Tag Archives: Petra

Ten Good Things about Petra

1. Due to her origins as a rescued, injured, shelter kitty, we never knew what Petra’s breed was. It’s possible she was a ragamuffin or a British shorthair – she had a round, pumpkin-faced look, and the softest, thickest fur I ever felt on a cat. She was black and white, but not like most black and white cats. When you saw her fur in the sun, you saw how true black and true white she was – no hidden stripes underneath. She felt like a rabbit when you petted her, and was incredibly docile – she let us hold her like a baby, hold her upside down, and she enjoyed being petted backwards. Petra had perfect kitty eyeliner, a black nose with a tiny pink spot, and black freckles on her white front legs.

2. Petra was a fighter. Despite all odds, at around 8 weeks of age she managed to survive either an attack by an animal or a run-in with a car long enough for someone to find her and rescue her, and for the shelter to remove her leg. The vet who cared for her liked her so much she fostered Petra herself until she was well enough to be adopted out. Then, when she swallowed the needle, the only indication we had that anything was wrong was a couple of days of coughing like she had a hairball and a recurring respiratory infection. As soon as the needle was out, she was back to her normal self again. In this final illness, she lived longer than either of us expected, and even rallied a couple of times toward the end before her final decline.

3. Petra loved to sit in the sun and watch the birds and squirrels outside – we called it the kitty show. She made little “excited, want to hunt” meeshing noises whenever she saw something really interesting, whether it was something on the Kitty Show or a moth or other bug inside or a reflection of light on the wall. Seeing Petra get excited about something was one of my favorite things, ever.

4. From the very first time we met her, it was obvious that Petra loved Dan the most. When she was a kitten, she had a habit of sitting on Dan’s chest at 4 AM, purring and making biscuits, and giving him head butts. Dan called it “morning lovey time.” The first time we left her for a few days, when we came back, the first night she woke him up with lovey time about 6 times. Her habits revolved around getting Dan to pay attention to her, and he was the one who could calm her down best when she had scary phantom-limb pain episodes.

5. Petra was very particular about things she liked and things she didn’t like. Sitting on laps: bad. Throw rugs on the floor: good. She was never much of a talker or vocalizer but there were a few things she said that were unlike the way any other cat said them (brrt moo brrt, for example). The last six months or so, most of what she said was moo. The loudest we ever heard her vocalize was on car trips to and from Dan’s parents’ house – man, did she ever hate that, and she let us know about it.

6. Our kitty had a great talent for fitting herself into unusual places, whether that be sitting on spiky box lids or finding hiding places where nobody would think to look. Last Christmas we stayed up at Dan’s parents’ house for several days, so of course we brought the cats with us. When it was time for us to leave, we managed to corral Loki into his carrier pretty quickly, but we couldn’t find Petra. We looked in all her usual hiding spots and everywhere else we could possibly think of, multiple times. We knew she couldn’t have gotten outside, so we were pretty much at a loss. Finally, I found her hiding up inside an old desk; she had squeezed through a little hole and crawled up behind one of the desk drawers. I don’t know how she managed it, but her hour+ of run-around was that much longer that she didn’t have to be in the cat carrier.

7. One of the most important things to Petra was cleanliness. She insisted on bathing herself multiple times a day – up to 10 times, maybe, on some days. She also bathed Loki quite frequently; I think part of the reason why he is so soft is because she gave him baths. Bathing was like a meditation for her and sometimes she’d fall asleep right in the middle of one.

8. Along with the cleanliness issue came a distaste for just about anything that she thought smelled bad. If Petra smelled so much as a molecule of poop or old food or something else she deemed offensive, she’d cover it up with the nearest throw rug or piece of paper. We often came out in the morning to find one of the living room throw-rugs folded over because something on it didn’t smell right to her.

9. Because she didn’t have her left back leg, Petra would often sit with a glazed look on her face, stump twitching, when her left ear itched. Every time we noticed it we told her that she didn’t have that leg, and we’d give her an ear skritching.

10. Petra was all about making good trades. She gave us a trick and we gave her treats. We gave her pets and she gave us purrs; it was the best trade we could imagine and we always felt we were getting the better end of the deal. The last few weeks while she’d been so sick, Petra never purred, even when we were petting her, so we knew she didn’t feel well. This morning, after we’d made the appointment to bring her in, both of us sat next to her, petting her in all the best places. After a few minutes, she started to purr. It was the best thing she could have given us.

Read more about Petra here.

