You probably think your pootie is the bestest in the entire universe. You’re wrong, but that’s OK, you should go on thinking that.
Ginger is VERY sick. She deserves her own memorial diary here, but if the worst happens I will be curled up in the corner and catatonic (not quite literally, I’ll still have to take care of Mom, but I wouldn’t be able to be coherent on this subject), so I have been writing this all week and need to share this now.
(A Series of Ups and Downs)
Many of you already know part of this story, but to catch everyone up: Early morning last Sunday, Ginger had two apparent seizures. We went to the ER vet. Her vitals (other than BP, which they didn’t think was necessary to check) were fine and she had recovered by the time we arrived. They watched her for an hour but she had no more problems. They couldn’t do their one noninvasive neuro test, which is pupil size and reactivity, because she has been blind for a year or two due to cataracts. So they sent her home, to follow up with our own vet on Monday. They detected a slight heart murmur, but she has had that for years.
Monday, she still seemed fine. The vet checked her again, found nothing other than the slight heart murmur. She was alert and friendly with him. He did take her BP and it was low normal, optimal under the circumstances. He also drew blood for a complete panel of tests, results to come back Tuesday.
She wandered restlessly when we first came home from the vet. She next spent quite a bit of time under the dresser sleeping on her catnip-filled pootie pad that she always finds comforting (bless you, Sara and Ann!). After a few hours, she had forgiven me and was back to preferring my lap.
Tuesday morning, she had another seizure! And it lasted about 5 minutes — that is a very bad sign! I called and received an immediate appointment. Like, as soon as we could get there immediate, which was about 15 minutes from my phone call to their exam room. They did x-rays. She has an enlarged heart and surrounding fluid. No other problems were visible on x-ray. She was still walking in circles on arrival to the vet this time, as well as kind of out of it. They suspected a brain tumor. And clots from her heart problems causing mini-strokes. But it could also be an infection. Lab tests were back, and the major finding was elevated globulins, which they said can be indicative of either cancer or infection. Also, her kidney values were elevated relative to her previous lab tests in the past; still within normal range, but it can make some medications dangerous for her.
So they gave her shots of antibiotic and anti-seizure meds; and we were sent home with pills, to crush and mix with her food starting later the same day: Phenobarbital as an anti-seizure med; Lasix, a diuretic, for the fluid around her heart; Plavix, a blood thinner, to dissolve any small clots. They warned she will be groggy on Phenobarbital, but should “get used to it” and act more normally in 4-7 days.
Tuesday night, she had several of what now look more like mini-strokes and less like seizures: For a minute or less, she’d seize up in one leg and fall over and yell, then circle around until she gets to her water and drinks. Then she’d climb back onto my lap and go to sleep as if nothing is wrong — even purring when I rub her face! Then an hour or two later, she would have the same problem again. I emailed her vet the details so they’d have them Wednesday.
Wednesday, I called her vet in the morning and asked for Ginger’s vet to call me. Instead, her staff returned my call and said the vet thought she should come right in. So we went to the vet again!
Thankfully, Ginger is one of the few cats I’ve ever had who likes everybody and enjoys going to the vet! She loves all the “Ooh, you’re so cute”s and attention from more people and extra petting. So at least that part isn’t hard on her at all. As long as there are no blood draws nor rectal temperature checks! (Her vets use an ear thermometer, which she finds itchy apparently but otherwise much preferred.)
She has mostly seemed completely fine at the vet Wednesday! She walked around the room like a champ, no circling, no unsteadiness, no hesitancy. Yes, she’s blind and in an unfamiliar space, but she just walked along the wall letting her whiskers show her the turns. But her cardiac enzymes had come back and they were extremely elevated. So they thought for complete information, she needed an EKG and echocardiogram and serial blood pressures. So she stayed at the vet all day. She continued to do fine, socialized with the staff, napped curled comfortably upside down on her blanket. I picked her up that evening.
Echo showed a very enlarged heart (hypertrophic cardiomyopathy) and an enlarged aorta, with what was described to me as blood “swirling” inside. Enalapril and Vetmedin were added to her medications: Vetmedin treats heart failure, it was described to me, by helping the heart pump more strongly with less strain. Some studies have shown that it can extend life by at least a year. Enalapril lowers blood pressure. Although hers was already pretty good, they want it to be a bit lower. Less BP means less resistance to the heart pumping blood.
Given her likely age of 16-20 (adopted as a young abandoned adult) and her multiple medical problems, if she does have brain cancer they do not recommend treating it. X-rays showed no signs of cancer elsewhere in her body. It would take a CAT scan (heh) or MRI to see what’s happening in her brain and we would have to go out of town for that, but they do not recommend it. It would determine diagnosis, but make no difference in treatment. However, in a bit of good news, given the cardiac issues, they now think that they are entirely the cause of the seizures, brought on by mini-strokes or TIAs, brought on by the heart throwing clots. So they think if we can successfully treat the heart problems, she stands a chance.
