La brosse infernale

We are usually only obsessively meticulous about brushing Louis Catorze during the warmer months, when he moults and scratches a lot. But, because his skin and fur are generally much healthier when he is brushed regularly, we decided to step up his grooming régime a few weeks ago, at around the same time that we started the hot water steam thing.

The good news is that handfuls of fur come off his body when he is brushed, which surely HAS to make a positive difference to his skin health, yes? The bad news is that he still loathes being brushed, which means I have to grit my teeth and adopt the Stranglehold of Death before I can get the brush anywhere near him. Needless to say, these now-daily sessions of torture leave me drained, pained and bleeding from the eardrums, and I wish we didn’t have to do them.

My mum told a long time ago that, when you brush your cat, you should leave the brushed-out clumps of hair in the garden because birds use them to line their nests. This didn’t seem very likely – after all, my mum also tells me that you can get cancer from plastic water bottles that have been left overnight in the car – but a couple of reliable fellow cat freaks have confirmed that it is, indeed, a thing. So, much to Cat Daddy’s disgust, I have been doing my civic duty by emptying the contents of Catorze’s brush outside, and the very thin silver lining to the dire grooming sessions was that at least the birds would benefit from it all.

Below is a picture of a clump of Catorze’s brushed-out hair from at least two weeks ago. Oui, Mesdames et Messieurs: IT IS STILL IN THE GARDEN. I really thought that there would be a few takers for some warm kitty fur, given that we remain in the depths of winter. But it seems not.

Cat Daddy: “Ha! The birds of TW8 would rather freeze than go near his shitty fur. Not even the rats want it.”

Oh dear. It’s a good thing Sa Maj is utterly unaware of his fur not meeting the exacting standards of the local wildlife. And, even if he were aware, I don’t suppose he would be remotely bothered.

De l’eau pour tous

After a suggestion from one of my lovely blog followers, I have been putting a bowl of hot water in each of the rooms most frequented by Sa Maj in the hope that the extra moisture in the air might help his eyes. 

When we first adopted him we were told that he only drank from glasses, and that under no circumstances would he drink from a bowl. “I’m sure he’ll use a bowl eventually, when he gets thirsty enough,” I replied cheerfully. He didn’t. So we had no option but to provide him with his own special glass. (Well, it was either that or have him randomly drink from any receptacle that he came across, which is asking for trouble.)

Naturellement, after a lifetime of refusing to drink from a bowl, the sudden presence of bowls from which we DON’T want him to drink has made him decide that he might be interested after all. And the only thing that stops him from doing it – apart from me taking my phone from my pocket to catch him in the act – is using hot water straight from the kettle which, despite being the best for adding moisture to the air, comes with its own, obvious problems. (Don’t worry: we are fully aware that Sa Maj is stupid enough to scald himself, so we ensure that we are around to keep him under Suicide Watch. Once the water has cooled and he is no longer under surveillance, no doubt he has a good old slurp and renders this experiment a complete waste of time.)

Cat Daddy has also kicked and/or threatened to kick more bowls of water than I can count. So, between the two of them, the men of the household are doing their best to make sure that this whole thing fails dismally. 

Me: “We could always buy him a plug-in air humidifier?”

Cat Daddy: “[Hysterical laughter followed by unrepeatable comments peppered with rude words.]”

Fortunately Catorze continues to remain in good spirits and is utterly unbothered by his condition. In the meantime, we shall keep topping up the boiling water in the hope that it does him good. 

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La panacée du Roi

“What a pity January is almost over, just as things were getting good,” said absolutely nobody, ever.

It’s a difficult month at the best of times, even when the sharply cold temperatures and bright white frost give a kind of feeling of newness and freshness. But this January, far from being sharply cold or frosty-bright white, has been especially grim: grey, damp, clammy and sluggish. I can’t wait for it to end.

Louis Catorze, however, couldn’t give a hoot either way.

All is going phenomenally well in his little world, which means, at least, that someone has had a positive month. His black cat mojo is bursting at the seams at the moment and he looks magnificent. Cat Daddy usually lets out a snort of contempt when I say this, deriding Catorze’s “drug-addled state” and muttering something about him only appearing attractive if you look from a long way off and squint a bit. But I don’t care how far away you have to stand or how he got this way: I’ll still take it.

Here he is, looking menacing and demonstrating the right hook that (possibly) knocked out his mystery opponent at Le Fight Club:

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It’s not just his physical appearance that has improved: everything about him just seems easier when he’s well. Even the medication and the Advocate, whilst not exactly fun, aren’t so bad, with the Post-Meds Sulk seemingly a thing of the past; whereas previously he would run away afterwards and hide for hours (or for the whole day, as he did on his first day with us when I crunched his tail under my knee by accident), now he comes back for cuddles.

He’s had a fair few visitors throughout January and he’s been on fine form for them all: sociable, affectionate and even happily allowing 3 kids aged 5 and under to simultaneously manhandle him. Poor Luther would have walked through hellfire to avoid such a thing – in fact, most normal cats would – but we all know, don’t we, that Louis Catorze is not a normal cat?

He’s due at the vet’s for his next steroid shot in a couple of weeks. I really hope this run of good luck holds out until then.

Le miel des rois

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If you choose to be the slave to a special needs cat, one of the things you come to expect is life being brilliant one minute, then disintegrating into crud the next.

It’s been a tough week at Le Château. The return to work after Christmas and New Year is always difficult but I’ve been working very late every night, Cat Daddy has been working even later, and we didn’t see each other at all from Monday through to Friday. Louis Catorze has been wonderful company but, once again, because I’ve been leaving the (not brilliantly-lit) house in darkness and coming home in darkness, it’s been hard to keep track of his condition, although I’ve been aware of increased itching and fidgeting during the night. When I finally got to look at him properly in daylight on Saturday morning, I could see that the little sod’s chin area was bald and raw again.

It seems that the steroid shot, whilst undeniably improving things, isn’t the faultless magical potion that I wanted it to be, and that it has its limitations. Whereas his first injection gave him excellent results for a whole month even though it was only supposed to last a week, the second hasn’t been quite so effective. You know how a drinking session can get you completely plastered, but, the second time around, you need more booze to get to that same level? Well, this looks set to be exactly the same, except much less fun.

To make matters worse, having agreed that we would take Louis Catorze to the vet after we got back from the football, I realised too late that I’d got the vet opening hours completely wrong and that it was closed until Monday. Our options were to rush him to the emergency vet or sit it out until after the weekend, so we decided to go for the latter because the wound looked unpleasant but not horrendous, and because Catorze is still active, vocal and up-tailed, which I’m assuming means he doesn’t feel that bad.

I have received a lot of advice about what to do with him during the wait for the vet appointment, and one suggestion – which has also cropped up in the past – was to apply honey to the sore areas (thank you, Lisa). With Catorze being the way he is, this needed to be a very well-planned and strategic move, so I took my chance when he came in this morning from his all-nighter and scurried upstairs to join his daddy, who was still in bed.

And, naturellement, the only honey we had in the house was organic artisan New Zealand manuka honey. We’re talking honey that only rock stars and lottery winners could afford to buy, and we, being neither of those, only had it in our cupboard because Cat Daddy happened to meet the supplier at a trade show and they very kindly gave him a free sample. Gram for gram, this stuff costs more than cocaine or gold – and there I was, smearing it onto the skin of a wriggling, kicking, ungrateful little bastard of a cat.

Oh well – Louis Catorze is a king, I guess, which means that supermarket blended honey just won’t do. And, after the initial indignity was over, he was immediately happy again. Let’s hope this is enough to keep things under control until the vet visit.

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.”

 

 

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.