The Ninth Life

They say that cats have nine lives.  If ever that saying was true, it applies to our Timmy Tom who started his ninth today.  Thomas will be eighteen years old in September, and a week ago I thought he was a goner. In truth, when I look back, his eighth life started about a year and a half ago, when he began to make peculiar noises, particularly at night.  My daughter was housesitting with her boyfriend while we were in Africa, and she emailed me to say, “What’s with Timmy Tom?  He walks around yowling all night.  I think he is possessed.  My boyfriend calls him Devil Cat.  Should we call an exorcist?”  Indeed, his cries at night were enough to wake the dead.  But he was eating and drinking well, and producing copious amounts of excrement as befitting a 20 pound yellow tabby, deposited in the proper place—his litter box.  After careful inspection and palpation of various body parts finding no particular tender areas, we gave it no more thought.

In August of last year we were visited by two friends who happen to be veterinarians, here in San Diego for the big veterinary society meetings.  They too were treated to the loud vocalizations emanating from our cat, at which point Margaret said, “He must be hyperthyroid.  It’s one of the symptoms of hyperthyroidism in elderly cats—they make a lot of noise.”  She examined him and listened to his heart and pronounced it normal, without the loud galloping rhythm associated with an overactive thyroid. He was sleek and fit (and maybe just a little bit fat!)  We got used to the noise—after all, in a house full of animals a few extra vocalizations at night were nothing to lose sleep over.  It wasn’t until this spring that the cat began to lose weight—just a little at first, nothing too alarming.  But the weight loss combined with an obsession with the dogs’ enormous water bowl (not to mention my toilet) led me to conclude that perhaps he was diabetic.  I took him to the vet, who drew blood and pronounced that he was not diabetic, however his thyroid level was sky high.  Never mind—there’s medication for that, as long as you can catch your cat to administer it.  Cats are smarter than dogs—there’s no such thing as concealing a pill in a chunk of cheddar cheese.  Thank goodness for methamizole cream, administered on a gloved finger inside the ear.

Ten days ago I thought the jig was up.  Each morning I was presented with a gift—I won’t bore you with the details but suffice it to say that my bathmat will never be the same.  The emergency vet last Saturday concluded that the intra-aural administration of medication was unreliable and that Tom’s thyroid needed better regulation.  He got fluids and we switched to the pills.  He did not get better.  On Wednesday, I took him to his regular vet, who examined him and found an abscessed tooth.  She drew blood work too, but it was too late in the day to send it off for analysis, and I had to wait until after the July 4 holiday to get the results.  The covering vet called me yesterday to say that his white count was 20,000.  Twenty thousand?  Yikes!  My own white count wasn’t that high when I was hospitalized with MRSA.  My husband and I swung into action.  We gave the cat antibiotics.  Which antibiotics?  The ones leftover from the little dog who passed in December.  We are nothing if not economical.  Antibiotics in this household are never wasted.

Timmy Tom woke up today a new cat.  He sauntered into the kitchen and demanded his chicken breast for breakfast.  He got that and more—some grilled ahi tuna left over from our holiday barbecue.  He drank deeply from the dogs’ giant water bowl and from the toilet.  And my bleached and laundered bath mat remained unbesmirched.  Cue a distant chorus of “Memory” from the musical CATS—“Daylight, I must wait for the sunrise, I must think of a new life. And I musn’t give in. When the dawn comes–Tonight will be a memory too.  And a new day will begin.”  For Timmy Tom, the ninth life has started.