Monday, June 02, 2014

Mysteries, Appetites and Mea Culpas

The Amaryllis leaf Merlin may have chewed on Tuesday morning.
It was hanging over the scratching post pedestal he loves to sun on.
 Note: I started writing this on Monday night but this line of thought took me to a very dark place and I was unable to get any coherence out of myself so I let this sit and opened a new tab for Tuesday's post...and again for Wednesday's post... 

It is now Thursday night and I'm trying to get all three in posting shape.  The maudlin morass I'd been writing through was not publishable tho.  So I'm rewriting, keeping the topic intact but aiming for the Joe Friday "just the facts Mam" approach.


Every post since I found our elderly Merlin unconscious on the floor last Tuesday morning has been about the ongoing vigil over his last hours/days.  This is no exception.  The vigil is still ongoing.

Merlin is still drinking copious amounts of water and his kidneys are still expelling it.  But to the best of my knowledge the last bit of food he took was the several slivers of salmon off my plate Tuesday evening.

That incident gave me such a burst of hope.  Especially since he'd started drinking again that evening on the upteenth time I pushed a water bowl near his nose.  But this was even better, he'd actually defied the lethargy he'd exhibited all day to follow his nose out to the living room where I was eating with Mom and climbed onto the couch and arched his neck over the edge of my plate.

In response I defied my sister's disapproval (tho I might not have if she'd actually been there) and broke the rule we'd imposed on him when he came back with me last May.  I let him take those slivers off my fingers.

Hope was short-lived as a soap bubble in a room full of kittens tho.  It was the last time he did more than sniff at any of his favorite treats that I tried to tempt him with.

He'd been in such bad shape Tuesday morning and into the afternoon that I was sure he was in his last hours.  Tomorrow morning will be one week.

We'd been assuming it was old age organ shutdown but new developments--or should I say realizations--have cast the whole scenario in a new light that makes me wonder if that wasn't the primary issue.

Mom posing with the Amaryllis in bloom.
 When I sat down to eat lunch with Mom today I found a newspaper clipping on the couch beside me.  It was about protecting your pets from common house and yard items that are toxic to them.

What it said about Lilly toxicity for cats alarmed me as the symptoms resembled what he'd exhibited Tuesday morning.  Vomiting, lethargy, refusal of food and water.

This reminded me that my sister had told me during the three hours I held Merlin after finding him unconscious that she'd found a spot on the hall carpet that looked like vomit.  Mostly water with a green sliver in it.  It didn't look like grass though (from the potted grass for the cats) and she asked if I'd given him anything green to eat.  I said no and thought little of it.

Until I read that article.  Now that vomit with a green sliver haunted me.  "There's no Lilies in the house are there?" I asked Mom.

"Only that one." she pointed at the plant table in front of the front window.  "That blooms once a year."

I knew which one she meant.  It had been blooming a couple months ago (around Easter) and now its long leaves arched over the the other plants on the table and two of them hung their tips over the cat's scratch post.

I went over to examine them and found on one...what you see in the top picture. That's after nearly seven days of healing.

The Amyrillis blooms without leaves.
After the bloom falls off the leaves shoot out.
After lunch I started researching pet toxins and symptoms online. Reading the info on the Lily toxicity and symptoms I was less sure of the hypothesis as kidney failure usually follows in one to two days.  So how could he still be alive after a week?

When my sister got home, I showed her the chewed leaf and called it a lily and she said it was an azalea amyrillis*.  So back I went to the pet poisoning pages where I'd remembered seeing amyrillis on the list.  I found it's symptoms similar to lily toxicity tho not as severe and not always fatal if the lingering lethargy and anorexia can be overcome.

The list of symptoms were also closer to what Merlin had experienced.  That unconscious state I'd found him in could have been the sudden, dangerous drop in blood pressure and my picking him up had revived him.  The subsequent three hours in which I held him and fussed over him could have kept him stimulated until he was over that hump.

Single Hippeastrum
Order: Amaryllidaceae
This led to hours more searching trying to pin down exactly what plant it was.  I got a crash course in plant nomenclature.  I finally settled on this one because one of the pictures way down the page on the right most resembled Mom's plant.

If I'd put all this together on Tuesday I might have made different choices.  A visit to the vet might have made sense if we hadn't assumed this was the inevitable organ shut down of an elderly cat and death in short order was inevitable.

But if he wasn't already in organ failure last Tuesday, he is now.  He'd already lost a lot of weight over the last six months and now picking him up is like picking up a fur bag full of toothpicks and twigs.

The lethargy has been exchanged for extreme fatigue and weakness. When he walks he has to stop and lay down after a few yards and rest.

I'm in an agony of shame and guilt.  Not only over this incident but over the mistakes I'd made over the whole last year decade.  Especially in nutrition needs.  His weight loss over the winter may have been due to his not getting enough of his needs met through the brand of cat food we used.

There was nothing wrong with his appetite before last Tuesday morning. He was constantly dogging my feet in the kitchen.  Begging for whatever I was handling.  I often gave him slivers of this and dollops of that. Turns out my sharing my food with him and letting him clean my plate had been as potentially dangerous for him as having a toxic plant's leaves arching over his favorite sunning perch.

The list of toxins for cats in people food is long.  Among them is garlic, cinnamon, chocolate (at least I knew this) raisins, grapes, macadamia nuts, onions, and Xylitol.

There were dozens of other plants in his reach as well and I'd even seen him nibbling at several of them before and no alarm bells went off.

Putting the slime icing on the compost cake of mea culpas is the fact that after two decades of having fur babies in our home I had remained this ignorant and incurious about what it takes to keep your pet healthy.  Me!! The obsessive researcher had not bothered to collect the data!

These are the thoughts that led me into the maudlin morass that turned the rough draft of this post into its mirror image rendering it unpublishable.

[I was zipping around the links too fast to take notes or save links or I would be linking to the toxins and plant information.]

*My sister, Jamie, corrected me in comments on the name of the plant.  The mistake was an editing glitch.  My sister, Carri, called it an Amarillis.  I did all my research on Amaryllis and Lilly.  Even the image file names have it as Amaryllis.  And the linked phrase 'this one' is to the Wikipedea page for  Hippeastrum which is a Genus in the Order, Amaryllidaceae.  

I added the image from the Wikipedea page with links to the article and the JPG  as part of this correction, as well as changing the word in all three of the other images and in the text, leaving the word azalea in strike through only in the first instance.

The editing glitch was a combination of: fatigue, distraught emotions, passage of time, having used "A" in the rough draft and having been talking to Mom about the bushes in her yard.  How embarrassing.  Thanks, Sis, for correcting me.

1 tell me a story:

Jamie 6/07/2014 3:19 AM  

HI Sis, the plant you and Carri think is an Azalea is in fact an Amyrillis. I remember that Betty gave it to mom. It is not an Azalea. I'm not sure if it is in the lily family or not. Here is a link of some pictures and here is some information for you too. Love you.

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