Little Old Cat Update

I’ve been posting a lot about the cat today over on Twitter – and getting a number of questions in response. Rather than try to answer a few dozen people in 140 characters or less, I thought I’d go ahead and do a blog post; so if you’re tired of hearing about the kitty, feel free to bail now. But apparently a good number of folks out there have aging felines with similar problems, so this one’s for you.

    Meet the patient: a 16(+/-) year old female cat, who has lost half a pound since Thanksgiving and has gone from “occasional midnight yowler” to “24/7 Caterwauling Champion of Chattanooga.” Thyroid problems are suspected, but at her age, it might be an issue of “senior feline cognitive dysfunction.” Which is to say, she might just be getting old and senile.

    Meet the course of action: Vet visit, general exam, blood drawn – and we’re still waiting on the labwork verdict. Also received a Sentry Calming Collar and some kitty Valium.

    Night #1: Treated the cat with the calming collar alone. (We saw such a difference during the day, that we thought we’d give it a shot by itself.) Noticed some improvement, but still were awakened half a dozen times by wildly hollering feline.

    The next day: Continued improvement in cat demeanor, for we heard not one single instance of her wailing around the house – something which usually happens at least once an hour. (None today, either. Hot damn!)

    Night #2: In addition to the collar, we gave her a quarter pill of the kitty Valium. Result: WIKTORY.

Ladies, gents, and the otherwise affiliated – last night for the first time in [literally I do not know how long, but at least a year] the cat let us sleep through the night! [:: tee shirt cannon ::] [:: confetti gun ::] [:: pom-poms a’waving ::]

And now for some details (via the FAQ on Twitter).

Re: the collar – as linked above, the item in question is this one right here. Reviewers either love or hate it.

Basically, this is a purple collar that’s much like a flea-collar, coated in a white powdery substance to protect it. [The pheromones permeate the collar itself, and won’t flake off.] It boasts a “lavender and chamomile” scent, which you might or might not dig; but FWIW, the scent on ours is pronounced but kind of pleasant – and it’s faded over the last 24 hours or so. Like any non-break-away collar, you need to make extra-certain that it fits right – especially if you have a cat who doesn’t take kindly to wearing such things. So far, our cat isn’t experiencing any of the skin irritation some people reported.

As with everything: Follow the directions, listen to your vet, use your judgment – and your mileage may vary, for all things do not work for all pets. God knows we had a thousand and one people recommending Feliway when we added the dog to the family, but we spent a fortune on that stuff and it didn’t do squat.

This collar, however … it’s making a world of difference. Within minutes of having it applied, our cat relaxed. She hasn’t been groggy or loopy – just chill. She’s been her old self, really – laid back and easygoing, a tad chatty but not yowling in distress every hour on the hour.

And now for a word on the kitty Valium.

I was reluctant to try it because she’s always taken these kinds of meds hard. When we’ve tried to sedate her for travel or anything like that … she’s been miserable, groggy, and even more upset than before. (That’s why we started with a quarter dose, as per vet’s suggestion.) But we sucked it up and gave it a go – crushing the pill and mixing it with a teaspoon of vanilla ice cream.

The cat was 100% down with this, by the way. She licked the spoon clean, settled into bed with me … and didn’t make a peep until 9:00 a.m. – when she wanted to know where the hell her breakfast was. [:: fist pump ::]

Best of all, she didn’t spend the night knocked out and drooling. In fact, at some point after midnight I woke up to an odd noise and went looking for her. I never did figure out what the noise was, but I found the kitty hanging out in the den, sitting on her condo – staring out the window into the night. Later, I heard her getting a drink of water and using her litter box. She was obviously not incapacitated. (A prospect which worried me.)

So there you have it! Today I bought a little mortar and pestle so I can smash her pills without using the back of a butter knife in a cereal bowl, and tomorrow or the next day, we’re likely to get the results of her blood work back. Obviously I’m hoping that everything turns up clean, and she’s just getting old and batty; but if that’s not the case, we’ll do whatever it takes to keep her happy and healthy for as long as possible.

If I didn’t cover your question, feel free to ask it here and I’ll respond. Standard disclaimer: I can only tell you about our experience, and I make you no guarantees. But if you’ve been living with a stressed and unhappy feline, and you haven’t tried this combo yet, then I STRONGLY recommend you talk to your vet about giving it a go.

You won’t keep the law with a broken word

First, because inquiring minds want to know – a cat update. Yesterday I took her to the vet for a checkup and blood work, and to see about getting something to soothe her in the evening; because ain’t nobody happy (least of all the kitty) when on a bad night, she’s up every 45 minutes crying and confused.

The lab work won’t be back for another couple of days, but it turns out that she’s down fully half a pound since Thanksgiving, and she’s showing signs of thyroid problems. Maybe. Frankly, that’s what we’re hoping for – because thyroid issues are fairly easy to manage, even in the long term. If her thyroid isn’t the problem, then there’s really no telling. It could be anything.

