My Latest Hobby: Cat Intensive Care

I came back from vacation and found my cat on death’s door. On my first full day home from our vacation I noticed my cat, Jasper, had lost some weight and hadn’t seen her eating, drinking or going to the bathroom. I worried about her all night because I had to work two 12 hour shifts in a row and I knew that without drinking she’d die before I could get her to the vet on Monday. I called the vet first thing in the morning and they told me to bring her in. The first thing the vet said was that she was jaundiced and had lost too much weight. “Sometimes cats stop eating for one reason or another and then their livers shut down,” she told me. Then she said it could be that the cat was upset that we had left and stopped eating. The cat sitter hadn’t noticed any behavior changes and wasn’t sure how long it had been since she really ate. The vet tested her for feline AIDS and leukemia only to tell me that if that was the diagnosis it would be best to put her to sleep. I wasn’t prepared for any of it and sat there and cried. The tests were negaative so she suggested more testing and some IV therapy and to see if we could get her to eat. She told me it would be better to take her home because the cat would be more likely to eat at home than she would in the hospital.

Because I had to work, they offered to keep her overnight and give her fluids. I stopped by the office on my way to work the next morning and she seemed better, nudging me, purring and licking at the food, but still not taking any water. An IV dripped into her paw. The vet said we’d have to take her home, give her IV fluid subcutaneously, which entails putting a needle through the skin of her back and filling her with fluid until she’s kind of like a big furry water balloon. Then she gave me the stinkiest nastiest cat food and told me to syringe force feed her “several times” a day and try to get a whole can down her a day. Also, she gave me medicine and vitamin drops to shove down her throat.

My friend picked her up from the vet and took her home until Monica could get off work at 8pm. She reported that she was able to get Jasper to eat some cheese and rice, but that she urinated everywhere. Great. When I got home Monica had managed to feed her some ground beef that I had gotten from the cafeteria at work, but she seemed quite lethargic. She wouldn’t purr or interact with us at all. She just wanted to curl up in her bed and hide. I let her sleep next to me in the bed all night because I was afraid she would die during the night. She barely moved all night and I didn’t sleep well.

The next morning I took her downstairs and she vomited everything she had eaten the night before. I was reluctant to start forcing food down her throat because I didn’t want to have to deal with her just vomiting it up. I was debating whether I wanted to force feed her at all. Monica and I talked and I decided that I’d give her a chance and try the feedings. Throughout the day, we forced the disgusting brown pureed organs of various animals down her throat with a syringe, making a mess every time. I tried to give her water by mouth and finally, Monica and I decided to try the subcutaneous hydration. Unsure of how to do it, we fumbled a little. I held Jasper on my lap, while Monica felt around the nape of her neck and poked a needle through the skin into the subcutaneous space between her shoulder blades. We waited 10 minutes while the fluid drained in and collected along her chest and back. It was kind of odd, but she seemed to act more perky afterward. They vet told us to do it every other day because she might not absorb it within a day.

Sunday night, she vomited about half of what we fed her and I felt pretty defeated.
Monday morning I got up at 5am to find that she had diarrhea all night. The bathroom smelled horrendous and I found her under the sink, caked in feces and cat litter. At least she had tried to get to the litterbox. I spent a half an hour cleaning up and washing crap from her butt fur. Then I decided to feed her a less to see how she’d tolerate it. I figured as long as she was pooping, the food must be going through. I hated to leave her for 14 hours to go to work, so my friend came over twice during the day and fed her until Monica and I got home at 8, gave her another subcutaneous hydration and fed her again.

She didn’t vomit last night, for the first time. I think the smaller feeding were key. The feedings went a little easier today. I’m doing a lot of laundry between all the towels and clothing we are both soiling every few hours. I took a video of Monica feeding her today.

The vet said we could put a feeding tube into her her, which requires a surgical procedure and another $500, not to mention special food and whatever. I don’t want to go that route and it’s my hope that she’ll start eating on her own. I wish she would at least take some water on her own. My feeling is that I can’t instill a will to live in her. Mostly, she sleeps until I wake her up to shove more food or medicine into her or poke her with a needle. We spend a lot of time holding and petting her. Occasionally, she’ll go out on the deck and watch the birds, scratch on her post, or purr.

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