Le Roi progresse: vive Le Roi!

Louis Catorze had his follow-up with the vet on Friday, and she was pleased to see that he has stopped attacking his tail. The tenderness and scabs have gone, and the tail is only looking moderately freakish now.

We are to keep up with the Gabapentin for at least a couple more months – he’s been on 5 pills a day for a week or so, as 4 didn’t quite seem to be keeping the tail-chasing under control – and part of the “aggressive treatment” stipulated by the specialist includes continuing the steroid shots alongside the pills, so Louis Catorze had one of those, too. It seems that a “more is more” approach is preferable and that, if in doubt, we’re to be heavy-handed with the treatment; if symptoms creep back, there is apparently a chance that the sensitivity could spread to other parts of the tail and even up the spine. And we definitely don’t want that.

Because Le Roi has been such a good boy without Le Cône – we even got away with it one day when he gave us both the slip and was unCôned and on the rampage for 12 whole hours – he is now allowed to be without it when we’re with him. But, the minute he’s unsupervised, it’s back on. I have been chided by people in the past for Côning him, on the grounds that it stresses him out, but … Cône stress or a chewed, bleeding tail? Had you seen the latter (photo too ugly to post here) or heard his pitiful cries of pain, believe me, you would choose Le Cône, too.

Although the appointment went well, we came away with one piece of sad news: the vet is leaving the practice to do voluntary work (probably with nicer and more grateful animals) in the Caribbean and to travel around Central America. She has lots of great colleagues who have been wonderful to Louis Catorze, but she knows him best and was our favourite. We have a couple of weeks to plan a leaving present for her; Cat Daddy suggested slipping Catorze into her backpack as a surprise (“There will barely be any extra weight”), but I was thinking more along the lines of some Sun King merchandise. Nothing says “Au revoir et bonne chance” quite like a t-shirt or sweatshirt bearing his face, as a reminder of the yowls, hisses and kicks that the poor vet has endured at the paws of her patient préféré.

The only question now is which of my 1,423 Roi photos to choose. I rather like this one:

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Le cheval de Troie

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On Saturday I was caught unpacking the 2 packs of jambon de Bayonne that I’d secretly ordered from Ocado to give Louis Catorze a bit of variety in his Trojan Horse canapés. Cat Daddy busted me before I could stuff them into the back of the fridge, and said, “You’d better not tell me those are for HIM.” So I remained silent and didn’t tell him.

We are still in disbelief that the torturous days of the Greco-Roman pilling are behind us. We feel so much more relaxed, not just about the dosing itself but about the prospect of not being around for a dose or two and leaving someone else temporarily in charge. Much as Houseguest Matt and Oscar the dog’s folks love Catorze, it just wouldn’t be fair asking them to experience the brute force method. Whereas absolutely anyone could administer the pills via the Trojan Horse method – yes, it’s THAT easy.

“The only minor awkwardness,” said Cat Daddy, “is going to be telling potential cat sitters that we have a preference for using jambon de Bayonne over prosciutto di Parma because our cat is French. But you can tell them that bit.”

There is, however, a technique to it. Firstly, Catorze has to be a little bit hungry in order to guarantee success, so we can no longer leave his biscuits out for him to graze all day. The wrapped-up pill parcels have to be as small as possible. And the meat has to be pressed tightly around the pill – rather like hand-made ravioli – to prevent it from unrolling as he eats. It also helps to know the consistency of different cured meats: supermarket prosciutto sticks together better but it’s stringier, whereas jambon de Bayonne needs firmer pressing to make it stick but it’s easier to peel off a nice, neat piece that gives decent coverage.

Once these elements are mastered, you will literally have the little sod eating out of your hand.

I haven’t yet experimented with jamón Ibérico to ascertain its suitability for the Trojan Horse method, but I will do so soon. Nothing is too good for a sickly Sun King – not even acorn-fed, free-range, organic piggies at £21 per 100g.

