Bob is ill. Has been ill, now, for three and a half weeks. We’re not sure what’s wrong with him, but it seems likely that it’s viral cat flu. How he got this, we don’t know; he doesn’t go out and he’s immunised, and has a booster every year. He’s full of snot, and consequently hasn’t eaten of this own accord since the end of last month, apart from once, at the vets. Other than that we’ve been syringe-feeding him.
We’ve had blood tests and know it’s not bacterial or fungal. His nose has been flushed with water so we’re 99% certain it’s not a foreign object. He’s been tested for FIV (feline immunodeficiency virus) and he’s not a carrier. His heart is fine, his lungs are fine; apart from his snotty sinuses, he is in good health. He’s five and a half years old and a big, strong cat.
But he’s lost over half a kilo in weight. He’s lethargic and depressed. He spent two days at the vets, in the first week of his illness, on a drip, because he got dehydrated. We’ve kept him as hydrated as possible ever since, feeding him special paste food, high in calories and nutrition, that we mix with water and syringe into his mouth. At one point, early on, he accepted this, and sat on my lap while I did it. Then he got fed up of it, and started fighting me, so we’d have to do it with him wrapped in a towel, swaddled up like a baby. He isn’t a baby; he’s just a cat. As people keep reminding us.
We’ve spent hundreds and hundreds and hundreds of pounds on tests and antibiotics and stays at the vets and anti-inflammatory drugs and Olbas Oil and cotton wool balls and this weird feline Lucozade that tastes of chicken stock and sachets of smelly tuna food to try and tempt him to eat. Cosmo, who has no symptoms at all, and seems, as always, invulnerable, has eaten and eaten and eaten, as Bob begs for food, and then, every time, sniffs it, smells nothing because his nose is blocked, and then turns away. If cats can’t smell, they don’t eat. Their world is experienced so much through smell.
We’ve tried everything the vet can suggest, and he’s not getting any better. We simply can’t afford, financially, to try anything more, other than supportive care – liquid food, steaming Olbas Oil at him, keeping him warm, showing him we love him, willing him to get better. He’s just a cat.
Except he isn’t. He’s our first cat, and as such he’s a huge emotional investment, a totem of our relationship, our lives as lived together. We got him within weeks of moving in together almost five and a half years ago; just less than four months ago we moved him from our flat into our new house. We chose him, named him, loved him from the start, washed the shit out of his fur when he was a clumsy kitten, wooed him when he was grumpy, made a fuss of him when he was affectionate. He’s a ragdoll, so he’s affectionate in ways that people who don’t know the breed won’t understand. Their temperament is more like dogs’ than cats’; they follow you around, wonder what you’re doing, talk to you constantly, demand that all doors are opened to them, sit on your lap when you’re on the toilet, sleep on your pillow, rush to the front door when you get home from work, sulk for an hour when you’ve been away overnight and then slather you with affection when you’re back on the sofa with them and a glass of wine, where you belong. Bob in particular is a cat full of personality; grumpy and demanding, but so utterly full of love for us and full of faith and trust in us.
When people find out how much money we’ve spent on trying to find out what’s wrong with Bob, and trying to make him better, over the last few weeks, I can tell that they think we’re mental. We could have had him put down and bought two or even three new cats of the same breed for what it’s cost us. But none of those cats would be Bob. We just have to make him better. He has to get better. Even if he’s just a cat.
Post-script: Thankfully, brilliantly, and with perfect timing, Bob started getting better literally within hours of me posting this: when we went to bed that Saturday night he was sick on the kitchen floor, and kept us up half the night hacking and urging and mewling. I was just about ready to put him in a sack and head for the river at 3am, because it seemed like the humane thing to do.
But by 7:30am he was completely without snot, and asking for food again; so we gave him some, and he ate it. And he hasn’t stopped since. 11 days later he’s put weight back on, and is his usual, grumpy, demanding, peculiar and affectionate self once more.
All the test results are back from the labs, and the vet thinks it was a bacterial infection which his body just took a long time to recover from; this means it shouldn’t ever come back.
We’re all delighted, as you might imagine. Especially Cosmo.