Leeloo had been experiencing an intermittent hairball cough. It usually happened in the middle of the night. She'd hack and hack and nothing would come up. It would happen a few days in a row, then stop. She was also occasionally throwing up a bit of dry food. Just when I'd get to the point that I'd think, "Hmm... better take her to the vet," she'd stop for three, four, or five days. She seemed happy and energetic otherwise, so I let it go for a while.
Last Saturday, I called the vet to ask their advice. All my online and book research hadn't pointed to anything obvious, so I figured it was probably time for x-rays to see what was down there. I called in the morning and they got back to me in the evening, so I missed the chance at an appointment that day. Sunday morning, Leeloo coughed up a shoelace. I hoped fondly that that was the source of all this coughing and that it was all over.
She woke me up at 3 a.m. again coughing. I called the next day to get an appointment. With an appointment scheduled for Thursday evening, I spent the next few days fretting that maybe I should've gotten an earlier appointment. She woke me up each night around three coughing.
Her appointment time arrived and x-rays were called for. Thirty seconds after the photo, the vet said, "Oh boy. Yeah, she needs surgery, tonight." She definitely had string in her tummy, and it looked like it was snaking through her intestines as well. There was a few minutes of debate about waiting til morning to see if it could possibly be retrieved via a scope. The vet really didn't want to wait til morning, fearing further damage or perforation of her intestines or stomach. After 15 minutes of fretting, we decided to go for it. She would be there until at least 6 p.m. tomorrow, so I headed home. The vet would call when he was out of surgery.
I came home and spent the next two hours cleaning house and trying to find the source of string around the house. Nothing obvious turned up, but my kitchen floor is now mopped, so that's good I guess. At midnight, the vet called and said she did really well, and she's awake and alert, and that he managed to pull "several yards" of what looked like shoelace out of her stomach. It wasn't far into her intestine, so that was good, and very lucky. That means an easier recovery. He said she needed to stay til she was eating and said I could stop by to see her if I wanted. He'd be in at 11 a.m. I asked if I should bring her favorite food, and he said definitely.
I went to work in the morning and stopped by to see her at lunchtime. I walked back and she saw me and started meowing at me and trying to press through the bars. They let me open her cage and snuggle her for a bit. I brought a packet of her favorite fishy treat and she ate it out of my hand and wanted more. She's never been shy about food, but even after her stomach sliced open, she wanted more food than she was allowed.
The vet stopped by and showed me what he'd pulled out of her tummy. I have no idea where she got that much shoelace from. It looks like at least six shoelaces. I have no idea how long she'd been eating these and letting them build up. And I have no idea where she got them, so I don't know how to keep her from doing it again.
I came back at six to pick her up and pay her bill. Coming in at nearly $1700, she's set a new standard for kitty vet visit expenses in my world. This handily eats up the last of my savings for the year, so I sent a note to my family letting them know what was up and suggesting that perhaps we skip the Christmas present thing this year. For better or worse, all of us grandkids are in less than stellar financial situations these days. I suggested we take a moment to write little cards with something we like about one another or a special memory instead of exchanging gifts. Hopefully everyone else is good with that plan, because I have absolutely no money for gifts for anyone this year.
Leeloo and I came home last night and boiled chicken. She was only allowed a little at a time, but I fed her a little bit every hour or so, and she eagerly ate every bite. I got up in the middle of the night to feed her some more. Today she's starting to slow down a bit and actually sleeping a bunch. Instead of going to Fezziwig rehearsal, I stayed in bed with Leeloo curled up on top of Pixel. Pixel is a very patient boy who doesn't seem to mind with she flops over on him and goes to sleep. It's going to be a long week of antibiotics, pain killers, fresh boiled chicken and wound care, but we'll get through it.
The moral of the story is to keep your kitties away from string. The old vision of a kitten playing enthusiastically with a ball of yarn is a bad idea. Turns out it's the worst thing for them and can destroy their intestines. The vet said Leeloo was very very lucky to survive this. No one at Adobe had ever seen that much string come out of a cat's tummy before, let alone a little 8 pound wisp of a cat like Leeloo. I just hope that's the end of this story because I suspect Leeloo might not be so lucky if she tries this again.