Sam's Story continued
Sam and Scamper's - Summer 2011
Summer has somehow turned into fall without much warning. In fact, we've gone from 80 degree days to a big pile of snow in only a couple weeks time, and then back to close to 70 degrees. Sam and Scamper are wondering why I'm getting up before the sun these days. They know better. In fact, on weekends they've been known to let me sleep until 10:00 and still wonder if I'm sure I really want to get up. And then I say the magic word: Breakfast!
First thing in the morning when Scamper's hungry - er. hungriest - she is more than willing to submit to being picked up for a few seconds in order to get a cookie. Since she knows I pick her up from the side or the back and not from the front, she shows me she's ready by turning away from me and giving me a partly nervous, partly come-hither look over her shoulder. Occasionally when I get home at night, especially if it's a little later than usual, she'll do the same thing. At first she got a treat every time, now about every third time. I think she's actually beginning to enjoy it a little. She welcomes and clearly enjoys ear rubs, combing and other types of attention that don't involve being Picked Up.
Scamper sure loves her chicken, and she's got quite the sensitive palate. Recently we had a couple weeks between when I ran out of her Misty Knoll chicken and when the order came in. Usually I order about 15 pounds of Misty Knoll at a time and try to think far enough ahead so I don't run out, but it didn't quite work this time. In that case, I use an all-natural chicken from the grocery store. So I prep her plate and put it in her special eating place under the rocking chair I and she immediately follows me back to the kitchen giving me the "Where's my breakfast?" look. She instantly knows it's not the same - before she even puts her nose on it - and won't eat it unless I add baby food or some freeze dried chicken. Makes me think of David Byrne and Talking Heads: "This is not my beautiful chicken!"
Now and then Sam has a "low" day, when he seems to be a bit under the weather, not moving much, not really interacting. On the rare occasion when he doesn't want to eat I know he's really feeling lousy. Otherwise he leaves me wondering - does he have a headache from his funky eyes? A bellyache? Weather not right? Just a blah day? Then he'll turn around and chase Scamper, play with toys, be a little more spritely. In general he's doing fine, but he's clearly not as youthful, hale and energetic as Scamper. He doesn't play or run very much anymore but in terms of quality of life, he thinks his is just fine. Soft places to sleep, good food, a lap with a quilt when he wants, a pesky little girlfriend to lick his face whenever he wants - but really, somebody needs to do something about keeping his Sunbeam TURNED ON!
He's a little more active in his dreams, however. We've all had the
experience of seeing our sleeping pet twitch and paddle their feet, like
they're dreaming about running. One warm summer evening Sam was sleeping
on a folded quilt next to me. (He gets nervous about a lap without a quilt
on it, especially if the owner of the lap is wearing shorts, so we keep
the folded quilt close by in warm weather.) I reached over to stroke his
head and rub his ears, and he took my hand in both front paws and tucked
it under his chin for a pillow. (Awwhhh!) After a few minutes his head
got heavier and heavier, then he did some face twitching and a little foot
paddling. When the paddling stopped he started chewing and grinding his
teeth, after which he woke up, licking his chops. The only question I have
about that dream is how
big a critter he was catching and feasting on!
There is an immune-mediated skin condition called Feline Plasma Cell Dermatitis that often affects FIV+ cats. Typically it shows up as large swellings in the footpads, usually on more than one foot. It's usually not a painful condition, but the cat may spend a lot of time chewing on his footpads. Conventional treatment, according to Avi Blake, DVM in the DVM Newsletter, is a tapering dose of steroids, or doxycycline, which takes longer to clear it up than the steroids. I don't think Sam has this going on, but he is spending some time chewing on his forelegs and paws, though not actually on the footpads. I suspect his is a simple seasonal allergy, since I know he has some of those. In the spring he scratches most of the hair off the backs of his ears. In the early summer he gets some eye irritations, and in the late summer and early fall he gets the sneezes and some skin issues. The old apartment had a mold issue that affected both Sam and me, so we're both doing better since the move.
At the office, we frequently get calls from people whose cat has started depositing urine or stool just outside the litterbox. The first recommendation is to have a urine sample run to rule out a urinary tract infection, which is all too common in cats. Once infection is ruled out, the next thought is usually a behavioral issue. He's miffed about something, there's been a change of some sort in the household, she doesn't like the box or the litter, he doesn't like mom's new boyfriend, or perhaps he's an older cat and arthritis is making it difficult for him to get into the litterbox. Sam occasionally has an issue in this department, and it is entirely behavioral, but in a completely physical way. He gets in the box facing in and backs up until his butt is right against the edge of the box, tail hanging out. So far, so good. Then he will lift his backside up too high and let loose - well, you get the picture. He thinks he's doing exactly what he's supposed to do and has no clue how anything went outside the box or even that it happened. He'll do this three times in a row, and then not again for weeks. Go figure. I've watched him do it, so I know there's no straining or other issue, except with his thinking. I'm very thankful for washable bathroom mats!
