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Learning your Senior Cat has Cancer

Updated on January 3, 2011

Cancer was not a diagnosis I was hoping to hear

My Senior Cat Bugsy was just diagnosed with Cancer December 21st 2009. Not a diagnosis I was prepared to hear and not one I even thought would be mentioned at my recent Vet visit. Hearing that word sends chills down my spine every time I hear it mentioned. As the Vet made her diagnosis my first reaction was shock which quickly turned into a rush of tears streaming down my face thinking I was going to be losing my cat to a horrible disease.

This Page was written in stages from the First Diagnosis December 2009 until today April 26th, 2010 - when I finally was able to come back and finish.

A Little about Bugsy

Bugsy is a cat we rescued when I lived in Florida back in 1995. I remember going to the rescue and seeing a bunch of kittens and he stuck out being he was the only one with no tail. A cute little guy with great markings and no tail due to his breed (Manx)- I had to take him home. He got his name due to the fact that he looked like a Bunny and when I think of a Bunny - I think Bugs Bunny - so the name Bugsy came about.

When he ran he kinda hopped with his back legs - it was a perfect fit for him.

He quickly became best friends with our other cat Hubcap (who has already crossed over due to Renal Kidney Failure years back).

A few months after rescuing him we rescued our now Senior Dog Bailey. Bugsy loved to watch TV as a kitten and was real spunky in his earlier years. He has had many homes as we rented for a number of years until we finally settled in our current home in PA. He has always been our tough kitty and very laid back. His personality is wonderful and he is a great companion with a very loud Purr. He is also very vocal when he wants something. If he wants to go outside - he will meow and it sounds like he is saying "Out". Of course he has slowed down in his older age, but the love he gives us has not changed. Having him in my life for almost 15 years now makes it really hard to think my time with him will soon be over.

The Diagnosis - Oral Squamous Cell Carcinoma

Feline Mouth Cancer

Prior to taking Bugsy to the vet we had noticed that his Jaw was swollen. Now Bugsy goes outside and has had his number of injuries - so we watched for about a week to see if it was just a cut he had gotten. It did not get any better and we noticed he started to drool more than he had before. He had always drooled a bit due to him losing a tooth years ago, but this was different.

So we made our Vet appointment. The Vet examined him and said that she believed it was Oral Squamous Cell Carcinoma - Feline Mouth Cancer. The only way to know for sure would to do a biopsy. But with his age and where it was in his mouth even with that the chances of survival were slim. It would have been more traumatic to put him through all of that - so we decided not to. It is a horrible Cancer with a very slim diagnosis unless caught very early in its stages and the Vet knew this was in the ending stage. He could have had this Cancer for sometime, but when it shows the way it was meaned it was not good. She told us he could live for weeks or a month, but it did not look good at all. My heart broke - my eyes filled and tears just steamed down my face. I did not feel he was ready to go yet - he was still eating well. I wanted to try Meds and take it from there. She told us we would know when it was time to make the decision - he would tell us. I just wanted to go home and take care of him and maybe she was wrong. I left the office in a state of Shock.

We decided to give him some strong Antibiotics, Anti-Inflammatory and Pain Meds to see if anything would help - I just prayed she was wrong.

Oral Squamous Cell Carcinoma
Oral Squamous Cell Carcinoma

Oral Squamous Cell Carcinoma

Signs you can look for

I made this page for a couple of reasons:

One - it is my Therapy

Two - Maybe I can help someone catch this disease in their Cat before it is too late

Symptoms of Feline Oral Cancer include:

* Difficulty eating

* Dropping food out of the mouth while eating

* Lack of appetite

* Lack of grooming

* Swelling of the mouth

* Drooling

* Bleeding from the mouth

If your cat has difficulty eating, it could mean many things. Most of the time, it doesn't mean cancer. However, it always needs to be checked out by a vet because it could be serious and because your cat should not go for long without food and water.

Feline Oral Cancer is usually treated with chemotherapy or radiation followed by surgery. Surgery provides the best attempt at a cure assuming the cancerous tumor is diagnosed early.

If your Cat shows any of these signs - Please see your Vet Right Away.

Caring for Bugsy

Extra Love, Hugs and Kisses

Caring for Bugsy with his Cancer Diagnosis was not easy in the way my Heart broke every time I looked at him. Trying to take in every moment we had together knowing it would soon be taken away. Amazed at the love you could feel for your pet, your companion, your friend for so many years.

We made sure to give him all his meds and pain medicine so he was comfortable. He slept a lot and we made a special bed up for him in his favorite spot on the couch. I was hoping and praying the Meds would work and the Vets diagnosis was wrong, but it was not the case.

It was not long that his mouth got worse and his jaw swelled up more. He would drool a lot. He was unable to clean himself, because it was too hard - so I would wipe him down with some warm soap and water. He started having a hard time eating so we would get him moist food in all kinds of flavors and we would have to pile it high so he was able to bite into it. Sometimes we had to add water to raise it up. He had a really hard time drinking his water due to his tongue being displaced from the swelling now. We would bring him to the faucet and turn it on slowly and he was able to drink some with his head sideways. I also even put water in his mouth using a dropper so he would not dehydrate.

The moment we knew it was time is when he was unable to drink - it was too hard for him. Eating was only harder. The Vet said you would know and we knew - his quality of life at this point was not quality. We had to make the decision no one ever wants to make, but knowing it is what needed to be done. It was the moment we had to show him how much we really loved him and how we would not let him suffer anymore. It was time to let Bugsy be Free of pain and suffering.

