Stomatitis, or How Did This Happen?

This morning I woke at 6am and asked myself, How did this happen?

See, one of my cats, Oliver, a slightly overweight black domestic shorthair with the softest fur, has a dental disease called stomatitis. The vet told us a month ago. What happens during stomatitis, basically, is the teeth eat themselves. The enamel wears away at the teeth (doing the opposite of what enamel is supposed to do), causing severe, rapid decay. In some cases, the stomatitis is so aggressive that the decay spreads to other areas of the mouth, including the throat. Oliver's is not this aggressive. His is affecting only the teeth—half of them. This morning we took him to the vet so the vet could remove ten of his twenty-two teeth.

Oliver was nervous. He was kind of freaking out. The freaking out started last night when we took away his food and he knew something was going on. Something was wrong. This morning we still hadn't given him food and he was like, What the fuck, man?

A lot of people are saying What the fuck, man? this morning—not only my cat.

My wife and I kept asking ourselves How did this happen? Were we bad (cat) parents? Did we fail? Was there some responsibility we'd abdicated that led to the stomatitis?

But no. Even though scientists don't know what causes stomatitis, it turns out it's probably genetic. It's a thing that happens. It's a product of a flawed feline digestive system.

This morning I woke at 6am and ground some coffee beans and put them in the Chemex and drank my coffee while reading Twitter. I don't usually read Twitter in the mornings but this morning I did because today everyone has the stomatitis. Their system is eating itself. They're scared. They're kind of freaking out. They're saying, over and over, What the fuck, man?

So I drank my coffee and read Twitter and I found value this essay from Seth Godin and this one from Tim Urban at Wait But WhyThen my wife and I put Oliver in a cage. Then I held that cage while we drove to the vet, and then I left him there so he could get his surgery, uncertain what the outcome would be but 90 percent sure everything would be okay.

Then I went to the gym. Like I do every day. Today was a rest day, so I swam instead of lifting weights. I'm not a strong swimmer so I swam only .17 miles. But I swam .17 miles faster than I swam .17 miles last week. Because I'm not a strong swimmer but I want to be a strong swimmer and I'm going to be a strong swimmer, stomatitis be damned. Because sometimes we can do only little things, but those little things are the things that make us better.

Today I'll read (making my way through Joyce, finally, in a rhythmic fashion). I'll write some more—fiction—because that's my work and nothing stops the work. I'll take time to meditate: 20 minutes, 30. Some time after 3pm I'll pick Oliver up—unless he has to stay overnight, which might happen because his gums might still be abscessed, oozing pus and drool and blood, but even if he has to stay overnight, in the morning I can probably pick him up and he'll be okay. He's not going to be oozing pus and drool and blood forever.

Tonight I'll take my wife out to dinner for her birthday. Maybe we'll flirt with the waitress. Maybe we'll flirt with the waiter.

There's a good chance, the vet says, that Oliver's stomatitis could return, even with the ten-tooth extraction. By the time he's in his teens he may have lost all his teeth. But even then, with an empty mouth, the vet says, he can probably eat his favorite dry food.