Wednesday, January 18, 2017

Being Like Possum

 Classic Possum

I've decided that one way to get through the next four years is to be more like Possum. As I've written before, Possum thinks that President Obama's campaign motto, "Vero Possumus," is Latin for "Hey, Let's All Be Like Possum." Others translate it as "Yes, We Can," and I see their point. But Possum says I can keep two ideas in my head at the same time. So when I'm not following Mr. Obama's instructions from his final speech, I'm going to follow Possum's example.

That means I'll be spending much of my free time hanging around with cats, napping, thinking deep thoughts, and reading. Cats can absorb knowledge by having physical contact with reading matter, a phenomenon I call "literary osmosis." It's unfair that we have to stay awake and turn pages.

(By the way, it is still October 24 in Old New Yorker Land. I'm reading a short summary of conservative thought and it's a better sleeping pill than the article about Marx was.)

Possum puts a lot of store in grooming and always looks his best, so I will have to make more of an effort. He is always giving me disbelieving or disapproving looks, and suggestions that indicate that he thinks I need improvement work in this area. 

It's important to note, though, that cats never care a whit about other cats' fur color or other traits, including weight, size, age, gender, disabilities, income, background, or orientation. They judge each other by other criteria, such as manners and fragrance, which are harder to argue with. We can all follow this example. Possum doesn't care if I'm young, old, fat, skinny, plain, or beautiful. He just wants me to be the best "me" I can be (and to not smell like the vet). 

So I suppose I need to Do Something About My Hair, since combing it is not enough. And invest in some night cream since I'm not going to wash my face with my own saliva, as he does. And he wants me to get over my antipathy toward exercise, not that he's setting much of an example. 

When I pointed out how lazy he is, he told me there are intense exercise routines, similar to interval training, that produce big results with just a few minutes of effort. He says he does them when I'm not looking. I'm going to get a spy cam.

But I'm not getting a fur coat, so instead I got these soft pointelle long johns from Boden for lounging around the house:

They are striped and so it Possum. And they are so comfortable that they really are the cat's pajamas

These have navy stripes, like many of my favorite tees, but they are outlined with a fine metallic gold thread for a slightly sparkly effect — cats also shimmer. I could have ordered gray and white with silver thread, but I don't want to be mistaken for Possum. I can imitate but I can't duplicate; I won't be using a litter box or eating in a bowl on the floor, either. However, I plan to agitate for treats every chance I get.

I ordered a second pair of PJs, in pink, when they went on sale, and they are now on clearance, so you can be Vero Possumus, too, for about $26.

Monday, January 16, 2017

Take Time to Eat the Roses

First Harris pretended to be napping.

But these roses smelled really good.

He had to sniff them.

Then he wanted to eat them. The whole time, I kept saying, "No! Stop that! Don't eat the flowers! We talked about this! No, Harris!"

Harris doesn't like to be bossed. Look at this face:

But I kept at it. It wasn't just to save the roses. Roses can make cats sick. (I learned this the hard way about 30 years ago, when I had an indoor rosebush, a severely ill cat, and a vet who was baffled by Truffalo's seemingly incurable diarrhea.)

I told Harris it was for his own good. He still wasn't happy.

But he prides himself on being our most perfect cat. So he settled down.

A Find

A strange thing happened on Saturday. We went to an open house in our neighborhood. We went out of habit, curious to see why it was so overpriced. There were three fireplaces, high ceilings, and bay windows, so we should have loved it but we didn't. It had a grand living room; a big, awkward kitchen; a large bedroom; and a teeny-tiny one that worked better as a closet.

The agent had left the place empty instead of going to the trouble and expense of staging it with safe, neutral furnishings, fresh flowers, and so on. She and the sellers were betting on a quick sale. 

I was in the bathroom, which was tiled in a fussy way I didn't like. I don't know why I opened the medicine cabinet in that empty apartment, but I did. I often check out closets to see how spacious they are but I rarely open medicine cabinets or even kitchen cabinets unless I'm seriously interested.

