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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L’amour est le meilleur des médicaments

Louis Catorze has been on the reduced dosage of 2 x 25mg of Gabapentin a day for almost 2 weeks now, and he is showing no recurrence whatsoever of his symptoms.

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Better yet, he has started to eat Pill Pockets, so no more Greco-Romaning! Merci à Dieu et à tous ses anges! (If you don’t know what Pill Pockets are, they are tiny, edible, plasticine-like cups into which you stuff pills before squishing them to seal the opening. No, Louis Catorze wouldn’t eat Pill Pockets before. But he does now. Are you all keeping up so far, Mesdames et Messieurs?)

Whilst I don’t like to criticise the one and only thing that is successfully getting medication into the little sod, the ingredients list makes me twitchy and uncomfortable. Wheat flour: bad. Mixed tocopherols: no idea what these are, but they sound bad. Dried corn syrup: basically sugar, so REALLY bad.

I never thought I would see the day when I willingly gave my boy wheat and sugar. Mind you, the manufacturers know their target market: desperate people like me who have no option because nothing else works. They could make Pill Pockets out of heroin and asbestos and, if it meant our cats would just eat the goddamn pills and spare our lives, I reckon most of us would still buy them.

All being well, pill-wise we only have the rest of May (2 per day) and the whole of June (1 per day) left. The end is in sight. That’s what’s keeping us going.

Le tricheur royal

Remember when Louis Catorze liked pâté de Bruxelles? Yeah, well, now he doesn’t. So we’re back to Greco-Romaning him again, and you all know what a cirque de merde that is. One of our friends witnessed it the other day and said, “Oh my God, that was absolutely HORRIBLE!” Erm, no blood was drawn and nobody died, which actually makes that a decent session. Wait till you see one of the bad ones, mon coco!

And I never thought I would use the words “Louis Catorze” and “clever” in the same sentence, but the little sod is finding more and more ingenious ways of avoiding his pill. His latest trick is to pretend he’s swallowed it, press his body against me for a fake cuddle and then silently spit the pill over my shoulder and into my hair.

I have coarse, curly hair so the pill remains stuck there for some time and, because I don’t notice it, I assume it has been swallowed. Obviously it dislodges itself eventually and falls onto the floor, but we didn’t think anything of it because we are quite used to seeing pills strewn about Le Château from failed Greco-Roman attempts. So Catorze has been able to get away with this treachery until now.

Le Roi’s little plan was finally foiled when Cat Daddy came home right after I’d just Greco-Romaned and cuddled notre cher ami, and he said, “There’s something in your hair.”

Quel. Fichu. Salaud.

So now I have to give my hair a good old shake after pilling time, just to be sure.

If I’m honest, the lies and deceit offend me far more than the non-pill-taking. “It’s a bit of a tragic day,” I said to Cat Daddy, “when the only cuddles you get from your cat are fake ones.”

Cat Daddy, not even glancing up from his laptop: “I wouldn’t know.”

Aïe.

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Le pâté royal

Good news: after the vet advised us to try a mix of different meats to disguise Louis Catorze’s Gabapentin, we have discovered that he will eat it if it’s hidden in pâté de Bruxelles.

Bad news: we only discovered this after enduring this torturous journey:

Tuna pâté: non
Mackerel pâté: non
Mousse de canard: non
Chicken forestier pâté: non
Chicken liver pâté: non
Pâté de campagne: non
Pâté d’Ardennes: non
Reduced fat pâté d’Ardennes: HELL, non (ok, I admit that this one was a stupid idea, but we ordered it by accident on Ocado and thought it might be worth a punt)
Pâté de Bruxelles: OUI

Further bad news: he won’t eat it unless we also press a layer of his Acana Pacifica biscuits into the pâté.

If you imagine the Gabapentin being the Earth’s core, the pâté being the soft magma and the Acana Pacifica being the crust, you get an idea of how the finished structure is composed. And, once assembled, it looks rather like one of those 1970s mirrored disco balls, except much smaller. And, erm, made of meat.

It’s all a bit absurd. But our place is not to question: our place is just to nod and agree to everything that the Sun King wants.

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L’état d’urgence

We have a Code Noir at Le Château: Louis Catorze has started refusing his ham-wrapped Trojan Horse pills. Either he has cottoned onto our trick or he is bored of cured ham and, either way, we are well and truly dans la merde because it means that every single dose is now a Greco-Roman one.

