Back in the spring of 2017 an adorable little black and white cat started coming around. Naturally, I put food out. He wasn’t like any of the feral cats that we’ve fed in the past. This little guy was very friendly, purred and meowed all the time, and loved to have his belly rubbed.
We already have a large dog so my first thought was to find this sweet boy a home. In doing that I learned that he was a barn cat from the farm across the street and that his name was Sam. They would come and take him back to their farm but he kept coming back to us.
Since Sam clearly wasn’t going anywhere and was now our cat, we started making things very comfortable for him. So that he could go into our barn we installed a cat door. Under our front porch we placed an insulated pet carrier, complete with blankets for comfort, that he could go in and out of as he pleased. We kept our inside front porch door propped open so that he could come inside. In there we had a bed and food bowls. In the winter, the bed was heated as were the food bowls.
Sam’s pattern was to eat in the morning and then go off for the day. He always returned at night. As time went on his patterns changed a bit. Late at night when the dog was fast asleep, Sam would come into the house with me. It wouldn’t take long for him to be meowing to get back outside. In time he would come in, we would go into the living room, I would lay down on the couch and he would jump up on me, head butt my hands if I stopped petting him, and eventually fall asleep for several hours. But right back outside is where he wanted to go.
Late spring, early summer of this year I noticed that he wasn’t going off for the day but rather hanging around under and on the porch all the time. He was quite happy and very content.
On Saturday, August 25 as we left the house to go to a funeral, I told Sam to keep his eye on the outside of the house and that we’d be back in a few hours. He wasn’t there when we returned and I immediately knew something was wrong. Sam didn’t come home that night, he wasn’t there the next morning. We started looking for him right away. Both day and night. I put notices in mailboxes. Blasted it on social media. Talked to neighbors. I looked outside and called out for him all the time, all hours of the day and night. Days and weeks passed but I never lost hope.
In the early evening of Monday, October 1 as I pulled into the driveway, there was Sam. Sitting under one of our other cars. I began shaking. Sam came out from under the car meowing like crazy. He clearly was injured because he was limping very badly. The first thing he did though was go to the edge of the sidewalk and lay his weak little body down and rolled onto his back so that I could rub his belly. Needless to say, my eyes welled up with tears and I sobbed.
Immediately, we rushed him to NorthStar VETS in Robbinsville, NJ which is very close to home. They examined him, did bloodwork, etc. It was obvious that his back left foot was broken. There was dead bone exposed from one of his toes. That was going to have to be amputated. There was infection. Of course he was admitted and pain meds and antibiotics were started intravenously.
On Tuesday, October 2 they did the surgery and amputated his toe. They didn’t want to do too much surgery with so much infection going on but there is the possibility that another toe may need to be amputated. That still remains to be seen. Sam was very anemic so a blood transfusion was required. He responded pretty good to that. Not great, but okay. When they changed his bandage and some of the swelling had gone down they saw that he was having some other issues with what I would describe as being equivalent to our ankle so they added a splint under all that bandaging.
He wasn’t eating in the hospital but one night while I was visiting with him he did. It was decided that he could come home on Saturday night October 6 and we would administer his liquid meds to him. The game plan was that every 4 days I’d take him back to be checked by a surgeon and have his bandages rewrapped.
So we prepped for his return. We have an enclosed back sunroom and we were able to put a barricade so that Sam could have half and we’d still be able to let the dog out from the other side of the room. On Sam’s side we put 3 beds, a scratching post, a litter box and his food bowls. He also had the patio furniture, a cushioned love seat and chairs. We also knew that Sam, the outside cat, would now become an inside cat. There is no other option here. Materials to make a “catio” with roof have already been ordered so that once he’s able to be back outside, he will be sheltered in a large enough area.
Sam came home as planned and we had an appointment to go back on Tuesday, October 9 to change the bandaging. Unfortunately, he wasn’t eating or drinking for us and it wasn’t easy to get his liquid meds in him. He was sleeping like a baby and didn’t appear to be in any pain but I knew he had to be dehydrated. I was right. When he went back he was once again admitted. He needed fluids and and his meds needed to be administered intravenously.
It’s now October 11 and Sam is still being cared for. Minor improvements but there is concern because his blood solids (globulin?) are very elevated and not coming down. He still isn’t eating. They did an ultrasound and some x-rays to see what else may be going on. Perhaps cancer or feline infectious peritonitis (FIP). When visiting with him on Thursday night he was in much better spirits and looked much better. Still not eating. Friday, October 12 will give us more information and we’re doing our very best to keep positive.