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Radio silence

This past week has been a scary roller-coaster ride of emotions, primarily when it comes to the cat. She went in for a vet visit on Wednesday and her kidneys were smaller and she’d gained a little weight, which seemed like promising signs. The labs came back on Thursday and the tiny bit of hope we had was dashed to pieces, as they told us that her kidney function has declined significantly (again). (We did manage to get rid of her e.coli infection, so that’s something I suppose). She didn’t eat much on Thursday or Friday and was lethargic and disoriented, so we had some friends over for dinner to say goodbye to her, since what we were doing, pallative-care wise, seemed not to be doing much for her anymore. She did eat a little bit of rotisserie chicken on Friday, but we didn’t have high hopes that she’d ever do much getting out of the little nest she made for herself on the couch.

On Saturday we talked about our options, and made some plans for her end-of-life care that would have put Loki at Dan’s parents’ house, us in the car driving to California, and Petra in the ground this Thursday. We watched with tears in our eyes as Loki bathed her and kept her warm in her little couch nest. Sunday we saw Dan’s parents and asked if we could bury her at their house, and then we went to the same Christmas tree farm as last year and found our Charlie Brown tree. When we got home, Petra seemed more energetic and far less disoriented than she had in days. She actually looked and acted like herself again, going so far as to do her trick for kitty treats eight times in a row last night, eating and drinking, using the litter box, and stretching out on the throw rug in the kitchen. She even begged for some chicken from my dinner plate as I was sitting next to her couch nest while eating last night, something she’d never done before.

The only thing we can think of is that she’s rallying a bit thanks to several days of prednisalone treatment, a steroid we’re giving her to help control her kidney inflammation. It won’t make her better in the long-term but I guess in the short-term it’s helping her feel a little better. The form of cancer she has is very aggressive and cats don’t tend to live very long; she’s already outlived the 4-6 weeks generally cited.

So now we don’t know what to do. We want her to have as much good quality of life as we can. We know now for sure that it’s renal lymphoma so she doesn’t have very much longer at all, and we’re (for the most part) at peace with that. But how do you know when is the right time to say goodbye?

So how is Petra?

Monkey asked a few days ago how Petra was (in response to my “things I am thankful for” post, I believe, where I wrote “healthy pets”).

The thanks I was giving was for Loki being healthy. Petra is still sick, and while we have been treating her for a serious e.coli infection, which it’s possible it’s all she has (and if that is the case, she’ll have cheated death 3 times!), it’s not likely. She’s rallied a bit and put some weight back on now that we’ve been giving her lots of wet food and kitty treats. The past few days it’s been cold, and Petra never acts like she feels very good when it’s cold outside. She’s always been kind of standoffish in the winter; we think the cold makes her stump hurt. So it is difficult to tell how much of it is that and how much is that she doesn’t feel good because she’s sick.

We have been continuing to give her subcutaneous fluids and antibiotics and a potassium goop shot into her mouth via large syringe (which she Does Not Like), and recently added a 1/4 tablet of Pepcid AC to help keep her stomach feeling OK so she doesn’t puke up as much water. There has still been some troubling behavior, and she finishes the current round of antibiotics on Wednesday, so that’s when she’ll be going back in to the vet for a recheck.

There is a test that will tell us definitively whether or not Petra has cancer. It is very, very expensive and invasive and is something we just aren’t willing to put her through. Because if she does have it, all we’d do is continue what we are doing. And if she doesn’t, she’ll get better.

The in-between is really frustrating, though. Our holiday travel plans (which we hoped would include going out to California for Wombat’s birthday and staying through Christmas) are still on hold until we know more for sure. Neither of us wants to leave a very sick kitty, even with offers of assistance that have come from more than one place. If she doesn’t have much longer, we want her to be in her own space and stressed as little as possible, not upset that her humans are gone or being in someone else’s space.

I’m desperately homesick right now; we haven’t been to California since May (the longest I’ve ever gone since moving here) and I miss my family and our friends in California fiercely. I am going to be so, so incredibly sad if we can’t go for Christmas. And I feel guilty that I’m thinking about that rather than thinking about what is best for Petra. But damn, it’s really hard for me right now. Good thoughts appreciated. And for any of you reading this who might reasonably expect a knitted gift from me this year, know that Petra seems to be infusing them with extra love and attention. The past two days she’s been curled up in my knitting and it may never look the same.

