October 3rd, 2018
My house has become a high-tech monitoring facility this week, complete with cameras and a four-way live feed that I can monitor where ever I am. It’s handy, but unnerving at the same time, having the sole responsibility to ensure all is well.
This is not the normal modus operandi of the house. Sure, we do have security cameras set-up, but we only use them when we leave the house to make sure Sammy isn’t barking constantly while we’re gone. Most of the time they’re unplugged when we’re home because being constantly recorded gives me the creeps.
This week is different. All camera’s are plugged in and carefully placed at the most critical points of the house. I have the four-way live feed up on my iPad most of the time and I have email alerts that notify me when any animal has entered quadrants 1 and 3, just in case I miss the an event on the live feed.
It’s not been a fun week. It’s not been the week I was expecting at all, as a matter of fact. I remember my mom used to say, “Man makes plans and God laughs.” That pretty much sums up my week.
Dennis was out of town for several days this week for work. While I wasn’t looking forward to him being gone, I was looking forward to getting a lot of work done on the revision of my book, running some errands I’ve been putting off, and cooking myself a few meals from my mom’s recipes that I love but he doesn’t. (German meatballs with sauerkraut, and homemade apple sauce and potato pancakes made with lots of onion. Yum!) I went so far as to pull out the recipes this weekend, and gather all the ingredients I would need to execute the meals, so I could hit the ground running Monday afternoon when he flew out.
It wasn’t a half hour after Dennis left on Monday, that I noticed Frankie, the not-the-favorite-animal that I have a really big soft spot for, was visiting the litter box often. Like every few minutes often. This is never a good sign.
The next time he went in, I spied on him and saw that he was trying to urinate but he could not. I witnessed this happening four times in various kitty boxes throughout the house in the span of ten minutes.
I freaked out. This is something I always watch for with my boy cats because I know the build up of crystals can cause blockages and that is very serious. I immediately called my vet, my wonderful vet, Pewaukee Veterinary Service. It was 4:30 pm now and I was afraid they wouldn’t take me. At first the receptionist said there were indeed booked until 7:30 when they closed, however, she transferred me over to a medical coordinator. I was expecting her to tell me to make a trip to Emergency Pet Care, which is the animal equivalent of waiting in a human ER while the most serious cases go first. I’ve only been there two horrible times before and I was dreading a third visit, on my own, because Dennis was due to fly out that night.
Thankfully, once I told the Medical Coordinator what was going on, she told me to bring Frankie over immediately and they would see him. This is the reason I love this place. The health of the animal is more important than their schedule. This is also the reason I sometimes have a longer wait there, too, for routine appointments. I never complain when that happens because I know why they’re behind schedule and I’m so grateful that I’m not the reason why. But this time I was the reason why, and it really, really scared me.
I should note that Monday night was not a peaceful night to begin with in my area. The weather forecast was predicting rain, possible thunderstorms and a good chance of flooding. Not the kind of night where I ever intended to leave the house. But man makes plans and God laughs, so there I was, driving my beloved sick cat to the vet in the middle of rush hour traffic while a deluge of rain was coming down.
I tried to stay calm so I could focus on my driving, which was difficult because there was a lot of traffic and it was dark and hard to see the lanes because of the glare of the water on the roads. Staying calm was hard and I know my hands were shaking the entire drive. I was trying not to think about blockages, tumors, cancer and surgery. Maybe it was just a bladder infection, I told myself. Please let it be a bladder infection. You know you’re having a truly shitty day, when the up-side of a situation is a bladder infection.
Pewaukee vet was very compassionate and they got us a room ready right away. They also gave us one of the two most experienced vets, one of the brothers who started the business thirty years ago. I’ve been with Pewaukee Vet since they opened their practice, and I’ve seen this vet many, many times. I have great confidence in him so I was relieved I got to see him.
They immediately took Frankie in the back room where they have their diagnostic equipment for his exam and I sat, by myself, in the exam room, craning my ears to hear snippets of what they were doing to Frankie. It was a long wait. I kept repeating over and over in my head like a mantra, “please let it be a bladder infection, please don’t let him need surgery.” I’m not sure if this is praying, exactly, but it’s the closest I come to it.
After close to a half hour wait, Dr. Jeff came in to talk to me. He said they determined there wasn’t a blockage which was great, however, they didn’t know what was wrong and his bladder was so empty they weren’t able to take a urine sample. They asked if they could keep Frankie there until they closed at 7:30 to observe him and try to get a sample. Of course, I agreed.
