In 1997, Squeaker was a neighborhood cat that our predecessors at this address had looked after. When Jenny and I moved in, she was wary of us, but eventually started hanging around on the front porch pretty regularly. When we had our first freeze at this address, late in that year, we took Squeaker indoors. She never went outside again. One marriage ended and another begun, and she’s been with me for about seven years now.
A while back, I noticed something like a wart on top of Squeaker’s left hind foot. I asked the vet about it, and he said that as long as it wasn’t causing any trouble, we might as well leave it alone. Six months or so ago, the wart apparently got torn off, leaving an open sore. The vet said that surgery to close it was an option, but it would be difficult because there’s little room and no loose skin there, and we should try to keep it clean.
The sore got worse and worse, though, and something had to be done. So shortly before Christmas, we scheduled an appointment for Squeaker to go under the knife. In the end, the vet had to amputate two toes that had been overtaken by a tumor; when we got the biopsy back, it turned out the tumor was a carcinoma. The vet told me that either this was the primary site–in which case he probably got all of it–or it was a secondary site metastasized from somewhere else, and if so, that “somewhere else” was most likely the lungs. Squeaker was due to go back to the vet’s for a bandage change in a few days, and at the vet’s suggestion, I decided to have an X-ray taken then to see how her lungs looked.
In the meantime, I stewed in my own juices. Chemo and radiation therapy are not viable options for cats; if she did have lung cancer, the only treatment would be to remove a lobe of the lungs. This sounded like an awful lot to put an old cat through (not to mention a budget-buster). The other option would be palliative care.
I’ve been around a lot of pets in my life–through much of my childhood, my family had at least ten cats and two dogs at any given time. But I’ve never been in a position of making serious health decisions for another creature. It’s a hell of a thing. We take these animals into our lives, and part of the bargain is that we’ll take care of them. We’re responsible for them. But it’s hard to know what the right thing to do is, especially when they can’t tell you what’s wrong, they don’t understand what is happening to them, and none of the options sound very good. I can only imagine what parents go through with their kids.
As it turns out, Squeaker’s X-ray came out clear, so she dodged that bullet. I feel like I’ve dodged one too.