How to Drug a Neurotic Cat
My cat Ingrid thinks everyone is trying to murder her. Especially me. She won't let me brush her or cut her claws. She barely lets me pick her up! So what to do when she needs medicine? She won't let me rub pain cream in her ear. I can't smell it, but she can! And she runs like a bat out of hell when she does, hissing at me all the way. Drops in her food? She'd rather starve. So of course she won't take pills. Can you imagine when the vet told me she had kidney disease and I had to start giving her intravenous fluids? I knew there was no way she'd let me do that. I cried because I believed she was doomed.
The vet suggested I drug her with Gabapentin. I tried all kinds of methods to do that, but with no luck. She's a stubborn brat and a finicky eater. But one thing she LOVES is treats. So when I heard that Gabapentin comes in "treat" form, I rejoiced! But - not so fast, sucka. She wouldn't eat them either!
More tears ensued and then I got back to the drawing board. First I tried crumbling them into her food. Nope. Then I tried hiding them in a pill pocket. Nope. But doing that I realized how play-doh-like Pill Pockets are... and I had a stroke of genius. I crumbled the Gabapentin treats on to the table, then took a piece of Pill Pocket and ground it into the crumbles, forming a drug infused putty. Then I attached it to a Temptations treat - EUREKA! She ate it!!! And now every morning I wake up to her sitting at my bed, waiting for her dose! It's extra great because when she is drugged she's so malleable. I can brush her, cut her claws, and most importantly, I can give her the fluids!
Below are step-by-step photos illustrating the process :
Love Story: A Spinster & Her Cat
This blog will be a combo platter of posts about my cool cat Ingrid (who is a comic genius) and my pet portraits, (which are also super cool). Not all the posts will be this long. I got sh*t to do!
Here is a picture of Ingrid and Me together:
Ingrid is very photogenic and loves to get her picture taken. I think she was a super model in a past life because as soon as I start to take photos, she starts to strike a pose. I know many of my clients have great difficulty getting a good photo of their pet to give me for reference. That is never a problem with this little furry fool. Look at that face!
All About Ingrid
Ingrid is 13 years old. I've only had her for about 16 months. Here's what I know about her back story: She was with the same mommy for 11 years. Then the mommy got preggers and got rid of Ingrid. (Or, Corona, as was her name at the time) Now, I am not sure whether she gave her up because she didn't want to deal with kitty litter as a pregnant woman, or if she had the baby and Ingrid/Corona didn't like the kid. Either way, Ingrid was out on her ass. I can't imagine how hard it must have been to get give away a cat you've had for that long. Especially and special one like Ingrid. It must have been awful for everyone!
Anyway, Ingrid was was tossed from one shelter to another. One family adopted her, but she bit the daughter so the dad made her be an outdoor cat! She ended up getting a flea infestation, was allergic to flea bites, so lost most of her fur. That's when they returned her to the shelter. (Her fear of feet and men leads me to suspect that the father might have kicked her or something. To this day she still attacks my legs regularly -- and not in a playful way! In a "fighting for my life!" way)
After a year of being moved around she ended up in a foster home with a wonderful young woman named Jaide Eckersley, who nursed her back to health! Jaide is a wonderful young woman, it was she who changed Ingrid's name from Corona to Fergie. Jaide is British, so i forgive her. When I got Ingrid, her fur was all grown back - tho still not super fluffy, like it is now. After Jaide, Ingrid/Fergie was in an emergency temporary foster home. There were other cats there, so she hid in the bathroom the entire time. (She doesn't play well with others) That's when I heard about her. It was Christmas Day and I was all alone with a terrible flu and quite depressed. My mother had died the year before, so I was no longer going home to Toronto for the holidays. But I had no traditions in SF because I was never here in December. I had been looking for a cat, but in my grief I was not good at doing much. I'd lost my job the same time my mom died. When I was home to go through her things I tore the meniscus in both my knees, which was the last straw. I googled it. They compared the pain to childbirth. The difference being childbirth ends after a day or two, and then you have a baby. All
I had was excruciating non-stop pain and 8 months of physical therapy. Oh, and a groovy cane that was a total guy-magnet. Seriously, I met so many old men! And old women. It's like a secret Cane Club. It's actually kinda dope. Also, people gave me their seat on the bus. And I got to pre-board on planes. I miss my cane!