I left the vet’s office feeling hollow and empty. Showing up to a vet with an animal and leaving the vet without one is a horrible feeling, and it brings back horrible memories of other visits with other beloved animals who didn’t return home with me. I was still extremely upset, even though they told me they would only keep him for a couple of hours. If they found something serious, I knew that those couple hours would be extended to overnight or worse.
I took a few minutes to compose myself in the parking lot before I drove home. Driving in the heavy traffic and pouring rain while crying sounded like a bad idea. Even though it was close to 5:30, and the dog’s dinner was already a half hour late and they were probably barking up a storm at home, I waited until I felt I could drive.
Once I got home, waiting for the minutes to tick away until I could drive back and get Frankie was excruciatingly slow. Going through the ritual of feeding the dogs helped and gave me something to do, but that only took fifteen minutes. By 6:15, they were fed and let outside, and I still had an hour before I needed to leave to get Frankie. What to do? Eat dinner? I hadn’t eaten since 11 that morning, but I wasn’t hungry at all. Work on revisions on my book? Nope. I couldn’t concentrate. I settled for watching tv, keeping the mantra running through my head, please, let it be a bladder infection, please let it be a bladder infection…
At 7:10, I couldn’t take it anymore, and I left for the vet five minutes early. I knew I would be early, but I just couldn’t sit at home anymore and besides, maybe they would be done with Frankie early, and I could take him home. Any minute I can save Frankie from being locked up in a cage in a vet’s office is worth my taking the chance of waiting longer in the vet’s office if he wasn’t ready.
Well, he wasn’t ready. But I wasn’t early either, because the drive to the vet was horrendous. It was really pouring rain now and intersections were beginning to puddle. It was even harder to see the lanes this time, because there wasn’t much traffic out and I didn’t have a car in front of me to follow.
I waited in the same room as before for fifteen minutes, while I strained to hear what might be going on in back with Frankie. Finally, I heard Dr. Jeff say they should try to get a sample again. My heart sunk. Frankie had been there all that time and they weren’t able to get a sample. Something must really be wrong.
Ten minutes later, Dr. Jeff brought Frankie back in the room in his carrier. He told me he hadn’t peed at all in his cage, which they would expect if he was having severe problems. So that was good. And they were finally able to get enough sample to test. He asked if I’d mind waiting while they ran some tests.
Would I mind waiting? Of course not! I was just so grateful they were willing to continue to work on the case after their working hours. My wait in the examining room was much better this time because Frankie was with me, and boy, was he happy to see me. I got many, many head rubs and kisses, which, of course, I enjoyed, but also gave me hope that he wasn’t too sick because sick animals aren’t generally as energetic and animated as Frankie was. His entire belly was soaked with rubbing alcohol and Frankie even let me dry him off with some Kleenex. He was as happy to see me as I was to see him.
When Dr. Jeff finally came back he said there was nothing obvious that he found that was wrong. There were no crystals, although there still could be some because they can be too small to see. But certainly nothing that would cause a blockage. I asked about the bladder infection and Dr. Jeff told me it was very, very rare to see them in cats, so he wouldn’t get me antibiotics to treat that. He said he was going to grow some cultures over the next few days to see if there was anything bacterial happening, but he wouldn’t know the results on that until Wednesday.
So where does this leave us, I asked. Dr. Jeff sent me home with an anti-inflammatory I had already given Frankie for another problem earlier that day, and pain medication I could give if things got bad. That was it. No diagnosis. No reason. Everything looked okay, which is good, but having no reason for it happening means it can happen again. I guess this wasn’t as bad a Frankie having to have surgery, but it’s a close second, because now I had to closely monitor him and see if it happens again.
I left the office with Frankie in tow, and I sent up a silent thanks to whoever or whatever might be up there intervening in this situation, for letting me bring Frankie back home with me that night. I was grateful they didn’t find anything serious, but I was overwhelmed at what that would mean for my next few days at home, alone without Dennis.
The first thing I did was to move two cameras into the spots where the cat boxes are. One downstairs, one upstairs. I turned on email notifications that tell me whenever there is activity in those rooms. Unfortunately, the turning on of a light near the cameras constitutes activity and an email gets sent. I’ve been spending a lot of time sorting through emails to see what is valid to check and what is not.
