Most of you know me as a run-of-the-mill blogger. But I am also a protective, and sometimes overbearing, cat-mum to two beautiful fur babies named Misty and Mochi (you can check out their website here). These girls are my pride and joy, and their achievements never cease to elate me. However lately, I have become anxious about the psychological impact of the coronavirus on my kitten Misty.
Misty has always been a temperamental little thing. She is hypersensitive to changes in her routine, and she has a strong anti-establishment streak. Recently, her wellbeing – and mood – has taken a severe turn for the worse.
Looking back to pre-COVID times, I was rarely at home. Misty and Mochi enjoyed full reign over the household and all its furniture! But ever since the Singapore circuit breaker, I am now ALWAYS at home and my constant presence definitely caused some friction at first. We spent a lot of time fighting over who should sit where. Misty was quick to assert her authority by claiming the most comfortable chair in the house not to mention frequently rolling her eyes at me.
But eventually we settled into a happy new routine; early morning breakfasts – they ate biscuits while I drank coffee – and we even started to exchange chuckles when bumping into each other in the bathroom… believe me, this happens more often than not throughout the day!
Misty is now a shadow of her former self
Perhaps I was too quick to believe we could all live and work harmoniously together. In the last three weeks, Misty has started losing significant weight. She has gone from a healthy 3.9kg, with a glorious double chin, to a mere 3.1kg – barely the size of a newborn baby! She is also shedding excessive fur and sneezing. Poor Misty looks so weak and fragile.
My first instinct was to visit the local pet shop and stock up on lots of delicious cat snacks, including freeze-dried fish and beef-flavoured biscuits, in an attempt to fatten Misty up. She greedily devoured everything I put her in front of her. In fact, her appetite seemed more ravenous than ever but she continued to lose weight.
I closely monitored Misty’s poop and toilet habits to look for any evidence of worms yet everything seemed in order. Misty took great offence at my investigations which I believe soured our relationship. The skinnier Misty became, the more foul-tempered she grew and soon she was refusing to have anything to do with me. Every time I attempted to pat her, she flicked her tail in the air and strutted off. This is every cat-mum’s worst nightmare!
A disappointing trip to the vet
There was nothing else I could do so last week I took Misty to the Animal Recovery Veterinary Centre. The vet spent fifteen minutes examining her (I was not allowed to be present due to COVID-19 regulations) before calling me into the consultation room.
The vet acknowledged Misty was very skinny for her age and breed but said she appeared otherwise healthy. She recommended a series of blood tests to check for cancer, pancreatic insufficiency, organ failure and diabetes and of course I quickly agreed.
Thirty-minutes and $700 later, the blood tests revealed no abnormalities. All Misty’s levels, including those related to her kidneys, liver, gall bladder and pancreas, were within the normal range. The vet suggested I spend another $400 to conduct a thorough abdominal examination in order to rule out inflammatory bowel disorder.
As a cat-mum, you cannot put a price on your child’s life. But since Misty hadn’t experienced any diarrhoea or vomiting, an abdominal examination seemed like an expensive, not to mention invasive, next step. I asked the vet if there were any other things I could do at home first before going down that path. Her suggestion was to place Misty on a controlled diet, which seemed sensible.
It was only as I was leaving the vet that it occurred to me she had failed to check Misty’s teeth or look for worms, which was very disappointing.
A worried cat-mum and a picky eater
Misty’s round eyes seem so big (and helpless!) when I gaze at her emaciated face. It just breaks my heart.
I did some further research and discovered that regular cat food is heavily processed and does not constitute a healthy diet. Even worse, cats with a sensitive stomach are less likely to absorb the nutrients from regular cat food. I purchased Royal Canid Sensitive Digestion cat biscuits and wet food with the intent to keep Misty on this diet for at least a month and monitor if she gained any weight. The first couple of days she ate it, but now she is turning her nose up at it. Variety is just as important as quality when it comes to food, and Misty doesn’t want to eat the same old thing every day.
As my local pet shop doesn’t stock any organic cat food, I have placed an order online but I will need to wait a week for it to arrive. Until then, I am cunningly mixing some freeze-dried fish into Misty’s meals so she eats the healthy stuff. It’s been five days since the trip to the vet, and she has already gained 0.1kg.
I also want Misty to eat more unprocessed food. However, neither Misty nor Mochi developed a taste for raw meat. Unless it is really fatty – like bacon rind – they are simply uninterested in fresh chicken, beef, pork or prawns. Of course, feeding them fresh fish is strictly out of the question because it could contain bones.
Another source of stress
I have also discovered that stress can cause cats (not to mention us humans!) to lose weight. Anxiety and its related behaviour – like nervous ticks, alertness and insomnia, actually burns calories. It then struck me that there is something else besides my personal presence that has also been tormenting Misty.
About a month ago, around the time Misty’s dramatic weight-loss started, I purchased an exercise ball. They are great for engaging your core muscles! I use my exercise ball to workout 3-4 times a week, and I sit on it throughout the day when working on the computer.
Unfortunately, the ball is big and black, and it terrifies poor Misty. Whenever she sees it, she freezes in fear or otherwise takes to her scrapers to hide under the bed! I had hoped that over time, she would get used to the ball – it certainly doesn’t seem to bother her sister Mochi. But Misty is a lot more sensitive. So, for now, I have put aside my own workout goals to focus on being a good cat-mum, and I have hidden the ball in the wardrobe.
Just yesterday, Misty came and sat next to me on the couch. She even allowed me to scratch behind her ears. Later that night, Misty followed me to the bedroom and jumped on the bed when I went to sleep. All these changes seem positive, and I am hoping against hope that her new diet and the disappearance of the nasty black ball will help her get back to her old self.
Are you a cat-mum or cat-dad? How have your fur babies been coping during the coronavirus?