Pre-existing conditions

It’s been one helluva week, folks. My stress levels have quadrupled this week, and I’m looking forward to a most relaxing weekend to counterbalance what’s happened.

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Cheddar has been wheezing on and off for a little while, but I just assumed it was a cold, and it would pass, since it came and went without incident. Wrong.

I finally took him to the vet, because it wasn’t going away. The vet performed an x-ray to weed out the possibility of pneumonia, and luckily that came back negative. However, the rattling in his breathing was ominous. The vet said he probably had bronchitis, and he had a fever when they checked him out. Further, they thought that since he was having fits that looked like he was just trying to pass a hairball that never resulted in an actual hairball, that he may have feline asthma. It broke my heart, 1) that I had been a terrible cat mom and put off taking him in when he was clearly having trouble breathing, and 2) that he now had a chronic condition that could possibly never go away at just a tender age of 1.5 years old. He’s still just a kitten to me; this couldn’t possibly be affecting him at such a young age. He had been really miserable, and the vet’s findings confirmed it.

He’d been avoiding cuddling, love sessions, treats and even me, by sitting in another room entirely. That hurt. But I understand now just how miserable he’s been. The vet prescribed a child dosage albuterol inhaler, and recommended an aerokat device. It is an apparatus that fits over a cat’s nose and mouth, and connects to the inhaler to deliver a chamber to breathe in the medicine. He was also prescribed antibiotics as well as a steroid that served as an anti-inflammatory for his bronchial tubes and airways.

For the last few days, I’ve given him his medicine every 12 hours from two tiny syringes. I think I get more upset at having to give him his medicine than he actually does. To be clear, he hates it, wiggles, and generally is unhelpful by keeping his mouth locked shut so nothing can get in there. Half of it winds up on his face and me. Our twice a day regime is emotionally draining for me. I think he finally gets, though, that I’m trying to help him, and I bribe him with copious amounts of treats before and after medicine time.

His attitude is improving every day, touching and booping me more, rubbing against my legs, purring incessantly again (he hasn’t even been purring much because it makes it harder for him to breathe.) He’s not so anti-social, and while he’s still got a raspy breathing, he’s starting to feel better. I also spoiled him with a bit of kitty grass and new toys last weekend.

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The second wave of stress after the initial vet visit arrived when I picked up his prescription albuterol inhaler. Much to my chagrin, I don’t think my company will let me designate a cat as a beneficiary on my company health plan. Did you know inhalers not covered by insurance, just in a child dosage, are $80??? I sure didn’t. The aerokat apparatus was another $60. The vet bill was $500. I blew over $600 this week, and realized that I’ll have to possibly pick up $80 inhalers for the rest of his life.

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I beat myself up for not purchasing pet insurance sooner, to help defray future costs. He’s still just a kitten in my eyes, and he’s an indoor cat at that. What could I possibly need pet insurance for? And that’s when it hit me over the head that even if I acquired pet insurance, feline asthma was already in the vet’s records, which means two dirty little words in insurance speak: pre-existing conditions. Most insurers, for humans and pets alike, do not cover pre-existing conditions.

It’s the worst Catch-22 of the entire insurance industry: the whole reason one might sign up for insurance (receiving a diagnosis) cannot be covered by a new policy, if symptoms presented prior to coverage commencing. If someone you love gets diagnosed with lung cancer and doesn’t have health insurance, any subsequent treatments for lung cancer can’t be covered. It’s the heartbreaking paradox that I faced this week.

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When I first brought Cheddar into my life and home, my apartment complex in San Francisco wanted to charge me an additional pet deposit, and monthly pet rent (see my scathing posts about it here.) I managed to find a loophole and a happy ending in registering him as an emotional support animal, thus excluding him from the definition of a pet. I managed to dodge both the additional deposit and monthly rent to an already bloodsucking extortionist property management company. I contemplated reaching out to my GP to pretend like I needed an inhaler, so it would be covered under my insurance. Tried as I could this week, I refused to lie to insurers about his condition, and could find no insurance loophole to have his asthma covered by popular pet insurers. I hated to admit defeat, but it appeared I had no viable options.

Nearing the end of a rapidly fraying rope with which Cheddar would love to play, a glimmer of hope arrived in the form of an email from my vet suggesting an insurer I should look into who, get this, accepts all pre-existing conditions! Cue magical music. Even better, the premiums for just 1 animal under the plan were an extremely affordable $89/year, or $7.41/month! Relief! It fits; I sits.

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All’s well that ends well. I’m hard on myself as a cat mom, so I can’t imagine what human moms must go through every day. I understand now the threshold moms reach every day, where not a single fuck is given: That point of saturation when you simply cannot take anymore, but life’s tennis ball machine keeps launching neon shitstorms at you.

I didn’t birth this furry poop machine with talons, but I love him with all my butt (I’d say heart, but honestly, my butt is bigger.) I don’t care if he’s the only nerd cat with an inhaler. I’m so grateful he came into my life every day, no matter what I must endure and pay to keep him there. He’s my family. He ain’t heavy, he’s my 9.5lb purr factory and I wouldn’t have it any other way. Now, I have the peace of mind that comes with knowing he’s insured and protected, should anything else unexpected arise.

