More Good News about Newton

Yesterday I dropped Newton off at the vet for an ultrasound and a check-up on how he’s been doing in the week since he came back from his hospital stay.

The ultrasound mainly reminded me that ultrasounds are expensive. We learned that he has signs of heart disease, with the walls of his heart starting to thicken. Given his age, that’s not a surprise. It doesn’t really shine any light on the heart murmur he’s had for most of his life, though. He also has some mottling on his liver, which could mean any of a number of things. But as the vet pointed out, even if it turns out he has a tumor, am I really going to put an 18-year-old cat through radiation and/or chemo therapy? Probably not (especially since he’s had trouble with just plain sedation for a number of years now).

I kind of wonder whether I should have done the ultrasound at all, since what was it going to tell me that would have made me behave differently? I guess if we learned he had something really seriously wrong and we’d have to put him down (depressing as that is), but that’s about it. Really I just want him to be happy and comfortable for the rest of his life, so I don’t plan to put him through a big production if something heads south.


The good news is that his blood test came back and almost all of what they tested for is back within normal levels! One item – I think one of the kidney indicators – is still a little high, but it’s down a lot from where it started. And the vet says we can cut back on giving him subcutaneous fluids to every other day, and cut back his potassium supplements to only once per day. So that will make everyone happy. She’s very pleased with how well he’s responded.

On the home front, he’s clearly not able to do all the things he used to be able to do – he has to pull himself up when he jumps on the bed, for instance. Although he can jump up on the kitchen counter fine, so maybe he just has trouble judging how far to jump. I also watched him jump down from things today, and his rear legs are much more stable – he was still a little wobbly when we brought him home last week (of course, he’d just spent 4 days mostly in a cage).

So it looks like Newton’s going to be with us for a while yet. Which is good news!

Recharge Weekend

After all the excitement last week, we had a fairly low-key weekend. Starting Friday night with dinner at Don Giovanni, always tasty. We walked there in the rain, as we were getting showers off an on all weekend, which I appreciated. (I wish we’d gotten more rain than we did, though.)

Friday was also new iPad day, and I received mine as did everyone else who pre-ordered them. I set it up that evening, and converted my iPad 2 to Debbi’s use. Trying to move it over to someone else without wiping it seems to be a little risky, as she ended up with a melange of her data and mine that I couldn’t figure out how to fix, so on Saturday I just wiped it and started anew, which worked much better. The high-res display sure is gorgeous. Otherwise it’s not a huge step up from the iPad 2 in my (brief) experience, but friends who moved from an original iPad say it is a big step forward from that.

Saturday evening we had plans to have another pot luck dinner with our neighbors, and since one of them usually cooks enough entrees for everyone, we decided to make dessert. Debbi baked an apple pie, and I made cream cheese brownies. We had a great time with our neighbors; got to see someone else’s house, and the food was great. Afterwards there are show tunes (one of the neighbors plays piano, another one sings), and home-made limoncello. I ate a little too much, and started drifting off due to the alcohol (have I ever mentioned what a lightweight I am when it comes to drinking?), but we had a lot of fun.

Sunday we mostly just hung out at home. We took care of some chores around the house, and I started preparing for fantasy baseball draft day. We got a few rain squalls – one of which came with tiny hail stones – and snuggled with the cats. A nice quiet day.

Newton is doing quite well. We’re getting good at giving him his subcutaneous fluids, and Debbi thinks he feels perkier and healthier shortly after we give them to him, which could be given that we’re doing it to help his weak kidneys. Overall I’m happy with how he’s doing, and we’ll see what the vet thinks when I take him in later this week.

We needed some time off this weekend. It went by too fast.

Newton’s Home!

I left a little early yesterday to pick up Newton from the vet. He’s so much better! He’s gained about a point of weight, is standing fully on his hind legs, and is much more alert and cheerful. He came home and got a good sniffing from Blackjack and Roulette, and hung out with us for part of comic book night until deciding to go snooze on the bed.

He’s still a little subdued and his legs seem a bit wobbly, but as Debbi pointed out, he did spend most of 4 days in a cage hooked up to an IV drip. He’s been meowing a bit for attention, and last night I woke up to see him holding Blackjack by the scruff of the neck (something he used to do to Jefferson a lot) and making little meowing sounds. I guess he needed to reestablish his position with Blackjack when he returned.

