Will nine lives be enough?

I have had two cats for a very long time. My oldest I have had for almost 15 years. Her daughter is two years younger, and via about five or six subsequent owners, ended up back with me. Aside from a pretty intense flea infestation (which is a fun story in and of itself), and the high sensitivity to this in the younger one – which made her lose a lot of hair – they have always been very healthy. For the past six years or so, they haven’t set foot outside. This is not just because I’m an ecologist that wants to spare the neighborhood birds, but they have also grown incredibly lazy, and almost scared of ‘the great outdoors’. Not sure what traumatized them.

Anyway. My cats. The oldest one is not in a good shape – and hasn’t been for a little while. She was always pretty picky about how she wanted things, and if she disagreed with something, she would piss all over the place. With regular cleaning of the litter box, special cat litter that supposedly helps, and the arrangement of multiple litter boxes, this behaviour got a lot better over the years. However, since two years or so, this behaviour has gotten worse again. Quite regularly, she would piss on the couch, which is of course fucking annoying. We cover the couch in plastic bags every night, to avoid them pissing on it, which has helped a little, and at the very least protects the couch. As you can imagine though, this is also pretty annoying, and every time we would forget, they would thank us by leaving a present. Given that we were already trying whatever we could inside the house, we sought improvement via the diet. For little over a year now, they have been getting a special formula for urinary tract care (instead of the senior cat formula they were getting before). This seemed to improve the situation for quite a while. For some time, we could even leave the bags off the couch at night.

Now since two months or so, our cat has been acting strange. She would piss on the couch again, so we swiftly reintroduced the plastic bags. (They match great with our interior.) The piss was different though. Tiny drops of very strong urine. Yeah, we washed the covers and the pillows quite a lot lately. She also ran up and down between the litter boxes for about ten times per hour. Day and night. I personally don’t mind a good piss, but 240 times a day is a bit strong. Obviously, something was wrong. We called a local vet, who gave us an appointment four days later. The next day I felt so sorry for the cat, who was still running marathons between litter boxes. I found the four day appointment a bit ridiculous. My cat was suffering now! We called around a few other vets, and luckily we found one that could make it the next morning. I brought her there, and she got a check-up, an X-ray, painkillers, and a dose of antibiotics. Even though there was little to see on the X-ray, it was likely to be a bladder infection. That sounded reasonable to me. It fit with the symptoms for sure.

For two days, the situation seemed to improve a little. However, my cat wanted to kill me for giving her painkillers. Apparently they did not taste so well. Apparently the cat’s response also made a huge impact on my son, as he’s screamed ‘cat says no, no, no, no’ for days to follow. On the third day, the cat went back to her marathon sessions, and even though she didn’t go ten times per hour, it was maybe six times. She also continued to piss on the couch. I’m not sure if that’s improvement. Anyway, we decided to take her back to the vet. This time, she got an ultrasound, they took urine from her bladder for a microbial analysis (I’m not sure why they didn’t do this the first time). They took blood for analysis (I’m also not sure why they didn’t do this the first time). The ultrasound, again, looked clean. Aside from being a bit overweight, there wasn’t much they could say. Two days later, all test results came in clean. The cat was apparently healthy. She asked whether it could be that the cat was stressed. Well, the past two years, we have moved homes twice, of which the first was from Germany to The Netherlands, and included a 26-hour stopover with the moving truck next to the highway. The cats visibly did not enjoy that. We have also had a family expansion. Do they like my son? I’m not convinced. So yes, it could be that the cat was also stressed. The vet advised us to continue with a treatment of hemp oil, which could ease the stress. At this point, I was willing to do anything. I just wanted my cat not to suffer, and to stop her from pissing on our couch. And so we continued for a bit more time. Earlier this week, my wife and I decided that this could not go on. Not only was the cat still pissing on the couch, she was also still pissing dozens of times per day, covering the entire house in cat litter, and also clearly suffering from it. We decided that it was enough. This is really not a life for a cat, and to be honest, with a second child arriving soon, the situation was unlikely to improve on the stress end. My wife and I discussed about it, and we also spoke of the option of having her euthanized. As a biologist, I am quite rational about these things. Yes, I want to keep my cat alive, but I don’t want to do this at all cost. I don’t want to make an old animal suffer because she is mine. She has had a good life. I would be willing to have it ended in a humane way.

Again, we called the vet. We discussed that the sistuation was no longer okay for us. The cat suffered, we suffered. If there were no more alternatives, we wanted to discuss the possibilities of ending it. The vet was very understanding, and agreed. She described the cat’s condition as a psychosomatic bladder infection. Stressful conditions could induce this in some animals, and she had had experienced it in one of her own pets in the past. She agreed with us that the suffering should end, but she advised us to try one last remedy for a couple of weeks. This remedy included a pheromone device that would spread calming pheromones. Furthermore, we were prescribed two types of drugs. A soothing formula for the bladder lining, and a drug which she described as a calming agent, with a very specific twice a day dose.

We started this new medical treatment on Thursday evening, then two doses yesterday, and this morning, the fourth. Aside from that she was walking in and out the litterboxes countless times this morning, she also seemed to be very friendly. She came to my son Rafa, and let him pet her. This never happens. The rest of the morning, she spent in various odd positions on the floor with her tongue out. My son could pet her al he wanted. She was high as a kite. Not soon after, she started to have difficulties walking. Her backside seemed to be dysfunctional. We started wondering what the hell the vet described to her. Alprazolam did not ring a bell with me, but I have heard of its synonym/brand name Xanax, and of benzodiazepines the family of compounds it falls under, and which are used to treat anxiety disorders in humans. No wonder she was so relaxed and chilled out. We were strongly suppressing her emotions…

Passed out on her ‘do not piss on the couch bags’

Our cat’s struggles to walk or even stand up bothered us a bit more. We double-checked the dose that the vet had prescribed, and concluded that we did exactly what she said. Then we talked to my sister-in-law, who’s a psychologist that knows a bit more about these kinds of drugs. We quickly realized that what we gave our cat is the double daily dose of what an adult human should take if they require this stuff. Our cat is six kilograms, and the adult described should be sixty kilograms. I think our cat has been prescribed a dose that is twenty times too high…

My son was very sweet with her, but the cat barely noticed, as she was in outer space

By now, our cat is hardly moving. She’s mostly a sleep in odd positions, crammed into corners of the couch, and seems to be relaxed about everything that happens to her. Most of the time, the only thing that gives away that she is alive is the slight rising and falling of her ribcage. In all honesty, I would not be surprised if she wouldn’t wake up. I try to calm my feelings about this with telling myself that she at least is in a happy and relaxed state. The treatment is highly effective in that she did not piss once since noon. I’m not too sure though if this is a way to improve quality of life in a cat, and I’m certainly not sure if it is a long-term solution. Let’s see how she is if she wakes up tomorrow.

Published by Robin Heinen

Father of one but almost two | Husband | Entomologist and Ecologist | Postdoctoral Researcher @ TUM | Traveler | Coffee Addict

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