It was the strangest thing: our four boys wouldn't eat any breakfast on Friday. The cats all get along surprisingly well, but this was no show of solidarity or sympathy for Lion, who hadn't eaten since Wednesday. Only Wendy ate most of her food; Toffee nibbled a wee bit of his. I came into the kitchen in the morning and found the bowls still filled, a thing unheard-of around here.
The problem continued at dinner. I thought of my nightly ritual with Possum, where I ask him, in aggravated tones, to stop smacking at my leg and yelling at me as I fill the cats' bowls. On Friday, he wasn't even near the kitchen, and I missed him. Wendy ate a little; Harris tried. Lion and Possum hadn't eaten all day. We gave Lion fluids (I always dread inserting the needle, but we both did fine) and planned to syringe-feed him the next day if he didn't eat on his own, as the vet instructed.
Lion toasts a couple of legs on the radiator while the rest of him chills on the sill.
Our house is colder than it's ever been, so we wondered if they weren't used to it, if perhaps they couldn't smell their food. The thermometer refuses to go much above 60 despite my turning the thermostat to 80. We tried warming their food, and then we opened the smelliest food we have: sardines. No luck. We knew it was a silly theory but we were baffled. I reminded the cats that their feral brothers and sisters, out in the cold, will eat anything they can hunt or rummage from trash, no matter how cold it might be. They listened without comment, as I did as a child when I was made to eat something horrible while being told about starving children in Africa.
The cats all looked fine — otherwise I'd have been far more upset. They sat around, or napped, or looked out the window while toasting on a warm radiator. They purred when we petted them. They just wouldn't eat.
Five sick cats are a distraction. I haven't watched any news or worried much about the government since Lion ate that ribbon on Christmas Eve. It's refreshing to have something new to worry about; it was long overdue. I realize that sounds ridiculous to anyone who doesn't understand anxiety from the inside, but that's how it is. Usually, I can worry about many different things simultaneously, but five sick cats seem to have overloaded my brain circuits.
Lion, looking wise and noble and not like the sort of cat who'd eat 18" of ribbon.
On Saturday, we got dressed up and went to a holiday tea at L'Espalier although we weren't exactly in the mood. It was terribly fancy and civilized — huge white plates dotted with a few tiny treats we couldn't always recognize:
A chocolate thing, a lemony thing, a macaron,
a ridiculous micro-scone. . . and don't ask me.
L'Espalier is an old-school Boston tradition but it's now a rather generic set of sleek, contemporary dining rooms in the Mandarin Hotel. I regret that we never had even one dinner in the original L'Espalier, which occupied a few floors in a gracious historic townhouse on Gloucester Street. It used to be the most romantic and popular place to get engaged, and it was also the nearest restaurant to our apartment. Yet, somehow, we got engaged over cheeseburgers in Jamaica Plain.
Fine snow was falling as we walked home after a few errands: syringes for feedings, more sardines. We took off our boots in the hallway. As I hung up my coat, I stepped in frosty-cold cat puke in my socks. We found more on the bed. Aha! Our vet confirmed my suspicions — Lion must have caught a virus at the hospital on Christmas, and it had spread to the other cats. Her official diagnosis, given over the phone: "Creeping Crud." Her term for the nameless viruses that appear out of nowhere, make cats miserable for a few days, and disappear.
No one ate supper on Saturday night, but a few of them still managed to puke. We've found many hairballs in the past couple of days, so this is clearing out their systems, at least.
Lion is hiding less and keeping his food down. We've been syringe-feeding him; my husband has a good technique and Lion is a trouper. He doesn't mind me giving him fluids, either.
This morning, my husband tried to feed everyone breakfast and reported that Possum. Wendy, and Toffee ate a little while Harris and Lion ate nothing. I was still in bed; our bedroom was so cold that I debated for a long time the pros and cons of leaving my cozy nest of flannel and down. I finally put one foot on the cold floor. I looked down and saw that I'd just missed putting it in a cold puddle of someone's . . . breakfast. I considered it a positive omen that I missed it. Usually, my foot is drawn to such messes like a magnet. Maybe 2018 will be a better year! Maybe it will bring the indictments I was hoping for from Santa and Robert Mueller. Maybe, maybe.
We tried to tempt everyone with deli turkey, something they normally snatch from our fingers. But it might as well have been dirt. We've begun feeding them poached chicken breast with broth. Some of them nibble tiny amounts but often it comes back up. Dinner looked like this, with all four boys eating very little, but something:
I never expected to be ending the year with five sick cats, but I know that we are still amazingly fortunate. We've survived much, much worse cat illnesses. I'm grateful it's only a virus that should run its course fairly soon. I'm keeping my fingers crossed that it won't progress to anything worse, or even messier. I'm hoping that, in a few days, all will be well again, and I can go back to worrying about the country and the world. And for that, and many other things, I am grateful. It's just been a strange holiday week.
Happy New Year!