Whenever the cat box is used, by any of the 3 cats, I scoop, so I always know I’m starting with a fresh box when Frankie uses it. If the box is empty when he goes in, and there’s something when he comes out, I know everything is fine. If it’s empty when he goes in and empty when he comes out, then I know there’s a problem.
I’ve also been monitoring where Frankie is at all times, and I’ve been watching his behavior. Is he playing as much as normal? Is he sleeping as much as normal? Does he always lick himself that much? It’s exhausting and probably unnecessary, but I’m compelled to do it anyway. If Dennis were here, we would share the responsibility and he would tell me when I’m being paranoid. I’ve been telling myself I’m being paranoid, but I don’t believe myself the way I believe it when Dennis says it.
I’ve been trying to coax Frankie to drink more water. I found he’ll drink a bit of tuna water on occasion. Yesterday, he went the entire day without drinking, which had me concerned until I was watching the live feed in the kitchen from bed late last night and I saw him get two long drinks two separate times. So, apparently, Frankie is like a camel. He soaks up liquid once a day and that’s it. Although, this morning, I tempted him to drink water from a running faucet in my bathroom. He seemed to really like that, so I’m going to try to make that part of our regular morning routine.
Reviewing the recorded footage from overnight has become the first thing I do in the morning. I compare cat box visits that were recorded with cat box deposits. It’s like balancing a ledger. One visit +one deposit = no problem. Two visits + 1 deposit = cause for concern. So far, I’m thankful to report, my ledger has balanced.
Yesterday morning, I had to give Frankie an anti-inflammatory pill. I wasn’t sure how I was going to do this, since Dennis and I struggle to give him a pill with both of us. Worst case scenario, I would have to drive him back to the vet and have a vet tech help me. But I really didn’t want to stress out Frankie by taking him back there, so I gave it a try on my own. He was sleeping in his cat gym, and I woke him up, popped the pill in his mouth, and shot syringe of water down his throat before he could object. It actually worked really well. I’m going to have to remember that one.
Dr. Jeff called yesterday, on his day off, to check on how Frankie was doing. I told him about our cameras, and that I knew he’d used the litter box a few times appropriately, and he didn’t have a recurrence of any problems so far. Dr. Jeff told me if he continues to not have an issue through the day, that I can skip the anti-inflammatory for Wednesday and see how he does. He still didn’t find anything growing in the culture, but he’s still waiting.
One change I have noticed throughout this, is that Frankie is becoming a bit more anxious. I firmly believe that animals pick up on the actions and the energy their people put out. I think my constant checking and staring at him for the past few days is freaking him out. So today, I’m trying to back off a bit. I still check on him, but I pretend I’m getting something from the room he’s in and just give him a quick glance or pat on the head like I normally would. It seems to be working. He’s much more relaxed today.
It’s been a long week and I’ll be glad when Dennis is home tonight. Having the potential of something happening to Frankie again when we don’t know why, weighs on me constantly. I’m afraid to leave the house, in case it flares up when I’m gone. There will be no one here to notice it, or to take him back to the vet. The errands I was going to run will have to wait another week. Okay, I did make a quick run to the drive thru at Culver’s last night for dinner. I still was too stressed to be hungry but I figured I should eat something, and I wanted to bring the dogs back a treat since they’ve had a crappy week, too. There’s been no walks or sitting outside with them, because I’m afraid to leave Frankie alone for too long.
I know I’m being paranoid, but that’s where I’m at for now. I’m sure as more days pass uneventfully, the paranoia will fade. I’m sure once Dennis is here to tell me I’m over reacting, I’ll feel better, too. It is what it is, for now. And I sure wish we had a diagnosis, so I knew what caused it to happen so I know how to prevent it in the future.
This morning, Frankie was normal. He greeted me, begged for some of the dog food and played with the other cats. I know all signs are good, and he’s probably good, too. However, this is also his first day without the anti-inflammatory med, so I’m going to keep my handy 4-way camera surveillance close at hand for another day.
As far as making my mom’s recipes go this week, I don’t see that happening, either. I’ll be lucky if I can motivate myself to put in a frozen pizza tonight. I did get a lot of revision work done yesterday on my book, though. The cats normally sleep in the afternoon, and I was able to keep close watch on them with my surveillance cameras while I worked. At least one of my plans worked out this week.
Man makes plans and God laughs.
11:54 AM (I gave myself extra time because I had to get up and check on Frankie four times while I was writing this.)