Basil and I had a very interesting episode on Sunday, and under my henna my hair is likely totally gray now. But we’re both okay and we think we’ve got a plan. He collapsed in the kitchen at breakfast on Sunday and then tossed his own twist into the situation.
Basil is normally a very energetic and playful cat, silly, affectionate, vocal, and social with all others in the household, including fosters. He took his role as ninja foster sensei seriously once he passed his finals. Underneath that is a frightened kitten who likely suffered some trauma, and can flip to the fearful, traumatized cat now and then that anyone would say was feral. You can read Basil’s story in “Five Years for Basil”.
He is now six years old. When he was 18 months old he was diagnosed with mild asthma, and I’ve observed both his symptoms and his behavior since, treating the flare-ups I’ve seen in spring and autumn. But I probably observe him a little more closely than some others. Most of the time he’s fine, sometimes he’s fearful and I look for a reason. You’ve seen him with the purple calming collar in photos here. That’s why.
I’ve been tracking some symptoms and behavior for the past month to collect and call our veterinarian, but really had nothing specific until recently. For about the past month he was coughing occasionally, typical for spring and I have a treatment on hand that usually works but this time was not. The cough extends longer, and became a daily thing recently. Along with that, play has become moderate or absent over the month, like just carrying around a toy mouse instead of tossing it around the room and leaping after it, no wrestling with Jelly Bean. Instead he heads upstairs to the bed for most of the day, not necessarily sleeping, not really socializing with the other cats there. And four times that I’ve seen he has had some conflicts with Hamlet that end up in shrieking chases and fights that terrify the whole house. It seems to start when they come face to face and Basil starts high-pitched keening and yowling as if he feels trapped, even when he’s not. He normally sleeps with me, but quit that about a week ago. Still, he’s responded to affection from me and has had a good appetite, and vital signs have been normal.
On Sunday morning Basil was paws tucked and upright in a flat box under a chair in the kitchen, nothing unusual. He left the box to use the litterbox at the bottom of the basement stairs, normal activity, then came back up and got back in the box instead of hopping up on the cabinet and otherwise indicating that he was starving and needed to eat, now. He is food motivated but wasn’t interested in treat or breakfast. I served breakfast to everyone else determining I would watch him for other symptoms, planning on pulling the stethoscope and thermometer.
That was when he got up and began to slowly walk out of the room. After three or four steps his hips began to sway, one hind paw knuckled under and he went down on his left side, legs flipped up in the air then back down. He was lying on his side but lifted his head and looked at me when I came over, pupils looked normal, but did not move except to put his head down and lie prone. I’ve seen cats collapse. Collapse is a serious symptom, usually cardiac or respiratory, it’s usually not good and once ended in death. I felt him over then ran upstairs to grab clothes to wear to get him to the emergency vet, but when I came back downstairs with my clothes in my hands he was nowhere to be found.
I didn’t think this was a good sign. He had looked incapacitated just a minute or two before and I thought he’d dragged himself to a place he might think was safer than the doorway. I grabbed a flashlight and crawled around on the floor looking under everything with an urgency that I was wasting precious minutes and needed to get him and get on our way. And I was totally freaked that I not only saw no trace of him, I also heard no sound, expecting to hear yowling in pain. I couldn’t stop the thoughts of suddenly losing one of my wonderful 10 friends, life without Basil, and he so young.
Then I started looking elsewhere in case he’d been able to walk and was hiding in the basement, up in my room under the bed, I looked everywhere. I have boxes of materials and merchandise and packaging tucked all over the house but I have it arranged so that I can access it or move it if I need to get to something else so it doesn’t take me all day to get things done. Nothing. Absolutely nothing. Logically, I thought he had crawled somewhere and was either quietly suffering or had died, except for an inkling that his presence was still in the house somewhere.
After an hour I needed another head to think about this and just to talk to someone. I called Margo, knowing she was up and if she wanted to help look for him she would understand what we might be looking for. She offered to come right over and the two of us looked for a couple of hours, retracing everything and moving even more stuff, even in my wet basement. Thank goodness for understanding friends! And I know my own cats, but imagine looking for one black cat among eight!
Early on in the basement, Mr. Sunshine kept sitting and looking intently at a bottom shelf and the area under the steps. In the past this has pointed me to where a cat was hiding, but no Basil there. Margo saw Giuseppe sitting underneath my work table in the basement, the spot where former ferals hide if being out in the house is too much for them just yet, looking behind some boxes that had just a tiny space behind them. I moved them and was excited when I saw eyes and some floof, but it turned out to be a very frightened Mariposa who purrfectly fit that tiny space—strangers were in the house. Bella, Basil’s foster partner, and Hamlet kept turning up on and under my work table in the studio, and we wondered if they knew something, removed or moved everything around it, but no Basil.
As time went on my feeling changed from doom to the idea that if he had been incapacitated and crawled somewhere, we would have found him in any of the places on the first floor because he wouldn’t have been able to get up or down stairs—it’s only two rooms. He had probably recovered somewhat and been able to go farther to find a real hiding place and was probably still alive. Remembering Basil in his traumatic state he could be tucked into any spot and keeping totally silent. Another friend came over and we went over everything again and started looking more closely at higher places in the house.
