Tuesday, January 29, 2019

A Hundred Cushions

While I cope with Parker’s wobbling appetite and Raleigh’s stomatitis, while I monitor Tucker’s diabetes and make sure Cammie doesn’t eat anything but her special food, while I listen for Josie throwing up on my bed because she ate too fast, and try to keep Renn from feeling displaced on the couch because Peachy loves snoozing on my lap, I can become a little contemplative.

One day last week, I was eating dinner, and I pondered what my cats had just consumed for their own soft-food meals. This led me to wider thoughts.

My cats were currently eating imported European delicacies, crapping into, literally, The World’s Best Cat Litter, sleeping in heated beds, and what was I eating? Beans.

Now, don’t misunderstand. I don’t mind beans. I think it was Thackeray who cancelled an important social engagement because he saw that beans were featured, after a lengthy absence, on the coffee-room menu of his club; the excuse he sent to his acquaintances was that he had just encountered an old friend he had not seen in a long time. Besides, I don’t eat beans at every meal. Sometimes, I have home-made soup with home-baked bread; I roast pork and chicken; eggs are plentiful in my refrigerator; I enjoy fresh fruit and have vegetables with most dinners. It was simply that at that moment, I was eating beans. The juxtaposition of what the cats received and what I was giving myself, at that moment, was shown to me in relief - almost comic relief, one might say.

I wondered how I had reached the point in my life at which cats - to be precise, the six who live with me - are the principal concern, and their care subject to the greater part of my budget, both financial and chronological. I suppose it is an instance of the adage, ‘if something is worth doing, it is worth doing well.’

As with the beans, I caution against misapprehension. I do not strive for excellence in all things. Even with regard to the beasts, I do not give my best all the time. But they are living creatures. They depend upon me for their welfare. It makes sense that if one is to have them under one’s care, one should give a decent quality and quantity of it.

When the cats eat a good meal, when they clean their dishes and want more; when they race about the apartment, playing; when they are curled up sleeping warm and untroubled on a cold and blustery day, I feel that I have accomplished something, made a positive contribution to these little lives. It isn’t much in the great plan of the universe, I suppose, but it is something to the cats. In return, they make me feel good. They purr and rub their heads against me, they walk all the way across a room just to tell me they like me, and they lie on my uncomfortable lap instead of a soft, deep pillow, just because they want to.

So it is a combination - in what proportion, I won’t hazard a guess - of selfishness and generosity, as are many things, I think. I spend my money and time, which would likely not find more worthwhile investments, on these animals, animals who have little more purpose than the fictional tribbles, from Star Trek. That is to write, they have a great purpose indeed. My beasts and I provide for one another, each in his own way.

Then why is it that after giving them specialty foods and expensive medicines, washroom material the equivalent of which I couldn’t afford for myself, comfortable, even custom-made furniture, and a hundred soft cushions, they choose to vex me by doing this?

Monday, January 28, 2019

Raleigh's Prescription for Success

As for Raleigh…

His prescription of Prednisolone had him on one tablet and one-half tablet alternate days. Previously, taking him off the steroid every second day proved too little a deterrent to stomatitis. The dosage that he has been on for two weeks has been successful. It has kept the stomatitis at bay, allowing Peachy to eat without pain or awkwardness.

Now, he will be receiving half a tablet every day. I have hopes for this dosage, as it will provide the drug each day but at a reduced amount. I will be monitoring his eating habits closely, watching for the tell-tale scattering of food, the twisting of the head and the outright refusal to eat some days.

Other than his mouth troubles, Raleigh is doing very well. He enjoys his play-times, jumping and wrestling with a string-toy, or chasing the red dot. He keeps trying to lie close to Renn - every newcomer’s big brother - and in the meantime, loves lap-time with me. When he sees me approach the couch, he starts talking to me, hoping to get in some cuddles or, better yet, some chest-rubs. He nearly always falls asleep on my lap.

It is still quite cold at night, cold enough for the heated water-bowl to be used outside. Saturday evening witnessed a blustery, chilly darkness, and I felt sorry for all the homeless cats and dogs out there. It made me glad that Raleigh was with me, though. As an FIV-positive cat, he is susceptible to more illnesses than others, and he had no friend in the feral colony with which he associated, so had to stay warm alone. I watch him looking out into the frigid nights and wonder if he thinks of the old days. Perhaps not; perhaps he already takes his safety and warmth for granted. I wouldn’t be offended if he did. The highest compliment a human can receive from an animal is the expectation that his good life will continue. And the highest compliment a human can pay to an animal is to make sure it does.