Petra: likes and dislikes

Things Petra likes:
Dan


Sunny spots
Warm spots
Catnip
The water from a can of tuna
one particular brand/flavor of kitty treats
very small pieces of turkey bacon (sometimes)
being held
being held like a baby by Dan
throw rugs (for flopping upon)
being petted backwards
having her left ear scritched (she doesn’t have the left back leg, so she can’t scratch her left ear!)
licking plastic (mmmm, plastic)



sitting in unusually shaped containers
warm soft things, especially if they smell like Dan


playing in bags
playing in boxes
sitting on paper
string toys


snuggling with Loki
warm days
watching squirrels and birds on The Kitty Show (aka when the back door is open or when she climbs up in a window)


the blue chair
cushions
moths, mostly to meesh at, sometimes to hunt
reflections or flashlight or penlight on the wall


bathing Loki’s head for him
seeing what Dan is doing at the kitchen counter or sink (I hold her up for this)
sniffing flowers and greens
sniffing things in general
fresh water


drinking out of the glasses that the humans are using


the bird that lives at Dan’s parents’ house

Things Petra tolerates:
Me
being held like a baby by me
dancing around the kitchen with me
being bossed around by Loki

Things Petra Does Not Like:
Taking pills
being jabbed with a needle every day
Flying Kitty
cold weather
being sat upon by Loki
when Loki bites her stump
when her stump has phantom limb pain
the cat carrier
riding in the car, especially on the highway
when there are no rugs to flop on
loud barking doggies
sitting on laps (she seriously Will Not Do This unless she is scared shitless)
sitting on most furniture
being on our bed

Unforgettable

Petra likes string and string toys. This is important for the following story:

When Petra was around eight months old or so, she started making a noise that sounded like a duck quacking. Then, she started sneezing and acting like she maybe had a kitty cold, so we took her in to the vet. She went on a 10-day course of antibiotics, and got better. Then, a few days after going off the antibiotics, she got sick again. On: fine. Off: sick. The last time she was on 3 weeks of antibiotics and got sick within 2 days after going off. I finally bit the bullet, called the vet, and made an appointment for a few days later. In the two days between making the appointment and bringing her in, Petra got REALLY sick. Not eating or drinking, wheezing, sneezing, coughing/spitting up mucus and saliva. Really unhappy kitty. She sounded like Darth Vader all night and the things that had helped before, like putting her in the bathroom and running the shower on hot so the steam could clear her pipes, didn’t help anymore. I decided she couldn’t wait any longer and we took her in to the vet at 7:30 in the morning. Dan and I were both really worried that she had Feline AIDS or Feline Leukemia or something that was affecting her immune system. We were really scared.

They did X-rays. They did bloodwork.

The vet called me at 8:30 (while we were at breakfast) and said the X-ray showed that Petra had a NEEDLE AND THREAD loged in her windpipe (well, in the flesh around her windpipe). She had SWALLOWED A NEEDLE AND THREAD two months previously, and had been sick from the secondary infection of having a foreign body in her windpipe for two months. We figured that what had happened was we’d had the pincushion out from working on a couple of different sewing projects (each of us, at the time, was sewing something) and she’d probably seen thread dangling from the coffee table. She likely played with it, swallowed it, and the needle it was threaded through came along for the ride.

So he got the needle and thread out, and told me that he also thought she may have a bowel obstruction from more thread that could have traveled further down, and wanted to do exploratory surgery to find out what was causing it. I gave the go-ahead. He called me back and said it wasn’t thread (yay! no necrotic tissue! nothing unhealthy in her bowel!), but that she had a bunch of scar tissue that had kind of rerouted her bowel, back from when she had whatever accident caused her leg to get mangled (and the ultimate reason why she lost the leg). He fixed that up, so it wouldn’t cause her problems later, sewed her back up, and tells me she was resting comfortably and we could bring her home the next day.

Two months of antibiotics, having a needle removed from her windpipe, and exploratory surgery, was pretty darn expensive. But Petra was only 10 months old at that point, and it was worth every penny to have a healthy cat again. Plus, the vet tech was really excited to have a unique x-ray to bring in to show her class!

* * * * * * * * * *

When we brought the cats in for that exam two weeks ago, it had been a while since they’d seen the vet, and in the meantime he’d switched from one veterinary practice to another. The vet came in the room, asked who he was seeing, and we reminded him of Petra, who only had three legs, and who had once (more than five years before) swallowed a needle. “Oh, yes,” he said. “I could never forget that!”

The enemy’s gate is down

About two weeks after Dan moved in with me, we went to the Denver Dumb Friends League to find a kitty. I’d wanted one since I moved to Denver, and had purposefully found an apartment that was pet-friendly. But I wanted to wait until Dan moved in, since I knew he was going to, and figured it would be easier to wait until after that happened.

Luckily, Dan was amenable to the idea of kitty-having. So we went to the DDFL and looked at the kittens (I wanted a kitten. Sue me.), but didn’t see any that seemed like OUR kitty. A week or so later, we went in again. Our neighbor Paulene was a volunteer there, and when we got there we put our name on the waiting list (for a “hang out with a kitty” room, and the option of hanging out with three different kitties) and wandered around, looking at our options. We saw a few that looked promising; they’d just gotten a couple of big litters of kittens in so we figured we’d find one in that bunch. Right after we came in, a couple with a little girl came in as well, so they were just below us on the list.