The cabinet was mirrored inside and empty, except for a pair of diamond earrings in the corner of a shelf.

I have always dreamed of finding 1) diamonds, 2) a body floating in the Charles, and 3) a valuable painting or antique selling on the cheap. Those are my three remaining life goals for found objects, since I've already found a great husband and some amazing deals on Ferragamo shoes. (I've also found four or five wallets and purses, which were always easy and gratifying to return.)

The diamonds were middle-sized studs, maybe a carat or so in total weight, so worth at least a couple thousand dollars if they were real, and I think they were. They looked a lot like my own studs. It would kill me to lose them.

I felt both pleased and disappointed. I'd always imagined finding a (huge) diamond in the dirt, or on a sidewalk or a beach, where I had a better chance of being able to keep it. The earrings would be a cinch to return to their owner.

I found the agent and asked her if she knew there were diamonds in the medicine cabinet. I led her to the bathroom and showed her. She had no idea what they were doing in there, in an empty apartment. She took them, thanked me, and said she'd ask the seller about them. Then she said that, if there was a reward, she'd "split it" with me. How generous!

Now I'm wondering if she will talk to the seller. She seemed as amazed that I didn't steal them as she was about my finding them in the first place, so I'm a bit dubious of her good intentions. I will call her later this week and ask how the story ends. I could also locate the seller and ask if she got them back.

 I'll keep you posted.

PS: I wondered briefly if the earrings were fakes, planted to catch a thief who robs open houses, but why put them in a totally empty apartment where a thief will quickly see there's nothing to take and leave for better pickings? And if they were planted, the agent should have said so, rather than act surprised.

Sunday, January 15, 2017

Possum Is Possumy

Thank you to everyone who joined me in worrying over Possum and shared stories and remedies. He loves being fussed over, and it meant a lot to both of us.

Having a nap beside me. 

He seems fine. We still can't identify who has done what in the litter box but he has a good appetite and he smacked a ribbon around with me today. He is also back to being affectionate, particularly with my husband; I caught Possum sitting in his lap this morning and both acted guilty. This was shortly after I stepped on a Gift with Purchase hidden beautifully on the carpet, while I was barefoot and talking on the phone. My feet a way of finding those things.

Here is Lion trying to give Possum a workout. Lion knows that exercise is important for a healthy digestive system. Lion is both smart and kind.

I have a short movie that really shows Lion's boxing technique but Blogger won't let me post it no matter how I try.

I've given Possum slippery elm bark and he doesn't love it but will eat it if there's food stuck to it. I'll try mixing it with water next time before mixing it with his food. And I may get some psyllium or Miralax.

All this has me thinking that I should figure out how to feed everyone some raw food at least a few times a week. Some is better than none. I will research how we might do that given our tiny, packed freezer. We are lucky to have Mayflower Poultry nearby, in Cambridge. They are a good source for fresh birds and meats of all kinds and will grind to order. I just need a little more time to research supplements and figure a few things out.

Thursday, January 12, 2017

Possum Went to Angell

Vets always ask me about changes in "activity level" when I bring them a sick cat. When it's Possum, I never know what to say. He is so lazy that I'm not sure he has an "activity level." He trots for a few seconds about once a week. Aside from that he sits or lies around, often showing off his belly, as you've seen. He is only energetic when agitating for meals, when he stands upright with his paw up on the counter for support, smacking me with the other one and urging me to make it snappy. He probably burns a calorie or less daily as he tries to steal food from the other cats' bowls. His idea of playing is to swat at a pole toy if it comes within inches of his paw. His idea of hunting is to wait for prey to accidentally land in his mouth. I'm exaggerating slightly, maybe, but not much. Lethargy is his normal energy level.

So I have to go by his facial expression and appetite to guess how he's feeling. The day after he came home from Angell he seemed a little quiet and sleepy but that was not unusual. He looked fine, happy to be home. On Tuesday morning, he ate his breakfast of boiled chicken and probiotics with gusto.

