J’adore le dopage

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I tend to write blog entries when a significant event has taken place, or, more usually, when Louis Catorze has done something stupid, but I’m writing this today because Cat Daddy made me.

Although we’re now sold on the idea of steroid shots for Le Roi – his fur and skin looked so much better immediately after the vet visit on Christmas Eve – it’s difficult dealing with the psychological aspects of going down this route. A lot of this, of course, is due to years of prejudice thanks to the media: most of us, when confronted with the word “steroid”, think of sporting drugs cheats and freakishly malformed bodybuilders. But, with so many animal and human medicines promoting themselves as “steroid-free”, it’s easy to make the assumption that steroids must, therefore, be bad. And the idea that we’ve agreed to pump them into our sweet boy every month, even though they make him feel better, takes some getting used to.

Yesterday morning I woke up at 4am after dreaming that Louis Catorze had stopped breathing due to steroid complications, and, worse yet, the little sod wasn’t around for me to reassure myself that he was fine. I woke Cat Daddy and asked him to go and look for him. He rolled over and muttered something unnecessarily discourteous.

That afternoon he and I had a long chat about why we had made the decision about the steroid shots (and why the heck I had woken him up), and he made me write down all the benefits “as a reminder, in case I punish myself later on after Louis is gone”. (As cat slaves we’re good at doing that, aren’t we, even though it’s pointless? I still agonise over Luther, who was run over, wishing I had fed him before he went out so that he might have missed that car by 5 minutes.)

So:

Pros of steroid shots:
1. Rapidly improved skin and fur
2. Dramatically reduced itching
3. Increased energy (and annoyingness)
4. More sociable behaviour
5. Civilised monthly trip to the vet, as opposed to brutal fight to the death 3 times a week
6. Giving him the shot would mean we could now go away at weekends if we wanted to (something we haven’t done since the little sod came to live with us, because we feel bad asking our neighbours to do battle with him in our absence)
7. NOT giving him the shot would be imposing a personal stance on him when he has no choice, like those poor cats who are made to eat vegan food (no problem with vegans personally, but forcing a vegan diet onto carnivorous animals is CRUEL)

Cons of steroid shots:
1. Questionable long-term effects (although this is the case for all medication – and the vet said that, provided we kept an eye on Louis Catorze’s organs via yearly blood tests, he should be fine)
2. Double the monthly cost of Atopica (not really a proper con as we have never held back, and would never hold back, from a treatment for Catorze because of money)

It doesn’t look so bad when presented that way, does it? I do know that we’re doing the right thing for him; I just wish my brain would catch up.

Partageons!

I was looking back through Le Blog yesterday morning and remembering when I started it; I had asked my brother-in-law, a journalist, for advice, worried that I would run out of ideas after a few weeks or months. His reply was, “If you do, that’s a sign that you chose the wrong subject matter.” Another friend later added, “The day you stop writing will be the day Louis stops doing stupid shit. So you should be fine for some time.” Thanks.

This is the third and longest-standing blog I’ve written; the first one fell by the wayside because I just got bored, and I had to stop the second one because l gave away lots of secrets and gossip about my then-workplace, and I would have been fired had anyone from work found out about it. I am still staggered that a plain black cat who doesn’t do a lot has inspired me to write so much over 6 months, and that he has attracted so many followers in various parts of the world. The new year got me thinking about the long-term future of Le Blog and where I wanted it to go, and I wondered this aloud to Cat Daddy. “He’s such an inspirational cat that the prospects are limitless,” said Cat Daddy. “His teachings are so profound and life-enriching; in fact, I see him rather like Gandhi, don’t you?”

“Are you, by any chance, being sarcastic?” I asked.

“We could get your blog made into a BBC drama series, with a spin-off website selling Louis Catorze merchandise,” he continued. “Imagine celebrities wearing “Je gratte, donc je suis” T-shirts. Imagine Louis Catorze on Piers Morgan’s TV show. The world needs to know about this amazing French cat!”

Yup. Sarcastic.

