Life after a chronically sick pet. Or: trying to calm my crazy.

Milo has been doing well. Really well, actually, although I hesitate to say it because I don’t want to jinx anything. Excuse me while I go knock on some wood. And throw salt over my left shoulder. And walk backwards under a ladder.

Side note– when you were a kid did you ever wear your PJs inside out and throw ice cubes into the toilet as an offering to the snow day gods? I totally did.

Anyways. Milo’s numbers have officially been in the “normal range” for over three months now, and his meds have been steady for that whole period of time (i.e. we decided against trying to ween him off of them like we did last time, and have accepted that he will be a lifer on these three wonderful (and way too expensive) meds). He’s been acting “normal”… or as normal as a cat ever acts. He’s eating. He’s playing. He’s jumping. He’s being a cat.

But the fear is still there.

The last time he relapsed it was after almost three months of stable numbers, followed by a steep and unpredictable decline in activity and numbers.

And we are doing things differently this time. First, as I said, we’ve made the decision to suck it up cost-wise and not ween him off of the medication. Apparently *most* cats can be weened off and that is always recommended after one “attack” like he had. But after relapsing last time, the vet said it is really our choice whether we want to try to ween him off again (not all the way off, but to a low dose this time), or keep him at his current medication levels. He hasn’t had any side effects from the meds and they don’t do any long-term damage to his liver or anything, so the difference is really just the cost. We decided that it was worth our peace of mind to just let well enough alone and leave him on the high dose to better ensure he doesn’t relapse again.

Second, we’re watching him much more closely now. The first time he got sick it was scary, but he got better relatively quickly and then seemed normal so we just assumed this was a one-time fluke and we could go back to the way things used to be. This time we know that he really could relapse at any time, and that the second time was worse than the first, and that there is a very real possibility he wouldn’t make it through a third if we didn’t catch it very early.

So we watch him a lot. We debate whether something he is doing is normal, for him, or abnormal. And that is REALLY HARD to do with a cat, because they never “act sick” until they are VERY sick and so the subtle signs of abnormality are just hard to catch.

And today is a perfect example. Usually, Milo lays in one of about eight places around the man cave that are “his spots.” But when I got home from a meeting this afternoon I noticed he was not laying in one of his spots. He was laying behind the couch where he laid the last time he got really sick. He wasn’t panting like he was then. And he came when I called him (he didn’t do that then). But when I stopped petting him he settled down again in a non-normal spot. And then he didn’t seem as apt to come lay next to me when I sat down to work (he usually hops up on the couch and lays about a foot away from me when I am down here). So I worried because he was aloof. And what does that mean?

So I called him. Like every five minutes for an hour. I tried to coax him onto the couch. Then finally, he hopped up onto the couch. Except instead of laying a foot away from me he crawled up ONTO me. Which is very very strange for him. He is not a cuddle-er. He likes to be near you, with maybe one paw touching you, but never on you.

But my goodness if he wasn’t cute.

So then I had an internal debate. This was weird, yes. But– when he was sick before he wanted to be as far from us as possible and he didn’t want to be touched. So cuddling doesn’t seem like a sick-indicator. Also, about 10 minutes ago I freaked out that he was being too aloof. Now I’m freaking out that he’s not being aloof enough. The cat can’t win with me.

The bottom line is, he’s eating. He’s jumping. He’s responding when I pet him. He’s excited about treats. HE’S FINE.

It’s hard to realize and accept that any living being is going to have variation in their day-to-day actions and personality. I ate Indian food for lunch today, for godsake. Me– the girl who won’t even eat BBQ sauce because it’s “weird.” And I need to stop freaking out every time he does something that isn’t 100% what he did the day before. I need to find a better balance between “aware” and “insane.” And I need to appreciate and enjoy those rare opportunities when he turns into a cuddle cat.

God help me if I ever have kids.


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