Today is the 14th birthday of my Maine Coon cat, Luna, and it would be all smiles and glory if we had not been on a very intense healing journey for the last three weeks. The mere fact she’s still on planet Earth is well worth celebrating. That is for sure! And many more details to be happy about. But the thrust of this post is to share this unexpected journey, as I am learning that while I personally had never heard of this turn in the road, nor had anyone I spoke with, there are those out there who are, in fact, learning of this possible chapter, and having invested many hours into this process, I want to share my findings, incomplete as they may be, for those who find themselves on this same journey. Maybe it will be of help.
It began as a sudden retching cough, though only once or twice a day, so that in itself was a new experience for me. What cat coughs once or twice a day and otherwise seems fine? Hmmm. So I watched for other symptoms to appear, began research and finally took her to a vet, like any responsible cat owner would do. However the vet listened to her lungs and pronounced them “fine.” The nurse, however, had noticed a tooth that looked aged and a problem, so they whisked her off and pulled not one but two molars. Gosh. And home we went.
Within a week Luna made a dramatic turn and stopped eating. As in, completely.
Honestly, what ensued was so emotional for me that the next steps are a bit of a blur. Apparently when I’m grieving my left brain does not work as well. But what I can tell you is that I made two or three more trips to the vet, to pick up a plastic syringe for “syringe feeding” which I didn’t even know existed, and a course of antibiotics, which I requested upon seeing respiratory symptoms finally emerging [runny nose] and finally, a few cans of a kind of catfood prescribed by vets for post-surgical cats. It’s apparently super high in protein, fats and carbs. When I mentioned to folks they all said the same thing, “Like Ensure for cats.” I guess so.
And there we were.
Little by little, cats become the visible soul of the house.
It began to dawn on me that while I had for 14 years always been responsible for the feeding of this animal for her well being, this was a whole new demand. I was literally responsible for getting food down this cat, or she would die. Oh, dear.
Thank God for YouTube, where I did find a number of videos that instructed me in the art of syringe feeding a cat. However, every one of them featured a docile, obliging cat being slowly administered catfood in large syringes by adoring pet owners happy to show how easy it could be. Our experience didn’t exactly match. Part of me was on the verge of tears. Part of me wanted to laugh hysterically.
Fortunately any cat who has ever lived with me knows that if I grab it by the back of the neck (as any mother cat would her kitten when she wanted obedience) that I Mean Business. (In this case it was either that or starve, trust me.) Gradually as we both learned together that we were in a Whole New Chapter of our conjoined lives, and after she delivered a scratch or two, she relaxed into the process and while I still need to keep a firm grip and to continue to place her where I need her to be, she now recognizes the shift and the need and a bit of appreciation is being expressed in a very faint but steady purr. (Praise the Lord.)
Now here are some of the things I am learning and have learned in case any of you ever find yourselves in this predicament!
While you might remember what a cc is, I did not. So here’s the skinny, and you would need to know.
This was critical for me to know since syringes are all based on the metric system. And here was the overwhelming part. I learned that a 10 pound cat needs at bare minimum 80 cc’s of food a day. EIGHTY. That’s 5 1/2 tablespoons of meat protein (mostly) delivered about 1/2 cc at a time. Yikes. That’s a lot of squirting. That’s especially a lot if you are needing to water down the catfood (or high protein prescribed catfood) in order to deliver and have it be swallowed.
Are you imagining this??
So that was the fundamental reality I found myself facing, processing, accepting and learning how to do.
I’m certain by now some of you would be thinking, “Fourteen. Why not put her down?”
And I might have if she had not been getting better each day. Antibiotics kicked in. Not only the respiratory stuff got healed, the Mystery Cough went away! And she started making an effort. She tried with all her might to get back into her normal routine. She gallantly ate 1/4 t. normal catfood with her constant companion, Sweet Pea. It was all she could do without those back molars to get it down. She hated it. But she tried. Oh, my goodness, she tried.
I began taking her out into the garden on the sunny afternoons that were emerging and she was so excited to see grass! She wanted so much to eat it. She couldn’t, but she wanted to. So be it.
Probably most telling to me was the fact that for two weeks Sweet Pea [rescued deaf Siamese, whom some of you will know from my book] left Luna completely alone, heretofore unheard of, as they are almost always together, usually wrapped in each other’s arms. And four days ago they suddenly commenced to be inseparable again. Only they know what was the turning point, but I took it to heart.
So while I am learning all this structure and adjusting to this new reality and only GOD knows how long this will go on (found a man online who has been syringe feeding his 18 year old cat for a year!) my creativity kicked in. I got inspired. I found myself thinking Luna might enjoy an even better diet now than she did for the previous 14 years. So here’s my armory thus far, just in case you ever need this, or know someone who does.
First of all, a word on syringe feeding. Watch every vid you can find. I’m a visual learner. It really helped me. Every cat will have slightly different needs, so get a vet to help you, but I can tell you this. Squirt from side of the mouth, never from the front. Aim small quantity at roof of cat’s mouth. Do not squirt into throat. Food can go in their lungs. Let cat swallow and breath before going for next squirt.
And here’s what we are using so far:
*Pumpkin puree and/or baby rice cereal for fiber
NOTE: the catfood they sell you from the vet for post surgical food for cats may be rich in protein, carbs and fats, and God bless them for anticipating this need, but it does not have enough fiber to meet your cats needs, which results in, well, you can imagine. A mess. So after much research (online and at home) I have learned to mix a teeny bit of baby rice cereal into the watered down “critical care” food. [I'm using Hills A/D, fyi.] Or, as I always have pumpkin puree in my freezer to use on occasion in my dogs’ morning breakfast, made when pumpkins are in season, I pulled out some of that and am adding just a small amount, using the finest puree I can find (otherwise it will block syringe and might gag my kitty).
