Scamp’s Limp

On Wednesday night, my brain broke. It was sad.

The Accident happened almost exactly a month ago, right before the Holiday Week at deviantART that was supposed to be happy times, but now was tainted with The Accident in the back of my mind. I came home from a shopping trip late Sunday night and started playing a game with Scamp that I had invented a few days prior, based largely on this adorable gif.

Scamp loved being thrown on the bed almost as much as this kitten, and it wasn’t even across the room; it was just from the end of the bed to the head of the bed.

After one of Tyler’s throws, Scamp spun around, ready to run back to our arms, but instead tucked one of his back legs up. He looked confused, and tried to walk again, but his little leg didn’t want to have any weight on it.

The vet would tell us later that it was an injury bound to come out someday, but I just can’t believe a soft landing on a bed could have triggered it. This is a cat who, for mews and giggles, hops to the top of the refrigerator and back down, sometimes with the help of the counter, but not always.

His limp went away in a few minutes, but he seemed to want to lay around more than usual, so I brought him in to see a vet first thing the next morning. It was a new vet, and he took some x-rays but didn’t see anything wrong. And we couldn’t get Scamp to limp on command, likely because he doesn’t speak English and wanted to be on his best behavior in public so, you know, we wouldn’t leave him there. “No! No limp here! Must be some other cat you’re thinking of!”

The vet decided that he may have just pulled a muscle in his back and said he’d get better in two weeks. He did not.

I brought him to a different vet two weeks later, who I liked right from the start. Scamp still wouldn’t limp, but the vet was able to feel his little knees and found that he had a luxating patella — something more common in dogs. She said to keep him from jumping up on things, but he also might get better in two weeks or so… If not, he might need surgery.

That was two weeks ago. First, I bought a child-safety gate, so he wouldn’t be tempted to go downstairs at all, but he quickly learned that he could jump that — not only defeating its purpose, but also almost causing him to fall down the entire flight of stairs, making it 10 times more dangerous than not having one at all.

Then I bought doggie cage big enough to house large dogs and put Scamp’s food and litter in it. But the moment he was behind bars, he started freaking out, scratching at the cage until his little claws got bloody, howling enough to make the upstairs neighbors stomp around in passive aggression, until he finally decided the secret way out was through his tiny litter box. He hopped in and kicked EVERY GRAIN out of the box, flinging it into his food and water dishes, and adding a nice layer of litter to the carpet.

I put a towel over it so he at least wouldn’t be tortured by SEEING the soft apartment where he used to be able to roam free, and he made it until around 4:00 AM where his howls forced me to free him for the rest of the night.

After another trip to the vet, she suggested keeping Scamp locked in a small bathroom, with boxes on the toilet and sink so he couldn’t hop up. Tyler rigged a webcam, so we’d be able to watch him without going in there. Most days he just slept in his bed after meowing a few times, but other days, he’d pull a towel underneath the door and attempt to scratch his way through solid wood.

The bathroom solution only worked during the work day, too, because when Scamp heard us come home, the howling started. I thought it would be okay in the long run, since he would basically be so happy to be free, he’d just stay curled up asleep on the bed with us. But it soon became clear that he was roaming the house, up and down the stairs, hopping up onto the bed and hopping down, tripping and limping occasionally.

Outwardly, he looked like he was getting better. He would go whole evenings without so much as a limp, and my spirits would soar, but the next day, he’d hop off the couch wrong and limp for a few steps. In the mornings, he knew he was about to be sentenced to bathroom duty, so he’d dive so far under the bed, Tyler would have to lift it up so I could army-crawl in after him. And I’d grasp him by his scruff or around his midsection, and he’d dig his claws into the carpet, probably doing even more harm to his knee as he tried to velcro all four paws to the ground.

On Wednesday night, he was out of the bathroom for 2 hours or so, and he limped 4 or 5 times just from walking on the carpet. We decided to try, for the first time, keeping him in overnight — even though he had just been in all day. The doctor had also recommended giving him half a dose of human Benadryl just to make him sleepy, which I would usually be against, but if it kept him from stressing him out, I thought it might be for the best.

