…I have never given a cat a pill before, so I was more than a little relieved to see that the dosage of these things was small: half of one, quarter of the other. However, this meant I had to try to make tiny cuts with a knife to split them and they disintegrated nearly every time.
Over the day, I sought a lot of advice to get the cat to eat the pills, especially since I was now super-fearful that I’d hurt him in some way, or worse, during any of his frequent (and nearly useless) inhales, he’d suck the pill into lungs and start choking. It did nothing to help this when the cat would hack up the pill with a heart-stopping choke that resounded through the house and opened the freezer.
I tried to rationally imagine what giving mouth-to-mouth to a cat might entail. It’s safe to say that there’s almost no thought, wild or otherwise, on saving the cat that I didn’t entertain during the next week.
My grandmother helped nobly with the pills the first night, but the cat caught her on the back of the wrist, right in the vein. Not too much gore but a nasty reward for her good intentions and another name on the injured list.
And only after all this, plus one more tiny half-pill disintegrating, I finally had the thought to mix the pill with something. I chose water, since the cat wasn’t eating very much but was still able to drink on his own and his moist panting certainly wasn’t doing much to keep water in him. (I did try [unsuccessfully] to give him water through an eye-dropper, but I kept it around in case it did come to that.)
While the water-pill was a dim flash of brilliance, at 2:34am, Tuesday morning (the 21st), I noted that his “new” portable water dish was mostly untouched, which meant he hadn’t wanted to, or couldn’t, drink the med-water.
I was up this early because I had been started from my sleep by an unknown something. There was a sort of echo of the sound, a horrible choking cry from the cat. Or maybe it was my imagination, maybe a dream, my fears, who knows?
I leapt from the bed and ran to the cat. He was lying on his left side, breathing heavily and rapidly*, all of which I had gotten used to over Monday’s sitting. I sat down, pet him, not knowing what to expect, but the cat purred, or made the heartbreaking sound that remained of his purr, and I thought to feed him.
* – One of two positions the cat could be found in, the other being sitting upright which became my cue to feed or water him. He wandered all over the house, too, in intervals, to continue to be underfoot.
I opened a fresh pack of new wet food. True to form, even at his worst, the cat poo-poo’d the same food twice and he was quick to train me in this lesson. The fridge collected several wet food containers, missing desperate spoonfuls at a time, hastily wrapped and rewrapped, to be used again later in the new feeding schedule, which was any time the poor cat would eat.
And it had to be this way. Since the cat isn’t getting any air in his body, the amount of chewing he could do was nearly nil, so I had to select food that was in “paté” form. It wasn’t much of the selection I brought home from Sunday, but it did include the stinky, expensive vet-food. My friend, Kirstie, suggested mixing the pill in the food and mixing that with a little water and then giving that to him, which I did.
To appeal to the cat’s fancy tastes, I called this food-water-meds concoction “consommé” and it became the easiest and only way to get the cat to take his pills. The problem then being that when he wore himself out eating his few bites, the leftover food would dry out and become unappetizing, which meant the loss of a pill, too… So it became the matter of getting the cat to eat every second that he would…; which also meant new food, and the new food had to be mixed with the old food so he’d eat the medicine, and all that had to be mixed with warm water so it could be lapped up easily.
I had to prepare this as noisily, and later, as lengthily as possible, to alert the cat to the feeding, so he would excitedly pull himself upright. There were a lot of audio cues I tried to use, mostly to help the cat find the dishes with his echolocation.
Once I had this figured out, Tuesday and Wednesday’s meds were much easier, though my new schedule was mostly sitting and encouraging the cat to eat and drink, often explaining why it was not new food, and when all the meds for the day were done, sleeping a little until I would get up and begin the process over again.
Tuesday afternoon also had the vet’s follow-up call, but there wasn’t much new information to be had – the bloodwork only confirmed the suspicions that it might be cancer, virus, or thyroid, elevated hormone levels meaning another pill the cat could take to potentially recover. I agreed to a week’s worth of that, since it’s what I had of the other stuff, still with the danger of the cat’s heart giving out any second, even with the meds.