In actual fact, my only wishes for Le Blog have been to help other cats with a similar condition, to provide support to their human slaves, and, maybe one day, to have some medical whizz-person read what I’ve written and contact me with a cure for Louis Catorze. So I felt very hopeful yesterday when 2 people messaged me, saying, “My cat has those symptoms too.” An exchange of photos seemed to confirm this (see below for how the little sod looked this time last  year):

It’s very early days but I’m going to encourage them to follow Le Blog and hope that one of us will soon happen upon a solution that will help the others. I’m also going to shamelessly request that all of Louis Catorze’s followers please share, share, share Le Blog with vets, rescue centres, cat breeders, animal charities, anyone who cares, really. Share until people are sick of you and beg you to stop. You just never know when the right person will get in touch and utter the magic words, “My cat had the same condition and, after trying Magical Elixir X, is now completely fine.”

 

 

Santé!

Do cats have an OFF button? Or, at the very least, a LOW POWER button? Louis Catorze is driving us crazy with his naughtiness at the moment.

His lust for play has reignited, and he’s started to let out little “Waaah!” sounds as he chases his toy. If he sees us in the kitchen through the patio doors, he refuses to use the cat flap and screams to be let in. He can be frighteningly convincing, pawing at the glass and looking utterly fearful for his life yet, if we ignore the little weasel for long enough – usually a minute or two – he will come in of his own accord, up-tailed, chirpy and smug, as if saying, “Et voilà! I didn’t need you after all.” He’s also starting to go out for longer at night, as his big brother Luther used to do, and rolls in just before my alarm goes off, soaking wet, shrieking in my ear and with that vile, stomach-churning wet dog smell. Yuck.

His eyes now look exactly like the eyes of a normal cat, with no leathery, bald bits. The horrible under-chin scabs are disappearing, with fur growing back. And I suspect his annoyingness is down to the fact that he’s happier and feeling much better. So, in all, things are looking up for the little sod.

This time last year he looked like crap and was sad, and the year before he was even worse, so I’m excited beyond belief at the prospect of Louis Catorze’s first festive season, to my knowledge, in good health. Here he is, drinking to that!

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J’adore les stéroïdes

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It’s only been a few days since Louis Catorze’s trip to the vet, but already he is visibly better. His chin feels ugly as hell but it’s clearly healing, and the fur is filling out nicely around his eyes again. His spirits are also lifting, and he’s gradually getting back to being that sparky, chatty, annoying little sod that we know and love (and sometimes want to slap).

The difference in him is so pronounced that Cat Daddy and I have even been talking about the long-term use of steroids and whether they’re really so bad (especially given that the alternative is itchy skin, sore eyes and weeping open wounds). I am under no illusions that a cat like Louis Catorze will live to 20, or even 10, but I would far rather he live a shortish but happy life than a longer life of physical discomfort and depression. (Yes, he really does become depressed when his symptoms are at their worst.) A steroid shot every few months could even negate the need for his Atopica which, whilst non-steroid, is by no means without its long-term problems, too. And, of course, we wouldn’t have to trap, immobilise and syringe him every few days, which would be wonderful (especially as he has figured out how to wriggle free from my iron-fisted scruffing stranglehold – how he learned that is beyond me).

I never liked the idea of steroids before, but seeing my boy looking so much happier is starting to make me wonder. I guess it’s worth a bit of research and a conversation with the vet at some stage? If any of his followers have any steroid tales to tell, whether good or bad, I would love to hear them.

La tristesse durera

If Louis Catorze and I were a celebrity couple, we’d have broken up ages ago due to “Conflicting Work Schedules”; we’re simply not home and awake for long enough, and at the same time, to really make the most of each other. However, today, most unusually, he actually wanted to hang out with me during the day. And, because this was the first time in ages that I could look at him in proper daylight (the lighting in Le Château, like Le Roi himself, is not the brightest), I got to see the shocking state of his dear little face. Look away now if you’re in any way squeamish.

His under-chin area is a mass of what looks like both dried and partially-dried blood, and I suspect it needs cleaning but I daren’t try myself for fear of making it worse. Every so often he rubs his chin against my knuckles and whimpers, presumably because it hurts, and, the last time he did this, he rubbed so vigorously that the skin broke and clear fluid went all over my hand. Quite frankly this made me feel ill, but I’d rather he scratched in a controlled way against my soft fingers than in a frenzied way with his sharp claws whilst itch-yelping. Ugh. The sacrifices we make for our “pointless pieces of fur” (which is what Cat Daddy calls Louis Catorze when he’s cross with him).

