Last week, there was a period of several hours when my cat, Harry "The Highlander", acted in a manner most uncharacteristic to his normal behaviour. It passed, and I forgot about it until this past Thursday, when he stopped eating and drinking, did not want to go outside at all and rejected T-U-N-A. Chiropractic adjustments seemed to have no effect, though it had in the past. The tuna clinched it, and I took him to the vet after there was no evidence of using the litter box, after 24 hours.
Dr. Tzvi, the vet, ran a battery of tests, took blood and gave Harry an IV drip to deal with his dehydration. Every half hour or so, Dr. Tzvi would check our the lifeless lump that used to be my very active cat, look at his blood test results, shake his head and say to me, "This is not good at all," and yet refused to elaborate. When I would ask for details or try to understand the worst case scenario - having been raised in the Jewish/Polish mother model -the vet would refuse to explain until all data came in. But I was not supposed to freak out, of course.
The short version of the story: "most probably" a parasitic infection that is causing severe anemia and break-down of his red blood cells. If I had not brought him in for a check-up, he "probably" would have died over the weekend. Then he casually mentioned cancer and FIV as alternative diagnoses, if no improvement appeared within four days.
The good news: the very same day, after receiving the IV plus anti-biotics and steroids to avoid RBC break-down, Harry started to get ornery, used the litter box and tried to eat food. Today, one day later, he is more active and asking to go outside. Which he can't, until his 21 day course of anti-biotics is completed.
When I told my mother about the stress this caused, she did not hide her true feelings; there is some part of her that fears that I am falling into the Crazy Cat Lady stereotype, and that having a cat means I will die alone and single. Her immediate response to my sadness was, "Oh well, your cat is dying. Pets die you know..." Thanks for the sympathy and support, Mom; surprising all the more so because she grew up all her life with cats as pets.
The aspect of this episode that continues to bother me concerns the clinical approach (as expert and professional as I could want) towards my feelings and fears. Never mind the fact that I am the one paying the veterinarian's bill, all 600 NIS of it, but that fact that pets (as with children) reflect the environment created by their owner and in the home. Like any other doctor, he could use some improvement in his bed-side manner towards the human in this equation.
I always mock the American pet owners who take their dog or cat to an animal shrink, when their house mate misbehaves by peeing on the carpet or destroying furniture. It is ultimately therapy for the owner, as animals cannot speak English (duh) and they simply react to the atmosphere around them.
Oh, and I think that I would subscribe to a pet care HMO in Israel, if such a thing existed.