Catten Trouble, Saturday: General E-Mail

I spoke with Dr. Huang, the Intern, today, and she said that Tony ate a little baby food yesterday. They’re currently thinking, based on the blood work and everything else, that he has a liver shunt, where the blood is flowing around the liver, rather than going through it. They’ve added vitamin K and other things, to try to help stabilize him if indeed that is his trouble, and are continuing with the prednisone or whatever steroid they’re giving him, in case it is inflammatory bowel disease. But they think that it is going to be the liver shunt, and propose sending him out for a test for that on Monday, where they inject some dye into a muscle and then watch the dye on a screen, and see if it flows through the liver, or around it. The office that would do that needs a little advance warning, to lay in the required dye, but hopefully we can do that on Monday. Now, even if he were in pretty good shape, the odds of success on liver shunt surgery are only 50/50, and right now he’s pretty sickly, so…eh.

Visiting hours are between 2pm and 9pm, so I’m going to go over there and try to keep him company for a little while today.

Sylvia and I went to see Tony this afternoon. He was really happy to see us, and did his patented meow/purr alternation routine the whole time. He was in the middle of receiving a plasma transfusion, so they had us come back and see him in his cage. There were nice warm blankets that he was resting on. We offered him some food, but he wasn’t having any.

At about 7pm, I thought that I would go pay another visit to Tony. He’s such a people person, he really doesn’t do well when he’s isolated, even more so than you might just normally expect. I had asked before if I should call before I came, and they had said, “Oh, no, you can just come any time between 2 and 9pm.” But when I arrived at the office, their door was locked, and nobody was around the lobby. I called them on my cell phone, and someone answered, and said that it would be better if I came in about an hour. I explained that I was already outside, and that I had asked, and they said, well, it was just that I would have to visit him back at his cage, because of the plasma transfusion, and they couldn’t do things like x-rays while I was back there, and there were a lot of things going on at the moment. But since I was there, they let me come in, and said that if I would just wait in the lobby, I could see him in about 15 minutes. And about 15 minutes or later, they came out again and said, well, unfortunately there a dog that’s crashing, who’s on his way in, and they really wouldn’t be able to give me more than just a minute. I went back there, and Tony was getting another infusion of plasma, but it was almost over, and I asked, couldn’t they just let me take him into one of the visiting rooms and hold him in my lap while they worked on the dog? The woman took pity on me, and checked with the doctor for an OK, and then they made a really nice little bed for him out of a big bowl with a blanket as bedding, and another blanket to keep him warm, and then they let us go into a small visiting room, where I held the bowl in my lap and stroked his ears. For the first 20 minutes or so, he did the same meow-purr thing that he’s been doing every time he sees me for the last several days. But about 20 minutes in, he just shifted his position, and settled down, and had a nice sleep in the warm blankets while I stroked him. Occasionally he would get up and change position to get more comfortable, but mostly he just was sleeping, letting me stroke his fur. They left us alone for a nice long visit, probably an hour, and I really think it was good for him; it certainly was for me. His abdomen was less swollen tonight, I thought, but that’s probably just wishful thinking. I’m not sure that he’s eating very much. We’ll see.

Tony, shown here in happier times, relaxing in his favorite chair, with a friend:

See Sunday’s Catten post.

Catten Trouble, Friday: General E-Mail

The Internist said that Tony’s bilirubin level was too high for them to take the liver function samples (they would just confound the results), so the question of his liver function is still open. The urine sample showed that he wasn’t leaking too much protein out of his urine. This pretty much leaves something like Inflammatory Bowel Disease, or a cancer, or perhaps a malformation like a shunt in the liver, as the top suspects. Normally they would consider running a scope or exploratory surgery to try to diagnose what’s wrong, but his protein levels are so low at this point that it’s not certain that he would heal properly from surgery.

What I asked the doctor was, “What are the likely conditions that he might have which are treatable, and would any of those treatments be appropriate for him at this point, in the absence of certainty about the cause?” And she said that it would be quite appropriate to try a steroid, I think prednisone was mentioned, because Inflammatory Bowel Disease was a real possibility, and that the main downside of trying it was that it might work too well, and make the condition go away to such a degree that they wouldn’t be able to diagnose it, which in the case of cancer would be bad, since there are some chemotherapies that cats tolerate really well. I think we’re getting to the point pretty soon that if he doesn’t start getting better, we’re going to have to think about putting him to sleep, but we’re not quite there yet.

The steroids, if they work, will take at least a day before we would expect to see any results, and really several days before we’ll be able to say whether we’re seeing a positive trend.

Tony has always been, as Sean calls him, “The Ambassador”: the friend of everybody, feline or human. Once, Queenie, shown here on the left, went on an Explore out above the curtains, and Tony joined her, happy to share in the adventure, causing Queenie unbelievable dismay, because he had inadvertently cut off her escape. Here, she shows him what she can do to cats who don’t meet with her approval, and Tony looks on, with approval:

See Saturday’s Catten post.

