It’s been awhile since I posted about Ash’s situation. As a recap:
In December, we moved into our current house. About a week later, Ash stopped eating, and began to lose weight. In the past, he’s often done this after a move, and we spend some time giving him special/extra food in an area where he’s by himself (no competition from the other cats), until he recovers. This time, he didn’t recover.
January saw a flurry of vet visits in which we learned that Ash was extremely jaundiced and dehydrated. Our vet said the unexpected words “complete liver failure” and “discuss quality of life.” We had an ultrasound that revealed abnormal nodes on his liver and in his digestive system, and at the emergency vet where we had the ultrasound, they wanted me to decide right then and there if we were going to sedate him and get a biopsy. It was overwhelming and terrible, but in the end, his blood numbers weren’t healthy enough for sedation anyway, so we brought him home. Our vet called and said that the treatment was the same regardless of what the biopsy found (in other words, no need to do the biopsy), and we started a round of steroids.
There was a brief improvement on the steroids, but Ash quickly went back to his lethargy. He had IV fluids and several rounds of subcutaneous fluids, and we switched him to all wet food with extra water for the dehydration. The jaundice cleared up, and Ash began to eat and drink a little again. It wasn’t enough, though, and he was mostly eating gravy and cat treats, refusing to eat any regular dry food or even the meaty chunks in wet food. We went through every brand we could find, but pretty much the only thing we could get him to eat regularly was treats. Even then, he’d sometimes ignore them.
His weight stabilized somewhere in the 10-11 lb range (he’s supposed to be around 12 lbs), but we knew something was still very wrong. The hair they shaved for the IV and ultrasound in January wouldn’t grow back, and the eye infection that we’d been treating for two years still wouldn’t go away. More vet visits, new eye meds, and the process of quarantining our baby continued. Oddly, he did have a random period of improvement, with his eye healing briefly, and his energy and weight suddenly going up in June. He grew the hair back during that month as well. Then just as suddenly, the improvements quit, his energy dropped, his weight dropped, and he started to get the eye infection and jaundice again. Furthermore, he began vomiting more often (something he was already prone to, since he was about three years old).
Things didn’t improve over the last few months. He was skin and bones. He wouldn’t try to jump if it meant going more than about a foot of distance. He walked gingerly and sometimes winced if you touched him wrong. He had liver spots on his face even though he’s only 11 years old. Whatever food he managed to lap up went straight through him. While he used to leave his quarantined room sometimes, he no longer did, and spent much of his time hiding in the back corner under the bed.
Cats don’t really show outward signs of illness unless things are really bad, and after ten months of worsening conditions, we knew it was time to have hard conversations with the vet. He went in this Monday afternoon, and Jason and I braced ourselves to say goodbye. Then oddly, the vet said 1) Ash shows no sign of jaundice, 2) his muscle condition hasn’t deteriorated, and 3) he weighs more now than he did in January. She gave us some new meds to help with joint pain and stomach issues, and we’re giving them a few weeks’ trial. It might just be delaying the inevitable, but it’s a ray of hope. Maybe our baby will get a little bit of his life back. We’re really love him to be able to. But we also know that we’re ready to give him peace if that’s what it comes down to, no matter how much grief that gives us. He’s been with us since he was four months old, and whether he’s with us another three weeks or another few years, we’re going to spend as much time doting on him as we can.
In the days since, a couple of things have happened, all of which feel hopeful. The pain meds seem to help, and he’s not wincing and walking gingerly anymore. We went down to the pet store and bought half a dozen different specialty brands of food (new store, new brands), and there was one brand that Ash actually ate the entire can of! Not just the liquid! He hasn’t eaten any solid food except treats in months. It’s not just the medicine, either, as he ate the first can before receiving any of the new meds. All of the other specialty cans we got, he ignored, but this one brand (Tiki Cats), he’s eaten every single variety we’ve opened for him. He also hasn’t once thrown up since he began eating it, and for a cat that was throwing up daily, that’s major improvement! We’ve actually gotten him to play with toys again, wrestling around with catnip balls and such, which is such a 180 change in his behavior that it’s nearly unbelievable. We just hope this isn’t a temporary boost from the meds and that he can continue to sustain the energy and improvement over time!