The Comeback Cat

When we bought our place here twelve miles outside of town a couple of years ago, three cats came along as part of the deal.  For whatever reason, the previous owners didn’t want to take the cats with them when they moved, so we said we’d take over their care because we like cats and it’s always a good idea to have some outside cats on patrol when you live in snake country.

We suspect they all came from the same litter because two of them are solid gray in coloration and one is a combo of white, gray and orange.  Two are neutered males and one is a spayed female.

The female has kind of been through the wringer physiologically, because besides being spayed she’d also been declawed and her tail had been cut off right down to its base, with barely a little stump remaining.

For want of much imagination at the time when we moved in, we named her “T.L.C.”, for tail-less cat.  The other gray cat is “T.C.”, for tailed cat.  The white/gray/orange cat we call “Nemesis” because he tended to pick fights even though he no longer has any “habichuelas” to contribute testosterone to the mix.

It seems he was neutered after he was an adult, so I guess old habits die hard.

T.L.C. apparently had been an indoor/outdoor cat.  We learned this early on because she knew how to open the front door by jumping up and hitting the door latch hard, which resulted in the door becoming ajar enough for her to gain entry.

Although T.L.C. had been declawed, we already had an indoor cat and we were afraid the two wouldn’t get along, so T.L.C. has remained an outdoor kitty and despite some attacks from Nemesis, she’d done pretty well.

She even has a “husband” now in the person of Roadie, one of the two cats we rescued after they were dumped on our road as kittens and were living in a drainage culvert.  She and Roadie (who was neutered at six months of age) get along famously and he’s been kind of her protector from any of Nemesis’ advances.

But…shit happens, as they say.

A couple weeks ago I noticed that T.L.C.’s left eye was watery and she seemed to be squinting a little more than what she does when she’s in her Love Mode—getting right up in my face while “making biscuits” with her soft paws.

I looked at her eye as best I could and didn’t see anything obvious or any bleeding.  She didn’t seem to be in distress, so we just figured she might have scratched her eye on one of the spiny plants that naturally occur here in the hill country.

Her eye appeared to improve for a while, but then it got worse, so I started using some antibiotic eye drops that I had for my Himalayan inside cat.

(Eyes seem to play a big role in my life–from my Mother’s macular degeneration, to Neferkitty’s chronic dry eyes and conjunctivitis, and now T.L.C.’s dilemma.)

This last Friday (ironically the 13th) she had a lot of discharge coming from her eye and the pupil didn’t look right so I took her to our vet, a really nice guy who’s been in practice for many years and who has a wonderful bedside manner.

He took a good look at T.L.C.’s eye and said “You’re not going to like this, but the eye has to come out.”  He then showed me how her eyeball had become somewhat shrunken in the socket and that’s why the pupil looked distorted.  He thought she’d either been deeply scratched by another cat or her eye had been punctured by something sharp.

Either way, it had become infected inside and was losing fluid.  Since the pupil didn’t seem reactive, he felt that she wasn’t seeing much of anything, if at all, out of that eye.  He didn’t think it could be saved.

He tried to reassure me by saying that cats do very well with just one eye, but I was too busy mentally kicking myself for being a Bad Mother.  (And not “bad” in a good way like 70’s icon John Shaft.)

The vet gave me an antibiotic liquid to give T.L.C. twice a day and said to continue with the eye drops three times a day over the weekend.  We scheduled her surgery for today, Monday, at 8:30 in the morning.  *Sigh*

We isolated T.L.C. in the room off the carport so I could give her the meds. easily and just to keep her as comfortable as possible.  Through this whole thing she never stopped purring and wanting to be petted.

If it were me, I’d be pissed.  But that’s the beauty of pets—unconditional love, whether we deserve it or not.

This morning, after a little over two days of antibiotics, we were surprised to see that the discharge had lessened to just some wateriness and that the pupil seemed to be more normal and appeared to be reactive to light.

But still—over the weekend I’d done a lot of Googling about her condition and thought that maybe this was just wishful thinking on my part.  I really, really didn’t want her to have to lose her eye.  She’d been through a lot of physical trauma in her life and still was the sweetest cat.

I reluctantly left her off at the vet’s office at 8:30 and did some errands in town for a couple of hours.  Just after I got home the phone rang and it was the vet.  My first thought was, “Oh, no…something bad has happened during surgery…it was cancerous…or worse…she didn’t make it through the operation.”

My mind tends to work that way.  Just ask my husband.

But, thankfully, no!  The vet said that he had wanted to take another look at her eye before his assistants prepped T.L.C. for surgery.  He said he was amazed (his word) at how good it looked.  He had even thought that maybe it wasn’t the same cat!  So he called off the surgery and wants to continue with the eye drops to see how she does.  He said the puncture wound may have sealed itself (it happens).  That, along with the antibiotics, may have been enough to allow the fluid in the eye to restore the shape to the eyeball and reactivity to the pupil.

She isn’t entirely out of the woods yet, but he feels that she certainly is doing so much better that she deserves a shot at preserving her eye.

Hallelujah!

T.L.C. is home and back in her recovery room, having a welcome meal of kitty crunchies and is being spoiled rotten.

We’ve decided that her name “T.L.C.” now stands for “The Lucky Cat.”

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30 thoughts on “The Comeback Cat

  1. Great post. The first cat we ever had, Ballou, was diagnosed with throat cancer when he was 12 or 13. After a week of anti-biotics, the doctor said that Ballou had used one of his nine lives and he was clear of cancer. He lived till he was 18. Cats are amazing healers, given medicine, quiet space and love. Sounds like you are doing your best for TLC. Three cheers!

