How To Age 10 years in 1 Week – Part 2


So in the past 5 days, you must have aged about 5 years. By the end of the week you’ve aged even more.  The story continues…

After a tense ‘phone call, you race back to the vet to collect your poorly cat. You pace up and down the waiting room nervously. What is taking so long? When the vet calls you into his consulting room, your stomach starts to somersault. “She’s been on a drip all day, so we’re not worried if she won’t eat or drink,” he says. “It’s her breathing we need to watch. Count her respirations – they should be between 20 and 30 per minute. If her breathing becomes more laboured, ring this number immediately and we will admit her again. Otherwise, we’ll see her tomorrow.”

The nurse brings your blue cat carrier through and hands it to you. Somewhere in there, hiding in the darkness, is your precious animal, relying on you for some intensive tlc. No pressure.

033“She hasn’t used the litter tray all day, so we’ve given her a laxative,” explains the nurse. You look across at the cage where your cat has been hyperventilating all day, and you can’t help but notice that the litter tray is full of what looks like the layers pellets you feed to your chickens each day. Feeling your lips twitch into a small smile, you realise that your poor chuffin cat wouldn’t have known whether to crap in it or eat it.

“Erm, how long will it be before the laxative takes effect?” you ask, nervously eyeing the cat carrier.

“Oh not long, maybe 10 minutes,” replies the nurse cheerfully. “We’ve put an incontinence pad in there for her, just in case.”

The laxative actually takes 9 minutes to work… whereas you take 10 minutes to get home. As you turn into the lane down which you live, your chuffin cat lets out a strangulated whine and the air fills with a putrid stench. Luckily, as the mum of 3 boys, you are adept at driving with your head poking through the side window. Now who’s hyperventilating?

“Oh Pooh!” you exclaim, as ironically that is the nickname you call your chuffin cat at home. “Oh poo!” you exclaim again, referring to the odorous deposit your cat has unhappily made, as the stink wafts through the window and past your nose.

Unfortunately the lane is littered with potholes, which you do your best to avoid, particularly those that make the car lurch suddenly from side to side. You are sure that your cat’s luxurious fur would make a great spreading brush, but not in a cat carrier full of crap.  When you reach home, you carefully grab the carrier and stagger as rapidly as you can through the lounge, ignoring the bemused faces of your boys who are eagerly awaiting the return of their much-loved pet. The stink that follows you through the house soon wipes the looks off their faces.  Imagine the ‘Bisto kid’ advert, but in reverse.

Chuffin cat on the prowlHaving placed the carrier on a washable floor, you hold your breath whilst carefully lifting off the lid on what has become your cat’s unintentional portable litter tray. Your cat slowly totters out and you relax as you see that she’s quite clean, having laid her reluctant turds in one corner of the carrier: no mean feat for a large cat in a confined space. You observe your cat making her way round the room flicking her paw out as she tries to get a bandage off her leg. She also adds a flick of the tail every so often, for a bit of variety. It’s like watching ‘The Ministry of Silly Walks’ from Monty Python – flick, swish, wobble, flick, flick, swish.

You make her a nest near the fire, padded with bubble wrap (one of her favourite things) and lined with son no 3’s fluffy hoodie (another of her favourite things). Gently you place her in the nest, and sit with her to ensure she is happy and settled. She looks at you gratefully, closes her eyes and purrs a little (one of your favourite things). You count her respirations regularly and feel your mood lifting as the count decreases: from 60 per minute, then 40 and finally when she dozes off a magnificent 29. Just what the vet ordered.

Later, you make a bed up on the settee to enable you to nurse your poorly cat through the night. When the rest of the family have gone to bed, you snuggle down under your duvet and your heart swells as you feel the ton weight of your beautiful chuffin cat land on your bladder. Your bladder also swells during the night, but you don’t want to disturb the sleeping beauty crushing your body, so you lay there listening to her gentle snores… now down to 21 per minute. Perfect. A Chuffin SmirkBy the morning you are sure that the circulation has been cut off to your legs, but still Her Chuffness is deep in slumber. Eventually you place your hands under the duvet and strain to lift the lead weight off your body. She stirs and lets out a whinge, but still doesn’t move. You manage to slide clumsily off the settee and land with a thud on the floor, due to pins and needles in both legs which makes coordination particularly difficult. As you look up, is that a small smirk you see on the chuffin cat’s face? That would be right.

