A summer bug went through our house recently, but it didn’t affect any people. Instead, one by one, my four indoor kitties began displaying signs of illness.
At first, it was just one of the new kittens. The little orange guy, dubbed Spiderman for his propensity to climb things, began to get sick shortly after eating. The first time or two, we just assumed he had been jostled too much too soon after munching and didn’t worry about it.
But after strict instructions to not touch him for a half an hour after eating (hey, it works for swimming, right?) didn’t help, I began to look elsewhere. A quick Internet search turned up all kinds of things that could be wrong with him. It ran the gamut from indigestion to liver failure; stomach blockages and tumors; to simply the wrong cat food.
I decided to start with their food. It was an all-stage food, meaning it was supposed to be able to be consumed from the time solid food was introduced, but just to rule it out, I switched them to a kitten blend. Since they tend to eat from our adult cat’s dish when theirs is empty, I even switched him to kitten food.
The dietary change didn’t seem to be helping; Spiderman was noticeably thinning and was not his typical energetic self. So I got him some kitten milk and offered it to him. He wanted nothing to do with it, though he continued to get himself water occasionally.
Because of a successful, similar experience with our adult cat when he was a kitten – he had also gone “off his feed” – I decided to try to feed Spiderman. I took a syringe and filled it full of the kitten milk. Then I held Spiderman in a towel and slowly let the milk flow into his mouth. He swallowed it – and kept it down.
Approximately every four hours for two days, I fed the kitten this way. I knew he was starting to feel a little better when he began to fight being wrapped in the towel. And then, one morning, he licked the spoon I had used to get canned food out for the other cats. Instead of feeding him, I offered him a little canned food and milk in a dish, which he ate independently.
He also started to swat at yarn – and his siblings – again. They were easier to catch because they, too, had become less active and slower-moving. But they bounced back without any assistance from me.
One night, I finally knew that Spiderman was truly on the mend. He climbed up the steps to sleep on our bed for the first time in several days. And all night long – literally the entire night – any time either of us would twitch a toe, he would pounce on it like he was a mighty hunter. (Around 3:37 a.m., I began to rethink the wisdom of saving him.)
Now, days later, they are all back to normal. They all run through the house chasing one another – chasing string, chasing whatever moves – and eating like they have never tasted anything so good. They are also back on a more normal sleep schedule.
Though, occasionally, I am still woken up by a tiny lion who thinks my feet would make a good prize for the pride.
Laura Zoeller can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.