Tale of a Tom Cat
No, this isn't a picture of Tom, it's just a stock photo. I have them but they still upset me so.... This is a very emotional and sad tale. If you don't want to read it, please don't. It's hard to write but I feel it's cathartic and a bit of a memorial to do so.
All this spring, I've had kitten fever. I didn't need a kitten but I wanted one. Every time an opportunity presented itself to get one, I turned it down.
Sometime during the chemical sickness, a stray gray tabby cat showed up in the yard. The dogs actually found him and I thought for sure he was going to pass away. He was obviously paralyzed completely on his right side. His head was turned and neither his front nor rear leg on the right side worked. The dogs were out playing in the yard and scared him so badly that he ran and fell and ran and fell and ran and fell several times until he got under the shed. I felt so bad that we had scared him and of course didn't have a way to get him out from under the shed at all. After putting the dogs up, I left bowls of food and water outside the spot where he went underneath the shed in the hopes he could physically get to it somehow.
The next day, some of the food and all of the water was gone. Praying it wasn't a raccoon or something, I refilled them. This went on for a couple nights. Then one morning, the food and water was still there. He must have passed on, I thought. I hated that he had been in pain and discomfort and this was all the help I was able to give him.
Couple days later, I walked past the well house and I hear a meow. WHHHHAAAATTTTT???? It was the same cat, he was up on some boards that are stored in there. I immediately went and got the food and water and put them in there with him. He made no attempt to approach me even though I meowed back at him. I named him Tom and we went about talking to each other for a few days back and forth as I would refill his bowls.
Then one morning he lumbered towards me. His right side was still paralyzed a bit but not as severely as when we first saw him. I was ecstatic but had no idea if he was wanting help or to thank me or even bite me. I meowed back at him and he stayed right where he was. I didn't try and reach towards him that time. But the next morning we repeated the process and he came close enough to pet. When I say emaciated, I mean it. He had the body structure to be a 15 pound cat, easily. He was covered in ticks and fleas. Where was all the food going that I was feeding him? He allowed me to pick him up. I was heartbroken at how light he was. Not thinking about anything but getting those ticks off him, I went for the medicine and treated him.
I then called the emergency vet. They could fit us into the schedule. Tom allowed me to put him into the pet carrier no problem. He rode to the vet clinic just fine but would fall asleep in weird positions like his head tilted up or one leg stuck up in the air. A couple times I pulled over because I thought he had died. My heart was absolutely in my throat. I left him at the vet clinic for the doctors to evaluate him and see what all he might need.
They called back that next morning to tell me he had a severe ear infection in his right ear (explaining the head tilt) and there was a polyp underneath all the crap they cleaned out of it. His left ear was infected too but not as bad as the right. I was able to go pick him up and they armed me with the medications to continue treating the infections. At this point, I was still under the assumption that he could eat on his own. He continued to do well for the day or so and I would watch him bury his face in his food bowl, still feeding him kibble at this point. Pees and poops were good and he was great at using the litter box.
2 days later, everything changed. While his ear infection was getting better, his body was going downhill. I had spent enough time with him that I could tell he wasn't getting enough food into his system and he was not drinking as much as he should. Turns out, he couldn't move his tongue to lap up the water. When he was burying his face in the kibble, he was trying to jam the food to the back of his throat to swallow it whole, he couldn't chew it. This time, I called the vet and just told them I was coming.
Tom was literally crying for help and I had no idea what to do. The vet was very concerned he was even going to live through the day. His eyes were so bright, I couldn't make the decision to put him down yet. He had fought so hard to live already. They did some xrays and decided on an antibiotic regimen, gave him a B vitamin shot and sent us back home with a bevy of canned food, syringes, and some prayers. (Dr Google filled in the blanks that he might be a lyme disease cat, which is rare.)
I started making a slurry out of the high calorie food that they sent home with us and syringe fed it to him. The excitement on his face to understand that he was eating was amazing. I also syringed several cc's of water into him every hour. Tom really started to improve! That meant that his fight was coming back too. He started to push the syringe of plain water away. He had started to be able to move his jaw and was eating can after can of the wet cat food. He still couldn't lap the water up with his tongue and without the slurry of water in the food and without syringes of plain water, he was going to dehydrate fast. I called the vet clinic and asked for fluids that I could give under the skin. They agreed and got it ready for me to pick up.