The downside to all of this (other than a shockingly high vet bill) is that he’s going to be on a variety of medications, some of them for the rest of his life. He’ll be getting subcutaneous fluids daily, and pills to reduce his phosphorus and increase his potassium levels. (The vet thinks it’s likely that his funny walking was due to low potassium.) In the short term he’s also taking an antibiotic for the cold he had, and will be getting shots which are supposed to promote red blood cell creation. Fun fun.

My hope is that eventually he can cut back on the fluids to every other day, and reduce or eliminate some of the other pills. Giving them all to him is no fun, although he’s largely well-behaved in taking them.

This will make planning vacations trickier while he’s around, though. We may have to give in and actually hire a professional pet sitter.

I’m just glad he’s back. When we took him in on Saturday I didn’t really think he’d come home, and I even took him to Roulette and Blackjack so they could say goodbye, whatever that meant for them. (Jefferson just went to the vet that last time and never came back.) Roulette’s been following him around, which is adorable.

In other cat news, this morning I took Blackjack in for his scheduled check-up, and he seems to be doing fine (pending the results of the blood work). He’s put on weight, so we’re going to cut back on the steroid he’s been taking to stimulate his appetite, and the vet doesn’t feel his tumor returning. The technician I met with says she also has a deaf cat, and her cat also goes into small rooms and meow its head off, just like Blackjack does, so maybe that’s just a deaf-cat thing. (If we get kittens while he’s still around, I wonder if they’ll go look for him during his meow-fests, and what he’ll think of that.)

Anyway, I don’t have any illusions about how serious Newton’s condition is, but the vet says it’s possible that with continued care he could be around for a while yet.

Which, since he turns 18 next month, means we still need to figure out where he’s going to go to college. Sheesh!

A Visit With Newton

This afternoon we went to the vet to visit Newton. Actually we went to bring Roulette in to check out her cold, and got her some meds. But then we spent time with Newton.

He looks a lot better than he did yesterday, but he’s still pretty lethargic. Debbi stayed for a bit before leaving to take Roulette home:

You can see the big IV in his arm. I think getting rehydrated is a big part of why he looks better.

I had my book discussion an hour after our appointment, so I was able to spend most of that time hanging out with Newton in a room. He snuggled with me for a while, and I showed him around the room (he sniffed at the orchid in the room), and he walked around a little. I think he stayed low to the ground because it was a strange room, but he was able to stand up fully on his hind legs a couple of times, another improvement from yesterday.

I think he eventually got tired and went back to the bed he had in his cage, so I petted him a bit more, and then brought him back. He’s spending tonight at the vet again. Maybe tomorrow he’ll be able to come home. We’ll see.

Newton at the Vet

Thursday I made a Saturday vet appointment for Newton, who has been sniffling and sneezing for a week or so. I’d expected he’d just need another round of antibiotics, as he also had a cold in January, with an outside chance that it was something worse.

Thursday night when I got home it started looking worse: He was walking around the house crouched down, kind of crabbing along with his hind legs, and never standing up straight on them. Plus he was having trouble jumping. He also seemed to not be eating his dry food anymore, though he ate wet food. He’s been getting thinner and thinner (he was never a big cat to start with, and now he has hyperthyroidism), so I gave him a lot of wet food for Thursday and Friday.

But Saturday morning he was only walking a few feet at a time before resting, and he didn’t have much interest in the wet food. He just wanted to curl up and sleep on the bed. So I was really worried that the end was near. He turns 18 next month, and he’s outlived his brother Jefferson by 2 years at this point. I know the day will come sometime, but as late as last fall I was joking that he’d outlive all the other cats, as he seemed immortal. We spent parts of Saturday hanging out with him and snuggling him in case this was it for him.

On the drive to the vet he was a little more alert, looking at things out the windows (which he’s always liked to do) and meowing occasionally (he hasn’t meowed much in quite a while).

To cut to the end of the story, Newton has a number of problems, but none of them seem life-threatening by themselves. Taken together, it’s hard to say, but it seems like he could overcome them. He has a cold, and he’s lost some more weight (he’s not quite half the cat he once was, but he’s getting close). He also is dehydrated and is constipated (which may be related). The mystery is why he’s been walking the way he has, as he doesn’t seem to be in pain, doesn’t seem to have arthritis, and doesn’t seem to have any tumors. (I say “seem to” because it’s difficult to be certain – something could always be missed – but they haven’t found any of those things.) My theory is that his constipation is either making him uncomfortable when he walks, or it makes him feel like he’s going to dump everything if he walks normally.

