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Jefferson Forest 003So there’s been something afoot in our house for the last six weeks or so that I haven’t written about: Cambria has been sick.

One day in early May, Cambria gobbled up his dinner and then promptly thew it all up. I teased him for eating too fast, re-fed him, and forgot about it until the next night, when it happened again. This in turn prompted a change in eating schedule, and things seemed OK for a while.

Before long, however, symptoms returned and worsened. Sometime at the end of May, I realized that Cambria was throwing up at least once a day and that it was time to visit the vet. Dr. Jones suggested we do a blood panel, and when the results came back, I was devastated: Cambria’s creatinine levels, a sign of kidney function, were elevated.

Merely hearing the words “elevated creatinine” was enough to bring memories of losing Percival and Tristan four summers ago flooding back. I went into an emotional tailspin. I took pictures of Cambria because I was afraid I hadn’t taken enough. I dug through three and a half years of pictures on my computer searching for the few I had taken. I called a hospice vet to discuss at home euthanasia when the time came. I promised Simon he and Matt could pick out our next cat. And I cried.

But not just from sadness; there was a fair bit of guilt involved. At the back of my mind, I was concerned that Cambria hadn’t gotten all the attention and care Percy and Tristan did and that I didn’t love him enough. Part of this was attributable to the fact that I now have Simon to take care of (even Percy and Tristan weren’t treated like they used to be after Simon arrived), and part was owing to Cambria being a low-maintenance cat.

He simply doesn’t require or desire the kind of handling Percival and Tristan did. He’s not a lap cat, nor is he a nudge-your-hand-on-the-computer cat. He likes his space and happily self entertains. I know he loves me because he follows me around and purrs when I enter a room or wake up in the morning, but his love is much more hands (paws?) off than his feline predecessors.

As the next weeks went by, our relationship changed. While the vet and I worked towards confirming a diagnosis and beginning early treatment, I began feeding Cambria much more often and was more diligent about brushing him. I awoke with him in the middle of the night, cleaned up his messes, sat beside him coaxing him to eat, rubbed his chin and cheeks to calm him, hid crushed up Pepsid in food and treats, and otherwise hovered over him.

It was stressful. It was also by far the most attentive I’ve ever been with him. And at the end of this period, two funny things happened. First, urinalysis results ruled out kidney disease and an ultrasound on Monday this week all but confirmed inflammatory bowel disease as the reason behind the vomiting. A week into cortisone treatment and a hypoallergenic diet has improved Cambria’s condition greatly.

And the second funny thing? My hands-off cat has become much less so. He’s still not a lap cat, but he’s sidling in close to me and sometimes demands affection. He doesn’t mind it when I pick him up any more, and he’s grown to enjoy being brushed. I’m also seeing a lot more of his belly, and any cat owner can tell you that there’s a direct correlation between amount of feline belly on display and amount of happiness and trust on offer. It may sound silly, but I feel like Cambria and I have grown closer through this ordeal, much like Simon and I bonded over surviving his colic.

I’m sorry it took an illness to get us there (and his condition will require constant vigilance and maintenance), but I’m enjoying our new bond immensely. The trick will be maintaining some of this heightened care and attention now that the immediate crisis has passed. With luck, he’ll demand it from me.

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