Charlie was going to need to be sedated for his x-rays, both to avoid hurting him and because he gets extremely tense and unhappy at the vet due to the other animals he can smell. I was expecting to wait for half an hour, but the vet came back for me almost immediately to give me the bad news; upon further examination, she was sure that it wasn’t, in fact, some kind of injury; it was a tumor. We’d know more once they got a look at the x-ray.
I was utterly horrified, and when the x-rays came back and the vet told me that the only treatment option was to amputate Charlie’s leg, I broke down sobbing. I felt terrible; how could he have a tumor this bad and I didn’t notice until he started limping? I had been picking him up and carrying him, holding him and petting him and playing with him, and I somehow hadn’t felt it growing.
The vet reassured me. Cats are extremely good at hiding illness and weakness, she said, plus this kind of tumor grows very fast; it might not have even been noticeable for much longer than the week, especially because Charlie’s chest is fluffy and Charlie is… well-padded to begin with.
The good news was that as far as they could tell from the x-rays and physical exam, he seemed in good health otherwise; there was no obvious metastasis or other illness. Nothing could be certain until the pathology came back from the leg, but if they were able to amputate soon and get clean margins, he might very well live out a normal cat lifespan. She assured me that three-legged cats could and did adapt very well; he would need to lose some weight to lessen the strain on his remaining legs, but after he recovered from the surgery would be happy and healthy.
The only complication was the cost. The estimate they gave me for the procedure was $2500, and I knew that there would be additional costs for follow-up care and the like. This was in addition to the $400 that the first visit would cost.
I had $1200 in savings and could swing a few hundred more, but I couldn’t manage anywhere near $3000. I was shaking and crying, terrified that I would need to have Charlie put down because I couldn’t afford his surgery.
Finally, I decided to take him home and frantically look around to see if I could find someplace that could do the surgery more affordably.
In Googling around, I found a company called PetAssure. Basically it is a discount program; you pay a membership fee, and in return you save 25% off in-house procedures at the vet. That sounded promising, so I used their lookup tool to find a vet nearby. They were still open for a half-hour that day. I called them, verified that they did indeed take that program, and asked how much their cat amputations generally cost.
$800-$1000, I was told.
I knew that Charlie’s would likely be more due to the size and location of his tumor, but this was starting from a place I knew I could afford. The next week was Thanksgiving, and I had already planned to take the week off work. I booked him an appointment for Monday.
This vet agreed that the leg needed to come off, and that it needed to happen ASAP. They were likely going to have to take the shoulder blade, too, which, I was cautioned, was “a less cosmetic” amputation. I told them that I didn’t care what he looked like after, I just cared that he would be okay and not hurt.
The estimate range was $1000-$1500.
I booked the surgery for the next day, and took Charlie home to coddle for the evening. Either he was feeling pretty bad or he could pick up on my feelings or both, because he wriggled as close to me as he could get, nudging his way between my arm and my body and purring.