Sunday, January 27, 2019

Hard Pounding

Parker’s situation remains both satisfactory and frustrating. My principal concern in it is to keep the orange-boy eating. He is doing so (that’s the satisfactory part) but bounces from one food to another (the frustrating bit). He will eat a certain brand or flavour at one meal, perhaps two, but not again. He has abandoned Fancy Feast, Weruva, Blue Buffalo and Merrick, and a recent casualty has been tripe, from PetKind. At the moment, he is consenting to consume Tiki Cat.

Puck’s appetite is of course a symptom, rather than a cause, and may be in a permanent reduction. He will be going to the veterinary hospital a week from Tuesday for the doctor to assess his condition, and probably conduct more tests, the results of which will be compared to the last set.

Otherwise, my sturdy-boy is showing changes of a less definite sort. He is not as active as he once was, and does not seem greatly to enjoy his walks. He sleeps more and has little interest in the outside. These are troubling signs in a vague way but they won’t kill him if they continue. Not eating will, so that is the point of our attack.

There are other foods I have yet to try, and I can also attempt a menu of human food, if that is the only option remaining. We have not reached that stage, fortunately; it is my reserve, if need be. Parker and I meet each day as it comes, and celebrate a little when he walks away from an empty food-bowl with a full stomach. I fear that in this slugging match with his unknown enemy, there is only the hard fight of attrition, with no great resounding victories. But if that is how we will win, so be it.

As Wellington said at Waterloo, “Hard pounding this, gentlemen; let’s see who will pound the longest.”

Friday, January 25, 2019

Lost Provinces

As I have written previously, cat dynamics are always interesting to watch. The introduction of a new feline always brings changes, of course, but they may not be apparent right away.

Most of the beasts here either ignore Raleigh or give him a whap or two, just to show him who is boss (or who is not). His integration has been quite smooth. Cammie, however, is reacting as she does with every newcomer: with loathing and anger - at least toward the newcomer. I have no doubt that that will change over time; she no longer behaves toward Parker as she once did.

One interesting result of Raleigh’s arrival is that the princess has restricted her appearances in the sitting room. It is there that Raleigh spends most of his time, and so Cammie is much more likely to have a physical encounter with Peachy there than anywhere else. She used to inhabit the top of the taller cat-tree, but hardly ever visits it now; nor does she frequent the heated cat-beds in the sitting room. It is not that Raleigh has taken over those spots, but he may be met with if Cammie goes to them. So Cammie voluntarily exiles herself from that space.

Yet she has compensations. For a long time, she shunned the library. It used to be where Parker was sequestered at night and when I was absent from the apartment. This was the case for a year and a half or so; the library probably came to be associated in Cammie’s mind with the sturdy-boy. It takes a long while for cats to get over such affiliations. And yet now, the princess has reclaimed part of her realm.

Cammie is spending a great deal of time in the library now, sleeping on the towel I place on the couch for such a purpose, and even eating there. Last Saturday, she was so comfortable - and so in possession - that she did not move even when that night’s movie began. Renn, who usually takes the spot beside me to snooze while I watch the film, had to content himself with a place on the ottoman - and I don’t think ‘content’ was an accurate word. But there was no thought in his brain of dislodging Cammie.

Our little kingdom is never static; territory is ceded and occupied, explored and re-annexed. Thus is history made.

Tuesday, January 22, 2019

Eating Away at His Problem

Parker continues to eat very little. His health does not seem to be deteriorating in other ways, though his behaviour is changing. He is less active and more apathetic - his strength may be suffering - though still very friendly, perhaps even more so than previously. Right now, he will eat only human-food tuna, and small portions of Fancy Feast chicken-and-liver. The amounts he is consuming are keeping him alive but not doing much else.

I have been offering him different kinds of cat-food, but nothing progresses past the smelling stage. He will eat: some human food and Temptation Treats are still appetising to him, so it is not food in general that turns him off. I have tried other fish but he seems keen only on its flavour-rich oil. Opening numerous tins of sardines just for the juice is prohibitive in terms of cost, even if the other beasts - or the outsider-cats - benefit from the leftovers. However, I realised that I had a source of fish oil alone.

I take these capsules myself, and I have found that by puncturing the gel coating, I can dribble the contents into Parker’s food. He eats quite a bit more with this condiment, even food that he would not touch otherwise. It's true that some authorities say that fish is not good for cats, but those cats will eat something else. Even with this additive, though, the orange-boy eats sparingly compared to his previous days, and sometimes the oil doesn’t help at all. But when life is being measured in teaspoons, every morsel counts.

