We Don’t Have Pets, They Have Us.

Rolland, Our Last Indoor House Cat | photo by Tim Chuey

For people who don’t have pets it is often times difficult to understand all of the things pet owners go through to take care of their pets. Now days most of us call them our 4-legged family members or companions. The “owner” term really doesn’t apply for us. I never had a pet as a child so I didn’t fancy myself as a dog person or cat person.

My First Pet Malibu | photo from Greenhill Humane Society
My First Pet Malibu | photo from Greenhill Humane Society

My first experience of having a pet came back in the late 1970s when we lived in Eau Claire, Wisconsin. We rescued our first cat and called her Malibu. In the years to follow a second cat needed to be rescued when we lived in Memphis, Tennessee and his name was Dickens.

Camera Shy Dickens (white W/Black Markings Next to Rolland | photo by Tim Chuey
Camera Shy Dickens (white W/Black Markings Next to Rolland | photo by Tim Chuey

We lost Malibu, age 16, to cancer not too long after we moved to Eugene in 1992. A couple of years later we rescued another furry friend we called Casey, a very cute and tiny cat.

Casey Was Our Smallest Cat | photo by Tim Chuey

That gave us two indoor cats. In 1996 a friend of our son asked him if we could rescue the last of a litter of kittens that was in danger of being killed by dogs on the farm where they had lived, but just moved to the city and could no longer keep him. That brought our feline population to 3 with the introduction of Rolland into our household. As the cats grew older each one ended up with some kind of medical problem that, at the least, meant they each had to be fed a special food to help their problems. As I mentioned they were all part of our family so we really didn’t hesitate to take whatever steps, within reason, that were needed to give them the medical treatments they would need to be as healthy as they could be for as long as possible. Oddly enough as we and our pets achieve old age we can develop the same medical problems and even end up taking the same medications. It has happened to us multiple times. As time marched on we lost Dickens after he reached 19-years-of-age. Then we had two indoor cats. As Casey aged, 16 years old, she developed some serious problems and with multiple organ failure we finally lost her.

Our last Indoor Cat Rolland | Photo by Tim Chuey
Our last Indoor Cat Rolland |
Photo by Tim Chuey

Rolland is our last surviving indoor cat. I have mentioned Hunter in previous columns. He is a semi-ferrel cat who adopted us after he decided not to move away with his owners when the left for another neighborhood. He lives in a house I made for him on our front stoop. Back to Rolland who had serious problems quite a few years ago with crystals forming in his bladder. They were very painful and could have killed him.

We took him to the Edgewood Animal Clinic in South Eugene. After medical treatments Dr. Sandra Smalley, our veterinarian for many years, put him on a special medication that would help dissolve any remaining crystals and then a food to prevent the crystal formation. He had a couple more bouts with the crystals and then the special food stopped them altogether. He later developed kidney problems, possibly in part due to having to eat the special crystal preventing food for such a long time. About two years ago we almost lost him, with kidney failure, but Dr. Jason Kimball, the other veterinarian at the clinic, did a superb job of nursing him back to health even giving him two blood transfusions. Their staff called him their “Miracle Kitty.”

Now we come to the scariest part of this story. A couple of weeks ago Rolland began eating about half of the amount of food that he usually gobbled up. I called Dr. Smalley and asked if she could prescribe a medication we gave him previously to help stimulate appetite. It worked a bit as he did eat a little more, but still not enough for about a day. He went a couple of days hardly eating anything and we noticed he started to wander aimlessly around the house and seemed lost at times. He was also, if you’ll pardon the expression, “weak as a kitten” with his hind legs particularly wobbling as he walked. He does have arthritis in his joints. He also would breathe very hard and we could feel his pulse pounding through his body when we held him. That would happen especially if he exerted himself or got upset.

Dr. Sandra Smalley Checking Over Rolland's Tests | photo by Tim Chuey
Dr. Sandra Smalley Checking Over Rolland’s Tests | photo by Tim Chuey

We quickly got him in to be checked and we got some answers, but not what we were expecting. Dr. Smalley gave him a thorough examination including blood pressure and took X-rays. The first thing we found out is that he has had both of his retinas detach and that means he is blind. It explains his wandering.

Rolland's Torso X-Ray | photo by Tim Chuey
Rolland’s Torso X-Ray | photo by Tim Chuey

The X-rays showed he has fluid in his abdomen and lungs which is the beginning of congestive hear failure. (Lungs left, abdomen right on X-ray) His blood pressure was also sky high which she indicated was the cause of his detached retinas. He was given a diuretic shot to help dry out the fluid build up and blood pressure medicine. Interestingly enough my wife, daughter, and I are taking high blood pressure medication too and my wife and I have arthritis also.

Rolland On His Heating Pad On Bed To Keep Him Warm |photo by Tim Chuey
Rolland On His Heating Pad On Bed To Keep Him Warm |photo by Tim Chuey

We don’t know how much more time we have with Rolland, but understanding his problems we can take better care of him and help him get around the house hopefully without walking into walls. Could we have ended all of this already? The answer is yes, but as long as Rolland has a good quality of life he will remain our kindred spirit and loving pet. I guess it is like the old definition of faith. To a believer no proof is necessary and to a non believer no proof is enough. If you don’t have a close relationship with a pet you probably won’t be able to understand how we feel.

Let me know what you would like me to talk about or explain. You can comment below or email me at: [email protected].

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