When we returned from vacation, two weeks away, we found that Grendel (a 20-pound Norwegian forest cat) had lost weight. A lot of it. Nearly half of his body weight. We know our housekeeper had been coming to feed the cats while we were gone and the other one was perfectly healthy.
Coming home to a sick pet is traumatic enough, but in Burundi its worse than if our house had been robbed. I felt empty and helpless and incredibly guilty. There's a veterinary clinic here, but it's for livestock. Vet care here consists of knowing when it's time to put down a sick cow or goat so it doesn't infect the rest of the herd. But we know someone who'd taken their dog to the clinic and the dog recovered. What other choice did we have?
The vet was very nice and everyone in the office told us how "joli" (beautiful) he is. Even with his diminished weight, he's a large, good-looking cat. No one in the office spoke English but Mike managed in French to say how big he'd been before we left for vacation. They couldn't do much for him, but they tried. They took his temperature and tested him for worms. They gave him a deworming pill and an antibiotic shot. They really didn't know what was wrong with him, but that was pretty much all they could do. He had a slight fever, which indicated infection. They asked us to come back the next day for another antibiotic shot.
On that day we came home, our flight was early in the morning and we had that whole day off from work. Mike got called in, but I spent a long afternoon at home worrying over Grendel and observing him. To my relief, around dinner time he got up and ate a little bit and drank some water. His personality was returning, too, and he jumped up onto the couch with me. The next morning, he was eating more food.
We took him back to the vet at lunch time. His temperature had returned to normal. She gave him another antibiotic shot. We didn't have time to bring him back to the house so he hung out in my office for the afternoon. He continued to eat and drink water in near-average quantities.
By that night it seemed like his old self was all the way back. He was even begging for food. We are incredibly lucky that whatever it was appears to have been a simple infection. He's a middle-aged cat and he was slightly overweight. If he has kidney problems or diabetes complications, there's nothing that could be done for him here.
Now, two weeks later, he's gained some weight back. It will take awhile for him to beef up completely, and it would be better for his health if he stays closer to 17 or 18 pounds rather than 20. He's still so handsome.
(A collection of Grendel pics.)