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

Monday, August 28, 2006

31 Weeks Post-diagnosis

In the past week, I've found myself pondering the definition of "suffering."

As in, how much does Leo need to suffer before it is cruel for me to let this continue?

And I am ANGRY -- my sweet, loving, well-behaved and spectacular cat did nothing to deserve this fate. He was never less than the coolest cat I'd ever known.

I pretty much lost it the other weekend. The stress of the time-consuming caring for Leo coupled with seven months of constant worry about his condition made me snap. Emotions were unleashed with a fury. I suppose I felt better afterwards, in a cathartic kind of way (although I can't say the same for the other members of my family.)

But the question remains -- am I am doing all this for Leo, or to save myself the guilt of an euthanasia decision?

During the past week or so, he has been acting as if he is not getting enough food into his system to satisfy his hunger. Even though there is always something out for him to eat. (I've thrown enough uneaten cat food down the drain in the past couple months to feed a small nation of felines.)

Instead of disappearing after his breakfast (an ordeal that takes up the good part of an hour) Leo has been hanging in the kitchen all morning (and sometimes into the afternoon) with that "feed me" look.

When he does wander off and lie down somewhere, I find him with eyes half-open...and he jumps up as soon as he sees me.

The problem is that he's not actually ingesting a significant quantity when he does eat - food falls out of his mouth without being swallowed during his pawing-at-his-face routine.

Although he starts out enthusiastically, he usually gives up after eating 1/4 to 1/2 of a tiny 3-oz can.

He has a hard time lapping up things too, so that doesn't make liquid nutrition much better of an option (although I did water down some Iams this afternoon, and that kept him off my back for at least an hour.)

He's drinking a ton of water during mealtime (I think he's using it to rinse out the food off his tumor area.)

On the positive side, he seems bright eyed and (literally) bushy tailed. He doesn't appear weakened and his only meowing is when I'm taking the milk out of the frig or feeding the kids something he'd like a bit of.

I take that back -- he just came into the room and announced himself with a low "I'm here so why aren't you attending to my needs?" mew.

My guess is that the tumor inside his mouth has grown (in the back where I can't see it) and in addition to the food irritating the tumor surface, it's making it harder for the food to actually get down his throat. Whether he'll figure out a way around this eventually (as he seems to have done in June) ...well...I'll just have to wait and see.

Or -- is all this just that I've been giving him milk off and on and he's hanging around trying to score some more?

His mouth also started bleeding a lot (drips of fresh blood) last night and this morning. And then it stopped just as suddenly. Leo's not expressing any pain through his facial expressions or body language when this is happening. (Mostly he's just expressing hunger.)

I wonder if it is cruel for me to allow him to be constantly hungry?

Is his hunger a suffering that warrants euthanasia?

But then I pick him up and he purrs loudly and rubs his face on my hands for me to scratch him in all the right spots.

He doesn't look like he's ready to give up. He seems energetic and he prances alongside me (and underfoot) as I walk around. He lies down and looks at me with the "Pet me" look (distinctly different from the "Feed Me!" look, btw.)

He's ragged, smelly, and skeleton-skinny. But his spirit rages on. What a guy.


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