leland the cat died tonight at noah's animal hospital on the east side. i'd had him since autumn of '98, when he was a tiny stray kitten. under the moniker "lander kitt" he was a founding member of animals within animals, and he was also the subject of my friday catbending series. he was 7 years old.
he had been sick for years—he had feline leukemia as well as hypertrophic cardiomyopathy—so i knew it was inevitable, but i'd hoped to squeeze in a few more years with him around. he was originally a stray, but overcame some youthful exuberance to become a very sweet, easygoing cat.
his health had probably been gradually deteriorating for years, and especially over the past couple days. just a few days ago, he seemed perfectly healthy and normal. sunday he jumped up in my lap while i was sitting here in my computer chair, and simply curled up in my lap instead of climbing up on my chest and kneading me... he was always a big kneader. this was strange, but not too strange. monday when i got home from work, he didn't come greet me and jump in my lap and knead me like he usually does, so i went looking for him and found him in the basement. he followed me out and hung out in the kitchen, lying around on the ground before wandering off. it was perhaps a little strange that he hadn't jumped up on the counter, but not that strange. i spent all evening here in this chair, but he never came by to visit me, which was strange. by this point i was concerned, and went looking for him. i eventually found him and petted him for awhile. i went to the bathroom and he wandered off. i didn't see him again last night but hey, he's a cat and is mysterious like that. cats disappear or go into seclusion sometimes.
tonight i got home from work and noticed that he still had the same amount of food in his bowl. it didn't look like he'd eaten anything since yesterday. and he didn't come out of hiding to visit me. by this point i was worried, and looked all over the house for him before eventually finding him in my bedroom, half underneath my bed. i sat back down and went about my evening.
15 to 20 minutes later, he still hadn't come out from under the bed. i had at least expected him to eat something now that i'd awoken him. i went back and tried to rouse him. there was a funky stench, but i couldn't tell if it came from him or from my pile of dirty laundry right next to him. at first he didn't seem to move at all. eventually he moved his head a bit, confirming he was alive, but he still wouldn't get up. i pulled him out from under the bed a bit and the fur on his belly and hind legs was matted. that's what the smell was: he'd urinated on himself. he started wagging his tail or whatever cats do but he still wasn't trying to get up or even change positions very much. something was seriously wrong. i got barry. barry picked leland up and set him down on his feet, hoping to get leland to stand up and walk around. instead leland stumbled and fell back to the ground
i called paw patch, his normal vet, and found out they would only be open until 7. it was now 6:30. i opted to take him to noah's instead, where he got his ultrasounds and where they have 24-hour emergency service (calling ahead so they knew to expect us). with barry's help i got him in his carrier. he was strong enough to walk the rest of the way into his carrier, which was something.
i knew as i drove him up there that he probably going to die. i had seen much the same thing as a kid when our dog had died. she had seemed perfectly fine until one day she was lethargic, disoriented, and walking into walls.
noah's admitted us quickly. we took the top off his carrier and he just lied there. they tried to weigh him but there were some problems with the scale. leland started meowing (he almost never meows) and eventually wailing. i can't remember the last time i'd heard him make such awful wailing noises. he wasn't enjoying the weighing process at all, but he quieted back down once we got him nestled back comfortably in his carrier, with a towel and a heating pad.
the vet, dr watts, knew he had hypertrophic cardiomyopathy and explained that cats with that condition sometimes experience episodes where they will collapse etc because their hearts aren't able to pump well enough. she also mentioned saddle thrombus, but didn't think it was as likely judging by his symptoms. a few minutes later i mentioned that he was also FeLV+. this should have been in their files and should not have been news to them, but it was. the dr mentioned that the feline leukemia complicated things even further, and that it could be the leukemia rather than heart disease causing the current problem, recommending blood tests in addition to the other tests and medicines she had been recommending. he was admitted overnight, and after i went home to grab leland's medication and bring it to the vet (they were apparently out of stock of diltiazem), i went to drbmd's place.
around 8pm, dr watts called. while drawing blood to send to the lab for leland's tests, she had noticed that the blood looked watery. she checked the red blood cell count using gear there in the office and it came out to 10% (it should be somewhere around 40%). worse, he was dehydrated, which would typically increase red blood cell count, meaning he was even more anemic than the numbers would suggest. she didn't think he would survive the night without a blood transfusion. the heart disease wasn't killing him; the feline leukemia was.
dr watts suggested that i should consider "how far we want to take this." after all, he would still have two terminal diseases. and she was right. one of those diseases would kill him eventually, and even if we got him the $300 transfusion and gave him some extra time, what would the quality of that time be like? and... let's be honest, how much money would i end up spending to prolong his life if he was likely to be miserable for those extra days or months?
the dr asked if i wanted some time to make the decision and call her back, and i said yes, though i knew i shouldn't go through with the transfusion. better to end his suffering gently rather than stretch it out indefinitely. i called barry & my sister to give them the news, and i guess to validate that i was making the right decision. then i called noah's and left a message for dr watts to call me.
when she called back, dr watts assured me that if leland were her cat, she would make the same decision. she gave the phone to someone else for a confirmation; i guess this is so they can be extra sure there is no miscommunication and they don't end up euthanizing your pet by accident. i was given the option to cremate or take back his body for burial. with cremation you can take the ashes or have them dispose of the ashes for you at a park in southern indianai chose to cremate and to take his ashes myself (i'm not sure i could handle picking up his dead body and driving it around). i'm not sure yet what i'll do with the ashes; probably dispose of them myself somewhere nice.
so it goes. leland "lander kitt" was put to sleep sometime around 8:40pm january 31, 2006.
friday cat bending will return for at least one more "in memoriam" installment. after that i might at some point continue the feature with other cats, like virago's cat girl. i will not be getting another cat myself anytime soon. ¶