We have two outdoor cats that hang around our backyard. One of the cats is a half stray named Gypsy. She likes to pretend she is a skittish cat, but she is very sweet when she lets you near. We have been watching after her for nearly 15 years, since she was born in our backyard.
It had been at least a month since I last saw her. My parents both told me they had seen glimpses of her and we all assumed she was fine. We learned differently a couple days ago.
I am pet-sitting for some friends while they visit family out of state. This is a different family than the one I usually pet-sit for, so it has been an interesting experience. I usually go home to my parents’ house in the afternoon after class to check on my kitties and make sure they are behaving in my absence. They are for the most part, thankfully.
Two days ago, I was gathering up my stuff and preparing to head over to the friends’ house. I left something in the house and went back to retrieve it. I decided at the last minute to get a soda on my way out, too. We keep our sodas downstairs in the utility room. To get there, one must go through the kitchen. It is hard not to glance out the window to the deck and backyard when walking into the kitchen. I am glad I did. I saw Gypsy on the deck and her appearance sent chills through me.
The right side of her head was swollen so badly she was having trouble keeping her right eye open. A patch of fur near her ear was missing and she appeared to have scratch or bite marks in that area. I quickly rushed outside to confirm what I had seen and then retrieved a pet carrier from the utility room. Gypsy barely moved when I approached, which is an indication by itself that she was not well. I gently scooped her up and, with some effort since she decided to struggle, placed her in the carrier. I called Mom and let her know that I would be on my way to the emergency vet clinic.
I have been there once before with another cat, so it was not hard for me to find. As soon as they found out why I had brought her in, they immediately took Gypsy to the back to begin treatment as I filled out the paperwork as best I could. With Gypsy being an outdoor cat, her vet visits have been limited. I remembered her being spayed years ago, but that was about it.
Mom arrived from work. She had been about to leave when I called, so I did not interrupt anything. Shortly thereafter, the vet called us into a small room and told us that Gypsy actually had a severe ear infection. The marks were from her trying to relieve the pain in her ear. They flushed it out, gave her an antibiotic shot, and asked if we wanted blood work done to see if anything else was wrong. We agreed, especially in regards to FeLV and FIV. Mom and I quietly decided Gypsy would be put down if either of those came back positive, as we have both experienced cats who have suffered from those diseases. Thankfully, they came back negative. In fact, other than a high white cell count and a slightly low red cell count, both of which indicate that she was fighting an infection, Gypsy’s blood was fairly normal. The only other complaint they had was how thin Gypsy was. She was not eating due to the infection and is very thin.
Mom took her home and she and Dad put her in the bathroom with cozy box and a food dish. She is safely indoors where it is warm and she does not have to worry about other outdoor cats or wildlife. The bathroom also keeps her separated from our indoor cats who may not approve of our permanent guest. Gypsy will be an indoor kitty from now on. We hope she will rebound back from her illness, but I will feel better just knowing that I helped improve her quality of life. Once she regains a normal weight and is healthier, we will probably move her into the den area where there is more room for her to move around in. It is also more comfortable. For now, she is content with resting in the box in the quiet bathroom.
She is eating the food we put down for her, which is a promising sign. The swelling has gone down and she is more alert. She responds to affection and even gave me a little purr this afternoon. It sounded a bit rough, but it was there. I will be glad when her meow no longer sounds like she needs to cough up something. She is more steady on her feet, too. One day at a time. It will be a long recovery, I think, but I am optimistic at this point.