I have two sick cats, and my house is an animal hospital.

There are things in my life that insist on drawing my attention away from video games. Some of them are worthy of a lengthy blog post. I’ve got two cats, each with their own health problems, and at considerable expenses of time and money, my wife and I are taking care of them. This is their story. Or maybe it’s more my story.

Meet Gabrielle and Coraline.

When my younger brother left for the Marines, he left two rescues at our house. One was a girl. I’m not going to write about her. The other was a black kitten that he named Gabriel. The story goes like this: My brother had a friend who had a cat into whose face his friend would blow weed smoke. My brother paid cash for the cat, probably to get it out of a bad situation. Big hearted, that guy. He’d taken the name from a movie, ‘The Crow.’ At the time, we thought the cat was a male.

gabrielleWe had two other cats living at the house, so Gabriel was hidden in my brother’s room for a while. Eventually, my parents found out, and we became a three-cat family. Gabriel was renamed Gabrielle when we figured out she was a female. That was over fifteen years ago.

After my parents split and my dad moved up to New York, my mom shacked up with some dude, leaving me with three cats and our family dog, Oscar. We had been living outside Pittsburgh at the time, in a hole called Wilmerding, home of the Westinghouse Air Brake Company. I got an apartment and managed to hang on to two of the cats, which was two more than I was allowed. One was Gabrielle, and the other was a tabby named Simba. When I was evicted from my apartment (couldn’t pay the rent), the cats spent time in various locations, finally ending up back with me and my future wife Karyn in our first apartment.

We eventually moved out to Illinois, taking Gabrielle and Simba with us. Simba got sick suddenly and died in a box in our basement. Shortly afterwards, Gabrielle got sick herself. She wouldn’t eat. The vet said she may have just been depressed. I don’t doubt it. When cats don’t eat, their livers can fail, and there was a day that Gabrielle’s skin in her ears was so yellow, I thought she was goner. After some time at the vet and some gentle force-feeding at home (Karyn had to do it), Gabrielle got healthy again. But we were ready for another cat, and I sincerely thought Gabrielle wanted a friend.

Enter Coraline. Coraline was a guest at the Champaign County Humane Society, taken there after her previous owner died. My wife and I found her in one of their communal rooms, living with about dozen other cats. I picked up Coraline (the CCHS was calling her “Patches”) and she crawled up on to my coralineshoulder. She was a cute cat, a calico with some kind of ear injury. She was about five according to the CCHS, but after adopting her and taking her to the vet, it was determined that she may have been closer to fifteen. Just a mistake on the part of the CCHS, I suppose.

I named her Coraline after the girl in the Neil Gaiman book. There’s a talking cat in the book that informs Coraline, the protagonist, that cats don’t need names. I thought naming my cat Coraline was clever.

We brought her home, and Gabrielle didn’t seem to like her. It happens, I guess. They fought a bit, but mostly they just stayed away from each other. For a long while, Coraline wouldn’t eat if her dish was too close to Gabrielle’s. We’ve had Coraline for about five years now, and we have no idea how old she is.

About a year ago, Gabrielle was acting very strange. A few months prior, at the request of our vet, we’d put Gabrielle on a diet to get her weight down, but she’d lost too much too quick. There was some problems with incontinence, and she was drinking a lot of water. We took her into the vet and discovered that she was diabetic, and would require twice-daily insulin injections. It was all pretty overwhelming at first, but we got used to the procedures and, after a few trips to the vet to learn definitively how to do it properly, giving insulin became just part of our routine.

But Gabrielle had another trick up her sleeve. He sugar dropped way low one night, prompting a trip to the emergency vet. I’d found her laying on her back, legs up in the air, breathing fast and shallow, and completely unresponsive. Scary shit, if you’ve never seen it. Turns out her pancreas is also messed up, which makes it very difficult to regulate her sugar without frequent testing. We bought a glucometer made for pets and added a blood glucose test to our daily routine.

Meanwhile, Coraline was having some trouble as well. She wouldn’t eat, and she seemed lethargic. The vet ran tests and informed us that her kidneys were failing. Treatment consisted of medicine and regular subcutaneous fluids. The kidney disease apparently can cause acid reflux, so she gets a quarter of a Pepcid pill every day, as well as some other stuff. And Coraline is probably the hardest cat to pill. She fights with her claws, and once bit all the way through my finger.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAWithin the past month, Gabrielle contracted a urinary tract infection, and Coraline also had some kind of infection, as well as becoming even more picky about her food. We switched her food and are currently treating both cats with antibiotics. They each get several medicines, as well as different kinds of prescription food. Gabrielle (hashtagged as #DiabetiCat on Twitter) gets insulin twice a day, and Coraline (#KidneyCat, and occasionally #BoozeCat) gets subcutaneous fluids every other day. They both seem happy and comfortable, so I’m okay with all the stuff we’re doing. I wouldn’t let them suffer, so if it became too much for them, I’d make the tough call that needed made.

But no one likes thinking about that.

Special thanks to Country View Veterinary Clinic and the Animal Emergency Clinic, both in Champaign, IL.

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