Yes, you read that right, His Royal Highness is 17 years old today. To put his age into perspective, in cat years, that makes him about 85 years old! He is no longer considered a “senior”. Our Atchee is classified as “geriatric” and until a month ago I would have called that classification bull, but our poor Atchee has had a pretty rough go of it this past month. In fact, at one point, we weren’t sure if he was going to live to see today.
One evening a little over a month ago, David and I came home from work to discover His Royal Highness was blind. He was bumping into everything and bless his heart you could tell he just didn’t understand. It was like he wandering around wondering why on earth we didn’t turn the lights on. He was very anxious and couldn’t relax. The worst part was feeling absolutely helpless and having to watch him in that distressed state. I called our vet as soon as they opened the next morning, but they had no availability and the best they could do was see him two days later. I had no choice, but to wait until they could see him.
I was really worried about him. From everything I read online, he was blind because his retinas had become detached from his eyes. His pupils were fully dilated and would not contract in the light. The articles I read said that timing was of the essence. The longer the retinas stayed detached the less likely he was to regain his eyesight. Yes, I probably should have rushed him to a veterinary hospital, but I just couldn’t justify taking a 16-year-old cat and traumatizing him like that. It would be bad enough taking him to the vet, but at least he had been there before and it wouldn’t be so traumatic for him. I just didn’t want to do that to him.
Two days later, he had an appointment with the vet. Her practice is about a 40 minute drive away from home. It’s a little far to go, but since he was established there after we moved to Bull Run Mountain I didn’t want to look for another vet. I took the morning off from work, and took him to his appointment.
The vet was genuinely concerned. She turned the exam room lights out and looked as his eyes with the her special light. She said she was not an optometrist, but she could see the retinas were indeed detached and there may be a little hemorrhaging in one of the eyes. She stepped out and asked the receptionist about the types of appointments that followed him. She then asked her tech to make preparations in the surgical room to hook up the blood pressure machine. We were going to see if we could get some readings to see if he had high blood pressure.
The vet was flustered with the machine. She has been unsuccessful getting training on how to use it properly. I even helped the vet and technician fumble through it getting the machine set up. You should see that little wee blood pressure cuff. It was so cute! I held Atchee, while sitting in a chair. He’s such a good patient. Never fights just sits there and tries to hide his head.
It took some time, but we managed to get some readings. The readings were high. A cat’s normal blood pressure is about the same as a human’s and his was up to about 139 / 80-something. Way too high for his poor kitty heart.
His Royal Highness was diagnosed 4 years ago with hyperthyroidism. He’s a very small cat, but had always been about 8 pounds. He was losing weight and we did a blood workup on him. It took some time, but we finally got a dosage that worked for him. Last August, he started losing weight again, we couldn’t keep his water bowl filled and was starting to pee in places he shouldn’t. Another blood workup revealed that we needed to increase his medication for his thyroid again. All settled down and his weight went from a poor 6 ¼ pounds back up to 8 within a couple of months. He was back to his normal self and looked great for a 16-year-old cat.
It is not uncommon for a cat with hyperthyroidism to have hypertension. Actually the two go hand-in-hand. When a cat’s blood pressure is too high, it can cause sudden onset blindness. The doctor prescribed a blood pressure medication you had used on another patient. It is a human drug used to treat hypertension and she called it in the pharmacy. He was already getting one pill twice a day so the additional medicine would be no big deal. As I mentioned he’s a great patient. Doesn’t run away from me when I try to pill him. Heck, he doesn’t even run away if I can’t get it in him. He’ll sit there with an aggravated look on his face and grunt until I get the medicine in his mouth and he swallows it. It’s almost like he says: “ok, we gotta do this let’s just get it over with…” His patience and being a good sport is his saving grace!
I took Atchee back home and raced to work to salvage as much of the remaining day as I could. After work, I stopped by the pharmacy on my way home and started medicating him for his blood pressure.
A few days went by and he was still blind, bumping into everything and extremely jumpy, but not as intense. I was beginning to think we were all going to have to adjust to his blindness. Cats adapt extremely well to blindness. They are able to maneuver way better than you or I could when in familiar territory. I just didn’t want us to have to settle. I didn’t want us to have to adjust to him being blind. He has too much will to just roll over and give up.
A few days after I started giving him his medication, I was in the bathroom brushing my teeth before bed. Atchee loves to be spanked (don’t even ask) and David was beating him around the way he wanted. David stopped spanking him and started watching television not paying attention to him. All of a sudden, Atchee fell off the bed and tensed all up like he was in pain. I ran in to see what was going on. David laid him on the bed. He was drawn up and let out this awful cry. It was heart wrenching. I was about to panic. We really thought he had hurt himself. I started to rub him and coax him and talk him out of whatever was happening or had happened to him. He zoned out staring in a blank trance. Slowly, he began to start purring and then within a minute starting acting ok again. We brushed it off to falling off the bed and having the wind knocked out of him. He seemed ok after that.
