Posted by: jevcat | May 6, 2010

Tabby Continued

I sing of extraordinary courage, of desperate struggle, valiant defiance, and patient endurance, a noble battle against great odds.  I refer, of course, to human efforts to administer medication to cats.

The cat at the center of this tale is a small, grey tabby of somewhat advanced years named Tabitha.  Early in life, Tabitha and a companion were abandoned when their people moved and left them behind.  They were found a week or so later when the landlord showed the apartment to prospective tenants, starving but still alive, probably having gone through more than one of their nine lives, and wound up at a local vet, where one was adopted by a stranger and one by a dear friend of mine.

Gradually, my friend became aware that not only did Tabitha not come to the door when she arrived home or come when called (not that unusual for a cat), but you could walk right up to her when she was asleep and she only woke when touched – and that with a start:  she was deaf.

Visiting and listening to my friend joke about Tabitha being awkward for a cat, I observed her cautiously move across the room, stopping at a chair to put first one paw up then another, feeling the seat before jumping onto it, repeating the procedure before then jumping onto the table next to it.

I turned to my friend and said, “You know, I think she’s blind, too.  So we watched her that evening navigating the room with neck out-stretched, nose twitching, head scanning side-to-side – you could almost see her squint.  Her method was so similar to the cartoon character that we nick-named her “Miss Magoo.”

There is nothing wrong with her sense of smell, however, and, perhaps because of the starving time, she is almost always hungry.  Any human meal at my friend’s home is punctuated by Tabitha’s very individual hoarse meow, demanding to participate, and, if one doesn’t watch, she will find her way onto the table.

With it all, she’s lived a happy life, sleeping on my friend’s pillow and eating separately in the bedroom to minimize bullying from the other cats in the household.  Recently, however, she was diagnosed with an inoperable abdominal tumor pressing on the colon and must be dosed with a laxative daily to ease the elimination process.  A liquid with special squirt delivery was prescribed and, at first, things went well.  But when the time came for renewal, the pharmacy was out and a pill was substituted while they awaited a re-order.

The next afternoon, I received an SOS call from my friend.  She had tried using little (supposedly) tasty pockets for giving cats pills, hiding the pill in food, and even, most disastrously, grinding it up and attempting to administer it in similar fashion to the original.  That resulted, as had been my own experience attempting to give liquid medication to my marmalade tabby, Ozzie, in an exploding bundle of fur, foaming at the mouth like a rabid dog.  I promised to help, noting “At least she’ll be easier to sneak up on than most cats.”

So, after work at my temporary freelance job, I trudged up the hill to assist in pill-giving.  And we tried.  I held Tabitha, by the scruff of the neck while wrapping an arm around her rear end and back paws to keep those still, tilted her head back, slid my thumb into the side of her mouth to open it, and my friend popped the pill in blew in Tabitha’s face (a trick I learned from a vet meant to trigger a swallow reflex; it works for the vet).  We held her mouth closed and waited.  Finally, I told my friend to get some food as a treat for her and give something to ensure the pill moved down the system.  She brought a spoonful, held it front of the cat’s nose, which twitched.  We let her go … and she spat out the pill and licked the spoon with the food.

We reversed positions and tried again, this time with my friend holding Tabitha’s front paws to keep them from scratching and me stroking Tabitha’s neck until I felt her swallow.  We let her go … and she spat out the pill.  How is it possible a cat can swallow and still have the pill in her mouth?

We tried again, this time keeping her head tilted until she swallowed … and spat out the pill.  And again.  Over time, the outside shell of the pill wore off, it changing from cheerful orange to yellowish brown, and the pill itself got progressively smaller, soggier, and slimier.  Tabitha, stuck on a towel on the table, couldn’t easily escape and endured our efforts with patience, a reproachful expression, and an implacable refusal to swallow the pill.

Scratched, punctured, and breathing hard, my friend and I stood back, leaning against the kitchen wall, looking at each other.  She noted the condition of the pill.  I noted that its size meant Tabitha had to have gotten some of it.  We were silent a minute.  “Put some olive oil in her food,” I said.  “Great idea!” she said.  We crossed our fingers the pharmacy would have the regular medication back in stock the next day and retired from the field to tend to our wounds.  Left to herself, Tabitha found the chair and did the same – the only wound in her case, of course, being to her catly dignity.  I believe she will recuperate before we will.


  1. Never underestimate the power of the Feline Will. But you know that…

  2. I laughed out loud…only because I’ve been there so many times!

    • I know, every cat person has. Alas, the ending here is sad. Even with the medication, the treatment strategy didn’t work, and I went with my friend Ellen night before last to have Tabitha put to sleep.

  3. Aw, this was an exceptionally nice post. Finding the time and
    actual effort to generate a top notch article… but what can I
    say… I hesitate a lot and don’t seem to get anything done.

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