Recently, I took my Turkish Van boy Kieran to the vet. I was worried about the way he appeared to be going up and down stairs, and I wanted to check it out further. Up until a year ago, we didn’t have any steps in the house. Now, there are two flights of steps. It seemed that Kieran was favoring a hip as he went up and down steps, or that he didn’t move in exactly the same way as the other cats.
Just a little backstory on Kieran: He showed up at our house eight years ago on a cold December day. I don’t think it got to more than 10 degrees F that day, and was supposed to get to 30 below that night. I discovered him huddled against our house during the day, whining, and looking very un-savvy about being outside. I easily tempted him inside with food, tried unsuccessfully to find his people, and ended up adopting him.
Kieran had at least been neutered, but there was much that seemed mysterious about him. He was loving and bonded to us easily and without fear. Yet he was and is the kind of cat who can fade into the background if you don’t make sure to give him attention. When we first brought him in, he stayed in a room with a lot of windows, and he seemed to have no interest in looking out the windows. Though it is going to sound strange, it seemed that Kieran had a strange or possibly even a sad past.
Anyway, I took him to the vet and we decided to do X-rays to further investigate potential issues with his hips. As it turned out, the hips were fine, but the X-rays showed arthritis in the lumbar spine and possibly the pelvic area.
And then, the vet also said this: “You know your cat has a pellet in him, don’t you?”
I’m a slow processor, and it actually took me a few minutes to absorb this and figure out what it meant. Kieran had been shot.
The vet began to explain that it didn’t look like the pellet was lodged in the liver, which was good. It looked as if the pellet was lodged in a muscle.
A few long moments after the initial statement, I finally got it. “Someone shot him?” I said, dumbly.
She nodded. I started to tear up.
“Damn it,” she said. “Just say it. Damn it.”
But I was still processing the shock.
I know this stuff happens all the time. I know much worse stuff happens. I just had never had it hit so close to home.
Apparently, this pellet has been inside Kieran for at least eight years, and so far, it does not appear to be affecting his health. The entire time he’s lived with us, he’s never been outside or anywhere near anyone with a pellet gun.
Meantime, I was struggling to control myself. (Don’t cry in front of people! is some kind of value I either internalized from living in Minnesota forever, or from a childhood where I was supposed to be tough.) Then the vet also mentioned that if this pellet was lead, that it was probably poisoning my cat.
I am not sure what to do, if anything. My vet believes that more damage would be done trying to locate the pellet and taking it out. Kieran seems healthy. I am considering blood work, but I need to find out if the blood work would give me any information that I could actually do anything about. I think the saddest thing about this for me is that Kieran is such a sweet, quiet cat. I don’t understand, and will never understand, people who intentionally harm animals like this.
I am a slow processor. Stuff like this hits me in the gut. I wasn’t right for the rest of the day and I had to take some time to just wander, space out, and process this.
I had some guilt. At least Kieran has a good home. No matter what happens, no matter how the rest of his life plays out, he is loved and he knows it.
Many cats suffer this, or worse. I am aware of that, and I felt some guilt that Kieran’s case hit me so hard, when there are worse situations out there.
I’m not sure I have the constitution to do some kinds of cat rescue work. I volunteered in a shelter for many years, and will do so again starting this month. I used to have a friend that marveled that I could do that. But that was easy to me. I loved spending time with the cats. If I had to be faced with specific stories or cats that had really suffered and know about it … I don’t know. The people that do this work are beyond admiration, in my opinion. The term “angels on earth” comes to mind.
I will be deciding upon bloodwork, or seeing what way I can make the rest of Kieran’s life as happy and healthy as possible.
Have you had a moment of realization about what you can or cannot do (or can or cannot take) regarding animal welfare and rescue?
Update: Kieran’s bloodwork was perfect! This means that the pellet is likely steel, and not lead. It also appears not to be interfering with any organ functions, and that is also good. So upon the recommendation of my vet, the best thing to do is to leave it alone. I’m grateful for Kieran’s health.
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About Catherine Holm: Cat Holm loves writing about, working for, and living with cats. She is the author of The Great Purr, the cat-themed memoir Driving with Cats: Ours for a Short Time, the creator of Ann Catanzaro cat fantasy story gift books, and the author of two short story collections. She loves to dance, be outside whenever possible, read, play with cats, make music, do and teach yoga, and write.