Growing up, I always wanted a big orange male cat. And then, the summer before I started veterinary college, a litter of newborn kittens fell in to my lap with a little orange boy. I did not even name them at first, I was so nervous they were all going to pass away. They had fleas, and I truly did not know what I was doing. At one point during that summer, between taking care of them at night and working, I fell asleep on the couch. Lo and behold, that little orange kitten crawled up to me and fell asleep in the crook of my neck. It was like we chose each other. In fact, he has a baby book.
Since he was a bottle baby, and I did not know what I was doing, he was not well socialized after he left his sisters at 6 weeks to join me in Columbus at school. Although Cosmo is the most wonderful cat to his immediate family, the warmth does not extend past about 5 people in the universe. He is extremely fearful, and sounds like a velociraptor when I bring him to work.
Fear and Arousal
Cat like humans react differently to fear. When we are in stressful, fear evoking situations the amygdala part of our brain is aroused. Some of use act like a “deer in the head lights”. Others will fraternize to hopeful get a positive outcome. Others like my Cosmo lash out. The goal is to “get you” before you get me then I can run and hide to safety. All are normal fear reactions, but some allow for easier veterinary care.
Cosmo is a member of the family
He’s the cat that lets my 5 year old hug and squeeze him, lets the 8 month old baby roll over him, but the minute someone comes to visit, he will give the death stare. If he chooses to sit on you, and you are not me or husband, do not pet him- he will smack you. Luckily, he can have sedated exams where we can be extremely thorough, and make sure his health is where it should be.
A Speed Bump
Everything has been going well until October, when I found a mass on his leg. My stomach dropped immediately, and even though my fingers are not microscopes, I knew it was bad. Biopsy confirmed my suspicion that it was cancer and aggressive. I was forced with the dilemma, ‘how do we treat Cosmo for cancer?’
The more I thought about it, the question morphed into, ‘how will he let me treat him?’ He is extremely uncooperative. I cannot medicate him easily. Is it better for him to have radical surgeries, sedated visits to the oncologist and possibly a longer life or manage his pain? What would he want? How can one truly know?
The answer took me awhile, but I’ve come to peace with it. For my Cosmo, it is NOT better to have him sedated multiple times to see multiple people. He is just too stressed when he visits the vet, and to me and my family, it is not in his best interest.
Alternative Home Treatments
Instead, I have been acupuncturing him weekly and giving him herbs. The mass does not appear to have grown in size, although I have not brought him in for further staging after starting the herbs. On days he seems painful, he has some additional pain medication, but on the whole he is eating well, interacting with us and seems like himself.
If Cosmo was not so easily aroused, I would have taken him for an oncology consult. However, when making decisions for any cat, one has to consider the patient in front of them, and what they will allow. At the end of the day, it’s their life, we’re just here to help them enjoy it as long as they can as pain free as possible. After all, ‘cats have a staff.’