CAT BALLOU December, 1999 - December 23, 2014
Cat Ballou is a special cat – the first cat that Jesse has ever liked. Bill and Natalie found him, as a kitten, at a dumpster next to the Burger King in Columbus, Texas. Finding no one who knew anything about him, they brought him home to us in January, 1999. We grew fond of him as we watched his personality develop from a kitten to an adult cat. One day, I walked down the street to visit with a neighbor in her yard. She saw Cat Ballou, who had followed at my heels, and said, “I’ve never seen a cat walking with someone like a dog does!” Usually, when we arrive at home by car, Cat Ballou is wandering “his” territory. When he sees us, he runs across several yards to our house. But as soon as he crosses into our yard, he switches into “cool’ mode, and saunters up to us, his tail held straight up, as if he owns the place. He allows us to pet him for a second, but no more. If we want to pet him some more, he reminds us, with a nip, that he has had petting enough for now. Several of our neighbors are entertained by his pouncing and hunting habits while they work in their yards. Cat Ballou is a handsome cat, a tuxedo cat – black with a white chin, white chest and white feet.
On Sunday morning, April 25, 2004, as I entered the kitchen, I saw Cat Ballou lying in the plants in the back yard. He NEVER lays in the back yard, so immediately I knew something was wrong. He was struggling to breathe. I called Jesse outside. He said “Let’s get Cat Ballou to the Emergency Clinic”. We rushed him to the clinic – his lung capacity was less than the size of a half-dollar. His diaphragm had been ruptured. His spleen was bruised. His intestines were pushed into his pleural cavity. He was in shock – his temperature was 95, should have been 101, so Melanie Fox, DVM, could not operate until 6 pm when they got him stabilized and his temperature was back up.
I went to the Emergency Clinic to see check on Cat Ballou at 10 pm after his surgery. During surgery, Cat Ballou went into respiratory failure. After they revived him, he went into cardiac failure. Again they revived him. They didn’t give us much hope for his recovery.
Distraught, I walked out of the clinic, missed a step-down from a ramp with no lighting, and fell. It was dark and no one was around. I couldn’t get up. My leg was twisted. The pain was intense. So intense that I could not call out. I had to wait until a receptionist came out on her break. I called to her. She was pregnant, so could not help me; but stood by while I slowly pulled myself to a standing position. But, this is Cat Ballou’s story, not mine.
We were told to pick up Cat Ballou at 6:30 am on Monday, April 26th – the Emergency Clinic is open only nights and weekends. We transported Cat Ballou across town to our regular vet, but our vet was out of the office until 10:30 am. Because Cat Ballou had to be hooked back up to his oxygen and IV fluids right away, we transported him back across town to Westlake Feline Hospital. This turned out to be a good move because there are several veterinarians there, and we needed the expertise of them all before the week was over.
Thomas Bradfield, DVM, at the Feline Hospital kept Cat Ballou stabilized during that Monday, April 26th; however, he asked us to take him back to the Emergency Clinic for the night because Cat Ballou needed constant monitoring. So back we went to the Emergency Clinic. His red-blood-cell count was 17 and needed to be at least 30. We agreed to a whole blood transfusion. At 11pm, the clinic found a donor cat – where, I don’t know - and did the transfusion.
We picked Cat Ballou up at 6:30 am on Tuesday, April 27th, to transport him back to the Feline Hospital. He was becoming more alert, but would not eat. They force-fed him, and gave him IV fluids and pain killers though out the day. We picked him up at 6 pm and brought him home, spending a sleepless night watching over him, giving him IV fluids, drawing the fluid off his pleural cavity, and trying to force-feed him. Cat Ballou was having trouble standing on his back legs. He would walk to the litter box, then collapse when he tried to use the bathroom. We thought he was weak from surgery and woozy from pain-killers.
At 8 am on Wednesday, April 28th, we took him back to the Feline Hospital where he was stable during the day. Brent Rains, DVM, took over his care. He removed Cat Ballou’s bandages and his pleural cavity catheter, and attached a morphine patch to his side. We brought Cat Ballou home for the night. We had made him a window seat, and he sat or laid there most of the night, snuggled up against the catnip cat pillow that was one of the many gifts in the get-well basket from our friend, Jim. Cat Ballou was still having trouble walking and would not eat.
We kept him at home on April 29th, force-feeding him and giving him Lactated Ringers IV fluid.
