Croisons les doigts …

5EF3EADF-1D92-4DCF-9CFF-6045FAB00153At the weekend, whilst we were lying in bed giving him cuddles, Louis Catorze chased his tail again.

We let him do it, just to see how long it would go on (happily it was no more than a few seconds) and to see if we could ascertain whether it was playful or something more sinister, but we couldn’t tell. In fact, we didn’t even really know what we were looking out for; I had this idea that sharp pounces were playful and that smoother, more seamless chasing were sinister but there’s no science in that.

Catorze has been Gabapentin-free and doing well for 2 months now, so it would be devastating beyond belief for him to start displaying symptoms again. Please send the little sod your good wishes: not so much “get well” but “don’t you DARE get sick again.”

Le Roi est content: vive Le Roi!

This week we seem to have been disproportionately busy with pointless things. Firstly, I excitedly took delivery of a mystery parcel, only to discover that it was the beeswax candles that I had ordered to combat the hay fever that Louis Catorze doesn’t have.

And, secondly, after a whole day spent trying to capture the sneezing and wheezing on video so that the vet could see it, I have had the embarrassment of telling them to ignore said video on account of the fact that Catorze wasn’t unwell: he had just snorted a blade of grass.

The good news, however, is that the little sod’s Gabapentin taper is going brilliantly, and he has managed to defy the odds and get down to 1 x 25mg every other day. The vet is surprised and delighted that we have managed to keep it under control with such a low dose, which isn’t typical of the other cats on his feline hyperesthesia forum. And he is continuing to eat Pill Pockets, so the Greco-Roman combat is well and truly a thing of the past. So, if this positive snap continues, hopefully the meds will be completely gone by August and he will be able to have a nice, substance-free summer (apart from the steroid jabs).

Here is a very rare shot of Catorze snuggling ME, rather than his daddy, on our outdoor sofa, the day after l’extraction de l’herbe. I like to think of this as his way of saying, “Merci, Maman.”

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Je pue, donc je suis

IMG_8739Louis Catorze, who used to smell of fresh, zingy lime with a hint of blossom, now smells like a dead sheep that’s been left out in the rain.

I think I preferred him before.

Even Cat Daddy commented, “He’s been smelling really catty lately. Had you noticed?” Yes. It’s pretty hard not to.

It’s not a hygiene problem; Louis Catorze has always been scrupulously clean and, even during his maximum security Côning period, we were usually able to release him for long enough to groom himself properly. It seems to be more of a physiological issue, with the horrible smell emanating from his pores rather than being trapped on the surface of his fur. The only new things that we’ve introduced into his routine in the last few months are, erm, the salty cured meat and the copious amounts of prescription drugs. So it’s probably both of those things.

Whilst perfumed products for cats are generally a no-no, for those suffering from feline hyperesthesia it’s even more important that their environment is kept toxin-free, so there’s no hope of dousing him in something fragrant to get rid of the smell. And, of course, we can’t stop the pills, nor can we stop the red meat as it’s our only hope of him taking the pills, so it looks as if we’re stuck with the stench.

Cat Daddy’s final word on the matter: “He doesn’t know from one day to the next whether he’s going to get prosciutto di Parma, jambon de Bayonne or jamón Serrano. Maybe his digestive system is confused and just doesn’t know what to do with itself anymore.”

The struggle is real, Mesdames et Messieurs.

 

Les mots sont la plus puissante drogue

img_8679Louis Catorze has been sans Cône for a few weeks now, and I’m elated to report that he hasn’t gone for his tail once in that time.

We have even been able to leave him unsupervised (for a few minutes at first, then for progressively longer periods) and he has behaved himself in our absence. When we come home from work we still systematically check his tail for telltale signs of attack – dampness, thinning fur, gushing rivers of blood, that kind of thing – but there have been none whatsoever.

Keeping him Côned and under house arrest for almost 24 hours a day wasn’t much fun. It was obvious why he hated it – after all, none of us would want to live with something like that around our neck – but the fact that his vision, hearing, balance and feeding were all compromised by Le Cône went beyond mere inconvenience: it made him insecure, vulnerable and clingy. And, whilst the twisted, selfish part of me rather enjoyed having my boy constantly at my side, requesting to be picked up and sleeping squashed between us, the fact that he didn’t feel 100% safe without us made us sad.

Now all that is behind him and he’s going in and out freely, chasing bugs, antagonising magpies and sending Oscar the dog completely ballistic. It has been very tempting to relax on the pilling now that he’s doing so well, but the instructions were very clear: we are to bombard him with Gabapentin and then wean him off very gradually. And we’re due to see the vet at the end of the month, so that they can confirm when we may start cutting down and advise us on how to do it safely.

Sadly I know the horror of coming off heavy-duty medication, even when tapering down very gradually: when I came off Tramadol after my spinal surgery, I was hysterical and homicidal for weeks. Given that Louis Catorze was already both of those things even before the pills, I dread to think what weaning off will do to him … but we’re ready for it.

 

La variété, c’est la vie

We thank our lucky stars every single day for the clever souls that invented cured ham. Louis Catorze is generally pretty good at taking his Trojan Horse canapés and, without prosciutto di Parma and jambon de Bayonne, we don’t know where we would be.