Un voyage de mille kilomètres commence par un seul pas

img_8495We still feel very positive and optimistic after the feedback from the Royal Veterinary College. However, the words “We need to treat this quite aggressively” – which is what we were told on Friday – are still ringing in my ears, as are the words of one of the other vets at the practice, who told Cat Daddy on the phone that treating this condition would be “a hard slog”.

Feline hyperesthesia is a very rare and complex thing indeed. Our good friend Google will give you plenty of information about it but, to save you some tapping and scrolling, here it is in a nutshell:

– Prevention: not known
– Causes: not known
– Main symptoms*: irritated skin; eyeing tail warily as if it were an alien being; over-grooming or scratching of tail & lower body; hissing or yowling at tail; attacking tail; appearing glassy-eyed and in a trance; touch-sensitive flesh that quivers on contact, which gives it its nickname of “rolling skin syndrome” (although, interestingly, Louis Catorze has never displayed this symptom, which was why we initially didn’t think he had the condition)
– Testing: none
– Cure: none
– Treatment: usually bombardment by anti-anxiety and/or neurological drugs and/or, in extreme cases, amputation of the tail

(*Obviously, if your cat is displaying these, or other, symptoms, please don’t make any assumptions based on my word: SEE SOMEONE WHO IS QUALIFIED. I am neither a vet nor an animal behaviourist, and I can only give anecdotal advice.)

The next step for Louis Catorze is to continue on the Gabapentin, varying the dose until we hit upon the magical level that completely stops him from attacking his tail. Then, after a few months on that level, we will gradually try to wean him off.

This means that, for the foreseeable future, at least, extended holidays away won’t be possible, as we will need to be home to monitor him and make sure his routine isn’t too disrupted. But, given that my favourite place to be is Le Château, and my favourite people with whom to spend time are Cat Daddy and Le Roi, this shouldn’t be too much of a hardship.

We knew from the start that we had a special boy, and knowing that he’s one in several thousand makes me love the little sod even more.

Statement from Cat Daddy: “I think he’s milking it a bit.”

Eureka!

Earlier this week the vet sent Louis Catorze’s dossier to a neurological specialist at the Royal Veterinary College, and they are highly suspicious that he is displaying signs of feline hyperesthesia. Of the 7,000 animals that they see every year only 4 cats have this condition, so to know that our boy is one of the 4 is shocking yet somehow not surprising.

Cat Daddy and I were actually delighted upon learning the news, which may seem inappropriate for such a rare and complicated condition with no official test or cure, but, to be honest, it was a relief just to have an answer. After 2 and a half years of red herrings, blind alleys and inconclusive test results, we feel fortunate to have a starting point.

We have just been back to the vet for the full debrief and it looks as if the next few weeks are going to be hard, mainly because the specialist’s instructions are for Catorze to be Côned very strictly: we’re talking almost 24 hours a day, with Cône-free time only allowed if he is eating or drinking under supervision or if he is on our laps. (He has rediscovered his tail again lately and, unfortunately, the longer it takes to heal, the more his neurological condition will cause it to send “Viens m’attaquer!” signals to his brain.)

In the light of this recent diagnosis we are now NOT to stop the Gabapentin, but to continue with it at the higher dose of 4 x 25mg pills per day, and this may be given either separately in 4 doses or 2 in the morning, 1 after work and 1 before bed. It’s been a few days since we started to deploy the prosciutto-wrapped pills – which Cat Daddy has, rather brilliantly, collectively nicknamed “The Trojan Horse” – and what a stroke of luck that Louis Catorze has bouffed virtually every single one. You cannot imagine how much easier our lives are because of this.

Once again, thank you to everyone who has supported us to this point. Despite everything, we still feel very lucky, and we will keep you updated in the hope that our experience may help others.

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J’ai 99 problèmes mais un cône n’en fait pas partie

Louis Catorze has been doing so much better this week.

On Monday morning he managed to escape outside without his Cône – despite the cat flap being both locked and physically barricaded and all windows being shut – and he hid in the cat flap tunnel for 15 minutes whilst a frantic, late-for-work Cat Daddy hunted for him. Whilst this was incredibly annoying, when Louis Catorze behaves like a salaud sournois it usually means he is feeling good.

