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, February 28, 2006

Day 36

I am second-guessing myself like crazy.

Yesterday, Leo seemed pretty good -- he ate loads of food, wanted mucho attention...the only sign something could be amiss was a puffiness developing along the sides of his mouth, some extra thick drool along with his nasty breath...and that he didn't want to lie on me during petting (but he was very happy lying next to me.)

But I picked up a new round of Clavamox antibiotic anyway, thinking I could head off what looked like a developing infection before it got bad enough to make him feel yucky (technical term.)

I gave him the first pill of this round last night -- after he had heartily dug into his late meal (pill is supposed to be given with food, so it all seemed to be working out perfectly.)

When I got up this morning, it looked like he had barely touched the rest of the food (when he's feeling normal he eats it all during the night.)

Then he hardly ate anything today.

"Why is this crazy lady chasing me around trying to force-feed me? "

I may have made it worse by feeding him Nutri-cal (high calorie supplement) midday. I had tried to hand-feed him Whiskas morsels, but he didn't want anything to do with it so I whipped out the Nutri-cal. He eagerly licked a total of about a tablespoon of the sugary goo off my fingers.

Leo then proceeded to look like crap (another technical term) for the rest of the day -- curled up tightly into a ball, with that leave-me-alone vibe.

I think the Nutri-cal may be making him queasy. I've only given it to him occasionally, and he never seems to feel good afterwards (although the other times he was already feeling pretty bad, so it's hard to tell.)

So, to sum it all up, basically I took a cat that was eating great and gave him medication that made him feel crappy.

The only positive is that the extra swelling around his mouth did get better.

Sunday, February 26, 2006

Day 34

It's one of those good news, bad news situations.

The good news is that Leo has had a great week. He's been happy, grooming himself and seemingly having a grand time.

Relaxing yesterday

And he's been eating especially well since the Clavamox course ended Wednesday. His weight is back up to about 10 pounds from 9.5 pounds in the beginning of last week (both approximate weights -- due to unscientific method of weighing myself alone and then holding him -- I won't mention the weight I have gained as well, except to say that marathon cat petting sessions do not burn off many calories.)

The bad news is that I noticed the return of kitty bad breath -- and nasty breath preceded both his previous bouts with oral infection.

Last time, I was unsure or in denial that the infection had returned -- and by the time I figured it out he ended up having a couple of lousy days before the antibiotic got things back under control. So I definitely want to nip it in the bud this time.

Yet even tonight, I was starting the denial process after watching him play like a madman (mad kitty.) He seems to be feeing so well. But then, he began cleaning himself and hissed as he wiped his paw across the left side of his face.

So obviously, another first-thing-in-the-morning vet call is in order.

Friday, February 24, 2006

Random cat facts

How long it takes after washing a comforter for it to smell "good" enough for Leo to sleep on again: one week.

Taste of kittie's Clavamox antibiotic drops: Bubblegum (maybe you don't need to know how I discovered that.)

In addition to this first hand knowledge, I've been doing a psychotic amount of web searching in the past month and have learned more about felines than one married human has the right to know.

Not only about diseases and disorders, but things...well...somewhat less important. Like the myriad of ways one can describe a cat.

Leo is most definitely a "Maine Coon" type - although he is a pure-bred feral cat. (His mother showed up outside my grandparents house one day in 1993 and promptly gave birth under their shed.)

But what color is he? Should be obvious, but...

There are many many insanely (to me) specific names for cat colors, and my guess is that Leo's color might be "Cameo Tabby" which carries the following criteria according to the American Cat Fanciers Association: "The ground color should be pale ivory. Markings are red, diminishing in intensity of color approaching the roots of the hairs. Clarity of markings takes precedence over depth of tipping. Nose leather and paw pads rose. Eyes shades of green, gold or copper. White lip/chin trim allowed."

However, maybe Leo is a McTabby. I say "maybe" because after 30 minutes of web searching, I still don't know the difference between a plain ole Tabby and a McTabby (the McTabby comes with a side of fries?)

I did find a lovely website that actually had photos of cat colors, although it did not clarify the McTabby issue.

I also learned that Leo's dearly departed brother Zeke was not a mere gray and white cat, he was a "bicolour" cat - with the "mask and mantle" pattern...and the term covering all bicolour cats is "piebald" or "white spotted."

Leo and Zeke circa 1996.

