In December 2012, we adopted a tiny black kitten from the local SPCA. He was meant to be a companion for our older cat, another SPCA baby we called Nocturne. She was 3.
The kitten was named Scrappy, because he’d been discovered on the conveyor belt at the massive recycling center at the San Francisco dump. Someone had put him into a recycling bin at the curb, from which he got dumped into a truck. It was a wonder the trip hadn’t killed him.
We had already signed the paperwork for him when the adoption counselor said, “Oh, he’s been fostered. Let’s see what they had to report.” Warning bells should have gone off: he’d vomited a lot. They’d worried and fussed over him. But we’d fallen in love — and the paperwork was signed and our credit card already charged. So we brought him home.
He immediately came down with a respiratory infection. The SPCA wouldn’t see him for two weeks, so we tried another vet. They diagnosed an allergy to his plastic food dish, which was making his lower lip swell.
That was the first allergy. We went through cat food after cat food, trying to find something that he could keep down. They thought he might be allergic to chicken. Or maybe dust. Or maybe the other cat.
In his first three months, Scrappy — now named Morpheus — saw four different doctors at three different clinics. They diagnosed a flea problem (although we have seen never seen a flea or suffered any bites). They prescribed Omega 3 oil (which he ran away from) and sardines (which Nocturne loved). He took a daily immune booster and two kinds of spleen pills. His weight ballooned.
He would lick the fur from his skin, then lick his skin until it bled. We were in for steroid shots or antibiotics or both over and over and over. The interval between treatments grew shorter. Through all of this, both my husband and I were working at home and neither of us was getting paid. The bills added up.
Yesterday the doctor prescribed a daily steroid cream. It’s being made by a compounding pharmacy here in town. I was afraid to ask how much it would cost. He’s supposed to stop eating the $30 cat food and starting eating raw food, which is $50 a bag. The pet store didn’t have the salmon flavor the doctor ordered, so I brought home rabbit. Neither cat will touch it.
For a long time, I wanted to keep Morpheus, to nurse him. I wanted to show my daughter that you keep the commitments you make, even when you don’t understand what they are when you make them. I had no idea what we were in for when we brought our boy home. I feed him measured amounts four times a day. I give him his pills, which he loves. I am home to keep him company. He sleeps beside my knees at night and wakes me in the morning. But as much as I love him, I’m beginning to realize that we cannot care for him much longer.
Yesterday, the doctor noticed that his body had started resorbing his teeth. It’s related to his immune disorder. They see it in older cats, but Morpheus is barely 18 months old. The treatment is to start pulling his teeth.
And the news broke me. We can’t spend $600 a year on cat food and thousands more on vet bills and medicine and watch him continue to be sick. All this time, I was hoping we’d find the right combination of food and medicine and, with enough love, he would be a normal cat. But now I think that point has passed. It’s only a matter of time before he reacts to something and it kills him.
He’s been depressed this week, hiding under a blanket and sleeping the hours away. His teeth have hurt enough that he doesn’t eat like normal. He’s got two areas that he’s licked raw again. If the daily steroid cream doesn’t help him, we may be out of options.
I don’t know what to do. Would he be better off in another home, an only cat with another stay-at-home human to dote on him, someone who could afford monthly steroid shots? Should he go into kitty hospice? How long do we force him to stay in this world when he’s so allergic to it?