Where was I?
Oh yeah, I was a mess. and I was scrolling through Facebook, like you do, and I saw a post by Give Me Shelter Cat Rescue about a senior Siberian female desperate for a home. Did I mention that
I wanted a senior Siberian female?!?! Siberians are hard to find, unless you want to buy a kitten from a breeder for $2000. See, Siberians are pretty much hypo-allergenic, and I am deathly allergic to cats. Females are thought to have less allergens. And Seniors? Well, I'm a sucker for old people. In college
I worked at a retirement home and a nursing home, and I currently volunteer at a "Warm-Line" for seniors. It's kinda my thing. If I weren't an artist, I would have studied in geriatrics. But more than that, I knew that most people don't want senior cats, and that makes me want them even more, Bleeding Heart Liberal that I am.
All About Anita
Now is where I should tell you my backstory: I've always been a cat lady. I grew up with a black cat named Snoopy (we were an ironic family) I was so into animals my goal was to become a vet. Which, admittedly, is not uncommon for little girls. I also wanted to be a tv star and a singer. At puberty I developed an allergy to Snoopy. The whites of my eyes would turn bright red, my lids would puff up, I'd get itchy rashes on my face, the whole deal. That didn't stop me from playing with him. Not even when the scratches on my arms swelled up like 2nd degree burns. But as I grew up, my allergies worsened, and in adulthood I learned to stay away from cats completely.
It was the tragedy of my life.
I truly believed I would never be able to have a cat. As a Childless Spinster, that's a pretty big blow.
I believed this not just because of my allergies, but also because I live in a rent-controlled apartment in San Francisco that doesn't allow pets. (ie. I am going to grow old and die here) In recent years, maybe due to hormonal changes due to perimenopause, I was noticing that my allergies were less severe. I could stay at a home with a cat and be ok with lots of pills and hand washing. Then my therapist suggested that I could by-pass the no-pets rule with a letter from him saying I needed a therapy animal for my depression! I couldn't believe it! Suddenly I could have a cat! It was a dream
I thought could never come true! Some people dream about a wedding or a baby or being a movie star... I dreamt of having a cat. When I had anxiety I would close my eyes and imagine a cat sleeping on my chest. So, like... This was huge!
But, it was also terrifying. I'd never taken care of anything myself. I could barely take care of myself. I'd been in a severe clinical depression since my mother had died, and my home looked like a bomb hit. I was not sleeping or eating right. I feared that I would neglect the poor cat, or that my apartment would turn into a fur covered hoarders-house with cat feces under the couch. I was afraid my allergies would end up being too bad and I'd have to give the cat back. People thought I was being ridiculous, but I was seriously worried!
There I was, on Christmas Day, sick as a dog, coughing and stuffed up and kleenex every where and I saw Ingrid ("Fergie") on Facebook and, without even thinking about it, I just typed "I will take her".
Alarms were going off in my head! What did I just commit to??!! I freaked out, but I called some friends and they were all so excited for me that I started getting happy. Then I looked at the post again and realized it was a week old and several people already claimed her before me. I was heart broken. I'm sure I cried. (But between the grief/depression/flu I cried a lot back then). But here's a twist you totally saw coming: Turns out, everyone who wanted her either had kids or other cats! Ingrid/Fergie hates those things! So, being a Childless Spinster finally payed off - she was mine!!!!
