After the deaths of Phantom and Shadow, my family took a few months to mourn the loss of our little friends. In early July, we felt the time was right, so we ventured to Pet Smart to find a rescue kitty and adopt him or her.
The Pet Smart we frequent often hosts rooms for the local shelters. On this day, the Lexington Humane Society had a large amount of animals. Several dozen puppies. Lots of kittens. Plenty of older animals, too.
My wife and I became attached to a large 18-month-old frisky and fun ball of fur named Woody. Our kids, naturally, gravitated to the kittens. A friendly, quiet 14-week-old white and grey kitten named L’il Bit had stolen their hearts.
We took L’il Bit home that night. And the first order of business was to rename her to Ghost.
Ghost transformed into a wonderful family pet. She has been unusually good as a family pet, as she seems to make an effort to spend time with each one of us everyday. Nearly all cats I’ve had will prefer the company of “their” human, while being polite and social with the rest of the family. She brought a lot of happiness and laughter into our home with her random pouncing, fluffing, and all-around kitten goofiness.
She also figured out the role and job duties of being a writer’s cat quickly: stepping on keyboards, sitting in front of the screen, picking the most evil time to break my train of thought. Soon, I promoted her as the official mascot of Apex Publications.
Then, three weeks ago, her personality took a sudden turn.
She stopped being frisky. In fact, she stopped doing much of anything. I took her to see our vet.
I suspected she had a simple kitty infection. Ghost has a high fever. After an exam and x-rays, the vet feared something worse. He had an ultrasound done. The radiologist confirmed his fear. That Ghost had something called feline infectious peritonitis (FIP). FIP is a near 100% fatal viral infection. It is difficult to treat. Ghost’s life expectancy fell from years to days.
The vet told us to take Ghost home, make her comfortable, and spoil her while she was still with us.
And we did.
A week passes. She wasn’t getting sicker. In fact, she had bounced back somewhat. I call and tell the vet. He expresses disbelief, calls her the miracle kitty, and asks that I bring her back for a followup. I get her an appointment for Thursday of last week.
Ghost still has a fever. The vet draws fluid from her abdomen that has been building up (a tell-tale symptom of effusive FIP). He gives her a steroid shot for the swelling in her tummy. We are sent home and the fluids are sent off to a lab for testing.
Over the weekend, Ghost is nearly her old self. She’s climbing up the back of office chairs. She’s chasing the evil red laser dot that torments her. She’s running around the house like a wild animal. The kids think she’s healed, though I know it is just the steroid bounce. I don’t have the heart to tell them otherwise.
The lab results come back. The vet sounds down, for good reason. He suspects she’s got lymphoma based on some bad cell counts. I bring her back in that day, he checks her again, and arranges for a consult with a vet cancer internist.
The meeting with the internist was yesterday afternoon.
Ghost hates the vet’s office. She trembles and shakes and hides her face in my arm. There’s blood drawn for more lab work. The nurse tells me that the results should be back in a few minutes. She leaves us.
I sit in an uncomfortable chair in a cold doctor’s office. Ghost is shaking in my arms. I think, and not for the first time since Ghost’s health problems started, about how life can be so unfucking fair. She’s taken from her mommy and left to die on the street as a baby. She lives almost a month in a small cage in a room full of crying and howling animals. Several weeks she’s at Pet Smart where little kids and adults poke and tease her. During this time, she feels miserable due to worms and an upper respiratory problem.
She survives all of that. Finds a perfect home.
The cancer doc comes back. She looks grim. Ghost has a combination of feline leukemia and lymphoma. The feline leukemia has caused the lymphoma. With aggressive treatment, she has maybe 3 months. With basic treatment (steroids) she has a month. The doctor tells me Ghost is one of the youngest cats she’s seen with lymphoma.
She will be the very epitome of “spoiled cat” for whatever time she has left.