But wait -- he wasn't white spotted with grey...because in the cat world, no cat is grey, they are "blue." And some of his grey, er blue, patches had a beige background -- but is beige "buff?" or "dilute red?" Or was his grey not blue, but "dilute black?" But then I find photos that look like Zeke described as "brown mctabby and white..."

And then my head explodes.

Perhaps it's time to subscribe to Cat Fancy?

Thursday, February 23, 2006

One Month Later

It was exactly a month ago that the vet called to say Leo's dental x-ray showed what looked like a tumor. His jawbone looked "gnarly," she said...

In the month since, he's had a few miserable days, a few mediocre days, and the rest have been pretty good.

Right now, he's doing great. And looking awfully cute.

For the past 5 days or so, he's seemed nearly normal -- affectionate, playful, and happy to have me as his petting slave. It's enough to send an owner into a serious case of denial.

Hasn't been eating great though. He seems hungry, but I think the actual process of eating is a bit difficult for him, so he just eats a little at a time. I've resorted to feeding him by hand nearly every day to make sure he gets a decent amount of food into his system.

Today is the last day of his latest antibiotic course -- and it could be that the Clavamox is upsetting his stomach a little, so we'll see if he eats more without that in his system.

Monday, February 20, 2006

Happy cats

Here's some pre-illness photos, including a couple with Leo's brother Zeke, who died of kidney failure last November.

All taken within the past couple years (since we've had a digital camera.) Eventually, I'll get some kitten pictures up here (for the "aw...that's so cute" factor.)

Zeke & Leo; Christmas 2002

Leo + Zeke 2003

July 2003 -- Okay, this is really only here because it's a good photo of me (although it reminds me that I need a haircut...)

Leo, August 2004

Day 28

The cat has got his Leo back (his mojo, for lack of better definition.)

Since Saturday, his old personality has returned. The leftover food in his bowl is the only thing reminding me that he is not 100% -- that and the lump under his chin, of course.

But even that has seemingly gotten smaller...which I can't quite figure out since the tumor seems so rock hard, how could it shrink? Maybe there was swelling underneath that was making it protrude more? The side protrusion that I had described last week as being the size of a small gumball is nearly imperceptible now.

Oh well, I will try not to obsess as long as he is feeling well.

He is currently getting Clavamox squirted down his throat twice a day...he tries to spit it out and it looks like he's foaming at the mouth. For some reason, I find humor in this (black humor?)

He also is getting 5 mg of Prednisone chucked down his throat once a day. The first couple days I was having a hard time pilling him (He growled at me! But he was still feeling bad at that point.)

However, I seem to have gotten my old pilling mojo back as well. It's all about aim. And the element of surprise.

And now, the instructional portion of this blog --

Cyn's pilling method:

I put the pill in my right hand. Place left hand over the top of his head (cover his eyes -- that's the element of surprise) and use my thumb and forefinger to gently press directly in front of the jaw hinges -- this makes his mouth open (lifting up his head, so his throat is straight.) Very quickly chuck the pill as close to the back of the throat as possible. Then hold the mouth closed while gently rubbing the throat (this prompts the cat to swallow.)

It's not as brutal as it sounds! The hand-on-top-of-the-head-covering-the-eyes thing is very similar to a way Leo likes to be pet. (Or is it "petted"? I'm not up to speed on cat verb tenses.)

I make sure I have food with me so I can feed him immediately after the pilling, to soothe his wounded pride. So far, he's not holding a grudge.

Friday, February 17, 2006

Recent photos

The first photo was taken on Wednesday, right after his first dose of Amoxicillin. The left side of his face (right in photo) was quite swollen. This was probably the only time all day Wednesday that he wasn't curled up into a little ball sleeping.

The tumor and swelling up close and personal...taken before the latest course of antibiotics took effect.

But today, he was feeling better -- so much so that he jumped on my lap and gave me one of his trademark shoulder massages. It's been days since he's done that.

The photo below was taken this afternoon -- you may be able to see that his face is narrower than it was on Wednesday.

(If you notice a golden glow around Leo, it's the massive quantities of his fur embedded in that chair.)(Also, he plays a mean acoustic guitar!)

Thursday, February 16, 2006

Day 24

I've never been so glad to hear a cat meow at my bedroom door at 6:45 AM.

When Leo called to me through the door this morning, I knew he was feeling more like himself. ("Himself" being the cat that likes to wake us up every morning to remind us that it's time for his breakfast.)