Whilst our Greco-Roman technique is improving greatly with all the practice we’re having, it’s still not very nice to have to do it. And, upsettingly, we can see the effect that the increased Greco-Romans are having on Catorze’s demeanour: he is skittish and nervous around us, and yesterday he didn’t even come and greet us when we came home from work, which he usually does without fail. He has also taken to hiding when we get up in the morning and missing that first dose of the day. This means that we sometimes have to give him TWO doses after work – one when we get home and one before bed – and that makes us all even more anxious and stressed.

Well-meaning fellow cat freaks often ask us, “Have you tried hiding the pills in tuna / anchovies / chicken / prawns / cheese / Dreamies / Pill Pockets / [insert name of other irresistible, pill-disguising treat]?” YES, to all of the above. Unfortunately, we are dealing with a cat who doesn’t like food and therefore cannot be incentivised by it; if we never fed him again, EVER, he wouldn’t really care.

I really, really hope he gets past this, otherwise we will have to deploy the big guns: the £21-per-100g Brindisa jamón ibérico de bellota. Qu’est-ce qu’on va devenir? Or, should I say: ¿Qué va y ser de nos?

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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.

 

Le Roi nous ignore

Quelle performance going to see the vet today.

10 minutes before the appointment time, when we should have been on our way there, we were chasing Louis Catorze around the house, Benny Hill style (younger followers: ask your parents), as he darted under furniture and refused to be caught.

We cornered him eventually but he screamed all the way there and whilst we sat in the waiting room. Cat Daddy then told me that he’d had a horrendous – and only partially-successful – Greco-Roman session this morning, which was probably why the little sod had been such a nightmare.

After greeting us with, “Louis is famous here – we’ve all been talking about him!” the vet told us that we could reduce his Gabapentin from 5 to 4 pills a day, but that we were to remain on 4 for a month. If all goes well, we may be able to reduce to 3 per day in early-to-mid April.

To be honest, we really had hoped he would be off the pills by then, because he has started to refuse Trojan Horses if the cured ham is 2 days old. (Yes, the previous cut-off point was 3 days. But that was before.)

He is also becoming fussier about the type of ham used, and the vet was in hysterics when Cat Daddy uttered the words, “He likes prosciutto di Parma and jambon de Bayonne, but not the jamón Serrano that I bought this week.”

Anyway, we’re now home and he’s still not talking to us. This is going to be a l-o-n-g evening.

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La part des serviteurs

Good news: we now have Gabapentin pills!

Bad news: Sa Majesté has started to refuse jambon de Bayonne that has been frozen and thawed.

And, if I’m honest, it’s not really working for me, either, because, once it’s been defrosted, it’s almost impossible to get it to stick around the pill. So bulk-buying and storing in the freezer is now no longer an option; it really is either fresh packs, newly-opened, or Greco-Roman pill delivery.

This means that we have been buying a LOT of cured ham, of which Le Roi only eats a small amount per pack before turning his nose up at its unacceptable lack of freshness. Fortunately we like cured ham, so we have been eating the leftovers ourselves. That’s right, Mesdames et Messieurs: WE EAT OUR CAT’S REJECTED FOOD.

The little sod has also got to recognise the sound of the pills rattling in the jar, and he runs when he hears it. So I have had to start turning the taps on every time I dispense the pills but, as a friend pointed out, pretty soon he will get wise to the sound of the taps and I will need another sound to drown that out, then another sound to drown THAT out, and so on. Taps today, but what tomorrow? A marching band and low-flying aircraft were just two of my friend’s suggestions (and she was only half-joking).

It’s becoming more and more clear who wears the crown in Le Château.

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Où sont mes drogues?

Forget about the iceberg lettuce shortage: here at Le Château we’re going through the rather more desperate Gabapentin pill drought. There are none whatsoever in the whole of West London, and the vet isn’t sure when they will be able to get hold of any.

I received the bad news by phone whilst in a packed football stadium and never have I been more glad of the noise, because, to a casual eavesdropper, the conversation wouldn’t have sounded great: “No, I’ve never had any problem getting hold of pills before. Yes, I’ve ordered 100, but please may I make it 150 in case there’s a problem next time, too? No, I already have plenty of the powdered version, thank you. Yes, it’s definitely the pills that I want …”

Our situation with Louis Catorze is a bit like that film Speed, where they have to keep driving the bus at a minimum of 50 miles per hour otherwise it will blow up. If we don’t keep Catorze’s medication at a constant level, his symptoms are likely to come back … and there’s no way on earth I want to return to the bad old days of nightly yowling and hissing and a chewed, bleeding tail.