Should any of you ever need pet insurance, and you only come to that conclusion after the neon shitstorm hits, I recommend Pet Assure. I haven’t used it yet, but I can only expect so much if they accept pre-existing conditions when all other insurers don’t.

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Survival of the cutest

I wanted to write a deeply meaningful blog today. I really did. Then I discovered the TV show, Too Cute, on Netflix. Binge-watching episodes of kittens and puppies eating, playing, sleeping, purring, meowing, barking, and wagging tails for hours on end? Sign me up. I’ve already mentally signed myself up for 4 golden retriever puppies and 3 orange tabby kittens one day, and I’m only two episodes in.

I’ve been a sucker for kittens and puppies since I was a kid. I mostly had cats growing up. I had a dog once, the runt of the litter black Labrador retriever, named Angel. She wasn’t very bright, and she preferred to dig giant holes to the neighbor’s house, so we ended up not being able to keep her. We gave her back to her mom’s owner and she grew up happily on a ranch.

I wholeheartedly believe the world would be a better place if we all talked in our puppy or kitty voice (the voice we use when we see cute animals). I think I just found the significant component necessary for world peace. That is, of course, after the human genome project is completed, and the twisted gene in Michael Vick and people like him who engage in animal cruelty can be destroyed/vaccinated against.

The benefits of having pets have been proven time and time again. Lowered blood pressure, prolonged exposure at early ages can reduce allergies, reduced anxiety in Alzheimer’s patients and those diagnosed with depression. If you have to walk a dog, you end up walking more than someone who doesn’t.

I have my most important cell phone alerts – text messages and emails – set to a customized ringtone. For text messages, I hear, “It’s so fluffy I’m gonna die!” from Agnes in Despicable Me. For emails, I hear Agnes shake her unicorn and utter a guttural “It’s so fluffyyyyy!” I want to yell those at the screen of adorable kittens and puppies, in between my squeals of unbearable cuteness. For about the fortieth time.

This article poses an interesting finding, “Perhaps one reason we have so much pent-up aggression over cute pictures is that seeing something cute, like a baby, drives us to want to take care of it. But we can’t reach through a photograph to cuddle it, so we get frustrated — and then aggressive.” Like the crazy cat lady remix on youtube, where she’s sobbing, she just can’t hug all the cats.

One of the funniest movies I love to pop on every now and then is a Christopher Guest film, Best in Show. Jane Lynch portrays a wholly believable lesbian dog breeder character (shocking, I know), and the curious and competitive world of dog shows is opened up in all the glory that only Christopher Guest can illicit. However, I can’t say I remember a single dog from that movie – I’m more concerned with the amazing cast of characters who can display a full spectrum of crazy without blinking an eye.

I had a cat before I moved to Australia, who was truly my own, and I was her human. I picked her special from the SPCA – I’ll never forget the day I met Toby. She was in a cage at the pet store with two other kittens of a different, longer-haired breed, a brother and a sister. Toby already had the brother cowering in fear, hiding in the litterbox, while she battled it out with his sister. She was ferocious. I knew in an instant I loved her. Turns out, I got her home, and she was a blatant, unapologetic, sweet little love muffin. I wanted a merciless feral feline, and I got a nonstop kiss/cuddle/purr machine. Due to the quarantine laws in Australia, it would have been a huge hardship to bring her with me only to have her sit in a cage for 6 months after arriving, especially when I was only going to be there for 2 years originally. I found her a home with two wonderful loving daddies I met through work, who love her and spoil her to this day. They couldn’t bear to part with her, as I had difficulty doing, when I returned, so I agreed to let her stay with them. Sometimes loving someone, even a pet, means letting go and ensuring their complete happiness, even if you’re not the one to give it to them. *tear*

I’d love to get a pet now, now that I’m back stateside. However, I have an inner conflict to resolve. I don’t want to commit to another pet, as much as I would love them, as I don’t think I can bear to have to part with it again in an untimely early fashion. I want a lifelong pet. Toby was meant to be. Sometimes life throws you curveballs though. If you had told me when I chose her from the SPCA that she wouldn’t be mine til death do us part, I wouldn’t have believed you.

It really comes down to a feeling, an itch, a love of travel, and a failure to put down roots. I came to San Francisco to potentially use it as a landing zone and springboard to the next place, wherever that may be. In a year, or two or three, I could be living in a boat off the coast of Europe. I could be working on my first novel in Nicaragua at a hostel for people who hate hostels.

I love animals, and I want them in my life and in my home, without a doubt. Patience though, until I can 1) properly take care of her, 2) ensure I don’t need to part with her too soon, and 3) offer her unconditional stability to give her a happy, unforgettable life.

That doesn’t stop me from wanting all the puppies and kittens in the meantime though. I might just die of cuteness overload.