    • Thanks, Ronna! They don’t say that cats have nine lives for nothing, do they? My daughter had a cat that had to have one of its legs amputated because a neighbor shot it because it had been on his property. (Ugh.) That cat still managed to hunt and got around just fine. I’m keeping my fingers crossed for T.L.C.

    • T.L.C. is a real sweetie, that’s for sure, Diane. That only made it all the harder for me to have to take her in for such drastic surgery. And thanks for saying I’m not a Bad Mother, too. :) (I’ll settle for bad-ass, maybe!)

      Thanks for stopping by, Diane. Y’all come back!

    • I wish she was only messin’ with me, Moe! I don’t think I’ve ever heard of feline hypochondriacs though. Plenty of human ones to go around. Oscar Levant was famous for his hypochondria and when he died comedians joked that his headstone should have said “I told you I was ill.”

      • That was my lame attempt to make you feel better.

        My great grandfather had a heart attack at 35 years old and was told to take it easy from then on. He did. When he died at 99, everyone said ‘well, he had a bad heart you know.’ . . . .

      • I know you were, Moe, and I appreciate it. ((hug)) That’s funny about your great-grandfather! My husband’s grandmother had a friend, Myrtle, who “never had a well day in her life.” She lived to a ripe old age too. Maybe that’s the secret!

  2. I understand (but disagree) with the arguements for declawing a cat but why cut off a tail? Could it have been the result of some accident?

    • That is something we’ve wondered about too, bmj2k. The vet inspected what’s left of her tail and thought that it must have been injured when she was young and had to be amputated. He came to that conclusion because it was cut off so close to her body it couldn’t have been for cosmetic reasons. I’ve heard of dogs having their tails docked to fit in with standards of certain breeds, but never cats.

  3. i love your vet. the vet i used to have (for 20+ years) would likely have gone ahead with the surgery. with the best of intentions, i finally realized he was a little scalpel-happy. new vet? far more cautious and patient… yay for TLC… cheering for her, and hoping this works out!

    • We weren’t originally scheduled with this vet, but the other (younger) one was still busy so he graciously stepped in to see T.L.C. He apologized for still being in his jumpsuit that had cow poop on the sleeve, but I didn’t care! The younger vet is more business-like and always seems to add “extras” on to the bill. The older vet seems more sympathetic and always makes me feel comfortable. He said that given T.L.C.’s improved condition, it would be malpractice if he went ahead with the surgery! How’s that for honesty?

  4. Good for TLC! I would love to have a cat again, and strays are the best. I read a great book about a cat that had lost both eyes at a young age- “Homer’s Odyssey”. I would highly recommend it.
    Our favorite cat was a stray male, and his tail had a 90 degree angle to it. The vet figured it had had a door shut on it. But it never slowed him down at all, although he was a bit careful around doors.

  5. What a trooper she is. I am overjoyed that TLC is a survivor yet again. What a hard life she has had. I wish people would stop de-clawing cats. It is humans being selfish. If the furniture is expensive, perhaps another type of pet would be in order. Methinks my vehement advocacy for animals is showing. Thank you for taking such good care of the little fur balls!

  6. Hi,
    It is so sad when something happens to a pet, it makes you feel so helpless at times, how lucky that this one has a great home with plenty of love. She certainly is a very lucky cat, I hope all goes well.

  7. Neat story for TLC and for you, too! I hope she continues to do well.

    I know all too well about pet owner guilt. Once I confused the meds of the late Howard Lee and put the wrong one in his eye. I realized it immediately when he reacted with pain to something I thought would be soothing. I washed it out, raced him to the vet, and was inconsolable, even after the vet brought the two bottles I’d confused in to show me that they were of identical size, color, and were made by the same pharmaceutical company. Howard’s eye suffered no long term ill effects, but I still cringe when I think about it.

    See? You’re the Nobel of Cat Nursing by comparison.

    • That happens all too often with human medications too, so you shouldn’t feel bad about it—but I know what you mean. Nobel of Cat Nursing? You are too kind. Sometimes I feel like I’m in that Three Stooges movie “Dizzy Doctors.”

      The stooges get a job selling “Brighto,” what they think is cleaning fluid. After ruining a cop’s uniform and a new car, they discover Brighto is actually medicine. Taking their sales pitch to a hospital, they get into more trouble and leave on the run when the head of the hospital turns out to be the owner of the car they ruined.

      Nyuk, nyuk, nyuk.

    • In our younger days we used to have a lot of dogs that we either rescued from the animal shelter or took in as strays. Now that all but one of them has shuffled up them Golden Stairs, cats seem to be finding us. I guess word gets around.

      Thanks for stopping by, berettaluvz26! Y’all come back.

  8. Thank goodness the owners left the cats behind in such good hands. Owners that would leave their animals behind may also not get medical attention when needed. Good for you, TTPT. TLC is in awesome hands, and she’s thankful you are her owner. Honest. She told me w/a wink. :) ~ Lenore

    • I was kind of surprised when they said they weren’t going to take the cats with them, especially since T.L.C. had been an indoor/outdoor kitty. Besides the cats they had two large outdoor dogs and two Chihuahuas that stayed pretty much inside. Maybe it was just too much for them to bother with the cats.

  9. Oh my, you made me all teary on a Thursday morning!!! What a little survivor she is. I will keep my fingers crossed that she doesn’t have to lose her eye. She’s lost enough body parts already!! What a sweetie-cat.

    Don’t think you’re a Bad Mother. Cats are EXCELLENT at hiding injury and illness until things have progressed to the edge! You’re an GREAT Cat Mother. :)

    • Thanks, Natalie! Since you are such a cat person yourself, I knew T.L.C.’s story would strike a chord with you. Yes, cats will put up with a lot before you realize they’re in trouble. She seems to be enjoying all the fussing over her we’ve been doing–“I could get used to this!”

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