2015 Low Point: The Watson Situation

I have been informed that, as this is a tale of a pet in distress, I need to begin by spoiling the end: Watson is OK.


I adopted Watson in 2012. He was 4 years old, orange, and tailless, and how could I resist that face?

One of the earliest photos of Watson, the first day he came home, before he was named Watson. Look at that little ragamuffin.
One of the earliest photos of Watson, July 3, 2012, the day he came home. Look at that little ragamuffin.

He had issues when I got him—his face and ears were infected and he was underweight, but we solved all of those problems and he settled in nicely.

There are a LOT of photos of Watson sleeping upside down.
Belly time. (There are a LOT of photos of Watson sleeping upside down.)

Fast forward to August of this year. Watson is now 7 years old.

The little glutton suddenly stopped showing any interest in food. We coaxed, we cajoled, we begged. At first we could get him to eat small amounts of select foods, but then he stopped entirely. Usually quite sociable, he spent all of his time in the back of the closet or under the chair. Finally I took him in to visit the good people at Angell Animal Hospital.

The door of the crate is open in the vet lobby and he isn't trying to escape... that's a bad sign right there.
Waiting for the vet to see us. The door of the crate is open and he isn’t trying to escape… that’s a bad sign right there.

The vet was very nice, but the news wasn’t great. Watson had lost three pounds—a lot for a cat—and was very dehydrated. The vet wanted to keep him overnight to give him fluids and do a few tests and try to get him to eat. She made it sound pretty normal. Like, sometimes cats don’t eat, so they get dehydrated. Little weirdos. And probably he had a bit of the fatty liver thing from losing weight. Annoying weirdo. So I left him there and went home with an empty cat carrier, which is one of the worst feelings in the world.

The vet called two hours later when she got the test results back. Kidney disease. Severe kidney disease.

Two days later he was still at Angell and still not eating, and they’d done more tests and added heart disease to the list of problems. In further good news, the treatment for kidney disease (fluid injections) exacerbates heart disease, so they were concerned about treating the kidney disease too aggressively and flooding his heart.

On about day three they gave him a feeding tube. His kidney numbers were not getting better even though he was on constant fluids. He kept knocking the IVs out of his legs, so they eventually had to put one in his jugular. (I found this terrifying, but Watson didn’t seem to mind.) On day four they started talking about putting a permanent feeding tube into his neck if he continued to not eat on his own.

Feeding tube, cone of shame, AND an IV. What a little champion.
Feeding tube, cone of shame, AND an IV. What a little champion.

It was a rough week. We visited him twice a day, and it was heartbreaking how excited he would get when he saw us coming. We continued to get a lot of non-updates—he still wasn’t eating, his numbers still weren’t improving, there was still fluid around his heart, etc.—and we didn’t know when, or if, we would be able to take him home. It was a scary and stressful and overall very unpleasant time in our lives.

There was one bright spot in the middle of this mess. Between all the tests and the overnight stays, the vet bill was through the roof, erasing any semblance of emergency savings I had. That’s not the bright spot. This is: my boyfriend opened a gofundme page and for the first time in my life I was personally affected by the generosity of the internet. People I knew and people I didn’t know were all chipping in money to defray the costs of keeping the little jerk alive. I am eternally grateful for this help; I’m not sure I’d still be afloat right now without it. Thank you so, so much to everyone who donated.

He was at Angell for 7 days before, finally, he ate. And then he ate a little more. And then he ate enough that they would let him leave the hospital, and we brought him home.

Watson's first night home, back on the bed where he belongs.
Watson’s first night home, back on the bed where he belongs.

He is still very sick, of course. Kidney and heart disease don’t just go away. He needs a giant fluid injection every day—it started as once a day, but then he was still dehydrated so they upped him to twice. We’ve spoon-fed the little jerk for four months because he declines to eat on his own. He got a UTI (of course! why not?) and we had to give him an antibiotic on top of everything else. (Have you ever tried giving a cat an oral antibiotic? Fun times.) And if that wasn’t exciting enough, we’ve had to take him back in for a blood test almost every week since August. That boy does not travel well, let me tell you.

Even with all this care, his kidney numbers spiked again recently, indicating further progression of the kidney disease. (A creatinine measurement of ~1.7 is considered high enough for concern. In mid-December his was just over a 10. Yep.) The vet dropped the word “euthanasia” as the end game. We thought we were about to have the worst Christmas ever.

Then, a week and a half ago, his numbers got better. Not a lot better, but they finally moved down instead of up. He’s no longer dehydrated. The vet said we could give him a travel break and not bring him in for a checkup until mid-January—when we thought we’d be lucky if he lasted into 2016 at all.

So, finally, the low point of the year turned around. It has been a terrible and terrifying four months. No way around it. He’s only 7 years old and shouldn’t be this sick. But we thought we were going to lose him, and we didn’t—the stubborn, upbeat little guy pulled through. He is our Christmas miracle this year. We don’t know how long he’ll last—he’s sick with things that don’t go away—but for now we are taking it one day at a time, enjoying every single moment.

Even the moment when he jumps on our stomachs in the middle of the night. Don’t ever change, Watson.

Look at this little angel.
Look at this little angel.