Miss Million-Dollar Kitty, on her second life
March 29, 2009 4:07 PM   Subscribe

I took a year-old semi-feral cat from our small local colony to the feral sterilization clinic to be spayed on Thursday (3 days ago). She nearly died, but survived a second round of surgery that night. She's healing, per both her vets, although is still uninterested in food or water. Also, she likes the effect of her pain relief but won't let me give it to her. Suggestions?

It turns out she was pregnant at the time of spay. She was fine for a few hours and then went into shock; pointystick and I raced her to the emergency overnight clinic where she had a second operation to stop the massive internal bleeding. She's been either to my regular vet or back to the emergency clinic every day since then except today; yesterday, she had IV fluids and an injection of Buprenex, which let her sleep through the night. Today, she is MUCH calmer and has been curled up all day with clear eyes, a steady pulse and breath rate, and not seeming bothered by my other cats on the other side of the door. Her tummy is bruised all to hell but her incision is still clean and she's not licking at it. She has another vet appointment in the morning with the more cautious vet; although her red blood cell and platelet counts are still low, she had a complete blood panel yesterday that shows lots of immature red cells, so she's working to heal as fast as she can - it was just a hugely traumatic event for an 8-pound cat.

However, she is still not eating or drinking much - a few licks at chicken baby food puree, a few licks at a sweetened OK-for-cats milk (Whiskas Catmilk), no real interest in tuna or cooked chicken. The ER vet she saw yesterday, who gave her the fluids and Buprenex, wasn't too worried about it, saying that her blood sugar is fine (although elevated due to pain). She also prescribed Tramadol syringes; I made my first try this morning and got about 1/3 the dose in before she sprang away and tried to drool out what she'd gotten. She doesn't need another dose right now, but she is more restless and woeful at night, so I may need to dose her alone.

I know you are not her vet(s), but any tips/hints are gratefully welcomed, both about the Tramadol oral dosing and about when I really need to start worrying about her eating. Reassuring stories also welcome; this is pretty damn scary for the humans involved as well as for her.

FYI: she is now an indoor cat, and seems to be settling in with relative okayness; her frustration tends to come when she is also restless and pacing from pain. She is an awesome sweet little kitty and, although I know we're not out of the woods yet by any means, I am very much hoping that we're on the right path for her. Thank you, both from me and from Smudge the kitty.
posted by catlet to Pets & Animals (9 answers total)
Try wrapping her in a towel so she can't spring away while you're dosing her. Also, you may need to push the syringe a bit faster to get more into her.

Good luck!
posted by onhazier at 5:32 PM on March 29, 2009

IANAV, but I've had to do this or something similar many times over the years, including to wild animals. This is a hard situation to do by yourself, because you need extra hands. Definitely wrap her in something.

It is easier for me if I get behind the kitty with my legs pinning her into place (gently, because of the incision). Get the syringe as far back into her mouth as you can without hurting her. Push fast. Hold her mouth closed if you can.

As for the food and water, if she's had fluids, she'll be fine without food for a little while. If you have a heating pad, make that available. The heat will be good for her. Good luck with this, and thank you for taking her in.
posted by clarkstonian at 6:19 PM on March 29, 2009

You need to spray way back at the back of her throat and not into her mouth.

For kittens who don't eat, I mix kitten milk powder into chicken puree, and use a syringe to feed them as well. Your vet should have these available. (You can put anything liquidy enough in a syringe. Just add water if the chicken puree is too thick.)

I wouldn't really worry that she isn't eating, because that's what sick or unhappy cats often do. I would worry if she were throwing up the food I was forcefeeding her. It is crucial she gets enough liquids, and you should leave water and cat or kitten milk available (assuming the latter doesn't go bad when left out). But generally a cat can go without food for a bit without major problems, even after surgery. You might want to keep her in a single room, ideally without many hiding places.

I am not a vet.
posted by jeather at 6:30 PM on March 29, 2009

Stroke gently along the throat in a downward direction after each injection; this forces swallowing. I've used that technique for years for getting pills down, and also when I had to syringe-feed a cat with liver damage for a month.

