Saturday, November 14, 2009

News Flash: Cats Don't Like Taking Medicine

Miss Amelia needed a dose of pain medication last night, and because I am a single parent, I was the only one on hand to give it to her. Okay, 1.2 ccs of analgesic syrup, coming right up! Except for one thing--my sweet kitty doesn't seem to want any? Oh, bother, what is a woman to do? Coaxing didn't help, and neither did reasoning that, yes, she just had three itty bitty kitty teeth removed today, so she could probably use some drugs right about now.

When all negotiation efforts failed, I wound up finding an old towel and coming after her, guerilla-style. I wrapped her up like a little fuzzy brown (fur) and green (towel) burrito and got the dropper as near to her as I could. There is an art to administering a steady flow of liquid medicine and wrestling with a cat at the same time, let me tell you. It's an art that I most definitely did not master on the first go, because when she finally stopped squirming enough to start licking some of it off her lips, I pushed down on the plunger all at once, and the air that was also trapped in the syringe-thing came rushing out, taking the remaining 1cc or so with it, and poor Amelia had analgesic syrup splattered all over her mouth. Thankfully, she just licked it all off, so I was able to set her down as soon as she was done.

One dose down, many to go.

This morning I had to rinse and repeat, but with antibiotics this time. "Ah-ha!", I thought to myself. "She hasn't had food since last night. I'll mix it in and she'll gobble it up because she's so hungry!"

I can hear all of you experienced cat nurses snickering already. Rest assured that even though I may be naiive, I got the job done.

Because Miss A had teeth removed yesterday, she is to be on a soft food diet for the next several days. Up until this point I had fed her her 1/2 cup of kibble for mature indoor cats, which she faithfully ate every day. I don't have so much as a solitary tin of wet food for her, and silly me didn't think to pick any up ahead of time so that I'd have something on hand after she came out. The vet suggested that since she is used to dry food, it can be soaked and made soft for her, or perhaps I could feed her some tuna. Tuna! How delightful; this must be what it was like to have your tonsils taken out and then handed bowl after bowl of ice cream.*

Well, I don't have tuna on hand, either. However, I did happen to have some organic low-sodium vegetable stock in the fridge. I once knew a cat who ate frozen peas, so maybe she wouldn't mind having her food soaked in this? I wish I had beef or chicken broth instead, but I had to make do. Perhaps later today I'll make some dashi and use that.** I poured some broth in a glass bowl and zapped it in the microwave for about 20 seconds, then added some dry food. And I waited.

And waited.

And waited some more...apparently cat food isn't so much like Peanutbutter Cap'n Crunch after all. I mean it looks like it, but Science Diet takes more time to absorb liquid and go mushy. Amelia was pacing hungrily at my feet, clearly confused as to why her dish was missing. She hadn't had access to food in almost 12 hours, so I didn't blame her. When I was finally satisfied enough with the saturation level of her kibble, I mushed it up with a fork and set it down before her. She sniffed for a few moments before deciding either that it was yummy or she was too hungry to care--or both, and she ate about half of it in one sitting, and polished off the rest sometime in the night.

I saved about half of the kitty mush I made in another container, so this morning I nuked it again for 20 seconds and added some more broth to wake it up. Her food dish was totally empty, so I knew she had to be pretty hungry by now. Giggling to myself like a mad scientist, I mixed her food, then added some antibiotics. Then I added more mush on top of that, and then more medicine, alternating like layers of tiramisu. Foul, brothy, kibbly tiramisu.

I set the dish down in its usual spot and called her over. She appeared on the spot, sniffed for a second, and then began licking up her breakfast for about two seconds after that before she realized she had been had. Poor Amelia was clearly torn between her hunger, however, and her revulsion at the meds I mixed in. Finally she decided she was more repulsed than hungry, and she walked away. Glancing at the discharge sheet again, I saw that she needed to be dosed up once every 12 hours until the bottle was gone. It was already 9:30am. I couldn't wait around for her to maybe decide to finish her tainted food; I had to take action.

I found last night's towel and swept her up, this time being good enough to catch her front paws and hold them in. Her previous owner de-clawed her, so I wasn't concerned with being swiped so much as I just wanted one less thing to worry about. I swaddled; she cried. I had her bundled up in the crook of my left arm like an infant. In the kitchen, I fished a plastic spoon out of my catch-all drawer and brought her dish of tepid mush up to the counter.

And I prayed.

I've been on the assist in feeding my friends' young son Michael a time or two, and even when he was on board with whatever it was he was supposed to eat, I had a hard time getting everything on the spoon into him in one fell swoop. Eventually I had learned to get as much as I could in, then scrape off what invariably oozed back out of his mouth and feed that to him again until the entire jar of turkey dinner was done. The Scrape Method cleans the baby and eliminates waste!

Smash cut to me and the cat, who is still crying and struggling valiantly against the confines of the towel. (You know, with as many times as I've had to use that thing to put Frontline on her or to hold her while clipping her back nails, you'd think that she wouldn't sit on the freshly laundered towels anymore.) Instinctively, I shushed her and started bouncing my arm slightly, but quickly came to my senses and realized that she's a 12 year old cat and not a human infant. Instead, I rested my arm and precious bundle on the counter while I scooped up some food, which at this point was looking exactly like cat yack. Yum. I spared her the cheerful, "Open up!" and just tried getting the food near her mouth.

I don't know what I thought was going to happen. Would she reach her neck out like a turtle and chomp it off of the spoon? Of course not! She reared her head back and side to side more like a pony, although after a moment she did start resembling a turtle as she tried retracting her head back into the folds of the green towel. She couldn't get away, though, from either my arm or her hunger, and, amazingly, she started licking the food off of the spoon. About half of the spoon's contents ended up just below her chin and on the towel, so I found myself employing the Scrape Method after all! It was just with much greater difficulty, as getting mush off of the side of a smooth baby face is a lot easier than getting it off of some folds of terry cloth.

Make no mistake, however, that Miss Amelia was thrilled with this arrangement, despite the fact that she was eating. She alternated between struggling, crying, and purring, so I got as much food into her as I could before placing her on the floor and letting her go.

Ideally, I would have had had her analgesic syrup at the ready as soon as she finished eating, but I didn't think that far ahead. After that ordeal, I wasn't sure that the pain meds were going to relieve her pain so much as aggravate her further in having to take them anyway. I wasn't about to immediately put her through another ambush and towel roll-up. So she's just resting comfortably on her perch in the window, hopefully free enough from pain for us to skip that dose. I think when it's time for her next round of antibiotics this evening, I'm just going to get it over with straight from the syringe. Don't worry, baby, Mama will get this down yet!

*The bummer is that this might be an outmoded home cure for pain after a tonsillectomy. Some medical professionals advise against ice cream post-op because dairy products cause the body to produce phlegm, which is probably going to make you cough in order to clear it, and coughing after you've had your tonsils out sounds really unpleasant. Take heart, though, some doctors would rather you eat the ice cream anyway, because at least you're getting some nutrition in you.

**Dashi is a Japanese sea stock commonly made from bonito flakes (fish flakes) and kombu (edible sea kelp) and is often the base for miso soups. If you were a cat, wouldn't you think that would be a pretty awesome thing to have your food soaked in? And when I say "make some dashi", I just mean busting open a packet of it and mixing with hot water.