Thursday, July 29, 2010

Watering the Cat

Our Doll-face Persian, Snalbert, or Bertie, will turn 15 next week. As you can see, he's not your typical Persian, with a sad, pushed-in face. He's the old-fashioned kind, with a "real" nose. Persian cats all looked like this around the turn of the 20th century, before breeders got the idea to breed for those awful, extremely flat faces.

Snalbert is not a typical Persian in most ways; he's a talker and a howler, and he likes to charge around and make serious noise periodically, even at his advanced age. Persians are supposed to lie around, mew faintly, and look decorative. But no one told Snalbert. Late at night, he likes to stick his paw under our bi-fold closet door and rattle it to wake the dead. If that doesn't get a reaction from us, he starts singing, or reciting what we think is Longfellow's "Hiawatha" — at least Bertie's translation of it.

Bertie isn't a lap cat, but he's very sociable. He is the only cat who routinely greets us at the door when we come home. He joins us at the table for meals, and he insists on being in the bathroom with my husband in the morning as he showers and shaves. He loves to be with us, and we love him for that. He often comes over to my desk and puts both paws on my leg like a dog, so I'll pet him and give him some food.

Snalbert is also the Top Cat in our household — there's always a hierarchy among cats, and Snalbert worked hard to elect himself Top Cat, by biting ALL of us last fall after the kittens arrived. (His biting my husband and me indicates that he thinks we, too, are just big, weird-looking cats to be dominated. He'd jump up on the couch, sink his fangs into one of our arms until we started yelling, and then stalk away.)

No one had any objection to his campaign, and we all wanted him to stop biting us, so he won. Last week I photographed him keeping a young upstart in line:

Possum's fluffy tail is accidentally annoying Bertie.

Possum subdued.

We took Snalbert and Snicky, who is 16, to the vet for their biannual "wellness" checkups last week. After the usual $600' worth of tests, we discovered that Snalbert's kidney disease is suddenly worse than Snicky's. We've known about her illness, and have been giving her medication, for a couple of years, but Snalbert's issues were milder and more recent so we were just monitoring him. Now he needs subcutaneous hydration every other day for the foreseeable future. This helps flush away the toxins building up in his system due to his kidneys failing. Ideally, he'll feel better and his appetite will improve. He is a skinny dude these days compared to his full-bodied fluffiness of a year ago.

So we picked up bags of Ringer's Lactate, needles, and tubes, and gave Snalbert his first sub-Q treatment last night. It wasn't really his first — he'd gotten very sick from a virus that arrived along with Possum last fall, and needed hydration and pain injections and all sorts of nursing for a few weeks. But this is the beginning of our new routine, and I was worried he'd rebel.

We were rusty at the procedure — actually, I was the clumsy one, even though I read up on how to do it and heated the bag of solution so it would feel nice and warm under his skin. But twice I thought I had stuck the needle in the right place, and both times I found water pouring down his side onto the floor. My husband and I switched places, so he handled the needle and held Bertie while I operated the clamp on the tubing and watched the drip. Snalbert purred away loudly through the whole thing. What a guy. I hope he starts to feel better and that we'll be able to keep him going this way for years to come.

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