Looking at old photos, you would think that these two kittens were new intakes for the rescue. They look typical of kittens roaming the street – dirty, hungry, scared. But the photo is nearly 13 years old, and they are my cats, my first rescues. I didn’t intend to keep them. Relatively new to Savannah, finding help for these kittens proved challenging. I was told I could sit with an organization at Petsmart on the weekend, but they had to be tested for Feline Leukemia and current on vaccines. Ok, sure. I’m a single gal working two jobs to make ends meet, but I’ll make a ‘donation’ to their care if if means helping to find them a good home. And then I’ll head to Petsmart on a Saturday in July where I’m surrounded by people, not necessarily looking to adopt kittens, but bringing in their own cute, fluffy, wide-eyed and friendly kittens, also available for adoption. My first experience with kitten season in Savannah. I packed up my plain, terrified domestic short hair kittens and went home discouraged. Later that week I heard something that caught my attention. My non-social cats were purring! They were curled up next to my dog. And that was that; they were mine for good.
Fast forward 12 ½ years. (I got married and I became we.) In 2012 we had said a sorrowful goodbye to our dog; the female cat, Tess, who never really warmed up to any other human except me, became especially clingy after losing her canine friend. Fonzy has always been one to roll with the punches and adjust. Not long after the passing of our dog we started volunteering in animal rescue. We’ve fostered several dogs and literally, countless cats have come through our doors. Fonzy and Tess have said hello and goodbye over and over as we have worked tirelessly to help homeless animals recover from a myriad of illnesses and go on to find families of their own. But now we are facing an illness on the home team. Late summer 2016 we took Fonzy to the vet for his annual check-up. He’d been a bit cranky and had lost a little weight. Not terribly unusual for a cat making his way into his senior years, but worth mentioning to the vet. He has always had dental issues, so we attributed the weight loss to not eating well and scheduled a dental. (The crankiness we assumed could be related to the foster cat we had at the time, who seemed to want to rule the house.) After his dental in October and a re-check a few weeks later, he seemed to be better and had, in fact, gained a smidgen of weight. But through the winter I noticed that Fonzy was losing weight again. And more weight than the average ‘old cat.’ Another visit to the vet, lab work and yes please, let’s just do an x-ray while we’re here because traveling with this screaming cat gives me such anxiety I’m going to need medication. Oh, there’s something unusual in his abdomen. Referral to internist. Ultrasound. 3 cm mass. Needle aspirate. Carcinoma. Pancreas. More tests? The dollar signs are making my head spin. Will they tell me anything that will alter treatment? No. Oncologist.
And so here we are. Flush with emotion over the right thing to do for the cat. Make him comfortable? Treatment? How long? Is it growing slow or fast? We don’t know. Surgery – not a favorable option. Radiation? Again, not a favorable option. Oral chemotherapy drugs? Possibly, although visions of torturing my cat and chasing him through the house hoping to give him a pill are racing through my mind. He hates traveling. How much follow-up will there be? Will he feel any better? Will he start hiding from me? Will he become fearful of me? Can I do this? And is it worth it???