He's a fairly large cat at 12 pounds so I use a fairly large box - although not the biggest I can find or it would take up the entire half bath! I read somewhere recently that the litterbox should one and one-half times the length of the cat. By that theory, the large boxes I'm using aren't even big enough for Scamper, never mind Sam! I've seen litter-boxes where the cat enters through a hole in the top of the covered box, which would certainly contain anything Sam chose to deposit. Stacey has had good luck with one of those for her cat, Betkett, but he's used it since he was little. It's great for keeping her dogs out of the box! Scamper would probably use one, but I don't think Sam would since he's just not one for getting up on things or jumping up or down any more than he has to. I've now broken down and returned a covered box to the tiny downstairs half-bath, which takes up nearly a quarter of the floor space and a fair amount of the air space. He still can manage to deposit stool outside the box, but, thankfully, the covered box seems to contain the urine and prevent puddles on the bathroom floor. Not fun in the middle of the night.
We were away for an overnight trip early in August - the one we were supposed to go on back in February. Sam was boarded and had to stay an extra night since we didn't get back in time to fetch him on Wednesday night. He did just fine. He had a cat condo where he could see outside, and had some private out-of-the-cage time to prowl around. He behaved very well for his eye drops, and made it clear that he really likes his treats! Scamper stayed home alone and was fed and checked on by our neighbor. She knows Sarah's voice from the back yard, and she even showed her face a couple times. I thought she might cry all night when Sam didn't come home on Wednesday, but she just curled up on top of me all night.
While Sam has slowed down, Scamper has learned that it's okay to go on a tear and beat up toys by herself or with some human assistance. She'll race from one end of the house to the other, up the front stairs, across the upstairs to the porch, and then back down the other stairs and around again. She still loves the TV - I don't know what it is about the weather channel! She loves her scratching posts - all 3 of them - and likes to climb to the top and perch there. We had a spiral staircase type of climbing perch for Gracie, who loved it. Sam would never go near it. It was sturdy enough but had a little shakiness which seemed to make him uncomfortable. In the other apartment Scamper wouldn't go near it because Sam didn't. Now I think she might enjoy it. I just have to decide where I want to put it.
After a few false starts I finally got Scamper in
for an exam. In the spring we were
working hard on the scary Picking Up thing and I wanted to work on that a little more before traumatizing her. Later on I had a couple of misses where she got away from me before I could get her in the carrier, and then when I had her on the schedule thinking she might well need anesthesia for a dental, she vomited her dinner the day before. Since anesthesia can make them nauseous, that was a no-go. This time I had no trouble getting her into the carrier. I brought her in without breakfast, so she knew something was up, but she cooperated very nicely. Not that she was happy about it, by any means! She has lost her dinner a few times lately, which is unlike her, but it's been quite a year for shedding and she does spend a good bit of time grooming her Sam, so hairballs are likely the culprit. She only
has three teeth left and two of them are pretty ugly, but they aren't ready to come out, so Dr. Kathy's recommendation was not to put her under anesthesia just to clean them but to wait until they do need to come out. Otherwise she's in good health. Her coat is soft, sleek and shiny. The plan is to check her teeth again in the spring. So now that that's out of the way for now and we've done pretty well with the Picking Up, we'll start working on Restraining, for - hopefully - things like, dare I even think it, nail trims. It's a really good thing she's polite with those little daggers.
Our office has had a few cats and dogs who needed most or all of their teeth extracted. Understandably, their owners are usually quite concerned about whether they will be able to eat. It doesn't seem to slow them down any. Cats' teeth are meant more for tearing than chewing, and dogs - well, dogs don't seem to like to waste too much time with chewing when you can just swallow and look for the next bite. Their systems handle it pretty well. Scamper definitely chews her food and treats - or rather, gums them. Doesn't seem to bother her in the least.
Sam was not at all happy about Scamper
being taken away in a carrier without him. Bill leaves for work a little
later than I do, and Sam followed him around complaining. When we had only
had Scamper a short time I asked the animal communicator if Sam found Scamper
really annoying since she spent most of her time head-butting him, plastering
herself up against him; jumping on him or chasing his tail. He said yes,
she was annoying, but don't send her back. Although she has become more
independent, she still insists on head-butting him a lot. He tries to avoid
it, and I'm somewhat concerned that it may make his head hurt, due to
his glaucoma, so I'm glad to know that he still doesn't want her sent back.
came in alone one of the times that Scamper refused to come. He was only
supposed to be along for moral support, but his teeth needed to be checked
again. They were doing better, so he avoided anesthesia as well. His allotment
of chicken necks has been increased to one piece every other day, which,
hopefully, will keep those pearly whites nice and clean. Having discovered
that I have an allergy issue of my own with rice, I noticed that both of
his probiotics were rice based, so I stopped them. He promptly stopped
scratching his ears, and hasn't vomited in several weeks. I've found a
probiotic without rice for myself, and will try that on him, since it should
be a good immune enhancer. Of course, Scamper started
scratching when I ran out of probiotic for her - same as one I was using for Sam - and stopped scratching when I put her back on it. Clearly it would be too much to expect for them to be on the same page!
Now it's time
to start closing the porch door, much to Sam's chagrin. It can be 35 degrees
in the early morning and at lunchtime Sam can be basking in a lovely sunbeam
at 75 degrees. His September eye pressure check was good, and he'll go
back to the ophthalmologist in January or February for an annual visit.
Meanwhile, he's planning on a lot of lap time and a lot of sleep time.
He likes the part of cold weather than means all the quilts come out. Scamper
will be doing lots of playing; eating, head-butting and napping. She's
planning on staying out of the carrier for a very long time - although
she really likes to sleep on top of it! They hope everyone has a happy,
healthy and peaceful holiday season and will update again next year!