My cat, Itchy, is the adventurous one of my two cats. Where Scratchy usually doesn’t go very much farther than the borders of our backyard, Itchy roams far and wide. My immediate neighbors at least know who both of them are and that they belong to me, so I feel relatively safe letting them wander around unsupervised.
Every once in a while, usually after I’ve gone out of town for a few nights, Itchy will get into a snit and decide not to come home for several days. This used to concern me greatly, especially the one time when he was gone for over a week. But now I’ve figured out his pattern: he stays away for a few (no more than 2 or 3) days to punish me, and then when he gets hungry enough, he comes back.
This time, he was gone for 4 days and I was starting to become slightly alarmed. I had seen him on Friday afternoon, and then I spent the night at my friend Amy’s in NY and came back on Saturday around lunchtime, and I saw neither hide nor hair of him until late Monday afternoon, when I went out into the garden to pick some tomatoes. I actually didn’t see him hiding amongst the plants by the pond until he started to move, and I thought he was going to come towards me, but he didn’t; he scrambled off underneath the shed, where he knows I can’t get him.
When he was scrambling away, it looked like his foot was getting caught in something in the bushes, because he was not as graceful as he normally is. I shrugged it off, happy to know he was nearby, and hoping that he would show up for dinner that night.
He did not. Scratchy showed up, and while he was outside, it looked like he was keeping watch out for Itchy, but Itchy never showed up.
On Tuesday night (last night) at about 9:30 PM, I saw Scratchy waiting on the stairs for Itchy again. Scratchy had been in and out all night, so I knew he wasn’t hungry. I opened the door and called for them. Scratchy came up the stairs, and Itchy poked his head out from under the stairs. But he had a really hard time climbing the stairs, since he was walking as if he had caught his foot in something again. Sort of half limping, half falling, I took pity on him and brought a little bit of food down to him to calm him down, and he let me pet him (which is unusual for both of them when they’re outside; it’s like they’re too cool for Mom to pet them in front of their friends).
He ate the food like he was famished, and I carried him upstairs to the sunroom/cat room, where Scratchy followed like the concerned brother he is. Once they were safely inside, I watched Itchy walk some more and saw that there was definitely something wrong with one of his forelegs. It looked like the left one, as if every time he put weight on it, it would collapse. And it was freaking him out, I could tell that.
I gave him some more food (of course he must have been ravenous if he hadn’t eaten in 4 days!) and I called Ray upstairs to show him what was going on. I decided to call my vet’s emergency line, because if it was a break or a sprain or a dislocation or who knows what, someone should probably look at him as soon as possible. But the vet’s emergency number said, “If you want to page the doctor, leave a message and the doctor will call you right back. If it is between the hours of 10 PM and 8 AM, call the animal emergency room.”
I looked at my clock: 10:10 PM. Damn. I wrote down the number of the emergency room and went back downstairs to discuss our options with Ray. My concern was that if we kept him inside all night, he would meow the entire night, especially if he’s scared or in pain. If I took him to the emergency room, it would cost more, but they might be able to give him something to calm him down. Ray had lots of leather work to do, so he wasn’t keen on going to the ER.
Still, I thought it was important to go, so Ray helped me get Itchy into his carrier (which Itchy was not happy with; he ruined a perfectly good shirt trying to climb out of my arms), and I drove Itchy to the hospital while Ray stayed home to do leather work.
At the animal ER, they gave me a bunch of paperwork to fill out and called a nurse out for triage. As they took Itchy away, I sat down and watched a sappy Disney film they were playing on the TV in the lobby. From what I could tell, it was about some boy and his dog (no, not Old Yeller or Lassie): the dog could play basketball, and the boy’s mom was played by Susan Sarandon. I thought, “Susan, what are you doing in a movie like this? Do you need money that badly?”
While I was half-watching the movie, I saw a nurse carry a huge dog into one of the exam rooms where a man and woman were waiting. About five minutes later, the couple left the exam room sobbing, but thanking the doctor profusely. It reminded me of when I had to put down my beloved cat Midnight in college. He was 15, so he’d had a good life, but he was suffering from intestinal cancer and had to be put to sleep. I started crying for that couple and for Midnight and for what might be happening to Itchy. I was on the verge of crying because of the movie, but it was so sappy it actually made me want to laugh.
A nurse called my name and brought me into an exam room. She told me that they think the problem might be neurological because of the way Itchy is moving his head in a very stilted manner. She had him walk around for a while and pointed out different mannerisms. The doctor came in and told me the same thing: that they didn’t find any wounds or broken bones, no sprains or dislocations, and that they were very sure this was a neurological issue.
Something, anything could have happened while he was outside, but the most likely thing is that he ate something that affected his brain. They ran blood tests on him and said that his liver and kidney were functioning normally, which was a good sign. The doctor gave him subcutaneous liquids which would hopefully flush out his system and get the bad stuff out of his brain, but gave me no guarantee that it would work. I now have to keep him inside (which is pissing him off) and watch his behavior. If it doesn’t get better, I have to bring him to my regular vet.
Keep your fingers crossed that the fluids he got last night are doing the job. I don’t want to have to put him back in the carrier again.