Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Magical Mr. Mistoffeeles

We had just gotten home from vacation. After seven hours in the car, after five nights on the road, after all the greasy meals and poorly slept nights, all I wanted was to crash. But, but . . .

Someone was waiting at the back door. Tall, dark, and handsome, it was my boy. I squealed in glee, making my kids jump from their seats, their first bites of dinner just underway. Running to the sunroom, I pulled back the sliding glass door, and called out, "M! Come here, M-boy!"

And nothing. He was only fifteen feet away.


And then he came and stumbled and fell. Lurching like a drunken sailor on the the high seas, my furry friend couldn't walk. I was stunned, then terrified. The girls came in and I held them back. Was his leg broken? Had he been hit by a car? Was it rabies?

Amazingly, he went right into the cat carrier. All it took was a handful of Temptations at the back and a gentle nudge. Back into the car we went, the last place any of us wanted to be. Mr. M yowled a tiny bit. After feeding my stray buddy for 11 years, I wasn't sure if he'd ever been in a car before.

At the emergency pet hospital, there was paperwork. Age? Unknown. Neutered or spayed? Unknown. Male or female? Male, I think. He's just so big. Vaccines? Nope. The tech took the cat carrier and we waited. I hadn't eaten much that day, too sick of fast food to stomach another trip to McDonalds. My hands shook and I felt dizzy. I had already committed a hundred bucks just to bring Mr. M here. How much more would I spend? How would I care for a cat in a leg cast who was completely unpredictable and had a history of biting?

When the doctor called us back to a room and started to talk about his cognitive function, I was confused. Why wasn't she talking about his leg or some glass in his paw? I couldn't believe what I was hearing. The problem was in the cat's head, not his legs. Stroke, tumor, antifreeze poisoning. The list was long and dark. Blood tests, urine tests, MRI. Where would we like to start?

I froze. This was the conundrum. Vet care has advanced to the point where it's almost the same as for humans, but here's the catch: there's no insurance. Everything is pay out of pocket and the prices are high. The doctor gently offered to start with a blood test for $220. Gulp.

Thankfully, my husband put the brakes on before I could assent, and suggested we take him home for a few days observation. We didn't know what was happening. For all we knew, he had a concussion and might recover.

So back home we all went. Two days later, I took my sweet boy to my vet and watched in amazement as this seventeen pound mouser let the doctor hold him up by the scruff of his neck as if he were a mere kitten and run through a series of tests. No biting, no scratching, and not even a hiss. Heck, my other cat was never this good!

The diagnosis? 99% chance it was an ear infection. The other 1%? Tumor or complication from any of diseases prevented by the vaccines he had not had. I went home with a bottle of antibiotic pills and a new rabies tag. (By the way, a cat exposed to rabies may not show symptoms for up to a year after exposure. Double gulp.)

Now my M-boy is spending his days inside, sitting on my lap and playing with string. After 4 days of antibiotics he has improved, but isn't 100% balanced. He may be on antibiotics for up to 4 weeks and I'm not sure he'll be content staying inside for all of it. But I can hope. Maybe I should let a mouse in, just to keep him entertained.

If you are a pet owner, have you faced tough decisions on how much to spend on vet care, especially with emergencies or serious illnesses? Do you feel guilty about how much you spend on vet care?