Ra was feeling a little more chipper tonight when I got home from the office. I was home late and tonight he let me having it, meeting me at the door and giving me a few angry "maiows" to put me back in my place. While I'm always amused by this it did me a world of good to hear him mouthing off, lecturing me for not being home prompty at 4:48. While he still isn't up to chasing laser pointers, he's starting to talk a little bit more each day. With Ra, talking is a clear indicator of health.
Another thing that boosted my spirits tonight is a bit more easy to explain: Before I gave him his 5:00PM dosage of Metoclopramide, Ra made a great show out of leaping upon the back of my computer chair and sharpening his nubs. That's an old trick of his, but it's something he hasn't done since the beginning of the month. Despite how much the leather got scratched up when he lost balance and dug in his hindclaws for purchase... well, I just couldn't stop grinning when I saw him up there. I also didn't chastize him at all for leaping out of my lap and onto the top of my 21-inch monitor. It's another sign that things are gradually improving and right now I'll take each and every one I can get.
After I dosed him with the 'clopramide I waited the requisite 30 minutes before feeding time. As I was getting ready to pack the second 10cc syringe with the Eukanuba I've been force-feeding him I found myself wondering, If Ra is feeling good enough to jump on the back of the chair and atop the monitors... is he feeling good enough to take solid food? I decided to conduct an experiment to find out for myself. I took his bowl from where I had stored it in the closet, put a portion of his dry food in it and then paused. Several people have recommended trying to entice Ra to eat solid food by lacing it with something irresistible. The only thing I had on hand that I considered potentially "irresistible" to a cat was some tunafish, so I opened up a can, put a few small spoonfuls of tuna in and then laced some of the nuggets with water from the can. After I stashed the bowl in the fridge for safe keeping I went back to the computer room and did what I could to get Ra's attention. Namely, I sat down in my chair and leaned up until I was face-to-face with him (he was sitting on top of the monitor) and started egging him with the old routine I used for dinner before he got sick. Adopting an excited tone of voice I started asking him, "Do you want to EAT? Do you want to get FED? Is it time to EAT? Do you want DINNER, Ra? Food? Huh? Huh? Is it time to get FED? I think it is! It's time to eat! It's dinnertime!" Ra's ears shot up and he maiowed, then jumped down from the monitor and trotted out to the kitchen.
Holy shit, he wanted to eat! Or at least he was acting like it. The true test was yet to come.
I let him mill about in the kitchen for a minute, then coaxed him up onto a chair before I produced his bowl. This is another part of his daily routine that had ceased when he got sick and while I didn't want to let it slide, I also wasn't going to hold him to it so long as I saw some sort of forward progress with his health -- there's no use having a polite cat if he's sick. I set the food down on the mat and ushered him over to it since he didn't seem to recognize the old verbal cue of "okay." I was already worried that he was only reacting to the routine and didn't actually want to eat, and the fact that he didn't jump down from the chair to snarf up his food furthered my concern a bit. I spent the next two minutes holding my breath and staring intently as he sniffed around the bowl. He's interested in it, yes... but he's not actually eating, or is he? Dammit, I can't see what he's doing down there -- the butcher block is obstructing my view and there's too many shadows! I got down from my seat, grabbed the bowl and dragged it out from under the block to sit in front of me in the hallway. After calling Ra over again I gave the bowl a bit of a nudge towards him as if to say, Look, dude. Food! Go ahead and chow down, marine. More sniffing ensued, then very slowly I saw his muzzle dip down. I think my heart actually stopped beating until I saw him take a bit of food from the pile. I was even more encouraged when I heard the food crunching. He was chewing! Success! My cat was actually eating solid food! Another dainty nibble was taken from the pile, then he started sniffing again. My heart sank and I thought, Oh no, you're not done already, are you? I tried to coax him to have another few bites by turning the bowl around. He seemed to be ignoring a vast majority of the offered portion, so I thought a different section might catch his attention anew. Leaning forward he sniffed again and then surprised me by lifting his forepaw. I was utterly confused by this. What the hell was he doing? The paw lifted, stretched out, descended... then knocked some of the food nuggets out of the bowl and onto the tile floor. Like a snob reviewing wines that were beneath his palate's dignity he sniffed each nugget before selecting and eating only three or four of the dozen he'd knocked free from the bowl. I started to think I knew what was going on and, when he leaned in again, I got my proof. It was the tuna -- he didn't like it! He sniffed at one of the portions of tuna that was sitting in the center of the bowl and instead of gobbling it up used his paw to sort of shove it aside so he could sniff beneath. Alright, so I have a cat that doesn't like tuna. Weird, but I can work with this. I picked up the bowl, dumped the contents out and then gave the inner lining a quick scrubbing to remove any last trace of the tuna that had been in there. Putting another small portion of food in I set it back down and was delighted to see him dive in and started chowing down. Now that was the kitty I used to know! He finished eating shortly after that, and since he left a few nuggets behind I figured his stomach was probably full. I wasn't satisfied by the amount he'd eaten -- it wasn't nearly enough to give him the nutrients he needs to overcome this thing -- but it was a damn fine start. I lavished him with praise for ten minutes, then picked him up and carted him into the bathroom to force-feed him the one syringe I had already packed with food. This feeding went relatively well for the both of us. Ra was happy because he didn't have to suffer through two syringes worth of food, and I was happy because I felt that we'd made significant forward progress.
After the feeding was over I cleaned him up and lavished more praise upon him. When I walked into the Blue Room of Death he followed right behind me before jumping up on the desk and whapping me in the face a few times with his paw. I guess he decided I wasn't paying enough attention to him. Clearly he's feeling perkier if he's already back to abusing me in such a manner. This is a positive sign of progress indeed!
With luck I'll be able to "ween" him off the force-feeding in the next day or two and have him back on solid food entirely by the weekend. I'm taking him back to the vet tomorrow afternoon for a fresh round of tests (we need to check the ALT and GTP levels to ensure they're still dropping) and while I'm there I'll see if Doctor Landoch agrees with my plan. As eager as I am to get him off the force-feeding (for my sanity as well as Ra's) I don't want to rush him on it. He probably needs the extra nutrition and I'm sure the soft food is more easily processed by his system than the dry food right now. Another advantage of force-feeding him the wet food is that I know for certain that he's eating, and how much he's eating each time. It's a small thing, but it could make a very big difference in how long it takes him to recover.
Every time he shows signs of forward progress I feel a little bit better. This latest development is lifting my spirits indeed. For the first time in quite a while I don't have this feeling of impending doom hanging over my head. I'm starting to really believe that he's going to get better and be back to the same old cat I know and love.
Multitudes are marchin' to the big kettle drum