Saturday, April 27, 2013


Well, Charlotte is home from the hospital.

I'm still concerned about her, but maybe a little bit more relaxed than I was when she first arrived...  because when she initially got back home (Thursday) she wasn't eating.  And she didn't eat all day Friday.  Friday night, she started throwing up stomach bile.  We got up a couple of times when we heard that horrible pukey noise that every dog or cat owner has learned to dread, then once more after dawn this morning.  Throughout all of this time, the only real comfort is that she was still drinking water.

We called the vet's office, and they determined that it was probably a reaction to one of the four (!) medications that she is now on, and decided that it was safe enough to take her off of it.  And so we did.

And she went all day without eating.

At 4PM, Jeff called the veterinary hospital again to update them about her still not eating, and they said that it had now gone on long enough that they would prescribe an appetite stimulant.  (The original hope had been that she would decide to start eating on her own, naturally, without outside help.  It's not like she isn't on ENOUGH medication as it is.)

We decided that I would go pick up the appetite stimulant, while Jeff stayed home and watched her.  (We wanted to be absolutely certain that she wasn't sneaking away and puking behind furniture.  We MUST know if she's still having trouble.)

Unfortunately, on my way home, I got caught in an hour and a half traffic jam due to tunnel closures (which I should have anticipated, but didn't.)  Sometime around the 45 minute mark, Jeff texted to say that she'd taken a couple of bites on her own!

So, despite good-natured grumbling about an unnecessary trip followed up by an even more unnecessary traffic snarl, I was and am delighted.  And we have the appetite stim if she doesn't continue to progress.

We're thrilled to have her home, and thrilled that she seems to be a bit more interested in eating.

The nature of her illness is still very serious.  Congestive heart failure is always bad, and cats have fewer treatment options than we humans do.  It's a particularly hard blow, because she HAD the terrible prognosis of a six months to a year and a half to live, then outlived it, THEN we were told that she didn't have congestive heart-failure.  We had just begun to accept the idea that we might actually get to have her with us for a normal cat's lifespan.

And now they're giving a guarded prognosis of six months to a year again.


But we're going to do the best we can with the time that we have left, however much that might be.    Charlotte still has some improvement to do before her quality of life can be as good as it was before.

Charlotte before, bright-eyed.  Empty(ish) bowl.

Charlotte tonight, exhausted.  Food nibbled at.
But she's a tough girl.  If any cat can fight to live a normal life with heart disease, it's her.

And we will fight the fight alongside her for as long as we can.  For as long as she can, and is willing.

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Charlotte is Hospitalized

I should have known that the other shoe was about to drop...  things have been going SO well lately, and I'm maybe kind of sort of a little superstitious about that.  Or maybe it's just that I'm well aware that life has its ups and downs, and we hadn't had any serious downs for awhile.

Well, it started last night.  No, it started over the weekend, but we just didn't put it all together until last night.

When I got home from work, Charlotte was in the recliner.  Nothing really odd there.  I said hello to her and gave her a quick scritch, then grabbed Maera and took her out - Maera was due for her annual vet check-up and vaccinations.  So I took Maera to the vet's, and we came back a little under an hour later.  Charlotte was STILL in the recliner.  And she stayed there all through dinner, and didn't jump down until we made it obvious that we were going upstairs for bed.  I remarked about it, but still wasn't that alarmed.

Until she started choking and vomiting in the hallway.  And her breathing was labored.  She was only able to bring up clear fluid.  All of this was starting to look distressingly familiar.

Then we started talking.  I remembered commenting over the weekend that she looked like she'd put on some weight.  As I was petting her last night, I realized that quite a bit of the weight was in her front legs.  Then I had a light-bulb moment:  that wasn't fat, that was fluid.  She was retaining fluid.  And the clear cat vomit that I'd stepped in earlier that day probably wasn't from Bit bolting back her water like she sometimes does.  It was likely from Charlotte.

I felt sick.  I HAD seen all of this happen before.  Four years ago.   The only thing keeping us from rushing her to the vet in the middle of the night was that she didn't seem to be in too much distress.  After her bout of vomiting, her breathing seemed to return to normal.  We resolved to call the vet first thing in the morning.

And Jeff did.  After he described her symptoms, they told him to take her to the emergency vet clinic.  And so he did.

And it's congestive heart failure.  Again.

I don't understand how this could be.  How she could be diagnosed with congestive heart failure 4 years ago.  How she could outlive her prognosis of 6 to 12 months by so long.  How she could be on medication for three years until the vet said that it was medically unprecedented that she still be alive.  How we could take her off of the medication for 13 months, and have her be fine. No symptoms.  Not one.  And then to have her hospitalized today for congestive heart failure.  How does this even work?

They pulled 100 ml. of fluid out of her chest cavity today.  (How can there even BE that much fluid in a little tiny chest?)  We got a call around 7:00 PM to tell us that she seemed to be responding well to the doses of lasix that she's received there so far.  She's still on oxygen to help her breathe.

