Saturday, July 4, 2015

My Cat Is Radioactive

So, when we got back from our trip before last (the one to the Midwest, not the one to Arkansas), our cat-sitter reported that one of our cats, little Hastur, has been drinking a lot of water, and there'd been a lot of activity in the dirt box. That in itself's not a big thing, given how hot it's been this summer, except that being both overweight and thirsty all the time are two of the warning signs of diabetes, and we wanted to make sure she didn't have it (or got prompt treatment if she did).

Turns out it's not diabetes, but it's a good thing we got her tested because in the process we discovered she has a hyperthyroid condition. As the vet explained this, older cats sometimes get a benign tumor in their thyroid gland, which goes into overdrive, causing it to boost their metabolism. The cat starts losing weight (she's dropped from 15 to 12 pounds between vet visits) and its behavior changes. We'd noticed that Hastur was much more alert lately and also becoming talkative for the first time in her life, but we attributed that to her filling in some of the  void caused by Rigby's passing.

In any case, there's a treatment for hyperthyroidism in cats that's expensive but is said to have a 95% success rate. There wasn't time to get things set up before we left for our then-pending Arkansas trip, but we read up on it and got her an appointment at the Hyperthyroid Treatment center down in Tacoma. Once we were back from the trip, it was time for her big adventure.  We dropped her off Tuesday, which was hard, and got daily updates on how she was doing.* Since the treatment involves injecting the cat with a radioactive isotope of iodine (I-131), she couldn't be released until the radioactive iodine in her system fell below a certain point,** making her street-legal, so to speak, again. I was out Thursday (working on my Ch Wms piece down at the local Starbucks) when Janice got a call that Hastur cd come home if we came and picked her up right away, so she set off and braved the Kent-to-Tacoma traffic in rush hour, collected little Hastur (who I'm sure was VERY happy to see her).

She came home slightly loopy (prob. a side-effect from cat-tranquilizers they had her on), with a list of do's and don'ts' regarding everything from what to do with the contents of her dirt box (where there could be concentrations of radiation), about not being in direct contact with the cat for more than one hour, cumulatively, per day, not letting her sleep with us, and so forth. All these were protective measures, it turned out, the actual risk being v. low (in a worse case, we might be exposed to as much radiation as we just got from cosmic rays during our recent flight to Arkansas and back).

Hastur was clearly delighted to be back home again, and has been fairly clingy ever since, as often as not staying in the same room with one or both of us. Feanor, on the other hand, has been weirded out by the whole thing. He didn't notice she was gone for the better part of a day, after which he seemed to adjust pretty well. But when she came back, he looked as if he'd seen The Ghost of Hastur, hissing and running away from her. Even after he calmed down a bit, he's crouch down and stare at her as if he could see with a cloud of radiation round her and shooting off rays in all directions. He's finally calmed down as of Friday night.

As for Hastur, she seems to be doing well. She doesn't like the pill we're to give her for her heart (her heartbeat is up to about 300 times per minute, which is too high), but at least it's a tiny one. We need to get her some kind of pill-pocket, but for now we've worked out a regimen that seems to be working: we give her a treat (her favorite kind, Feline Greenies), then the pill, then a second treat. The idea of the second treat is a reward and also a way to make sure she swallowed the pill (some cats are clever about carrying them around unswallowed in the mouth for several minutes), while the first treat is to get her willing to swallow what comes next. So, not ideal, but workable. Which is good, because while the murmur and elevated heartbeat might clear up on their own once her body resets after the thryoid treatment, it's quite possible she'll be on the twice-daily pill regimen the rest of her life -- which, now that we've got the hyperthyroidism taken care of, will we hope be a long and happy one.

When I started to write this post, she was all over paws-on-the-keyboard; now she's in her favorite box on my desk, snoozing away. Neither she now Feanor's going to enjoy the fireworks tonight, but at least they're both home and safe.

--John R.
current reading: THE REGION OF THE SUMMER STARS (Wms; re-reading), YOUNG MEN IN SPATS (Wodehouse)

*we were glad to hear she enjoyed burrowing in the crinkly paper we left with her and gladly accepted some petting and some of her favorite treats from the vet at the clinic. Felliway, we understand, was also involved on behalf of positive mood reinforcement.

**she got 3.75 millicuries; apparently it usually works its way through and out of the cat's system at the rate of about one mCi per day

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