The year of emergency room visits — that’s what 2015 has been for my little family. During the summer my husband visited the E.R. five times in two months (he’s doing much better now), and over a recent two-and-a-half-week stretch my senior cat Brandy did so twice (she’s doing better now too).
I NEVER WANT TO SEE AN E.R. WAITING ROOM EVER AGAIN!
While my husband’s illness scared me and made me worry, it was Brandy’s sudden ailments that broke my heart. At least my husband understood why he was in a hospital with weird people poking and prodding him. For Brandy, it was just stressful, scary, and confusing. As animal lovers know, illness is made more gut wrenching because we can’t make pets understand why all the scary stuff is happening.
We first took Brandy to the E.R. after I awoke to her throwing up uncontrollably. I don’t wish this scenario on anybody.
Rushing her to our vet (who thankfully works in a fully equipped, emergency veterinary hospital), poor Brandy was subjected to a barrage of tests, fluids, and exams. Aside from her existing liver and kidney issues, her heart was beating at a frightening rate (even while at rest in my arms), and her blood pressure was through the roof. Her kidneys, liver, and heart issues equated to one perfect storm of kitty distress.
When she was taken for additional tests, I just sat in the waiting room and cried.
Brandy came home that evening with strict instructions and medications from her vet. She looked at me with bleary eyes, and I pleaded with the universe to just make my kitty well again.
She improved slightly throughout the week, but seeing her dragging around the apartment looking dizzy and confused one morning prompted another visit to the E.R. Tests were administered, meds were adjusted, and Brandy was able to come home again that night.
More than a week later and Brandy was nearly her old self. A checkup revealed levels much closer to normal. Hearing her bellow for food again was the greatest sound.
Through all Brandy’s medical traumas, my cat-loving friends near and far were with us every step of the way. I don’t know what we’d have done without such support, advice, and small tokens of goodwill. I’ve helped friends through hardships with their pets, yet receiving the same made me think about all the ways, large and small, friends can help friends through tough times with their fur-babies.
Here are some of the ways people helped us cope with Brandy’s illness. I hope you never have to draw from this list, but if you do, know that these small acts help cat parents stay positive and hopeful.
At times I felt lonely, like I was the worst cat parent ever, and that I was the only one this had ever happened to. I was so grateful to friends who called or wrote to say in a no-nonsense, straightforward way that it was okay to be scared, that I wasn’t alone, and that Brandy was a tough, globe-trotting kitty who wasn’t done chasing the bathroom monsters or having late-night dance parties with me. My friends’ confidence made me believe that everything could and would be okay. In these times, sweetness was nice, but confidence that Brandy would recover was revitalizing.
During Brandy’s most touch-and-go times, she refused to eat. Seeing my formerly food-obsessed kitty sniff at CHICKEN IN TUNA WATER (a rare treat) then go back to hiding in the corner filled me with dread. I asked cat pals via Facebook and email for tips, tricks, anything that might tempt Brandy’s tastebuds. I was overwhelmed by the response.
Friends — some I hadn’t spoken to since high school, some close friends, some Internet friends, some friends of friends — offered well wishes and practical advice. With okays from my vet, my knowledge from working in the pet care industry, and all the smart tips my friends offered, I assembled a menu of tasty goodness that got Brandy nibbling.
When my stress-addled brain started to short circuit, it was such a relief to have so many clear-headed people helping me find a solution.
When Brandy spent an afternoon hiding under the bed (something she never does), I feared the worst was upon us. My friend Joy reached out to me, and I just lost it. I vented all my fears, worries, and guilt about Brandy, and she just listened. She did not try to fix anything in the moment, she did not tell me everything would be okay. She just let me release some of the pent-up anxiety paralyzing my ability to think straight and care for Brandy.
After letting it all pour out for about 20 minutes, I felt much better — like I’d purged some negativity that was not good for me or Brandy. I felt ready to be strong for my kitty again. Having a trusted friend who’d listen was an invaluable gift in a moment of feeling weak.
One day I opened my email and found a gift certificate to my favorite pet supply store. The gift certificate was accompanied by a little note from a friend that read, “Hoping you can find a treat that Miss Brandy will eat!” Another pal said she had found one of Brandy’s favorite catnip toys at a bazaar and would send one over to help “lift her spirits.” That message lifted my spirits as well.
The little gifts that friends gave Brandy were greatly appreciated, but really it was the reminder that people were pulling for her, thinking of her happiness, that was the real gift. The small tokens we received boosted my morale and, because I’m positive cats pick up on such things, boosted Brandy’s morale too.
Getting daily messages asking, “How is Brandy doing today?” meant the world to me. Such messages reminded me that my husband and I were not a sick-kitty-island unto ourselves and offered us some much-needed sympathy or cheerleading.
It was this small gesture, sometimes offered by people who knew nothing about cats and had no tips to give, that made me most thankful. In a few simple words, the question communicated that someone had remembered Brandy and wanted her to be well. Goodwill and positive energy can never be underrated when caring for a sick kitty.
At one point I snuggled up to Brandy as she lay on our bed looking depressed, and whispered to her, “You have admirers all over the world thinking of you. You have to get better and give your public what they want.” I think in some way she absorbed the good vibes.
Brandy is now sitting at my feet using her Jedi mind powers to get me to feed her. It’s a beautiful sight. She’s still on the mend, but every time she finishes up a bowl of food or reaches for one of her toys, I am reminded of all the ways her “public” helped us get to this point, and I am completely, utterly, grateful.
About the author: Louise Hung is a morbidly inclined cat lady living in Hong Kong, with her cat, her man, and probably a couple ghost cats. She also writes for xoJane. You can follow her on Twitter or drop her a line at IamLouiseMicaela@gmail.com.