My First Real, and not pleasant, Experience with Kitty Flu

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20181111_102952We have always suspected that Moon has the feline herpes virus. Apparently, 90% of feral cats do, and he’d always get weepy eyes at the change in seasons, the worst of it being in the fall, but it never progressed beyond that. Until this fall.

It started Halloween night with sneezing fits. Moon had been a bit off for a week or so anyway prior to this. He’d been stressing about some new cat wandering around the garden, so he was coming down off his annual bout of cystitis that happens like clockwork when we open the windows in the fall. His annual bloodwork was done a few weeks prior and there were some white blood cells in his urine, but the vet didn’t see any cause for alarm as everything else was fine. After that, my husband and I were both home for a few manic days of cleaning and trying to get some house projects done before our annual Halloween party, which was a very peepoly party this year. So I expected Moon to be a bit run down from all the commotion. I expected the weepy eyes like he’s had in years past, but I did not expect the sneezing, so it concerned me enough to take him to the vet Thursday Nov 1st in the afternoon.

Now I had freshened up the only carpet we have in the house prior to the party. I used a green cleaner from Clean+Green, so I didn’t think it would be a problem, but with allergic cats, you never know. In this case, the doctor didn’t want to confirm one way or the other that it was a viral herpes flare-up or just an allergic reaction to whatever botanicals might have been in the carpet spray, so he wanted to wait and see. I was ok with that, since it was only sneezing, so I went home and washed the shit out of that carpet, in the driveway with a brush and hose, then I hung it to dry, which took a day or so.

By Saturday, Moon was flat-out. By Sunday night, he had stopped eating and drinking and could not really breathe. We got some super stinky fishy cat food to see if we could entice him, and we had him eating a few bits and drinking some tuna water by Monday. Tuesday he seemed improved, but still would not drink anything but tuna tea, so we took him back to the vet for subq fluids, which I could then administer every other day at home if I wanted to. I didn’t. I was just going to drive him back and forth since the vet is close to my house, but the trip was so stressful that Moon urinated all over himself in the car. By Wednesday, all the progress he had made was lost, and he took a nosedive. I started doing the subq at home, shaky at first, and he didn’t seem to mind or care, but by Friday, he was so bad that he had urinated himself in his bed and was just so weak, he lay there in it until I got home from work. I seriously thought we were going to lose him at that point. At minimum, he was going to need intensive hospital care.

So it was back to the vet Friday afternoon where we decided that a shot of antibiotics might be warranted now. He was given that and given fluids and given a syringe of vitamin paste, which I would be administering every day at home for the foreseeable future along with the fluids. By Friday evening, Moon was eating a bit of kibble. We had decided to go with the cookies he loved back in the day that made him fat the first time he got sick with urinary issues. Royal Canin Urinary +Calm. It’s one of the only foods with L-tryptophan in it, and that is the only thing that keeps Moon calm. We’ve tried all the theanine chews, but none of them worked unless they had the tryptophan, and calming chews with that in it are getting harder and harder to find. We brought home some recovery canned food too, but we’d tried canned food and baby food with him throughout but all he does is gag when he tries to smell it. His nose is way off base, but for some reason, whatever they spray this carb-loaded kibble with, it works.

This past Saturday night there was blood in his snot and in his urine. This was expected, so I was happy that we’d decided to go with the antibiotic because he was ripe for secondary bacterial infections like pneumonia at this point.

Now it all might be coincidence, but it helped. He perked up in a few hours on Friday, was eating a bit of kibble every three hours from 6:00 PM on through Saturday, and around midnight Sunday morning, he started drinking plain water on his own. Sunday, he drank and drank and drank, all day long, and by this morning, Monday Nov 12th, he attempted to eat some kibble out of the bowl on his own after I gave him his vitamin paste. (For high calorie vitamin paste, I use Richard’s Organic because it has taurine in it. If that’s not available, Nutrical works in a pinch but it has no taurine if they go off their food entirely for a few days.)

Sunday night was the first night he didn’t want to sleep with me in over a week, which was good because I’ve procured myself a nice head cold from being so run down from the stress and not sleeping that I needed a nice quite bed with nothing gurgling and snoring next to me to distract me from my own gurgling and snoring.