Thursday-today, she has had good times and bad times. She gets very sleepy and weak about an hour after her medications. Then she seems to somewhat sleep it off and acts more like her old self. She continues to purr a lot when on my lap and getting her face petted. She does not seem to want to eat or drink much, though. She hovers over her food, but her intake is poor. I have been syringe feeding her once an hour when I’m awake. It’s a bit of a fight, but that seems to have helped her energy level. I’ve also cut her Enalapril dosage in half on instructions from her doctor. If she lasts long enough, they say that she will get used to the effect from the Phenobarbital.
I’m struggling to take my own usual advice in these situations, don’t borrow trouble, hope for the best. It’s certainly been up and down, which has also been my experience with other elderly cats. Right now, it seems like she’s doing fairly well, so I’m going to post this diary whilst I still have hope. We are not ready to say goodbye yet. She’s been on my lap most of the last 15 years.
But realistically, I know what advanced age and multiple medical problems usually mean. She has been the other half of my brain, I’m not sure how we will function without her. Sigh.
And In Health
Now the fun part, chronicling Ginger’s life and some notes on the other pooties as their lives intersected with hers. With photos of course! Much of the action took place before cellphone cameras and connections to the computer were a thing, so old photos are very limited. But I’ll share what I can!
She and her “brother” Eeyore first came to me from my cat sitter in Lexington, KY. They had belonged to her neighbor, who moved and left the cats outside to fend for themselves. Evil people, but they never knew the joy of those they gave up, so that’s its own punishment. My sitter already had too many aminals so tried to leave them outside as strays for someone else to care for — maybe new people would move in and take them in. But over time, not only did no one new move in, but she could see both cats getting skinny. Poor domesticated critters didn’t know how to catch enough food apparently! So she took them in, fed them, and found out about Eeyore’s obsession with water probably because they’d been thirsty as well as hungry!
Meanwhile, I was fighting for the life of Miss Molly, who at age 16 ended up dying from congestive heart failure and possibly undiagnosed complications. This is Ginger’s story so I won’t go into details here. Maybe I’ll write another whole diary about the beauteous Miss Molly (they all break our hearts in the end, don’t they?). I had two other cats at the time, Oreo and Jazz, and after losing Miss Molly, felt like I had enough pooties. But my cat sitter strongly felt like I really needed two more — after all, she was in violation of her lease for having so many cats. Ginger and Eeyore were relatively shy cats so might get along with mine, who were also relatively shy, she thought. So after a little more arm twisting, I said OK! I have never been so happy about making a bad decision. They each cost a lot of money in their turn, but who needs retirement funds or vacations anyway? And we had a lot of fun years as a family of five!
Oreo loves every other cat, so after a few fist bumps with Eeyore to establish who was boss (neither of them really!), they settled right in. Jazz was a scaredy-cat with other cats. Oddly, she was fine with all kinds of people whilst Oreo is a total scaredy-cat with other people. Jazz and Eeyore wouldn’t get along for years.
Eeyore was a hoot though, so needs a side note. He had an obsession with water all his life — maybe because having been abandoned outside, he couldn’t get enough? He drank and drank, and swamped litter boxes! I finally got him his own pet fountain, placed it on a fuzzy bathmat with a rubber bottom in case of leaks, and he spent most of his days lying on the mat next to the fountain and as close as he could get, watching it run! But he stopped drinking himself to death. Another favorite place of his was the bathroom sink; he’d curl up in it and sleep for a little while before going back to his fountain. I found a little Japanese-style “mood” fountain and set that up on the corner of the bathroom sink countertop. Oh, he was in heaven! He could curl up in the sink and watch water flow at the same time without getting wet (not that he cared about a little dampness)! He also would try out any semi-enclosed space for napping comfort. He was particularly interested in my desk’s file drawers whilst I was working, sitting in there watching me type. And whatever silly crazy thing he would do, he always had that long face and dour expression!
Meanwhile, Ginger has this thing she does fearlessly to introduce herself to new cats: She’s only a healthy 4 pounds because she’s a runt. So she walks right up to strange cats and chucks them under the chin with the top of her head! Oreo was promptly charmed. Jazz drew back and hissed at her and Ginger would leave for a few minutes, then come back and walk underneath her head again! After a couple days, Jazz and Ginger were good buddies. Works every time!
Even later, when I adopted a dog (Rocky), Ginger saw no reason to treat him any differently. So she did her little chin chuck. As a puppy, he drew back startled at first, then immediately perked up and told himself, “This could be fun,” and they played together throughout his puppyhood. I was a little concerned at first when he’d chase her, but when she turned around and chased him, I knew it’d be OK.
