Preparing for an Important Check-up

Sorry, it’s been so long since our last update. The fact is everything has been going so well that there was very little to report. Castiel has remained cancer-free since his amputation surgery in October 2021. And not only did he remain cancer-free he has remained his same goofy self –rolling around with his belly in the air, playing feather toy, smothering his humans with love in the morning, snuggling with his sis Clover, and hanging out on the window perches with his bro Aleksander.

It’s been quite an ordeal going to oncology check-ups every three months. His oncologist relocated from the SAGE cat hospital that was less than 30 minutes from us to one that is an hour from us when traffic is good. Castiel HATES car rides. He gets so scared and poos and pees and it is truly awful for all of us. We feel terrible bringing him that distance and wish we could explain our reasoning to him.

The oncology office was also not as understanding as his home veterinarian about him arriving in a smelly, messy state (“code brown,” we call it). We tried various vet recommended medications to calm him but all we got was drugged cat who still pooed and peed when scared. He is also a difficult patient — he hisses, flattens his ears, and threatens to end the veterinarian and her staff. His local vet knows this is a bluff, but the oncologist doesn’t. We hate bringing him the extra distance, but we want to make sure during this period (the first 1.5 years) where cancers are more likely to re-occur that he had a trained oncologist and radiologist looking him over carefully to ensure that if the cancer did re-occur that we could get treatment started early. Thankfully, there have been no signs of cancer.

He did develop hyperthyroidism last year but we are told that is not unusual in cats over 10 years old. His local vet checks his thyroid regularly and so far, it seems controlled. He takes a flavored chewy pill daily that we order special from a pharmacy to help maintain his thyroid — doesn’t even know it’s medicine. He thinks it’s a yummy treat. It’s much more expensive to have it made into a treat but not fighting with him to take a pill is priceless.

Castiel had a thyroid check-up two weeks ago, his bloodwork and urine were all normal and everything is looking good, except he lost a few ounces of weight. His thyroid number is right where it should be. The doctor didn’t feel any lumps or bumps and Castiel is eating well. We have been trying to watch his weight and slim him down a bit. He is 18 lbs. and some ounces, but we hadn’t been terribly successful. He still regularly tries to steal his sibling’s food and frequently succeeds if I turn my back on him in the early morning hours. It isn’t a lot of weight, but our vet weighed him twice just to rule out wiggling. We don’t know why he has had a slight weight fluctuation or if it is anything at all to be concerned about. Castiel is getting older, so it’s possible he is just thinning out a bit as he ages, or our weight control efforts are working better than we thought. But his previous cancer diagnosis has taught us to be hyperalert for any changes in weight or behavior. His behavior is more-or-less unchanged, although he has been napping downstairs more lately but it is summer and it’s hotter upstairs and he’s big black cat so he gets hot easier, so that may be why he is napping downstairs more often. Or it could be arthritis that has him sleeping downstairs more, although his mobility hasn’t changed since his surgery. He gets around just fine on all three, although he can be lazy and does like to be held and carried — but he has always liked that.

Tomorrow, he has what we hope will be his final check-up with the oncologist, if everything looks good. After that he will follow-up regularly with his local vet, no more special oncology checks every three months. We are hoping everything goes well, and aside from the weight issue have no reason to believe anything is going on. It would be nice for him to not have to travel so far in the truck for care, and if I am being honest, it would be easier on us too. These oncology visits cost close to $1,000 every 3 months. A similar check-up at the regular vet is about one-third of the cost. And the one-hour drive each way to and from the oncologist is stressful for us all and it requires a few hours off work — and while employers are good about allowing time off for childcare or eldercare, they are not so understanding about cat care — even though we consider Castiel to be like any other family member.

If you are reading this, please keep our sweet parlor panther (Castiel) in your thoughts and prayers or whatever kind of luck you believe in, and let’s all hope that there is no cancer re-occurrence. It’s going to be a nerve-wracking few days while we wait for test results. In the interim, none of us are looking forward to the drive tomorrow. Hopefully, the oncology office is readying the freshener spray.

Castiel and his feather toy
Castiel on his favorite chair (that he personally broke in)
Castiel with his little sister Clover
Castiel being silly
Castiel with radar ears

One Year Cancer Free

Yay! We are very happy to share that it has officially been one year since Castiel’s diagnosis and amputation surgery and there is no sign of cancer reoccurrence. He has check-ups with his oncologist at SAGE every three months where X-rays and blood work are taken, and he is subject to much poking and prodding to check for any lumps. At his last check-up his X-rays were clear, blood work looked good, (the albumin abnormalities seen before are gone), and there were no lumps or bumps. I cannot say Castiel was on his best behavior. Apparently, he was a little testy with his caregivers; he was scared. Thankfully his care team is used to flattened ears, biting, and bathroom issues from scared kitties and take such things in stride. We do a lot of apologizing.