I think Moon will make a full recovery, but it’s scary to think how strong this virus can come on, and how sick they can actually get from it. I did a lot of wine drinking and a lot of crying. Now I have got to formulate a plan for next fall so I can head this heinous thing off before it gets out of hand:

  1. I will probably make sure I have the calming cookie food early and start feeding that to him when we open the windows for the first time in the early fall. Apparently, the feliaway isn’t enough. The crap prescription corn-based food makes him fat, so I will have to find a way to ration it so we get the same net effect.
  2. I will get the subq fluids as soon as/if he stops drinking. No wait and see days. The bag was $75.00 but at 100ccs per day, it lasts and saves the stress of trips to the office.
  3. I will probably get the antibiotic sooner, since it seems he turns the corners hard, and it’s going to hit him in the urinary tract as well. I don’t like giving antibiotics without knowing for sure, but if he is going to crash this fast, then it’s best to head pneumonia off before it can get a hold on the lungs.

I’m sure that Rupert carries the virus too, but even with his FIV, he was completely unaffected by anything aside from a few days minor annoyance when he couldn’t use the litter boxes in the den because I had Moon in there with the door closed so he could rest uninterrupted. On the bright side, Rupert likes the cookie food too, and he will steal it every opportunity he gets, so it can’t be left out unattended, otherwise Moon won’t get any of it. It won’t hurt him to eat a bit of it and will keep him calm too, which is good for his FIV, so if he thinks he’s getting special treats, then what’s the harm in letting him think that.

Now I need about ten days of sleep to recover my own damn self. I wonder how that cookie cereal food tastes with milk?

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In a Lightning Storm, Sheep Run through Barbed Wire

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I used to fear things. The lonesome wind come through the clapboards. Dry hillsides rustling. My own skin in the summer heat. Rattlers. Lurking. Abandoned coal pits.

Pa said I was afraid of desolation, but I didn’t know what he meant by that. How can you be afraid of something all around you been there since the day you were born?

I used to fear. Hard. But hard is what we had … and the stink of sheep, goats, some cattle and horses. I’ve seen my sister kicked, bucked, and bloodied more often than I care to remember. Mud in her hair. Booze on her breath. Blue-blackened skin. Used. Useless. Pa used to do the castrations himself. He learned the old-time way and used to use these fucking rubber bands, but he eventually said that the old-time way wasn’t the right way anymore, that it took too long, would oftentimes get infected. He feared infections, like the one he said my sister had, so he set about teaching me the right way.

I didn’t understand why we had to do it at all. It was bloody, and sometimes, the gonads were small, slippery like marbles, and you had to dig around in the sack with your fingers until you found the sinewy cord. Pa would say, “Keep digging,” and I’d cry and cry and cry because there was so much blood and I was afraid I’d never get it out from under my fingernails, but Pa would shush me and tell me that it’s good for them, and I’d ask why through a dirty fistful of tears while waiting for him to spit into the chicory and rub his chin for a spell before explaining, the way he does, that boys need it, makes them more polite. Something about hormones, he said. Maybe I was afraid of them, so I asked Ma about it while she was fixing the fried gonads for my supper plate, but she just shushed me too, wiped the grease on her apron, and said I was too young for talk about such things.

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I’m not too young. My breasts are coming in and I feel all funny. My sister said it’s normal. I’d get used to it. I go to high school next year. My sister talks about it all the time. Says high school boys have the hormones too. I asked my sister if boys were like the horses and the cattle. She said no. That they were like the mules, and I wondered if they stunk like them. She just smiled at me and scratched at her crotch, so I told her I was afraid of getting kicked, like she always did, but she shushed me too and said not to worry …

Told me that Pa was teaching me the right way.

Originally Published at Revolution John, December 18, 2014

I Haven’t Talked About The Noobs In A While…

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I know you’ve missed me talking about my cats’ constitutionals, so I’ll do that today because it’s good to chart the progress of feral cats becoming house cats for those who think it’s not possible.

