Wednesday, July 13, 2016

The Mysterious and Troubling Illness of the Goose

This past month has pretty much sucked.  Some months do, especially because my goal is to be left alone by the world and to be allowed to get on with whatever it is I'm creating.  The world doesn't work that way, and it has ways of letting me know I'm being unrealistic

Our big old Goose.
One of our three cats - Gustav Ignatius ("Goose") suddenly became ill.  He was fine one day and the next morning he was twitching, pawing at his face, scratching himself all over, twitching, sneezing, and coughing.  He was obviously in utter misery.  An emergency trip to the vet revealed nothing much.  Our vet - who is a good guy as vets go, but vets don't know much at the best of times - said it was either "an allergy" or "a spider bite."  He gave Goose a shot of Depo medrol, took some blood and sent us home, telling us the shot should take effect within a couple of hours. * 

Six hours later Goose was still twitching all over, and the vet then told me "perhaps I was a bit over-enthusiastic in my time frame."  Yeah, or perhaps you were just wrong.  The blood work, which cost over $200, showed nothing much except moderate elevations in values that show allergic reactions.  

I held Goose on my lap continually, talking to him, trying to soothe him.  Every now and then he'd jump down as if bitten (no fleas, honest) and run a few steps, shake his head, and scratch his body.  He seemed utterly out of it and confused.  I was crying most of the time, intensely frustrated, wanting to make him feel better but not having any clue how to do that.  

Of course I did a lot of research online.  Turns out Depo medrol has a lot of side effects in cats, which is a thing my vet didn't mention.  It also turns out that cats in this area are in danger from two spiders - the black widow and the brown recluse.  We have no black widows.  We almost certainly have no brown recluses, and if we did Goose would never go near it.  He points out insects now and then, but is otherwise wary, only wanting us to get rid of them.  The search for allergens was utterly unfruitful.  We hadn't changed anything at all in the weeks prior to his attack.  We were using no new products.  He hadn't gotten into anything.  Of course he's never been outside.  No one had visited.  He'd had no new foods.  

The Depo medrol masked his symptoms and did a real number on the poor guy.  At one point he had some seizure-like activity, with his head arching back in a strange way and his neck twisting.  I wrote to my vet.  "Sounds like it's neurological," he replied helpfully via email.  Well, duh.  All I could do was hold Goose while he dreamed and twitched and scratched.  I had no idea whether he was about to die any second.  

Mr. Sprockets holding Annabelle
Marie and Gustav Ignatius at
three weeks old.  
At times like these you try to not anticipate the worst, but at 14 years he's an old cat, and all lives end sometime.  His sister died several years ago.  We raised them from three-week-old kittens (they had lost their mother), bottle-feeding them many times a day.  And if I am honest Goose is my favorite.  We have routines. We have rituals.  He likes Mr. Sprockets, but he adores me.  I am his Person.  So his loss, whenever it happens, will be profound.

The main question I had was whether he was suffering, and if so to what degree.  Obviously he was uncomfortable, but he was still eating (a lot, thanks to the steroid) and drinking quite a bit, still using the litter box, and so on.  It did seem to me at one point that he was suffering badly, so I had to think about when it would be time to end his pain.  It was such a sad time.

Gradually, over seven or eight days, Goose's symptoms cleared up and the Depo wore off.  As of today he is normal, or what passes for normal in his case.  He is old and has some form of Alzheimers.  He jumps on my lap and stands there, confused, until I pat him down.  He howls and needs to be called, as if he's forgotten where he is or where I am.  Sometimes he just howls regardless, as if he is the world's worst and most enthusiastic yodeler.  He chatters back at me whenever I talk to him, and if I'm not where he wants me to be he lets me know about it by grumbling.  He naps with me in the afternoon, in a certain position, with me holding his hind feet.  He is a remarkable, special cat and I adore him.  

The thing is, we still don't have any idea what caused the attack, and neither does our vet.  This means it could reappear at any time.  After telling me one morning that he was sure it was an allergy, in the afternoon the vet went back to "I'm pretty sure it was a spider bite."  Nice work, hot shot, but you have no evidence for anything.  And if you seriously think it was a spider bite, then our other cats are at risk, but it wasn't so never mind.  What ever happened to "I just don't know" as a valid response?  Because "spider bite" is next door to "extraterrestrial invasion" in my book.  As in didn't happen.

So we're waiting and watching, and hoping this doesn't return, hoping he'll stick around for a while. I try to avoid feeling dread, and I cherish every interaction with Goose even more than I did before.  I'm determined to be ready to let him go when it's time, and he will not suffer, because that is what I owe him.  

Afterward, I'll dissolve into a whimpering pile of sludge for as long as I need to.  


*This vet also went a bit spare when I mentioned Goose's shots weren't up to date.  I was concerned when Goose was about to be handled by the vet tech.  Goose isn't normally a biter, but he was in distress, so all bets were off.  The vet went white and said "but his rabies shot is valid, right?" He could have seen from the file that his last rabies shot expired many years ago, and when I told him no, he said "but it's the law."  The law is an ass, and in this case a rather remarkable ass, because I have far more chance of being bitten by a rabid animal than Goose does, and no one is chasing me around with a needle.  I see no sense in vaccinating against something that isn't going to happen.  I once had a vet tell me that "a bat could fly down the chimney."  In which case my chimney cap is faulty, and in which case thank you for giving me something else to worry about.  Except what the hell was wrong with him that he'd even thought of such a thing?  Any bat which flies down a chimney (did a bat ever do that?) is going to want nothing but to get away from me and every other creature.  So while Goose was there he was forced to get his rabies shot.  If he had bitten a tech he would have been put down.  Because - oh yes - that's the law.  Which we can all agree is a huge, flaming horse's hind end.


  1. Anonymous9:42 AM

    I hope Goose feels better.

  2. The crisis seems to be over. Thank you for your concern.