Monday, September 13, 2010

Summer Colds and the Puttikins

When a pet becomes ill or is uncomfortable, the emotional response of the owner is very similar to a parent's emotional response to the illness of a small child. A small child or infant cannot understand what is wrong, or why he/she is so miserable. Cats do not understand either. They tend to go into hiding or curl up in a corner somewhere, losing interest in EVERYTHING.

I have been struggling with poor Apollodoro for about five days now. This is the Puttikins who was thought to be a girl originally, not only because of his breathtaking beauty but because no signs of manhood appeared for months. He was given the nickname of 'Dora the Explorer' because he was so curious as a young kitten and utterly intrepid. That changed over the months. Ironically, when evidence of his manhood appeared, his personality underwent a sea change and he became timid and fearful. I do hope that his father had no paw in this!

I tried to think of a name that would include 'Dora' and yet be masculine. Apollodoro was my solution. Yes, it is a mouthful but Cats do not object to long names. In fact, they love it when their owners converse with them, even if the 'conversation' is nothing more really than a very long monologue about nothing in particular.

I found beautiful Apollodoro about five days ago in an obviously listless state. The Puttikins always become hyperactive when I enter with their food but on this occasion, poor Adoro simply continued to sit on his perch, his eyes barely open. I knew something was amiss at once.

When I picked him up, it was evident that he had a fever. He radiated heat. He needed liquids desperately to bring down the fever but he refused to drink. When he coughed, I knew why he did not wish to eat or drink. To him, eating and drinking brought on the cough.

That day, I kept him with me constantly, forcing water down his throat with the syringe I had used for the Tiny Babies when Beauty was too weak to nurse them for a few days. He fought me a little but I managed to force him to take the liquids and by the next morning, the fever had broken.

He still had the cough, however. I isolated him from the other Puttikins as much as possible and kept him with me. He would not drink water from the plastic dish but when I placed it in a glass ice cream dish (rather like the crystal dish beloved of the Fancy Feast cat!), he drank, after licking the outside of the dish a little.

On Saturday, I decided to try some medication for the cough and congestion. I bought an inhaler that always helped me when I was a child a cold suffering from severe congestion. As it involves no internal ingestion of medications and simply requires that the afflicted individual simply BREATHE. I decided that I would give him a tiny sniff of it first, to see if it had any negative side-effects. I was delighted to discover that it did not harm him in the least and even more delighted when it was evident that the inhaler helped his congestion.

I followed the dosage given for a young child. Now a couple of days later, he is eating and drinking properly and even purring again. He still coughs occasionally but 'occasionally' is about once in eight hours, a single cough that must be an attempt to clear his body of the congestion.

Those are the bare facts of Adoro's Summer Cold but not the reason I am writing this post. It was my consciousness of the poor creature's utter helplessness and his lack of comprehension as to what was going on that struck me as being identical to that of any human infant. A baby who is ill simply howls, not knowing why he/she has been visited with torment. There is no way to explain it either, nor to make the child aware of the transient nature of the misery. In the end, it is a matter of love and trust. You have to show love to the afflicted one, in an effort to combat misery with the warmth of affection and the knowledge at least that he/she is the centre of YOUR attention. That is where trust is critical. The sufferer has to feel that you are taking care of the problem, fighting the battle for him/her and that you ultimately will be victorious.

Perhaps if Adoro had been an abandoned or feral Cat, he would have recovered by himself. I may have helped him to recover but perhaps I simply eased his misery a little. All that really matters is that he is recovering.

The comprehension of causes and effects increases as any human child matures. Animals do learn through experience if not through academic education. I have seen Cats who suffered from ongoing physical ailments learn how to deal with them and mitigate their effects over the course of time.

Most important, though, for both humans and animals, is the will to survive. I think that is where love can make a difference. I have seen people and animals who have lost a loved one lose the will to live. If they continue to feel abandoned, they actually can die, even if they suffer from no life-threatening illness. Some one claimed that 'no one ever died of a broken heart', but that is false. I have seen humans and animals die precisely from that. The best medicine in such a situation is the knowledge that they are not alone, that there are others who love them and need them. This can persuade them to continue the fight for survival.

In any case, it is useful to know that Vick's Inhaler can help a Cat with congestion when he/she has a cold. The veterinary profession has become increasingly aware of the number of different types of upper respiratory infections that affect cats. As with humans, there are almost countless varieties of colds and infections. In my view, the most important treatment almost always is to make certain that the animal does not become dehydrated. Water is critical. If a cat has trouble breathing, he/she may not wish to eat or drink. Decreasing the congestion therefore can help the animal because it will allow him/her to drink water. It may be simplistic, but I think it is valid. I have kept more than one animal alive after a member of the veterinary profession declared he/she was certain there was virtually no chance of survival. I did it with love and liquids...

I only hope that Adoro will shake off this cough completely. He is one of the most beautiful creatures I ever saw but, in all honesty, he is not the most loveable. Other people have compared him to Cupid and found him less appealing. Cupid, as his name suggests, is a Lover. He is one of the most affectionate Cats I ever had, always open-hearted and giving. Adoro, on the other hand, is a little aloof. Nonetheless, in the past couple of days, he has become far more affectionate with me than usual. He will come to me, leap onto my lap and purr. I always invited his affection, but it is only now, after his illness, that he has become more open in his behaviour towards me.

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