The only new health development is that Castiel has developed hypothyroidism, but this is not related to the cancer. His veterinarians tell us hypothyroidism is common in middle aged and older cats and may be due to the fire-retardant materials used on furniture and carpets and the like. Apparently, cats are more sensitive to these chemicals being smaller beings that spend much time lounging. He takes a chicken flavored pill twice a day. He thinks it’s a treat.

We will continue with 3-month check-ups this next year as we know it is always possible that this kind of cancer can come back, and the first year and a half isa time for extra vigilance. Castiel has a great medical team though with his hometown vet, Dr. Rau at Benicia Cat Clinic and his oncologist and radiologist at SAGE. We hope he will continue to remain cancer-free but if cancer does rear its head again, we are determined to catch it early. We are thankful we chose to go through with the amputation. I cannot begin to tell you how incredibly difficult that decision was — the hardest decision we have ever made. We have had a wonderful year together filled with lots of love – a year that likely wouldn’t have occurred without the surgery. Castiel got to enjoy all the things he loves – playing feather toy with his humans; supervising puzzle completion; napping in his human’s desk drawer on work from home days; playing with his tiger siblings Clover and Aleksandr; eating pumpkin goo while the humans carve pumpkins; and lying around in the sun with his belly in the air.

Castiel remains our ridiculous parlor panther. Surgery didn’t change his purrsonality and he proved wrong those family members who voiced their disapproval for surgery and predicted Castiel would be depressed and never move. He continues to amaze (or should I say thwart) us with his ability to get up on things, usually in the process of stealing food — ours or his siblings. He will leap from chair to hamper to desk in an effort to snarf down his sister’s remaining food. We place his sibling’s food in high places to try to prevent him snacking up their leftovers, but Castiel is like a very awkward supersized squirrel in his acrobatic attempts to access food. As a result, his weight is still not where we or his veterinarians would like it. We will all have to try harder. We want to protect his joints as best we can and reducing his weight will help. Castiel, however, remains the most food motivated and obstinate cat on the planet, possibly a leftover from his kittenhood as a wild catty (before rescue).

As we pass the one-year anniversary, my husband Brian and I want to again express our gratitude and thanks to all the people on this website and the Facebook page who have reached out to us and/or whose stories of their pet’s journey has helped us along our path. Thank you so much! We are so very grateful for your support.

For those beginning this path, please know that you can always reach out to us. Some of the products we have found useful are ramps (adjustable and nonadjustable) and wide steps. Castiel, as a front leg amputee, can get up places easily but getting down has proved trickier. We have come to learn the “Hooman, I require assistance” meow usually when Castiel has got himself up somewhere and is in a pickle about getting back down. Castiel took to his ramps and steps immediately. The ramps/steps are carpeted which makes them especially easy to maneuver on. We have them leading to the bed, the desk drawer he likes to nap in, his favorite chair, the sofa, and the cat tree. We tell folks our house is Cat ADA. His siblings like to use them too, although his sister Clover has a bad habit of napping halfway up the ramp creating a fluffy obstacle. The ramps make is easier for him to get around and are also easier on his joints, something we are concerned about because he is a big tripawd cat and is now 11 years old. I have also found raised dishes helpful and have placed carpets over a faux marble entryway, which frankly the humans found slippery too. Our home is about practicality for all its residents. Castiel is a love, our handsome parlor panther. We love him so much and are so happy to be celebrating another Christmas holiday season with him. Below are some pictures of him.

Castiel, parlor panther
Castiel and his sister Clover
My favorite blue chair. They bought it just for me. I had a shave for some tests. Excuse my furlessness.

cool ramp to my bed
Ramp to my desk so I can help Mom while she works from home.

Step to my favorite chair

Me and my sister
Silly me!
Tripawds love to play! Unicorn I will end you.
Me and Daddy on my birthday

Third Check-up Post Amputation

Castiel had his third check-up post amputation.  He had a physical exam, X-rays, and blood work done.  Poor guy was so nervous, and truth be told, so was I.  He meowed up a storm at the vet.  I think folks heard him a block away.  His vet didn’t see anything on the X-rays, and she didn’t feel any lumps or bumps during the exam.  His weight is still a whopping 18 lbs…we’re still working on that slimming plan.  You’d be amazed at how fast a three-legged cat can move when he wants to steal his siblings left over food.  I blink and he is  chowing down his sister’s supper.

The bloodwork was mostly normal, except for a raised albumin level. It is double what it was pre-amputation. The vet said this could be a sign of inflammation. Now I’m wondering if this is a sign of the cancer returning or that he is in discomfort or maybe has worsening arthritis.  The vet said it could be a sign of a lot of things and/or not much at all. It’s 4 when the top normal is 3.9 but it was 2.0 before his cancer surgery. She said we should monitor it but didn’t recommend any additional tests at this time.  The only other slightly abnormal result was his thyroid.  The doctor said it was in a “grey area,” which means we probably need to watch for hypothyroidism in the future. Castiel is 10 so he is getting to be that age when hypothyroidism can show up.

