Most of you have met my little old lady at some point if you’ve been around here for awhile. “My Little Old Lady” is what I’ve begun affectionally calling my 20 year old cat Maya.
Yes, you read that right. She turned 20 this year.
I’ve had Maya since she was 2 years old, we adopted her from the SPCA. She and her brother were abused in her former home, so she came to us pretty skittish. Her brother was adopted by another family before we got there, which breaks my heart because we would have happily taken both of them and kept them together. But, I digress.
She’s been with me for 18 years and if you’re following me on Instagram, you’ve heard that she’s not in the best of health anymore, which is hard to see.
My Facebook Memories this morning brought up pictures I took of her back in 2008 when she was 8 years old and her favorite pastimes were tormenting my mother’s new cat (she got a kitten when Maya was about 8 that Maya was NOT a fan of), doing zoomies (aka running around like a crazy person) all around the house and chasing birds at the window.
I can also see a full coat of fur on her face (where it’s starting to thin a bit), her in good physical shape and all of her black whiskers (most of which are now white).
And it’s hard for me to see.
Especially after speaking with her vet this morning and us both coming to the mutual conclusion that one medication we were going to start her on may actually do her more harm than good, so we aren’t proceeding in that part of treatment, which also may trim her life expectancy down.
I’ve been Maya’s mom for 18 years, and I’m not blind, I’ve seen her slow down a bit the past couple of years. She hasn’t really done zoomies in…maybe a couple years, she’s not as playful. Her preferred days included sleeping on the couch, hanging out with Mom and Dad for awhile, eating and then going back to sleep.
But in the past month or so, her decline became a lot more visible. She’s disoriented, she’s not as keen to jump up on things if she doesn’t have to, she yowls most of the night (and we can’t restrict her to a certain part of the house because she HATES being contained anywhere), and she started going the bathroom outside of her litter box (despite the fact that she knows where it is and sleeps near it often).
Because of the current pandemic, while her vet and I had spoken, I hadn’t been able to take her into be seen. She didn’t seem to be in any acute distress or have a fever of any kind or any actual signs of illness. So I was just keeping an extra close eye on her to see if anything changed.
One day about a week or so later, I was rubbing her belly and I noticed something that felt like a mass below her belly. It didn’t look like it hurt her when I touched it, but it was hard and definitely not there before.
So, I got her into the vet and that mass, luckily, just wound up being a lipoma or fatty tissue that is accumulating there. Not cancerous, not painful, not harming her. Wonderful.
But, while she was back there the vet did a full exam and noted that her heartbeat sounded “like a gallop”, which isn’t normal. So she asked if she could do x-rays and a full blood panel to see what was going on. Of course I said yes, she’s never had an issue with an irregular heart beat before.
Of course, this is pandemic times so I’m not actually in the vet with her. I had to wait in the car while they examined her. Maya doesn’t do well in vets usually, but I’m always there to calm her down. She apparently initially hissed at the vet tech, which sounds like my feisty little old lady. She doesn’t like new people. But eventually they got her to purr and calm.
Now, if someone could have calmed me down in the car…
But they ran all of the tests they needed to and let me take her home while the reviewed everything.
At the end of the day Maya was diagnosed with the beginning stages of heart failure, high blood pressure, beginning stages of kidney disease, loss of vision (her corneas have dramatically thinned), the lipoma (fatty deposit) and early onset dementia.
The heart failure part was bad enough.
Her heart is almost twice the size that it’s supposed to be which is causing the irregular heartbeat and will eventually cause her breathing issues and could cause blood clots, which are life-threatening.
The good news is most of this treatable. The bad news is none of it is curable. And while I can sit here and say I’m lucky that I’ve had 18 amazing years with her, watching her go through this is hard.
Knowing that I don’t know how much more time I have with her; is hard.
She could have 6 months…a year…3 years…I don’t know.
I do know that she’s not in pain right now. And I do know that her vet and I are treating what we can. We’re treating her blood pressure to minimize risk of clots, we’re getting her specialized food to help her kidneys. But, the treatment for her enlarged heart might hurt her so we’re holding off on that because I was very honest with my vet and said, “I know there’s no cure which means I want her comfortable for as long as possible, so I’m not going to put her in more pain which involves giving her medication that I would have to force-feed her which causes her immense stress”.
And the vet admitted, if she’s hard to get medicine into, this may not be as helpful as it could be.
So we aren’t doing it.
Now we just keep her comfortable. She has regular vet visits to check in with her condition so we can make changes as needed, and we just give her all the love we can.