My Name is Leo

An adored cat deals gracefully with a jaw tumor while his owner quietly falls apart.

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Location: Philadelphia area, Northeast, United States

Tuesday, January 31, 2006

The Relaxed Cat

Day 8

I've stopped thinking that the Prednisone I got from the pharmacy was really Oil of Olay being passed off as medication. And I've also stopped thinking that this rubbing-in-the-ear-thing was a better way to medicate my particular cat.

Because Leo got just as pissed yesterday when I rubbed the goo on his ear as he does when I chuck a pill down his throat. Maybe it was cumulative kitty anger, because I have also been giving him twice daily eye droppersful of antibiotic. Yesterday morning was the last time for the antibiotic, at least I hope his infection won't return. So maybe if I'm only assaulting him once a day, it won't seem so bad.

Anyway, he seemed jumpy after the steroid application yesterday morning...He ran off and didn't want me to get near him. Which raised the question -- how do I feel about a treatment if it changes his personality so much that he doesn't seem to like me?

However, a half-hour later he sought me out and sat on my lap for some petting. But just for a minute or two, and then he was off. Normally, he would sleep most of the morning and be more active in the afternoon.

It took about 3 or 4 hours for him to un-hyper. Since then, he's been just great.

He ate every last morsel of food yesterday -- and I gave him about 30% more than his usual pre-tumor portion. That's significant because he's lost quite a bit of weight in the last two weeks. He was 11 pounds before this debacle, 10 pounds the day the tumor was diagnosed and I'd guess he'd lost another pound in the week that followed.

I didn't realize just how little he had been grooming himself recently until I picked him up this morning and he was back to him pre-tumor level of soft, silky clean.

So, at this point the prednisone gets a thumbs up. If you ignore the immediate post-application behavior, he seems to be the same cat I've known and loved for 12 years.

On the negative side, it may be my imagination but I think I'm seeing the beginning of a growth on the other side of Leo's face. His whiskers look puffed out on the right side.

But for now, I'm going to celebrate his return to normalcy and maybe even attempt a little try at normalcy myself today (as normal as I get anyway.)

Monday, January 30, 2006

In all his furry glory

Leo loving the sunshine, last Wednesday.

The blog begins Day 7 post-diagnosis...

It's been a week since the vet said the dreaded T-word -- "tumor." Leo had just had a tooth extracted...a few days earlier, he had been having facial pain (the hissing and hiding in the basement were obvious signs) along with drooling and never-before-experienced nasty breath. The vet said he had a lot of plaque and a tooth that was loose. It all seemed pretty classic dental disease.

Even as she told me the post-dental-work x-ray seemed to show a tumor (she said his left jaw bone looked "gnarly") it wasn't 100% - sometimes things look like tumors on x-rays and are not. However, if he had a tumor the only option mentioned was to "put him down." (God, I hate that expression.)

If it was a tumor, it would continue to grow. She said that's how I would know.

Aproximately 8-million Google searches later, I had found absolutely nothing positive as far the outcome for a cat with a jaw tumor.

So I spent my days lavishing the cat with attention and trying not to cry.

This past Saturday I called the vet office with an update -- the antibiotic (Clavamox) took care of his infection and tenderness, but there was definitely a hard mass under his left jaw -- and it had grown during the course of the week.

The receptionist (administrative assistant?) took my info and called me back with the vet's instructions -- we would try giving Leo the steroid Prednisone...maybe it would slow down the tumor's growth, and at least it should help his appetite.

She asked if I wanted pills or a transdermal gel that I could rub on his ears. Well, that ear thing sounded good...

A small pharmacy in a nearby town specializes in veternary preparations -- who knew?

But, I didn't figure that my cat doesn't really like having his owner touch his ear while wearing rubber gloves (to protect me from the drug going into my system.) So, I tried again yesterday without gloves, which went better. And then I washed my hands with a thoroughness that would make an obsessive-compulsive proud.

Being the sceptic I was fairly convinced I paid $22 for vials of Oil of Olay or something similar. Leo had no visible effects from the steroid (typically it increases appetite significantly.) It may just be that my cat's ears are too fuzzy to let the drug get into his system?

He basically ate nothing yesterday morning. Then he lay around all day sleeping (seemed more tired and a deeper sleep than usual.) But last night, he did eat a normal amount (although I gave him twice as much food as usual, just in case the "Prednisone" kicked in.)

This morning, this first thing I noticed when I went downstairs was that the foyer rug was slightly askew. This might mean that he was actually running around overnight. (When in normal health, he does this crazy cat thing for fun where he will go nuts and run around like a maniac, sliding into the rug.) But I couldn't rule out that the kids were running around like maniacs last night and I just didn't notice the rug being out of place before I went to bed.

As I analyzed the rug position, Leo came over to me, and as soon as I picked him up, I noticed his fur felt cleaner than it has for quite a while -- he hasn't been grooming himself lately, and pre-tumor he was a cat who always kept himself impeccibly clean -- with the most beautiful, softest, silkiest fur. So, this also gives me hope that he is feeling a little better today.

He tore into his food this morning, although he walked away after eating only half of it.

In a half-hour I'll be getting the kids ready for school. Once they're gone, I've got nothing planned for the day except cat petting, cat head scratching, and cat cuddling. Oh yeah, and that ear gel thing.