I guess that’s when I broke. Lying upstairs on the couch next to the bathroom, staring at the ceiling, wondering if cats can go insane from solitary confinement, obsessively sitting up to look at the webcam to see if he’s breathing, waking Tyler up to make sure he only gave him half a Benadryl, wanting to go in there, but knowing that would make it worse. I knew I needed to bring him into the vet the next day to have them board him in their facilities, but I couldn’t bear the thought that I would leave him “out” in the apartment one more night, undoing any progress we’d made in keeping him confined.

At around 1:00 AM, I wondered if I maybe shouldn’t have had that Diet Coke at my late dinner, but by 3:00 AM I realized I was having some problem. At 4:00, I wanted to get up and read, but I knew I wouldn’t be able to concentrate on anything but worrying about Scamp, and besides, I WAS tired and had work the next day. At 5:00 AM, I wondered if someone could fall asleep and not realize it, because I couldn’t believe I had just laid in one place staring at the ceiling for 5 hours, but it sure felt like it. And at 6:00, I heard (and saw on the webcam) Scamp wake up and start fussing, because 6 is usually when he comes down to our bedroom and hops on the bed for morning pets. A few minutes later, he started howling so long and sad, I had to let him out before he woke the whole complex.

I kept him upstairs and pet him, watching his every move until the vet opened at 7:30. And as soon as I got on the phone with someone, I broke down crying.

Of course, it wasn’t the first Scamp-related crying in recent weeks. I cried when Tyler looked up the side-effects of giving cats Benadryl and said he would start foaming at the mouth. He told me this to warn me, to prevent me from being scared when this known and harmless reaction occurred, so I don’t know why, but I just started crying picturing Scampy foaming and scared, trying to swallow the bubbles, and more coming up.

I cried after the first good day when I thought the limps were gone for good, and then he tripped over a weirdly soft spot on the carpet, and fell onto my shoe. He looked over at me, confused and scared, and I just burst into tears.

Then on the phone, asking all about what it was like to board cats, trying to make sure he’d be in the best hands possible.

When I brought him in, I met with the head of the hospital, and choked back tears when I asked if I could come visit him on weekends. Later, the vet tech came to take Scamp away, and I asked him about the sign I had seen earlier — no workers stay overnight. I asked how late they stayed, and I really thought I could get through my sentence asking if they would pet him before they left, but I couldn’t make it before the water works started.

I cried in my car in the parking lot, imagining him scared, wondering why I had brought him there, wondering how long it would be, meowing alone at night with no one going to comfort him. I spent the rest of the day staring at the wall in my apartment, bursting into tears every few minutes because I thought I heard him mew or snort, which he is known for.

I had to write the embarrassing “I can’t come into work because my cat is sick and I haven’t slept and I can’t stop crying and that’ll probably be weird if a client walks in” email to work. I tried to sleep, but I only slept for about an hour, where I had a dream about my friend Melissa’s cat Ralphie who passed away a few years ago. I woke with a start, thinking I had heard a knock at the door, sleepily and confusedly running through scenarios where something happened with Scamp and my cell didn’t work, so they came to my apartment.

That was my 50-hour day without sleep. I called my mom and cried when I recounted the tale. She sent an animated ecard “from” Scamp, saying he was okay and he hoped to see me on Saturday, and cried then. Tyler came home, and (guess what) I cried when I saw him. I was also concerned that I still wouldn’t be able to sleep for a second night, and I would have a mental breakdown and live on the streets where all cats are my friends.

I should state that I realize that a lot of people have it hard for various reasons. People have pets that have passed, pets that are sick now, people have family members that are suffering or recently passed. I try to put that into perspective and be grateful for all I have. And Scamp might not need surgery, in which case this will just have been an emotional month and a half I can put behind me forever (with no more Flying SuperCat games). Who knows?

Still, the next few weeks are going to be lonely. Coming home without a sleepy cat greeting me at the door. Waking up to a curled up ball next to me. Hopefully it will all be back to normal soon. Hopefully I’ll be strong enough to deal with it if it isn’t.

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