As you may know, my sweet Freya is already 15 years old. She used to be quite overweight (6 kg), but I put her on a mild diet in 2017 and she lost about 1 kg in two years. Great! Last April she weighed 5 kg, much healthier for her body type (still a bit overweight, though). I had made it a habit to weigh her on our wirelessly connected scale in the bedroom. Sometimes she would sit on it by herself too, registering a new weight measurement. I have a profile in my health app on my phone especially for her, and when she would weigh herself, it would pop up as if she was saying hi.
But since April, she has been losing weight much more rapidly. In August, she weighed 4.5 kg. She lost 100 grams per month, which is quite much. But she didn’t seem sick at all. Her fur coat looked fine, she was chatty and playful and she seemed to still have a good appetite and digestion. So I went to the vet to see if they could find out what was going on. Freya’s quite a senior already, so doing a checkup would be a good idea anyway.
I visited the vet and they examined her. Her heart was racing and skipping a beat now and then, which could be caused by the stress of the vet visit (she was really scared). Her teeth were not great, but not very bad either. Her organs felt normal. So they took a blood sample to check for abnormalities.
A few days later I got a call from the vet when my husband and I were out for lunch. The vet told me that they had found some abnormal values. Her thyroid value was quite high, borderline too high (could be hyperthyroidism) and her platelets value was low. The numbers could indicate a severe infection or a tumour. She recommended doing a more thorough examination of the thyroid values exclude that. I approved and went back to lunch, but didn’t feel like eating anymore.
After the weekend, the vet called again. No result yet, because they didn’t have enough blood to test. The advanced test required more than they took originally. The vet apologised and asked if we could come in once more. So we did. Freya didn’t like it, and neither did I.
The results came back and apparently, it was not hyperthyroidism. I’m not entirely sure how they tested it, though. The vet suggested waiting a few weeks to see if things would get worse or better on their own. A next step could be a belly ultrasound. I agreed and decided that I would reevaluate after our holiday.
We went away for two weeks and Freya was never far away from my thoughts. I had left lots of wet food for her, in case she was eating less because of a toothache. But after the holiday, she had dropped another 200 grams since the previous vet visit. So I called the vet and made an appointment last week. I went in on Tuesday and had a different vet this time. She examined Freya again and suggested that we could test a urine sample and that we could do a belly ultrasound because she did feel a lump. She was not sure if that was just a bit of food in the bowel or something more ominous. She also thought that one of her kidneys was a bit large.
Freya hated the vet visit. I have to transport her carrier on my bicycle, and she sings the song of her people the whole way there and back. During earlier visits, she was slightly curious and had some mojo, but by now she was just plain scared, making herself small with her tail under her and dilated pupils. Poor thing!
The vet wanted to take a urine sample, but apparently Freya had peed just before leaving because her blatter was almost empty. The vet proposed that I return on Thursday morning to try again. If her blatter was too small then, she could stay for a couple of hours, and then they could try again.
I found the carrier that I had quite inconvenient on my bicycle, so I looked into cat backpacks. I found one online and ordered it.
I also made an appointment with the animal hospital for a belly ultrasound on Friday. On Thursday, I brought Freya to the vet in her new carrier. It seemed okay for her, not worse than the other one, but for me, it was so much more practical!
Unfortunately, her blatter was empty again, so she had to stay. I felt so bad leaving her… the whole morning I was hypervigilant, ready to jump on my bicycle and pick her up. But then it was already two o’clock, and I still hadn’t heard anything. So I called the vet. The assistant told me that they had tried to take the sample. They shaved her belly a bit, but when they wanted to take the sample, Freya got very angry and she was having none of it. So they put her back in the cage to cool down. They would try again later and call me back. They also gave her some food.
About 45 minutes later the assistant called me that they were giving up. Freya was very upset and angry and she had scratched the assistant already. Waiting longer would not improve things. Perhaps the vet at the animal hospital could take the sample when she would be there for the ultrasound anyway. I jumped onto my bicycle and raced to the vet. The assistant asked me to go pick Freya up myself in the back.
We walked to the room with the cages and there she was, in one of the top cages. She was sitting in the back, next to an untouched bowl of food, small and with large, scared eyes. The assistant warned me to be careful, but I saw that Freya had recognised me already. She relaxed a tiny bit, so I offered my hand and she relaxed a bit more. The vet assistant left the room to give me time and space to soothe her. When the assistant was gone, I just reached in and pulled Freya out, and hugged her tight. She was so very very scared, the poor thing. And so relieved that I was there. She’s a very sensitive kitty, and this whole experience overwhelmed her. No wonder she lashed out!
I put her back in the backpack and went home. When we got close, she started walking around in the backpack, and when I was upstairs and opened it, she jumped out with her tail up high and made a beeline for the food. I was still a bit upset about the whole ordeal, but Freya was good.
We snuggled a lot.
Then I had to take her food away in the evening because she had to be sober for the ultrasound.
On Friday, we went to the animal hospital for the belly ultrasound. Freya was quiet in the backpack, curious in the waiting room, and terrified when we were in the examination room. This time, I had a more experienced vet, and he was also very calm. I took Freya out of the backpack and he said, smiling: “You’re looking so angry!”. I don’t get why people interpret the scared look of a tortie as angry. I told him she was very scared, and indeed, Freya turned away from him and crawled toward me. She buried her head under my coat and made herself small. I started to pet her softly and she snuggled up against me even more. The vet said “Good! Just keep doing that and then I can examine her.” He examined her belly and Freya was still afraid, but not as terrified as the day before.
This vet really wanted to know everything. He had been an internist, so he liked complex health puzzles. And he took his time, which was a breath of fresh air, frankly. He called in an assistant to help, and then the belly ultrasound started.
Freya had to lie on her back in a hollowed-out cushion. The vet assistant held her front paws/head, and I held her back paws, while the vet shaved her belly and performed the ultrasound. He saw that one of her kidneys was quite small and the other one was enlarged. It had probably taken over some of the kidney function of the smaller kidney. But apart from that, he didn’t see any abnormalities.
Meanwhile, Freya was low-key growling, more like cursing under her breath. The assistant was responding to her with things like “yes, indeed!” and “I know, it’s so annoying”. She was a sweet person and they were both empathic towards Freya.
The ultrasound took a while, and near the end, I was not feeling so well. My belly felt funny, I got cold sweat, my head became foggy… I had to sit down and did so just in time because I was very close to passing out. Probably because it was very warm in there and I was still wearing my coat, combined with all the worries and stress. They finished things up the two of them, and the vet took the urine sample without a problem. I could finally lift up my head without feeling dizzy.
That was it! The vet said that he believed that the problems could still be because of her thyroid and that we could just start her on thyroid medicine to see if things would improve. Kidney problems and thyroid problems could mask each other, so it can be hard to get conclusive evidence of either when they both exist.
That same day I got the result of the urine test. The urine was a bit watery, but the kidney function was normal. Last Sunday I got the result of the urine culture: no infection. So far so good. Next step: start giving thyroid medicine and reevaluate in a week or three. It was an intense week and I feel as if my holiday is far away already.
Freya is feeling fine now. She’s following me like a shadow, and we cuddle all the time. She’s also helping me write this post by lying on my arms/wrists while I type. So helpful!