They took a break in the kitchen and I went down to the basement to stand there in the quiet and just get a feel for things. I knew that Sienna was on top of the furnace, but I heard a tiny scratching sound from back in the corner. I looked there and on top of the boxes on the table there was Basil!
Very much alive, unmistakable huge eyes and tiny white spot on his chest so I wasn’t mistaking Hamlet for him, and it couldn’t be any of the other seven black cats in the house.
Four hours after he disappeared, he had hopped down from atop a cabinet in the basement that I had blocked off years ago because it was a hiding spot, but I guess someone fixed that. Basil was acting traumatized, whether the incident, my reaction, all the strangers, or just everything, and though I was talking to him and he responded to that, when I moved toward him he moved to jump back up, and eventually he did. But he looked fine, no deficits in movement, and he was alive!
Elle and Margo spent some time with Jelly Bean, Giuseppe, Sunshine and Mimi after we were all done.
He came upstairs within minutes after my friends left and wandered the house for about 20 minutes, no deficits in movement, then realized he was hungry and ate his breakfast and a little extra. Mr. Sunshine gave him a calming bath after everyone had settled down.
He rejoined his fur brothers for the afternoon nap on the kitchen cabinet, had a good dinner later, and continued to be moderately active and very social and affectionate.
Monday morning he resumed his normal level of physical and social activity including things he hasn’t done in a while, light wrestling, jumping on the sink, visiting the basement door to look outside, but later slowed down again and seemed restless.
Now the veterinarian
I can page my veterinarian in emergencies outside of her regular hours and so I did on Sunday soon after Basil reappeared. I knew he should see a veterinarian but wasn’t sure if it was an emergency seeing his current condition. We talked over the collapse and his miraculous reappearance, and the symptoms I’d seen in the past month. Imaging and blood tests would be necessary. My veterinarian is housecall only with no clinic, and she can do blood draws for tests, but no imaging. In those cases I’ve often used the emergency clinic because the situation is often a legitimate emergency, and would have on Sunday if Basil had been impaired in any way. But we decided he’d had enough trauma for one day. She said she wouldn’t be able to tell much with a physical exam and would rather have imaging done before she saw him, so I had arrangements for Monday with another trusted veterinarian who regularly volunteers with HCMT’s clinics, and my veterinarian and I will follow up on Wednesday.
The imaging showed his asthma had advanced. The veterinarian suggested a steroid shot to see if that would have enough of an effect to bring him closer to normal, but his blood glucose was too high for that on Monday. That doesn’t mean he’s diabetic, and he doesn’t have any of the symptoms such as dramatic weight loss and excessive thirst and urination, so the high number was probably from stress. I will attempt to get a urine sample tonight and when my veterinarian comes tomorrow she can test that, if not she can do a blood glucose test on him, and if that level is good she can give him a steroid shot and just examine him at that point. We’ll see how he reacts to that and determine what ongoing treatment is best for him. He is anxious, but I don’t think he will give me too much trouble if we use an inhaler. I have been able to directly give him medications, and his appetite has always been reliable enough that he’s also eaten some in his food.
I am also grateful for the financial assistance friends arranged for Basil’s care. As soon as he collapsed I knew I couldn’t afford all he would likely need, but I can get him taken care of now.
Veterinary care during COVID
For all I’ve written about it, I really didn’t think I’d experience a visit to or from the veterinarian right now. Veterinary care has been limited to emergencies and pets would enter the clinic but their humans would not. But we have changed over to the “yellow” stage wherein we can start moving around, wear masks to help deter our own droplets from spreading into the air, and keep at least six feet of distance from others to stay out of the way of any droplets flying around. The veterinarian I took Basil to yesterday required a mask, which I always wear in the presence of others anyway, and a technician came to my car to get him. But once he was settled into an exam room I was permitted to come in and go directly to that room, and stay there.
Basil was pretty upset by the carrier and the trip in the car, and I was concerned he might go into trauma mode when they tried to handle him. But when I got in the exam room Basil was out of the carrier and huddling on the scale, tucked under his blanket looking frightened but not reactive, and in time he relaxed, as you can see below.
They were able to carry him around, get the xrays and take blood, and he was fine but had a lot to say about it. That’s the way he’s been in the past, but he was younger then and he was really shrieking on the car ride, so he was very upset.
Tomorrow when my veterinarian comes here, I will have Basil in the bathroom and have the front door unlocked so she and her technician can just come in. I’ll wear a mask and so will they. They will work with Basil in the bathroom and then go back outside. We’ll finish things up out there.
He had a pretty normal day today, subdued as he has been lately, but he didn’t automatically go upstairs to rest on the bed all day. He hung out in the kitchen and came to my desk, even napping on my lap for a while, which he hasn’t done in well more than a month. Then he moved over to his favorite basket by the window and has been napping the rest of the afternoon. I’ve been missing his literal off-the-wall purrsonality. Wish us luck!
I know he will need some ongoing care and possibly more tests and I’m not quite up to speed on income yet. If anyone would like to donate anything for his care, we’d really appreciate that. Please visit Portraits of Animals and make a purchase! Right now commissioned portraits and artwork are 25% off, and you can purchase a portrait certificate. Also, I have a link on this page to support The Creative Cat that uses PayPal. If you’d like other options, please let me know.
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Basil must have thought the yellow basket was a gift for him because he owned it from the day it came into the house. Read more and purchase.
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