They're going to try her on three medications tonight:  if those seem to help her, they will probably be what we have to give her for the rest of her life.  (And I'm so, so okay with that if it means that we get Charlotte back.  For however long that may be.)

And they want to do an ultrasound on her abdomen in the morning.  The cardiologist and the team of vets there are concerned about the legs retaining fluids.  They normally don't do that with "mere" congestive heart failure.  They want to be sure there isn't something else causing it.  Which freaks me out so much because there can be nothing good in her abdomen causing fluid retention.

So now it's a waiting game.  Will the medication work?  Will the abdominal ultrasound find anything of concern?  Will they be able to wean her off of the oxygen?  Will we get her back again tomorrow night?

Charlotte in the oxygenated cage at the hospital.
I hate it when a pet is hospitalized.  There's no way to tell them that they haven't been abandoned.  That we WILL come back for her if she survives.  That said, Charlotte has always handled this kind of thing rather well in the past.  She alternates between bossing around the vet techs and sucking up to the staff.

So everyone keep their fingers crossed, send prayers and good thoughts Charlotte's way.  She needs them.  We all need them.  It's been a very emotionally draining day.

And while this post is about Charlotte, and she dominates my thoughts and emotions tonight, I just can't leave it on such a "down" note.  I want to show you a picture of what we've been up to the past week and a half.

What is that, you say?  How can one cat have so many feet?

Yeah, we're fostering a nursing mama cat and her four kittens.  The babies are two weeks old at this point.  The picture is a little dark because they're at the back of the "den" that I made for them, and the lighting is poor.  Mama (we're calling her Janis) doesn't like it when I over-handle them, so I keep that to a bare minimum and just let her do the work.

I went in to feed her and scoop her litter box, feeling heavy-hearted, sad, and worried about Charlotte.  I poked my head into the den, watching the four babies nursing.  And then I heard it.  Purring coming from two teeny, tiny little babies.  It brought tears to my eyes.

Dare I see it as a sign of hope that one of them looks a lot like a miniature Charlotte?

Sunday, April 14, 2013


I don't know about you, but my animals, cats and dogs alike, HATE change.  Of any kind, unless it means a new kind of treat.  They're usually down with that.  (Well, the dogs are.  The cats are very suspicious of new kinds of food.)

Last weekend, we had a rather large get-together at our house.  The cats usually get pretty upset when we have people over, and there were some allergy-sufferers in the mix, so we shut them away in bedrooms, split up so that they didn't get on each other's nerves too much throughout the event.  (Later, when the numbers of guests had dwindled, we did let the cats out of the rooms.)

The dogs got to stay downstairs with us, and helped us entertain.  Don't get me wrong, unlike the cats, the dogs LOVE guests, but they do get rather unsettled when we change stuff.  People are hanging out in the dining room!  OMG, there's people in ALL THE ROOMS!  OMG, there is a person in my favorite spot on the couch!

Argos waits for the first guest to arrive, anxiously.
But I've learned to just keep an eye on the dogs, and if they start to get too worked up over the fact that there are SO MANY PEOPLE to pet them, or if they start pacing nervously, or panting, that it's time to go outside, or pull them off to the side for a quiet pet, or a treat.  It usually goes fairly well...  and was definitely smoother this year, now that Maera has matured a bit, and doesn't pee with excitement every time she sees someone she likes.  (Imagine our first party, after adopting her.  She'd go into a room, see one of her favorite people, pee.  She'd race to the next room, see ANOTHER person she likes, pee.  Repeat process, all night long.)

So I guess it's not really DURING the entertaining that we have a problem, with the dogs or the cats.  Cats get isolated, which is what they prefer anyway, dogs are allowed down with the guests, with a sharp eye on them.  It seems to work.

But where I seem to have trouble is during the preparation.  I can't believe that we're the only pet-centric household that runs into this problem.

Whenever I clean, it upsets all of them.

Well, maybe not Charlotte.  She just stayed nearby to keep a close eye on me, to make sure that I did everything up to her specifications.

You missed Item #3 on the checklist, just so you know.

But the dogs paced nervously.  I mean, guys C'MON, it's not like I never clean around here.  But maybe a combination of the super-duper heavy cleaning plus the anticipation that I was feeling for the party did it.

The cats were complete pests, getting in the way, and sometimes actively hindering the process.

What, you weren't trying to dust here, were you?

I do the best that I can to make it easier on them:  I take the dogs for walks, make a point to take play or snuggle breaks, but it's clear that they all want for me just to sit down in a chair and stop with all of the activity already.

But it doesn't seem to help even when I do.  They're so attuned to us, they KNOW something is going to happen, and it makes them nervous.

Maera, post-party.  It's exhausting being a host, she says.
We all had fun with the party, but I think they were all glad to have the house back to normal the next day.

And then Jeff and I went and upset them all again this weekend by moving furniture around.

Sorry, guys.

Next weekend, I promise will be boring.

Does anyone have any tips for how to make this easier on the pups and kits?