On a random Tuesday in November, I watched as Boo tried, and failed, to eat her dinner. She would open her mouth in an attempt to eat, but then she would pause an inch above her plate. Sometimes she’d shake her head; other times she would tilt her head sideways and chomp her teeth. Boo had never been one to scarf down her food, but it was obvious that there was something severely wrong. I called the vet minutes before they closed and scheduled an appointment for the next morning.
I gave her food all night, and I felt awful because she clearly wanted to eat but either couldn’t or wouldn’t. The next morning she ate, although reluctantly. I started to question my decision to bring her to the vet, as the last time I brought her in when she wasn’t eating there was nothing wrong with her and she fought them so hard that her previous back injury flaired up for a couple days. But that was different because she had no appetite. This time it seemed like she really wanted to eat.
The staff at PHPH are really fantastic. Knowing Boo was a difficult patient, they had sprayed the room and a towel with cat pheromones to help her chillax. (Spoiler alert: She did not chillax and had to be sedated.)
Bad teeth, tumors, and ulcers are all common reasons for older cats to refuse food, so I was beyond happy when the doctor came back and said: She has severe tooth disease, and that’s a good thing. Experiences like this make me realize how emotionally difficult it must be to be a parent. Thank you to the tech who handed me the tissues. I appreciate it.
I made an appointment for the next day to have at least three of her teeth extracted. Because Boo’s a little grandma and has kidney disease, it complicated the sedation process. They pumped her full of subcu fluids before I brought her home, and would keep her on IV fluids after surgery for as long as she’d tolerate it. They told me many people report that their cats act younger once the problem teeth have been removed, as they’ve usually been tolerating the pain for much longer than they let on. All I could do was cross my fingers that her little kidneys tolerated the surgery.
On Thursday morning I dropped off Boo for the day and reflected on all the signs I might have missed over the years. Boo has never been a big eater. She’s always been underweight. It wasn’t uncommon for her to meow for food only to turn her nose up when I served it to her. Was that her being her picky self? Or were her teeth preventing her from eating? She’d seemed thinner over the past few weeks, but I attributed that to stress from Breezy joining the family.
That afternoon I got the call that everything had gone really well. I picked up Boo on the way home. She was less than thrilled by her experience.
I quarantined her to her room for the evening so she could be alone and away from dangerous obstacles like stairs. When she came out of her carrier she was a wobbly angry mess. Her fur was damp and dried crusty, and the last injection of fluids they gave her had pooled under one arm. Her face was also lopsided.
She was a hot little drugged up mess.
They told me if she didn’t start eating by the next day that I’d have to bring her back for more fluid, which I hoped to avoid, because it would mean another round of sedation. She didn’t touch her food Thursday night. I was concerned not only because no appetite was a bad sign, but because her food was how I needed to administer her pain meds. Then I had the a brilliant idea—something I knew she couldn’t resist:
I dissolved her pain meds in tuna juice and thus began a seven day bender.
High Boo is the best Boo ever. Breezy would pounce and Boo would blank stare, so Breezy would back off. High Boo ate all the things, including human food. I was fending off Breezy from my breakfast sandwich (pictured above) one day, and I turned around to see Boo chomping it. I thought she wanted to lick the cream cheese, so I tore off a piece of the sandwich, but she ate it—egg, muffin, and all.
About five minutes after eating her spiked food, Boo’s eyes would glaze over. Getting from Point A to Point B seemed to take so much determination. She stopped slinking around the house, so Breezy stopped attacking her, which was probably the best part.
Sometimes Boo would pass out in awkward positions.
Sometimes she’d pass out face first.
One time she curled up in a ball and her one eye got stuck open like a little creeper, and after a few minutes I couldn’t take it anymore so I closed it for her.
One night I went to bed and everything was normal. Boo claimed her spot on my pillow, Breezy curled up at the foot of the bed, and Nick buried himself beneath blanket mountain.
I got up in the middle of the night to use the bathroom. To my surprise, Boo not only stayed on the bed, but migrated off the pillow. To my dismay, Breezy sprawled out and somehow took up a quarter of the bed. I made do.
The best, though, was when I could tell that she was starting to feel better, because when she slept she seemed relaxed instead of curled up in a tight little ball.
Even Breezy’s shenanigans didn’t bother her.
Soon the week was up, and the drugs wore off. The cats went back to their bickering.
But Boo became a little food monger.
We can’t leave food out because Breezy would eat until she popped. So now Boo wakes me up at seven every morning, insisting on breakfast. And when I come home she’s on her cat stand waiting for food. And before bed. And all the time in between. She doesn’t eat large amounts in one sitting, and she doesn’t eat fast, but she’s eating 50% to 100% more than she used to, and finally, finally is putting on weight. She’s still thin, but she’s not skin and bones, and I can’t feel her spine for the first time in years.
Boo ended up having four teeth pulled. With two already missing, her mouth is looking a little empty in places. Her face mostly returned to its previous non-lopsided shape. She takes a long time to eat, so I either put her in her room or I wait for her to finish so I can remove any uneaten portions before Breezy the garbage disposal cleans the plate. But that’s okay, because she’s my Boo.