Evidently, I was correct in assuming his utter misery on Tuesday and Wednesday morning was caused by an infection. A couple of doses of antibiotic later and I was able to hand feed him (last night at 11 PM) half a pouch of Whiskas "Poached Salmon in Sauce." Now I wonder how long the couch will smell slightly fishy...?

Not to say that he's once again spunky, energetic cat -- he has just been lying in a chair upstairs most of the day. But he responds to his name (which yesterday he would just ignore) and is amenable to being picked up and has been purring like a demon for me.

The jaw tumor's side protrusion has gotten much larger and rounder -- about the size of a small gumball. (That's in addition to the large downward/between jawbone part of the mass.) He has absolutely no problem with me touching the tumor area -- in fact, he offers the side of his face to me to rub. I suppose he is "lucky" in that it seems to be growing outward and not up into the inside of his mouth.

But I know it's all just a matter of time...there is no positive outcome here. Like trying to put put a forest fire with a watering can...sooner or later his problems won't be able to be fixed with a RX.

Mew! I'm awakened from my writing reverie by the feline man himself -- it's dinner time.

Wednesday, February 15, 2006

Day 23

Leo is not a happy cat today. He doesn't want to be held, but will purr when his head and back are scratched.

It's difficult to tell exactly what is bothering him, but I suppose it might be a recurrence of the oral infection he had a few weeks ago.

A call to the vet office...I tell the tech I'd rather not bring Leo in for an exam as I'm trying to limit his trauma at this point. The vet is consulted and I receive a new round of Clavamox (antibiotic)and a refill of his prednisone (trying tablets this time 'round.)

So...we'll see. Trying to be positive...

FYI - the Prednisone in tablet form is about 1/3 the cost of the transdermal gel. (Must take some very small pleasure in saving money at least.)

In the name of positivity, here's Leo doing a little bird watching Saturday.

Tuesday, February 14, 2006

Day 22

Something is definitely wrong. I mean, more wrong than the tumor.

Leo ate all his food last night, but very little this morning. Mid-morning, I gave him some of the Nutri-Cal supplement, which he lapped off my finger eagerly. Yet almost immediately afterwards he didn't want anything to do with any kind of attention from me -- extremely out of character. This continued through the afternoon.

This evening, he was curled up on "his" chair in the studio...he purred as I pet him...put his legs over my arm as he likes to do (inadequate description, but think of how a cat sleeps with another cat -- one back leg and one front leg over the back of the cat lying in front of it...the cat version of spooning, I guess) and he settled down to sleep.

I can't claim to have studied his breathing patterns much prior to this illness, but he seemed to be breathing faster than usual for a sleeping cat.

Just gave him his evening meal, which he launched into greedily, but only ate a few bites before walking away. A few minutes later as I approached this computer, I saw him crouched on the living room I picked him up, he meowed the slow mournful meow that signifies some kind of pain, and he jumped out of my arms.

At this moment, Leo's on the couch and looking fairly approachable, so I'm off to do some head scratching. (His, not mine...although head scratching is figuratively the order for me as well, as I'm a bit confounded as to my next step, other than to call the vet in the morning.)

I don't know if the transdermal prednisone isn't making it into his bloodstream anymore (it is rubbed into the inside of the cat's ear, but this is one hairy cat and I'm continually trying to get it past the hair inside his ear.) It didn't seem to be doing a thing the past four days or so.

Plus, periodically you're supposed to wipe out the cat's ears to remove any built up residue and this hasn't exactly worked well for me. Cats just are not that into having their ears wiped out. I contemplate going the old fashioned route and asking for a pill version of prednisone tomorrow. Maybe that will help?

I'm rambling, I know. A week ago, he was so lively and I hold out hope that maybe a medication adjustment is all we need.

Monday, February 13, 2006

Let's Get Clinical

For anyone who may be facing a similar problem with their cat, I have tried my best to show the extent of Leo's tumor with these closeups:

His left side, where the jaw tumor originated; a hard growth on his jawbone.

His right side -- over the past few weeks, the tumor has grown over and down under his chin, but isn't actually connected to the right jawbone.

This probably best shows the hard mass that starts under his chin and runs backward towards his throat. I suppose its shape is best described as an elongated egg.

A photo taken this morning -- he still looks pretty normal from this distance; handsome even, if you like a goatee.