On Friday, April 30th, we returned to the Feline Hospital. An x-ray showed a dislocation of his pelvic bones from his sacrum. The original x-rays had not covered this part of his body because the most immediate trauma was to his chest. Unlike in humans, cats have only cartilage holding these bones together, so even if they pop the bones back into place, there is nothing to hold them in place. Dr. Rains, after consulting with the other vets in the office, and two specialists, said we could get an orthopedic surgeon to operate and pin the bones together or we could do nothing and eventually the bones would fuse – perhaps a little crooked. Understanding the consequences, but wishing not to subject Cat Ballou to further surgery, we chose the latter course. Cat Ballou got an enema to make sure his bowels were not blocked. His IV fluids were continued, and he spent the night at the hospital.
On Saturday, May 1st, when we arrived to collect Cat Ballou and his IV bag, we found the results of his lab tests were not good: his bone marrow was not producing red blood cells and that his kidneys were failing. The vets had started Cat Ballou on injections to jump start his red blood cell production. As we were leaving, the staff at the hospital were sad because they thought they were sending Cat Ballou home to die. However, we were not so sure. I bought fresh chicken livers, mashed them up with the blood and fed them to Cat Ballou. I bought a marrow bone and fed the marrow to him. Jesse and I gave him his IV fluids every day. We talked to him and petted him; Bill and Natalie sent him healing energy; and Jim gave him Reiki and prayed to St. Francis.
Five days later, on Thursday, May 6th, we returned to the Feline Hospital. Cat Ballou’s blood work was approaching normal. His red blood cell count was still low, but higher than before. His kidney creatin was still a little high, but lower than before. His kidney BUN was normal. The staff were all amazed. They removed Cat Ballou’s stitches. They gave him a B12 injection. They armed us with Cat Tinic, Lactated Ringers IV; needles, a prescription for a red-blood-cell booster serum, and a supply of Kidney D cat food, and told us to keep doing what we had been doing.
Eight days later, on Friday, May 14th, at the Feline Hospital, I reported a knot in Cat Ballou’s abdomen. Dr. Rains felt it, too. An x-ray that was inconclusive. A barium x-ray showed the barium moving through Cat Ballou’s digestive system with no blockages. However, after the x-ray, the knot was gone!
By now, we were weary of trying to force-feed Cat Ballou. If you have ever tried to force a cat to do anything, you know what I mean. Besides, his claws, which had been shredded during the accident, had grown back, and he had remembered how to use them. I had an inspiration for feeding Cat Ballou! He has always liked the juice off canned cat food, but doesn’t eat the food. I thought why not liquefy the cat food! I blended a mixture of the Kidney D food, salmon juice and warm water. He lapped it up – not a lot, but with gusto. He eats a little more each day. Now, I sometimes add cod liver oil and his Cat Tinic.
Ten days later, on May 25th, exactly one month after being run over by a car, we returned Cat Ballou to the Feline Hospital for a check up. He was well-hydrated, his gums were pink, his temperature was normal. Most importantly, his red blood cell count was 34% - well within normal range, and his BUN is normal; however, his creatin has risen from 3.7 to 5. We will continue giving him the Lactated Ringers IV fluid, and feeding him low-sodium, low-protein food.
Nine days later, on June3, Cat Ballou is sleeping peacefully on his Novafoam pillow on the sofa. When he was really sick, he chose to sleep between Jesse and me on our bed. We see his moving out of our bedroom as a sign of his continuing recovery. For the past few weeks, he has taken over the living room as his own. Gradually, he is taking over the entire house. He is leaping onto the counters and tables and window sills. He comes to greet us when we come home. He drinks from his new water fountain, and eats both dry and canned food with dainty gusto. He still likes the gravy best. Cat Ballou is learning patience, is making friends with Checkers and Madeleine, our other two inside cats. Cat Ballou looks out the window when awake – he is an outside cat, after all. Every once in a while he goes to the door and piteously whines to be let outside – to no avail on our part.
We figure he has used up at least six of his nine lives: 1. Falling off our metal roof, leaving scratch marks down the front fender of our car; 2. Being locked in our neighbors’ garage for a week while they were on a skiing trip; 3. Having a wooden garage door closed on his back; 4. Being run over by car; 5. Experiencing respiratory failure during surgery; and 6. Having cardiac failure during surgery. Because Cat Ballou is so important to us, Jesse and I, and Bill and Natalie, and our friend, Jim, don’t think we are ready to gamble on his remaining 3 lives.