So he spent last night at the vet, and she says he seems a little brighter today. He’s going to spend tonight there too, and then we’ll see. He’s getting antibiotics and hydration and a few other treatments. Maybe a lot for an elderly kitty, but he’s my elderly kitty, dammit!

It wouldn’t surprise me if he doesn’t last the rest of the year, but maybe he’ll surprise me. And in any event I just want him to be comfortable and happy until the time comes.

Meanwhile, we came home from the vet yesterday and found that Roulette had caught Newton’s cold. So I guess it was a real cold and not just reaction to his other ailments. Sigh. So we’ll take her in this afternoon to get her some meds, and visit with Newton at the same time. I don’t know if we’ll have Roulette visit with Newton, but I think she is a little baffled and sad by his absence; she’s been pretty snuggly with us recently.

The bright spot in all this is that yesterday we discovered that Blackjack is able to jump some places we didn’t think he was able to jump anymore due to his own issues. I guess having us pick him up to put him places has made him a little lazy, but when we refuse to do so because we don’t want him to crowd out Newton he just has to take matters into his own hands. The little rascal!

State of the Newton

I’ve written about Blackjack and his cancer so much over the last year that you might have forgotten we have 2 other cats.

Newton is our elderly orange kitty. He’ll be 18 in April, and we’ve been together for over 17 years. He’s lived in 2 states, in 4 different homes, he’s seen Blackjack and Roulette join our household, and seen his brother Jefferson pass away. He’s been on meds for the last 3+ years because he has hyperthyroidism. Yet he keeps plugging away.

After his vet appointment in November the vet upped his meds by 50%. And then over the holiday break he came down with a kitty-cold, for which I took him in last week and got him some antibiotics. The vet said that in older cats sometimes sniffling and sneezing is just a respiratory infection, but sometimes it’s an indication of something worse, like a tumor. Fortunately, the antibiotics seem to have taken care of his symptoms (with 2 days of meds left to go).

Newton’s always been a small cat – I think he topped out at a little under 10 pounds at his heaviest – and he’s gotten smaller in his old age. He’s now at about 6-3/4 pounds, and he is definitely boney. I’ve actually been worried the last week that he hasn’t been eating enough, although he loves wet cat food when we give it to them, but I have seen him eating his dry food in the last couple of days, which is a relief. But he’s so small that I’ve been worrying about him. Fortunately, he hasn’t shown any indication of being unable to do things he normally does, like jump up on the counter, or have trouble going up the stairs.

What he has done is slowed down. He was a manic cat when he was younger, and now he’s sedate. He plays a little, but not very much. He used to run all over the townhouse, but he hardly runs at all anymore. He does sometimes get that old spring in his step when he’s trotting around, though. But he spends a lot of time sleeping, and he especially likes to sleep in the hallway from our bedroom to the master bathroom, which we think it because it’s warm – we have a thermometer in the closet there, and it’s consistently 2-3 degrees warmer there than any of the other places in the house where we have thermometers. I don’t know that Newton has arthritis, but maybe the warmer temperature is more comfortable to him. He’s never been big on purring, but it’s been a while since he’s purred, that I can recall.

It seems like he’s slowed down a lot in the last few months, so when I take him in to get his blood work retested later this month, I’ll ask the vet whether the increased thyroid meds may be slowing him down. The vet who checked him out for his cold said his heart rate seems to be under control due to the meds. I just hope it’s not too under control. He’s also been getting picky about taking his thyroid meds, enjoying pill pockets less than he used to. (He eats them more enthusiastically when they’re fresh. But since they come in packs of 45, they get less fresh long before they run out. I’m trying to figure out how to store some of them so they stay fresher.)

If all this sounds like I’m preparing for the worst, well, I guess I am. He’s an old kitty, most cats don’t make it to his age. And he’s slowing down. And I know he’s not going to be here forever. And after Jefferson’s quick departure, and with Newton showing signs of his age, I guess I’m steeling myself to not be quite so blindsided when the time does come. It doesn’t help that Blackjack’s condition makes me more aware of Newton’s age.

I’m trying not to think about it too much, though. But I am trying to give him more attention and affection, especially when I realize he’s been snoozing up in the hallway most of the day and hasn’t come down to hang out with us. I’m grateful that he’s still healthy and comfortable. I miss the little troublemaking cat he used to be, but I’m glad the old snuggly guy he’s become is still with us.