Catten Trouble, Thursday: General E-mail

The stool sample yesterday was negative for parasites. The X-ray yesterday showed no masses in the abdomen, but was somewhat obscured by the fluid which continues to accumulate there. His albumen level, I think it was, is low enough that fluid is leaking out of his blood vessels, apparently. To stabilize him, they were going to give him an infusion of plasma, but their supplier didn’t have any feline plasma, so they gave him some sort of synthetic stuff that was expected to accomplish the same thing, get his albumen levels up, and stop the fluid leaking.

This morning, I am to take him over to an Internist, who will presumably want to ultrasound his abdomen, and then we’ll discuss his care in the light of those results. It may be that the Internist will take over responsibility for primary care for him; we’ll see.


My vet, at this point, having referred me to a specialist, I went down to the vet’s office this morning and picked up Tony, who, she said, was a little better today than he had been yesterday, presumably due to the plasma substitute that they had given him last night.

Oh man, was he happy to see me. He kept up this constant stream of meows alternating with purring. I meowed back at him while driving, and poked my finger into the carrier when stopped at stoplights, and he would scratch his nose happily on my finger. We eventually made it through the remnant of morning rush hour to the Animal Specialty Group, in Los Angeles, just a block or so away from being in Glendale.

Dr. Huang, an intern (“Internist Intern”, ha!) took a detailed history, and examined him, and then Dr. Tou, the specialist, the Internist, came in. Tony’s temperature was quite low for a cat, maybe 97, and they don’t like to see it lower than 99. His blood labs were all over the map, lots of highs and lows outside of the normal range. The biggest problem was the low value of albumen, a protein that among other things helps keep the blood from leaking out of the blood vessels. She said that apart from leaking fluid into his abdomen, as it was already doing, it could leak into his lungs, making it hard for him to breathe, and could leak other stuff too, making it more likely that he might throw a clot, which could be instantly fatal. She definitely wanted to check liver function, but that’s a test that’s complicated by first having to keep the cat fasting for 12 hours, then taking a measurement, then feeding him, then taking another measurement, and I think that she said that some of his other problems could conceivably interfere with that test. So, things are just great.

She said a lot of things, but they all kind of boiled down to, “You’ve got a seriously messed-up cat.” She didn’t say that he was a walking dead cat, though. [Actually, in retrospect, she said, “At this point, I would have to say that his prognosis is pretty guarded,” which probably means, “I don’t know for sure yet, but you could have a walking dead cat, here.”]

All during the examination, Tony kept up his purring. I know that they say that cats will also purr when in distress, but he was seriously glad to see me. The Internist couldn’t properly hear through the stethoscope because of the purring, so they did a trick where they moistened a cotton pad with alcohol and held it up to his nose where he could smell it, and he stopped purring for a few seconds and acted a little repulsed by the smell.


It’s evening now, and I just got off the phone with the specialist. The sonogram looked pretty normal, in that there were no masses or grossly wrong organs. They have got his temperature back up, by use of a warming blanket, and later tonight they’ll give him his liver test. They were able to get a urine sample, so that’s been sent off to see if he’s leaking protein out of his urine. If the liver and kidney tests come back very normal, they’ll want to biopsy his gut, probably with a scope. After the liver test, they’ll be able to offer him food again, which they greatly prefer to do, because it can be tricky managing cats that have low protein.

She said, at this point, that “no news is good news.” The liver function test samples will be picked up tomorrow morning, and she’s hopeful that they’ll be ready Friday night.

Chris Ravenscroft wondered what all this is costing, and I’m sure that it’s a common wonderment. The vet’s fees were about $800, and the specialist’s estimate was $1,800-$3,200. Total value of the deal, if we hit the high end of the specialist’s estimate: $4,000. Yeah, I know. I should start a “Catten Defense Fund.”

Another favorite picture, when faced with a rampaging Roomba:
Tony holds his ground!

See Friday’s Catten post.

Catten Trouble, Wednesday: General E-Mail

Tony, last year’s Christmas Catten, has been going through a rough patch lately, which doesn’t seem fair for a little guy who’s already had more than his share of challenges for a one-year-old.

I spoke to the vet this morning, and she said that his blood work suggested that he might have Addison’s Disease, though this is fantastically rare, and he might have a malignant abdominal tumor, though this is fantastically lethal (“In that case, I would put his prognosis as Extremely Guarded.”)

I put in a mental bet, a hope, really, because we absolutely love this little guy, for zebras, rather than horses, just for this once (a reference to a common medical saying: “When you hear hoofbeats, think horses, not zebras,” — I think of it as well-known, though my good friend Larry Helmerich had never heard this one).

And, hey! The vet called this afternoon with news that the analysis of the fluid drawn from his abdomen did not show any malignant cells, nor did it show the horrible cat disease FIP (which he’d already tested negative for twice, so no incredible surprise there, though his symptoms certainly could have been explained that way).

Furthermore, he is responding to supportive care (an IV and antibiotics). He has urinated, and eaten a little food, and is obviously much more comfortable, although still in a cage at the vet’s office.

Next step: get a stool sample, look for parasites, and take an X-Ray of his abdomen.

