I stared at our beautiful 22 pound Bobcat, lying on the vet’s table with ten needles protruding from his fur. H seemed remarkably still and relaxed. I shouldn’t have been surprised; that has always been my reaction when I have had acupuncture. I just didn’t know how it would work for a cat who cannot have input about where the needles go.
At his check up several months ago, the vet detected cardiac disease: Bob’s heart was beating too rapidly, and if it was not slowed down, he would burn himself out ahead of his time. The Atenolol I picked up at CVS and cut into quarters worked perfectly, and that was one problem controlled.
A few months later he wouldn’t eat for two days and was thinking outside his litter box: bad for him, bad for us. Clearly something was up. This time we came home with powder for his likely pancreatitis. When his symptoms did not fully abate, and he still did not seem like himself, blood test and ultrasound confirmed the pancreatitis, and no other obvious involvement, but the day he came home from the ultrasound he started limping. A return visit and two X-rays later we learned that he also has severe osteoarthritis. With the prescription of yet more medications I started to look into alternative therapies. I learned that not only does one of our vets know acupuncture; the practice is also consulting with a homeopathic vet once a week.
Hoping that something else could help relieve the sudden cluster of symptoms and obvious discomfort of our magnificent feline, I brought him in the other day. They, too, could see the pain in his eyes, and made sure that I understood that we needed to find a pain medication to address this without totally flattening him, as fighting pain interrupts healing.
Armed with new medication and post acupuncture, we arrived home. Our counter is now lined with a sentinel of pills to help alleviate Bobcat’s various ailments. How had this happened so quickly? They assured me that the arthritis was long standing, but perhaps had just now become so extreme we couldn’t miss it. They don’t really know how pancreatitis sets in nor how long it will last in cats.
I realized that I had not been prepared to deal with Bob’s older age just yet. A few months ago we were unaware of any issues; now we are dealing with three, but it was the departure from his usual gregarious self that really drove the need for us to look further into it.
We had become accustomed to his requests for water from the faucet, his dignified behind sticking out as his front paws stayed closer to the dripping water. Had we taken for granted his purred greeting as we entered a room he occupied? His presence in our lives has inspired me to understand what it is to make a request, with no apology or hesitation. Bob exists in a world that looks benignly on his needs, and seeks to fulfill them. He is sure that once he makes clear what is expected that we will comply. “Please open the door to the basement where my food is. Please walk me down there. Come spoon on the couch with me. Vacate your chair, or let me share it with you. Please scratch firmly right under my chin. Some more.”
The deep and complete relaxation of his sleep reflects his confidence and trust in the world- head upside down, legs akimbo, he is assured that his safety is sublime. Often, before we even touch him, he rewards us with a purr that indicates his happiness is abundant and spills into the hand that massages his ear.
I am trying to be on board with where he is, even if I was not ready. I look into his enormous eyes and see the earnestness with which he is dealing with the now ongoing pain. He still wants to connect, to be a part of life, our lives. We want to help him, to honor the twelve years he has spread his calm and beauty in our household. We can only hope for more years to bask in his generous and silky presence.
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