This morning we put Lefty to sleep. After showing promising improvement since his seizures over the weekend, he took a turn for the worse and we had to say goodbye to him forever.
Since the incident over the weekend, we determined that Lefty most likely had FIP, a dangerously virulent disease that often kills its victims just as symptoms become apparent. Of the three common types of FIP (wet, dry, neurological), Lefty appeared to have the neurological variety. While the rest of his body seemed unaffected, the virus attacked his brain and caused a number of problems, some more obvious than others. We knew he had seizures but it took us a while longer to realize his vision had been affected as well. We're not sure if he was totally blind, he seemed to be able to follow large movements, but he definitely didn't have the visual acuity of a normal cat. But otherwise he seemed okay.
Since discharging him from the emergency hospital, however, Lefty had been fine. We set him up in a large crate so he could roam a bit without danger, and we catered to his whims. He loved formula so we stopped trying to convince him to clean his plate and just gave him the bottle instead. I started mixing some canned food into his bottles, which he readily gulped down. We think he would have consumed anything in a bottle, he loved it so much. Yesterday he topped his record and guzzled down two entire bottles, plus the plate food he ate during the day. One thing was certain, Lefty was not going hungry.
We had to give him several different medications, but this was old-hat for Lefty, a kitten who'd had oral meds nearly every day of his life. Aside from his fur getting crusted with formula, he looked pretty good. We gave him a bath and tried to help him relax. He didn't feel like playing but rather wanted to curl up with us, usually on our shoulders. He seemed drawn to our mouths and would sit next to our faces, first one then the other. As long as we spoke he didn't have any trouble getting to us. Last night he even got a bit playful, rolling around on my shoulder and grabbing at my nose. It was a bit like the old Lefty, who liked to play with large objects like the corner of a blanket rather than smaller cat toys. Maybe he had vision problems even back then.
This morning I found Lefty in the throes of what I thought was a seizure. He was contorted and making guttural noises, his body twitching randomly. But a seizure shouldn't last more than a few minutes and this kept going. We couldn't tell if he was conscious or not, at times he seemed to be trying to right himself but most of the time he just seemed to be on auto-pilot.
After yet another endless, incredibly annoying livery cab ride to VERG, the vets took him to try to calm the tremors. Eventually the vet came to speak with us. He said the attempts to counter the attack wasn't working, and that based on the signs he was already 'checked out.' He said at this point there wasn't anything more to do, that maybe it was finally his time to go.
We had spent the weekend preparing for this moment, but then we were given a respite when we saw that Lefty was well enough to come home. Even though we knew something could happen again, we let ourselves consider that Lefty might continue to be around. And now here we were, back at the ER and having to say yes, we will put our 3.5 month old kitten down.
We asked to stay, and they brought Lefty in. The anticonvulsives had calmed his twitches down a bit, but he still didn't seem to respond to us. He still looked very cute, which made it all the harder, but we could tell he wasn't coming back from this one. The tragedy of a disease that affects the brain like this is that the rest of his body was really in fine shape, his heart was strong, his belly full. But I took some comfort in the idea that with the brain going first, it's less likely he was aware of what was happening, and I don't think he was in any pain. The vet administered the drugs (they had put in an IV catheter) and quiet seconds later it was all over.
We're very sad but take comfort in the way everything progressed. If it was inevitable, at least we got first, the reprieve (the extra two days after his initial hospitalization) and second, the notion he wanted for nothing until it was time to go. We didn't have much time with him, but we don't regret offering to take him from that guy who came into our vet's office with a 5-day old Lefty bundled up in a cardboard box …
We were there getting our cats Marbles and Jefe checked up when he came in, saying he had found Lefty in Jamaica, Queens, but didn't know anything about cats, much less neonatal kittens. The vet wasn't going to take him, they started giving him numbers to call. It's completely possible he would have called them and found somebody to take him, but he was already whining a bit about how he went out of his way to bring the kitten in. As a cat novice he thought that was already above and beyond the call of duty. We had a little experience with 'bottle babies' in the past, so with some grumbling on my part we offered to take him. We hadn't even seen him at this point and were surprised to see how small he was. We gave him his first taste of formula with a plastic syringe, right on the vet's reception counter. The vet examined him and gave us meds for the upper respiratory infection he would never really shake. We went home with 3 cats in tow, and the rest is now history.
We miss this teddy bear.