A few weeks after I’d posted Part 2, we were rudely awoken at 2am one morning, to the hair-raising sounds of a catfight taking place in our lounge. I thought this was rather odd, as we lock Pringles inside at night and I wondered if I’d forgotten to lock the flap. I slowly crept down the stairs, torch in hand, hair on my neck standing on end yet ready to break up a cat fight. I got downstairs and turned on the light, only to find my dear pussycat in a full on yowling match with his own reflection in the lounge window! The heavy blackout curtains and bright streetlights were enough to create a perfectly clear reflection of himself in the window. Silly cat.
After frustratingly trying to teach Pringles how to use the new cat flap (he’d used one in South Africa, so this wasn’t a new concept), the silly sausage still hadn’t figured out how to go outside. If I let him out through the front door and then closed the door, “locking” him out, he’d come in through the cat flap quite happily but he just couldn’t seem to wrap his head around the fact that it worked both ways and wouldn’t go out the house via the cat flap. He’d sit there scratching at the window and waiting for someone (usually me) to hold the flap open before leaping through. He had free reign of the townhouse’s small garden during the day but did get locked inside at night, not only for his own safety and my peace of mind (I don’t want him being run over or getting into cat fights) but also for the safety of the NZ noctural wildlife. I don’t want Pringles hunting and bringing in innocent creatures during the night. He seemed to get used to being locked inside after a few weeks, he began coming in on his own as soon as it started getting dark and would curl up in his bed, quite happy to settle in for the night.
One chilly winter’s evening, we were sitting watching something on TV. Pringles was curled up in his cat bed with his soft baby blanket draped over him, and there were soft snoring noises and grunts being emitted from the depths of the bed. Dear Catty must have been fast asleep when all of a sudden he shot out of the bed, levitating about a metre off the floor, he went higher than our coffee table! He landed on all four paws and immediately levitated again before sitting on the floor next to his bed. He looked at his bed, looked at us and had this really confused look on his face before acting all sheepish. He must have been having a nightmare and his bed suddenly decided to “eat” him. It really was funny and we couldn’t help but laugh at him. Unfortunately, it’s one of those had-to-be-there moments that I wish I could have captured on video. We still laugh about it, years later!
We went to South Africa for 3 weeks in May 2015 to attend a family wedding, visit friends and do a bit of sightseeing. Upon our return, we collected Pringles from the cattery that we’d put him in and they warned us that they’d had a few sneezing cats the week before and that we must just watch him in case it’s cat flu (which is highly contagious). We got him home and he was fine that day and was very happy to be home, full of purrs and constantly wanting love and to be scratched or petted. There was the odd sneeze but nothing that I was worried about.
The next day he sneezed a lot! I started to think something was wrong but it was Saturday afternoon and the Vet had already closed for the day, so I had to wait until Monday morning before speaking to them. Pringles kept us up that entire night with a runny nose and loud sneezing fits. By Monday morning, he was so blocked up that he had to breathe through his mouth and he kept waking us up every 2 hours (at night) with continual sneezing fits, coughing and a blocked nose. He even stopped eating and drinking. It was like having a sick baby in the house!
Off to the Vet we went, only to be told that he did have the dreaded cat flu! There are three types of Cat Flu; one viral that doesn’t respond to antibiotics and two bacterial types that can be treated with antibiotics. As it turned out, he had the horrible viral kind, the one that is really bad and cats can die from it if not treated in time! The poor little guy was running a very high fever (40.8°C, normal for a cat is around 38°C) but thankfully the flu was limited to his nose and throat and hadn’t gone into his chest yet. We’d managed to catch it early. The vet gave him painkillers and an antibiotic injection to prevent him from getting a secondary bacterial infection and I paid my hefty vet bill before taking my poor kitty home and tucking him up into his bed. I felt helpless, there wasn’t much that I could do to help him, he just had to fight this off on his own.
I had to dose him up once a day with painkillers, as well as a precautionary antibiotic and he got half a L-Lysine tablet crushed and added to his food. Thankfully I keep an L-Lysine supplement in my cupboard for when I get a coldsore, so I had some already. The viral cat flu causes coldsore-like blisters on the soft palate in the mouth, inside the nasal cavaties and in the throat. It’s no wonder my poor kitty didn’t want to eat! It was so bad that I had to force-feed him food and water with a syringe for two days and he finally “asked” for breakfast after being on the meds for a few days, which was great! It meant that I was able to medicate him in his food, without me having to force-feed them to him.