I'll end with an informal product endorsement -- I picked up a tube of a product called Nutri-Cal at Petsmart this evening. Supposedly, it's a "High-Calorie Dietary Supplement" -- and I purchased it in the hopes of getting some extra calories into Leo since he hasn't been eating well the past few days.

I can't say if it will actually put any weight on him, but I can say that he really, really likes the taste (first ingredient listed: corn syrup; closely followed by malt syrup & cane molasses -- so I guess it's basically Mrs. Butterworth's for kitties. If Mrs. Butterworth's contained cod liver oil, that is.)

Day 21

Leo's tumor continues its steady, if somewhat imperceptible, growth. Since it reached across from his left jawbone to the right the growth has been harder to track.

During the past week, I noticed a few hard nodules had developed off the left side of the tumor.

But what scares me is that the jaw tumor seems to be growing backwards, getting closer to his throat.

Which raised a possibility that hadn't crossed my mind before -- that the growth could eventually press on his esophagus to the point that he wouldn't be able to breath.

The prognosis the vet gave me three weeks ago was a somewhat vague description of Leo eventually not being able to eat (and that would be the time he would need to be euthanized.) I imagined that to mean that the tumor would grow upwards into his mouth...or maybe ulcerate to the point he wouldn't want to eat...

My obsessive nature compels me to imagine the various scenarios...although I'm actively trying to banish thoughts of Leo's inevitable demise, the euthanasia of his brother Zeke this past November is far too fresh in my mind and far too haunting to dismiss completely.

BUT -- all this doom and gloom ignores the rather uneventful week that has just past. Leo was very active in the beginning of last week...wanting to play far more than he has in many years (credit the prednisone gel.)

The past few days, he hasn't been quite so active and hasn't been eating as heartily. He's been drooling a bit more during petting...

The biggest trauma inflicted upon Leo all week was my washing of my bed's comforter -- evidently I removed all the "good" scent, thereby forcing Leo to retire to the cat-hair-chair (formerly an upholstered office chair) in the studio.

Overall, the cat's been acting fairly normally. And the human is trying her best to do the same.

Sunday, February 12, 2006

Catnip Dreams

Tuesday, February 07, 2006

The Rubber Band Game

Monday, February 06, 2006

Day 14

Maybe I should have named this blog "The Wild Mouse" -- because this journey is starting to feel like a roller coaster ride, albeit a mild one.

Saturday night, Leo was acting a bit "off." And his bad breath seems to have returned. (I say "seems" because my only clue is that when I was rubbing the sides of his mouth -- he actually likes this -- some of his saliva got on my fingers and it smelled really nasty. Yeah, this is all kind of gross, sorry.)

Sunday morning, he didn't eat much. Then again, my lovely husband had fed Leo a flavor of food that he's not as fond of.

I gave the cat his Prednisone about 5:30 PM Sunday and it didn't seem to have any effect...he was just laying around, looking weary and old. His fur didn't seem to have been groomed recently.

I made mental plans to call the vet first thing Monday morning.

However, after eating his Sunday evening meal (9 PM) he really perked up. He wanted to play -- with his catnip rainbow, with the kids' fiber optic flashlight thingie, with string I trailed behind me. For about an hour, which is longer than he ever wanted to play pre-tumor.

And this morning, he came to wake me up at 6:40 AM, all perky and bright-eyed and feeling much cleaner.

My 6-year-old said, "Why does Leo's face get bigger and smaller again?" -- even she noticed that his chin had looked more swollen yesterday than it does this morning.

So, I suppose I'll hold off calling the vet...until the next roller coaster drop.

Saturday, February 04, 2006


Photo uploading working now, so here are the pictures meant to accompany the entry below...

Friday cat nap

Saturday morning string attack

New Year's Eve -- What? Doesn't everyone spend that evening at home with their cat? (Well, my husband was there too...)

January 21, 2006: Leo feeling miserable, post his first vet visit (but before tooth extraction.) Even though the tumor is bigger now, his face is still not as swollen as it was when this photo was taken.

Leo's profile, February 4, 2006

Day 12

The past few days have been good for Leo. He has been eating at least as much as normal. And he's been seemingly happy, although perhaps sleeping a bit more than usual.

This morning he was playing like a little demon with various debris on our floor -- more vigorously than I've seen him play in the past few weeks.

