UPDATE: January 17, 2014
There are many requirements for the feed and care of a Winston cat. He demands a Pyrex bowl of water, poured fresh, and arranged in the tub over the drain. A jump start (enthusiastic petting from a human slob) is required before commencement of drinking. He eats half a jar of turkey baby food each day, and a whole lot of dry food from two different grain-free bags (he gets bored). These events also require a jump start, and for the human slob to stand there, supervising consumption and dispensing compliments on technique.
He requires a hiding spot in the closet (properly fluffed with sweatshirts) and many laptops to sprawl across, as part of his ongoing quest to contact the elusive MMMMMMMMMMMMNN. Thus far, MMMMMMMMMMNN has not responded.
The door needs to be opened and reopened every thirty seconds, except when it’s not raining, when it should be opened all the time. He’s developed an elaborate system of purrs and meows to facilitate a new codger lifestyle. When his Downton Abbey pleas for the servants to attend him go unheard, Naosi the Bodder Cat is pleased to step in with a much less subtle MOWL! delivered with an urgency that suggests Timmy fell down the well. Winston is pretty pleased to have a troubadour. If he demands to go outside and no humans remain at home to repeatedly open the door, he sits in the window of the basement and waits for the landlady to do laundry, at which point he presents a soulful performance detailing his woeful life as abandoned Oliver, with the cow eyes to emphasize his time travel back to the Great Depression. It’s so hard being the canary down the coal mine. Please come home, ever so quickly!
In short: he’s back to his everyday Wintastic self. A few months ago we stopped using IV fluids, aka neck juice, because he simply wasn’t having it. The weather was turning cool, and while many websites promised there are multiple ways to warm the bags so the liquid is less of a hassle for the cats, none of the ideas could warm the Winston. The skin around his neck was also getting rough from so many puncture wounds, and he was more anxious from days of dreading the treatment. We decided to ditch it and return to it if he started to slip, but he’s been doing fine. He drinks about three times as much water as he used to, but if he gets lax on it, all I have to do is threaten him with neck juice, and suddenly he’s a camel at the well again.
Winston is still an old cat, so he’s cold most of the time (which demands a lap or hot pad) and sleeps more than his brothers do. At the same time, he’s spry enough that he chases Naosi all over the yard, and engages him in the insane Frankenstein wrasslin’ matches that are quite a bit gentler than they used to be.
He mostly avoids going out at night, but when he does he sticks pretty close to Scooter and Naosi. Despite his elder status all the boys seem to agree that he gets to be President, so they tolerate all his bullshit and don’t fight back when he gets too aggressive, and Scooter cleans his ears and then swaddles him in his girth. There’s a whole lot of purring going on.
Thank you all for the support, and I’m happy to be able to give a positive report on my favorite plant-eating furrball. This section of the blog will now exist for cat love purposes as opposed to fundraising needs, because the boy done got funded. Hooray for that, and hooray for cat love.
UPDATE: June 11 3:25PM
After a second or six of suck, Winston is doing just fine.
It took a little while. After making a comeback to the point of neighborhood tomfoolery, he slid back and began to display the drooping back legs that signal kidney failure. He stopped eating, and adopted the tiny-cat haggard appearance that makes all older cats resemble Jim Henson creations. The fine folks at Portland Pet Supply recommended that I try packets of food by a company called Best Feline Friends. It has a thick gravy to it (and not a lot of meat chunks) that’s gentle for cats that have difficulty eating. The tuna/duck combo is one of the only things Winston ate when he first got ill, and I was afraid to give it to him again. He’s so sensitive, and I worried he’d be traumatized by returning to food he puked up half digested. Now it’s all he’ll eat. We have a deal. He stands in the kitchen doorway and stares at me with loving Winston face. I respond by following him into the kitchen and giving him a packet of the goods. Then I pet him while he laps the whole thing up. I supervise this not just because he likes to be pet while he’s eating, but because it keeps the other two knuckleheads from honing in on his snacks. After Winston’s done Naosi “Scraps” Bodder tends to move in for the clean-up. This helps him stay sufficiently caloried for the 9,000 laps he runs around my chair each day.
This dedicated munching has helped him gain weight. Meanwhile, we’re still giving him saline solution every other night. One of these recent nights was a disaster for all three participating parties. We attempted to set him up in a different location to lessen the trauma, which featured pseudo-circus arrangement of the bag of solution. I had a hard time seeing his skin and making the proper “pouch” that’s required because he was squirming so bad. Relocating caused a knot to form in the line that we didn’t notice until the needle was in and the fluid was going nowhere, and we both had to go into time out while Winston retreated for the warmth of a chair. I spent a good twenty minutes calming him down, which made me realize what we were forgetting: making him totally relaxed beforehand. He knew it was coming, we knew it was coming. Plenty of time to craft a tripod of anxiety. We did our most recent IV when he was half asleep on Nolan’s lap, and it went flawlessly. Afterwards he was juiced like a crossfit Bro-Man doped on Muscle Milk and wheatgrass.