Poor Catty sounded awful! I had to lock him inside as it was far too cold outside for me to let him out, there was a chilly winter wind blowing and I had to prevent him for developing a further infection, pneumonia or from infecting other neighbourhood cats. I had placed his bed next to the window, in the weak winter sun, to keep him warm and tucked him up in his bed under his baby blanket. Unfortunately, he had to get used to using his ’emergency’ litter box until he got better, he hates having to use an undignified litter box and prefers to go out in the garden.
Unfortunately, we just had to sit and wait it out. Poor Catty’s nose was so badly blocked, yet it kept running at the same time and breathing was really difficult for him. If he wasn’t trying to breathe through his mouth, which cats hate to do, then he was trying to breathe through his nose and was constantly sniffing, sneezing and coughing. The vet said it could take anything from three to fourteen days for it to clear. I felt so sorry for him, there wasn’t much that I could do to help alleviate his symptoms. I did try to “steam” him twice a day to try clear his sinuses and would run the hot water in the shower until the bathroom was all steamy (just like you do when a child has croup) and then I’d carry him into the bathroom and stand there holding him in the steam for a few minutes until it sounded like his breathing got a little easier. At night, I just put him in the bathroom with me when I had a bath or shower and he would simply sit there and breathe in the steam all by himself. It did seem to help a little and he got into a routine where he would follow us upstairs whenever one of us went to bath or shower.
A few days later, he still wasn’t eating properly and I had to force-feed him his meds as he refused to eat his breakfast and the painkillers and L-Lysine are mixed into his morning food portion. “It’s easy and very simple to force-feed him his meds in a syringe” the vet said. “Just mix a teaspoon of wet food with a teaspoon of water and add his meds. Put the 10ml mixture into a syringe and just trickle it into his mouth. It’s easy.”, he said. Hahaha, I wonder if he’s ever actually tried to force-feed an ex-feral adult cat with a syringe?
Eventually, he started to come right but then we had another set-back and he wouldn’t eat or drink. After trying to get Pringles to eat by himself and him not being interested, I tried for ten minutes to feed him with a syringe and he wasn’t tolerating it! Catty was growling at me, squirming and scratching my arms, cat food was going everywhere and I was getting really frustrated. I had managed to feed him with a syringe the night before I’d taken him to the vet, when the cat flu had first flared up, but he must have felt really miserable at that stage because feeding him then was a breeze; he just lay there and lapped it up! Eventually, I gave up and had my own breakfast. An hour later, I tried again. I had better luck the second time but he still wasn’t a happy Catty. Fifteen minutes later, his medication and food mix had been (frustratingly) administered, after which dear Catty decided that he was now hungry and went and sat by his food bowl, waiting for some more food! Why???!!! *Sigh* Why wouldn’t he just eat his meds and then get his “fishy” afterwards without all the fuss? Sometimes it’s just like having a naughty toddler in the house!
I hated force-feed Pringles. I knew that I was trying to help him but in his eyes, I just seemed to be a big, bad meanie that was trying to shove unwanted stuff down his throat! His blocked nose still sounded really awful but it finally felt like his fever had broken, as he wasn’t feeling as hot as he had been. What really irritated me about this whole episode was how blasé the cattery was about it. Cat flu is serious and highly contagious, cats die from it. It worried me that the carrier or sick cat may still have been in there, hadn’t been quarantined and that other people’s cats may be being infected too. At least my Catty was out and I was doing the best I could to nurse him back to health. I just wished that there was more that I could do for him. It’s so hard to describe how awful he looked and sounded. He lost a total of 500g, not a lot to most people, but to a 6.5kg cat, it’s a lot! Just to give you an idea of what he sounded like, it was as bad as a human adult with a really bad case of the flu, without being able to blow his nose.
To make matters even more frustrating, I only noticed after the force-feeding episodes that the critical care food the vet had given me to mix with his medication was chicken & pork flavoured and my fussy cat doesn’t like eating anything that’s not fish flavoured! I then had an idea and wondered if I mixed his meds with fish flavoured cat food if he’d happily eat it, saving both him and me the trauma of the force-feeding, and it worked! You’d think that after having had him for so many years that I’d know this and think to check food flavours first. Well, after 3 days of force-feeding, he happily ate his meds all by himself and all the (unnecessary) stress had been for nothing, all because his food wasn’t fish flavoured!
Pringles was really ill with this cat flu, it took four months for him to fully recover from it and there definitely were times when it was touch-and-go and we thought we were going to lose him. Unfortunately, now that the virus is in his system, he has it for life and as soon as he gets a little stressed out, it flares up again and he starts sneezing. The virus remains dormant in the body in the same way that the coldsore (herpes simplex) virus does in humans. Giving him L-Lysine in his food when he starts sneezing does help to suppress the virus and so far, we haven’t had another full-on bout of cat flu. Hopefully we never have to go through that again!