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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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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Joyeux anniversaire, Maman

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Whilst most people spend their birthday morning having champagne in bed, I spent mine reading the instructions of 2 different medications, preparing them and then delivering them to a struggling, kicking bastard of a cat. And, to add to the pressure, we had guests so it was all performed in front of a live audience.

To make matters EVEN worse: one medication requires a 0.3ml dose and the other 0.9ml; one is a simple pipette and the other an utterly suctionless syringe; one states “with food” which makes things tricky because Louis Catorze doesn’t have a specific meal time and, in fact, doesn’t even really like food; one smells like a toddler’s sugar-vomit (not that I have ever been unfortunate enough to experience this, but I imagine it’s just the same). I could go on but I won’t.

Eventually I did the deed, with only a moderate amount of medication spilling onto the kitchen worktop, onto my clothes and (possibly) into my cup of tea. My sister comforted me by remarking that I shouldn’t stress about getting every drop into the cat and that, if any of it managed to fly in his vague direction, that was an achievement. My 3-year-old nephew’s observation, once Le Roi had scarpered: “I think he liked it!” Erm, were you actually WATCHING, kiddo?

Louis Catorze headed straight outside for a mega-sulk in the rain – yes, he would rather be outside getting soaked than be anywhere near me. And, rather than offering to help shoulder the burden, Cat Daddy helpfully added, “I think you might as well carry on being the person that does the meds. I mean, he hates you anyway, so it won’t make any difference.”

La loi de l’emmerdement maximum

How to make your cat sick: brag to all your friends about how well he is. Sod’s Law – or, in this case, Little Sod’s Law – decrees that all will turn to merde after that.

Tomorrow is my birthday, and my family had arranged to come over today for a 2pm birthday lunch at our favourite pub. So, naturellement, Louis Catorze picked 1:30pm to start walking with a limp, shaking his back right foot and swearing at anyone who tried to take a closer look at it.

Whilst I would have been ok with leaving it until the next day given that the little sod was moderately content and not in the worst agony, the vet isn’t open on Sundays. And I didn’t dare leave it until Monday in case it was something awful. So Cat Daddy drew the short straw and agreed to take him to the only available appointment today, which was right in the middle of our lunch.

Usually we are seen on time and are out of the vet’s within 15 minutes. Not today. When Cat Daddy got there there was a dog and a cat in the queue ahead of him, and Louis Catorze managed to rouse the cat into some sort of angry rap battle during the long wait. When that cat was seen, he turned out to be a complicated case and wasn’t out for ages.

The good news is that Louis Catorze only has a minor cut on his foot. The bad news is that Cat Daddy had to pay £80 for the treatment and missed his main course at my birthday lunch. And the even worse news is that we have to give Catorze 2 lots of medication by syringe (an antibiotic and an anti-inflammatory) a total of 3 times a day for a week. This is quite a horrifying thought, not only because he will shred us to pieces but because we haven’t had to assault him with medication for some time now. The trust that had started to build up over the last few months will now be gone in an instant, and he will probably never come near us again.

And oh my goodness: I have just checked the medication, and one of them is a weird powder that has to be transformed into a liquid. So I’ll need to perform some sort of spooky alchemy before I can even give the darned thing to him.

Please wish me luck. I’m really going to need it.

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Mon papa, mon héros

I realise that cats often have a favourite human, but this is beyond a joke: in the run-up to my hospital stay I was largely ignored by Louis Catorze and, now that I’m home again, c’est la même chose.

Apart from a couple of meows when I first walked through the door – which I now realise were not “Welcome home!” but “Merde! Her again!” – and the moment when he kicked my surgical wound (whilst stepping over me to get to Cat Daddy’s lap), Louis Catorze has barely acknowledged my presence.

Luther, Louis Catorze’s big brother, very slightly preferred me but it was barely discernible, possibly about 45-55 in my favour. Louis Catorze, however, is very firmly a boys’ boy and it’s more like 80-20, with the little sod preferring his daddy, our male friends, builders, removal men and Ocado delivery drivers over me. And Cat Daddy has revelled in this by bombarding me with pictures of the two of them snuggling up together during my absence. Every day in the hospital I woke up to more photos of Catorze draped all over his daddy – and, to make matters worse, the photos continue to come even now that I’m home. Last night I received some whilst I was just 2 metres away, in the next room. This is one of them:

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My recovery time is 6 weeks so this is going to be a REALLY long summer, in every sense. I fear that not even the powers of novels and Netflix will be able to save me.