*I’m giving her a teeny dose of powdered golden seal root and Manuka honey mixed in water daily. Don’t try this without researching. Golden seal is good for the mucous membranes and it’s very healing if used properly. Manuka honey is the healing honey. And golden seal is bitter. Thus the honey.
*Goat’s milk yogurt — It’s easier to digest than cow’s milk. She likes it. It’s animal protein and it’s easier to feed than catfood, trust me. Still using syringe, though. Maybe you can get your cat to lick. Not Luna.
*Chicken Liver Smoothie — I’m going very easy on this, but I’ve started making a power smoothie for her that is part pureed boiled chicken liver, part A/D, and a Nu Cat vitamin (it’s like bouillon), smooshied first in hot water. [WARNING! If you happen upon Nu Cat vitamins make absolutely sure they are stored in a safe place. My Border Collie found a package of these I thought was high up enough he wouldn't be able to get them. Wrong. He ate an entire package which requires giving one's dog hydrogen peroxide to get them back up. Just sayin'.]
*Soft boiled egg YOLK. No whites. I’m having to add a bit of water for right consistency.
*Cod liver oil, daily, from a dropper
*Brewer’s yeast, added here and there
*Alfalfa leaf tea –Alfalfa will provide a bit of green and is supposed to increase appetite. She likes it.
*Liquified boiled lean organic chicken. I am needing to add chicken stock from the boiling of the chicken to the blender to get the chicken to liquify. I’m using cousin Julie’s suggestion in comments, putting some of the liquified chicken in an ice cube tray so I can mix up a batch at a time, freeze and then defrost one or two every day to add to diet. I added chicken livers to the chicken when I put in blender. I think this is the single most important food source I’m adding to Luna’s diet at the moment.
*Water– a ten pound cat needs nearly 1 C (1/4 liter) of clean water a day. This might well be the foundation stone for a cat’s well being. Without sufficient water a cat risks severe dehydration which can lead to death. So get that water down! Clean water pushes out toxins, restores balance to the organs and is critical to healing.
Now here’s the really endearing part that happened here this morning. As said, these two loving cats are now back to being pretty much inseparable again. So this was actually a bit of a problem when I was trying to feed Luna. Sometimes I would isolate them until I was through just to make the process simpler. One cat was enough. But this morning I found them in their kitty bed, and wouldn’t you know it? Sweet Pea was cleaning Luna’s face! She scrubbed her clean for the longest time. I was so touched I nearly wept. Help had arrived. I didn’t have to do it completely alone! Oh, thank you, heavenly Universe!
So now I’ve incorporated Sweet Pea into the process and everyone is happier! I dip the syringe into whatever I’ve mixed up in the cup. Sweet Pea licks the outside of the syringe clean, so she’s included. Luna gets the bulk. And it’s a family affair! Didn’t see that one coming, but incredibly grateful for the shift.
Recently a Buddhist I follow on Twitter tweeted a bit about a student asking his teacher, “What is your practice?” And the teacher answered, “Whatever is needed.”
Love and companion animal blessings,
Days later postscript: I am searching for a rhythm that works for Luna and for me. We both need it. In order to ensure Luna has a good solid beginning to her day I have now established this pattern: I am giving her 1T Hills A/D and 1T Natural Value chicken or seafood pate (her normal catfood from health food store) combined with 1T chicken stock first thing in the morning. Yes, it’s time consuming. But it gives me the peace of mind knowing I’ve made a good dent in the day’s requirements and I can build all day from there. Also, very important: I am measuring and writing down every single thing I give her, including all liquids. Maybe later I won’t need to but right now I need to measure and log everything. Highly recommended for this new territory.
Luna with Sweet Pea, who is napping
March 17th: Miracles happen. Luna has unexpectedly and amazingly regained her appetite. I could not believe my eyes when she vigorously joined Sweet Pea for morning chicken pate this morning, and proceeded to devour nearly a half can of catfood! Later in the day she tackled her kibble! And wasn’t I heartened (oh, yes I was) when I found her before her water bucket. Wow. Never expected this. This is beyond my hopes and dreams and I am incredibly stupendously grateful! She’s still coughing. I am inclined to think the primary culprit is the silica dust that was in the catlitter I was using, especially after I bought a dome to give them more privacy from the dogs. Big mistake. I have switched to pine pellets. They have both adjusted. Time will tell if I am correct about my diagnosis. It could still be too little too late. Taking it one day at a time in great gratitude. Many thanks to all of you who have supported her and me through this journey both here on the blog, in private emails and on twitter. Your loving thoughts are appreciated.
April 7th: It is the day before Easter, and, it is with great sadness that I let you know that Luna has made her way to kitty heaven. She remains greatly loved and missed.
Book News: Most exciting is the big step I took in signing a contract with Partners West, who will serve as an important distributor for Plant Whatever Brings You Joy. I already have interest at San Francisco Airport, which is one of my big goals! Fingers and toes crossed.
Many thanks to Kepler’s Books in Menlo Park for including Plant Whatever Brings You Joy in their latest e-newsletter! Appreciated!
And this excerpt appeared this week in Edge Magazine in Minneapolis. Ode Magazine and Western North Carolina Woman will print excerpts soon.
Enjoy Kathryn’s book trailer for Plant Whatever Brings You Joy!
Posted on March 8th, 2012 by Kathryn
Filed under: Animals