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Wednesday, May 11, 2022

Caring For A Sick Cat, Part 2

 I first wrote about caring for a sick cat when our old cat, Laila, was approaching the end of her life.  At that point, we were pretty sure she was nearing the end, and it was a matter of exactly when it would happen and trying to maximize her quality of life.

Stella's situation is different, in that we don't think she's approaching the end of her life, but we're trying to prevent her early demise.

Stella has always been a loud and vocal kitty, but she had gotten louder and more persistent, especially at night.  There were times when her meows ventured into scream territory.  The first time this happened, I bolted out of bed, fearing that she had hurt herself.  She seemed fine.  Internet searches suggested this was a behavioral issue and that we try to give her a lot of attention during the day and then ignore her at night, so as not to reinforce the behavior.

I had wondered if there was something else wrong, but I wasn't getting any clue as to what.  Taking Stella to the vet is always very traumatic for her; plus, we had a bad experience with the vet we took her to after moving to our current home and we needed to find a new one.  We ended up pushing this until it was time for her annual physical, and we made an appointment at a veterinary clinic that is just for cats.

Stella was not shy about airing her grievances at that appointment, so the vet had an idea of how loud she could be.  She said that sometimes loud meowing/screaming is due to high blood pressure--they think cats get headaches from that.  She checked, and sure enough, Stella's blood pressure was dangerously high.  She gave Stella a first dose of blood pressure medicine right then and there.

Blood pressure checks are often not a part of routine veterinary examinations (at least of cats), so I intend this to be partly a public service announcement for other cat owners.  But it's also a chance to write about caring for an animal with a chronic health problem.  The good news for all of us is that Stella does seem calmer and happier since starting on her blood pressure medicine.  The bad news is that this cat who loathes being loaded into the cat carrier and riding in the car has earned more frequent trips to the vet to monitor her.  Also, we get the pleasure of administering her medication.

We started out with pills, which were relatively cheap.  The vet recommended that I crush them into her food.  I did as she recommended.  The problem is that since Stella rarely eats all the food in her bowl, it was impossible to tell how much--if any--of her dose she was getting.  I told the vet what was happening, and we decided to try the medicine compounded into treats.

The blood pressure treats were significantly more expensive than the pills, but I thought they were at least worth a try.  However, by the time they arrived, Stella was due for a blood pressure check at the vet.  Her blood pressure was borderline low at that appointment, so they suggested we try a lower dose.  The expensive treats had to be put aside, at least temporarily.  Fortunately, they had some samples of transdermal blood pressure medicine at the lower dose that they gave us for free to try.  The way this works on cats is that you rub this on the inside of their ear (one of the few parts of cats that aren't covered in fur) and have to periodically clean their ears so that the residue doesn't prevent the medicine from being absorbed.

On the whole, I think transdermal medicine is way easier to administer than pills.  I have to wear a finger cot or disposable glove while administering it, so as not to absorb any medicine through my own skin (I'm usually successful at avoiding contact with it; if my blood pressure takes a sudden drop, we'll know why!).  Stella doesn't like having her ears handled, but if I can get her when she's drowsy and lying down, she's usually pretty cooperative.

Well, we had another vet visit the other day to check Stella's blood pressure.  Her blood pressure is now borderline high.  Apparently, there is no in-between dose of this medicine, so we have to alternate giving her the higher dose one day and the lower dose the next.  This has a real potential to be confusing.  I've ordered the transdermal version of both doses (which, like the treats, are significantly more expensive than the pills) and think I'll need to get a calendar and some way of marking the syringes to keep track.  In the meantime, I decided to try her on one of those expensive blood pressure treats.  I cut it up into pieces and put it in her breakfast yesterday.  She must have been able to smell a difference in her food, and spent the morning avoiding it and complaining bitterly about the ever-fragrant cat food being contaminated with potentially lifesaving medicine.  But after I left for work, she did eat most of her food, according to Scott, who got home before I did and fed her dinner.

Caring for an animal with a chronic health problem, as opposed to an acute and possible end-of-life health problem, is a new experience for me.  It will be a logistical issue we'll have to think about for as long as Stella is alive.  But I myself have a chronic health condition (Hashimoto's disease), so I've experienced firsthand how proper treatment is a complete game changer for quality of life.  It's been rewarding to see Stella appear calmer and more content, and I hope this medicine will bring her more and happier years.

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