Friday, January 31, 2014

Tucker is Home

Tucker is home. I was able to retrieve the little sausage this morning. I had to return to work afterward, so I have installed him in the back parlour with a litter-box, food, water and a heated cat-bed. There, he can relax without the other cats smelling hospital smells on him, hissing at him (as some do under those circumstances) and generally bothering him. As well, if he poops on his own (an unlikely desideratum), I will know that what is in the litter-box is his.

My roly poly went through an ordeal. Initially, it was thought that a night with intravenous fluids would suffice to loosen his bowels and bring out the poop. That did not work, so he was subjected to enemas. These were gentle - as such things go - and he felt little discomfort and no pain. But, after three enemas, still nothing came out. So, my poor cat was knocked out with anaesthetic and the poop was massaged and pulled out by hand. It was a long process and, in the end, not entirely successful. About a quarter of what had been in his intestines remains too far up the tract to be retrieved.

So he has come home. I will be giving him high-quality soft-food (though whether he accepts it is another matter) and a drug called cisapride. (Really, I think they’ve run out of drug-names now.) This is a gastroprokinetic agent, and increases the motility in the upper gastrointestinal tract. In other words, it gets the bowels pushing the poop out. I also have lactulose as a laxative, to make things softer and easier to manage. Tucker probably won’t have anything to evacuate for a couple of days, but thereafter I’m hoping for big things from my roly poly.

I would like to thank those who have sent me messages of encouragement and those who have kept my cat in their thoughts. He is a very sensitive fellow; troubles such as these are always aggravated by sensitive natures. If this were Tungsten, she’d be thinking, “Crap’s crap; what the fuss?” Josie, on the other hand, would say, “Hey, look, the litter-box is as wide as an Austin Mini, but my bum’s bigger, so I still missed it. But at least I went.” Tucker needed help. Hopefully, he’ll be able to take the next stage himself.

This picture is an old one, but I won’t be able to get new photographs until the weekend. Just a reminder of how cute the little guy is.

Thursday, January 30, 2014

Tucker Returns to Hospital

Tucker has had to go back to the animal hospital.

This roly poly sausage of mine has had more than his share of health problems. When he first came to me, he was traumatized by his abandonment by the family with whom he had lived the first five years of his life, and refused to eat or drink. He had to be force-fed. Later, he had to have dental surgery, and the experience was so stressful that he licked a portion of his skin raw. Since then, he’s had two urinary tract infections and a urinary blockage that necessitated another surgery.

Now, he is constipated. His intestines are full of poop. And it’s not moving. Over the weekend, I noticed that he went to the litter-boxes an inordinate number of times. My first thought, considering his history, was that he was suffering another blockage. But then, I observed him wetting. There was no problem there; indeed, it would have been an astonishing event if there had been, considering his earlier surgery. However, I later watched him dig a hole in the litter and try to poop. He could not.

I thought it may have had something to do with the cold that most of the cats had been enduring. It hit Cammie and Tucker the worst. Everyone recovered, but I considered that it may have upset the none-too-stable physical balance in the roly poly one. I concluded by Sunday night that he had still not relieved his bowels, so, since I was taking Tungsten in to the doctor to provide a urine sample for more tests the next day, I decided to bring Tucker as well.

By then, he had stopped moving about, was lying on my bed most of the time and, though eating soft-food, had little interest in the hard. He no doubt spent an uncomfortable night. When I took him to the doctor on Monday, she diagnosed the problem and cleared out some of the poop manually. That was a horrible experience for Tucker, very painful, but it seemed to relieve the problem. The next day, he was improved, running about, playing, very cheerful. But that evening, he visited the litter-boxes again, twice, and since I had just scooped them, I was able to determine easily that he could not go again.

Now, Tucker is in the animal hospital, the place he hates above all others. The treatment was an overnight dose of intravenous fluids, to ‘lubricate’ the bowels and get them moving. If that hasn’t worked by this morning, he will receive enemas. I am told that they are quite gentle, but if any manual removal of poop is needed, sedation or even anaesthetic will be used. I am waiting to hear of his progress.