That morning you take her back to the vet. You can report that she has started to groom a little, and has even eaten a little tuna – oh yes, she couldn’t believe her eyes: a plate of tuna, and you hand feeding her too. Shame she spilt much of it on your duvet, bearing in mind you have an aversion to the mere whiff of fish. The vet is most pleased, albeit still a little concerned about her breathing. He thinks she has a virus and decides that you can keep nursing her at home, he doses her up on painkillers and hands you a packet of antibiotics (to prevent any secondary infection). You look at the tablets, and then look at the chuffin cat. She hates taking tablets as much as you hate giving them to her. These have to be given twice a day too. Double whammy. Still, the best news is that she won’t be kept in. You pick her up off the examination table and she reaches up to pin her paws around your neck, clinging to you koala-style. She clearly hasn’t heard what the vet said, so you reassure her and willingly accept the hug. Then the warning: the vet says to watch her carefully and that 24 – 48 hours after she’s finished the tablets, she could suddenly go downhill, giving you emergency numbers to ring if that happens. She would then need a chest x-ray, something he had wanted to avoid due to her severe ‘white coat syndrome’ (sound familiar?!). He also wants you to ring him at 5pm sharp with a further update on her condition.

Having delicately stuffed the chuffin cat back into her cat carrier, you head on home feeling happier. You’ve already rung ahead and asked son no 1 to go and buy a litter tray, as the chuffin cat has to remain indoors – something she has always rebelled against, being very much an outdoors kinda feline; how else would she keep the rodent population in order?

Arriving home, this time minus the noxious fumes, you are delighted to see the chuffin cat amble towards her food bowl and survey the contents. She looks up at you and gives a small <miaow>, You approach her and start to gently slap her rump – something she likes you to do as she eats (yes, really!). The sound of her teeth crunching on the biscuits is music to your ears.

Son no 1 appears home with his purchases: a litter tray the size of a small skip (“She’s a big cat, mum!”) a mahoosive bag of litter (not that which looks like the chicken food) and a bag of catnip (not for use in the giant litter tray). He hands you the bill: just over £20!! You could have made one for less than that!

Poorly chuffin cat and sick chicken comparing symptomsYou now have a dilemma: don’t forget your sick chicken who wants to accompany you in the garden, at the same time as you need to be nursing your sick cat who has to remain indoors. Hmmm. How does that work then? You place a chair by the patio door and pad it with a soft towel, in the hope the chuffin cat will sit there and enable you to watch her whilst you and Cobweb Gladys peruse the garden foliage. Of course, the cat sits underneath the chair on the hard floor, clearly miffed that she has to share your attention. Cobweb Gladys on the other hand, seems to be improving daily, growing stronger and eating more.

Later, you need to collect son no 3 from school. Having put the chickens away, you ask your Handsome Husband to keep an eye and make sure that the chuffin cat doesn’t go outside. Cue a telephone call just as you reach the school: “Erm, I’ve lost the cat”

“You’ve done what?? How on earth can you lose a sick cat? She’s not exactly going anywhere very fast!” You can feel the exasperation rising in your voice.

“Where was she when you left home?” he asks.

“Under the chair by the patio door, sulking” you reply, wondering what on earth you are going to tell the vet at 5pm. (“Erm, yeah the cat, right. She was great the last time I saw her… then my husband lost her, so she’s been busy outside doing all the things on the naughty list that she shouldn’t be doing.”)

Of course whilst his back is turned, the chuffin cat has crawled into a box. Clearly starting to feel better, she is up for a game of hide and seek. It’s apparent that your Handsome Husband doesn’t spend enough time with his feline charge. Evidently she is in a box, behind a chair, in the corner of the room. Where else would she be? How inadequate of him not to know that.

