Alex, My $15,000 Shelter Cat

I adopted Alex for a fee of $95 when he was 12 weeks old. It seemed like he was feverish, but the shelter said he was fine, he was getting over being neutered recently. In fact, he was getting pneumonia. By Midnight that night it was clear he was running a high fever, he could not drink water and was very weak. I gathered him up, and off to the ER Vet Hospital where he spent his very first night “home”. That bill topped out, with all the take home meds for the next 2 weeks, at just under $1,000.

Once home, he spent his nights laying on my chest, rubbing smelly green snot all over my face, pressing his head under my chin, and clinging to me with his tiny paws and claws. He purred so hard I couldn’t sleep -  well that plus the stench of the green snot he rubbed on my face which made me slightly nauseated. But I held him and talked to him, and he would eventually go to sleep; a little, fuzzy, wheezy purr ball under my chin.

Upon follow up with my regular Veterinarian, which included a full blood workup along with chest x-rays, it became clear he had immune system issues – it was not fully developed. He had been found in a trash can, and brought to the shelter by a Good Samaritan. The Vet surmised he probably was not able to nurse from his Mama cat long enough and was also suffering from malnutrition due to being a stray at such a young age. He was so tiny I could easily hold him in one hand, and his ears and legs were too big for his body.

Eventually he grew into his ears and legs. In the meantime, for the first couple of years he wobbled and bobbled around, falling over his own tail and legs all the time. He was one of the few cats that violates the rule of always landing on their feet. Graceful he was not. He would also get “lost” in the house. I discovered this one day when I heard a horrible wail from downstairs. I ran down the stairs thinking something terrible had happened. As soon as he saw me, he wobbled over and purred. After that, “Marco, Polo” became a regular thing. He would wail if he wasn’t sure where I was in the house, I’d reply “Alex!” and this would repeat until he came wobbling into the room I was in. He finally grew out of it….at age 7……Ok so he’s not the brightest bulb in the box, but Alex is the most loving cat I’ve ever had. He head butts everyone - 2 and 4 legged - then settles in close to clean them.

He thought my female cat (Sabrina) was his Mama because she immediately took to him, cleaning him and snuggling him, and hitting him when he pestered her to much (she was declawed – not by me; when she came to shelter she was that way). She looked after him, and he worshiped her, following her everywhere. When she died far too young (I adopted her at age 6; she passed at age 13 from cancer) he actually got so stressed from grief he got pneumonia again.

He has remained sickly all his life. The first couple of years were filled with respiratory issues, then it was recurring urinary tract infections, then eye ulcerations which went on for 3 years, stomatitis, pancreatitis, 2 surgeries, and finally diabetes.

A couple years ago, the Veterinary Specialty Hospital here gave him only a few weeks to live during a particularly stubborn infection that went on for over a month, that also caused his diabetes to go very out of control. I just said, “We’ll see.” It was hardly the first time I’d heard – I’d heard it since the first 2 weeks I had him, and often heard it throughout the years of issues. It’s now almost a year later and he's doing fantastic. He got over the infection; he's on the lowest insulin dose he's ever needed and his blood sugar levels are better than ever - he's completely stable and even gained all the weight back. The only ones NOT surprised by this are me and Alex! (and my regular Vet).

My Vet says Alex is “special”. I agree. Whatever textbooks say about what should or should not happen, what medication should or should not work, and what side effects should or should not occur, Alex’s reactions will defy that 9.9 times out of 10. We joke that Texas A&M School of Veterinary Medicine will someday add a course on unique medical diagnostic and treatments called Alex 101.

Fortunately, he’s good about his twice daily insulin shots, but when I have to give him antibiotics it takes another person to hold him down and squirt in the liquid or rub on the gel (he’s a professional pill spitter). I’ve done the math, and this $95 shelter cat has actually cost me over $15,000. And I don’t regret a single penny!! After all, unconditional love and the gift of life is priceless. I'm here for Alex, just like he's always here for me.