Friday, January 21, 2011


Mr. Possum hasn't been feeling well lately, which naturally has me in a state of dread and fear, since young cats can get terrible viruses like FIP. I'm overreacting at this point, I know, but I'm still overreacting.

I noticed that someone had diarrhea two days ago, and went on alert. Since four cats share one large litter box, which we had custom-built into our bathroom, it's sometimes hard to figure out who's sick. But yesterday I found undisputable evidence that it was Possy. (I'll say no more on that subject.)

The older cats were heading to the vet yesterday for their blood pressure checks, so I made an appointment for Possy, too. A kind friend and fellow cat person drove us to the vet and joined me in the exam room since my husband hadn't returned from his travels.

Both of the older cats' blood pressures are in the normal range now, thanks to their new medication. Excellent news.

Possy has gained a pound since he was last at the vet, so he isn't exactly wasting away. He is 15 pounds, and "big-boned," according to the vet so he carries his extra weight better than most cats. She thinks he is still growing — at a year and a half — and was surprised that he seemed so much longer than he did in the fall. He should lose 2 pounds to be at his ideal weight, she said.

She found that he has a temperature. Diarrhea can have many causes — some trivial, some serious, but fever suggests an infection of some kind. She put him on antibiotics for 10 days and pooh-poohed my worries. He's eating. He looks fine. She did a rectal exam and didn't find anything wrong. We don't need to change his diet, she said. We just have to give him the pills twice a day and wait to see if he improves.

This particular antibiotic has a nasty taste. It has to be broken into halves for the correct dose, and then broken up further to fit into gelatin capsules so he won't taste it. (Unless he should happen to chew the capsule. The vet assured me that I do not want that to happen.) I made a powdery little mess last night, crushing the pills with our junky pill splitter and trying to fit the surviving morsels, crumbs, and leftover bits into 20 flimsy little capsules. It took me a long time to fill all of them. I really hope they do their job.

To make sure Possy doesn't chew the capsule, I have to put it, and my fingers, straight into his snapping, toothy maw, as close as possible to his throat. I've managed to do this twice now, and neither time was pleasant for either of us. He is no longer a baby who trusts that anything we give him, even dreadful liquid medicines, is some special treat. He is warier and wilier now. That's as it should be, but I miss the days when he'd open his mouth with anticipation.

He seems less active than usual today, although he always is lazy — until he's in the mood to chase Wendy or race after a toys on a string for a few minutes. He prefers to play while lying on his back on a chair. swatting at the toy whenever it flies conveniently close to his paw. If it were possible for a cat to lie around, drinking beer and eating junk food all day, that would be Possum. He played with a ribbon this morning in desultory fashion. But he also sneezed three times, which really upset me. If he has respiratory and digestive symptoms, he's... um, sick.

I have been good about not freaking out as our teenaged cats developed chronic illnesses that have slowly progressed. I do not obsess over their test results, for example. Our vet tells us what's going on in general terms and I trust her assessment. Almost all old cats have health problems, so it's actually sort of normal. We just have to do our best to care for them until their time comes. As long as they are enjoying life, I'll gladly do all the nursing that takes.

I've been able to handle illnesses in kittens without freaking out too excessively. It's just heart-breaking and scary when they are so tiny, and they can get very sick very quickly. They are fragile, their immune systems aren't developed. They usually have intestinal parasites and are susceptible to viruses and infections. With kittens, I'm extra vigilant and run to the vet at the first hint of trouble. It works.

But when a healthy, strapping young or middle-aged cat gets sick, I'm a wreck. I still run to the vet, of course, but then I worry and wonder, lie awake all night, and worry some more. Did I pick up something at the cat shelter I visited on Monday night and bring it home to Possum? Is it nothing, or is it Something Awful? I can't bear the possibility that it's more than a passing bug. I know too many people who've suddenly lost young cats not to panic at the possibility. My vet's reassurances are only slightly comforting even though she understands my personality and does her best to calm my fears. But I can't be the least bit philosophical. Just a wreck.

We lost Bunnelina less than a year and a half ago. I can tell that I'm still mourning her and recovering from the trauma of her illness, which was difficult for her (and us) at the end. I'm still recovering from all the illnesses the new kittens brought into the household last year: Snalbert was very sick with calici virus, and so was Possum. Wendy had an intestinal bug, and both kittens had all kinds of worms. And then there was ringworm.... I can cope with Snicky and Snalbert's kidney disease, but I was counting on a long break from have to worry about the youngsters.

Only time will tell. Right now, Possum is napping on the bed with Snalbert, looking adorable. Get well soon, Poss. 


  1. I'm so sorry, APB. You are doing all of the right things, and given Possum's history and how he presents now, I would be inclined to agree with your vet that supportive care and tincture of time (yeah, sure is easier to prescribe it than to take it) are in order.

    One of the cats I'm fostering has noisy breathing. Sometimes it sounds as if he's sounding a trumpet (no exaggeration except for the sound's volume). I dither about the vet's report that said not to worry - normal sequalae for his partially obstructed airway (they had to retrieve some sort of plastic item from his airway when he was trapped with a feral group). When he gets noisy and has labored breathing, I want so much for an ironclad guarantee that it's a case of no harm no foul....

    Re: pilling the jaws of death. Have you ever considered a piller? It's essentially a plastic or metal hollow tube with a plunger. You load the capsule, pill, pocket into the barrel of the device, stick it along the cheek and as far into the mouth as possible and push the plunger. It is great for horses, dogs, cats, etc. and of course it comes in a size specifically for felines of the lap variety. PetEdge and JeffersPet sell them.


    aek (virtually petting Possum and patting your shoulder in a kindly and reassuring way)

  2. Oh...I know exactly what meds you are having to get down...metronidazole. It IS extremely bitter and even if the powder gets on the capsules it can cause them to foam and drool.

    If your vet has to give more of this to you (they might) have her get Metronidazole Benzoate Tiny Tabs from Wedgewood Compounding Pharmacy (you can google it and get their info) because it is not bitter and the pill is small. That is what we use exclusively now at the cat hospital where I work. Call me if you need to chat--email me and I'll give you my #

  3. Another hug coming your way and a promise to Possum that if he will please get better I'll let him pick the photo that will make him a star in the print world, just like he is on the internet.

    Gentle finger strokes to the little man.


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