Bringing Home My Best Friend
I needed a couple of days to prepare for her, tidy the post-apocalyptic nightmare that was my apartment, and also recover a bit from the flu. During that time I ruminated on a name for her. I'd had several picked out. The front-runner was Betty Rubble. Second Place was Edna Krabappel. (I'm an Animator by profession) But here's the thing... Although Ingrid's original mommy had named her "Corona", I did not know that at the time. I thought her name for the past 12 years had been Fergie (YECH!) (I don't hate Sarah Ferguson, I just hate that name!) I felt that if she had been called Fergie for the past 12 years (which she hadn't) it would be traumatic to change it! So i tried to think of a name that rhymed with Fergie. I went thru the alphabet, and the only word that was somewhat acceptable was "Bergie". I love old movies. So I settled on the name Ingrid Bergman. Added bonus: I grew up in a German family, so it was also a nod to my dearly departed parents. Perfect. And you know what? She is such an Ingrid! She is a cranky,dramatic, aging diva if I've ever seen one. (which I do, every time I look in the mirror, okurr?)
As you can imagine, when I finally had a cat in the carrier I'd bought months before, and she was sitting at my feet in my friend's car on the way home to our new life together -- I bawled. I bawled so much! I'm sure my friend thought it was weird, she doesn't know that emotional side of me. It was awkward, but i didn't care. It was one of the realest moments of my life. I wished my parents were alive to tell them. They were both silly-billy cat people. I could just hear my mother asking me, in her thick German accent: "And how is Her Majesty today?" It was such a bittersweet moment. I couldn't believe it! The thing is, I had no idea whether this cat was nice or funny or mean or cuddly. I took her sight-unseen. I met the shelter rep, Maria Conlon, at a pet store and we made the transaction. I only saw Ingrid for a split second when we transferred her from Maria's carrier to mine.
When I brought her home she was howling and crying and hissing. I put her in my bedroom (which immediately became her bedroom). I made sure she had a bed, food and water, and a litter box in there. Then I left her alone to get her bearings. I was ready to wait a long time for her to come out. I was warned that it might take several days for her to come around. After about 2 minutes she came out, inspected every room in the apartment to make sure there were no other cats, and then came to me and sat on my lap! I couldn't believe it!
She was traumatized, though, and over the first 8 months I got hissed at a lot and scratched and bit a lot... but I also got so much love! So many cuddles! I was patient with her, and eventually she felt safe. Now she rarely bites. She still hisses at me, but I read that some cats use hissing as part of their language. This girl loves to talk! She's a Siberian mix, and they are very vocal. We have long conversations all the time. I am not remotely allergic to her! I can rub my face in her belly with no repercussions, and I do daily! She's hilarious and kitten-like. She loves to play and cuddle. She's the softest thing I've ever touched. She still bites me sometimes, but not too often. I have developed some cat-like reflexes of my own.
When my therapist wrote that letter saying she was a "therapy" animal, I used to make "air quotes" when I said it out loud. It was a scam! A swindle! A sham! But it wasn't. She is the best therapy in the world. She is just what the doctor ordered. My depression is now almost completely gone. Having something to love and care for (that is actually super easy to care for) is great cure for what ails ya.
Turns out, I'm a great cat mom. I actually vacuum now. She gets fed like clock work (I set my phone alarm) and I clean her litter box at least once a day. She has kidney disease, so I have to give her subcutaneous fluids using an IV. She is so high strung that I have to drug her first. I take the Gabapentin "treats" and crumble them up. Then I take a hunk of Greenies Pill Pockets, which have the consistency of play dough, and mash it into the crumbles. Then I form a small ball of this concoction and attach it to a Treat. Maybe I'll do a step-by-step in a later post. Anyway, after I feed her the dose, I have to wait a few hours for it to hit her. She wobbles around like she's drunk, and she eats like a stoner with munchies. But she lets me put the needle in and sits quietly while I sing to her for five minutes. After she has the fluids she has this hump on her back like a camel! It's so funny. Poor thing.
All of this means I can never go on a trip more that a long weekend because I wouldn't ask any
of my friends to do all that hassle and risk getting shredded. But, you know, when you have a child you have to make sacrifices. She's worth it.
Here is a pic of her doing her "Please pet me" sign language. She's the best!!
Anita Drieseberg is an Illustrator, Animator, Fine Artist, Writer and Comedian who lives in San Francisco with her Magical Cat, Ingrid.