We have progressively been allowing him more and more extended Cône-free time whilst we’re home, which, in itself, has been massive progress. However, yesterday he had his first full day and night sans Cône, and I am delighted to report that he hasn’t attacked his tail once since Saturday night. This has meant that we’re now able to remove Le Cône completely and allow him free access to the cat flap again.

There are still moments when he eyes his tail distrustfully, as if to say, “Excuse-moi? What ARE you?” and, occasionally, he taps it curiously. But then he loses interest and leaves it alone.

We are due to see the vet on Friday, when we will stop the Gabapentin – as per her instructions – so that we can ascertain whether it’s that or the steroid shot that has brought about his dramatic improvement. I’m terrified of relinquishing a system that seems to be working for him, but I understand why we need to know.

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L’amuse-bouche

As you are aware, the pilling has been going excruciatingly badly, with Louis Catorze becoming more and more adept at spitting out, clamping his jaws shut or being a menace in some other violent way.

Many people have suggested hiding the Gabapentin in food, but Louis Catorze doesn’t really like food – he can even take or leave Dreamies – so this wouldn’t be tempting enough. But, yesterday, I remembered that he was quite fond of the jamón Ibérico that Oscar the dog’s folks brought for us from their holiday. We haven’t given him any since, so it may have been a one-off fluke but … qui ose gagne, oui?

Cat Daddy pulled a face when I suggested wrapping a pill in jamón Ibérico. “What makes you think that would work? We’ve never given him jamón Ibérico, ever.”

Oh. Oops.

After the inevitable lecture I pleaded with him to at least try it, reminding him that a small spend versus thrice-daily torment was surely worth a punt. So off he went to the supermarket for the French equivalent, which is jambon de Bayonne, but there wasn’t any so he had to make do with Gabapentin con prosciutto di Parma.

Et nom de Dieu: THE LITTLE SOD ACTUALLY ATE IT.

Early this morning, he ate another dose.

And, all being well, he will keep eating them until he’s well again,

THIS IS LIFE-CHANGING. No more disturbed sleep! No more physical fights during unsociable hours! No more stressing about going on holiday and having our cat-sitter shredded to death! Should he end up needing medication for life, all we’d have to do is prepare a few hammy, druggy hors d’oeuvres in advance and notre ami will do the rest.

La vie n’est pas belle … but it’s certainly less merdique than it was previously.

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La pilule est dure à avaler

Cat Daddy and I don’t seem to be getting any better at our cat pilling technique. And now we’re having to do it 3 times a day instead of twice.

We cannot help but feel rather inadequate, as the two of us ought to be more than capable of handling a 3.5kg cat. However, we take some comfort in the fact that we’re not alone, and that this is a problem that dates back thousands of years. This Greco-Roman guy didn’t seem to be having much luck with his cat, either, and I feel his pain:

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Louis Catorze has become an expert at spitting pills out and, once spat out, they somehow lose their rigidity and disintegrate into powder when you pick them up to try again. He also very nearly foxed the vet the other day by hiding the pill in the corner of his mouth between his inner cheek and his back teeth, just like school kids do when you ask them if they are chewing gum in class.

And, as well as the physical challenge, we also have the logistical complexity of trying to fit 3 evenly-spaced doses into a working day when our hours just don’t synchronise. Cat Daddy and I wake up and go to bed 2 hours apart because of our disparate working hours, so our routine currently looks like this:

Pill 1 at 6am (for which I have to wake Cat Daddy to help me, and he goes back to bed afterwards)
Pill 2 at 6pm, when we both get home
Pill 3 at midnight, when Cat Daddy is about to go to bed (for which he has to wake me for help)

It’s not quite uniform spacing, but it’ll have to do. Obviously if either of us could pill Catorze alone, the enforced togetherness would not be an necessary, but, sadly, we can’t.

Nobody said Le Roi would be easy. In fact, the rescue from where we got him warned us of exactly the opposite …