To be clear, you're not trying to push the food down or anything; stroking down the throat triggers a reflexive involuntary swallowing motion. Be gentle but firm, don't press hard; think stroking.

And not eating while she's tired and healing and has a sore tummy isn't worrisome. Just make sure she gets a minimum of nourishment and the pain medication and she'll get hungry again when she feels better.
posted by Billegible at 7:31 PM on March 29, 2009

Good for you! We tamed a few semi ferile cats into lovely pets.

I second the towel, and suggest that you use one that has been warmed in the dryer.

Are you keeping her in one room? Sometimes cats deal better if they are in a small space that they can call their one.
posted by gesamtkunstwerk at 7:49 PM on March 29, 2009

I don't trust liquid meds so much and have found pills easier to get down, but maybe I'm in the minority and I'm also wary because my cat may have aspirated some liquid meds when she almost died of pneumonia.

I also have to go against the grain here and say that cats need constant food more than any other pet. Feline anorexia is unintuitive and potentially serious. Cats that go 24-48 hours without food often become unappetized by food and need hand feeding to regain their appetite.

Nthing the suggestion to go to the towel treatment: http://www.fritzthebrave.com/treatment/hints.html#Towel.
posted by Skwirl at 11:24 PM on March 29, 2009

I'm going to second the need for her to have some good nutrition inside Smudge. She has a lot of healing to do, she needs big calories. Ask your vet for some tins of Hills AD - it's a concentrated, easily digestible food for convalescence. It's easily diluted to a smooth paste with water (boiled then cooled) which she may be willing to lick up, if not, you can also syringe feed this stuff. If you have to syringe feed, aim for no more than 1ml per cat swallow. More will cause her to gag and resist further feeding. She may have a sore or scraped throat from the intubation for the two anaesthetics and this might be causing her pain when eating.

I'd also ask the vet to give her daily injections of Buprenex for at least 5 days. Two reasons, it's often more effective than Tramadol post surgery and an injection is less stressful on her than a struggle to get an oral dose of medicine into her (she may not be getting the whole dose as you described) - right now she still needs big pain meds and Buprenex is very effective. A good base of Buprenex will make breakthrough pain less likely. If she's in less pain, she will be more likely to eat.

Sometimes the pacing and restlessness are a side effect of Buprenex and Tramadol, but in my experience, cats are more likely to rest up whilst on Buprenex.

Best of luck to Smudge and you :)
posted by Arqa at 2:31 AM on March 30, 2009

Good for you! and congrats on your new baby. We have a cat who was born feral and rescued along with the rest of his litter and mama shortly after being born (then placed into foster care as soon as he was old enough). He is the TEXTBOOK "fraidy cat," easily spooked, doesn't really like to be picked up or held, the polar opposite of our first cat.

Since picking him up is rarely if ever an option, let alone cornering him or wrapping him in a towel, I once successfully squirted liquid meds on his fur to lick off. It was the best option in a bad situation. Might you be able to dab some on her paw or another part of her that would be easy to lick, presuming she's still maintaining impeccable kitty get-that-offa-me grooming standards? Even if she's not super interested in food right now, the kitty grooming instinct may well still be alive and well. Good luck!
posted by bitter-girl.com at 6:47 AM on March 30, 2009

Response by poster: Thank you, all, for the tips and good wishes. I am delighted to report that Smudge is on the road to recovery, eating and drinking on her own terms without syringes needed. Her red blood cell count went up by 13% as well, and her personality is coming out again. Although she's been in a small room with plenty of cozy spaces, she spent more than an hour today exploring the apartment and asking for pets.

Arqa, thanks for mentioning the sore throat from the intubations; I think it's been part of the problem. She perked up at juicy brothy foods, which also help get fluids into her.

She's a real little fighter, and I think she's getting herself healthier every day. Thanks again!
posted by catlet at 8:09 PM on March 30, 2009

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