Overall things are much improved. He’s thin but spry and plucky, if a bit more cautious than he was before. I think he figured out after his last hasty display of cat recovery that it might be wise to just kick it for awhile, and enjoy his elderly cat porch sits. If anyone spots a tiny rocking chair, I’m on it.
I’ll leave you with a picture of a Winbundle.
UPDATE: June 5 9:16PM
It’s been almost a month since this business started going down. In an ideal universe I’d be reporting that Winston totally bucked science and shows no symptoms of kidney failure or having ever been ill. Unfortunately, this isn’t the case.
For about a week he was remarkably better, to the point of being up to his standard Clint Eastwood neighborhood-terrorist antics. He even initiated a confrontation with a local cat boasting a pro-wrestler villain name (“The Professor”) and emerged unscathed. The sunshine and warmth invigorated him and he ate an impressive amount of tuna and reasserted his dominance by launching a piss war. The last vet visit showed such improvement that it was recommended that we switch his IV treatments to every other day…which was a mistake.
Is he better? Yes. He’s also very, very thin. Too thin. Tomorrow I’ll be picking up more appetite stimulant and another bag of saline solution for the daily treatments we’ve come to call “neck juice”. It’s likely that these treatments will continue the remainder of his years. He’s also not quite as social as he used to be, and has several preferred hiding spots and warm nooks and crannies to fold himself into. But is he still Winston? Of course.
Winston is definitely a senior citizen, which by my measure should qualify him to do whatever he wants the remainder of his days. He’s refused all the magic kidney food, so I’ve stocked our cabinets with his preferred delicacies (rabbit and duck), and he’s taken to leading me into the kitchen when he wants them. As the vet said, the most important thing is that he eats — what he eats comes next. The two other rascals are leaving him be, except to follow him when he wanders to the edges of the yard to protect him. Biggie got himself a new scratch on his face, in all likelihood as a result of finishing one of Winston’s battles. Winston doesn’t seem to mind this anymore, so long as the other two continue to recognize him as ultimate cat.
While we’ll continue on with his treatments and follow up check-ups, I won’t be leaving him overnight in a hospital again. He doesn’t want it. I’m hoping he has a few more years left in him, and I’m certain he doesn’t want to spend a single one of his remaining days in a lab. Moreso than that, there’s nothing they can do that hasn’t already been done. Time to get the boy healthy Old Wife’s style.
Overall we raised $1300 towards $1600 in bills, which is fantastic, amazing, glorious. Thank you all for this generous support. Since expenses are ongoing (including the $100 or so I’ll likely shell out tomorrow) I won’t object to additional donations, but I won’t bug yawl for them anymore either. Honestly, my expectations were exceeded and left me glowing. I will, however, keep you updated on his condition and will add more pictures when he’s feeling a bit more glamorous.
Again: thank you one and all.
UPDATE: May 21 11:52AM
My first thought was: he’s worse than I thought. He’s not recovering. He’s comforting me so I can face his death. I’m like the friend of the cancer patient who is upset that she never goes to parties anymore.
Upon more careful inspection: Nah, he’s totally pissed.
Not that I blame him. If I spent a solid 60 hours in a 4X4 cage with a needle and tube in my paw, observing animals assuming awkward positions on cold metal tables flanked by strangers gifting them tubes and needles of their own, I’d be nurturing the sort of PTSD that leaves people screaming in supermarket aisles myself.
I’ve never been behind the curtain of a vet hospital before. Perhaps all of them just have a meat block in the center of a circle of cages, Thunderdome style, so every animal can witness absolutely everything. It was certainly odd to stand in this tiny room with the meat block behind me and procedures going on, stretching inside Winston’s cage to pet him, alongside the flat-eyed worker who was apparently the vet. Think of being in the middle of surgery, only to have someone wander through to grab a drink from the freezer and report still being bloated from that morning’s cheetos binge…and this person is about to operate on you, cheddar mitts and all. That should give you a ballpark idea. My irritability towards them cemented Monday morning, when i didn’t receive the call I was promised regarding his (paid for) shuttle to Portland, and didn’t receive a call back after I placed the WTF call, and then was ignored a third time, challenging my ability to not flip ghetto on the phone. Oddly (or not), they didn’t suffer similar phone paralysis when it came time to provide an update on my bill.
Still: they kept Winston hydrated and kicking through the weekend, and did so for a fraction of the cost I would have experienced if his cage were on an island called Dove Lewis.
