We had quite a scare this week, the little orange dude and I. With a seventeen year-old cat, one becomes acutely aware that any day could literally be his last.
At first, all I knew was that something was Not Right.
Every morning we have this routine: I dish up his breakfast while my coffee is brewing. The coffee and the cat finish at about the same time. I sit sideways on the couch with my legs up, and he curls up behind my knees. I flip a throw blanket over both of us, and spend the next 20-30 minutes watching whatever on television while I drink my coffee. Then I get up, and he stays behind under the blanket, and that’s how he sleeps for the first half of the day.
But Wednesday morning, he didn’t want breakfast. He made me lift him onto the couch instead of jumping up himself. And after he was under the blanket, he couldn’t get comfortable. He tossed and turned and got up and flipped over on one side and then the other.
Eventually I peeked under the blanket and asked him what was wrong. His expression was so distant and disconnected that I was immediately alarmed.
We rushed to the vet, had a big wodge of his neck shaved so that they could draw blood, and the vet asked when he had last had a bowel movement. I realized that I had no idea. I mean, I live in a small home – the smell is usually a dead give-away, even if the madcap post-poop “victory lap” doesn’t tip you off. But I don’t really pay attention to the timing.
Constipation can be extremely serious in older cats. It can mean surgery or bowel damage, and it can be a secondary symptom of a more serious condition (like diabetes or kidney failure). If they go off their food for very long, there’s always the risk of a fatal condition called Feline Hepatic Lipidosis.
The vet gave him a shot of penicillin and a shot of cortisone/painkiller, which seemed to ease some of his pain.
I took this picture Thursday afternoon. I knew that it could be the last picture I ever took of him. Uncharacteristically, he showed no interest in the camera.
By Thursday night, he was looking pretty bad. Bad enough that I started to wonder about going to the 24-hour emergency clinic. His little belly was so distended, and drum-tight. But he was drinking water, and eating a little bit (deli meat)(it was the vet’s recommendation)(he likes roasted turkey best, but you have to shred it up with your fingers). So I crossed my fingers, and held off.
Finally at about 3AM I heard the tell-tale sound from the litter box: chuff chuff chuff. I’ve never been so excited for cat poop: I almost couldn’t wait for him to finish scratching in the box before I dashed in to double-check. And after a second poop around 10AM, he was virtually back to normal. Belly soft, back relaxed, tail held at its usual jaunty angle.
So that’s the moral of the story: Has your old cat pooped yet today?
To celebrate, I tried to participate in the Cat Breading meme. But he insisted on eating the bread, instead.
Even after I explained that cats can’t taste carbs and can’t digest them. He begs to differ.
(And like so many old men, he’ll be on a daily dose of Metamucil from now on.)