Puck will go back to the doctor - his new doctor - in a few weeks for more tests, to see how his condition has developed. Until then, he and I will wage our battle against whatever is attacking him. I wish he would put a bit more effort into it, but I know that his apathy toward food is not of his making. With luck and improvisation, we will move into his future still fighting.

Monday, January 21, 2019

As the Newness Wears Off

No doubt everyone is growing weary of reading about Raleigh. But for now, he is the beast in my household going through the most changes. He is showing me daily how he is becoming more confident in his new home, and how that confidence is allowing him to feel safe and comfortable.

Over the past few weeks Peachy has been working his way up the taller cat-tree in the sitting room. He likes looking out the window, especially at night, and I have seen him lying on progressively higher platforms. This weekend, he made it to the top.

Raleigh continues to ingratiate himself with the other cats. He doesn’t mind them at all, except when one (Cammie) is hissing at him or when another (Tucker) is swatting at him. Otherwise, Raleigh will trot right by them, or lie near them.

He seems to realise that Renn is the least threatening, and even the most accommodating. It helps that when Raleigh is on my lap, my big boy will continue to lie close by, at the other end of the short couch. A couple of times now, Peachy has crawled off my lap and lie down next to, but not touching, Renn. The latter seems puzzled as to why the new boy would do this, and is slightly discomfitted by it; enough to move away eventually, but not enough to move immediately. In any case, as I have written previously, Renn’s easy-going nature is a big help in integrating Raleigh.

But most of all, Raleigh enjoys a good snooze on my lap. He will still periodically run from me, as if he were afraid. But if I sit on the couch, even right after he has fled from me, he will hasten over to jump up and lie on me. He will often then fall asleep. And there are few things about a cat that say ‘I feel welcomed’ like a snoozing on a lap.

Thursday, January 17, 2019

Too Hungry to Care

Meal-times are always a gamble in my home. As I have written before, sometimes the beasts like what’s presented, sometimes they don’t. Sometimes they eat the first portion, and disdain the second. And there is Parker’s on-going struggle.

Now and then, however, I achieve victory. Now and then, everyone is hungry, everyone likes what he is given, everyone is pleased. Sometimes, they are so hungry, even what normally would be distractions are ignored. Concentration is given to the food, and concentration is not broken until hunger is abated, appetite sated, and food is gone. Those are good days and everybody, man and beast, is happy.

Wednesday, January 16, 2019

Compensatory Annoyance

With the concerns regarding Parker and Raleigh, there are still the other four (four? One, two, three, four… Yes, that’s right. How did I get that many?) cats who provide worries, entertainment, frustrations, joy and affection in turn. Next up, Tucker.

My roly poly is a funny fellow. Though he must know he has no teeth, he still tries to ‘bite’ me during our play sessions, though he clamps his jaws down on my fingers harder than he used to. He, in fact, never did bite, but would pretend to do so. Now, he closes his mouth on my digits, likely knowing that it tickles more than anything else. But I have noticed another new behaviour since the loss of his teeth.

When at the dining table, during meals, this sausage-cat will reach out for morsels he wants. He has not done that before. He may have expressed a wish to have something, but has never tried to pull my hand toward his mouth. It’s hardly aggressive, and he looks fittingly contrite when I chastise him for it. Well, he does for a few seconds. Then the paw comes out again.

One might suggest simply not having Tucker at the table while I eat. This suggestion I do not understand. He has always been by meal-buddy, always hoping, always watching, and now, always grabbing. To him, it is common sense. How else is he supposed to get a piece of my food? I am clearly not going just to give it to him. Besides, if he does it enough, and I sternly refuse him enough, I may give him some out of pity, or to be nice.

He knows me well, this impolite little tube-cat…

Monday, January 14, 2019

The Week Ahead

These days, I seem to bounce from one cat’s health problems to another, specifically Parker and Raleigh. The former had a good breakfast and would have eaten more but I was out of Recovery, and the orange-boy isn’t eating anything else. I will be buying today what I think will be enough tins of his latest preference to last him a week; I hope I will need more before the week is out.

Raleigh, meanwhile, had to have his Prednisolone dosage adjusted yesterday. I am in contact with his doctor via text-message, even on weekends, and told him that Raleigh seemed to be experiencing trouble eating, giving signs that his mouth hurt him when he chewed. His mouth was also becoming messy, as it was before the steroids had an effect.