But the tumor seems to get a little bigger every day. Perhaps just a mm or so larger each day. It started on his left jaw, but now is all the way over to his right.

Since I'm hoping this blog can be informative for other pet owners facing a similar problem, here is some history regarding Leo's condition.

FYI: He is a 100% indoor cat, up to date on all vaccinations.

He had his regular vet visit in November 2005 with no noted problems. Unfortunately, during the same visit his brother Zeke had to be put to sleep because of kidney failure. But Leo did not seem to suffer too greatly from being the sole cat for the first time in his life; in fact, he seemed to be relishing the extra attention.

That I was devoting a substantial amount of time to petting him makes it even more surprising that this tumor on his jaw could progress to the point it did without me noticing.

In retrospect, I did notice that he was looking a little different around Christmas time -- I couldn't put my finger on it, and thought he was just starting to show his age (12+ years). Now when I look at the photos taken of him on New Year's Eve I think I see a thickening of his left jawline.

Towards the middle of January 2006, I noticed Leo's coat was feeling a bit dirty. He's always had such wonderfully silky fur (never mats, never needs combing). But I thought it was a delayed reaction to losing his companion -- maybe without Zeke he didn't feel the need to be as meticulous, or maybe even Zeke had been grooming Leo. I had seen Zeke lick Leo's face (and nether regions - yuck!) occasionally.

A couple of times as I was petting Leo he hissed when I touched his jaw/throat. But, being a rather vocal cat (who will hiss while playing, or if he meows a few times and you ignore him) I just wrote it off to me literally rubbing him the wrong way.

Around January 16th or 17th, I said to my husband, "Leo seems to be acting a little weird" (to which he replied something like, "He's a cat, weird is what they do.") I couldn't exactly put my finger on what was wrong, but he didn't really want to be petted much, and he seemed to be walking around with less regality than his usual strut.

Plus, he wasn't finishing all his food. And I noticed some bad breath when petting him. But I thought maybe he had just eaten some errant Christmas tree needles (we had just stripped the ornaments off the tree and pine needles were everywhere) and was suffering from a bit of indigestion.

But on January 20th, he barely ate anything. And on the morning of the 21st, he hissed when I went to pet him and was obviously distressed. So, off to the vet -- much wailing from Leo in the car on the way -- and while waiting in the office I saw the left side of his face was swollen.

The vet said he had a lot of plaque on his teeth, one tooth was loose...and he needed to have at least one pulled, maybe more, they all looked bad...

But it was Saturday, and the extraction would have to wait until Monday.

He got a shot of antibiotic, blood drawn for testing (to make sure he was well enough to have general anesthesia, and all blood work came back normal) and we were on our way back home with liquid Clavamox that I would have to squirt down his throat twice a day.

But Leo's was miserable. He didn't eat all day Saturday. At one point, we realized we didn't know where he was, and eventually found him hidden in the basement behind boxes -- which he had never done before.

It was about 5PM and the vet office was closed, so I called the 24-hour animal hospital, but since he was already on antibiotics, I decided it wasn't worth the mental torture to the cat and financial ruin to the owners to bring him in that night.

The next day, the antibiotic had started to reduce the facial swelling and he was acting more normally and ate a tiny bit. But just as he started to really feel like eating(in the evening) I had to deny him food because he wasn't allowed to eat anything after 6 PM due to the next day's anesthesia.

I worried obsessively all weekend about how many teeth would have to be pulled, about whether the infection had gone into his jaw (the vet had mentioned this might be the case and that such infections are hard to treat.) Yes, she had also said the swelling could be a tumor, but everything seemed to point so strongly to a clear case of dental disease, I never even considered it.

I dropped him off at the office at 8:15 AM. About noon, I got a call from the vet after the tooth extraction. They only had to pull one tooth...BUT...the post-procedure x-ray showed what looked like a tumor...

When I picked Leo up at 5:30 PM the technician who brought him out said he was "still a little wobbly." Um, a gross understatement. At home I opened his carrier and his back legs were totally weak..his pupils were dilated and he was freaking out. He tried to run upstairs and fell over onto his back (luckily I was right behind him).

I took him to the basement to his litter boxes and he jumped back and forth between them until finally lying down to pee (that's a new one.) Then he proceeded to literally run around in circles. When I held him, he was shaking. I tried to get him back in the carrier (for his own protection) but he fought like crazy.