Her Chuffness convalescing outsideHaving located the chuffin cat you ring the vet, as requested, at 5pm, You update him  – she is now eating, drinking and wanting to go out. He reiterates that you need to keep an eye on her, but agrees that she can go outside if she is pestering you. He’s getting to know your cat well. You are delighted to spend what is left of the afternoon in the garden with your pair of poorly pets, letting the sunshine bathe them both in warmth and happiness.

The following day, your chuffin cat needs to start her course of antibiotics. Cats and tablets are not a great mix in general, but when that cat is THE chuffin cat, things usually get completely out of hand. Yes, we are talking riot police on standby. The first tablet is administered with great difficulty – lots of fighting, scrabbling, clamping of jaws, shaking of heads and general riotous attitude.  Not necessarily just from the chuffin cat. Of course, by the evening you are better prepared: large towel, suit of armour, gauntlets, goggles, big syringe of water and one fluorescent pink tablet on the table beside you. The result? Her Chuffness takes one look at you, surveys the scene, swipes the tablet and swallows it herself in one gulp. Yes, really. What a splendid idea; why didn’t you think of that yourself?

20141027-003201-1921873.jpgAs the week goes by, Cobweb Gladys recovers tremendously. You realise she is feeling better when you find her pottering about the dining room, eating the cat’s food whilst standing on the mat which reads ‘Beware of the Cat’. Her large red comb has gradually risen by several degrees each day, so that now it is pert at 12 o’clock where it should be.

Chuffin cat chillingYou spend a nervous 48 hours after the chuffin cat has finished her meds, watching her like a hawk to see if she deteriorates in any way.  She remains stable if a little quiet. Then the crucial moment arrives, as you walk across the lounge, when you are ambushed, rugby tackled and tunefully serenaded by your one and only chuffin cat. You realise how much you’ve missed that rebellious attitude and furry mischief.  Bring it on in leaps and bounds, literally.  Life would not be the same without Her Chuffness, let alone your thick chicken causing mayhem and shouting obscenities across the garden.

How to Age 10 Years in 1 Week – Part 1


Cobweb Gladys - 3 days oldTake one small white chicken: a much-loved little hen who you have raised for the past 6 1/2 years, after adopting her as a 1 day old chick. Go down to the coop one day and find that little hen looking very sorry for herself – her head hung low and her usually pert comb flopping heavily over her left eye. Not so much Pirate Pete, think more along the lines of ‘Mad-Eye’ Moody from Harry Potter.

So you go to the kitchen and you cook up some scrambled egg, adding a tasteful garnish of fresh parsley. Your Handsome Husband enters the kitchen. “Oooh scrambled egg!” he says appreciatively.

“Think again!” you reply with a frown. “This is for Cobweb Gladys.”

As you head out of the door, leaving him salivating and somewhat perplexed, you add, “There’s some bread on the side, you can have that.”

Wife of the Year, that’s me.

You place the tasty breakfast in front of your little hen, and sigh as she refuses to eat it. You let both chickens out into the garden, and follow the poorly hen’s every move like a crazed stalker. Over the next few hours you pick random leaves and offer them to her to peck, marvelling at the variety of greenery on offer for the average garden-dwelling omnivore. Then you sigh again as you realise that what minute amounts of food or drink make it into your little hen’s beak, soon squirt out the other end twice as fast…that’s if it doesn’t dribble out of her beak first.

Cobweb Gladys SelfieLeaving your boys on sick chicken duty, you head indoors to cook your little hen a nice bowl of warm rice, mixed with chopped grapes and mealworm. You put tonic in her drinking water (minus the gin) and take it all down to the coop. Your little hen stands at your feet, so you pick her up and tuck her under your arm. She nestles against you and blinks slowly.

“What’s happened, Cobweb Gladys?” you ask in a soft voice. You feel so helpless; you’ve never seen your little hen look so poorly. She just closes her eyes and bows her head. You place her down gently on the dirt floor of the coop and she slowly makes her way up the ramp to the hen house…oh so slowly. Meanwhile her sister, Dim Doris, munches noisily on the treats that you have provided, wondering if it’s her birthday or maybe Christmas, but not really caring either way.

