First of all, thank you for your comments and emails. It helps to know I am not going through this alone.
There are some things I want to share:
One is that while Marmalade's death does not fit the renal-failure pattern of other pet deaths in this scandal, I am still not convinced that his consumption of the recalled products - specifically Iams and Nutro "cuts and gravy" pouches - had nothing to do with his demise. He ate at least 1/2 a pouch pretty much every day from July 2006, when he was first introduced to the product, to March 16th 2007. I learned of the recall on March 17th and stopped using the product immediately. On March 22nd, Marmalade became suddenly gravely ill, and early on March 23rd, he died. Up until that time, he had been in near-perfect health, apart from the vomiting in late February and early March.
The vets and the veterinary pathologist I have spoken to here in Ontario have all stuck to the renal-failure script. That's OK: they are working with the information they have, and that information is that the pets who have died from eating the recalled products presented with renal failure. But I am naturally and professionally inclined to seek more information, and I strongly suspect that there is more to the story. Sure enough, here is what some vets in the US are saying now (emphasis mine):
"With the information that we have, none of us feel that this product fits the lesions we are seeing, but there may be information we don't know yet," said Lawrence McGill, a veterinary pathologist in Salt Lake City. "The feeling is that there are more questions than answers with this product."
"Renal failure is not the expected response to these drugs," said Susan Weinstein, executive director of the Massachusetts Veterinary Medical Association. She added that most rodent poisons work as severe anticoagulants — meaning they cause the rats that ingest them to bleed to death.
"Whether this particular toxin in this case can create renal failure depends on how this drug works in the body, which may be an entirely different pathway than the anticoagulants," Weinstein said. "Because we aren't yet familiar with this toxin, we can't be confident of the causation link."
You can be certain I will be following up on this development. I'm going to get graphic here, so you may want to skip the rest of this paragraph and go to the next if you don't have a strong stomach: when I found Marmalade comatose on the floor, he had bloody stool coming out of his rectum. His gums were red, and the vets suspected that he had ingested something toxic, except that the only poison I have in the house - isopropyl alcohol, for cleaning my computer equipment - is kept in a childproof container in a closed cupboard and I haven't used it for weeks. Right before he died, he was vomiting blood. I'll leave it at that.
Secondly, about Harry. My poor Harry. In health, he is fine - he never ate the food. In spirits though, he is low. He is clearly mourning the loss of his constant companion. While he is bright-eyed and lively - at times, literally trying to climb the walls - he wanders around the apartment howling for Marmalade, looking for him in cupboards and under the couch and the bed. It breaks my heart to see him like this.
Harry has never been an only cat, and he's very social. He tried to make friends with my sister's cats (although they would have none of it). I spend a lot of time away from the house, and I'm worried he might get lonely and depressed. So - and I guess you know where I'm going with this - I will be looking into adopting another cat. I'm thinking a young neutered male, sociable and playful like Harry, close to Harry's age (almost 2). This is not about replacing Marmalade. Marmalade is irreplaceable. This is about a) providing a companion for Harry and b) providing a good home for one of Toronto's many unwanted cats.