The test for Addision’s Disease, still fantastically rare, is something like $250, so they’re knocking down the more likely horses until they think about the zebra. My money’s on the zebra! Come on, zebra! (Addison’s Disease, a deficiency of the adrenal glands, is usually quite treatable).

More news as it happens,

This is one of my favorite pictures of Tony. He looks so full of impish devilment, and so proud to be inside the table, maybe 3 inches above the carpet:

See Thursday’s Catten post.

Catten Trouble: Tuesday, E-mail to Family

Well, I took Tony, the Christmas Catten, to the vet, and she said that his abdomen was filled with some kind of fluid, and that his gums were pale. Not very good signs, and not a very easy life, so far, for such a young catten – just a little over one year old. She kept him overnight, until she can get the results back from the blood work and the fluid analysis. In the meantime, she put him on antibiotics, and I think probably gave him some fluids to make him more comfortable. Hopefully we’ll get some good news today.

I love this shot of him. He was, as I said at the time, clearly terrified of the camera:

See Wednesday’s Catten post.

Good Times

By now, I’ve spoken with several of my friends about the recent election. I, of course, am wildly elated, and have urged them all to “dare to hope for too much!” My friends are less sanguine, and while all are at least cautiously optimistic, from that starting point, they diverge:

Industry Figure Sally Helmerich called her Congressman to say that “I didn’t vote you back into power for bipartisanship; I voted you back into power for Revenge,” while Industry Figure Steve Ring says that finger-pointing about past misdeeds is a waste of an opportunity, that we should simply spend all of our time governing well.

Industry Figure John Blackburn and I both feel that it’s not an either/or situation — there’s plenty of time to do both! For my own part, I have to say that there’s a law enforcement aspect to the recriminations; why should those in power, who have so screwed us over, get a free pass?

But mostly, I’m happy — after 12 years in the wilderness, America finally sees things my way again, however briefly. I’m like the happy, complacent couple below:

This comic always makes me laugh (the man, so comfortable in his undershirt and socks; the woman, so vaguely porcine; both basking in their big-screen TV; the cats, so distressed: “…and once again they act as though they can’t even see it!”). Nowadays, it reminds me of Sad Cat Queenie, who always looks sad in photos. As I believe I’ve mentioned before, Industry Figure Chris Gibson suggests that Queenie can see things that we can’t: “Oh, you’re going to die soon — that’s sad! [Who will feed me?]”

Not Even Ashamed About Lying, Now

Q: Thank you, Mr. President. Last week you told us that Secretary Rumsfeld will be staying on. Why is the timing right now for this, and how much does it have to do with the election results?

THE PRESIDENT: Right. No, you and Hunt and Keil came in the Oval Office, and Hunt asked me the question one week before the campaign, and basically it was, are you going to do something about Rumsfeld and the Vice President? And my answer was, they’re going to stay on. And the reason why is I didn’t want to inject a major decision about this war in the final days of a campaign. And so the only way to answer that question and to get you on to another question was to give you that answer.

Read the Full Transcript from the White House web site.

Send Out The Clowns!

My actual sticker! Proof, dammit!

We’re still using paper ballots at my polling place, and no lines. Yay, Sunland!

Air America has a free video feed of their marathon Election Night coverage with Rachel Maddow and Jeff Bender.

On Comedy Central, The Daily Show and The Colbert Report are hosting a live one-hour finale to their Midseason, Midterm Midtacular, with guest analyst Dan Rather.

Election Returns, as they happen:

Governors’ Races:
Ken Blackwell (R-OH, stole 2004 Presidential Election) loses for Governor.
Deval Patrick (D-MS) wins for Governor.

Senate Races (Democrats +4):
Lincoln Chafee (R-RI) loses to Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI) (+1).
Mike DeWine (R-OH) loses to Sharrod Brown (D-OH) (+1).
Katherine Harris (R-FL, stole 2000 Presidential Election) loses to Bill Nelson (D-FL).
Richard Tarrant (R-VT) loses to Bernie Sanders (Independent Socialist-VT).
James Talent (R-MO) loses to Claire McCaskill (D-MO) (+1).
Vile Republican Senator Rick Santorum (R-PA) loses to Bob Casey (D-PA) (+1).
Joe Lieberman (?-CN) wins for Senator, replacing Joe Lieberman (“D”-CN).

House Races (Democrats by a Landslide):
The Ghost of Bob Ney (R-PA) loses to Zack Space (D-PA).
The Ghost of Mark Foley (R-FL) loses to Tim Mahoney (D-FL).
The Ghost of Tom DeLay (T-TX) loses to Nick Lampson (D-TX).
Bob Sherwood (R-PA), a.k.a. the Pennsylvania Strangler, loses to Chris Carney.

It’s just so much harder to keep your seat majority when so many of your guys are on their way to (or are currently infesting) a federal prison!

Still in play as of end-of-day Tuesday (Senate Democrats +2?):
Montana and Virginia’s Senate races have the Democratic challengers leading by slim margins!

I gave money to several of those winning and leading Democratic challengers (Claire McCaskill, Zack Space, and Jim Webb among them), so I am fairly deliriously happy at the moment.