A little while ago, my husband found a lump about 3mm wide and 8mm long near the base of our cat Mara’s tail. Our vet took samples but didn’t seem particularly concerned. About a week later, the vet called us to advise that the lump was a malignant tumour and they recommended operating to remove it, because this type of tumour was particularly invasive and reactive; they also apologised that they hadn’t recognised it at first as they never see tumours at such an early stage. We were warned that the location of the lump meant tail amputation might be necessary. It came as a shock because in every other respect Mara seemed perfectly healthy; eating, playing, grooming and cuddling as normal.
It was painfully reminiscent of when my family’s cat Peach died of cancer. It was me who took Peach to the vet when he stopped eating, became lethargic and breathless, and I also brought his body home after the vet called to tell me Peach had died in his arms.
My husband and I took the day of Mara’s operation off work. Signing the consent form warning us that some animals don’t wake up from the general anaesthetic and about the risks of unexpected complications during surgery made leaving Mara there difficult. We spent most of the day driving, as there were too many reminders of Mara at home and it was too quiet there without her. We tried to distract each other but couldn’t stop ourselves from anxiously checking our phones every few moments. My husband answered the vet’s call, they had unfortunately had to amputate Mara’s tail as they found a second smaller lump next to the first, but she had woken up from the anaesthetic and we were able to have her home that evening. We both shed tears of relief and sorrow.
Our world shrunk as we wrapped ourselves around Mara to make sure she was as comfortable and pain-free as possible in the days after her operation. Mara has been a purr-fect patient, she’s a very special little lady, and she was soon back to affectionately butting heads with us (albeit awkwardly because of the cone she has to wear to stop her from licking her wound), squeaking for her food that she gobbled up despite the medication hidden in it, and sleeping stretched out on my torso every night after the operation.
It’s hard to explain to those who don’t have pets just how much love and joy they bring to a home, but also how much we worry when our animal companions are injured or unwell. Many of us consider our pets to be members of the family, and often it is the daily routines of feeding, petting, playing with them or even washing their bowls and litter trays that ground us in the here and now when other personal and global events seem overwhelming.
We’ve been touched by the messages and calls from well-wishing family and friends, and we’re so thankful to our vets who acted quickly and decisively to give Mara the best chance of survival, and for all their advice and after-care. There are unfortunately more procedures and tests on the horizon for Mara, but for now we are just relieved and grateful to have her recovering at home with us.