How to medicate a cat without getting your hands shredded

If your cat begins a pattern of vomiting repeatedly and there’s no clear explanation for this behavior, be prepared to fork over your life savings since vomiting is apparently the vaguest of cat symptoms. Basically, it could be anything. And when my Jack started vomiting nearly two years ago, we got to experience the entire gamut of tests. There were blood tests. An ultrasound. X-rays. Exploratory surgery. Vitamin B injections (which we were supposed to give him every two weeks, notwithstanding my needle phobia).

(Fun little fact: After the exploratory surgery, we got to feed Jack out of a tube inserted into his neck. When the vet demonstrated this procedure in the examination room, blackness began to cloud around the corners of my vision and I had to step aside. This process went something like: put prescribed amount of wet food in the blender with prescribed amount of water; mix until mush. Pour mush into gigantic syringe. 559494_10151446934563355_1841008469_nTry (and fail) not to get splattered by the food, which smells vile. Find cat (who is pretty easy to spot with a giant blue cone wrapped around his head and a tube dangling out of his neck). Pull the stopper out of the tube, keeping the tube bent to prevent air from filling Cat’s stomach. Place the syringe in the tube and slowly push the plunger. The slow part is essential because otherwise you’ll make the cat sick. Sometimes you’ll hit air pockets, causing the cat to burp. He has a satisfied expression on his face because he has discovered a method of being fed without having to move so much as an inch, and he can feel the food trickling into his stomach. Neither gag nor panic. After you’ve finished feeding him, flush warm water down the tube so Cat gets liquid as well. Do this every six hours for as many days as it takes for Cat to decide to eat on his own. Keep stopper firmly in tube when not feeding Cat.)

There were all kinds of pills with multisyllabic names ending in “osyl” and skdnwefnf (at least they sounded that way). Sometimes the pills worked. Sometimes they didn’t and we’d try a new pill. We were medicating Jack twice a day, taking him to the vet on very nearly a weekly basis, and scared out of our minds.

The only way to diagnose a cat with triaditis is to rule out all other possible options. And there are an awful lot of options. But nearly a year after he first started vomiting, Jack was diagnosed with triaditis, which is a fancy way of saying the little jerk had not one, but three ailments. Inflammatory bowel disease. Pancreatitis. And cholongiohepatitis (inflammation of the liver). Sidenote: doctors use these terms just to make us feel stupid, right? Because my relief at finally learning what was wrong with my cat was significantly impaired by my inability to actually understand what any of these terms mean.

For Jack, it meant an expensive hypoallergenic diet. And a medicine cabinet that makes our house look like a imageMain_0_3scene from Valley of the Dolls. Medicating my fat, belligerent cat was initially very traumatic for everyone involved. It was a two-man job. One man (me) would mummify the cat in a towel and tip his head backward while man two angled the pill dispenser down his throat. (Pill dispenser depicted at left, and highly recommended if you’re going to spend any amount of time shoving medication down an animal’s throat, and especially a cat, which tend to be smarter than dogs and not fooled by the sudden appearance of treats in their food bowl.) This two-man mummification system was alright for awhile, but eventually we graduated. The current (much quicker) method involves squatting over the cat (it’s best to take them unaware if you can), angling the pill dispenser into the corner of the cat’s mouth (you’ll need to switch corners if you’re medicating regularly, as this can cause sores), and popping the pill as far back into the throat as possible. We’re down to two pills once a day, which is absolute bliss compared to the five we were once cramming down the poor cat’s throat twice daily (and that was a fun little mix of liquid and pills, just to keep us on our toes).

I’m (ridiculously) happy to report that, a little over a year since his initial diagnosis, Jack is doing quite well. His food budget practically exceeds ours, and yes, there are sometimes hard feelings about his fondness for246520_244714178963510_1748953020_n spitting pills back at my face, and panic whenever we hear that tell-tale vomiting cat sound. Truly, there is no sound more telling than the sudden, frantic gulps of a cat preparing to vomit. It’s as though they want the world to share their misery. In fact, living with two cats, I’m fairly certain that they do. I was diagnosed with ulcers around the same time Jack was diagnosed with triaditis, so both of us (along with Cat Cat) are on the same medication (Pepcid), which is demoralizing, ridiculous, and somewhat endearing.

But we made it. And there were moments, during all the feeding and medicating and panicking about money and wondering what foul demon possessed my relatively young cat, when I doubted whether we would. When I thought that Jack and I might not make it out of the situation together. And the notion that I might lose this absurd, stubborn, adoring animals, my companion of six years and the one guaranteed permanent fixture in my life …

I just couldn’t. I still can’t entertain the idea that it will happen one day. It’s just too brief–the amount of time we’re given with them. It’s one of my primary complaints about this world of ours.

(Photos of Jack by Colin Rigley, and in that second photo he’s leaping into the air to try to catch a walnut. He does that sometimes.)




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