Most of you who know us know the cat in the picture on the left. That’s Walter – he’s our 14 year old male cat that’s been with us since before Anna was born. He’s defied so many odds in his long life, not the least of which was being a runt kitten found at Buckwalter Motors (hence the name) in Washington, Iowa. He has about 4 teeth and an enlarged kidney full of stones that causes his urine to be pretty much constantly pink. He’s survived at least three brushes with death, the first due to a bad reaction to general anesthesia, the second related to what turned out to be a benign tumor on his neck, and finally, the enlarged kidney that we thought would do him in for sure. Through it all, he has persevered.
He’s always been such a, I don’t know, a “Walter” that we can hardly imagine our lives without him, even though sometimes we think he needs a Xanax. For the last few months, he has been ravenously hungry. We feed him wet food twice a day, mostly because he has a tendency to barf up the dry kibble. He has so few teeth that he has to practically swallow it whole and then back up it comes. Anyway, we’ve noticed an uptick in his normal begging and wanting to be fed. It just didn’t seem right to us, even for a beggar like Walter, so we took him to the vet.
As it turns out, his thyroid hormone level is off the charts. Of note, every single one of his other labs is perfectly normal – even his renal labs which, with his kidney issues, I’d expect to be at least a little whacked. Since excessive thyroid hormone basically revs up your metabolism, it’s no wonder that he’s been so hungry. I talked with the vet the other night and he said that we had a couple options – oral meds or, if we were interested, radiation treatments through Iowa State University which will cure his hyperthyroidism. The oral medicine is dirt cheap and the radiation treatments are amazingly pricey. It didn’t take me long to decide that we weren’t going to put Walter through costly radiation treatments at his advanced age. It’s not that I didn’t want to spend the money on him – Lord knows we’ve spent a fair amount on all our cats – but at a certain point, the cost to benefit ratio just doesn’t justify dumping a bunch of money into an elderly cat. The vet pretty much concurred with that thought. His pragmatic view to pet health care is one of the many things I love about him. If Walter were five and otherwise healthy, I might feel differently, but as it stands, he’s gonna get meds twice a day for the rest of his life.
Fortunately for us, giving him meds will not be quite as challenging as one might think. Cats seem to have the adaptability of the Borg when it comes to figuring out ways to combat your attempts to give them medicine. But not Walter. Even though we might be scratched to to death and he surely would lose bladder control if I were to try to give him meds by holding him down, the thyroid medicine is so small that I can just put the tablet into his wet food and he eats it right up, none the wiser. He has no idea that he’s been had. Many cats would know and never eat that food again regardless, but Walter is not that proud.
Walter continues to be a remarkable study in contrasts. He’s old and has had so many health crises that by rights, he should be dead. Yet he continues to live. He’ll probably be like the old ladies in the Eddie Izzard bit that will live to a million. He’s annoying and is frequently booted from your lap due to his inability to sit still, but when he inevitably does shuffle off this mortal coil, I will miss him so much. He’s been with us for so long and is our grand elder statesman of our cats. Such an unlikely grand elder statesman never existed.
But Walt’s not going anywhere any time soon. He’ll live to annoy and drool for many days to come.