Monday, November 5, 2007

What's your cat worth?

So I come home from the bus last Friday to find my cat lying listless on the hallway carpet. Upon further inspection I notice that it sounds as if she is breathing under water. Figuring she is not trying to re-create the liquid-inhaling scene in The Abyss, I call the vet and lucky for me, I can bring her down in 15 minutes.

The previous night my 5 month-old daughter finally slept through the night. In fact, she slept until about 8:00 and I had to wake her to take our other kids to the bus. So you can imagine how excited and hopeful I was that this would be the start of a new sleep-all-night plan. You can also imagine that after not having nursed her for 12 hours, my breasts were right up there with Sandra Lee. (see Cooking 101 blog) I figure that I’ll feed her when I return from the bus; sit down with my coffee, watch a little Ellen and drain the girls.

[Real time]
I find the cat carrier downstairs, quickly wipe all the dry wall dust from the outside, shove my cat into it, put my daughter in her car seat, quickly make a 4 oz bottle of formula to tide her over (at some point she’s going to start screaming), and head out the door for the vet. Luckily the office is only about 7 minutes from my house and we are there in no time. I park, grab the 25 pound car seat, my purse, grab the 20 pound cat carrier and hunch-back-lumber myself to the door, up four steps and into the office.

Let me fast forward (for the sake of time). We are called back, vet checks my cat, listens to me describe her issues—which also includes two random and unexplained episodes of collapsing and spontaneously urinating on the floors this summer—and yep, he says, I hear fluid in her chest and it sounds like a heart condition and you better….5-month-old daughter is now screaming and flailing her arms, so like all good WT moms I prop up her bottle with a blanket and jiggle jiggle jiggle the car seat with my foot so she’ll stop crying all the while trying to grasp what the vet is saying…take her right to the Animal Hospital it’s only four miles down this very street where they’ll run a few tests to determine what’s wrong with her and listen to her heart…and the bottle is empty and now my daughter is wailing again, and my chest is like two over-filled water balloons and I’ve sprung a leak, but I manage to croak out what tests and how much…and they’ll probably do a chest x-ray, an ultra sound and maybe EKG on her heart, and they may need to drain some fluid right away, those tests are around $500…and it seems like an inappropriate thing to ask how much it costs to just put her down, because what if it is just a cold or a stuffy nose and then I killed my cat for something silly that could be fixed, and then you start to philosophize the word value, and worth, and is my cat worth $500, and if she is, then is she worth whatever it costs to fix her? And if not, then I should have just had her euthanized in the office back there…
[deep breath]
…but now I find myself driving like a bat-out-of-hell to the Animal Hospital, my daughter still screaming, my cat barely breathing, sharp stinging pains shooting from my breasts, and the thing I am really pissed about is the fact that I only got one cup of coffee before I left the house and I missed Ellen. But I get to the Animal Hospital (after driving right by it the first time) and I’m expecting to see a huge white building of sorts with maybe a big red cross and some animals on a sign, but find only a tiny, dark grey ranch style house, with only four parking spaces to it’s name—which by the way you have to back out into the street to get out of—and this should have been a sign about how many people can afford to use the Animal Hospital. But I grab all assorted animals and children again and hunch-back-lumber myself through the parked cars and to the door, and now the cat is being whisked away and I’m signing papers, and they will call me they said, when they run some tests and know more. I’m driving home. I’m teary eyed—yes for the thought of my almost dead cat, but also the fact that this has all happened in the span of one hour and I’m not quite sure if I’m awake or dreaming.
I get home.
I decide that since my daughter only got four ounces of formula she must still be hungry, so I decide to use her as a leech of sorts and relive some of the chest pain I’ve been experiencing. While nursing her I have a few (small) moments to breathe and now can contemplate how I’m going to tell my husband about the cat and the $500 bill, which leaves me feeling rather nauseous because he doesn’t really like to spend money let alone on a cat he only tolerates. So I’m thinking that my day has calmed down a bit. One fed baby. One hospitalized cat. The calm and quiet are soothing me a bit. I set my daughter in her exer-saucer-thing and head for the sink to start some dishes…the phone rings, it’s the animal hospital, my cat is resting quietly on oxygen, (oxygen???) did well during the x-ray and the ultrasound she has a…while I’m listening to the vet I hear weird noises from aforementioned baby who apparently got too much to drink and now she is like an over-filled water balloon that has sprung a a leak, and she’s puking, once twice three times for good measure the entire contents of her stomach all over her exer-saucer-thing…enlarged heart and some fluid in her chest the disease is called lkjofiwjaoeijcardiomyopethy…which is what I think he said, because it was a really long name and now my daughter is covered in puke and screaming…daily medication should help it but we need to monitor her and you can come pick her up later today, oh and by the way there are two other blood tests we should run to make sure it’s not her thyroid but we can discuss that later when you pick her up…again I manage to croak something about costs while extracting my dripping daughter from said play-thing…about $957 with the blood work…and once again I don’t know how to politely say how much does it cost to just put her down and instead wonder what a divorce costs these days because after my husband hears this new balance that’s where I’m headed…but I say I’ll pick her up after the kids get off the bus about four or four-thirty and can you tell me the bill so far…fine, he says we’ll see you then, by the way, it’s $707.

