Sunday, January 18, 2009

Feeding the Cat, Part II

I wrote a post on November 18 about our 14-year-old Persian, Snictoria, and her scary weight loss due to an unknown illness. She had lots of tests that were negative. Our vet now thinks she has inflammatory bowel disease — and that's treatable. (Or else she has lymphoma, which isn't. So we're holding tight to the IBD theory.)

She's been on steroid pills for weeks and gained more than half a pound—which is quite a lot for a 5.5-pound cat. She stopped looking like a skeleton in a fur coat and has more energy, although she is not the flying maniac huntress she was. She spends more time with us, and purrs, which is gratifying.

She also asks to eat — frequently — thanks to the pills. Sometimes we feed her 12 times a day. She eats only tiny amounts, and rarely wants the same food twice in a row. She'll sit and stare up at us in disbelief that we'd offer her such disgusting swill (the same food she ate enthusiastically less than an hour before). This is what that looks like:

I agree: It is disgusting swill. I wish I were one of those women who makes her own organic cat food, but I'm not. Even feeding her out of cans and pouches is like a part-time job, since we have to stay with her to keep the other cats from snarfing up the leftovers. They hover hopefully, like fluffy vultures. But the hardest part is figuring out how to persuade her to eat. She often just sits staring at us, with the food in front of her.

Out of desperation, we've begun speaking to her — exhorting is a more accurate term — in LOL-cat language, like those ungrammatical captions on the "I Can Has Cheezburger?" website. "Eat da foods, Snick! You has to eat dese foods! Dese is delicious foods, you will love them!" She listens, and sometimes starts eating. It seems that she expects a sales pitch now; if we silently put down her bowl, she pays no attention.

So, we behave like morons in the service of our Persian. But the great thing is that Snicky is still keeping my feet warm at night. 

A Christmas Steroid Story

On Christmas Eve morning, my husband handed me Snicky's empty steroid pill bottle, saying, "Look, they're gone! Hooray!" I mentioned this to my sister when she called. She started raving about how we HAD to get more pills immediately, because you can't just stop taking steroids all at once. You have to taper off slowly or else truly dreadful things happen to your innards. 

I realized she was right, but I also knew that our vet was closed for two days. So I called Angell Memorial Animal Hospital. The "liaison" I spoke with was utterly unhelpful. All she wanted us to do was make an unscheduled $135 emergency visit, and she said the waiting time was about 3 to 4 hours.  She refused to give me any general information about steroid pills or withdrawal, and refused to even tell me whether missing a couple of pills would make a difference. She refused to let me talk to a pharmacist, vet, or another liaison. All she wanted was $135. She was so nasty and mercenary that I never plan to go there again. 

I called five other vet clinics and hospitals. Everyone I spoke with was kinder and more informative. The consensus was that we absolutely should give the cat at least one pill a day until we could get the prescription refilled. But no one would prescribe even two pills without seeing the cat. And no one was taking appointments on Christmas Eve. 

I called my allergy clinic and left a message. Since I've taken steroid pills now and then for asthma, I figured they could prescribe a few pills for "me," to give to the cat. I gather it was the oddest request they'd received in some time. But they didn't actually hear it until days later, when the drama was over. Still, they agreed that it was a creative idea.

I called my primary care doctor's office. We love her, and she's been very tolerant in other strange situations. The answering service picked up. I explained the problem, and the operator said he was certain that the extremely annoying doctor on call that evening would not lift a finger help our cat. 

We got online and tracked down the home number of one of our vets and the street (not the whole address) of the other. The first vet wasn't home. I suspect the second vet would have been horrified if we'd turned up at her door like a couple of stalkers.

It was now after dark. Places were closing. I called our nearest CVS. The pharmacist said she couldn't legally help me. She said they didn't even carry those tablets. But she said she'd call another CVS to see if they had some, just in case we reached the vet. She called back; another local CVS carried it. I called them up and begged. 

That pharmacist told me that if we got there in 20 minutes, before her shift ended, and brought the empty prescription bottle, she would give us a few pills. My husband raced off in the snow with a gift-wrapped packet of chocolate bars for Snicky's savior. He got the pills (for free) told the pharmacist she was the nicest person in Boston, and raced back home to give the cat her pill. She was ungrateful. We were quite the opposite.

 ***    ***   ***

All right, so my tale wasn't The Gift of the Magi. I'm not O. Henry, not even worthy to sniff his cigar. But I think that pharmacist deserves a medal for helping us and our cat, and we deserve one, too. And if we hadn't gotten those pills, my sister would probably have murdered us on Christmas Day. Lives were saved.

Try scoring drugs for your cat on Christmas Eve — and see how you do. It was a Christmas Miracle!

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