Sorry for the mild profanity but nothing makes me crazier than clients who can’t figure out whether or not they want their pet to live…to receive treatment…or even to go to the vet in the first place.

I have a beautiful little calico in hospital who used to be a beautiful big calico about three or four weeks ago. 'Round about that time she decided to consume many small pieces of cellophane tape—approximately half a stomach-full. So every time she ate, Kitty threw up most of her food.

It shouldn’t have taken too long for her owner to figure out that Kitty was in some sort of distress. I mean, she’d been vomiting after every meal. That’s sort of a clue, right? And how about the weight loss? From fifteen to ten pounds? What would your friends say if you lost 33% of your body weight in three weeks?

And then there was the issue of the bright yellow skin…and gums…and tongue. How do you miss that?

But Kitty’s owner hadn’t overlooked it. In fact, she was able to provide a detailed history of what had transpired, down to the possibility that she had seen her consume the plastic. No, this owner just hadn’t decided whether or not she cared enough to bring the kitty to the vet. Or maybe she was just in denial. Or perhaps she kept expecting kitty to get better the very next day. Who knows?

All I do know is that I’m the one who has to sit and watch the kitty, day after day, puke her guts up (only occasionally bringing up some tape) without the possibility of performing a surgical retrieval of the tape until her liver chills out.

Because Kitty’s liver is a mess. When she lost weight (read: fat) so precipitously, her liver became overwhelmed with the lipids its job it was to process. The disease is called hepatic lipidosis, lovingly known in our profession as “fatty liver disease.”

The upshot? This two year-old cat is essentially dying of liver failure because her owner failed to seek medical attention in time. The process may or may not be reversible. But the owner may or may not put up the money for it. And after three days without contact with her, she may or may not be planning to come back to pick up her cat. And by the time she decides, there may or may not be a kitty to pick up.

In the meantime this kitty could use some different treatments—like a nasogastric tube. But that can’t happen unless the owner picks up the phone when we call so she can authorize them. Honestly, though, I don’t think it would make a difference. This owner can’t afford a higher level of care anyway.

Somehow, some way, this kind of situation has to change. It’s so frustrating to know you could provide so much more care if only…(fill in the blank).