblocked that didn’t go so well, we came to the decision that we could not put him through this again and either had to find a solution for his problem, or … not let him suffer with this condition any longer. Royal Canin Veterinary diets came to our rescue! We had already tried low residue diets to decrease stool volume (didn’t) and high fiber diets to promote more frequent stool elimination (didn’t work either). Royal Canin’s Fiber Response diet in combination with Miralax seemed to be Laz’s saving grace!
For over 2 years Lazarus did very well on the combination of diet and laxative. We never had another incident of him blocking. His stools were still large, but not so large that he couldn’t pass them. He was back to his old self again…fat and lazy with no pooping problems!
Lazarus was FAT. Well, actually, he was obese. Not morbidly obese, but obese. It was difficult for me to control his food intake with Penelope in the household. Penelope was a grazer and with her health issues I had to leave food out for her all the time and there was no way for me to separate the two cats from each other in our tiny house. So, when Penelope passed in May of 2015, Lazarus was put on a DIET! A strict feeding regimen was put in place to help him get to a healthy weight. Being the only cat in the household made that task pretty easy.
About a month after Lazarus’ diet was put into action, he began to act not quite right. He spent a few days where he didn’t come “beating down the door” for feedings and I noticed he was looking a bit “pot-bellied.” He still had an appetite, but it wasn’t like it had been. I thought for a bit, maybe his appetite is normalizing since he’s on a set feeding schedule and he looks odd because he is losing weight? That was wishful thinking. Because the clinical side in me didn’t want to see the fact that something was seriously wrong. I just lost my little Penelope a month before. What the heck is going on with Lazarus now? I was hypersensitive.
Only for a day or two.
I took him to work with me a few days after the appetite had waned and I noticed his unhealthy appearance. We did some bloodwork on him that was not very diagnostic. Then we took some radiographs. Those were quite more diagnostic and showed a large amount of fluid in his lungs.
After discussing with both veterinarians at our practice about what could cause that and what could be done for it, I made the decision to euthanize Lazarus. I did not want to put him through an exploratory surgery only to find one of 3 things that could be wrong with him; all of which would have had a poor prognosis. And since he had such a horrible anesthesia experience a couple of years prior for a stool blockage, I didn’t want to put him through any of the above. The decision was well thought out and, as Lazarus’ steward, I thought it was the best decision for him. He had lived a long, healthful life and would no longer be in any pain or discomfort.
2015 was the first year in over 14 that we had been without a cat. It was not great.
I cleaned out the litterboxes and donated them. Someone in need might have a use for them. It’ll be a long time before we have another cat. I never realized how much personality they had nor how attached I could become to a feline. I recommend everyone have a cat as a pet at some point during their lives. The life lessons I’ve learned as a cat parent are invaluable!