Both boys had their veterinary checkups recently, and both are doing splendidly at almost 13 years old. Both are roughly the same weight at 13.9 for Moon and 13.1 for Rupert, which was surprising since Rupert just looks bigger because of his floof. Bloodwork came out normal for both, which means that Rupert’s FIV status is not affecting him at all at this point, though he may need to have a few more teeth removed next year because of the resorption. It’s a watch and see situation at this point, but I’ve been saving for it anyway.

Moon gets his annual hairball issues in the fall when his allergies act up and he grooms more than usual. The tough thing is that he hates every single hairball remedy we’ve tried, except one, and that has something in it that makes him itch more. It’s frustrating, but it passes. Food is another issue. If Young Again Pet Food goes out of business, we are done for. Their Mature, Zero Carb L.I.D. is the only food Moon can eat without itching to death or throwing up, except the Rayne kangaroo meat, which is too high carb for anything other than occasional use.

He’s also in semi-annual panic mode because we’ve been able to open the windows and the smell of other animals and cats just sends him spiraling into fight or flight, which means cystitis and missing the box with his pee. He’s always had issues with box orientation, meaning: he’s a lazy box user. We tried switching to the NVR Miss litterboxes to see if we could get him to walk in and situate himself properly so that his pee stayed in the box, but after two years of use, he couldn’t figure it out and just hangs his butt out the door resulting in pee and poop on the floor. He’s funny because he gets so proud of himself thinking he meticulously buried his business when it isn’t even in the box. He gets an A for effort, and we put doggy pee pads down until the cystitis passes in about 7-10 days. Calming chews and Feliaway fix the nervous problem, but they don’t fix his lazy problem. Most times, he doesn’t even attempt to bury his business either. I’m thankful we don’t have carpet, but even so, mopping the areas on my hands and knees twice a day is a joyless task. I’ve also been through just about every high-sided litterbox on the market just short of making my own. My last-ditch effort was to try the big & fat cat boxes on Jackson Galaxy’s website. The entry side is about 1 inch higher than the door side on all the others, and the box is loooong and wide. Rupert loves the extra space for pyramid building, and so far so good for Moon. For now.

It amazes me how different their personalities are and how they were shaped by their time as feral cats. Rupert must make sure his business is covered so no one notices it, and Moon is a dump and run. No, Moon isn’t shy, but he is a nervous, territorial cat, and Rupert is calm, non-confrontational, and painfully shy. Their personalities work well together. Rupert’s presence isn’t threatening to Moon, and if Moon gets annoying, which he does often, Rupert just leaves the room for a quiet space. Nervous cats and FIV positive cats need stress-free environments to feel safe and stay healthy. I’d love to rescue every cat I see, but after witnessing how they react to other cats in the garden tells me that it would just be recipe for disaster. I couldn’t put them through that considering the life they already survived. My need to help can be satisfied in a thousand other ways, sans bringing it into the house. When my heart tugs at me, I just look at that picture and remember how many years it took to get them there: 12 years to be exact.

Can’t Rain All the Time. (Yes, it feckin can.)

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And it has been for days now with flash flood warnings just about every day not to mention the tornado warning last night for just a few towns over in NJ. This was the worst summer on record in my life, and fall isn’t shaping up to be any better.

My two late start butterflies are getting antsy, and they’ve got a long trip ahead of them. Sadly, they may have to be in the house another day or two before we get weather that’s even remotely acceptable for them to head out.

Today I got both of them eating. They don’t seem to be taking too well to the asters I put in there, so I had to make up some recipe to see if they would at least take that. They need energy to get strong enough to fly properly, so after the first 24 hours out of the chrysalis, they need to eat.

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As you can see, this recipe I got from a butterfly farm really does the trick. Soaked cotton balls or cotton pads work best. Use a plate, not a bowl, to prevent drowning, and make sure they can get off the plate. Plates are slippery, so I use one of those mesh rubber jar opener things with holes. It doesn’t suck the juice out of the cotton, and it keeps them dry while giving them a grip. You can see the one on the left is actually drinking. The other one was taking a break. The weather is supposed to get better by Saturday, so as long as they are eating, they can stay in, if my cat leaves them alone.