A couple of days later, it happened again. This time he did not fall off of the bed. He fell over on the floor, then started that heart wrenching meow again. Once again he zoned out staring in a blank trance and then slowly, he started purring. He snapped out of the trance, start loving on me and then went to eat his food like nothing ever happened. It was the strangest thing. It was like he was having a seizure without any shaking. He would only draw up. I wasn’t sure what kind of “episodes” he was having, but it wasn’t right and it scared the hell out of me.
During a course of a week after he started the bp meds His Royal Highness miraculously regained vision in both eyes! His vision wasn’t perfect, but he could see again. The problem was those “episodes” were starting to get worse as he started to feel better and maneuver around the house. Just going up the stairs from the basement would send him into an “episode”. He would have them twice a day some days. He slept in “his chair” in the basement all day and night. He didn’t interact with us that much and he had no desire to be spanked (that’s a huge deal). David and I both were starting to fear the worst for him. Discussing things we didn’t even want to think about. I felt so helpless. What was going on with this poor cat? Was Atchee going to make it through this? I was overcome with worry.
I scheduled another appointment to go see the vet. This time a different veterinarian saw him that practices in the same office. She recommended we do a blood test to check on his kidneys. I agreed. At least it would tell us whether or not we could help him and rule out some things at the same time.
A couple of days and many “episodes” later, the blood work came back perfect! No signs of kidney problems, everything was reading normal and offered no reasoning as to what was going on. A few more days went by and I needed to talk to the vet I know and trust the most. I requested to speak with her and had her call me at her earliest convenience. During our conversation, she listened to all of what I had to tell her. Atchee’s reaction to the medication was surely nothing she had ever come across before. She recommended that we use the same blood sample that was sent to the lab to check his thyroid levels again. Perhaps his thyroid was flaring up again, with different symptoms. I agreed.
The next day, the vet called me back. His T4 was a little high, but not enough to justify an increase of his medication. During this phone conversation, we worked out a plan together. I was willing to monitor him another week and see what happened. Then I would take him back in for a bp check for readings. Once she had a fresh set of readings and if the “episodes” were still happening she was going to call the lab in New York for a free consultation offered to her practice and see what kind of insight they may have about what was going on with my poor cat. He wasn’t even acting like himself. Laying around sleeping. He wasn’t interacting with us. I was afraid His Royal Highness was too sick to recover, but I wasn’t going to give up on him. I couldn’t bare the thought of having to put him on an anti-seizure medication too.
The rest of the day, I started going over the phone conversation with the vet over in my head. I couldn’t stop thinking about how she had asked me if the “episodes” started after I starting giving him the drug for hypertension. I kept reliving the events from the first “episode” to the last in my head. Although it was not part of the plan I discussed with the vet, I took him Atchee off of the bp meds. 24 hours later, Atchee hadn’t had a single “episode”. In fact for the next week, he was back to the same demanding, spoiled, and lovable cat we’d known and loved for years. The best part was he could see!
I called the vet on a Friday to give her my raving review of how he was back to his old self. However, the very next day after he woke up from a nap, on Saturday evening blind as a bat again. For a second time, he had lost his eyesight. We were back to square one. He was freaking out, bumping into everything. He wasn’t himself and he really started to worry me again. You could tell he didn’t feel well and not being able to see anything was intensifying the situation. Unfortunately, it was Saturday evening. He would have to wait until I could call the vet first thing on Monday morning. Perhaps she could offer a new drug since the previous one helped his eyesight. Maybe the bad side effects from the first medication wouldn’t happen if he were given a different type. There are several medications on the market to treat hypertension. It was my only hope for him.
The vet called me back and I explained what had happened over the weekend. She wasn’t sure if it would work, but there was another medicine she prescribed for dogs. If I was willing we could try him on that medication and see how that worked for him. That’s what I like about his vet. She’s old school. She doesn’t use a lot of fancy technology. She had already pulled out her trustworthy book and had picked out a medicine for him. I agreed and once again went to the pharmacy to pick up medication for my cat.
I was afraid for him for the first couple of days. Every time he’d meow I rush to see what was the matter with him. As each day passed, he seemed to calm down and about a week later, low and behold, this crazy cat of mine regained his sight for a second time!
Within the last week, we have decreased his bp medication to boost his appetite and water intake. This new regimen seems to be working well for him and as far as a geriatric cat goes, well he’s pretty amazing!
As I mentioned before, his vet is very old school. She doesn’t have high-end sophisticated equipment to detect things a fancy veterinary hospital would have, and I cannot thank her enough for working with us to get our sweet little Atchee boy back. It was an act kindness and genuine love for animals and didn’t cost a fortune.
We will continue to cherish the predictable days we have left with him and try not to get too mad at him when he wakes us up at all hours of the night meowing for no reason, because one day, we will miss it. Shoot, who knows, he may outlive us all…
Any cat who survives a failed marriage, moves across the state of Virginia 7 times in 12 years and put up with David and I on a daily basis deserves the best! So tonight on our way home from work, we will run by the grocery store and get this kitty a lobster tail to broil for his birthday. After the month and year he’s had, he deserves the best and that ain’t no April Foolin’!
Happy Birthday Atchee!
We love you bunches, you crazy little kitty!
DMS (your mom)
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