That got my boy going. After the first 2 rounds of fluids under the skin, he no longer wanted anything to do with that mean needle and crazy hooman that was trying to poke him with it. After the 3rd round of fluids, he had enough oomph that he started to drink a little on his own! Good deal, that's what I wanted anyway.
All through this process of recovering, this cat made biscuits, rolled over to the best of his ability for belly rubs and as he had gotten stronger on his feet, would rub against my leg. It's summer time, I feel like crap anyway. I was wearing my crappy tshirts and cut off shorts most days and was barefoot or in my flip flops.
The next evening, he lightly bit my left ankle. I didn't think much of it because it didn't seem like an attack. The next morning he bit my right ankle and my right arm and the arm bite was a break the skin bite that drew blood. With cat bites, that means infection and cellulitis. You have to get to the hooman doctor fast to get that treated or you will be in trouble. So I went to the doctor and we went on with life. I started wearing my farm boots and long sleeve sweatshirt to take care of him.
Tom was eating and drinking extremely well at this point and had started putting on weight. I spoke with the vet clinic at length about his biting me and we all agreed that maybe he had a stroke or something that would take far more time to heal. Something that we couldn't fix fast without a specialist. That Sunday morning, Tom bit me very badly right above the line of my boot on the backside of my leg. I was still on antibiotics from the arm bite so I was covered on that front but I was at a loss as to what to do about him. It was definitely not safe for me to continue caring for him like I was. It was such a bad bite that it will still oozing blood the following day.
At this point I was putting on my farming coveralls, sweatshirt, leather gloves, and boots to take care of a cat that was finding it fun to attack me. He would roll around on his back wanting belly rubs and then lunge to bite. He still required treatment for the ear infections and I was attempting to do that without getting bit; along with giving him oral antibiotics.
I called the vet and we spoke at length again about what I could do for him. The vet agreed I could stop with the other medications as this was a larger problem. We decided on a nerve medicine and I happened to have some on hand for my older dog anyway. I was to crush the pills and mix it into the food in the morning. This little cat was getting the same amount of the drug as you would give a 40 pound dog. And it helped.
My biscuit making, belly rub wanting TomTom was better. I treated him without incident that day (yes, still in all my safety gear). The following morning, Devil Tom was back. I mixed up the drug and fed him breakfast. He snarfed it down like usual and a couple hours later, he was a sweet boy again. But by that evening, he had already started lunging at me. The next morning it was hard to even get the dish with the mixed food set in front of him, he was already on a rampage. The vet was at a loss of what could further be done for him. I could only think how confusing the roller coaster of emotions had to be for Tom.
I got online and looked at every university veterinary clinic within a 6 hour driving radius. 4 different states, 5 universities, and not a single damn one had a support program for tough/unusual cases. I felt like he would atleast have an opportunity to teach some students.
One week after the leg bite, because of my personal safety, I decided to let Tom rest. He's buried in the yard and I planted a large expanse of wildflowers to commemorate him.
It broke me to make the decision to let him go. He was such a fighter and I fought with him. Because I was feeling so crappy, I NEEDED Tom to get better. We both lost.
I'm assuming that Tom was originally dumped at my property because of the ear infections and somebody couldn't afford to treat him. It also occured to me, while I was writing this, that he could also have been doused or affected by the farm chemicals.
When I say that I miss him, I truly mean it. He was trying to get better at the same time I was trying to get better. He gave me something else to focus on besides being so sick. I am so thankful that I knew him. I am so thankful that while he was with me, he did receive love and care. For many weeks since, I have gone into the bedroom expecting to see him sitting on his heating pad and tilting his head to look at me. If I meowed at him, he would meow back and that room was now silent.
Fast forward several weeks and I was outside watering the flowers in the evening. I started to walk back into the house and I heard a cat screaming. Loud. Oh no, the house cats got out... I went inside and both of them were sound asleep on the couch. Hmmm..... I went outside and meowed back. And got a response.
I walked to the end of the driveway. The sound was coming from the Northwest so I started walking across the front lawn. RUNNING towards me, as fast as his little legs could carry him, was a gray tabby kitten about 10-12 weeks old. Loud meowing, purring, making biscuits. Jumped into my arms. PERFECTLY marked. In PERFECT condition, no illness, no fleas, no ticks. There is nothing wrong with this kitten. There were no other humans present. No vehicles had recently gone by. All I could do was burst into tears and laugh at the same time.
It's a boy. I named him Traveler.