La vie est belle

imageThe vet told us at the last visit that we would no longer need to give Louis Catorze his Atopica regularly. The steroid shot alone, it seems, is sufficient, with occasional use of Atopica only when things are really bad.

Obviously we were delighted at the prospect of no longer having to trap and medicate him, especially as, despite being thick, he was managing to develop a sixth sense about when it was coming. But we weren’t prepared for how quickly, and how dramatically, it would make a difference to the little sod.

Louis Catorze loved us anyway but, within a week or so of stopping the Atopica, he became visibly more affectionate and trusting. Now, when I reach for him to hug him, he no longer runs away. And he will even allow me to scoop him up for cuddles in the kitchen, which used to be the main assault area. (A tip if you’re trying to keep your cats off the kitchen work surfaces: place them on there to give them their medication. Do this just once and I can guarantee that they will stay off forever more.)

Whilst I still struggle inwardly with the fact that we’re giving him scary steroids, Louis Catorze’s quality of life is already clearly better (see tail for proof). And that makes us happier than you can possibly imagine.

 

Quelles montagnes russes!

“A true Catorzian rollercoaster” is perhaps the best way to describe this week.

Tuesday was just AWFUL. I spent the whole day feeling excruciatingly guilty about putting my poor boy through such stress at the vet’s, and the day closed with a very sticky Louis Catorze whimpering under the bed after Cat Daddy was a little over-zealous with the ear drops. Wednesday appeared somewhat more promising when I was greeted after work with happy squeaks and an up-tail, and Louis Catorze even had the energy to go outside to wind up Oscar the dog next door. When he came back in, Cat Daddy nodded discreetly towards the bottle of ear drops and said, “Let’s get him now” … and, the second he heard that, Catorze spun around on his paws and went straight back out again.

“Shit – he knows,” said Cat Daddy. “But he’ll come back eventually.”

He didn’t.

We waited and waited. It started to rain and he still didn’t return. When it rained harder, he wedged himself into the tunnel in the wall which connects his cat flap with the outside world and sheltered there, keeping an eye on us, keeping dry but firmly and decisively NOT coming in. Eventually I gave up and went to bed, thinking, “I bet he’ll wait 5 minutes and then join me, just to be an annoying little sod.”

I was wrong. He waited 1 minute.

Of course the stupid ear drops weren’t within reach, and I didn’t dare get out of bed to fetch them because I knew Catorze would then take off. So I texted Cat Daddy, who was downstairs watching the football, and asked him to bring them up to me. No reply. I then phoned him. Still no reply. Eventually he managed to tear himself away from the match to get a drink and, when I heard him open the living room door, I seized my chance and yelled at him to check his phone. These words had barely tumbled from my mouth when Louis Catorze dived under the bed, where he remained for the rest of the night.

I usually start a new year full of energy, hope and optimism. This time, however, we’re just 2 weeks in and already I’m exhausted after being toyed with by a cat (and a thick one at that). I don’t know whether to be glad that the weekend is upon us, or scared out of my mind at the prospect of 48 whole hours with the smug little tail-aloft psycho.

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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.

Le Roi va mieux: vive Le Roi!

 
Things are improving! Hurrah! The liquid Piriton seems to be having a positive physical effect on Louis Catorze, and his bald, itchy bits are slowly healing. Administering it, however, is the worst thing in the world, and there’s no way of doing it apart from a stealth attack and an undignified neck scruff. 

Whilst I love the taste of Piriton, to the point where I’ve considered using it as a crème de menthe substitute in a Sub Zero cocktail shot, I don’t think Louis Catorze agrees. His face after tasting suggests that he finds it rather like that concoction your hilarious university friends made on your birthday, when they put a shot of everything from the optics bar into one glass and made you drink it. It also doesn’t help matters that, despite not being the brightest, Louis Catorze knows when I’m loading the syringe, even if I go outdoors to do it; when I come back into the room/house, he’s already shifted into Battle Cat mode and is poised, ready to tear my soul out and send it to hell. This happens even if I don’t have the syringe on me, having hidden it elsewhere for later use AND washed my hands.

Offering treats as a bribe: he doesn’t like food, so no. 

Mixing medication into food: as above. In fact, when I once created some cute little tuna patties laced with Atopica, he gave me the resigned “Go home – you’re embarrassing yourself” look. 

Is this too much to hope for: a day when I no longer have to put him through this? Hurry up, test results!