A cat with the rescue group for which I volunteer had a similar problem several years ago. As with Tucker, she had never had the occurrence before and, after her treatment - which consisted of enemas - did not have it again. I hope that is the path my roly poly takes. This week has been an expensive one for me, as Tucker remains my most expensive possession. But he is also one of my most prized.

Friday, January 24, 2014

My Changing Chubs

Cats change their habits much more than people, I’ve found. It’s true that cats love routine, and that they can be upset, even to the point of causing themselves physical distress, when that routine is disturbed. Yet they will often alter that routine, deciding that they dislike a favourite food, or preferring to sleep in a new location. These changes may be gradual but I have observed that they may also be sudden, and certainly unexpected.

My cat Josie has provided an example of this. She used to love to eat her soft-food. She would clean her dish and ask for more. She would amble over to the dish of someone else, a dish still containing food, a cat not yet finished his meal, and try to intimidate her roommate into giving up his food to her. I always had to keep my eye on her. Josie’s appetite was how she became my Chubs.

But this is the case no longer. At some point - though I think this is an instance of a gradual change - Josie became quite particular about her soft-food, liking some flavours and abstaining from others (though which she prefers and which she doesn’t may not be the same from one serving to the next). She also doesn’t always eat her entire ration. Sometimes she does. Sometimes, she decides that she doesn’t want to eat it in the sitting room or dining area, and will flee to the bedroom. If I follow her there with her unconsumed meal, she will often consent to eat it in the new location.

This has been going on for a while now, and one would think that it might result in the Great White losing some of her bulk. It has not. It has merely meant periodic confusion for me, and a maintained girth for her.

I’m not sure of the cause of Josie’s altered attitude toward food. She has certainly not lost her appetite; it has merely been adjusted. It may simply be a matter of advancing age. Senility? No, not quite. But my Chubs is ten and a half years old now, and her body may have different ideas toward nutrition than her mind does. She is still eager to see what I am offering at meal-times, and she usually does the cooking (!) justice. It’s just another sign that things won’t always be the same with a cat. They change, even if they don’t want to. They change, even if we don’t want them to.

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

A New Test for Tungsten

Tungsten will need another test. Her blood and urine samples revealed that she was doing adequately but there were some things that may cause worry.

The orange one’s T4 numbers, measuring her thyroid activity, are actually a little low now, after months of medicine to reduce them. Her doctor stated that ten to thirty are normal, while from there to sixty is the “questionable range”. When she first started taking her medicine, Tungsten was at 59. Now she is just below ten. So her next batch of medicine will be in smaller doses, four, instead of five, milligrams. That should result in a bit less lethargy.

Tungsten’s urea levels are at the “top end of normal”, according to the doctor, while her creatine levels are normal. There are, however, “trace amounts of protein” in her urine. This, I am told, may suggest kidney problems. The doctor explained that in many cases, the symptoms of kidney disease do not manifest themselves until fifty to 75 per cent of those organs' functions have been lost. So the Tiny Terror will be going in to provide urine again early next week, to be used in a urine protein/creatine test.

Her weight bothers me. I have started to provide her with California Natural hard-food. The removal of this product from her diet may have caused some loss of poundage, I understand, as it adds a bit of bulk to cats. The other beasts in the household don’t need that: Tungsten does. So, when she asks for it, she gets a little bowl of it. It’s funny how I know when she wants some: she doesn’t say anything, but a look, a stance, sitting in a certain location, will tell me.

I hope these measures will keep my orange one with me for many years to come.

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

The House of Sick Cats

All the cats in my house except Josie are sick with colds. I don’t know why my Chubs is immune - so far. Perhaps the germs cannot penetrate her layers of fat. She may become ill later, but so far, she is doing well. As for the others...