Welp, there was one time when the chin chuck dramatically didn’t work. When we moved here to upstate New York to help out Mom and Dad, Ginger tried her usual move with their pootie, Pawlette. And Pawlette attacked her with destructive intent! I’ve never seen Ginger run so fast! I live upstairs in Mom-and-Dad’s house. We had installed a screen door at the top of the stairs so my pets would stay in their own area; my parents knew Pawlette was not good with other aminals; they had originally had two pooties and they barely tolerated each other. When we first moved in, Pawlette would climb to the top of the stairs and howl in prime fight mode at my pets from the other side of the screen door. Rocky and Oreo would stay far away from the screen door. Ginger would walk right up to the door and stare at her through the screen, sometimes with her head tilted like “What is your problem?”. Sometimes Ginger would chatter at Pawlette like Pawlette was a squirrel. After a while, Pawlette seemed to calm down, so we cautiously let Ginger out to see if they’d make friends. Then the Big Chase ensued! So I pulled the screen door open to let Ginger back upstairs. Fortunately, Pawlette was heavy and slow, so Ginger made it back upstairs with plenty of time to spare, whilst Pawlette had to stay on the other side. Back she went to howling!
My parents never wanted to try reintroducing Ginger to Pawlette again. Since I didn’t have the money for vet visits if it went sideways, I had to agree. But I really think a few more chin chucks and Pawlette would have accepted Ginger just like Jazz did! But we’ll never know. Pawlette passed away this summer, from kidney disease IIRC; she was about 18 I think. Lordy, I hate 2020. Pawlette was great with both of my parents, now Mom has no one to sleep with (she doesn’t want Ginger maybe having an accident in her bed). Sigh again.
But back to the Lexington years: Once Ginger made friends with everybody, she then gradually brought Eeyore and Jazz together! Jazz would hiss, Eeyore would back off with his feelings wounded, Ginger would snuggle up with him. Or Eeyore would chase Jazz, she would be scared into hiding, Ginger would go behind the furniture or in the cat cave with her and snuggle up with her. As Eeyore gradually learned to leave Jazz alone, Jazz gradually came out from her hidey holes and joined us. On the couch or in the bed, all five of us loved to snuggle up together. At first Ginger positioned herself between Eeyore and Jazz, but eventually it was unnecessary. There was even the day that Eeyore and Jazz snuggled up together! I didn’t mark it on the calendar, but this probably took about 5 years. Ginger didn’t give up until mission accomplished. Nevertheless, she purrsisted!
There was the incident of the Little Big Storm. Lexington is right in tornado alley, and the clouds sometimes looked downright scary. Weird light, you could almost feel the low pressure system, I often searched the clouds for funnel formation. Saw a few wedges, but never any swirling. We lived in a townhouse on the edge of a big empty yard, so the view from our upstairs bedroom window, just past the line of Bradford pear trees marking the boundary, was of a lot of sky.
Well, one day tornadoes and destructive thunderstorms were forecast. The sky was that weird shade of dark, almost green. And one single cloud loomed toward us from right over the churchyard. It looked like it might form a funnel, but more importantly at that moment, it was letting out lightning that struck the next-door yard more than once! Accompanied by very loud BOOMS. Well, Ginger jumped up on the edge of the bed, faced the window in a bulldog stance I have never seen from her before or since, elbows out belligerently, and scolded that storm! It tamed to a grumble. She kept up the scolding until it passed by our window, over our roof, and went away!
The incident reminded me very much of the video below. Except: The cloud wasn’t swirling. Ginger’s chittering is much more pleasant. And she was scolding, not praying! It sounded very much like she was saying, “Go away from us, storm cloud!”. Until it went past the window, over the roof, into the parking lot and away from us. If I’d had the equipment and presence of mind to film that encounter, it would have made an excellent parody of this!:
She has been a miracle worker, has our Ginger! The storm chitterer.
She has of course been a nursemaid when anyone else was sick. She snuggled with each of the other pooties in turn when their times came, when she was able (some went to the vet). She snuggled with me, sick or well. She took the prime position on my shoulders or under my chin (I usually sleep on my side). This would usually be after walking on my back the way a proper meowsseuse does. Ahh…. So relaxing!
She and Oreo were the only pooties left when I went into diabetic crisis and had to go to the hospital after I moved in with Mom and Dad. My parents couldn’t navigate the stairs very well, but they kept my pets going with food and water and litter box and puppy pad changes. But for the 3 weeks I was in the hospital, most of the time the pooties were by themselves with Rocky. As soon as I came home, though, Ginger was the first to jump up on the bed and settle down with me.
