Slaughtering my cat

View on the Anatolian side of ?stanbul from He...
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We went away with Dilek and Cos for two days to a Greek island near Gallipoli. The last thing you want to do is go in a car with a Turk when you’re not setting the itinerary, as you’d better be prepared for an interminable drive to some nothing place with the promise there of the “good life” and relaxation, and that’s exactly the situation I found myself in. We got back on March 2nd and came home to our apartment to find our 4-year-old cat Sara’s tail was broken – it was just dragging from the 4th joint below her butt.

The next morning, we took her to the Saskinbakkal Clinic nearby, next door to an amazing pet store where you can buy exotic animals from all over the world. Great place to go if you want to buy a pet toucan for around $3,000 (they had about a dozen), or just to hang out at a mini-zoo. Anyway, the vet x-rayed it and said it was dislocated, possibly from a strange fall from somewhere in our apartment (she loved to jump on and off of high places, get stuck behind hampers or TV sets, etc). He anesthetized her, giving her Rompin/Zilozine, pushed her tail back into place, and said we could take her home an hour later. She looked really out of it, but the doctor said she’d be drowsy for awhile. Well, a few hours later, she was completely nonresponsive on our floor. We called the doctor, who told us sometimes it takes longer and not to worry. An hour later we called our old vet in America who said this was very bad and to bring her somewhere else. The vet also said that Rompin is more often given to cows.

We brought her to the Anatolia Hayvan Hastanesi, who also said not to worry. We had to literally force them to take her temperature, which was 34.5C. Then they were worried. They put her on serums, cortizone, and antibiotics and I was hearing phrases like “if she makes it through the night.” Apparently she wasn’t metabolizing the downers as fast as she should (perhaps from somehow having small organs from being malnourished as a kitten on Heybeliada four years ago?); in addition, they said she’s anemic, which they only blood-test for when giving full anaesthesia. We stayed with her till midnight and left her there; at 2AM we called, and her temperature was up and she was more alert. The vet asked if we wanted to leave her at the hospital last night or take her home, and I said, sounding much like my father and without any particular charm, “I don’t care if she stays at former Prime Minister Bulent Ecevit’s place as long as the end result is that I wake up in the morning with a live cat.” At 8AM we picked her up and she looked like herself (but very groggy).

And then my cat returned to her normal self, jumping around, eating tuna, the usual. Except for one thing: by March 9, her tail was still crooked and swollen at the dislocation, and she cried when I touched it. So we took her into a different vet that was recommended, the Center Veterinary Clinic. They X-rayed her and shaved her tail at the dislocated area, gave us a cream to put on the tail, and then wrapped a gauze around it. The doctor told us to put a drop of cream on the tail at the spot once a day and to reapply the same gauze. We did what he said; the cat always ripped the gauze off with her teeth and groomed herself including the site, and seemed to suffer no ill effects; she was playful all week.

On the 13th at night was she not playful, and she laid down on the floor tile instead of the bed. We woke up on the 14th to find white vomit all over the house. We took her to the vet, and bloodwork showed that she had extremely high uric acid in the blood, no urine in the bladder, lots of feces in the large intestine: renal failure. (I do not like the word renal, as it always precedes failure.) I asked if it could have been caused by the cream, and the doctor said that it shouldn’t be a problem at that small dose; that the cat had been licking it and playing for a week with no evidence of problems during the week; and that it was probably organ damage from two weeks before when she was so cold for so many hours (at 34.5C) with low oxygenation of her organs from the anaesthetic. I called the vet who did the original anasthetic, who said it couldn’t be that, because she was fine for 10 days afterward, and said that the cat may have had internal problems anyway which made her overreact to the Rompin and that’s why she reacted so bad to the Naproxen, and that it was “just her time.” I paid $106 for the bloodwork, left my cat there, and went home to research what could have caused this.

At home, I looked up the cream on the web and found out that it’s Naproxen, a NSAID (non-steroidal anti-inflammitory drug) that is safe for humans (sold as Aleve in the US) but is highly toxic for cats; it causes gastric ulceration and hemorrhages, and kidney failure in cats. When I rushed back to the clinic with a printout of the information I had found on the Internet, he read it, said “Oh my God,” and then attempted the exact course of action recommended by the Naproxen Poisoning page in an attempt to save my cat. She died at 5PM. Elif buried her in her aunt Ilknur’s backyard.

We called the vet licensing board, who told us that there was nothing they could do. It turns out that a second veterinary opinion is illegal in Turkey as per Federal Law 6343 of 3/9/54 establishing the Licensing Board of the Turkish Veterinary Doctors Association. According to Section 29 (amended 3/4/84), “Any veterinarian who gives an opinion against another veterinarian, or participates in such an action as such, is eligible to be charged at the Association’s Disciplinary Committee.” So we called Sabah, a very large Turkish newspaper, who ran an article on the story. Then the veterinary review board, who blew us off before, now started calling the vets involved. One vet threatened to sue Elif, who told him she would be thrilled for him to speak with her mother the attorney and stepfather the judge, which made him scream and curse a lot on the phone before hanging up. Another doctor pretty much apologized. Elif’s mom is scared we might get hurt somehow by angry retaliatory vets, but after making Coup, I’m not afraid of the cat doctor mafia.

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