While PJ and I were in Italy at the end of June, our two cats, Marlowe and Paisley, stayed home with their “uncle” Nate, an undergraduate who now sits for us when we’re out of town. During our second day in Venice, I got a facebook message from Nate, the kind you never want to get while you’re on vacation: Marlowe had been rushed to the vet’s office and was gravely ill.

Marlowe had stayed outside all day, and when he came in he seemed weak, lethargic, and wouldn’t eat. When Nate noticed that he also had diarrhea, he called the vet’s office and told them what was going on. They told him to bring Marlowe in immediately.

When Marlowe got to the vet, they determined that he was also cold and had lost weight since they saw him in February. They suspected that he might have consumed antifreeze, since tests showed that he had no kidney function. As we learned later, they hooked him up to an IV and started pumping him with fluids, hoping that any potential toxin would be flushed out of his system.

When we got Nate’s message, we called the vet’s office (from Venice), which we now know cost about $40 a pop. We tried to take comfort in the fact that the vet didn’t say Marlowe’s prognosis was hopeless, but that seemed like very little comfort. Needless to say, our last two days in Venice were fairly miserable. We flew through Philadelphia on the way home and arranged with the vet’s office to call them during out layover to see how the results of Marlowe’s second kidney test turned out. This test would indicate whether there was any hope or whether Marlowe wouldn’t make it.

This call is the single most difficult call I’ve had to make so far in my life. I was prepared for the vet to tell us that Marlowe had to be put down and that we wouldn’t see him again. Fortunately, this isn’t what the vet’s office had to say. Instead, they told us that Marlowe’s test had returned to normal but that he hadn’t returned to eating. In fact, he had lost 2 more pounds while he was in their office, making a total of 4 pounds of weight loss in 10 days. The good news was that he could come home for the fourth of July weekend, but we would have to take him back for a third test to see if his kidneys had actually started working again or if the second test was just the result of the IV.

Nate went and picked him up for us so that Marlowe would be home when we got here. Here’s what our poor boy looked like when we arrived:

This picture doesn’t quite capture how skinny he was or how wilted he looked. In order to give him the IV, the vet had to shave his forelegs and part of his neck. This only added to his pathetic hang-dog look (I kept thinking of him as a kitty poodle).

He also seemed to barely move and didn’t want to do much, go outside or jump up on things for several days. But slowly and surely, he started to get better. After 4 or 5 days, he jumped up on the cat tree, his favorite perch:

And over the next week or so, he started exploring his territory a little:

Paisley didn’t enjoy his time away either. She’s a very sociable cat and prefers to have Marlowe around (as well as me and PJ). When she’s without him, she tends to meow a lot and look for him. It’s really sad to watch.

That’s not to say, however, that she didn’t eat her fair share of the cat food still. But she definitely wants play time — string is her favorite toy — with her daddies:

She seemed relieved that all her boys came home on the same day (though she didn’t like the way Marlowe smelled when he got back and she refused to help groom him for several days). She kept him company as he explored the back deck and yard:

The look on her face here says it all for me: she was very watchful for a week or so, making sure nobody was going anywhere they shouldn’t.

Fortunately, everything’s returned to normal. Paisley is hanging out and demanding attention:

The two of them hang out together a lot:

And Marlowe is slowly gaining the weight back:

He passed the third kidney test with flying colors, surprising the vet, who though he was a goner.  She doesn’t really have any clear explanation of what happened to him (she still believes that he might have gotten into a toxin of some sort) but PJ thinks he “just” had heatstroke.  Anyway, we hope that there will be no more vacations at the vet for Marlowe anytime soon.