The only reason I’m not rushing him to an emergency vet right now is because, inexplicably, he’s purring, relaxed and happy to be around me. In fact, he won’t leave me alone. But I think he’s going to have to go to the vet at some point next week.

Please wish him – and the poor veterinary staff – good luck.

On peut détruire ce qu’on a écrit, mais on ne peut pas le déécrire

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Poor Catorze isn’t looking so good these days. His right eye has lost so much fur all the way around that he looks like Alex Delarge from A Clockwork Orange. And, last night, the dreadful itch-yelp returned; this is the ear-splitting sound that he makes when he scratches and breaks the skin.

We’re doing everything as we did in September/October, when he was looking his best, so we have no idea whatsoever why things have turned to merde now. It’s frustrating beyond belief. But the good news is that it’s not affecting his mood in the way it has before; although he’s lost a little of his Chat Noir sparkle, he still manages to find the inclination to cuddle us on the sofa in the evenings. And he has taken to having Post-Meds Cuddles with Cat Daddy whenever he medicates him (whereas I just get claws and teeth when it’s my turn).

We have tried so hard to find a pattern to Louis Catorze’s flare-ups and have failed so far, but this will be the third November in a row which has seen a downturn in his condition. (He wasn’t with us in November 2013 but, having seen the awful photos taken in January 2014, it would make sense that November was around the time things began to slide, to reach their nadir 2 months later.)

There is clearly something in the house or the winter environment that is less present at other times of the year and, whatever it is, it was present both at Le Palais and at his previous foster home too. I just wish I knew what the heck it could be.

Je suis en bonne santé!

Louis Catorze has been high on the attention from his visitors since the weekend, racing about, constantly demanding attention and generally being a pain in the arse. However, yesterday he was brought rapidly back down to earth with a trip to the vet, for the vaccinations that he was unable to have the last time.

I wasn’t able to take him so he went with Cat Daddy instead. After the previous shockers that we’ve had, I had expected something like the apocalypse, only worse … but I’m happy to report that all went well. Apart from a minor waiting room débâcle in which he roused his other feline comrades into some sort of mass sing-song/protest session, the whole experience was without incident.

The vaccinations took place smoothly, his temperature and weight were fine (he’s put on another 150g and now tips the scales at a portly 3.6kg), and overall the vet was delighted at his improvement. In fact, she told Cat Daddy, “Is this really Louis? As in, skin problem Louis? I can’t believe how much better he looks!” Better yet, there was no Post-Vet Sulk upon getting home; in fact, he was all over Cat Daddy, who was working from home yesterday, and annoyed the crap out of him all afternoon. Here he is having a rest from it all:

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How lovely to have some good news for a change. We couldn’t be more thrilled.

Aucune photo cette fois-ci

Louis Catorze looks terrible at the moment, so much so that I’m having to resort either to using oldish photos on this blog, or ensuring that the angle/focus/distance are such that the worst bits of his face aren’t visible. (Obviously if you are reading this then you’re an animal lover so you will sympathise, but I understand that not everyone wants to see something that looks, to the untrained eye, very like a severe case of animal neglect.)

It’s been hard to monitor his condition given that I barely see him in daylight hours, but I’ve just had a look at his face during some very rare garden rolling-around time and he looks horrendous. He’s lost pretty much all the fur on one side of his jawline, and a lot of the fur on the other side of his jaw and under his chin (only visible from the side and underneath – from the front he still looks normal-ish). He also has bloodied cuts on his face, presumably from over-vigorous scratching, and just now, when I witnessed one of his scratching sessions, he put his paw so far into his ear that I thought it would never come out. So could it be that something in his ears is causing this bother? Yet another question for the vet tomorrow, along with the zillions that I already have.

My debit card is donning its battle gear in preparation for the battering it’s going to get tomorrow. I haven’t dared even ask what the cost is going to be for vaccinations plus the skin scraping test plus possibly an antibiotic injection (I’m sure he has an eye infection) plus possibly an ear mite treatment (not confirmed but wouldn’t surprise me). I’m fully expecting tomorrow to empty out what’s left of Louis Catorze’s sick fund, although I’d spend a million pounds to get results for him. What pains me at the moment is that I’m spending money, but he’s not getting better. In fact, he’s getting worse.