The Prednisolone delivered a severe beating to the stomatitis, but the latter is a persistent enemy. Peachy’s mouth looked very good when examined on Thursday, so the doctor cut back his dosage of medicine to a pill on alternate days. That appears to have been premature, though from the signs at the time, it was a good decision. The stomatitis was apparently waiting for such an opportunity and attacked again. So Raleigh is on a pill every second day, and half a pill every day in between.

Last night, I at last managed to coax him into eating the last of the food in which I had hidden that day’s crushed up Prednisolone pill. His ‘cold’ (actually a kind of infection) is back, causing him to turn away from food. But if I start trying to get him to eat the steroid-laced food early enough, he eventually will.

But Raleigh is still in good spirits. He spent quite a bit of time in one of the heated cat-beds, so that undoubtedly made him feel good. And whenever I sit down, he starts squeaking and trots over to lie on my lap. Last night, he kneaded me for the first time.

This week will continue the battle for Peachy, and may be decisive for Parker. I fear it will be a difficult week for both of them.

Sunday, January 13, 2019

Shiver Me Timbers!

Sometimes, something happens that startles one into using an expression one doesn’t often use, except in a moment of extreme surprise. Puzzling over the deleterious and possibly deadly effects of Parker not eating, or eating very little, I was running out of ideas. I would call the veterinary and ask about a B12 injection. I would try Parmesan cheese or dried meat sprinkled on his food. But these solutions would not be available until Monday. A friend in my rescue-group, in the meantime, told me to offer Parker some Recovery.

Recovery is a nutrient-heavy tinned food that is, as the name implies, used to build up in a cat what illness or other harmful conditions have taken away. None of my cats has liked it. But, oddly, some other felines have. I keep one or two tins in my cupboard at all times, in case they are needed when they cannot otherwise be obtained; the food may be purchased only from veterinary hospitals. This morning, I thought that there was no harm in following this latest suggestion. I opened a tin and spooned out a small amount for the orange-boy to sniff.

He sucked it up as if his stomach had developed a black hole. I gave him more and it similarly disappeared. At one meal, Parker ate half a large tin. He would have consumed more had I given it to him. But, while I had a second tin at the ready, I also had the rest of the day to get through and, if he continued to eat as he did for breakfast, I would need to ration it.

Fortunately, Parker just finished off another large portion of Recovery for his luncheon; breakfast was not just a one-off event. One tin is gone, and a second begun. I have three-quarters of it to last through what, during Parker’s glory days, would have required a whole tin. Tomorrow, I will buy more, and the sturdy-boy will have as much as he likes. It is expensive, more so than the best quality pet-foods, but it will be worth every penny to see it disappear into my friend.

I must, of course, caution myself that this development does not change the basic problem with Parker’s liver or bile duct. This still needs to be addressed, and there may be nothing that can be done about it. But, as long as he eats, and eats well, it will provide his body with strength and his heart with morale. It gives me a means with which to feed him his crushed medicinal pills, and it gives us time. Perhaps most important, it makes Parker feel good. There is nothing better for the spirit than a full tummy. He purred tremendously after his first decent meal in a couple of weeks.

I hope to hear that sound some more.

Saturday, January 12, 2019

Where He is Going

My friend Parker is not doing well. The Mirtazapine which was intended to enhance his appetite has had no effect. In fact, after I gave it to him Friday evening, he lost even the small interest he had had in food, and did not eat again until the next day. Even then, though he wanted to eat, he consumed only the small amount he has been eating at each meal for some time.

The orange-boy has been transferred to another doctor at another hospital. She agrees with Parker’s previous veterinary that his diabetes is not causing his current liver problems. There is something else. Though the liver can suffer damage from anti-biotics, the doctor wants her predecessor’s prescription of two weeks’ worth of anti-biotics maintained. Parker would then be brought in again for an examination in three weeks’ time. To be honest, if things continue as they are, my friend won’t last that long. I feel that he has cancer.

I think he is in some discomfort, though not pain. He moves from one position to the next, lying on the bare floor, then on the carpet, then at the base of a cat-tree, then on the bed. I woke very early this morning to find him lying on the dining table. Though he does that from time to time, and always has, he has never done it at night, and he wasn’t sleeping; he was lying prone but staring off into space.

On Monday, I will talk to the doctor, and see what can be recommended. Perhaps B12 as an appetite-stimulant. In the meantime, I am trying all the kinds of food I have, soft and hard, to interest Parker in eating. The only item he cares for right now is Fancy Feast ‘seafood’ variety, and he doesn’t eat much of that.

I believe this coming week will be significant in the sturdy-boy’s survival. We will see what it will bring.