Bugsy's Cancer - NOTE: Some of these photos may be disturbing to some

Click thumbnail to view full-size

January 12th 2010 Bugsy crosses Rainbow Bridge

Our last moments together

I am writing this just a day after I had to let my beloved Bugsy go to heaven. I wanted to write while it was fresh in my mind and to me writing is good therapy. I am not sure if you have ever had to make the decision to have your pet put down, or are at the point of making it or just knowing one day you will - it SUCKS!!!

This was not my first time having to do this. My cat Hubcap many years back had to be put down due to Renal Kidney Failure, he happened to be Bugsy's buddy. The only difference from then until know was my decision to be there in the room with him, my husband went with Hubcap. See I have a really hard time with death having to have been faced with losing my mother at 8 years old - it is so hard for me. I cannot get myself to go to funerals unless I really have to. I never like to have an image of some one dead and would rather keep the image of the living - just my thing. But this time I worked up the courage to be with him at his last moments - I owed it to him - he was my baby.

I woke up in the morning and made the call to the vet to set up a time - 11:10am was my appointment. I cried like a baby after making that call. It seemed to horrible. I got my kids off to school and devoted my morning to being with him. I gave him some food, while in my head I had thoughts like - I am giving him his last meal he would ever eat. He did not eat much it was too hard for him. My husband got him to drink some water from the tub faucet, but later I found he had thrown that up along with the food he had eaten.

He asked me to go out and I knew if I let him out he probably would not come back. But I did let him out as I followed behind him. He loved being outside and I wanted him to have his last time out in his yard. We did not stay out long it was cold and he was good.

I then took him and sat with him on my chest and he purred like crazy all over my face. The guilt I felt knowing his time was soon coming to an end was so heavy on my heart, the guilt, the racing thoughts - it was horrible. It was like he knew and he was telling me it was OK - it didn't matter I felt like crap. I tried not to cry holding him, but it was impossible - my heart was breaking - we had 15 years together and now it was over.

I then let him down and gathered what I needed to take with me to the Vet. When it came time for us to leave Bugsy was missing. I ended up finding him hiding under my son's bed - he knew. I wrapped him in a towel and held him as my husband drove and I tried to build up my courage to do this. My husband knew what was ahead, but I did not. We cried on the way to the Vet and Bugsy cuddled on my chest, looked out the window taking it all in and purred really load the whole ride there.

We knew we had made the right decision there was no doubt, but going through with it is so hard. When we arrived at the Vet I was a mess of course and no words were exchanged really. They brought us to a room where they had a red fleece blanket set up on the table with paw prints on it. I held Bugsy tight in his towel for a while while my husband and I talked to him. I then put him on the table and he crawled back onto the towel on the table and laid down. We pet and loved him for about 20 minutes and the Vet came in to ask us if we were ready.

Of course I am not ready - this is my baby, but I knew it was time. Bugsy laid there looking at us and my emotions were all over the place. I knew I had to do this for him and I had to comfort him as he crossed over. My husband and I were in the front of him and the vet was at his back side. I had my arm around him and I stroked his head with my husband. The Vet said she had to shave his leg first and as she did Bugsy seemed ok. He just looked at us with his big eyes as I tried to control my crying. She then asked if we were ready and we said yes and I saw her inject him. I started to cry so hard at this point. It was only second and I could feel his body get heavy on my arm. I remember looking at his eyes and as them seemed to look as though they were black and white and lost their color to me at the same time the Vet said his heart has stopped. I closed my eyes and kissed him on his head and then quickly turned around - I did not want to see him lifeless - I could not do that. I was crying so load and was close to hyperventilating - I could not control it. A piece of my heart was gone. My husband pet him for awhile and said his goodbyes, but I never turned around - I just couldn't.

The Vet looked into his mouth after he had passed and I could hear her say that it was really bad. She said we did the right thing. His mouth was full of tumors and his tongue was displaced and there was such a small opening to his throat and that the pain must have been horrible for him. Even though it was the hardest thing to do I knew we released him from that pain and he was now in a better place.

I continued to cry uncontrollable and when my husband said he was done he handed me the towel and I held that so tight and had to get out of there. I cried all the way home and pretty much all day long - I kept the towel close to me and held it when I needed to - it had his smell on it.

All my other pets seemed to know and all seemed sad as well. I got through the day and I remember constantly looking at my clock thinking he has been gone for 5 hours, 6 hours etc... All the days events replaying in my head. I took the towel to bed with me and placed it above my head on my pillow where he slept with me. I know in the end it was what needed to be done and it is so hard, but he is free of all the pain and he was spoiled rotten and loved. I will see him again one day.

Bugsy will be privately cremated as my other pets have been and they will all be buried with me when it is my time so we can be together forever.

The Last Photo ever Taken of Bugsy - 1-12-2010

This photo of Bugsy was taken the Last Day of his Life. He was sleeping on my son's bed with Sushi one of my other cats. He was Peaceful and that is how I like to think of him now - At Peace. RIP Bugsy - you brought us 15 years of Love and Joy - you are missed everyday.

Saying Goodbye to Your Angel Animals

Saying Goodbye to Your Angel Animals: Finding Comfort after Losing Your Pet
Saying Goodbye to Your Angel Animals: Finding Comfort after Losing Your Pet
In this thoughtful book, Allen and Linda Anderson walk you through the numbing pain and dreadful sense of loss that arise when a beloved animal dies. They offer solace to help you deal with grief, remember and honor key moments in the animal’s life, find comfort through groups and with professionals, and get past the depression. They also include exercises, affirmations, and meditations to use through the various stages of grief.

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