The phone call ended with a lot of pressure to bring the cat back the following week, though I refused to plan anything that far in advance with the cat’s future so questionable.
But with a rotating and nearly-constant feeding schedule, the cat finally started to get some of his meds, and even improve a little.
I can’t begin to describe how my heart soared to see him climb up onto the couch, and once, up onto the lofty heights of my bed. Even the purring became a little more recognizable! Rumors spread of the cat using his scratch-pad and I even saw this myself during one of the early mornings.
Sleep was the only time that any time seemed to pass. Every morning I woke up earlier and earlier (4am my usual), sadly expecting to find the cat, still and stiff, in the middle of the hallway.
But I usually found him in the living room, almost-sleeping in front of the big TV. I learned during this time how fond of TV the cat was. I should’ve known, since he had been present, too, every time there was a gathering around it.
So I turned the thing on, the channel pre-set to Hallmark Movies and Mysteries (HMM), and the cat and I fell in love with Hart to Hart. Well, I liked it. At 3am, it’s easy to like anything, especially if the cat ate, drank, slept, or didn’t die in front of it.
On paper, the cat weighed nearly nothing, but he was a master in deadweight. His bony frame was impossible to grip, somehow, and I morbidly had the thought that the near-constant trance-like look in his eye was some ancient yoga secret on assuming the flowing properties of water. (Also the sad byproduct of his overworked lung was a very wet panting, heavy drool a constant feature.)
Since the cat was now on three different pills, (his thyroid regulator a twice daily), it became imperative to watch the feedings so that the meds weren’t overlapped too much. Poor Poe needed no extra strain on his kidneys and liver, I’m sure. Since the vet’s x-ray hadn’t covered that part of this body, I couldn’t be sure they were totally functioning. …though I can’t really imagine much as “totally functioning” when there’s no breath to be had.
But, with repetition, a lot of petting, a lot of cooing and making familiar sounds, the cat began to eat (and drink) more and more. And as much as I tried not to hope too much, it was during these times with him that I thought he might actually make it; albeit, I had no idea what his life would be like.
Maybe it was the promises of new and more pâté-style food, maybe my nearly-constant apologizing and oath-swearing, but the cat fought. He held on. He was still using his litter box, (a big deal to cat owners!), though it had changed location to be near him.
I entered a sort of delirious routine, both giddy and dreading the next feeding in a few minutes, at a loss for more words of encouragement… I was tired, though. Sleeping was something I did in patches.
Despite his recovery, and the masterful show of climbing onto the couch with his grappling hook set, the attention to the cat and getting him to want to eat, drink, and more importantly, to take his pills, was taking its toll on me. The cat didn’t sleep much and he experienced some scary-looking myoclonic jerks when he was near.
Somehow, on Saturday, the cat climbed his way all the way up on my bed, a staggering feat for someone in his condition. He collapsed in a heap in the exact center of the bed (of course) and made some really horrible breathing noises, but the whole thing happened so fast, I couldn’t stop it. He tore his way up like a four-legged spider chasing an angry bear, easily my proudest moment as his sin eater.
I don’t know whether it was Saturday or Sunday, but at some point, because of this, I lost myself to hysterics, which was actually more refreshing than the few, nonconsecutive hours’ sleep I was getting. It was the mad laughter of relief, though short-lived, since the crushing weight of so many of horrible thoughts returned.
And it’s true. Even with some newfound, completely crazed enthusiasm, there were so many terrible things on my mind. Depressing things, thoughts I didn’t have the strength to fend off, most of them regrets of the cat’s treatment, but some hideous ideas about his uncertain future.
To continue to be honest, that took as much out of me as the regimen I had adopted in the name of his recovery. As many of my words were devoted to forgiveness for this as much as they were to encourage him.