Tuesday, March 17, 2009

One Sick Kitty

Sticking a needle in a cat seems simple enough: You pinch the scruff of fat on its shoulders between your thumb and forefinger, jab in the syringe, depress the plunger, and in two seconds you’re done. The cat feels hardly a thing. (Apparently, cat’s backs aren’t very sensitive; maybe they get toughened up when their mothers carry them around by the scruff of their necks as kittens.)

But injecting our cat Puki is another matter. She is so thin --
a sheet of fur draped over a sharp-spined skeleton--that there’s hardly any skin to grab. When I insert the needle in the tiny pinch of flesh on her back, I’m afraid it will poke straight through to the other side. But Frink and I do it twice a day nonetheless. The injections are the only thing keeping our kitty alive.

Puki (pronounced Pookie, named for a naughty Icelandic sprite) has kidney disease. It causes her to vomit frequently and become anorexic. No matter how many varieties of tasty treats we put in front of her, some days she simply will not eat. The medicine is meant to calm her stomach and stimulate her appetite. W
e had been doing very well, getting her up to 7.3 pounds, until a recent downward spiral.

Puki doesn’t seem to be suffering – she still chases ribbons, purrs when you scratch behind her ears, watches the birds outside the window with murderous interest, and
sleeps all night curled up in the crook of Frink’s arm. But we know that someday this will no longer be true. Someday we will have a hard decision to make. But not today. She’s lost ground this week, but the vet seems confident we can bulk her up again. Which explains why our kitchen looks like a mini-hospital ward.

There are syringes and
needles, bottles of sticky orange fluid we're supposed to squirt down her throat, special powders to mix with her food. And then there's the IV-bag with a long, clear hose and very fat needles that we use to pump fluids into her when she gets dehydrated. She sits patiently through this procedure, letting us massage the big Quasimodo hump of fluid that collects in her back until it shifts and flows through her body. But she fights like her wild-cat ancestors when we try to give her oral medicines, whipping her head from side-to-side, clamping her jaw shut, flashing her claws in terror. Which is why we have shifted to the injections. We had to get over our needle phobia, but they're a breeze compared to the oral medicine.

It may seem wasteful to spend so much on a cat in a world where people go hungry. But Puki is family. She came to stay 10 years ago, several months after I had to say goodbye to my 22-year-old Siamese. When I was finally ready to share my life with another cat, I went to the pound. I was looking for a Siamese, not a plain, standard issue tabby with ears as big as a small rabbit's. But every time I went back, searching for my shallow notion of feline perfection, Puki would come up to the door of her tiny cage, stick out a paw, and look me straight in the eyes with a steady gaze. There was something so sweet and so persistent about her that I finally succumbed and brought her home.

I realize now what an effort it must have taken for Puki to ask for a home. She is a very delicate and shy cat. She does not grant her trust lightly, unlike SamIAm, our big, snuffling dog of a cat, who will leap into anyone’s lap and settle in for a long, sighing snooze. Puki takes her time sizing people up, deciding if they meet her high standards. It took a year before she would sit in our laps. Eight years went by before she became an undercover kitty, nustling and nudging her way under the sheets.

Now of course, she throws her small weight around like she runs the joint. And I hope she'll keep bossing us around for a long time to come.


  1. I know what you are going through with your kitty, Puki. My cat, Snickers, who is now over twelve, was diagnosed with kidney failure in August of 2007. He had stopped eating, lost two or three pounds, and was very sick. My choices were to take him to UC Davis Vet School for daily dialysis, (I didn’t even ask how many thousands that would cost. and of course, that was not a choice as the Veterinary School was not close by.) or take him to the vet for an eight hour treatment daily, or every few days give him the fluids under his skin, (300 cc). And of course, do nothing which did not fall under choices. I could do the fluids myself, which I did three or four times until I stick my thumb with the needle! (and it really takes two people to do it). So ever since, now once every 7 to 10 days he goes into the vet for a fluid treatment, and we are usually out the door in 10 or 15 minutes. He also gets B/P medication daily, and I love those Pill Pockets. He now looks perfectly healthy, coat good, eyes happy and inquisitive, and eats a least a cup of kibbles a day, with a touch of people milk twice a day. He gained weight and maintains a normal weight of eleven pounds or more. He usually fluctuates only an ounce or two.

    The hardest thing going through this, is catching him! He is so wise and also knows when it is safe time of the day. Heck, he’s psychic. He hides from me, or watches my movements so he has a clear path to safety. I have no idea what this has cost me for his treatment all these months, and I guess I don’t care to know. Heck, I used to spend more on cigarettes, probably.

    He’s a happy cat and I want to keep him that way as long as I can. In fact, right now he is sitting here on my computer desk as he does most nights. Ah, he just laid down. LOL

    I hope Puki does as well as Snickers.

  2. Linda, I'm glad Snickers is doing well.(Our cats love the computer too!) I can't imagine giving Puki sub-q fluids without help. The good news on our end today is that the new shots our vet prescribed seem to be helping. She ate 4 times before we left for work.

  3. Awww..so glad that she's feeling a bit better.
    *sending good vibes*

  4. Thanks Nick & AlpHa! She's better today. It's amazing how these little critters wind their way into your heart....

  5. Such devotion is a wonderful thing to read about! Good for you!