That said, there are the odd times when he won’t take the bait. Last night was one of those times.

If it’s a daytime pill, and it’s a weekend, we know that we have plenty of time to try again if an attempt is unsuccessful. But, if it’s a week day, we’re about to go to bed and we know that the next dose won’t be for another 6 hours, we have no choice but to keep persisting, all the while getting more and more stressed. And, if the Trojan Horse fails, we have to resort to the Greco-Roman method.

Last night Le Roi took no prisoners: he yowled, kicked, struggled, foamed at the mouth and finally deployed the claws, something that he rarely ever does. After the battle we were able to ascertain that he had maybe consumed 3 pills. Or possibly zero. We had no idea.

Cat Daddy’s first theory for this lack of cooperation: “Maybe he starts refusing when the pack has been open for too long. I don’t think he likes it when the ham is too dry.”

Well, excuse-moi whilst I open a fresh pack every day for Sa Majesté.

Cat Daddy’s second theory: “Maybe he’s bored of ham. Maybe we should try experimenting with different things, like smoked salmon or cheese.”

Well, excuse-moi whilst I prepare a more varied platter for Sa Majesté.

Mind you, either of those options would be better than the Greco-Roman torture. So I guess I’d better get Ocado-ing.

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Le Roi progresse: vive Le Roi!

Louis Catorze had his follow-up with the vet on Friday, and she was pleased to see that he has stopped attacking his tail. The tenderness and scabs have gone, and the tail is only looking moderately freakish now.

We are to keep up with the Gabapentin for at least a couple more months – he’s been on 5 pills a day for a week or so, as 4 didn’t quite seem to be keeping the tail-chasing under control – and part of the “aggressive treatment” stipulated by the specialist includes continuing the steroid shots alongside the pills, so Louis Catorze had one of those, too. It seems that a “more is more” approach is preferable and that, if in doubt, we’re to be heavy-handed with the treatment; if symptoms creep back, there is apparently a chance that the sensitivity could spread to other parts of the tail and even up the spine. And we definitely don’t want that.

Because Le Roi has been such a good boy without Le Cône – we even got away with it one day when he gave us both the slip and was unCôned and on the rampage for 12 whole hours – he is now allowed to be without it when we’re with him. But, the minute he’s unsupervised, it’s back on. I have been chided by people in the past for Côning him, on the grounds that it stresses him out, but … Cône stress or a chewed, bleeding tail? Had you seen the latter (photo too ugly to post here) or heard his pitiful cries of pain, believe me, you would choose Le Cône, too.

Although the appointment went well, we came away with one piece of sad news: the vet is leaving the practice to do voluntary work (probably with nicer and more grateful animals) in the Caribbean and to travel around Central America. She has lots of great colleagues who have been wonderful to Louis Catorze, but she knows him best and was our favourite. We have a couple of weeks to plan a leaving present for her; Cat Daddy suggested slipping Catorze into her backpack as a surprise (“There will barely be any extra weight”), but I was thinking more along the lines of some Sun King merchandise. Nothing says “Au revoir et bonne chance” quite like a t-shirt or sweatshirt bearing his face, as a reminder of the yowls, hisses and kicks that the poor vet has endured at the paws of her patient préféré.

The only question now is which of my 1,423 Roi photos to choose. I rather like this one:

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Eureka!

Earlier this week the vet sent Louis Catorze’s dossier to a neurological specialist at the Royal Veterinary College, and they are highly suspicious that he is displaying signs of feline hyperesthesia. Of the 7,000 animals that they see every year only 4 cats have this condition, so to know that our boy is one of the 4 is shocking yet somehow not surprising.

Cat Daddy and I were actually delighted upon learning the news, which may seem inappropriate for such a rare and complicated condition with no official test or cure, but, to be honest, it was a relief just to have an answer. After 2 and a half years of red herrings, blind alleys and inconclusive test results, we feel fortunate to have a starting point.

We have just been back to the vet for the full debrief and it looks as if the next few weeks are going to be hard, mainly because the specialist’s instructions are for Catorze to be Côned very strictly: we’re talking almost 24 hours a day, with Cône-free time only allowed if he is eating or drinking under supervision or if he is on our laps. (He has rediscovered his tail again lately and, unfortunately, the longer it takes to heal, the more his neurological condition will cause it to send “Viens m’attaquer!” signals to his brain.)

In the light of this recent diagnosis we are now NOT to stop the Gabapentin, but to continue with it at the higher dose of 4 x 25mg pills per day, and this may be given either separately in 4 doses or 2 in the morning, 1 after work and 1 before bed. It’s been a few days since we started to deploy the prosciutto-wrapped pills – which Cat Daddy has, rather brilliantly, collectively nicknamed “The Trojan Horse” – and what a stroke of luck that Louis Catorze has bouffed virtually every single one. You cannot imagine how much easier our lives are because of this.

Once again, thank you to everyone who has supported us to this point. Despite everything, we still feel very lucky, and we will keep you updated in the hope that our experience may help others.

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