I am a responsible pet owner. October 6 was two years that I lost my little dog to pancreatitis. We still have our Romeo who we rescued at 9 months old. He’ll be 8. I had pet insurance on both of them, now just on Romeo. Between the little one’s sickness and some other things here and there with Romeo there was a 16 month period that I paid out in excess of $20,000, but I knew that I would be receiving 80% back. You can’t get pet insurance on an outside “stray” cat.
In less than three weeks the total amount has been $9153.07 out of pocket for Sam’s care. I don’t qualify for non-profit veterinarian financial assistance. Setting up this account to ask others for assistance wasn’t easy for me. I will be fully transparent with the bills related to this. If you click here you will be able to see all of the estimates and bills for services from NorthStar VETS, along with the description of those services. While ever so hopeful of Sam’s successful recovery, I am also realistic.
If I should be so fortunate as to raise dollars in excess of what is required to care for Sam, even though I don’t qualify, I will donate any excess money to Vet-I-Care , a non-profit resource for families that cannot afford emergency or speciality care for their beloved pets.
With much love and gratitude,
Ann Laurie & Sam
UPDATE 1 - October 13
Sam and I are so blessed with some of the most amazing people. Thank you for being a part of this journey.
I was waiting for some tests to come back to rule things out. Late Friday afternoon those results finally came in. Fortunately, there is no cancer and it was confirmed that Sam did in fact have Feline Hepatic Lipidosis.
The disease begins when a cat stops eating, forcing the liver to convert body fat into usable energy. This is reversible through intense feeding. For cats such as Sam who have stopped eating, treatment is the insertion of a temporary feeding tube to ensure adequate caloric intake. So early Friday evening, Sam had a temporary feeding tube inserted. We were able to visit with him briefly last night right after the procedure but he was still so sleepy.
After I talk to the doctor and visit with Sam today, I'll give another update.
UPDATE 2 - October 15
I'm sorry I didn't update sooner. I really thought that he would be coming home on Sunday and I would have pictures of him resting here at home but that didn't happen. Sam is being fed through his temporary feeding tube. They have to start out slow on the caloric intake and build up but the good news is that he is tolerating it very well. Labs are improving, slowly. He's a little beat from all that he's been through so it is truly best to stay in the hospital and get the proper care. On my last two visits (Saturday and Sunday night) he just wanted to snuggle in my lap so that is exactly what we did. He purrs like a pigeon the entire time....LOL! If you haven't already, I hope that you would please find it in your heart to share Sam's Story with your friends, family, and co-workers. From the bottom of my heart, thank you for all of your kindness, love, well wishes and support!
UPDATE 3 - October 16
Guess who came home! We are thrilled to have Sam back at home with us. I picked him on Monday late afternoon and after a 2.5 hour discharge time we were free! Discharge typically seems to take a long time from the hospital but there was a lot to go over and I had to learn how to feed him through his temporary feeding tube. The tech was extremely patient with me....LOL! I'm proud to say that so far I have administered meds and have done a feeding, all through the tube, without too much trouble...LOL. I was a little uneasy toward the end of the late night feeding that I did, I guess I was just doubting myself, so I called NorthStar and a very kind nurse walked me through it and stayed on the phone with me while I finished. Sam slept through it all! I'll add more photos of the paperwork to the photos link at some point later today. I've just been trying to get acclimated to our new schedule. Our goal now....for Sam to eat on his own! So please, please send those good vibes for that to happen as quickly as possible!
UPDATE 4 - October 19
Hi Everyone - Sam's been home since Monday night and I'm not going to lie, it's been a roller coaster. For those of you that know how queasy I am, I have to say that doing the feeding through the tube isn't bad at all. I feed him every six hours. And since I don't sleep anyhow, the 3:30am feeding doesn't phase me. There were some comical challenges in the beginning but once I got the knack of it, it's not so bad. Sam seems to be tolerating the feedings well, but still shows no interest whatsoever in eating on his own. He's resting comfortably. Sam sends his love and big, big thanks to all of his supporters and well wishers. ❤️
UPDATE - October 20
There are just no words. Our hearts are broken.
It was one step forward and many steps back. Sam seemed to be going in the right direction but then it became evident that he was growing weaker and weaker very quickly. In fear that he may be in pain we took him for blood work Saturday afternoon to see what may be going on. Things were not going in the direction that we hoped. For one, his red blood cell count had gone down. I was not about to put Sam through another blood transfusion or anything else. With a very heavy heart I knew it was time.
As broken as Sam was, it took him over 5 weeks, but he made it back to where he knew he was loved. He knew that we would first fight for him, but also give him the peace and dignity to die if that is what was meant to be.
I lovingly held him in my arms and he was surrounded by much love as he peacefully passed on.
With much love and gratitude ❤
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