My Name is Leo

An adored cat deals gracefully with a jaw tumor while his owner quietly falls apart.

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Location: Philadelphia area, Northeast, United States

Friday, July 07, 2006

The Comeback Kitty (1 Graphic photo)

(Forgive my long and rambling post -- I'm time-deprived, so I can't edit myself.)

On Sunday, Leo had convinced me he was a goner.

That day he basically didn't eat anything. And because I had resorted to mixing his Clindamycin antibiotic "treat" into his food (since he couldn't swallow it whole) no food meant no antibiotic.

I also tried giving him non-medicated food (in case the med was putting him off) and he couldn't even bring himself to lap up any baby food -- maybe just had a small taste of cat milk, that was it. He wouldn't even eat tuna...just a few laps of the tuna water.

When he came up on my lap for petting, I could feel he was shaky on his feet -- plus he was nothing more than fur on bones.

Over the weekend, I had decided I would call the vet office Monday morning to get Clindamycin drops (instead of treats) -- but should I even bother getting his pred refilled? He had enough pills to take him through Wednesday - but if he continued his non-eating ways, Wednesday would probably be his final vet visit (if you catch my drift) and I would be left with 30 pills I had no use for.

For whatever reason, Monday morning I decided to go try Fancy Feast again -- even though all through the past week he hadn't been able to get it down. And for whatever reason, Monday morning he was able to eat it!

I don't know why it worked when he hadn't been able to manage regular cat food for days, but he was actually getting something into his system, so the why didn't matter. Maybe he finally figured how to maneuver his tongue around the growth in his mouth.

A graphic view of the tumor pushing Leo's tongue off to the side.

It's actually kinda cute when you just see his little tongue sticking out the side of his mouth. Seeing this much of the inside of his mouth (which is really only visible with flash) = not cute.

And with his renewed ability to eat, his demeanor changed -- Monday he spent most of the day approaching either me or my husband for petting. He just seemed more like his old self than he had for the entire month of June.

More Like His Old Self Monday

Since Monday, there have been a couple days when he's nearly eaten an entire can of Fancy Feast at dinner time. He's not eating a normal amount of food, but enough to sustain him. Probably a total of 1 1/3 cans of Fancy Feast per day and an afternoon treat of 1/2 to 1 jar of baby food.

Yesterday (Thursday) morning when I bent down to pet him at my bedroom door, he actually felt more substantial than a skeleton.

The Clindamycin drops are easier to administer than I expected, because it is only a half-dropper (12.5 mg) per dose. When he was on the much-hated (foaming at the mouth) Clavamox drops it was an entire-dropper each dose. The Clavamox had an objectionable-to-my-cat flavor (it smelled like banana to me - are cats supposed to like bananas?) The Clindamycin liquid doesn't have a distinct odor and from his reaction it is more an annoyance to have me squirt a liquid into his mouth than anything that puts a bad taste in his mouth.

But it's not all cheery and light. There is a lot of me jumping through hoops to get him to eat. I have to pile the cat food in a Close Encounters mound so he can get his mouth around the "peak." Which means I have to crouch by him as he eats to maintain the mound.

When Leo leaves without finishing (which is all the time) I have to take the leftovers and warm them in the microwave to get him interested again.

He will not eat the same flavor two meals in a row. He will not go back and finish old food that is left on his plate (Oh yeah, I've gone from kitty bowls to feeding him on saucers -- easier for him to maneuver for the food.)

His drool gets worse as he salivates in food anticipation, and I have to somehow wipe the strings away in between his bites -- because if it gets into the food he won't eat it (well, can't blame him for that one.)

And I'm not really a natural caregiver type, so don't confuse my dedication with some sort of natural nursing bent!

The prednisolone pill, which used to be the easiest part of his care, has become somewhat of an ordeal.

Wednesday afternoon, Leo was the happiest of cats. He was lying on his back in the sunshine, wanting me to rub his belly. "Ah, he's so relaxed," thought I. "This is the perfect time to pill him."

Wrong! I tossed the pill into his mouth, right into the worst of spots -- into the pouch created by the tumor in the back of his mouth.

Immediately, Leo began to freak out -- growling as he rolled from side to side on his back with both front legs rubbing frantically along his face to try and (unsuccessfully) get the pill out. In doing so, he dislodged a blood clot that had resided somewhere in tumorland -- the clot landed on the rug (by then Leo had jumped off his window perch and was struggling on the floor) and he began bleeding all over the legs that he was rubbing against his face.

Well, eventually the pill went down. At least I think so. Resolve removed the blood stain on the rug. And Leo forgave me, as he is so good at doing.

The next day, I was determined to have better aim when pilling him. So I made sure I aimed for his actual throat opening. And then he spit out the pill -- I hadn't thrown it in far enough.

So I went for the secret weapon -- a piller I had purchased a few weeks ago, but never used.

The evil piller

I put it into Leo's mouth and pushed the plunger. It seemed to work. He did not struggle. He went over to the bed and hopped up, looking for petting. I was happy to oblige.

As I was scratching his face, I noticed a white spot inside his mouth -- an ulceration? I looked again -- it was the pill! Evidently it had landed in a part of his mouth where he doesn't have a lot of sensation. Towards the front, partially under his tongue.

So I kept scratching his little head while simultaneously lifting it - to try and get the pill to go down. When that didn't work, I figured it would just dissolve and get into his system that way.

But I had to watch him to make sure he didn't spit it out.

Long story somewhat shorter -- 30 minutes of watching later, the pill was dissolving into a white foam, which then dripped right out of Leo's mouth onto the towel on which he was lying. Oh, he had moved twice in that time period -- from bed to chair to window seat -- and all the movement did was slide more of the medication out of his mouth.

I decided he hadn't absorbed enough to count, so a couple hours later I went back and somehow managed to get another pred pill in him the right way, the first time. No trauma whatsoever.

All this was yesterday. Last night, he came up to our bedroom and lay on the bed at our feet while we watched The Office. He doesn't visit us in the evening often (although he used to be around so frequently when we were watching 24 that I began to think he either was actually watching the show or just liked the sound of Kiefer Sutherland's voice!)

He was so contented that I almost forgot he wasn't our old normal fluffy guy.

So, although the dark and dismal slide will likely start again soon, for at least a couple days I have had my affectionate Leo back.

Sure, he's still smelly, drooly and matted, but he's purring like crazy and seems happy to be alive.

A sure sign kitty is feeling better --
Leo this morning, as he creeps along in an evil plot
to drink the leftover milk from my husband's glass.

(Um...sorry, husband -- he didn't leave any bodily fluids on your pillow, I swear.)


Blogger spocko said...

Ok. I'm not a cat fan. I'm a Cyn fan. If I was a cat I'd want you as my "owner".

friend of mine had a very strong relationship with her cat. He was going to die and I didn't know what to do or say about it. So the weekend she was going to take the cat to the vet for the last time I sent her flowers. Turned out it wasn't the cat's last time, but the flowers thing was the right move on my part. She really appreciated it.

But cats in general still hate me. It might also be my allergies to them which when they find out I have them they make a bee line for me.


7/09/2006 2:43 AM  
Blogger Cyn said...

Well, I'm not a crazy cat lady, but I suppose I had that potential if my husband hadn't come along at the right moment. I do feel a responsibility to any creature that I am caregiver for.

Flowers are always the right move. Although in my case, chocolate is righter.

7/10/2006 11:40 AM  

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