Once I got word the shuttle arrived at Laurelhurst Vet Hospital, I texted faux-wife Jillian who was willing to once again offer up her mechanized transport, this time as escape pod. Pick up > drop off. This time we saw Dr. Ross, the physician whose voice communicates confidence and assurance during hold times, and I like her. She’s direct, concise, clear, smart, and compassionate, all of which also translates to the animals in her presence. Both on the phone and in person she focused on what we need to do next, as opposed to what’s already happened or his chances for survival. By the time I left that day I had an IV bag (and instructions on how to use it), anti-nausea medications, baby food and syringes to feed him, and a sharps container. The IV process is intimidating. The needle is appropriate for rug sewing or a piercing studio, and functions as a skin hose, blowing up Winston’s scruff like a camel hump. This injected water apparently blankets his insides for instant hydration. While I’m assured this doesn’t hurt him, something about the phrase “make a tent with his skin” inspire instant aging. Still, I’m going to be pitching this particular tent every day for awhile. Better get used to it.
Back at home Winston busted out and instantly went to hide. Scooter (Biggie) and Naosi the Bodder Cat were both freaked, and scattered like I’d tossed a flash grenade in the apartment. This was not the Christian the Lion sort of greeting I was rooting for. After a few minutes Biggie came around to give Winston a sniff, and washed his ears and face. This seemed to blink a little life into Winston. Bodder waited until Scooter was done, and then he did the same. However, Bodder’s cat decoder ring doesn’t always communicate accurately back to his native alien, thus causing him to miss a clear “fuck off” message. He started circling Winston like the Qa’ba, giving me a minor break in my role as Bodder’s meteorite, until Winston managed a MEOWR of protest.
After that I set up a special bed that looks like a flower and some gravy-ish food for him to nibble at. The pet store across the street saw me coming and let me enter after hours to get these things (thanks for that!). For a long time he rested, while I wondered about his detachment, what I could do to encourage him and get him to understand that I acted in his best interest, and lit a candle to Saint Lazarus to help Winston with his own crutch.
It wasn’t until Nolan and I went about the business of relaxing ourselves that it occurred to me that maybe he didn’t want to be alone. He’d spent most of the past 72 hours alone, after all. We boosted him up beside us, and thus began the Winston love fest, complete with enthusiastic purring and burrowing into our hands. After that it was easy to get him to take the anti-nausea medication, and he began to more readily accept syringe feeding. This morning he made sure I was watching and then headed straight for the food bowl, eating a few mouthfuls on his own. Then he went for a walk around the yard — the most exercise I’ve seen him attempt in a long, long time. There’s the Winnie I know!
We’ve got another appointment at the vet on Friday, and my duty until then is to keep him hydrated and eating, and packed with anti-nausea meds. This will not only help his kidneys recover, but will prevent further liver damage. Expenses include $623.77 for the Big First Appointment, around $550 for three nights in cat Alcatraz (kind of like a shady motel is a bargain, or a cruise. Affordable, but how the fuck did you get there?), $235 for Monday’s appointment, and likely another $235 on Friday. That’s $1643. The incredible generosity of donors has allowed me to already pay $735 of this bill. There’s another $350 working its way through the Paypal system as we speak, and potentially other pledges arriving through snail mail, and $250 of my own paltry dollars. Pledges like the incredible $2 act of generosity from my youngest donor Beatrice, who also sent an amazing spirit-boosting card.
Two large donors (who will remain anonymous) seriously got things rolling early on, and it has since been sustained by smaller donors offering what they can in a way that’s really touching. Contributors include old friends who are more like family, fans of Winston, and SubGeniuses with the kindness to rally.
Hopefully, on Friday I will merrily announce that beyond a kidney-friendly diet and a steady supply of IV bags life has returned to semi-normal. Until then I’ll continue fund-hunting, while also searching for additional work to supplement the monthly pay I already enjoy, so I’m better prepared to shoulder emergencies and medical care going forward. Thank you so much for your support, financial and emotional. It means so much.
UPDATE: May 19 9:28PM
Just returned from the vet’s office. I’m pleased to report I will never set foot in that strange place again. The layout is fairly traumatizing. You basically walk into the middle of an operating room, with multiple procedures actively taking place. There’s the sound of random machines and saws and anesthetic, in the midst of your cat sitting in a cage with a blue donut on his head. Poor Winston, sitting there like a wilting flower. I wanted to scoop him out of the cage and scurry away, but his eyes were not fully communicating health. His levels are almost in the normal range, but they want one more night of observation. Then he’ll be transported to the home clinic, where I can come pick him up. It was hard leaving him there (again) but it gave me great encouragement when he gave me a head butt. I missed those.
We’re at $900.88 in terms of fundraising. This is not counting pledges/folks who said they were sending in checks; I don’t count those until they’re in hand. This is great news.
I’m feeling even more optimistic, but it was hard leaving him at the clinic. Tomorrow will be a day of nonstop Winston love.
UPDATE: May 18 11:18pm
There’s a little confusion about the buttons. Click here if you just want to donate. Scroll down a bit if you want the proceeds from your book purchase to benefit Winston.