None of this is a great surprise. She’s an elderly cat, after all, but obviously we want to keep her happy and healthy for as long as possible.

So for starters, we have a special collar for her that’s chock full of pheromones to help keep her chill. I was dubious about this, as we’ve tried the Feliway plug-ins before to zero response – but the vet said that in her experience, the collars were more effective.

In fact, the kitty didn’t make a peep on the way home from the office, so that was a miracle in itself; and today I haven’t heard a single note of her usual caterwauling-around-the-house. The collar is definitely doing something – but it’s not enough to keep her quiet at night, not by itself.

Last night she got me up twice, and on three other occasions the husband and I were simply too despairing to respond to her howls, so we let her cry it out … and after a few minutes, she stopped. This phenomenon hasn’t occurred in over a year,* so hooray for that – but it still meant five full rounds of being jolted awake by a screaming cat between midnight and 7:00 a.m. So…yeah. An improvement, but an insufficient one.

Tonight we add our new weapon in the cat-sleep arsenal: kitty Valium. We’ll start her on a quarter dose,** and see how it goes.

(That’s my arm she’s hugging and my hand she’s using for a pillow, in the photo above. She was lying on the heated blanket and snoring her head off – demonstrating her capacity for forgiveness, since I was the big fat jerk who toted her off to the doc to get poked with needles.)

* * *

Here’s today’s progress on my southern noir about a woman whose memories and identity erode, only to reveal hints of another person entirely: a detective who vanished on the day she was born in 1959; now with BONUS moonshiners and revenuers, small-town governments with big-time crooks in office, cops both corrupt and courageous, and one hell of a paranormal twist:

    Project: Shouting Distance
    Deadline: March 1, 2015
    New words written: 2100
    Present total word count: 3515

    Things Accomplished in Fiction: Met a nurse for coffee; took up smoking; second-guessed a lot of things.

    Things Accomplished in Real Life: Neighborhood jaunt with dog; laundry; cleaned house yesterday; also went to the post office yesterday; went to Walgreens yesterday; also took the cat to the vet yesterday – thus the delay in word metrics.

    Other: I am way behind on my metrics goals. Ugh. In my defense, I am also so far behind on sleep that I might not catch up until spring … and that’s IF the kitty Valium works.

    Number of fiction words so far this year: 11,814


* The vet asked if we had tried ignoring her, to make sure she wasn’t just trying to get a reaction from us – and woo boy howdy, did we try that. We tried it for months. Unchecked by human intervention, the kitty would yowl for upwards of an hour or more before exhausting herself … only to start again as soon as she’d recovered, a few minutes later.
** She’s sometimes a bit sensitive to meds. We’ll start low, and work our way up as needed.

There’s something here from somewhere else

Starting a new project is hard, but hey, that’s how I earn my living … so today I began drafting up sample content for a book called Shouting Distance. I promised myself that I’d have (at least) two partials/proposals worth selling before spring, and Brimstone went off to the agent and editor last week; so now it’s time to tackle the next thing in the queue.

Therefore, here’s today’s progress on my southern noir about a woman whose memories and identity erode, only to reveal hints of another person entirely: a detective who vanished on the day she was born in 1959; now with BONUS moonshiners and revenuers, small-town governments with big-time crooks in office, cops both corrupt and courageous, and one hell of a paranormal twist:

    Project: Shouting Distance
    Deadline: March 1, 2015
    New words written: 1415
    Present total word count: 1415

    Things Accomplished in Fiction: The first page is always the hardest, and frankly, I’m surprised I got as far as I did.

    Addendum: I did indeed re-tool the proposal for this yesterday (as vowed) and I’m happy with the results, but I won’t be able to wrap it up for querying purposes until I have the sample content nailed down. (Because the end result often varies – sometimes wildly – from one’s initial projections.)

    Things Accomplished in Real Life: Neighborhood jaunt with dog; housework; yet more business emails/texts/etc. for good things I’m not allowed to talk about yet; sent husband to grocery store for sodas; not much else, due to the struggle getting started on this one.

    Cat-Related Other: The sock balls, the water gun, Operation: KittySquish … all of these things have ultimately failed. Today the husband and I surrendered and called the vet, who told us the kitty is almost due for her checkup anyway – so we’re bringing her in tomorrow. Upon this visit, they’ll run blood screenings and so forth to make sure she’s not having any medical problems (just crazy old cat problems) and then explore anti-anxiety meds and/or sedatives. We’re at our wits’ end, and we have to do something.

    Dog-Related Other: Greyson is starting to smell a bit, and he ate two rounds of mystery poop on his walk this morning before I could stop him. These two things may or may not be related. That’s all the news that’s fit to type. Sort of fit to type. Oh well.

    BONUS Other: You guys, I am so tired.

    Number of fiction words so far this year: 9714