Later in the morning I called Angell for Possum's blood test results. I hate getting test results more than just about anything, but I'd had a brief surge of feeling like a mature adult and decided not to just sit by the phone and wring my hands. The Angell liaison said the vet was at morning rounds, discussing Possum with the other vets. "WHY?" I heard myself say, "IS IT THAT BAD?" So much for being an adult.

I was assured that the vets discuss ALL the cases every morning. I recovered some dignity. The vet called a little later to report that Possum's blood work was normal. Her diagnosis was that Possum is developing a food sensitivity. She said we should feed him only one brand and flavor of food for a few days. I If he did well, we could do the same with every other kind of food to see if one made him sick. I was doubtful. While we don't feed homemade raw food, about the best diet for cats, we do feed canned varieties that I've chosen because they contain mostly lamb, chicken, or duck, and are low in unnecessary ingredients.

From what I've read, food sensitivities tend to be reactions to crappy dry or canned food, often containing corn and other grains, potatoes or other veggies, artificial colors and flavors, and sketchy ingredients like meat "by-products" that come from a rendering plant and are too sickening to even think about, let alone feed to a cat.

I pointed this out, but she was unfamiliar with the brands of foods we buy and wasn't persuaded. So I agreed to keep him on boiled chicken for a while until his digestive problems resolved, and then try an elimination diet of one food at a time. (Privately, I decided I'd switch to raw food in a day or two if he didn't get better. And make that permanent if need be.)

I called our own vet, since she works on Tuesdays, and she quickly arrived at a different diagnosis that makes much more sense: "paradoxical diarrhea." She said that when cats get constipated they sometimes vomit and leak small amounts of diarrhea, and that these episodes can happen many days apart. Which is exactly what happened to poor Possy. She agreed that, given what we feed our cats, a sensitivity made no sense, but that a diet high in protein can make some cats constipated. She suggested adding psyllium to Possum's diet. I asked about slippery-elm bark instead; she was fine with that.

So, we spent $600 on treating constipation. Am I kicking myself? I am not. When a cat of mine is miserable, I have to do the best I can, and I did. This was a valuable learning experience: I know about paradoxical diarrhea now. It was cheaper than going to vet school. In fact, I should tell that vet at Angell about paradoxical diarrhea since she and her colleagues never thought of it.

So we could relax and stopped worrying. Except that Possum hasn't pooped, as far as we know, since our vet visit. He might have sneaked one in when we weren't paying attention. I hope so. The slippery elm arrives tomorrow and I might try some myself, since it's soothing for IBS.

I asked Possum to please, going forward, try to only get sick on Tuesdays, Wednesdays, Thursdays, and Saturdays, when our vet is working. He had no interest in talking about it; cats hate discussing illness or other perceived weaknesses or imperfections.

All he said was, "I'm paradoxical. Mysterious, enigmatic, fascinating, unfathomable, and ready for cheese."

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

Possum Goes to Angell

For those who asked, we have pool toys in our storage area because spend many of our vacations hanging around a pool in Maine. We haven't used most of them in years, except for a green plastic boat that we shoot back and forth at each other in the water, playing catch. We also have one of those long foam "noodle" tubes for floating. It's purple. I used to have a great time blowing pool water out of one end with all my might, preferably onto an unsuspecting victim. This made me laugh hysterically and get water up my nose. We also have a Nerf football I don't like and an inflatable, motorized Titanic, which went around in circles, rarely hitting the leaky, inflatable iceberg  that came with it. I put that Titanic under the Christmas tree this year. 

* * * * *

Now, about Possum. On Monday morning he ate and then started exploding in his Possum-y way. He threw up his breakfast in many places and then struggled to have diarrhea, which wasn't really happening. He walked around leaving bits of it here and there as we followed, cleaning up. Then we put him in the bathroom. We took turns cleaning up in there while the other one dealt with the rest of the mess. (Nature's Miracle works.)

