Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Caturday supplemental: it's almost time.

As you may know, my wonderful kitty Birch has been diagnosed with FIV (like HIV, but for cats) and also needs expensive dental work.  And what with me having no day job and living on my savings and all*, the expense represents a substantial chunk of what I have left.  I've been kind of freaking out.

A friend of mine reminded me that animal-related charities often have ways of helping people in situations like mine.  I contacted the rescue place where I originally got Birch and they kindly hooked me up with one of their veterinarians, who will do the dental stuff for me at a discount.  Instead of the $800+ that my regular vet quoted me, this one will do the job for $300-$500.  I booked Birch in for tomorrow morning and will continue selling $5 digital pet sketches to try to offset the cost.

In the meantime, I'm supposed to be giving Birch 1/4 teaspoon of yellow vitamin goo (to boost his immune system) plus an antibiotic pill (to help fight his painful gum infection) every 12 hours.  The vet said that both medicines have a pleasant taste and the pills are chewable, so there's a chance Birch might swallow it all straight-up without me having to trick or force him.  


And then...

So then I started smushing his pill up and mixing that and the goo into some wet food (which he usually only gets on his birthday Birchday).  I called this dish Ackbar Surprise, after Admiral Ackbar from Star Wars.  

Sadly, after a few days Birch got wise to my shenanigans and his Ackbar Surprise would just sit there all day getting crusty.

If Birch could detect trace amounts of powdered medicine stirred into stanky meat byproducts, there's no way he'd be fooled by pill pockets.  The Boy and I were just going to have to shove each pill directly into his mouth.  If I'd known it would come to that, I'd've asked the vet if the antibiotics came in suppository form instead.  Birch's back door isn't ringed with needle-sharp teeth (as far as I know).  Oh well, too late now.

For a while I thought I'd come up with the perfect solution: putting a pill between my lips and blowing it directly into Birch's mouth.  I'm always kissing him on the face so I figured he'd feel pretty comfortable with this.  As comfortable as could be expected, anyway.

The first time I tried it, it worked perfectly.  It was over in five seconds and Birch had no idea wtf had just happened.  I felt like a ninja.  Unfortunately, he's a pretty bright kitty with a decent memory, so the mouth-ninja technique never worked again.  I won't immortalize what happened next with cutesy pictures.  It was horrible.  The Boy and I could barely manage to get a pill into the damn cat even with both of us holding him down - and even when we got one in his mouth, he'd repeatedly spit it out again.  Also, it turns out Birch drools when he's really stressed out.  Like, copiously.  Strings hanging down.  Choking sounds.  The pill went in and out of his saliva-flooded mouth so many times that it began to dissolve and we had to unwrap another one.  His fur was soaked with spit from his chin down to his chest.

When it was finally over, Birch hid under the bed.  After a couple of hours, I went into the bedroom to check on him.  The bed has stuff stored underneath it, so you can't just look under the edge and see him; you have to lift a corner of the mattress and peer through the slats to see which crevice he's hiding in.  I was peering around the foot of the bed, calling Birch's name, and suddenly heard him making those spit-choking sounds from up near the head of the bed.  He must have thought I was coming in to do something else horrible to him, and started fear-drooling.  I lifted that end of the mattress and found him huddled in a ball with his fur all soaked again.  He looked tiny and miserable and refused to make eye contact.  He's never, ever acted like that before; never been afraid of me, never hid from me, never held a grudge against me.

I curled up on the bed and cried for a pretty long time.  Eventually, The Boy convinced me to come out to the living room and let Birch chill by himself for a while.  It took til 5am for Birch to forgive me - I woke to find him climbing up onto the bed to spoon with me (usually he assumes his place as The Littlest Spoon right when we're going to bed).  By the time I got up for the day, he seemed pretty much back to normal.

I freely admit that today I said "fuck it" and didn't even try to give him his meds.  Apparently the vet has a $50 injection Birch can take instead (one needle and it's the equivalent of him taking his pills for a week or something), and can I just say, it is more than worth it not to have to go through a trauma like last night again.  Also, I wanted Birch to have a nice final-day-before-surgery** with me...just in case.  It's not common for a cat (or dog or human) to have a bad reaction to general anaesthetic and die, but it does happen, and this has been weighing on my mind.  So I gave Birch wet food with no medicine hidden in it, and I've been hugging and petting him a lot and telling him how much I love him.

So yeah.  Tomorrow Birch gets his teeth cleaned, and probably at least one tooth extracted.  After he recovers from that, his mouth will finally be un-sore for the first time in at least a year.  So that's happy news!

I just have to hold myself together until I pick him up at 6pm.

*I'm not really making a profit on the art yet.  Soon, I think.  But not yet.

**I count this dental work as "surgery" because he'll have to be put completely under while they do it.  And they'll very likely be pulling at least one tooth, so he's gonna be sore afterward.


  1. I suddenly wish we could come over so Cindy could show you her "one hand cat pill" technique.

    1. ONE HAND?!? I can't even fathom that. We were using four hands and a towel and also our legs a little bit, with iffy success. :P

  2. I've had some success by poking the pill into the back of the cat's mouth, almost into his throat, and then syringing a bit of water in to help him swallow it.

    But if a cat hates the taste of a pill enough, even that won't work, as I found out with Jupiter and his appetite stimulant. Thankfully, he takes his current pill (Prednisilone) fairly well most days, and then he gets treats afterwards.


    1. The moment I approach, Birch thrashes around really sporadically and gnashes his teeth. Maybe he has super-speed or maybe I'm just way too flinchy, but I have not at any point managed to get my finger into his mouth. I've only hurled pills in from far away. :P

      The follow-up syringing would be a great idea if I could accomplish the pill-giving, though.

      btw I ultimately sprang for a $50 antibiotic injection at the vet's so I wouldn't have to try to give Birch any more pills. Worth every penny, as far as I'm concerned!