The vet said Castiel looked good and she was pleased to hear he was using his ramps and steps. Castiel took to them right away and they really help him to get wherever he wants to be. He can get up most places, it’s the getting down that is the harder part. Castiel seems happy and healthy.  He loves playing feather toy and wrestling with his baby sister Clover.  He is doing everything he did before and is the same silly parlor panther he has always been. We love him so much.  We hope and pray every day that he stays healthy and well.


Castiel, Parlor Panther


Castiel on his window perch


Castiel playing with his little sister Clover


Castiel uses his ramp to reach his favorite napping spot on my desk drawer



A Super Check-up

Castiel had a check-up recently to look for any signs of cancer re-occurrence or any abnormalities that might signal trouble — and the doctors didn’t see anything worrisome. We can’t be 100 percent sure — and we didn’t do a CT scan because the doctors are concerned about too much radiation exposure if they were done every 3 months, but so far all indicators are good. The radiographs (taken from multiple angles) didn’t show anything and his lungs look perfectly normal. His weight is good (albeit a little fatter still than Dr. Rau would like) but his nutrition is good and she did a head to tail check and everything was normal.

Castiel has adapted well to life on three legs. He goes up and down the stairs multiple times a day for meals and to follow the sun around the house. He’s a big sunbather. I tell him  he is going to turn into a tawny brown cat with all that sun bathing.  With the help of some ramps and steps he can independently access all his favorite places, including the cat tree. He can get to middle levels of the tree; he can get higher – and has — but can’t get down without assistance. He meows loudly to let us know if he gets himself into a pickle. His tiger siblings continue to look out for him.

We know that the first 1.5 years is a time for careful watching for cancer reoccurrences, but we are cautiously optimistic that he will do well.  We were crazy nervous taking him in for his check-up even though there were no signs of trouble. Castiel and his siblings all get fully weekly pat downs, where we diligently check for any lumps or bumps. We are hyper-conscious to any changes. That said, we are learning to relax and just enjoy life with our sweet peas. Despite worries before the surgery that his personality might change, Castiel remains the same silly, carefree parlor panther. He rolls around with his belly in the air, waits for nightly feather play with his humans, spies on wild turkeys from the cat tree, and rejoices with each Chewy delivery — cats love boxes! Just wanted to let everyone know that he is doing great and enjoying life.

Castiel with his favorite purple feather

Castiel playing in a box with a lemon catnip toy

Castiel rolling around on the carpet

Castiel relaxing

Silly panther napping with belly in the air

Life on Three Legs

There was a lot of things we thought wouldn’t happen with a cat with three legs and we were wrong on so many accounts.  We were afraid he’d never be able to get up the stairs. He managed that on the first day we brought him home. We thought he wouldn’t want to play anymore…nope, still happy to play feather toy, bat balls around his toy, wrestle with his adopted kid sister, and chew up catnip toys. He was our best mouser, and I expect he probably could still get a mouse, if one were dumb enough to enter a house with three cats.  I really thought he couldn’t get up on the kitchen table anymore, wrong again! I stepped away from the table to start to clear the breakfast dishes only to turn around and catch him on the table cleaning up the remnants of my waffle and eggs.  He can jump.  His landings aren’t always perfect but it doesn’t slow him down, especially when there might be butter left on a plate.

He flies off the bed and races me down the stairs in the morning to receive his breakfast.  He can’t get up on a high dresser or the top of the cat tree but short of that, he can get anywhere he wants to be. We have steps and ramps to help him, but when excited he forgets all about them. He uses them more when tired — and it is true, he does tire more easily. We have a two-story house and he will pick which floor he wants to be in more now than he used to and that is okay. And he occasionally gets frustrated when trying to get up from the bed or a blanket pile — it’s hard to get his balance, and we’ll hear what we have come to recognize as the “frustrated meow,” and well give a hand getting up.  We are just so happy to have him with us, and I know his adopted siblings “the tigers” are happy to have him too. Castiel remains the alpha cat and the caretaker of his younger siblings. And check it out, his fur has all grown back now.  We think he looks very handsome.

We do have one challenge though where we could use some guidance.  His sibling Aleksandr likes to go for walks in the backyard on his harness. Castiel would like that too. A harness is needed because our home backs up to open space and there are a lot of wild animals (coyotes, bobcats, foxes, hawks, etc.), and despite his three legs — Castiel can move fast! Are there any harnesses that are secure on a three-legged cat? He is missing a front leg.  Anyone have any ideas?

Stealing your breakfast

Castiel and Clover play with their toy

Hello Hooman!


Helping with your jigsaw puzzle