The Mindfuck of Caring for a Sick Cat

Varla is eating again! (All photos by the author)

My cat Varla has been meowing hungrily for food every twenty minutes, and it’s the best sound I’ve heard! While opening a fresh can of cat food, I felt so thankful. For the past week, I had thought she was dying, and I would have to euthanize her any day now.

Varla is ten years old and has been really sick for the past eight months. My other cat Mark, died of pancreatitis this past February. Since Mark and Varla were very close from day one, Varla’s health declined after Mark died.

Mark and Varla were very close.

Varla started feeling hungry all the time but losing weight rapidly. I took her to five different doctors and spent a bunch of money I didn’t have on tests. Four of the doctors had no idea what was wrong with her. Her blood tests were normal, but she was getting so skinny that her bones were sticking out, and I could feel her spine when I pet her back.

Varla before steroid treatment. She was eating a lot but so skinny.

One doctor saw abnormalities in her pancreas and stomach lining but had no idea why. Another doctor just found swollen lymph nodes and told me to wait until she got worse since he couldn’t figure out what was wrong.

I got a vet recommendation from a local cat rescue and took Varla to another vet for a fifth opinion. After an ultrasound and more blood tests, the vet found that Varla had “triaditis” which is an inflammation in the pancreas, intestines, and biliary tract. She was put on steroids, antibiotics, and medicine to support her liver and gallbladder. It was such a relief to finally know what was wrong with Varla after months of taking her to various vets and still not having a clue what was wrong with her!

For two months, this treatment worked well. Varla gained weight, was extra hungry because of the steroids and was happy.

Varla looking healthy after 2 months of steroid treatment.

But three weeks ago, Varla started throwing up her medication. She was also really nauseous, She was still asking for food every 10–20 minutes, but she felt too sick to eat and would walk away. She had another ultrasound and it showed that the inflammation had gotten worse. Things were looking dire.

It’s important to mention that because I live in Thailand, most vets here are Buddhists and will not euthanize animals because it is bad for their karma. The benefit of this is that you have vets who will try everything to keep an animal alive, but the downside is the vet will not recommend euthanasia even if the animal is suffering and dying.

In the U.S., vets suggest euthanasia too soon, but in Thailand, they don’t recommend it at all, and many animals end up suffering a lot. Neither extreme is good. There needs to be a better way that will have more consideration for the animal and their quality of life.

So Varla’s current vet is not going to recommend euthanasia no matter what, but once he started pointing out all the inflammation in her organs, I knew it was bad.

I asked the vet to tell it to me straight. I already had a cat die painfully of pancreatitis because his vet gave me false hope and kept treating him even though he was so far gone that euthanasia would have been way better than the painful way he ended up dying.

I mentioned that Varla has been having serious health issues for the past eight months, the treatments aren’t working, and taking her to the vet constantly is just stressing her out. I also can’t afford to take her to the vet every single day for injections since she cannot keep down oral medication.

I had already sold a lot of stuff and received donations from friends to help cover the cost of taking her for injections every day for a week. I couldn’t keep that up financially and it was stressing Varla out a lot. It got to the point where Varla was hiding in fear every time she saw me getting ready to go out because she thought that meant another vet visit. If she was dying, I wanted her to be comfortable and left alone until she needed to be put down.

The vet replied by saying that he had spent time in the U.S. and understood that Westerners don’t want their animal companions to suffer. He suggested trying a different treatment since Varla was still not bad enough to consider euthanasia yet. He asked to try it for a week and see if that helped.

I agreed. The vet put her on a long-lasting steroid that lasts for three weeks. He changed her oral medication and recommended an antibiotic and anti-nausea medication. He said if she can’t keep the oral medication down, it’s ok since the most important thing is the steroid which is to help treat the inflammation in her organs.

He wanted me to return the following week for a check-up, but it’s already the end of the month and I had run out of money even with selling all my shit worth selling and tutoring on weekends on top of my full-time job. I made an appointment two weeks ahead and hoped Varla didn’t have any more emergencies until my next paycheck.

After that last vet visit, Varla was still unable to keep the medication down so I stopped giving it to her. She was still really nauseous and only eating a few bites in the morning.

Varla’s health starting to decline again.

She was looking so awful that I called one out of only two vets I know of in Bangkok who will do at-home euthanasia. The vet I called was off that day and I couldn’t afford to put her down that day anyway. So I just sobbed and pet Varla, telling her that I love her and don’t want her to die.

Then three days ago, Varla started eating again. She kept crying for food and was able to eat it without getting nauseous! She’s had bouts of nausea for the past eight months but it had never lasted more than a day, most of those bouts only lasted a couple of hours.

This nausea lasted for a week and none of the medication she was given worked at all. I was taking her to the vet every single day for injections, which included anti-nausea medicine, and it didn’t help her.

As long as Varla eats and doesn’t throw up, she will live another day. If we had lived in the U.S., she most likely would have been euthanized already. So having Buddhist vets does have its advantages!

Of course, Varla only wants to eat the food I only have two cans of and doesn’t want to touch the food that I had bought in bulk because that’s what she’d been eating for the past five months!

Remember, it’s the last week of the month and I’m broke as fuck but I scrambled enough baht together to get her enough food to last until payday…hopefully. Varla has been scarfing down her food and might need 1 1/2 cans a day instead of 1. As happy as I am that she’s eating, my bank account is not pleased since there is no more money in it.

Ever since Mark got sick and died earlier this year, I have been emotionally, mentally, and financially fucked up by cat health issues. Mark died within two weeks of showing severe symptoms and those two weeks were a roller coaster of emotions since one day he’d look like he was at Death’s door and the next day he’d eat, walk around, and want lots of attention. The day before he died he was fine and I thought he was getting better, but I was wrong. Varla has been the same but this roller coaster had stretched on for eight months already!

I’m glad Varla is alive and eating but I’m drained. I need a break from this shit for at least a year but a nice weekend on a Thai island would do. That will not happen until Varla’s health is stable or she dies. Whichever comes first.

She’s not out of the woods yet. Just because she’s eating now, doesn’t mean she won’t be too sick to eat tomorrow. I just need to keep monitoring her and telling her that I love her. Mark’s death taught me to cherish every single day that my cats are alive.

Last picture of Mark and Varla together before Mark died.

His death also taught me that I can’t have any more animal companions after this. I have a third cat, Cersei, and that’s my last animal child, it’s too fucking sad to deal with them getting sick and dying. I’m so done!

I woke up one morning to Varla sitting on Mark’s altar. I know she misses him a lot.

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Tracy.3

Tracy.3

Vegan, expat witch in Thailand. I write about life, death, animal rights, mental health, & spirituality. Tips are appreciated: https://ko-fi.com/tracydot3