In February of 1994 when I was 20 years old, my college roommate Jennifer and I decided to adopt a cat. At the shelter, we were drawn to a 6-month-old black tabby. We took him home and named him Sebastian, and I was lucky enough to draw the long straw and keep him with me when Jennifer and I went our separate ways the following year. Sebastian has lived in many homes with me (and without me) and had many adventures over the years. One summer, he stayed with my grandparents and got to be an outdoor cat for a few months. Another summer, one of my student’s families was nice enough to take him in. I was always looking for help in the summers because of my stints at the Aspen Music Festival. He ran away from my brother’s house in 1999 while I was in India, and didn’t come back for over a week, none the worse for wear.
Sebastian has been losing weight for years. Last Friday, he weighed in at a scant 6 pounds at the vet’s office. The vet told me I needed to ready myself, as we are very near the end of the road. Needless to say, I bawled the whole way home in the car and off-and-on most of the weekend. He has been living with CKD, Chronic Kidney Disease, for years, and for the most part has been doing very well up until recently. It’s not actually the CKD that has run him down in the last few months, it’s the anemia he’s developed. His energy level is very low. He likes to stay in one place, day and night, and when he does walk, his muscles are so weak that he sways like a drunkard. Every morning, I clean him up and change out the pee pads he sleeps on (yes, folks, he can’t be bothered to get up to use the litter box during the night). Luckily, the CKD makes his pee totally odorless and colorless. Then I give him 100 cc’s of subcutaneous fluids; feed him food mixed with the methyl version of B12, Omega-3 oil, a potassium supplement, and a little CoQ10 powder from a vitamin capsule; put Bacitracin on the raw spot on his back where he has scratched all of his fur off; and help him get settled in his current spot – a wide shelf in our living room.
During the day, if I can catch him at the right time, I can usually assist him to the litter box in time to avoid an accident. Today, for example, has contained 2 successful litter box visits and 2 accidents to clean up – this time on the floor by the shelf instead of on his pee pad. In the past 3 days, he has peed on my lap twice. The washing machine has been going pretty much nonstop. Evenings bring another subcutaneous injection – he seems to get dehydrated again within hours of his injections – and his blood pressure medication, which should help him to not go blind again, as he did 3 weeks ago, a very scary event. We have been blessed with an amazing, wonderful cat sitter who has taught us to give the sub-q injections and brought a wealth of knowledge about supplements and CKD in general. Without her, I’m not sure I could have navigated all these new needs Sebastian has. Sebastian was so low at the end of last week that I really thought we might have to make that hardest of decisions this week, but the epogen injection he received at the vet Friday has definitely perked him up a bit, as well as the extra fluids and methyl B12 (we were doing fluids once a day before then). He’ll get another epogen injection this Friday and I’ll see what the vet says. I feel very lucky that our vet doesn’t pressure us in any way, either to do expensive procedures, or to put him to sleep. He’s just very supportive and offers options of things to try.
He’s as loving as ever, purring as soon as I walk over to him, and wanting his head and chin scratched constantly. His appetite is very healthy, which is a good sign, even though he’s lost so much weight. He looks pretty bad with his little bald patch, but it is what it is. We tried putting a baby t-shirt on him so he can’t scratch anymore, but after changing it out every time he had an accident, I’ve given up on that for the moment. But here he is wearing it, looking very adorable:
I know that we don’t have much time left together, but right now I just have to be grateful that I have him for another week, or another month. He has been the most perfect of companions to me for 18-1/2 years, my husband adores him, and I dread the day when we have to say goodbye. I hope that I can be clear-headed enough to recognize that point when he is ready, and not keep prolonging his life for selfish reasons.