The next couple of days pass in much the same way. You miss the coarseness of your hen’s voice shouting obscenities at you from across the garden, the way she always scuttles towards you at full pelt from the moment she spies you. You dose and you nurture and you cook; oh yes, you cook up all sorts of treats to tempt her.

By the fourth day it is raining, but you still let your little hen out of the coop – she only wants to be near you, even if that means sitting in a chair under an umbrella, listening to the rhythmic tap, tap, tap of the raindrops. You chat to her about all manner of things and she listens carefully with half-closed eyes.

“Come on, Cobweb, you need to get better.  We’ve still got lots of fun to have together” you repeat over and over again.

Her Chuffness resting in a hammockThen you discover your chuffin cat, usually so full of life and cheeky attitude, looking forlorn and refusing to eat. I repeat: refusing to eat! That single fact in itself rings alarm bells. So you dash her to the vet, who checks her over and shakes his head. He holds her down, shaves her throat and takes some blood: brutal but necessary. She sits hunched and dejected, her fight having ebbed away.

You kneel down and press your forehead gently against that of your ailing cat. “Noggin” you whisper in a choked-up voice – a word from your shared vocabulary, a word that means everything yet nothing. You close your eyes and sigh, a tear making its escape down your cheek.

Your beautiful, naughty-natured cat won’t be coming home. Instead you have to leave her attached to a drip, laying on a heat pad in the sick ward. She watches you leave, her glassy eyes pleading with the little energy she has left, a look that punctures your heart.

You are tasked with taking her blood samples directly to the animal lab, to speed up the process of investigation. Then you return home, to an empty house brimming with memories of your cat’s unique chuffness: her discarded catnip mouse, a clump of fur carelessly tossed on the carpet, her battered scratching post rudely upturned in the corner.

You look at the telephone, waiting for it to ring with what you hope will be positive news from the vet. Anything, just please make it positive.

Cobweb Gladys in the gardenThe silence is too much to bear, so you head down to the chicken coop. As you approach, you hear a lowly <cluck>, somewhat despondent but still far more than you’ve heard from your little hen all week. You open the coop door and she potters gingerly out into the garden. You watch as she pecks carefully at a few selected leaves. There it is: a small glint of sunshine battling its way through the funereal thunder clouds. You need that right now.

A crane fly lands gracefully on the ground near your sick chicken. Never before have you been so pleased to see an insect beheaded before your very eyes, as your little hen pecks at it then shovels it slowly into her beak. Such a shame that her sister suddenly snatches the insect carcass, pulls it from Cobweb’s beak and eats it herself. Still, half a crane fly is better than none. That will help the protein quota. You’ll take that.

After what seems like an eternity, the telephone springs into life: the news you’ve been anxiously awaiting. You hold your breath and listen. Your cat is still poorly, but stable…however the blood results haven’t shown anything nasty; in fact they haven’t shown much at all which is confusing the vet. They indicate that your cat is fighting something big, maybe a virus. (You can recover from viruses, right?) She has been pumped full of antibiotics and painkillers to try and help her. Then the vet drops a bombshell: he is concerned about your cat’s breathing. Her heart is racing and her respiration is far too fast. A decision is made: being on the sick ward is distressing your poor cat and making her worse. The vet asks how you feel about tending your ailing cat at home, counting her respirations, checking her breathing – can you nurse her overnight then bring her back in to the surgery the next day? Yes, you can do that. Yes! Just let your chuffin cat come home, let you nurse her. You can count, you can cuddle, you can nurture. Who needs sleep anyway?

You usher the chickens back into their home, surrounding the coop in a bubble of positivity. “Come on Cobweb!” you say to your little hen. “You can do this.” She looks at you and cocks her head on one side, her comb still flopping over her eye. It looks like she’s trying out a new ’80’s hairstyle. You nod at her and she blinks slowly. An agreement of sorts. This has to be the start of her recovery.

And now you have 2 sick pets to care for.