I didn't feel okay about it in the least. Possum, who has an expressive face, seemed miserable. And I'd been primed to expect one of the cats, most likely Harris, to develop an intestinal blockage (symptoms are vomiting and diarrhea) because of some potentially dangerous items that were attacked and then disappeared last month.

Our vet doesn't work on Monday so we got the first appointment with the vet on duty, in the late morning. But I soon decided that we should just go to Angell Animal Hospitals Emergency Center since only our vet does surgery at our hospital. And cats with blockages need immediate surgery.

I called to tell Angell we'd be there soon. We has no trouble putting Possum into an old cardboard carrier from the MSPCA, which must date from when we adopted Bunnelina in 1998. Possum didn't recognize it as a carrier so he went right in.

When we arrived, there was no one at reception. We waited and waited. Finally I called them and told the liaison I was waiting to check in with a very sick cat. A vet tech showed up and took me and Possum to an exam room. He checked out Possum and told me he seemed stable, and that we were third in line to see a vet. Meanwhile, a receptionist turned up and took our information and a down payment.

We waited for 90 minutes to see one of the two vets on duty. Possum lay in his dark box, occasionally crying. I put my finger through one of the carrier's little holes to stroke his back.

I was on the verge of leaving to try another emergency center a half-hour away when a young woman vet finally appeared. Possum had thrown up in the carrier and was generally a smelly mess, but was still rather charming, at least to me. The vet put on latex gloves and skillfully removed a large quantity of poop from his colon. We asked if she made house calls. Then she took him away for X-rays, blood tests, a painkiller, a sponge bath, and subcutaneous fluids.

We were there for five hours. We were prepared. We dressed in layers. I'd brought the remains of the partially eaten plastic partridge ornament and the sleep mask, along with water, snacks, a phone charger, and a few old New Yorkers (from October). My husband had his iPad and laptop. (If there's a next time, I'll bring a blanket as it was cold, and cans of cat food in case the cat is hospitalized.)

We were not prepared for the enormous dogs we kept encountering in the waiting areas. There were dogs like Shetland ponies, weighing more than I do, including a pair of shaggy bull mastiffs. Some of these dogs seemed to control of their owners, rather than the other way around.  I was glad Possum was hidden in his cardboard box and unable to see them. Then there were yappy little dogs who wouldn't stop barking, and a scrappy human couple just as loud. At least no one was in tears; that's the hardest.

The X-rays didn't show sigs of blockage and Possum seemed stable. The vet predicted he'd have a lot more diarrhea and offered to keep him until he was back to normal. But we couldn't leave him there, so we took him home. She told us not to feed him until the morning and recommended Hills or Royal Canin "prescription" food. I told her I don't let our cats have poor-quality food. We had a brief, polite discussion outlining our opposing views on feline nutrition and agreed to disagree. We settled on feeding Possy boiled chicken, sprinkled with probiotics from their pharmacy.

At the Angell pharmacy, a sign fills the space between the long counter and the floor, advertising Hill's Prescription Diets. Across the way, there are racks loaded with bags of their food. It horrifies and amazes me that, in 2017, the vast majority of veterinarians still haven't woken up to the common sense of feeding animals, especially sick animals, fresher, healthier food. I've read that there's a class-action suit against Hills because there are no medications in their foods to warrant their requiring a "prescription." It's about time. But I digress.

The bill came to $592. We didn't bat an eye; we've been there. We are lucky we can afford vet bills and realize that one or several can hit us at any time. We expect to spend a small fortune when our five all start hitting "geriatric" ages, around the same time we will.

Possum complained all the way, home which was a relief. We settled him in my husband's little office with a litter box, water, a soft bed, and old towels draped over the armchair. We were bracing for more diarrhea and decided it would be easier to deal with it in one room. It was a frigid night but with the door closed and the radiator blasting, it was toasty in there. Possum slept as my husband worked nearby. He didn't want dinner. I joined them; Possum lay near me and purred. He was quiet all night.

To be continued.