Just time for a quick post today, as I’m off to the airport this afternoon for a short trip (which I’ll no doubt blog about at the weekend when I get back). I’m also late into the office because I had to take my cat Columbo to the vet for his six-monthly check-up.
Columbo is now 17 years old (and a few months) and has been diabetic for the last six or seven of those. He needs to have a check-up every 6 months primarily to monitor whether his insulin dose (which is administered twice a day) is adequate to control his blood sugar level. The vet also gives him a general medical, and weighs him, during these visits.
This morning Columbo was even more reluctant than usual to get into his box for the trip to the vets. Eventually I got him in, but was apprehensive. Usually when he’s in that sort of mood he retaliates by befouling the box. This time, however, he settled down quite quickly and there were no toiletary disasters en route. The vet’s waiting room was empty when we arrived at 9am so we got seen straight away.
The vet was impressed by his age, especially when she saw how long he has been diabetic. Even without this condition 16 is a pretty good age for a tom cat. Columbo has been through a number of serious medical episodes, at least a couple of which took him near death, but he has always managed to bounce back. He may be an old boy now, but he gets 10/10 for resilience. Looking back over his (substantial) medical history, the vet seems to be amazed by his powers of recovery although history is now definitely taking its toll and he’s looking a bit frail nowadays.
The vet noted the effects of the advancing years. His eyesight has clearly dimmed. He’s never been very good at catching birds and mice, but I think he struggles even to see them nowadays. Despite the glucosamine treatment he has been having, his arthritis has also deteriorated. The stiffness in his joints makes it difficult for him to groom himself, so his coat isn’t in great condition even though I brush him regularly. He’s also lost a bit of weight since the last visit; not enough to be life-threatening, but significant nevertheless.
On the other hand, his heartbeat and other vital signs seem to be in order, and he purred contentedly on the table during the examination. The vet was a little concerned about his weight loss, but said he clearly wasn’t in any discomfort and trying to prod and probe, take blood samples and whatever to find out the reason was just going to cause him distress. And even if they could fix it, he was still going to be a very old cat if and when he recovered and there’s no cure for old age.
During these visits the vet usually takes a blood sample in order to check glucose and fructosamine levels for diagnostic purposes. This time, however, she suggested that it was probably best to skip it. The business of drawing a vial of blood from a cat’s neck is unpleasant and extremely distressing for the animal. Given that his bodily signs were OK, there seemed little point in subjecting him to this. Instead she suggested we just maintain the current insulin level unless and until something appears to go wrong. I agreed.
Not doing the blood tests saved me a bit of money, but that’s not the point at all. I know the old boy is much nearer the end of his life than the beginning. I just want his last days to be as comfortable and happy as possible. I don’t see the point of making him uncomfortable to satisfy veterinary curiosity or to prolong his life by a few months. When the time comes, I’d rather he went peacefully.
The one thing I did agree on was to try some anti-inflammatory treatment for his arthritis, stuff you squirt on food. If that works it might make it easier for him to get around, and also groom himself. It does have a side-effect with some cats, making them nauseous, so I have to build it up slowly and keep an eye on him in case he gets sick.
Anyway, when it was time to go he climbed willingly into his box – the cat-box process is a very different business at the vet compared to what it’s like at home. When we got home he bundled out at high speed and headed straight for his food dish. He still has a healthy appetite, that’s for sure.
Here’s a quick picture for his fans, taken just before he went in his basket for a nap.