We brought in one kitten. It wasn’t ours. We brought in a second kitten. Not ours. Paulene came by to see how it was going, since she knew we were there to find a kitty, and she asked us, “Have you seen the little one with three legs?” No, we had not, and opted to visit with her next. She was brought in the room and we were instantly smitten, particularly Dan (I suspect she stole his heart right then and there). “This is our kitty!” we knew, just as that family with the little girl was walking by, pointing at our new friend, saying how that was going to be her kitty.

Sorry, little girl. We were first, therefore, she was ours.

We brought her home and spent the next couple of weeks trying to determine her name. The shelter had named her “Bug” (as in, cute as a? I’m not sure. She didn’t look like a bug.) but we knew her real name was something entirely different. Our kitten was strong, a fighter. When she had been a tiny kitten, probably no more than six or eight weeks old, something had happened to her, and someone had found her at the side of the road with her left back leg all mangled and smashed. They brought her in to the DDFL, who amputated her leg. The vet who had cared for her there was so enamoured that she fostered the little kitten herself for the month that it took for her to convalesce and get healthy enough to be adopted out.

Over that first week or ten days when we had her home, we ran through any number of names. Miette, maybe, after the scrappy girl in The City of Lost Children. Or Leeloo, after the character of that name in The Fifth Element. One afternoon, we had our door open and she ran from one of us to another, hiding behind us and other obstacles in her path to get to our neighbor’s door on the other side of the hallway. “The enemy’s gate is down,” I said, and we knew right that her name was Petra, after the girl soldier in Orson Scott Card’s Ender’s Game. It was perfect.

Petra charmed everyone she ever met. All of our neighbors loved her. How could you not, with a face like this?

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

Two weeks ago, we took Loki and Petra to the vet. It was partly because they needed booster shots and a checkup, as it had been a while since their last visit, but also partly because we’d noticed some disturbing things. Petra had peed a few times outside of the box, something she’d never done before. She seemed thirsty all the time, and would get really excited about having her water dish refilled or the tap turned on in the bathroom sink for her to drink from. She was also throwing up water, and seemed like she was losing weight. Thinking maybe she had diabetes or something else managable, yet still scary, we told the vet about the worrisome symptoms we’d noticed.

Loki was given a completely clean bill of health (and later, when his lab results came back, the vet told us that he was about as healthy as a kitty could possibly be…so, yay!)

Petra was a different story. “We’ll have to wait for the labs to come back,” he said, “but it’s entirely possible it could be one of many different things – none of them good.” Her kidneys were enlarged, and that on top of her other symptoms pointed to either renal lymphoma or a congenital kidney defect, neither curable. He asked us about her breed background, if we knew anything about it, and asked if she’d ever tested positive for FeLV, since that was a primary cause of kitty lymphoma. At home, we went through her records from the DDFL but didn’t see anything that said she’d tested positive for FeLV. The next morning, the vet called with her lab results: an elevated white blood cell count, which could point to a bacterial infection. We put her on a ten-day course of antibiotics and waited to see what would happen.

Nothing happened, except that she got really pissed about having to take a pill twice a day. She didn’t get any better. She continued to drink a lot of water, puke water, and lose weight. So yesterday we brought her back in for the news we’d been dreading, the news that I’d had nightmares about all Monday and Tuesday night. The vet said that we could do an abdominal ultrasound, an asperation of the kidneys, a biopsy. But with her symptoms, and the fact that she’d lost almost an entire additional pound in two weeks, and the fact that her kidneys were an additional 25% larger, made it pretty clear. Petra has renal lymphoma.

Lymphoma in cats can be treatable but is not curable. And after doing some extensive research online last night, we realized we had made the best choice about what her treatment will be. Some forms of feline lymphoma respond well to chemotherapy, giving pets an additional five or six months, a year, even two years in outlier cases. But renal lymphoma, especially at the stage where Petra probably is, does not respond as well. We would rather have her for a few more weeks and give her a good quality of life, where she is happy and comfortable, rather than put her on chemotherapy (when who knows how she will respond to it, if it will make her feel worse, etc.), and try to prolong her life at the cost of her happiness. We will be treating her with administered-at-home subcutaneous fluids (to help her kidneys function better) and prednisone, a cortical steroid that will help slow the progress of the disease. But she is not going to get better.

I don’t know how much longer we will have with our friend Petra, but we plan to make the best of it. We’re going to take lots of photos and videos, give her treats every day, and make sure she knows how much we love her. And I’m going to write more about her, about her other brush with death, about her likes and dislikes, about the things we are going to miss so much when she is gone.