Recipe:

1 heaping teaspoon of honey (don’t use sugar. something about crystals.)

1/2 glass of water (not tap water, yuck)

2-3 drops of soy sauce (for the salts)

Cotton balls or pads (soaked)

Mother of Parsley Worms

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I really need a shirt that says that since fall is upon us and it’s time for the Black Swallowtail caterpillars to feed and  subsequently make their chrysalis for overwintering. My parsley plant is covered with these little guys. They start out black with a white stripe (to mimic bird poop) but as they throw off their old clothes, they change colors, eventually becoming beautiful green, black, and white striped lovelies. Got a shot of one just after it had just thrown off its dirty clothes.

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I just put the entire pot of parsley into the net enclosure and supplement with store-bought parsley if need be, or the wild stuff I have growing all over the yard. The enclosure protects them from tachnid flies. Since these are the first butterflies we see in the spring, I want to help as many survive as I can. More little caterpillar feet to squee over, obviously.

A Harrowing Birth

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20180914_181225Maybe more so for me than for the butterfly.

I noticed that the chrysalis was starting to turn clear on Saturday morning, but in my attempt to move it to the birthing enclosure, it fell off the string. Thank goodness I had insurance with a bunch of towels in the enclosure, so it dropped onto something soft, but I had to get it rehung before it attempted to emerge. As you can see, this baby hung itself by a single thread of silk. It was bound to drop, and better it had done so before emergence because if the butterfly fell on its way out, that could result in damaged wings and a doomed butterfly. I am sure this happens in nature all the time, but not this time, not on my watch.

Thank goodness for Elmer’s Glue (which I probably should have used in the first place.) I managed to rehang it with glue and a bit of napkin so that the knot in the dental floss was attached to something more stable. Then I paced around for an hour waiting for the glue to dry, all the while whispering to the butterfly to stay put for just a few minutes longer. They need to hang in order to inflate their wings, otherwise, they are done for and can’t fly. 20180915_122903

After an hour the glue was strong enough to rehang the chrysalis, which I did, and I gave it some fake flowers to hang onto just in case. By the time we got back from our shopping trip, it was out. They need to relax in the enclosure for at least 24 hours, then if it’s sunny, you can release them. I have a recipe for food should they need to stay inside past 24 hours. Though I did put some fresh-cut Buddleia in there just in case. Sunday was a lovely sunny day, the first we have had in months, so after a bit of warming in the sun, it’ll be ready to head out on its way into the great wide yonder.

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I had ALL THE FEELS. It’s such a joyous thing to watch, though a little bit sad as they fly away because you know you won’t ever see them again. The whole thing amazes me so. When they are caterpillars, they don’t travel far from their birth. They eat the same thing all day every day, until one day, they know it’s time to go to sleep for a bit, throwing their skin off like a dirty old shirt. Then in those 14 days asleep, they completely change everything about their entire body, their entire being. How do they know where Mexico is? How do they know how to get there? How do they know what to eat? They’ve only ever eaten very specific leaves.

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It’s inspiring when you think about it. The possibility for change. The possibility to become something better than you were.

This has been a learning process for me since my getting involved in this was mere happenstance. I am perfecting my techniques for future years though (not just for monarchs, but any caterpillar I find.) I also spent the day yesterday digging new beds for more milkweed and other host plants not to mention that I get to watch 5 more do this, one of them might emerge today, and I am sure I will be awestruck and in tears each and every time.

Just When You Think You Can Relax…

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Mother nature can be pretty brutal. On Saturday, I awoke to find one of my monarch chrysalis had turned black. It had only been pupating for a week so that means the black death (NPV), which is a fairly nasty virus. Last year we lost a couple of caterpillars to it. It’s a naturally occurring virus that affects all caterpillars, so there really isn’t anything you can do about it aside from rinsing your milkweed in hydrogen peroxide and water before feeding.

Anyway, I had to remove it before it exploded all over the cage, along with disinfecting the cage, which means I had to move all the others as well.

