Thursday, January 21, 2010

Simple... open the cat's mouth and pop the pill in!

Hump Day
By Brian Cormier
Wednesday, January 20, 2010
Moncton Times & Transcript
Editorial page

When I was young, we had a few pets that I remember. Barney and Timber were dogs. Choo-Choo was a cat. I had a hamster named Bert, too. I remember taking Barney to the vet with my father once for kennel cough, but that was it. I don't remember Timber or Choo-Choo ever going to the vet. Back in the 1970s, the mentality seemed to be that pets were mostly taken to the vet only for curing an illness, not for preventing one.

As an adult pet owner now, I'm vigilant about getting the two cats I have to the vet for their shots and regular check-ups. The way I figure it, it's best to keep them healthy through prevention rather than rack up a big vet bill if I can help it.

But even healthy pets get sick sometimes -- as do healthy people. Last week, Cindy -- my nearly eight-year-old red tabby cat -- started throwing up constantly. I'm used to it, up to a point. It seems to be something she's done since I've had her, but this was different. It wasn't just occasional... it was constant. To make matters worse, she also stopped eating. That's when I knew something was seriously wrong.

I'm not one to run to the doctor for every little ache or sniffle, and I'm the same way with my pets. I've seen them not feel well before and it rectified itself in a day or two. But after a couple of days, it wasn't getting any better. Without going into the gory details, it was starting to get worrisome. Particularly, I was quite concerned that she would get dehydrated. This is very taxing on the kidneys -- especially for small animals like cats -- and things could go from bad to critical very quickly.

So I made an appointment with the vet and took her in. By then, she hadn't kept much down for a few days and was starting to act "out of routine." If you're a cat owner, you'll know what I mean. Cats are creatures of habit. They do the same thing at the same time every day. I could get rid of all the clocks in my house and know what time it is simply by noting exactly where either cat is sleeping. For example, Casey sleeping in the laundry basket in my bedroom closet means it's 7 p.m. Cindy sleeping on the back of the love seat in the living room is the equivalent of 11 p.m. I could go on and on.

When the vet examined her, Cindy was doing well, all things considered, but it was determined that a hospital stay was in order to make sure that we nipped this in the bud. She couldn't keep throwing up forever, after all, and she was well on her way to beating the feline world record for getting sick to her poor little stomach.

She was kept overnight, leaving just "the boys" at home (me and Casey) for the evening. It's very odd when one pet is not there. Casey seemed to enjoy having me to himself, but I couldn't stop thinking about the missing pet and hoping she was OK. She was in the right place, though, and getting IV fluids and tests, so I knew I shouldn't worry too much. I would certainly rather see her in the hospital than at home continuing to be ill.

The next morning, the vet called to say that Cindy hadn't been sick all night. That was a good sign, considering she'd spent the last three days being continuously nauseous. There were a few tests that were borderline, but nothing that raised alarm bells about imminent death or major illness -- and nothing that a cat who'd been sick for three days wouldn't be showing.

In the end, we're treating Cindy for a suspected bleeding ulcer and she's now on antibiotics and some other treatments for the next week to 10 days. Nurse Cormier brought her home on Saturday afternoon for some TLC.

I've given pills to dogs before and, quite frankly, I thought it was easy. Just open their mouth and shove in the pill -- or hide it in a piece of chicken or some cheese or peanut butter. For Casey, hiding the antibiotic pill he was on a few years ago was easy. I just shoved it in a piece of chicken (which he never gets, normally) and he gobbled that thing down like there was no tomorrow.

Cindy, however, is another story. Giving a pill to Cindy is like putting your hand into a blender while it's turned on high. It's like trying to catch a bullet in your teeth. It's like trying to make love to an angry porcupine. Let's just say that -- when giving a pill to Cindy -- you need to be fast, courageous and prepared to be severely injured.

You should make sure that your life insurance policy is paid up before you give a cat a pill. Not a bad idea to have a will and power of attorney drawn up, too, just to make sure someone needs to pull the plug.

Between their claws and razor-like teeth, they can cause a lot of damage. (I'd probably be the only patient in palliative care with cat scratches all over my face.)

I'm glad I used to watch Atlantic Grand Prix Wrestling, because it certainly came in handy when trying to give her the two pills and liquid medicine (three things!) prescribed by the vet. Just when the first wrestling match is over, I need to back for two more to ensure her treatments are all given. I could have used The Great Malumba, Killer Karl Krupp, Leo Burke and The Beast in my corner, let me tell you!

In the end, I'm managing to give her the medicine she needs without too much damage to myself, although it's no fun at all. She's taken me off her Christmas card list and is most certainly plotting to kill me.

Now, I know I can do anything! Need your lawnmower blade polished while it's still running? Give me a call. After you've given a pill to a cat, you no longer fear death.


Lindart said...

Wrap her in a towel so that her claws are nicely immobilized, then give her the pill. She will still squirm and struggle so hang on tight!

Brian Cormier said...

Thanks! I did that at first but it was a huge struggle. She squirmed so much that she got out of the towel. Now, I'm successfully pilling her by standing behind her, holding her back end between my ankles so she can't run away, then opening her mouth from behind and dropping the pill in. Very easy and much less stressful for both of us! The process for two pills and one shot of liquid medicine now takes 90 seconds instead of five minutes of torture. :) Thanks again for the advice!