It’s now more apparent than ever that his grumpy moods are directly proportional to his flare-ups: when he’s well, he’s alert, energetic, playful and sociable. Now he hides all day, runs when he sees me and only feels safe to come near me when I’m asleep. I’m desperate beyond belief for this skin scraping test to tell us something. Please send the little sod all the good wishes you can for his vet visit tomorrow, and please pray for the poor staff who are going to have to deal with him.

L’obscurité

Alas, no, I’m not talking about the moon anymore, but about Louis Catorze’s general temperament: his demeanour is blackening rapidly and, as ever, it appears to be proportional to the deterioration of his allergy (which I’ve not pictured as it’s pretty awful). The fur around his eyes is thinning, and the underside of his chin feels terrible: not just rough, but weepy and positively cavernous with scabs. (Sorry if you’re reading this over dinner.) When he scratches – which is pretty much all the time – he lets out his awful frustrated itch-yelp which is painful to hear. Happily it’s not QUITE as severe a flare-up as the one he had last winter, but it’s still enough to make him a miserable sod.

Although he’s very affectionate when we’re in bed (presumably because he knows we can’t medicate him whilst lying down), we barely see him these days, which is a pity as I’m on my summer holidays so I’m home all day. And, when we do see him, he eyes us with the suspicion reserved for someone who were about to assault him, and he skittishly edges past us and hides. His routine is to get up with us at around 8:30, eat, go out, then come back in and spend the rest of the day in his Secret Sulking Spot that we haven’t yet managed to locate. (I’ve looked in all the usual places – La Cage, the Forbidden Greenhouse, the suitcase, under beds – but to no avail.) Then we don’t see him again until bedtime, when he will reappear and snuggle up with us. That last point reassures me somewhat that he doesn’t totally hate us, but for most of the day it’s as if we don’t have a cat.

The only possible explanation for this recent allergic breakout is Louis Catorze’s illicit forays into the Forbidden Greenhouse; in fact, I am still mystified by the fact that dust didn’t register in either of his allergy tests despite the fact that he relapses EVERY TIME he comes into contact with it. The dust mite controllers are whirring away, the beeswax candles are burning, he’s being Atopicaed and Piritonned regularly (I need to up his Piriton, in fact, from a couple of times a week to twice a DAY, which is going to make me even less popular), yet it’s all a wasted effort if he sneaks past me and into the dustiest places I know.

So we’re powerless to do anything at the moment but take comfort in the fact that it will pass, and that he will snap out of it. I just hope that this will happen soon.

Il fait trop chaud 

I often say that I prefer excess cold to excess heat; when you’re too cold, there are measures you can take which will warm you up whereas, when you’re too hot, nothing whatsoever cools you. Today has proven that I was right all along, although being right doesn’t help in the slightest and, in fact, just annoys me more.

That said, it can’t be much fun being a black, fur-covered animal in these record-breaking temperatures, either; poor Louis Catorze has spent the last day or two shunning all close physical contact, preferring instead to flop languidly around the house like a limp feather boa. At times his body seems to almost liquefy and seep into the floor and, although it’s quite funny to watch, I do feel sorry for the poor sausage.  

Luckily I don’t have to worry too much about him becoming dehydrated in the heat; even in moderately warm weather he drinks up to 1/3 of a pint of water a day, and I know this because he drinks from a glass and not a bowl. We were told about this strange quirk when we adopted him, and we thought at the time, “That’s absurd – he WILL drink from a bowl when he gets thirsty enough, because we will give him no choice.” No. He would rather shrivel up and die of thirst than be so vulgaire. And he won’t settle for any old glass, either: he will accept a pint glass or a wine glass, but not a cocktail glass nor a tankard. Figure THAT out if you can. 

So, whilst there’s no doubt that he’s suffering in his perma-fur coat, at least he has his butler on hand to chill both the royal pint glass AND the royal person using a freezer-fresh bottle of Absolut Peppar. Let’s hope temperatures start to drop soon.