[deep breath]
I’ll skip the part where I call my husband and tell him what is going on.

Three-thirty. One angry husband home. Out chopping wood in the backyard. One sleeping baby sans puke. Two children off the bus. One tired, nauseous, barely-holding-on mom en-route to Animal Hospital.

Pick up said cat look at bill its $957, what’s this I ask I thought it was only $707…well that’s with the other blood tests (implied: because a good pet owner would want to run all the tests possible to find out what is wrong with their beloved family pet you horrible-pet-owner-you)…and once again I croak out I’m sorry I can’t pay for those tests, we’ll have to wait and see how she does, and now I manage to ask the morbid details of euthanizing her—which by the way is only $50—and if she dies at home then what…let’s schedule an appointment for next week to see how she is doing, oh and by the way, this condition does carry with it the possibility of sudden death.
Yes, your cat’s heart is large and damaged and she could at any time have a heart attack and suddenly die, just so you are aware, but here is her medication twice a day and we’ll see you in a week and then a week after that to monitor her…and I’m thinking so I just paid $707 for them to tell me what is medically wrong with my cat and give me medication and she could fall over dead any moment anyway, and $707 would have probably bought seven new cats from the humane society, would have paid for two round trip plane tickets to Arizona, would have covered the cost of a stainless steel dishwasher and microwave for our kitchen remodel, would have not only bought new shelving for our playroom but also wall-to-wall carpet to boot…
But I have my cat. One, barely breathing cat who laid on the bed for two days and didn’t eat or drink anything for 48 solid hours.
I’m still married.
Cat rallied.


beebee said...

Cat rallied. Good line. I'm happy to hear the kitty didn't buy the farm. I'll keep my fingers crossed that she doesn't drop dead. Especially after that financial investment.

We do love our pets, don't we?

Rachel said...

Well, if she does drop dead I hope it is after she has lived $707 worth of time.

Anonymous said...

I was considering getting a new kitten before I read this blog...thankyou for reminding me of the stress animals can bring...

I think my heart was actually racing half way through the story. I hate those days!!


Dianne said...

Nice to hear someone actually verbalize these things. I mean, seriously. Appliances? Cat? Where do we draw the line I ask of you. All kidding aside, I'm glad kitty's ok. For now. Great blog once again!

Megan said...

Quite an investment for a nine year old animal. One of our fishes died the other day that we had for about 6 years. I didn't even try CPR and that is free!

Glad Kosh is better. Next time call me and I will walk you through how to ask a vet about your "options"

Megan said...

Oh- I read this out loud to Grandma tonight (I am in Flag) and she laughed a couple times. She did mention that she didn't think Walt (Grandpa) would have gone for the $700 bill.

Thought you should know. :)

rachel said...

In Grandmas day I think the cats all just died and decomposed in the barn on their own. A natural fertilizer of sorts. Or I could go "Uncle Jim" and just take it in the woods and shoot her in the head. So much more humane that way, says he.

Course I'd need a gun.

cbro said...

Koskaa noooo, poor thing is ailing,
uncle chris has a cat named george, no one else nows until now.
he was born in June as are all smart cats.
Ps Bro has a gun somewhere, prally in west virginia

Fred A. said...

Seems that during your childhood we had a couple of these issues as I remember it. Lib stands out in my mind. Never could have another dog because of it. What's the name of the song, "Never Can Say Goodbye"?

Your article provides much insight into a brief conversation I had with your husband when asked about what was going on, he (typically) said understating, "I chopped some wood today".... very insightful now that we all know...