A Roller Coaster Ride of Emotions
Taking care of more than 100 exotic cats is a roller coaster ride of emotions as we try to provide the best possible life for them and yet deal with the gut wrenching decisions of life an death every day. Of our 109 wild cats 100 of them are over the age of 12, which is about as long as they live in zoos or in the wild. An amazing 80 of those 100 cats are over the age of 15. Today we lost a gorgeous 17 year old bobcat after removing a tumor in an attempt to save his life. More at the bottom of this page.
Crazy Horse the Bobcat
Thanks to some of the very best volunteers in the industry and the processes we have in place for noting changes in our cats, Crazy Horse was observed to be off his food and acting strange about 3 weeks ago. To look at him, you couldn’t see the mass in his armpit, until he was sedated and laid out on his back. The mass was the size of a grapefruit, and was purple and red from infection. We sent out samples for testing, but were pretty sure the results would come back as cancer. We wondered if it would be kinder to him to just put him out of his misery right then, rather than wait for test results and subject him to being confined in the Cat Hospital. At the age of 17 we feared his life would soon be cut short and we were torn as to what would be best for Crazy Horse. We opted to wait a few days and see.
The tests came back mixed. Three tests. Three different results.
Meanwhile he had been on antibiotics for the infection and living in the West Boensch, onsite Cat Hospital, under the very vigilant watch of the Skip A Holics and our staff. We thought he would try to kill himself to escape the hospital cages, but turned out to be a very patient patient. He got his name because he is about half crazy and has never liked being anywhere near people.
About a week ago he was re evaluated by the vets to see if the antibiotics had helped. The swelling had gone down to about the size of an orange and all of the red and purple coloring had returned to healthy flesh tones. He seemed to be on the mend, but we still didn’t know if the mass were an abscess or cancer.
On May 31 we took him in to see Dr. Wynn at the Ehrlich Animal Hospital. We had some cause to be hopeful, as he appeared to have gained a little weight, but he had been refusing to eat off a plate. He would only eat if fed from a stick, so we wondered if perhaps the mass was putting pressure against his throat or chest and causing the discomfort. As you can see in the photos above, the mass had continued to shrink a bit. It was the size of a small orange and moved pretty freely, so Dr. Wynn felt that she could surgically remove the mass, and we opted to try.
Three hours later, the mass had been separated from all of the muscle and blood supply lines, and the incision was sewn and stapled shut. I have a picture of the mass, which was the size of Dr. Wynn’s palm, but it was just too gruesome to post here. During the exam Dr. Wynn had discovered a bad tooth, so as soon as Crazy Horse’s armpit was sewn up he was rushed to another surgery suite to have the tooth removed and a flap made over the hole. To keep him from chewing at the staples, which come out in a week or so, he was fitted with an e collar. The mass is being sent out again to see if we can get consistent results this time on the whole thing instead of just the biopsies.
We don’t know how much time this has bought for Crazy Horse. We are always ambivalent about these kinds of procedures. On the one hand, cancer is often an exotic cat’s get-out-of-jail-free card because we don’t want to submit them to traumatic surgery, nauseating cancer treatment drugs and only have them live a few months in misery. On the other hand we have removed tumors and had cats live another year of a pretty good life where they seemed happy up until the end. It’s always a tough call and we make each one based upon what we believe would be in the best interest of the cat involved.
We appreciate that your support makes it possible for us to make those hard decisions entirely upon the best interest of the cat and not out of a lack of funding or a lack of understanding.
Just as I finished writing this our Operations Manager, Gale Ingham, called me to tell me that Crazy Horse the bobcat has died. And now I sit here wondering; did we do the right thing? Should we have put him to sleep three weeks ago? Did we just make his last three weeks miserable by keeping inside the Cat Hospital? Or did we all have to go through all of the past 3 weeks and the surgery to make sure we were doing the right thing for Crazy Horse? If he had lived another year, we would have been glad to have done it, but to have him die so soon only adds to the pain involved in making this decision for him and for others in the future.