As a first timer, I can say that it’s  nerve-wracking experience. I don’t think I took a breath until I had them all safety tied up. But I did it, without casualty thanks to many articles and several YouTube videos.

Then it started to rain. Then it got cold.

I was concerned since the habitat was in the garage. I wanted to bring them in, but the husband wasn’t thrilled with that idea. I did it anyway, at 5:30 in the morning so he couldn’t fight me about it. Then I went outside to check the waystation area we planted from seed in the fall. That area tends to flood a little bit (perfect for swamp milkweed but not for caterpillars on tiny plants.) Needless to say, I found 2 struggling caterpillars, so now they are inside as well.

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I am hoping the weather, the cold, and my moving them hasn’t traumatized them too much and that they survive. I have enough milkweed to feed them since they look like 4 or 5th instar already. Keep your fingers crossed that we don’t lose any more.

20180908_152739My hubs thinks I am a little caterpillar crazy ( I am. Look at all those cute little feet) but I only get this involved with the August/September eggs. Those are the last generation for the year and the generation that migrates to Mexico for the winter. They are also the ones most disadvantaged. The weather can turn any minute, as it did from 90 to 56 in 48 hours, and much of the milkweed is old, tired, moldy, and shitty tasting by this time of the year. When it’s going to seed, it ain’t worth eating. If they don’t have anything to eat, they starve. As a naturalist and an environmentalist, it’s something I can do. It may seem inconsequential, but the little things add up to big things when everyone does what they can.

And So, We Have Babies…

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Five actually, even though Miss Monarch laid about 10 eggs. One wandered off the other day and I thought I’d lost it to the wasps, but he reappeared this morning. The others are getting close to the change. Maybe another 8 days, so I wanted to make sure they were safe. I moved everyone to the enclosure and switched them over to native common milkweed because the leaves are bigger. 20180830_162049

One lady over at Monarch Watch calls them piggapillars, and now I know why. Apparently common milkweed tastes much better than the tropical stuff and has bigger leaves. They are mowing the shit down. I just collected a bag of leaves from the local park on Thursday and I am almost out, which means another trip to the park after work either today or tomorrow. (Getting your supply from a state park or nature preserve ensures that they have not been sprayed with poison of any kind.) It lasts about a week to ten days in the fridge, not that it’s going to last that long. If I had known it was caterpillar crack, I would have brought home a bigger bag.

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What I’m Reading Right Now…

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416OV052bpL._AC_US218_Just finished actually with this macabre little story collection, and by macabre, I mean suspenseful not full blown horrifying. I am a fan of the author: Handling the Undead is my all-time favorite zombie story, and Let the Right One In is right up there on my favorite vampire story list; that said, I felt pretty meh about most of the stories in this collection. I’m not much for monsters under the floorboards or in swimming pools or as an unknown force chasing people through the woods. I’m more a psychological horror girl, and there were a few in this collection that really worked for me. The Border was one because I love grim fairy tales about the persecution of those who are different. The reveal was surprising. Then there was Final Processing (sequel to Handling The Undead), which was stellar and very very frightening on so many levels, and lastly, Let The Old Dreams Die (sequel to Let the Right One In) was, well, it was lovely, almost awkwardly out of place as it was a dark romantic tale with only the idle mention of Oskar and Eli. I anticipate that vampire fans will be disappointed with that one. Basically, all the stories were good in their own way, but there was one that knocked the air out of my chest, and that was Equinox, which was pure brilliance in the way this story addressed the loneliness and longing of a wife and mother whose life had become a bit more than mundane. The thrill seeking. The desire to be someone else. There were scenes that made my skin prickle all over. The suffocation this woman feels is palpable, and her reaction to it at times is obscenely disturbing. This story is frightening in a way that is really difficult to describe, and the second person narration only adds squirm to the mix. I have to go back and read that one again.

No one knew if you had been dead from the beginning. They couldn’t even identify you from the remains. But there were mitigating circumstances. Many.
I am satisfied with my punishment.

– Lindqvist, John Ajvide. Let the Old Dreams Die: Stories (p. 100). St. Martin’s Press. Kindle Edition.