And I’m really glad that he seems to have given up on meowing his head off in the middle of the night!

Gratuitous Cat Pictures

Time for a few pictures of our cats as they enjoy our new home.

First, can you spot the two cats in the photo below?

Roulette & Newton have been enjoying the morning sun in the guest room, and Roulette has also turned into something of an “under-furry”.

Blackjack sometimes lies in the sun, but lately he’s discovered that the heating vent under our kitchen island blows a nice stream of hot air to warm his paws and shaved belly:

And one morning he decided he really needed the warmth:

Roulette has been getting more used to the downstairs, and the other morning she was enticing me to pet her on top of the kitchen island:

Blackjack and Roulette each like sleeping in the papasan, which now lives in the library upstairs (which holds my comic books, humor books, and mass-market paperback fiction). Sometimes, when there’s no sun elsewhere, they’ll sleep together:

But more likely we’ll find Newton and Roulette sleeping together, which is how I found them a few minutes ago when I came up to post this entry:

The Kitty What Meows at Night

Debbi and I have a problem: Newton, our 16-year-old cat, has started standing in the middle of the bedroom in the middle of the night (anytime between midnight and 4 am) and meowing. What does he want? We don’t know. Sometimes he’ll come up to snuggle with us for a few minutes, and then he goes back to the floor and meows some more.

And wakes us up, naturally.

My best idea for discouraging him was to put a night-light in the bedroom (so I can see him) and squirt him with a water bottle when he starts up. But it’s not really working, partly because he’s figured out what when I sit up he should go hide under the papasan so he can’t get squirted.

I asked the vet about it around Thanksgiving (it’s gotten more frequent since then), and she said that geriatric cats do strange things for no particular reason, and she didn’t have any suggestions. So we don’t know what to do.

We can, I suppose, lock him and the other two cats out of the bedroom overnight, or just lock Newton in the other bedroom by himself. The latter seems a little cruel, and while the former may become necessary, I can easily see him meowing from the hall and scratching at the door, so that’s no guarantee.

Last night fortunately he only meowed briefly after we went to bed, and then curled up under our top blanket. Debbi has a theory that maybe his old body is uncomfortable in the cold weather and he’s complaining to us about it. It was a little warmer last night. So maybe there’s something to that – it’s as good an idea as any, I guess.

But we’re not going to be able to survive him waking us up 4 or 5 times a week, so we have to figure something out.

More Adventures with Newton

So Wednesday I had the feeling that something was not right with Newton. Now, all three cats have been in mega-sleep-overtime during my week off, probably a little confused that I’ve been around, and bored that I wasn’t playing with them. Plus it’s been hecka cold, which may have made them want to curl up and snooze.

But Thursday it had become clear that Newton wasn’t eating or drinking very much, and Friday morning he didn’t take his daily pill (for hyperthyroidism), which he always takes because he loves pill pockets. He did eat some soft food we bought, though, and he’d drink some water out of the sink. I worried that his mouth hadn’t healed well from his oral surgery, or had gotten infected, since the vet didn’t give me antibiotics for him.

So Friday afternoon we took him in to the vet. She checked him out and said his mouth has actually been healing very well. But I also said that he’d been having some diarrhea, and going on our bathroom carpets too, and she said that his thyroid meds – which we recently upped in dosage because his thyroid level had gone up – can cause diarrhea as a side effect. And of course diarrhea leads to dehydration, and he has been dehydrated.

So he’s been off the thyroid meds for the weekend, and he’ll go back to his older level tomorrow, and then go up a little – but not as far – in a week, and see how he does. But I foresee having to balance controlling his thyroid vs. disturbing his bowels. He’s also on a round of medication to help his diarrhea.

He seems to be getting better, although he’s not yet eating a lot, and he’s still kind of lethargic. So I’m still worrying about him a lot. Debbi tells me that worrying about him doesn’t help anyone, but it’s hard not to worry. I am encouraged that he still drinks out of the sink, and he is eating some things. But he’s not back to normal.

All-in-all, not really what I’d wanted to be spending my mental energy on over Thanksgiving weekend.

We did have some fun, though: Visited a couple of friends who are moving away next month, visited a couple of other friends and their infant and had brunch. Went for a walk in a part of our neighborhood we hadn’t walked through before.

Hard to believe it’s back to work tomorrow.