Friday, May 22, 2009

Pilling the Cat

Gazing Upon His Minions

"Who shall pill the cat?" - Aesop.

Okay, it's really "bell the cat", but we didn't do that until later in this story, so I thought "pilling the cat" was a clever play on words. Please forgive me, especially since we didn't really have to give Quint pills. Instead, we had to squirt a nasty-tasting antibiotic liquid into his mouth twice a day for two weeks. How do I know it was nasty tasting? Well, his reaction to it from the first time I administered it made that fact quite evident. He said "Yuk!!", and tried to shake the stuff out of his mouth, which he partially succeeded in doing, scattering little drops of the medicine all over the floor and all over me. It was great fun for both of us.

After that first dose, he was somewhat reluctant to receive any further doses, but, good natured guy that he is, he didn't actually run and hide when it was medicine time, he just moved away ten feet or so and made me go and pick him up. I tried doing the procedure on my lap thinking that he'd feel more secure that way. Once was enough for that method. After I stopped the bleeding from my leg, I tried to figure out a way to medicate him without either of us getting injured. What I needed was a corner that I could back him into that would still allow me to get at his mouth. Ahh, the bookshelf outside the kitchen door might be perfect. It was. Twice a day I would place his hindquarters gently, but firmly, into that corner with my left hand holding him by the scruff of the neck. With my right hand I opened up his lower jaw and squirted in the liquid, holding him in place until some of it had trickled down his throat and he had calmed down a bit. Immediately thereafter I gave him a couple of his favorite kitty treats and lots of verbal praise and petting. It worked. It wasn't pleasant for either of us, but I managed to survive with only minor scratches on my hand and Quint didn't completely stop liking me. It could have been a lot worse.

I think part of what made the process relatively easy was that I had determined from the very beginning to get Quint accustomed to being handled. Every day I would pick him up, pet him, rub my fingers over his teeth and gums and touch his paws. I hoped that doing this while he was young would make it possible to take better care of him when he got older. If he was going to be "set in his ways", I want his "ways" to be open to any kind of handling that might be needed. I had learned my lessons on cat handling the hard way from Jasmine.

Jasmine came to us when she was five years old and by then she already had set ways of dealing with people handling her. Mostly, she would rather not have been handled at all. Sure, she would sit in your lap and allow you to brush her. Her and I actually had a routine where whenever I was sitting at my place at the dining room table she would hop up on my lap and demand that I brush her. As long as it was her choice to be on your lap or held in your arms, she was okay. As soon as she suspected that she was being restrained in any way, she would do everything in her power and use every weapon in her arsenal, to get away. I tried to pill Jasmine on several separate occasions while she was with us. Only the first time was ever successful. After that, she knew when you had a pill in your hand and she would not allow it. Even when both Carol and I tried to pill her as a team, with one of us holding her and the other administering the pill, she would slash and bite her way to freedom. We had to resort to hiding the medicines in her favorite foods.

Having learned what happens when a cat is not made comfortable with lots of handling, I wanted to have no such problems with Quint. So, I petted him and poked at him and prodded him and got him used to being handled. I recommend doing so to anyone with a kitten. It'll make your lives so much easier on down the road.

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