Please welcome my new friend, Janeson Keeley. I connect with her because she is like me, a devoted cat caretaker. I also think her husband should be dipped in gold for his wonderful purrrspective on the quality of life for their beloved Cammie.
There are two types of people: People who divide people into two types and people who don’t. I’m sort of OCD, so I fall into the second category.
When you’re one of those “two types” of people, one of the most obvious categorizations is “dog person” or “cat person”.
I am a cat person.
I was raised with dogs. In fact, as a child I was a little afraid of cats. But when I asked my first husband to take his toys and go home and decided that I needed “someone” to come live with me so I didn’t get lonely and make the dreadful mistake of asking my soon-to-be-ex to come back, it did not occur to me to get a dog. I wanted a cat. They don’t bark, you don’t have to walk them, and they don’t drool – the exact opposite of my first husband. I went directly to the “Free Pets” section of the classified ads.
Of course, you can’t pick out a cat out for yourself. You present yourself to one or more cats and see if one them picks you. I was lucky; at the first place I visited there was a whole litter of kittens, but the littlest one, a shiny black girl kitten with green eyes, crawled up my leg with her sharp little claws. I’d been adopted!
I had always named my cars (Benjamin the Rabbit, Daniel the Celica, etc.). One of my high school friends told me that if I ever had a child, I’d probably name it Pontiac or Volkswagen. I was driving a Toyota at the time, so my new furriend was christened “Toyota Marie,” quickly and mercifully shortened to Yoyo. (I never did have children, thank goodness!)
Three days after Yoyo adopted me – only 12 days after I had separated from first husband – I met a guy in a parking lot and brought him home to meet Yoyo. When he told me that he has been “raised by cats” and thought it was cute that Yoyo would pick cigarette butts out of theashtray and put them in his shoes. I knew I had a keeper. (When a cat brings you a dead, smelly thing, it’s an expression of love.)
He asked me to move in with him “so Yoyo won’t be alone so much”, and we got married. Yoyo was our loving and playful companion for 16 years before she developed a tumor in her mouth. She was diagnosed with untreatable salivary gland cancer. She lived for four months after that, getting weaker and thinner and sicker.
The hardest thing to know is when to have a beloved pet put to sleep. Yoyo hated to be picked up, so when I picked her up and she didn’t fight me, I knew it was time.
The veterinarian took Yoyo to the lab room to put the catheter in her front leg. When he carried her back to us, he explained that he would give her three shots. Before he could even put her down on the table, Yoyo looked at us, gave out her best “I’m half-Siamese MEOWR!” and passed over the rainbow bridge without having gotten the first shot. She always had to have the last word.
About four months later, I was adopted by another shiny black girl kitten with green eyes who told me in no uncertain terms that her name was “Cammie," not “Cameron.” While different from Yoyo in some ways, she was still very much a black cat.
Cammie is 13 now and two months ago she developed a lump on her left cheek. Her vet thought it might be an abscessed tooth, so I took her in for surgery. When the veterinarian who did the surgery went to pull out the tooth, she found that it wasn’t attached to anything. She told me that Cammie had some sort of cancerous tumor and that the only treatment was radical surgery – removal of part of her face – and then radiation treatments.
No way was I going there.
Her regular vet called and told me that Cammie probably had just a few weeks to live. I visited her daily at the hospital with her toys and treats and catnip. They sent her home with me on a Friday with some pain medication. Over the weekend she started having trouble breathing. I gave her the pain medication and that helped, but it made her very sleepy.
On Monday the veterinarian called to ask how Cammie was doing. I told him about having to give the pain meds to her, and he said, “I’ve been thinking. There might be a way to reduce the rate of growth of the mass. Would you be willing to bring her in again?”
We started Cammie on a routine of weekly antibiotic injections, monthly long-acting prednisone injections, and transdermal methimazole to treat her hyperthyroidism. She improved immediately, and the veterinarian was almost as pleased as we were.
“I’m a cat person,” he said. “They’ll surprise you. You can never count a cat out.”
When I explained the treatment regimen and the weekly cost to my husband, he said that he hoped that she lived long enough for us to have to spend a whole bunch of money on her - not on radical treatments, where you spend a lot with the chance of getting just a little - but on what it takes weekly to slow the growth of the tumor and keep Cammie happy and comfortable.
The mass hasn’t grown substantially since. She has a little trouble eating, but she can eat turkey and tuna, and “soup” – dry food in water. My husband and I feed her several times a day, love on her as much as she wants, play “tail on a stick” with her and basically spoil her (and her tabby sister, Stripey) rotten.
It takes time and money to take care of Cammie – to take her to the vet every week, to get her specially compounded methimazole and administer it twice a day, to love on her and give her all the attention she wants. We can’t go on overnight trips because she won’t eat for other people. I guess it’s a lot of “work,” but we’ll keep doing these things as long as we can because she’s our Cammie-Cat, and we love her very much.
One day we’ll have to make “the decision,” but because of a compassionate veterinarian who really likes cats (why are so many vets “dog people”?), who was willing to try an unconventional treatment, and who calls just to see how Cammie is doing, we'll have more time to spend with her and a guide who won't give up on her prematurely to help us make the decision.
For Cammie’s strength and love, for her veterinarian’s compassion and wisdom, for a generous and loving husband, and for having the money and time that allow us to care for and enjoy Cammie, I am truly grateful.
Janeson Keeley is a web site developer and published writer. When the spirit moves her, she blogs about her cats, life, the universe and everything at http://janeson59.com. She lives in Roanoke, Virginia with her beloved spouse and their two pointy-eared, long-tailed fur-children. You can follow her cats on Twitter at @HerGraceTheCat and @ThatStripeyCat and visit them on #cammiesporch. You can follow her on Twitter at @janeson59, but her cats are more interesting and have more followers.