Tag Archives: End of Life Pet Care

Whoa! Coolidge is eating!

There aren’t a lot of things more horrible than watching a beloved companion starve.

Coolidge pretty much quit eating two days ago. I began giving him sugar water from a syringe. He took it well, but it didn’t get him back to eating his food. This morning I diluted some of his special renal diet soft food with some water and tried to get it into a syringe. The uptake hole was too small to draw much, but what he got in his mouth he took with the same relish as the sugar water.

I dumped the remaining tinned food, along with a fair amount of water, into my Kitchen Aid’s bowl, and used the whipping attachment to make a thin slurry the syringe could draw. I fed Coolidge the slurry and he downed what didn’t dribble down his chin with increasing gusto. Oh God, my cat was never inappetent! He just didn’t have the strength to stand over his bowl and eat!

It’s not an easy maneuver to syringe feed a cat while sitting in a chair, and it’s hard on my back, sitting on the floor with Coolidge in my lap while I draw his life-sustaining food into the syringe and slowly express the slurry into his mouth. His acceptance is my magnificent reward. We knew it was going to be tough terrain along this journey—which was, after all, assigned to us.

Our vet called to check on how Coolidge is doing. We are blessed to have a vet who is so thorough, comprehensive, earnestly interested in Coolidge, and encouraging to work with. I presented some concerns about Coolidge’s ability to stand and walk capably, his receding desire to eat a sustaining amount, and urinary and bowel retentiveness. Our vet thinks these likely indicate a Vitamin-B deficiency. My syringe-habituated hands will give Coolidge a new weekly injection.

Some might consider these things heroic end-of-life measures, but I have come to see that you cannot be your cat’s hero, unless your cat is a hero.

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Fallout: Rigor Exacts Rigor

End of life care for a companion animal is always rigorous. Everything is hard right now. Taking care of my 17-year old, very ill cat, knowing he will never improve until the final resurrection, is hard.

I’m not heroic. I have multiple energy-diminishing conditions. I need nine hours of sleep at night, and I’m getting up with Coolidge, sometimes for one to three hours, often twice in a night, because I can’t bear to leave him alone. Or he dropped a bit of food in his water and declared it disgusting, and bellows his need for fresh water, several times a night. But those were the good nights: those were the nights he was still eating.

Now Inappetence wields its sword, advancing on my cat’s life. I confront the foe, unarmed except for some sugar-water solution. “Be gone, fiend!” I spritz some sugar water on my cat’s soft food. He is not impressed. He lies on his towel next to his living-room water bowl, guarding it with his arms. Coolidge, like galactic hitchhiker Arthur Dent, is very proprietorial about his towel. He has never had one before.

Things that go bump by day and by night are lack of sleep, grief over the inevitable coming end, not far off, of a longtime companion under my limited protection; frustration with my own limits, and fielding blind good will in the form of cheery optimism, sent by dear people afflicted with the cheery optimism gene. I wish there were a mutagen readily available, but the only known remedy is disciplined grace—on my part, not theirs. Why should they not hope for the best? The clinical realities are my problem. Theirs is to be a friend to me, and that is certainly more than enough of a load.

I proceed through my normal homekeeping routine, but now I stretch it out so that it takes longer. I take a lot of timeouts to tend to Coolidge’s details: clean-up, cajoling to eat, more clean-up, administering medications, more clean-up, consulting with my husband, our vet, etc. With proper pacing, I can work in an adequate spin on my stationary bike, write something, shoot some photos, and do anything else to avoid reading. Reading is exhausting and frustrating right now; the mental gauze of fatigue deploys its allies, depression and anxiety, making it too hard to track anything worth reading.

Only God’s merciful grace has enabled me to accept these days with my sense of purpose intact and the ability to press on; and it will be by God’s abiding grace alone that I will be appointed the strength to continue for the unknown number of days ahead.

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Filed under Action & Being, Animals