I can’t even remember how many times I’ve told my dad, an avid curbpicker, “Don’t take something just because it’s free.” Yet what do I do? I scoop up the first mangy, ragtag cat that sits in my lap. “Oh she’s so adorable,” I gush. “Let’s keep her.” Cats are easy, I remember thinking. Having once been surrogate mother to the most difficult cat known to man (RIP, Suki), I should have known better.
Izzy’s problems began even before her first vet visit. She was sneezing. “No big deal,” I thought. “She probably has a cold.” And then her eye clouded over. I freaked out, but then it healed. “No big deal,” I thought. “She probably has cat herpes. Lots of cats have that.” And then then her other eye clouded over and her pupil stopped responding to light. Six vet visits, six bottles of antibiotics, and $900 dollars later, her cold is seeming like a very big flipping deal. Of course, now we’re financially and emotionally invested, so kicking her scrawny, bacteria-ridden butt back to the curb isn’t really an option.
The latest diagnosis? Bartonellosis otherwise known as cat scratch fever. Yes, it’s a real thing. Cats get the bacteria from fleas, and humans get it from cats. She tested positive for Bartonella antibodies, although there’s no way of knowning whether her symptoms are the result of this infection, some other infection, or a completely different condition altogether. All we can do is treat it and hope she gets better.
The whole affair has left me riddled with anxiety. I should be working. Instead I’m sifting through veterinary journals. According to the medical literature, azithromycin is the recommended antibiotic for Bartonella infection. So why did Dr. Mann put her on clindamycin, a drug recommended for toxoplasmosis? These are the questions that keep me up nights. It’s torture.
The other day, Soren came home to find me feverishly writing down Izzy’s symptoms on his white board, Gregory House style. Given that I’m not a vet, it was an exercise in futility. (Damn it, Jim! I’m a science writer, not a doctor.)
I’ve taken to calling Izzy “Lemon Cat.” Let her be a constant reminder not to pick things up off the curb. And if you need another reminder, ask my dad about the time he picked up a dresser that was infested with fleas. Beware the curbside freebie.