Now here’s the really miraculous thing about Ginger as a healer: She can tell when Oreo is in diabetic crisis! Twice in the same very bad summer a few years back, he was actually getting better — not diabetic anymore — and so his insulin injections were too much! His blood sugar bottomed out whilst I was sleeping. And Ginger woke me both times! She scolded and pawed at me, which is not all that unusual when she decides it’s time for food or fun or what have you. Because of that, the first time I ignored her. And she actually took my wrist in her mouth and bit down until I woke up and then pulled! So I followed her to see what was up, and Oreo was in the bathroom wandering around like he didn’t know where he was. It was weekday daytime (unusual time for the cats to get sick!) so we were able to take him right in and they gave him sugar. The second time, I was prepared, I got up as soon as Ginger pawed at me, and gave him sugar myself. He was fine after a short recovery period both times. But the vet said he would have died without help! Ginger has saved his life twice! He has been better and stable for a long time now; and he has been off insulin, his sugar staying stable on a low-carb diet. But I won’t sleep quite as soundly if Ginger is no longer helping monitor him!
There was another incident where someone started cutting down all those trees bordering our property and she got me up then too. It turned out they were cutting on the wrong side, they were supposed to leave our trees alone! Had Ginger not wakened me and insisted I get up, all the trees would have been gone by the time I looked out the window. I heard chainsaws, but thought it was lawn mowers so paid no attention. So of course now I get up when she wants me to, and make sure everything is all right.
Of course, Ginger is still a pootie, albeit of the highest intelligence. So now that she knows she can get me up, she often takes advantage for an early morning snack. But it has been worth the trouble to know that our pets and our house and property are OK! Ginger has always been on duty!
Finally, Ginger has one more amazing, if minor, psychic power (she may have others that I’ve temporarily forgotten, as well): She finds what I’ve lost! She did this in Lexington many times. She’s even done this here at Mom-and-Dad’s house, after she went blind!
I can’t entirely explain this. She can’t possibly understand all the English I use, I haven’t trained her like Koko in the Cat Who books. The closest I’ve come to explaining it is that she must know when something is out of place and it bothers her, even though I am generally messy and things are often out of place!
And it doesn’t explain this old incident: I was looking for the newspaper because I wanted to go see a movie and wanted to look through the listings (yes, it’s that old!). So I said to her, “I can’t find the newspaper, what did I do with the newspaper?” She went right over and stood on top of a newspaper. I picked it up but it was Saturday’s (this was on a Saturday). I said, “No, not that one. I need the Friday newspaper, the one with the movie listings”. After a moment of nosing around, she drew my attention to a second newspaper — and it was Friday’s! (I probably had about a week’s worth of newspapers lying around.)
Then approximately a few months ago (so at least a year since she’d gone blind), I was looking all over for my computer mouse. I asked her where it was, but she didn’t seem to be cooperating. She was just lying on the arm of the chair above the trash basket, pointing her face at the basket. I looked everywhere that made sense (I usually kept the mouse on the opposite side of that chair). Then finally because she seemed to be trying to make a point, I emptied the trash basket. And yes, there was my mouse! It had fallen inside!
She is truly a miracle worker!
Now IMO, Ginger’s illness should change nothing about the Pootie Party Primary. Any purrsident worth his or her salt would surround herself with expurrts who would do the real work. We need a smart, compassionate purrsident who just needs to be able to direct things with the help of all her able assistants. Ginger still purrmotes two chickens in every garage and a catnip for every pot! A vote for Ginger is a vote for Hope and Brains!
I know Ginger is fighting for good health as hard as she can, fighting her aging body, knowing that we still badly need her and wanting to be with us. And I know she’ll win if winning is possible. But I just don’t know if winning is possible or for how long. For some reason, Ginger singing this song from Evita keeps popping into my head:
Where do we go from here?
This isn't where we intended to be
We had it all
You believed in me, I believed in you
What do we do for our dream to survive?
How do we keep all our passions alive
As we used to do?
Deep in my heart, I'm concealing
Things that I'm longing to say
Scared to confess what I'm feeling
Frightened you'll slip away
You must love me, you must love me
You must love me
Why are you at my side?
How can I be any use to you now?
Give me a chance, and I'll let you see how
Nothing has changed
Deep in my heart, I'm concealing
Things that I'm longing to say
Scared to confess what I'm feeling
Frightened you'll slip away
You must love me, you must love me
You must love me
We do love you, Ginger sweetie. We’re hoping all this medicating and syringing will soon help you get to a new level of relatively healthy stability. Get plenty of rest. It’s our turn now to do everything we can to nurse you back to health.
Please pray for us, fellow Peeps. We still need this little miraculous ball of fur.
It’s fine if it’s tl;dr. It’s helping keep my memories alive.