UPDATE: May 18, 1:15PM
I just got off the phone with Tanasbourne, and he’s doing okay. He’s accepting fluids and processing them well, but he still refuses to eat. This is not entirely surprising; it hasn’t even been 24 hours since I dropped him off. Winston is also reportedly “purring a little” when strangers approach the catch. He has not escalated to Winnie’s patented “coo purr” phase, but he’s warning up.
If you’ve been meaning to donate to get the book and the link is broken below, try this one:
We are at 1/3 of our fundraising goal! YES! Please keep giving if you can! I’m also willing to trade a number of services for your donation, including: grant writing, editing, copywriting, assistance with fundraisers (like this!), etc. Email me for more information at amanda dot sledz at gmail dot com. Thanks again for your assistance!
May 17, 2013
This morning I woke to what felt like a large furry tumor erupting from my legs. I rose to a half sit-up and saw that Winston had curled up in my lap for warmth, and that Scooter aka Biggie was essentially swaddling Winston. His posture with Winston was so protective I knew I couldn’t wait to take him to the vet any longer. I called up my dear friend Jill, who was able to help me transport Winston to Laurelhurst Vet Hospital.
I’ve known something was wrong for a few weeks. Winston and I share one of those awesome human/animal links. We’re both allergic to gluten/wheat and fleas. We sit in the sun until every cell is properly warmed. He basks in the steam while I take a shower. He remedies every emotional upset with sudden lap appearance. When he really wants to go over the top, he sticks his head under my chin and places a paw on my shoulder. I’m notoriously warm, and he’s notoriously cold, which makes us a good match for winter evenings. When he was nauseas, I was nauseas. He was lethargic, I was lethargic. When he felt worse, he curled behind my legs like he was hiding from his shadow. We made sad faces at each other and I half-joked that both of us were suffering kidney failure. Turns out only one of us was.
I’m hardly the only person to have a strong connection to Winston; he tends to charm anyone who enters his orbit, including my mother, who hates cats. He’s had more than one cat mom, dad, uncle, friend, and dozens of Winston fans. He’s extremely observant, and notices what people need, and often chooses to provide it. Everywhere I’ve lived he’s had more than one house where he spent time. The last place I lived he developed a strong connection with the neighbor. Winston had been friends with the neighbor’s cat, who grew ill and died. After the cat died, Winston went to the neighbor’s house and sat with the neighbor all day. He helped him mourn. The neighbor then declared Winston, “one of the greatest cats of all time.”
He’s also popular with other cats. Right now his best friend and brother is Scooter, a big black part Maine coon bodyguard. Scooter has never been without Winston, who was the first friend he ever made. They have always been very close, and the only time Scooter fights other cats is when he’s protecting Winston. Several times a day he cleans Winston’s face and ears. He keeps Winston warm with his generous girth.
Winston has also become close with Naosi, Nolan’s cat who he’s only known for a few years. They chase each other all over the yard and cause a ruckus.
Winston is also notorious for his injuries. If there’s ever a cat whose milked all nine of his lives, it’s Winston. Since I’ve known him he’s:
– Been cornered by a dog, and while in the dog’s mouth turned and took the dog’s eye out. Winston emerged unscathed.
– Fallen off a roof, resulting in staples and a pretty white t-shirt we adorned with “winston” in Metallica-style letters to make him feel more bad-ass. He did not feel more bad-ass.
– Injured his paw, which informed a big ole boxing glove of bandages he hated completely.
– Engaged in an epic battle with Naosi the Bodder Cat, which ended in many many stitches for Winston’s neck and Naosi limping for a month.
The cat is a chowderhead, and likes a good scrap, resulting in nicknames like Winston the Irish Drinking Cat.
In the past few months he’s started to feel his age, and is more interested in affection than fights, relaxation than rowdiness. See?
Today the vet confirmed that my fears were not unfounded. Winston had been getting progressively more sluggish for two weeks, and in the last three days his back legs felt limp and he couldn’t eat anything. He has renal failure. The vet recommended “hospitalization for diuresis and supportive care until ceratinine stabilizes, then continued SC fluids and renal diet at home”. This basically means he’ll be hospitalized for 48 hours, after which we can hopefully take him home. Scooter and Naosi are as worried about Winston as I am. Scooter has been furiously pacing the house, hunting for Winston since I arrived home without him. Then he storms outside and looks for him some more. He won’t let me pet him. It’s 2:34AM, and I called the vet about an hour ago (I know, but it’s a 24-7 hospital, so there) and was told: “He’s doing a lot better. He still uses the litterbox, though it’s obviously difficult for him. He’s very dignified.” Of course he is. He’s a gentleman!
Thank you, thank you, thank you for your support, and for loving Winston. He thanks you too, from his warm fuzzy face and generous heart.