Bear-Bear is the Typhoid Mary of the household. Well, that’s not an accurate metaphor, really. The human carrier did not suffer from the disease she was unfortunate enough to spread. His cold may have metamorphosed into a respiratory infection, for which he will probably receive anti-biotics, starting today. At some point, he managed to spread his cold to all the other beasts, probably when he sneezed repeatedly into the food- and water-bowls. I can’t blame him too much for that, despite the fact that I have told him repeatedly to cover his mouth when he erupts, or at least to aim away from food and water. I suspect that lowering his face to eat or drink causes the various fluids that are running amuck inside his nose to tickle him, thus inducing a sneeze or twenty. He wheezes like an old pump and has to breathe through his mouth at times. His eating remains good, thanks to the prednisone that he is taking for his red blood cells: that medicine, I understand, enhances the appetite.

Tungsten has a cold. Her sneezes are almost inaudible, as befits her tiny size; she sniffs like a little child and her eyes have been watering. On top of this, there is her weight problem and her hyperthyroidism. She will be tested for kidney troubles, but I will discuss this in a separate article. In the meanwhile, she is at least eating something, thanks to the decision to give her - and her alone - California Natural hard-food. The removal of that item from the cats’ diet last year was supposed to streamline the animals and reduce their tonnage. It may have contributed to Tungsten’s loss of weight. She has, consequently, been returned to California Natural in order to fatten her up. Fortunately, she likes the food and eats, in her minuscule way, a good amount of it.

Tucker’s breathing sounds like wrapping paper being crumpled up, and he blows little snot bubbles from his nose. His appetite has suffered, probably because he can’t smell his food. As is the way with cats when something is amiss, he has changed his habits a bit. Instead of coming to lie on the arm of the couch next to me in the sitting room, he has taken to snoozing the on the bed for most of the day. I understand that rest is important to fight illness, but if that is the case, the roly poly one should be infinitely healthy.

Renn is an interesting case. He sneezes like a firecracker going off, but other than that, he seems unaffected. He eats little, but he always did, so it’s hard to say whether his appetite is affected or not. And Josie may yet get a cold but so far has avoided one.

The one I’m most worried about is Cammie. She has been stricken with a cold just as she is coming away from the infection that caused swelling on either side of her head. I was very lucky to get the last of her anti-biotic medicine into her before she decided to go off of food due to her cold, but she is quite withdrawn now, just as she was beginning to open up and spend more time among - if not with - the other cats. She is spending her days - and nights, so far as I can tell - in the basement. There is a cat-tree there with a cylindrical  enclosure which is probably as snug as can be in the lower level, but it is nonetheless colder than the ground floor. She has now stopped eating cat-food. 

I broke out my ‘emergency’ ration of human-food tuna, which I keep for such times. Cammie has eaten an adequate amount of that and though it has not the nutrients that feline bodies need, it puts something into her stomach and gives her kidneys something to chew on so they won’t be damaged by going without for a few days. In fact, because almost no one wanted cat-food last night, I finished off a tin of tuna by distributing it to all of the beasts, and they all seemed to enjoy it.

All my roommates seem out of sorts, except Josie and Renn. I dislike it and hope it won’t last long. I also hope that no one else develops an infection leading from the cold, as the BB seems to have done. But his immunity is suppressed due to his medicine. I want to get back to writing about their foibles not their health but, with colds, hyperthyroidism, low red blood cells and other problems, that may not be entirely possible. If I must detail their health, I want it to be in regard to it increasing.

I’ll see what I can do about that.

Monday, January 13, 2014

It Looks Much Uglier Than It Is

The pictures really do look horrendous. Cammie appears to have been shot in the head, in the right side and out the left. These sights are the result of an infection that she developed after being scratched, probably by Josie. She had inflammation on either side of her cranium early last week, so when I took Bear-Bear to the veterinary hospital to give his blood samples, Cammie came along, too. She behaved well at the doctor’s, becoming irritable - greatly so - when her temperature was taken. I would have, as well.

