DEAR DR. FOX: My daughter found Mulligan the kitten on a golf course in Richmond, Va. Mulligan had partial paralysis in her hind legs, but quickly regained use of them. She had extreme difficulty with bowel movements, probably as a result of the same injury that created the partial paralysis in her legs. No amount of Cat Lax, the natural laxative, helped.
About two months after we got her, she developed a prolapsed rectum from straining to defecate. After an emergency visit to our vet to repair the damage and take X-rays, we took her to a specialist at an animal hospital. The doctor confirmed that she had a megacolon, and surgery was performed that day to remove all but an inch and a half of her colon.
The vet prescribed mixing Metamucil with her food to provide near-normal bowel movements. For 15 years, we did this with generally successful results. Mulligan ate a 5.5-ounce can of wet food each day, and although she struggled at times in the litter box, she was able to lead a fairly normal life as an indoor cat. She was a joy to my wife, who took care of her for all those years. -- J.B., Potomac, Md.
DEAR J.B.: Thank you for sharing the encouraging success story about your injured cat who, after appropriate diagnosis and treatment, enjoyed a long and happy life.
Many people in your situation would have elected to have the cat euthanized. Costs notwithstanding, and with never a guarantee of total recovery, cats and dogs have amazing recuperative abilities when coupled with the expertise of a veterinarian. Above all, animals need the commitment and patient support of their in-home caregivers, without whom the possibility of even partial recovery may never become a reality.
DEAR DR. FOX: I have never told this to anyone before, but I think it may help some readers.
I had a cat who slept and died at the foot of my bed. About a year later, when I went to bed at night, I felt it walking around at the foot of the bed. I had a dog who would jump up and run next to my head, trembling, when it happened. Eventually the dog refused to sleep on the bed. It scared me so much I would say the Lord's Prayer, and the walking would stop.
I miss the cat and dog so much. The little dog died from kidney failure at about 4 years of age. The cat was an indoor-outdoor, and someone poisoned it. It dragged itself home after it had been missing for two days. I laid it on my bed. It had a few seizures, lifted its tail up and down as if in farewell and died.
The walking was a constant foot padding I felt on my feet and lower legs. I'm glad it stopped. -- T.L., Chesapeake, Va.
DEAR T.L.: Some people with experiences such as yours think they are going crazy, or share your fear over some disembodied presence that they can feel but not see. Such presences can affect senses other than touch -- some people hear the claws on the floor, purring or whimpering, or see a visual image, often fleeting or mist-like. For details, visit my website, www.twobitdog.com/DrFox.
The logical argument that all of these manifestations are like holographic projections of our own conditioned memories is defeated when other household members -- human and, in your case, a companion animal -- also sense and respond to the disembodied presence.
Apart from your cat's traumatic and tragic death, your experience, if not an affirmation of your cat's devotion and attachment to being close to you on the bed, is at least a phenomenal one that was affirmed by your dog. And it opens us to the great mystery of life and spirit, if not to feelings of reverence and awe.
(Send all mail to firstname.lastname@example.org or to Dr. Michael Fox in care of Universal Uclick, 1130 Walnut St., Kansas City, MO 64106. The volume of mail received prohibits personal replies, but questions and comments of general interest will be discussed in future columns.
Visit Dr. Fox's website at www.twobitdog.com/DrFox.)