A week ago we had never heard of Saddle Thrombus.
A week ago we still had our 13-year-old black cat Sweep.
Over the years Sweep has had a number of scrapes, some pretty serious, so we knew that several of his nine lives were already accounted for.
Sweep himself was just beginning to get used to life in a one-cat household, having outlived his younger, more boisterous, white and ginger house-mate, Zapp. He filled the apparent gap by making his presence known in uniquely Sweep ways: requiring the use of two litter trays; still managing to find a way of weeing underneath the litter tray; coming in to be sick; pooing so thoroughly on a house-brush that it had to be binned; kneading with thread-pulling claws; commandeering Spaniel Suki’s downstairs bed; encouraging us to demonstrate the presence of food through a shake of his bowl.
He was even working on his miaow – upgrading from that microscopic squeak of his.
Which takes us to last Sunday evening. One minute purring on the back of the chair behind my neck; the next: two useless floppy back legs, pupils dilated, panting, distressing miaows.
We had never seen anything like it but the vet recognised the unmistakeable signs of Saddle Thrombus. A thrombus – a blood clot – forms in the heart, travels down a major blood vessel – the aorta, reaches the saddle – the point at which the aorta splits to supply the back legs, lodges itself – becoming an embolism: with serious, life-threatening consequences. The condition appears also to be known as Feline Aortic Thromboembolism: the acronym FATE is apt.
The bad news is that fewer than four days later – today – we put him down, and became a no-cat household.
The good news is that we were all together with him at the beginning of this episode, and the end. We brought him home, the sun shone, and we buried him in the garden he knew so well.