The damaged areas were shaved, so a better look could be obtained, and she was given anti-biotics in pill-form. She absolutely refused to eat her soft-food with the pills either crushed and mixed in it or hidden whole. Then I pulverised the medicine and dissolved it in water, giving it to her through a syringe. That worked twice, after which she was ready to fight me to prevent it happening thrice.

I at last tried Pill Pockets. I have never had luck with them, any other cat I have attempted to use them on simply refusing to eat or even smell them. But Cammie has swallowed them. She has even chewed them and not noticed the half-pill buried in them. Perhaps the aroma is strong enough to mask the pill’s. I gave her one or two without pills previous to offering her the Pockets with the pills inside. This, I hoped, would allay her suspicions that she was being tricked. It worked for a while.

I have about a third of the prescription to run, and Cammie has now decided that she does not like Pill Pockets. However, she does enjoy Temptation Treats. Therefore, I embed half a pill in the Pocket, then top that with half a Temptation Treat. After much coaxing, and waving a whole Temptation Treat under her nose to make her associate its fragrance with the Pill Pocket, she consumes everything, including her medicine. It’s a tedious process, but it’s working.

And now the photographs. They were taken this weekend and show dried blood and pus from the inflammations, which are almost all gone. I have tried cleaning the sites but, though Cammie will allow me to run a finger over the wounds, I am not permitted any stronger contact. All that you see is from superficial bleeding and leaking. She doesn’t scratch at the areas at all, so, thankfully, she seems not overly bothered by them. I think what has come out and dried on her head is from natural breakage of the swelling, or perhaps from her grooming.

In any case, her appetite remains very good (except when I try to sneak medicine into her via her food), she plays now and then, she has been on my lap for extended petting and purring sessions and she is as feisty as ever. The fact that she is particularly adamant that my Chubs not approach her suggests that I am correct about the origins of her wounds. Other than that, things are improving with my guest-girl, in all ways.

Good News for the BB

At last some good news. The results of the latest tests done on my long foster-cat, Bear-Bear, have come back and they show improvement in his red blood cells. They are regenerating; the implication is that his medicine, prednisone, is working, which means that what he has may not be cancer after all. These are still early days in his improvement, and anything can happen yet, but we are being optimistic. His doctor even mentioned the possibility of reducing the dosage of his medicine.

This is good news in itself because the cold that the BB contracted is still hanging on. I had to push the poor fellow off the bed last night because his breathing sounded like molasses being sucked through a straw by a broken engine. There was no chance of falling back to sleep with him there, so I reluctantly told him that he had to go. Like people, Bear-Bear’s cold gets worse at night. He does have his heated cat-bed for the chilly dark hours, but he obviously wants some company. If he didn’t wake me when initially getting on the bed, I could probably sleep through his wheezing. His cold is likely due to the prednisone suppressing his natural immunities, so if that medicine is reduced, he’ll have greater strength against infections.

But if a cold is the only side-effect of the drug that is defeating something worse, then so be it. Colds come and go. There is only one Bear-Bear.

Monday, January 6, 2014

New Year Troubles, Part 3

The third problem that has surfaced in the new year is with Tungsten’s weight. If you’ve been reading this blog for long, you’ll know that my tiny cat suffers from hyperthyroidism. This initially reduced her poundage tremendously, and she doesn’t have much to lose. Recently, I noticed that her coat was becoming a little untidy, another sign of hyperthyroidism. Her medicine is supposed to counter the effects of her condition, and had done so up to a few months ago, when the veterinarian professed herself very pleased with Tungsten’s progress. The orange one’s weight at that time was three kilograms. As of Saturday, it is 2.52 kilograms, a tremendous drop in a quarter-year.

Tungsten is spending much of her time sleeping, and is very inactive. She is eating well, and by that I mean that she is eating an amount normal for her. Her appetite is not growing, as it did when she was initially diagnosed with hyperthyroidism. That may be a good sign. In any case, the orange one has an appointment with a doctor on Friday, and we’ll see if she needs more medicine, different medicine or some other treatment all together.

