I'm so sad to say that our talkative, affectionate, mouse-slaying cat Laila may be approaching the end of her life. We adopted her as an older kitty a couple years ago; the animal shelter estimated her age to be 10 years, which would make her 12 now. Some time ago, our vet told us he thought she was a couple years older, judging by the evidence of kidney disease in her blood work. He warned us that she would eventually get to the point of being very lethargic, and that we would have to give her subcutaneous fluids. This time has come.
It seemed to come on suddenly. When we left to spend Christmas with my family in NC, she seemed to be fine, although in retrospect, I think I can see the lethargy was starting to set in. The biggest clue we got that something might be wrong was that our pet sitter mentioned that Laila was leaving a lot of food in her bowl. I assumed she was just out of sorts because we were away. But when we came back, she still ate very little.
We already had a vet appointment scheduled for her annual rabies vaccine, which our vet urged us to hold off on. The news from that appointment was that she had lost a lot of weight, and that she would potentially benefit from receiving regular doses of subcutaneous fluids.
Giving subcutaneous fluids is supposed to be a relatively simple task--simple enough that vets trust pet owners to be at least somewhat successful when given instruction. And it seemed simple enough in the vet's office. The first time we tried at home was a comedy of errors, though. Laila tensed her muscles (as I supposed anyone would when being approached by a needle wielded by someone who doesn't know what she's doing), making it difficult to grab a pouch of loose skin. Then the needle kept not being in all the way, causing the fluids to leak all over her fur. At one point, she got away entirely, and fluid shot through the needle into the air. The process has improved somewhat since then, although we're definitely on the clock with it. The needle itself doesn't seem to bother Laila much, but the feeling of fluid going in under her skin must be pretty strange, and she always reaches a point when she just tries to walk away.
Then there has been the issue of trying to get her to eat. I've tried all kinds of things--cheap cat food, expensive cat food, tinned fish, boiled chicken livers. From day to day, there is no telling what she'll want to eat.
There has also been the issue of her wobbliness and clumsiness. She's always been a bit wobbly, but she has become noticeably more so lately. She also alarms us by tumbling to the floor when trying to jump on things.
I've had a long winter break, so I've gotten to spend a lot of time with Laila, following her around to make sure she doesn't hurt herself and making her several meals per day to try to cajole her to eat. I don't know what will happen when my semester starts and I become insanely busy again. I also don't know what her latest round of blood work from yesterday's vet appointment will tell us. I'm glad I've had this time with her. She's been a wonderful companion, and I want her to feel like she's had a friend as the end of her life approaches.