Wednesday, July 22, 2009

The Rest of the Tale/Tail

I cleared out my voice mail yesterday, including several I had saved from the vet clinic keeping me updated on the cat while she was being treated there. I am not sure why I kept them other than a subconscious fear that the cat would not make it, and I wanted proof to remind myself I really did try. I had forgotten how diligent they were in keeping me apprised, always using bright, cheerful voices and loading the messages with optimistic words, but still making sure they didn't lead me to believe Tum-Tum was in the clear. I imagine working with the animals is not nearly as hard as working with their owners, and I figured the people dealing with me probably had heard the story and were extra careful with their tone. At any rate, after two solid days there and a third night, I finally convinced the vet to let me take Tum-Tum home and continue her treatment here. I figured I could do it; I have given dogs IV's in the past, I inject one of my dogs twice a day with insulin. I clean up their poop and drool and vomit routinely. I thought being a dog owner eight times over put me in a good position to nurse a tiny little kitty. Yeah, right.

First of all, dogs for the most part want nothing more than to please their humans. Cats feel no such compunction. Dogs respond to certain commands. Cats respond because it pleases them to do so. If it doesn't, then they don't. The local deer herd are more pliable than Tum-Tum. And then, there is the fact that my dogs are all largish, whereas Tum-Tum before she got sick was less than 11 pounds. Not a large target. Finally, she has a temper, that one. She was recovered just to the point where taking care of her a true challenge. And I quickly regretted the decision to bring her home.

The objective was to get a dose of antibiotic down her twice a day, give her a dietary enhancement every twelve hours, and try and stuff a can of cat food down her in four installments using a syringe. None of which she wanted. We worked her as a team generally, either myself and Marissa or myself and Greg. Marissa or Greg would wrap her in a towel so her claws were caught up in terry cloth and she had a bib more or less. I would grab the scruff of her neck to try and force her mouth open and force down the food. But sometimes I was in a position to try and handle her myself. Not something I will look forward to doing again. That first day we got less than a quarter can of food down her, and I was constantly just on the edge of panic, thinking I had made a huge mistake and all that work the vet had done would be undone. After all of this, I worried, I would lose her after all. The next day went a little better as we became more experienced in how best to handle her, but she also started to fight back a little more, so we still were way short of the food quota. I kept thinking how tragic it was that I was on the brink of losing my bulimic daughter's cat to starvation. But by the third day, our resolve was stronger, our technique was better, and we managed to get a lot of moist cat food down her and not as much on the towel or her fur. Finally, the panicky feeling receded just a bit.

The next morning, I went upstairs to begin Tum-Tum on another day of forcing droppers and syringes down her dainty mouth. I had placed a container of food on the ground the day before hoping she would get back the desire to eat on her own. She begrudgingly allowed me to jam the antibiotic dropper down her throat, but then pulled away from me and, as if to say "enough already, I surrender", she went to the food bowl and began to eat. She didn't eat much initially, but I felt as though I had just won a Super Bowl. I knew she had turned the final corner and was going to make it.

And, true to form, she's making it on her own terms. She refused to eat any more of the expensive moist cat food, or anything with the dietary supplement added to it. She would only entertain the dry cat food she was used to, but she is back to eating normally. The litter box proves that it is processing correctly, and, while I can still feel her spine through her thick coat, it is beginning to feel less sharp to my touch. Her eyes are clear and her nose has stopped running, but she still sneezes occasionally. Nonetheless, her behavior is back to normal. She has made it almost all the way back.

Now, however, she seems really to know she lost something more than her health. She does not seem to remember she navigated downstairs without being eaten by canines when she was sick, so she spends a large part of each day prowling the landing, calling for attention. When we finally respond out of pity or self-preservation to get a moment of peace and quiet, she'll allow us to pet her for a minute or two then will swat at us, and walk away. She wants her mom. She did come down to the kitchen the other day and headed to the coffee maker, wrapping herself around it. Now I know she can smell it, so I think Marissa's original theory is in play: Kelsey rarely was without a cup of coffee, and I think Tum-Tum was drawn to the aroma. Maybe she thought Kelsey would show up to pour herself one eventually and that was the best place to wait for her. Whatever the reason, it made my heart crack a little. Already brittle, it doesn't take much.

Time may make her forget, I'm not sure. Cats are not my strong suit. She did have a moment of fun a couple of nights ago. Marissa had lost her temper with the cat's loud mewling and swatted her on the nose. She ran upstairs to mend her wounded pride, and a little while later we heard a loud crash. Tum-Tum had dumped over Marissa's CD tower, spilling 100 jewel cases across the floor. She was very pleased with herself, strutting across the wreckage purring loudly as I tried to put them all back in place. Hard to imagine she knew for certain those were Marissa's CD's, but it did seem sort of oddly timed. But, it was hard to be mad at her for having some fun, because maybe if she can recover from the loss, we can take some hope that so can we.

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