Tuesday, March 12, 2013

The little things in life

It's been hectic around here lately...we have a sick patient. Namely, our orphaned cat, Muesli. Did you notice the name change? Sarah said it one day, and it kind of stuck ever since. That's not the only thing which has changed about her though. Notice the feminine change in reference too?

 Such a young wee babe in the beginning!

"He", has turned into a "she". Or more specifically, the vet discovered our little oversight when they took x-rays of her legs and pelvis recently. What had lead us to the vets, you may ask? Well...

On Sunday night, we were all seated at the dinner table having a chat, when the inside guinea-pigs, suddenly jumped in their cage as if they got a scare. Immediately afterwards, Muesli started to hiss and scowl in a way we'd never heard before. I first thought she was choking on something, but it soon became apparent, her back leg wasn't touching the ground. She was in so much pain, all we could do was pick her up and nurse her.

We're assuming she tried climbing the guinea-pig cage, and lost her footing when they got spooked. No-one saw it happen, even though we were only metres away.

Growing quickly, and loving to play hide-n-seek!

The next day, she was still in a lot of pain so we took her to the vets. Three- hundred dollars and four x-rays later, we learned Mew was a girl (oops) but also there were no broken bones. It sounded like good news at the time, but they also suggested the growth-plates between her ligaments could be damaged. This was something x-rays would not be able to detect. Surgery was the only means to check.

Rather than take that costly option first however, they gave us medication for inflammation and said to bring her back in a week (or sooner) if there was no sign of improvement. The medication did its job, and Muesli was soon on her feet again using the kitty litter.

 Before her injury, she loved hiding under the couch
ambushing any feet passing by

Three days later however, she suddenly started her hissing pain again - only this time, it was her front paw not touching the ground. It was directly opposite the leg previously injured. All that progress, only to lead to her becoming an invalid again. I was bringing food and water to her, and taking her to the kitty litter - which she didn't seem to be using. Her stomach became bloated too, so I planned to take her to the vets the next day.

But that evening she got up and miraculously used her litter again, and even started rolling her toy balls around the kitchen as we played with her. Things were looking good again. Was this finally the road to recovery, for our little Mew?

The next morning, I was informed by David and Sarah, when she started scratching around her kitty litter again, she made her pain-hiss again, crawled out of the box and started to crawl with her belly touching the ground. She basically didn't move for the rest of the day.

 When well, she always found interesting places to sleep...

At this point, I was ready to throw our bank account at the vets and tell them to do whatever was necessary. Something told me to hold back though. Does that sound callous? Perhaps the $300 x-rays had something to do with it, and the reality that surgery may not detect anything either. But I had a suspicion (a hunch if you will) that nutrition was playing a crucial role here too.

We'd been buying pet-mince since she started eating solids. We were wary that dried biscuits contained a lot of empty calories (fillers) which carnivores simply don't need, and tinned food was full of unmentionables. David worked in an abattoir before, and you don't want to know what they put down the pet-food chute. But I knew the mince I purchased from a reputable family run business, probably wasn't nutritionally sufficient either. I did plan on upgrading to something better (home-made) but unfortunately the injury came first.

Click on image to make larger - guinea pig cage in the background
before the accident

I was concerned about the medication too (another hunch) especially after the second injury to her front paw. I took a chance and stopped her medication after 5 days (as specified by the vets) but didn't take her back. After her second injury, I started to feel like maybe we weren't taking her nutrition seriously enough. But also, the medication was masking her short-lived "improvement". She was compounding her injury, placing strain on other ligaments, rather than improving. I didn't want to jump the gun on another run of "quick" but ultimately ineffective treatments.

She needed something else - something which didn't necessarily hinge exclusively on what came out of a bottle. She needed "time", realistic observation and better nutrition.

With the rain mostly gone (it set-in for a few weeks) I carried Muesli into the sunshine for 5-10 minutes a day. I took her around to plants to smell and even plucked some grass for her to chew, which she really enjoyed. That was something Sarah loved to help with also, feeding Muesli grass if she wanted any.

 She licks it straight from the spoon and loves it!

I started to give her one teaspoon of Cod-liver oil per day to increase her vitamin-D in-take and healthy fish oils.  Plus her daily meals now consisted of diced lamb heart, lamb kidney and the gelatin (aspic) derived from boiling chicken bones. Marrow-bone is great for building healthy cartilage.