It’s a blessing that we at least have the powder, but administering it isn’t easy. For a start, Sa Majesté won’t eat it in jambon de Bayonne, I assume because, like garlic, its pungency increases when crushed, so he can smell it immediately. It’s too wispy and floaty to just throw into his open mouth, so I have to actually shove my fingers in … and there’s nothing more terrifying than having to touch the jaws and teeth of a snapping, hissing beast who wants me dead. And, although powder is harder to spit out than pills, the unpredictable consistency and the fact that Catorze fights like a brute mean there are far too many variables to be able to measure doses accurately: spillages on clothes, furniture, the floor, my hair and his fur, bits that remain stuck to my fingers, and so on. So I haven’t the faintest idea how much of the powder actually makes it into him.

Not that any of this seems to affect him long-term, though; his tail remains intact and he is continuing to eat, drink and pitter-patter happily about Le Château, unaware of all the stress he is causing us.

Cat Daddy: “He’s aware. Of course he’s aware. He just doesn’t give a shit.”

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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.

 

Les drogues dures

You know that moment when you think you’ve been super-organised ordering your cat’s medication in advance, then you realise that you only have enough to last 1 more day? Yes, THAT.

Luckily I have some human Gabapentin capsules that will suffice in the meantime. (Don’t panic: animal Gabapentin basically IS human Gabapentin, and this is ok to do in an emergency.) But the only problem is that Louis Catorze’s usual pills are 25mg, whereas the capsules are 350mg. So I need to do some nifty mathematics. Erm … 350 by 25, to the power of … erm … multiplied by the square root of … something … oh Seigneur Dieu. This is why I’m a blogger and not a mathematician.

Not only that, but capsules mean wayward, uncontrollable powder as opposed to solid, predictable pills. So here I am, cutting up Gabapentin for my cat with my John Lewis credit card, like the most middle-class addict imaginable. You really couldn’t make this up (and here’s a photo to prove that I’m not):

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Now: how to Greco-Roman a powder substance into a writhing, screaming, blood-letting bastard of a cat?

Le Roi est reconnaissant: vive Le Roi!

I am constantly in humble awe of the wonderful people who contact me to offer advice on Louis Catorze and his condition. Some people have even been generous enough to send him get-well gifts, and he has received some lovely things in the post recently.

It has been especially appreciated at this time; he seems to have turned a corner now, but I have had some dark moments over the last couple of months during which I have wondered whether my boy were truly having any quality of life, being drugged to the point of appearing dead. I am thrilled to say that he is almost back to his “normal” self now.

We are very grateful to all his supporters, but today we would like to thank the following people in particular:

– Sally and Steve, for PERSONALLY delivering a toy, some organic catnip and a new supply of party powder (because Sa Majesté won’t eat the Nutracalm that the vet recommended)
– Tally, for sending not 1 but 2 Cônes for him and a magnificent French cat poetry book to cheer me up
– Tony Green, for the distance reiki sessions that have given Catorze – and us – some decent nights’ sleep
– Kate, for organising the reiki sessions
– Alissa, for the mysterious gift that is on its way
– Marc from Katzenworld*, who sent Catorze a valerian cushion (which has made him go even MORE glassy-eyed and psycho – see photo – but it takes his mind off the tail) and a whizzy new Cône with a front bit that detaches for eating and drinking

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*Marc’s fabulous site is well worth a visit: http://www.katzenworld.co.uk

Thank you also to those of you who have kindly offered donations to help with Le Roi’s medical treatment. As you may be aware, he is not insured because he came with such a long list of pre-existing conditions that we didn’t feel it worthwhile, hence Le Royal Sick Fund.

Whilst we are very grateful for the offers, we shan’t accept, mainly because Cat Daddy and I knew what we were getting ourselves into with Louis Catorze. (The 80-page medical record and repeated disclaimers and warnings from the rescue gave us a clue!) Le Royal Sick Fund should be enough to keep us going for the foreseeable future, especially as we now know what’s up with him and therefore no longer need the eye-wateringly expensive MRI scan.

If you still wish to donate on behalf of Louis Catorze, THANK YOU, but please don’t give to us personally. Below are three worthy organisations that would very much appreciate the help:

– Lilly’s Legacy, an organisation which rescues abandoned and stray kitties; their PayPal account name is lillyslegacy@hotmail.com
– Project PI, set up by a South African vet to treat cats with immune disorders; their PayPal account name is admin@easternvet.co.za
– The Mayhew Animal Home, who spared no expense in treating the little sod; you can donate to them at https://themayhew.org/donate/make-a-one-off-donation/

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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