When I had dropped him off for the procedure I had checked a little box that said to give him painkillers. Evidently, that was a mistake.

Spent the next couple hours watching him to make sure he didn't fall trying to do anything, and eventually his legs got strong enough that I could leave him alone. But he still felt "loose" the whole next day.

As the swelling in his face went down, he allowed me to touch his jaw. I could feel the rock hard mass on his left jawbone.

And from there I'm sure I've covered in previous posts...

Thursday, February 02, 2006

If Kitty Could Type

Although Leo is the most articulate cat I've had the pleasure to know (with a variety of meows, throat trills) and an expert in body language, he has not yet mastered English and he's a little rusty on the keyboard (although he does have the mouse thing down.)

But if he could, here's what he would tell you about himself:

Name: Leo the Cat

Age: 12 3/4 years
Sign: Aries (no, not Leo)
Birthplace: Under a shed in Chester Co., PA
Mother: A lovely tortoise shell long-haired cat of unknown original
Father: I never knew my dad [chokes back a little meow]
Adopted by my humans: June 1993

Weight: A little less than 10 pounds
Height: Average
Eyes: Green-Gold
Hair: Strawberry blonde (but the vet calls me "orange" - how pedestrian!)

Turn-ons: Well...none really...see, um...there was this little operation when I was a kitten...

Turn-offs: Vacuum cleaners; the sound of packing tape being pulled off the spool; riding in the car (aka going to the vet); humans that think I'm a girl just because I'm beautiful.

Hobbies: Hairball cultivation; marathons (sleeping); current U.S. Purr & Knead Champion.

Wednesday, February 01, 2006

Day 9

The vet office called last night. Which was nice, but in a prime example of poor timing it was right as my daughter was waving a Chef Boyardee can of something or other in front of my face asking if she could have it for dinner. (My Italian grandparents roll over in their graves.)

The vet's administrative assistant wanted to know how Leo was doing. I managed to shout out "Okay...he's been eating and seems to be feeling alright." And I mentioned that I was a bit unsure about the administration of the prednisone in his ear actually working. Yes, again I doubt the transdermal method.

Because yesterday it really didn't seem to do a thing. He was indifferent about his evening meal, but he did end up eating it all during the night, so I guess I shouldn't worry.

It may seem weird, but the vet has not even given his tumor a name. And I didn't think to ask when she broke the news about the tumor's appearance in his x-ray -- I suppose I was in a state of shock.

Is it oral squamous cell carcinoma? OSCC is an aggressive tumor, the most common type of cancer that occurs in the mouth from what I've read on the web. Once diagnosed, cats will survive an average of two months. Or could it be Fibrosarcoma, Epulides, Osteosarcoma...?

At this point, the only thing I really know for sure is that it doesn't really matter what made this tumor grow on my beloved cat's jaw. Because my countless internet explorations give me no viable options for cure - regardless of what is fueling this tumor.

His jaw could be removed but I just can't put him through a surgery that is reportedly not well tolerated by cats and generally doesn't extend life significantly.

The scary thing about this tumor is how it seems to grow bigger every day. A week ago, I would have described it as a 1/4 inch hardened mass running along his left jaw bone. A few days later, it had grown towards the middle (under chin) and felt like a marble. Now, the part that is under his chin is more rounded, the size of a jaw breaker (unfortunate comparison, but true) and it extends all the way over to his right jaw bone.

The mass is not tender to the touch, and feels hard as a rock. I can't tell if it is also growing upwards into the bottom of his mouth, or if all growth is visible from the outside.

I write this blog because in the course of my internet searches, I came across a few accounts of other pets' struggles with similar tumors, and it really helped me to hear of other's journeys. For example, I now know to request pain killers if he appears to be suffering, and various methods to hand feed Leo if he stops eating on his own (which is the main threat from the tumor growth according to the vet.)

I feel an awesome responsibility to make the right decisions for Leo -- not only because he has entrusted me with his care, but because he is a truly special animal (I know, everyone feels that way about their pets, but he really is a unique cat.)

Leo's brother, Zeke, had to be euthanized -- exactly 3 months ago today. Zeke had kidney failure, with a swift decline and no suffering. Still, after the euthanasia decision I was riddled with guilt...that I should have let him live a few more days (even though the vet said the next phase would involved loss of all his bodily functions and uncontrolled vomiting.)

So, this is all like a one-two punch. [sigh]