Poor Muesli, didn't like it when I took her off the medication though. That was the hardest day for both of us! She kept biting her foot and getting cross with it. She could barely use the back section of her body. I suspected this would be the case when I withdrew the masking effect of the medication.

Pain from injury isn't just there to make life uncomfortable - it's a direct signal to the body to leave that part alone, in order for it to heal. We were masking that signal to Mew with medication however (a young kitten wanting to play - who always played) which probably only caused more damage.

  Not roaring, just yawning, after a nap in our spare room
she's sitting up for herself again

After her first uncomfortable day without medication, she was much more cautious on her feet, which was easy to assume was little improvement. But by the next day, she was sitting up, and even progressing a few steps. Then she'd sit again and even lay down if it felt too uncomfortable for her. This is how an injury should be given the chance to heal, so that its not aggravated further.

I'm very grateful for the vets, the x-rays, and indeed the medication for those first 24-48 hours after her initial injury. I'm glad we discovered it wasn't a result of broken bones! But I've also learned to listen to my instincts too. Sometimes as pet owners, we're far too impatient with healing and the pain our dependents suffer. Of course we don't want needless suffering and will medicate as required. But how much do we over-medicate, at the expense of realistic observation? Sometimes we have to listen to what their bodies are telling us, to find the best treatment long-term.

Laying on my chest, as I write this entry at the computer
she's looking out the window

Muesli does seem to be slowly on the mend. We are giving her plenty of food her body can use to heal itself, and PLENTY of love too. She's becoming quite demanding, so that I can only type with one hand on the computer sometimes, as I cuddle her with the other. If there's one thing I can give, it's plenty of love and comfort when a dependent in my care needs it. Yes, it takes more time out of my day, but it's also precious time that means a lot.

I will take her back to the vets if there is no steady improvement, or indeed, if she seems to go backwards. For now though, we've decided to give Muesli more time to heal (off medication) before we seek a second round of veterinary advice.

Muesli has been through a lot in her short (nearly 14) weeks of life, and I hope she's got a lot of life left to live. We'll do the best we can to give her every chance of healing.


  1. Sounds pretty sensible, Chris. She has such a cute face!

    1. Hi foodnstuff, thanks for loving on our little sweetie. Kittens are definitely cute, but ours is somewhat of an adventurer too. I think it's why she's accident prone at the moment - doesn't know her own limitations yet, lol.

      Although I'm happy to report, she's given the guinea pig cage an extremely wide berth since the accident. Not even so much as an inquisitive glance goes their way. She's learning. ;)

  2. This was a very touching story. Thank you for sharing it and for being such a good pet owner too. So many wouldn't bother.
    I recently have come across a blog regarding natural pet care but I cannot find it at the moment. Probably lost in all my bookmarks but with such high vet bills its smart to learn to take am ore logical and doable route. Get well Muesli!

  3. Hi Linda and thanks for the lovely words of encouragement. It takes a bit of gumption saying no to the quick fixes, doesn't it? I'm sure you know exactly what I'm talking about, with your own medical journey over the past 12 months or more.

    I remember you denied pain killers sometimes and accepted them when they were necessary. It's tempting to have them all the time because pain is not fun! But then you also have to experience a little pain, to know if the treatment is working or not.

    It's such a tough call to make though. Muesli is doing well, still progress, although we had another set-back when she tried jumping from a chair Sarah put her on. It's tempting to think they're better when they really need more time to heal.

    But then, you know all about that too...it's up and down and steady as you go - take every day as it comes. Healing is not always as instant as we believe it should be. Sometimes we have to bring our expectations back, and that's not always a bad thing. :)

  4. Pain killers are wonderful but they only mask things and of ourse, one day they stop working altogether. Unless they are antiinflammatories they are there for quality of life, not healing.

    Not sure if it's safe or works opts but turmeric is a good food source that could be added in powder to real food.keep us up to date!

  5. Ah, yes, tumeric! I've got some rhizomes which have sprouted recently, as I want to grow our own. I've heard it's a good herb for heath. :)


Thank you for taking the time to comment. I love reading what you have to share. Gully Grove is a Spam free environment though, so new commenter’s only leaving hyperlinks, will be promptly composted.