Crumble and her litter twin Apple, are our two tuxedo moggies. They are 7 years old and rulers of our household. We adopted the pair very young, 5-weeks old from their mother Dolly, who has about to move house and was not blessed with the warmest of maternal instincts. By the time we came to retrieve them she was already hissing and chasing them off, so small as they were, it was decided it was time to move them on.
Being as they live almost entirely indoors (we live on a main road), we’ve been fairly blessed with almost no causes to visit a vet in the past few years bar the annual check-ups, one cystitis event and a very scary 48 hours with Apple and a stray ribbon she coaxed out of a sewing box. When Crumble’s foot became noticeably a bit stinky, we were fairly quickly alerted to the fact that something was up, but we never for a moment imagined it would lead to a cancer diagnosis.
On first phoning the vet we were told that ripped claws were commonplace and if she was still bothering it in a few more days then we should bring her in. We hadn’t popped her claw out so when a week later the vet did just that, revealing a nasty looking abscess, we were pretty shocked. Crumble endured a week of antibiotics and the ‘lampshade of shame’ and the infection began to clear. What was left was a small half-pea sized lump between her toes.
“It could be a granuloma”, the vet explained “caused by her licking the wound. Keep her on the antibiotics for 5 more days and bathe the toe in salt water and let’s see if it starts to go down.” 5 more days, no more foot-stink, but no disappearing lump either. This was the point where we consented to the general anaesthetic and an excision of what at this point, was starting to look sinister, but maybe was just a large polyp, attached as it was on a stalk beside her claw.
“We’ll have the lab results in a week and will give you a call”.
Less than 48 hours later and the call came. Osteosarcoma. My heart stopped. The vet Benedette (Bebe), carefully and calmly explained what this means for cats – not the terminal sentence it is for a human, not as aggressive as in a dog, but nasty, and in need of rapid action if there was to be hope of a cure.
“How soon can I bring her in?”
“Can you make tomorrow at 9:45? We would like to x-ray her to look for metastatic spread to her lungs, and if the x-rays are clear, we would advise you to consider amputation. Radical surgery gives her the best chance of a cure. Go home and discuss it with your husband…” But I consented there and then, no more permissions needed; please don’t ask me to consent more than once to do this. I drove home to my husband and we cried and held her and fussed her and cuddled that soon to be no more right limb, and probably freaked the poor independent mini-lion out with all the weird extra attention.
Thursday 29th October. Risk day.
The general anaesthetic. The x-ray. Praying that the phone would not ring before late afternoon. If the x-ray is clear, we said, please go straight to surgery, don’t phone us, don’t keep her under any longer than she needs to be, just do what you can.
At 12 the phone rang, startling us – my father asking how she was and if there was news.
At 3pm the word came through, she was awake, alert, and tripping on methadone. More importantly the x-rays showed no mets, not even locally to the toe. Visitors were permitted. We went to see the films and the puss for ourselves. More tears, relief, and now the long wait for the histology report on the missing forelimb. She may have been very lucky indeed. It might be that the tumour started in her nail bed and grew out rather than inwards. We are keeping everything crossed.
So what we now have is a grumpy, tripawd pussycat living in a dog crate for safety until the stitches come out. She is already balancing well, but I am a little disconcerted when I see the ghost foot being waved in a litter-burying manoeuvre that she does not yet quite realise isn’t achieving much.
She will be fine, of that I have no doubt, she will just need a little adjustment time. Her sister Apple though, is not fine with this at all. Crumble smells of vet and drugs and the great unwashed (I’ve tried dealing with this last part but she gets *really* annoyed). There has been hissing and growling and short, fast, low crouch sprints from the cage. Bedding is being swapped about, Dreamies are being handed out like the sweets they are. More than rehabilitating Crumble walking, we have a sisterly relationship to support repair of.
So where are we now? 5 more days and hopefully the stitches can come out, and then Crumble herself, and maybe we will also know the lab verdict by then too.