I have three bags of dry cat food, twenty-four cans of wet, six cans of tuna, two packages of salmon and three cats who are damned and determined to starve themselves to death.
Well, not exactly. I do have a ton of cat food in the house, but the cats aren’t intentionally starving themselves to death. They’re just taking turns not eating for various medical reasons. Or maybe it’s for religious reasons. I don’t know. I’ve had cats all my life, but I don’t understand them.
A few months ago, BJ, my Himalayan, suddenly lost a lot of weight. We only discovered this because he also stopped grooming himself, and all that long lovely silver fur quickly became a tangled, snarled nightmare. So we took him in to have him groomed and the vet discovered that BJ was down to 5 1/2 pounds in weight. Not good on a cat that used to weigh ten.
BJ came home that day shaved and looking like a walking skeleton. I was horrified. My beautiful, proud pussy (get your minds out of the gutter!) looked so sick and weak, I was afraid he’d die at any moment. I spent the next several days nursing him. I bought every brand of wet food I could to try and induce him to eat. I spent extra time with him, brushing him (actually polishing him really, because he was pretty much bald after being shaved), petting him and talking to him. He just sort of laid there, watching me with those enormous blue eyes of his, wasting away. Then one day I got desperate and brought home some jars of baby food. Miracle of miracles, BJ got up and starting eating. I spend several more days feeding him baby food, an ounce at a time, until eventually his appetite came back. I also spent several evenings with my husband giving BJ subcutaneous fluids. That’s basically an IV set up for the cat, where you have to inject a special fluid mix beneath the skin until the cat has a big hump of fluid sitting on his shoulder. We kept sticking BJ with a needle every night and pumping him full of fluids until he eventually got strong enough to claw the crap out of my husband, at which point we both declared him fully recovered. BJ is now back to his proud, glorious self. His majesty subsists entirely on a diet of cat treats, tolerating only the occasional mouthful of wet food, but he’s at fighting weight and the vet said as long as he’s eating, don’t worry.
About the same time we discovered that our other two cats had lost a bit of weight as well, so we started feeding them more wet food. Seemed like they’d lost the taste entirely for dry. Since all three cats are over the age of fourteen, I’m inclined to cater to their persnickityness. These three felines have been my constant companions since 1992, and I’m not ready to see them go just yet. At least, I certainly don’t want to watch them waste away. Seeing what happened to BJ just horrified me to no end. I thought it was my fault and that I had managed to starve and neglect my beloved pet. The vet had to reassure me repeatedly that at the age of fourteen, these sorts of problems can happen, and in BJ’s case, it appeared to be a kidney related, not owner-related, problem. In other words, I had not starved my cat; he had gotten sick and quit eating.
Now it’s happening again, this time to Lydia. Again, this appears to be kidney related. Unlike BJ, though, Lydia isn’t just simply wasting away. She’s also been vomiting and having diarrhea all over the place. I was pretty pissed the first time I saw her pooping on the carpet, and I banished her to the garage while I cleaned up the mess. A week later, I’m kicking myself for that. I hadn’t yet figured out she was sick. I had to see her vomit a few times and leave more messes on the carpet before I got it through my thick skull that something was wrong. That’s when I recalled she wasn’t coming down in the mornings to eat anymore. For a day or two I tried bringing food to her, only to find she wasn’t interested.
So we went back to nursing and coddling a geriatric cat. This time, in order to get Lydia to eat, I’ve had to feed her by hand. This means six times a day I wrap her up in a beach blanket so she can’t claw scratch my eyes out and then take a syringe full of chicken broth, rice cereal and jarred baby food and squirting it down her throat. I’ve also had to squirt a mixture of Gatorade and Pepcid AC down her gullet too, and then some amoxycillan. And to top it off, we’re giving her subcutaneous fluids as well, meaning my husband gets to hold a struggling cat while I stick a needle under skin and pump 200 ml from an IV into her. The fun never stops.
The good news is Lydia is recovering at a faster rate than BJ did. After a few days of hand feeding, she started eating on her own again. I’m still mixing up chicken broth, rice cereal and baby food for her, but now I can feed it to her in a bowl. She’ll also occasionally eat some regular dry food, and she’s drinking plenty of water. The vomiting and diarrhea have stopped, too. And Ms. Lyds is back to her usual affectionate self. I expect she’ll make a full recovering. Once again, I have staved off the grim reaper of cats.
I won’t be able to do so forever, I know. But it’s a comfort right now to be able to enjoy my cats and not have them die a slow, debilitating death. Like I said, I’d rather not watch them waste away. When they go, let it be quickly and peacefully, in their sleep. Cats don’t really have nine lives, but the one they do have should be a comfortable one.