The new year started well enough. We enjoyed the day, taking the time to have lunch together.
The second day, Wednesday, one of our kitties seemed under the weather. We kept an eye on him, and I said I’d take him to the vet if he hadn’t perked up by the next day.
We have 4 cats. The 2 oldest are 12-year-old brother and sister – Kipaku and his sister, Mlia. Then there’s Tamu, who’s 8, and baby Kito, who’s 1. Although we consider them family cats, Kipaku has always been more Liam’s cat, and Mlia chose Gordon when we went to view them as kittens. Tamu is seen as more my cat, not sure why. And Kito is definitely Liam’s as I got her for his birthday – they’ve known each other since she was born at the stables where he worked, and they have a mutual adoration thing going.
Our unwell kitty was Kipaku. We weren’t too worried as he was eating as normal. But the next morning, I made an appointment at the vet’s as he still seemed too quiet. Gave the cats their breakfast as usual, which he ate without any problems.
While Liam and I were having our breakfast, Kipaku had a fit. It lasted a few seconds and he was conscious. I wrapped him in a blanket and Liam held him till we left for the vet’s when we put him in the cat basket.
Long story short, she couldn’t find anything overtly wrong with him so decided to do a blood test to check if there was anything internal which may have triggered the fit. They do the blood tests on site, so we took him home and waited for the call. The one thing she did confirm, which we’d thought was the case, was he’d lost some of his sight.
The vet advised keeping him in in case he had another fit. Which he did, early afternoon, this time a little shorter than the first one, and he was drooling heavily. He settled down to sleep and we kept checking on him.
Just before 16:00, he had another fit, this time more violent. I phoned the vet and took him straight back. The vet, Sarah, said his blood test had come back clear. She said the fits were either caused by idiopathic epilepsy or a structural abnormality in the brain, like a tumour.
We discussed the options and decided to start with phenobarbital to manage the fits.
After taking the tablet, for the rest of that day, Thursday, Kipaku didn’t suffer another fit. And we were quietly hopeful. Also, he was still eating as normal. But, because we have a cat flap, we shut him in the dining room – where he’s most comfortable and relaxed – and the other 3 were shut in the kitchen so they could come and go as they pleased.
Friday was uneventful, in that Kipaku slept for most of the day, and ate as usual. But he hadn’t used the litter tray. After years of being outdoor cats, our cats detest using the litter tray whenever they’ve had to be confined indoors. So, with Liam accompanying him, Kipaku went out to the garden to have the longest pee ever!
The one thing he did do that was different to his normal behaviour was what I called his perimeter walk – he’d start in the dining room, his body close to the wall and make his way to the kitchen where he’d work his way around, keeping close to the cupboards.
When I went into the dining room Saturday morning, Kipaku came over to me. Again, he had his breakfast and had his tablet without much trouble. As we did on Friday morning, the 3 of us took turns being in the dining room to keep an eye on him.
About 11:00, he got up to do another perimeter walk. And walked, and walked… After he’d been walking close to half an hour, I called the vet. Luckily, Sarah herself answered; I was so thankful she was on duty.
When I described what Kipaku was doing, she said it was pointing more to a brain tumour than epilepsy. She said she’d prescribe diazepam to help sedate him, so he could rest, but to make sure I didn’t give it to him too often.
He continued walking until Liam picked him up, at which point he settled and dozed in his arms. That was the only way to stop him walking – to hold him so he could rest.
It was heartbreaking to watch him – he’d walk until his head touched something, then he’d slowly turn to the side and continue walking. He’d stumble with almost a drunken gait. Whenever we put him back down after holding him, we’d have to make sure his legs were as steady as they could be or he’d fall over.
At one point, while Gordon was holding him, his head went back, and he looked so vacant, we thought he was close to dying. He lay on his side on the carpet; the boys started crying and I was back on the phone to the vet’s and was told to bring him in late afternoon.
When I put the cats’ lunch down, we realised how bad he was. He did try to get up when he heard me putting the food down, and Liam steered him to his food bowl. But he didn’t eat. It was as if he couldn’t work out what to do with the food. He kept trying to walk forward even though the bowl was directly under his nose. He stepped in it, still trying to move forward. Liam picked him up and rubbed a piece of meat against his nose and mouth – no response; he didn’t even lick his mouth.
At the vet’s, Sarah checked him over and observed his walking. Even though he hadn’t lost his sight completely, he didn’t have the ‘menace’ response – when she made as if to poke his eye, he didn’t respond.
We did discuss the possibility of having an MRI scan. But, as Sarah said, all that would do would be to confirm if it was a tumour or not. The ensuing treatment would most likely be chemotherapy or radiotherapy. I think if he was still eating and showing interest, it would be a different story. As Liam said, it’s as if the tumour had taken away his free will choice – it was stopping him eating; it was making him walk continuously when he was tired and wanted to rest.
It wasn’t an easy decision; we went back and forth with it. Sarah was kind enough to give us all the time and space we needed even though it was well after closing time. I’m so glad she was the one who was there; she has such a gentle, caring manner.
When the time came, Sarah quietly explained every detail to us so we’d know what to expect. We said ‘goodbye’ to our sweet little guy. And we wept. Liam sobbed his heart out.
Because it was after 18:00 and dark, we kept Kipaku wrapped in his blanket in the lounge. We uncovered him slightly so the other cats could see and work it out however they work these things out. It seemed to hit Tamu the hardest – he looked visibly shocked and his body language mirrored that.
Sunday morning, we buried our boy in the garden.
It hit us hard, losing Kipaku so unexpectedly. As I write this, I’m blinking back tears. Our previous cats, Cinder and Ashe, lived until they were 18. I guess I just thought our cats would live that little bit longer.
Strangely, the year feels older than just 8 days.