Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Voice of the Voiceless

When I was growing up, my parents had a game they played: my mother would talk to one of the pets, and my father would answer for the pet, not in a high pitched or animal-like voice, just in his own voice. He called it the "voice of the voiceless."

About two and a half months ago my cat Saffron literally lost her voice. At first it sounded like she was a little hoarse. And then, I thought, maybe she was meowing silently- opening her mouth and puffing out her chest - deliberately, as a kind of cat-like politesse. As if she were trying to say: "I really want this, but I'm too polite to cry for it, so I will just indicate my interest with a gentle, unvoiced bleat."

But in fact, much to our consternation, she was unable to produce any sound whatsoever. She would wheeze and rasp but nothing would come out. Then she would exhaust herself. This went on for a week or two, and thus began the first of many visits to my local veterinarian, who took a blood test, listened to her chest, sedated her and looked at her larynx, took x-rays, gave her antibiotics, listened again to her chest when I noticed wheezing, and finally referred us to a cat-internist a month and a half (and $250) later. There was talk of cancer, of laryngeal paralysis, both serious conditions requiring thousands of dollars of surgery and no guarantee that the cat would survive.

The specialist was wonderful, but she ordered a few of the same tests since she didn't trust the family vet's interpretation of the results. She also ordered general anaesthesia, a tracheal wash, and several diagnostics on cells she collected from the wash. $757 and a zonked, partly shaved cat later, the diagnosis was probable mycoplasma-induced feline asthma. Saffron was put on 3 weeks of liquid doxycycline and I had to switch to a less dusty litter.

So I did so, and- miraculously, it seems -her voice has finally returned in full. It started out as tiny, faint, mews, and then gradually matured into what someone close to me recently described as a touch-tone phone's beeps.

Saffron got her voice back around the time Obama won the election, and I started spending time with someone new (sometimes I wonder if this is more than coincidence). There is no sign of asthma and no sign of infection. We have been very happy ever since. But we are switching vets and we are getting pet insurance. I'm trying not to think about the $1000 it took to put my cat on liquid antibiotics.


Hilaire said...

Oh, that's so sad! Poor Saffron. Oh dear. And poor you, with veterinary incompetence.

Well, I'm so glad she's got her voice back.

Dame Eleanor Hull said...

Oh my. Long ago I had a cat who lost her voice like that . . . only I was away for the summer, and she was staying with someone else, and I was in grad school and couldn't really afford to spend lots of money on the vet so when I came back, since she was otherwise healthy I just left it . . . but now I wonder . . . . I feel I should add that the cat lived to 19, at least 10 years after the voice loss.