When Parents Purr

Our cat (let’s call him Timo) will be fourteen in January and we watch him anxiously for signs of aging. We lost his sister at ten to bowel cancer. That was horrible. I still struggle with the memories – especially at night. You know in some ways, one’s head is so much more dangerous than reality because closing one’s eyes only makes it worse. It takes strength of will to change the scenery of your mind.

Well, last weekend, Timo appeared in the living room with a back so sore that his hind legs were quivering. The emergency vet (our regular one isn’t open on weekends) has become associated with death after the experience with his sister so, instead of rushing him straight off to a vet, we treated Timo with kid gloves, making sure he didn’t have to jump or to fend off exuberant Puppy. By Monday he seemed a lot better but on Tuesday he got worse again and we rang our vet. The first appointment was Friday.

So, yesterday, I bundled him into the cat carrier and put him in the car. He sat quietly and remained quiet in the waiting room even when an enormous black Labrador joined us. Timo’s back was much better by this time. Yesterday morning he jumped onto my pillow in his usual light and graceful way, instead of having to drag himself up by his front claws. But we decided to keep our appointment in case the pain proves to be recurring or in case he injures himself again.

The vet was wearing a colourful face mask and as she spoke, it rubbed up and down her nose. She was a fast and animated speaker but also seemed thorough in her checking of Timo’s symptoms. It wasn’t until she began palpitating his spine that he gave his first hiss. Then when she took his temperature he growled. He is quite an assertive cat and visitors to our house do live in fear of his claws but so far he has never injured a vet (touch wood).

The vet suggested that she could prescribe a painkiller in case the pain got worse again. However, she said, the pain killer she would recommend is processed through the kidneys and so, in older cats, it is wise to have a blood test done to check kidney function before using the medication. I agreed to this plan.

Timo and I departed after she had taken some blood and we’d agreed that she would call with the pathology results later in the afternoon. Timo growled all the way home, not letting up until I had released him from his cat carrier on the kitchen table (out of Puppy’s reach).

My husband and I were so extraordinarily pleased when the vet rang back to say that Timo’s kidney function was perfectly normal. It is rare, in the world of parenting, to get the kind of feedback that seems to prove quite scientifically that you have done your job well. We patted each other on the back and grinned proudly at each other and at Timo. I still feel good inside when I think about it.

And, even better, after dinner tonight, Timo did his customary scamper in from the cat yard and helter skelter down the hall. That’s proof that he’s feeling good too!

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