Flail, Wail and Flip-Flop Tail

By Lauren Merryfield

I have found instructions on “how to pill a cat,” in several places either on the web or via email. I thought it was hilarious, but there was just one problem–my lack of experience in this matter.

When I was young, we had cats around who came and went. Very seldom were they tame enough for us to actually take them to the vet for help. Moreover, it just wasn’t done as much back then. When Wuzzy, our calico, had a nonhealing lesion on the top of her head, Dad put salve on it from time to time, but that is all I remember about it now.

At around age thirteen, Dad came home from work as usual–so I thought–carrying a surprise in his arms. It was Katie, as we named her, her real name being Caterina, from Perry Como’s song “Cat-ter-ina.”

A sweet, gray kitty, she was already the most tame cat we had ever known, and she made herself at home, both inside and outside.

When we moved, Katie moved with us. By that time, we had found a vet, and her medical needs were met, including Dad helping her deliver a stillborn kitten. Her last kittens died inside her, caused systemic toxicity from which she was unable to recover. This is the first time I can remember our having to allow a kitty to be “put down,” as some say. Even then, being a kid, taking care of Katie’s needs was little responsibility.

Our next cat was Rafael, (Ralph), named after one of my Spanish teachers my Freshman year at the University of Nebraska. He was a torty who showed up one cold, winter day, wearing a rope-like flea collar. His meow to be let in was so plaintive, we gave in. When Mom placed him in a box with litter, he immediately recognized it as a catbox and did his thing.

He soon found a bowl of kitty food and did that thing, too–he even liked hamburger!!

Once again, Ralph’s medical needs were met primarily by my parents and/or the vet.

When my parents moved out of state, so did Ralph. He lived to be almost 20 years old.

The first cat under my direct care was Melissa CATheryn, a house-warming gift from a good friend. Melissa ate whatever we left in her bowl, so we eventually had to ration out her food.

She developed a skin problem, and at that time, the best remedy was, Heaven forbid, poor cat, a spray! We would cover her eyes and spray, she would flip off as much of it as she could all over us and whatever else was nearby, and disappear down in the basement. Occasionally, this routine included cutting out clumps of fur that she couldn’t groom well herself, as her tail flip-flopped in disapproval.

Giving Melissa meds had a similar routine, accompanied by exaggerated gagging sounds, hisses and an occasional growl. Lucky we were, not once did a pill reappear!

Toward the end of Melissa’s life, she became diabetic and we gave her an insulin shot each morning for the last six months of her life. This was actually easier than pilling, and she was always rewarded with her breakfast waiting for her.

Then came Kabootle. He had very few sick days until the last six months of his life as he went into irreversible renal failure. He was given antibiotic shots and we fed him a special diet, but pills, I don’t remember anything unusual about pilling him. It could be that my daughter took over the pilling aspect where Kabootle was concerned.

Jaspur came next and that weirdo not only has had several trips to the vet, but has taken medicine and just *loves* it! He loves the attention and even has a special meow which he utters at the same time every day that his medicine is due plus a few days afterward, hoping for more!

Mikey joined us next, and so far, knock on wood, he has not needed medicine.

Our newest kitty, Gabrielle, has been another matter.

Hmmmmmm. Pee in the laundry basket. If the clothes were not dirty before, now they were! With three cats, the culprit was not immediately discerned.

Was it pee number one, pee number two or pee number three?

My husband, Jim, noticed Gabbie Girl over in the area of the laundry basket one day and shooed her away. Otherwise, we found it necessary to enlist the help of our new, mobile vet.

When Dr. Reneigh (she likes horses, too) visited us, guess what? Three dry cats! So what now?

Upon palpation, Mikey was the only one who didn’t react in discomfort–he got to stay home. Since both Jaspur and Gabrielle winced and complained, they stayed overnight so our vet could get a clue.

Jaspur was fine but Gabrielle had a bladder infection. She was given a shot and her first dose of the liquid pink stuff. Great!

The evening after her return home, Gabbie needed her first dose given by one or both of us. So, over-reacting Mom that I tend to be, I picked her up, hoping to console our sweet, orange “football-shaped kitty. I held her more tightly than usual and that started the flailing feet–how many feet did she have? They were everywhere!

She wailed and made this awful sound as if we were choking her (we hadn’t touched her head yet) and at about that time, Jim appeared with the medicine.

By now Gabrielle’s tail was wagging, and remember, she’s not a dog! She was one unhappy cat!

Jim’s attempt to administer the medication resulted in sticky pink stuff all over my hair, my shirt, my right arm, possibly the floor (I didn’t check) and apparently not much into Gabrielle.

After she wriggled away and disappeared, we laughed, deciding that method A was unworkable.

Since that time, we’ve usually been engaged in a chasing game, resulting in Gabrielle sometimes being trapped and giving in. She doesn’t seem to hate the stuff, for it goes down and stays there, and she behaves in her normal manner between squirts.

It’s been a week now and our little bobble-head cat has gotten a successful squirt, well, almost every day or night, and you know, there’s still an awwwwwwful lot of medicine in that bottle! Seems like we’ve been giving this to her for a month!

Whew! Haven’t found any pee in the wrong place lately, nor sticky, pink cat medicine! Success? We sure hope so!–for her sake and ours!

Lauren has written about cats since she was in grade-school. She is a member of the Cat Writers’ Association and has contributed human and animal-interest articles to several publications.