Those are our new year troubles. As problems go, they are not overwhelming. Bear-Bear’s cold will fade and Cammie’s wounds will heal. Tungsten will be attended to by her veterinarian. I’m not worried, and am grateful that things are not worse, as the weather is making lives all across Canada and the United States. I have my feline friends, a warm home, food and the resources to see to everyone’s health. That’s not such a bad way to start a year, after all.

And in case I need it, here’s Renn to remind me what a great Christmas I and my cats had.

New Year Troubles, Part 2

The second new year's problem that we experienced at the household involved Cammie. My Siamese guest-cat has grown more at ease with the others and with me. She will now get on my lap of her own volition and enjoy a long petting session to the accompaniment of purrs (hers). This will usually happen when I am writing or reading at the dining table. Cammie will jump up on a neighbouring chair, walk across the table, under my chin, which she will then butt upward with the top of her head, and then drop down on to my lap. I’m very happy with this development.

She is getting better with the perma-cats, too. She no longer stalks Tungsten and, though she will wait around a corner for the orange one, it is an instance of opportunity, rather than planning, and is rare. Tucker and she have reached some kind of understanding, by which neither finds the other particularly offensive. Witness the roly poly one watching Cammie play.

She does, however, still have issues with Josie. My Chubs is not one whom I would have associated any form of aggression, but once in a while she will taunt Cammie. I don’t believe there is any intent of violence, but when the guest-cat objects to Josie’s proximity, there is a risk of claws being used. I think this is what happened last week. You’ll notice the scratches on Cammie’s head. I think I caught the last seconds of the incident that caused the damage, though I didn’t know that it was as serious as this at the time. What I suspect happened was that the Great White came too close for Cammie’s comfort and received a retort that she was not expecting, and over-reacted as a result. I think it’s telling that though Cammie’s claws were sharp at the time, Josie did not get a scratch, literally. Cammie makes a great deal of noise but is not a fighter at heart.

The two have behaved themselves since, and I don’t foresee any further trouble of the sort, at least not until they both forget this lesson. In the meantime, I will watch the little guest-cat’s wounds and make sure they don’t worsen. The joys of family...

New Year Troubles, Part 1

I hope everyone reading this has had a good start to the new year. Mine here has been less than perfect, as a trio of problems visited the household just as 2013 ended. One is getting better, a second will get better and a third better get better or we’ll be in trouble. I'll discuss each of these unpleasantries in its own article.

Bear-Bear continues receiving medicine to suppress his immune system in the hopes that this will increase his body’s output of red blood cells. I have mentioned before that his inability to regenerate those little components of his blood may be due to cancer, in which case there will be nothing that can be done for him. If it is due to his own body attacking itself, then this medicine, now being given orally, may help. But in weakening his immune system, it leaves him open to other problems.

He caught one in late December. The BB has a bad cold. His nose is plugged, his throat is phlegmy and he sometimes has to breathe through his mouth. He is improving in this respect, the cold is diminishing, but it still bothers him. I hear him wheezing in the night, when the symptoms worsen. He will sometimes crawl up beside me when I’m in bed, and try to get comfortable next to me. I’m glad he does so, but the joy of his company is lessened somewhat by the mucous he constantly spits from his nose while trying to breathe. And then there’s the possibility of a sneeze, always in my face. It’s not his fault, of course, so he is always welcome.

Bear-Bear has almost completely abandoned lying on his heated pad in the parlour. He has taken to lying on the sitting room cat-trees and in a cat-bed I have there. For some reason or reasons, cats periodically shift their habits. I don’t know why. As long as he is satisfied, I don’t mind the BB’s new routines. In fact, in the sitting room, he is closer to the other beasts, and more often in the same room as myself. I moved his heating pad to the cat-bed he now habituates, so he at least keeps warm. The sitting room is colder at night than the parlour. Does this mean that he is not feeling the cold as much, and that the medicine is increasing his red blood cells? (Anaemic cats often feel the cold more than healthy felines.)

I go with him to the doctor tomorrow, where I will ask questions and hope to get some answers.