I hate people sometimes. Strong words for a peaceful Sunday morning, right? There I was, sitting at Starbucks, recovering from catering my mother’s lavish annual holiday party (75 peeps!), just cooling my toes in a cappuccino…when the phone rings:
Unknown number. S---! Should I answer it?...why not?
Is this Dr. Khuly?! Dr. Khuly my cat is dead. Dead! This is the third cat I’ve taken to your hospital and they’ve all died. The other doctors killed the other ones but this one is on YOU!
Really? Why the hell did I answer the phone? What could I possibly have done to deserve this?
Here’s what: A dog-owning client, this woman also keeps a colony of ferals in her garage. We’ve spayed and neutered them for her at the feral cat rate we set for “good’ clients who do good deeds (basically free).
Last year a couple of her cats came down with something infectious and we couldn’t figure it out. She didn’t want to spend a lot of money so we muddled through the best we could. We eventually euthanized them because they were not responding…and suffering.
Then came yesterday’s cat: First it was a mission to get her to bring the cat in. She wanted a “stray cat rate.” Meanwhile, we’re in the midst of a busy Saturday morning handling all the emergencies we could. Finally, I convince her the cat needs to come in…now!
Kitty arrives panting, lungs crackling with fluid. Owner declines bloodwork and X-rays, since she’d “spent so much money last year for nothing” on the other cats. I offer to euthanize the cat, explaining that he’s in terribly dire straits, suffering, likely beyond aid with or without a serious cash outlay. Nonetheless, X-rays are agreed to in the wake of this discussion.
Interestingly, it looks as if this cat might have a pneumonia complicated by some allergic bronchitis—something along those lines, anyway, based on the X-rays. This is a pretty fuzzy tentative diagnosis but it’s something to work with. Nonetheless, owner refuses to hospitalize her cat at the 24-hour hospital. She wants to take him home since she doesn’t want to spend more money unless I can guarantee an outcome.
“We can try antibiotics, bronchodilators and subcutaneous fluids as a very rudimentary approach. But if he continues to breathe like this you should really consider euthanizing him if you choose not to opt for intensive care. Cases like this are extremely complicated even in the best medical settings. Home care will not be enough.”
Apparently, this owner tried calling me several times last night. Otherwise occupied in normal human endeavors (the whirling dervish cook for an elaborate seven-course meal), I didn’t have my phone on (I explicitly told this owner I would not be available).
The kitty decompensated and died last night. And now it’s MY fault. For not being available. For giving her a bum diagnosis. For offering her false hope.
“I’m very angry and that’s my position.”
“I’m sorry for the loss of your kitty. I truly wish he could have received the care his condition merited.”
What else could I say?…and happy holidays to you, too!