The Worst Month of the Year (So Far…)

This is a long post, for which I make no apologies.

I’ve been very absent from this blog the last few weeks – apologies to regular readers! With the current shenanigans surrounding CV-19 I’d planned to write a regular blog at least four times a week to cover what’s going on in this part of the world (southern Tasmania/Hobart region).

Unfortunately there was a big spanner thrown in the works by the cat that’s been with us a year. We named him Nekomata for one of the Japanese cat demons (good choice!) and being Australians who shorten everything, just call him Neko. You can read about how he came to own us here.

Neko was nowhere to be found one afternoon when we went down to feed him and the rest of the menagerie. I eventually found him perched on a pile of straw mulch that he likes to sun himself on – and he looked terrible. We gently picked him up and took him inside where we examined him quite thoroughly for visible wounds, gently massaged legs, hips, spine and shoulders but nothing seemed out of place or damaged. But he wouldn’t eat and barely made eye contact with us. We put it down to shock.

The next morning we knew something was seriously wrong. Ever since he came into the household, we’ve been slowly encouraging Neko to become an indoor cat and considering he’s 8 years old, we think it’s been a big success to get him to overnight indoors. This means a regular dawn alarm clock of cat opera (often on the pillow, right next to an ear!) but it’s worth it for his improved well being – not to mention the health of the local wildlife! But this morning there was no chorus of “Mother I’m starving, feed me now!”to start the day. I eventually found him under the bed, looking even worse than the previous evening.

His food hadn’t been touched and his litter tray unused, which meant a trip to the vet immediately. As is always the way with these emergencies, this was Easter Sunday and our only option for treatment the after hours clinic. Yes, incredibly expensive but a brilliant service we’d used in the past for sick rabbits. They were run off their feet and with Covid-19 lockdown orders in place, no owners were allowed into the facility with their pets and only one person could hand the animal over to a masked vet nurse in the outdoor car park area.

It was a long wait.

Neko had a lump under his tongue and the vet had given him a shot of antibiotics but it would require further investigation after a course of tablets to ensure no infection. It might be a wound, it might be a cancerous growth but the vet simply couldn’t tell without further testing. In the meantime, we had to give him water via a syringe feeder which he couldn’t swallow – so there was no way we could get him to take the tablets. Again he wouldn’t eat or use his litter box.

Poor Neko was obviously becoming severely dehydrated (a surprisingly rapid path to death for small animals) so it was back to the after hours vet on Easter Monday. This time we insisted he be given hydration via a drip to at least ensure he survived the next couple of days. He seemed a little brighter but still didn’t eat, wasn’t cleaning himself and was obviously losing condition very rapidly.

Finally the following day, we got in to see our regular vet, Dr Moira at The Cat Clinic in Hobart. We came home with emergency care food, some serious feline painkillers, liquid antibiotics and a very stoned and tripped out cat! It seems Neko had been in a fight, and taken a claw in the mouth that ripped gum away from bone along one side of his lower jaw. He was down to 4.2 kg, a loss of around 800 g. She could see no indications of a cancerous lump but there was a possibility that he’d need corrective surgery to reattach the gum. Given his poor condition, we needed to get him through the course of antibiotics and get his condition back up or he wouldn’t survive the trauma of surgery.

It was slow going to start with and various setbacks but the moment we knew we’d turned the corner was when he started to eat and purr again, even if he did drool out of one side of his face in the process. The other big positive was when he began grooming himself again – Neko really was starting to smell like an old man cat and I think even he found it offensive!

Two more visits to Dr Moira and the gum had reattached, so no need for surgery – hooray! His weight is still under 5 kg but only just and he’s back to eating everything that’s put in front of him and demanding more five minutes later. We have to go for another weigh in soon and I’m confident we can have him back up to his optimal weight by then. The other thing that’s been gratifying is that he’s now only outside with me in the mornings, while I feed the other animals and potter around the yard.

Neko’s become a very smoochy house cat who’s trained the humans into looking after him 24/7 and taught them to treasure the love of a little stray cat. I think he chose his humans pretty well, though I don’t want a month like the last one if it’s all the same to you.

And I don’t know if I’ll ever develop a taste for cat opera!

Skinny but on the road to recovery