On Monday night, February 22, 2016 my daughter’s cat, Maple, suffered something called “saddle thrombosis,” a blood clot in his spine that’s reducing circulation to his hind legs. It’s related to cat heart disease. He had a heart attack. Maybe it’s the same in humans. We learned all this later from the veterinarian.
It was all very shocking, because Maple is a “genki” energetic cat and we have always taken careful care of him. He’s gentle and we love him back. That day everything appeared normal and fine. But after dinner I found Maple in the threshold, the “genkan” of the apartment. It is cold there, and I thought it was strange that he should be lying down there in this cold season, when he usually lies down in front of the warm space heater. The last I remembered seeing of the cat moving around was when he used his litter box which is in Emma’s bedroom, very near my computer desk where I spend most of my time. So when he uses the litter box I can hear and smell him. I turned the overhead light on to get a look at him to see what he was doing there in the “genkan” and I was immediately alarmed because he was obviously labouring to breathe and panting like a dog, looking up at me mournfully, meowing pathetically and obviously having difficulty moving. His hind legs were not working properly. I wondered how long he had been there in that condition. Junko, Emma and Ken were all watching TV in the other room.
I was talking loudly in English to Maple saying things like “Maple! What’s wrong? Are you alright? What’s wrong, Maple?!”
The family could hear me and Junko shouted, “Grant, what’s wrong?!”
I called back, “Junko! We’ve got trouble here!”
“Stop talking and come here!!!”
So they came running, partly because I told them to, and partly because they could hear worry in my voice. There was much shouting and loud alarm, but in a few minutes Emma and Junko were dressed and out the door with Maple packed in his carrying cage. Emma used her smart phone to go online to find an open veterinary hospital nearby on Ome-kaido, half-way between Shin-nakano Station and Nakano-sakaue Station. It’s only a night time veterinary emergency clinic. The three of them left and went there by taxi, leaving Ken and me home along. I told Junko to take her phone and to call me with news. I thought I wouldn’t see Maple again.
Over an hour later Junko called with news, to say that the woman veterinarian said that Maple had had a heart attack and the doctor was with him in her examination room. When I heard her say that I thought that he would be put to sleep and I would never see him again. She cut the call short because as she was talking to me the doctor was coming out of the examination room. I waited and waited, either for Junko to call back or to show up at the apartment - I didn’t know which. I waited either for the phone to ring while also listening carefully for the sound of a taxi on the street downstairs, or for the sound of the elevator. Sometimes I can hear cars on the street, but usually I cannot. It was at midnight that Junko called again. I expected her immediately to say that Maple was dead - but no, she said that Maple was alive, that he was staying in the clinic with an IV, that she and Emma were returning home, but that Emma would go back to the clinic in a few hours at 4:00 to bring Maple home. I thought it was all positive-sounding news, but the clinic is only a night-time emergency clinic like I said, so it wasn’t really as good as I hoped it was.
When they got home Emma was calm but Junko was in tears - partly because of fatigue, partly stress, and partly because of her closeness to Maple. Maple is like a grandchild to her.
Now, Maple is still alive. But he is permanently lame. He walks with a terrible limp. Junko has to give him two injections of heart/blood medicine every day to try to prolong his life. So his neck has a permanently shaved spot which is his injection site. He has started eating and drinking on his own, but he has noticeably lost some weight. He’s not currently in pain like he was when it happened on the 22nd. If he was in pain he’s be meowing like a squealing pig. He life expectancy is now reduced to months or maybe a year. If/when he suffers a repeat heart attack/blood clot it will either kill him outright or else leave him in such poor condition that euthanasia will be the most practical decision. (The veterinarian and the information I read on the Internet say it’s not so much a question of “if” but “when” another attack will occur.)