Covid free - but Pig the cat succumbs to illness

Torbay Weekly

Well, no sooner had the Covid Crew emerged as haltingly as newborn foals stumbling into the dawn of a bright future, all ungainly limbs and blinking eyes, shivering in the freshness of a new day, than another member of the family succumbed to the ravages of illness.

Pig, our plump piebald cat, began displaying worrying symptoms last weekend, when he crawled out from beneath one of the beds after emitting a series of piteous mews, and slumped to the floor in a most forlorn state.

Pig has always been a superlatively confident, relaxed, affectionate cat, primed to purr at a stroke or a kind word, and graciously inclined towards administering gentle licks to proffered foreheads - when in the mood, of course.

He is the larger of two brother cats from a litter of three which a kindly friend bestowed upon us nearly six years ago, and his superior size grants him undisputed dominance over his much slighter, meeker brother.

Unchallenged, he will eat more than his fair share from their twin food bowl, and I harbour strong suspicions that he is an accomplished mouser, to boot - either that, or his winning ways have charmed admirers unknown into furnishing him with tasty tidbits without our knowledge.

Whatever the catalyst, he is certainly far heftier than his brother, but he is such a comfortable, loving, engaging creature; to hold him close is to cradle an armful of purr-rumbling softness, and we cherish his chubbiness alongside his other attributes.

To see his fulsome, furry body slouched in obvious distress, therefore, was upsetting for us all.

Upon examination, we could find no sign of injury or accident; his illness manifested itself in sad miaows, discomfort when moving, and a restlessness combined with a pronounced reluctance to shift himself more than a few feet in any direction.

We watched, feeling helpless, as he lay, purrlessly prone. We would give it to the morning, we decided, coddling him inside overnight and seeing if any improvement transpired; unfortunately, the next day - a Sunday - brought little change.

We let Pig outside to avail himself of the facilities, and observed him wander stiffly off towards the stream that runs behind our house.

Resolutely, I located a branch of our vets with Sunday opening hours, made contacted, and explained his predicament to the sympathetic receptionist.

Emergency appointment secured, I paced the backyard a short while later, calling his name and straining my ears for his response. None was forthcoming.

Growing anxious, I searched further afield, tramping over mossy rocks and peering into bracken-filled cavities to try and spot his beloved patchy bulk.

I was becoming increasingly concerned when suddenly I was dimly able to discern a black and white mass, nestled deep within a thicket of brambles on the other side of the stream - Pig!

Now: to rescue him. I clambered awkwardly over the bank, planted my welly-booted feet in the stream, thrust aside the thorny foliage (its spiky tendencies had thankfully been tempered through winter weather), shoved my hands into the scratchy space Pig was silently occupying, and unceremoniously hauled him forth.

He was unwilling to climb voluntarily into the pet carrier, but we eventually - and rather inelegantly - managed to insert him, and set off to see the vet.

This excellent person was tender and thorough in equal measure, swiftly identifying that his problem was caused by a blocked, swollen bladder that resulted in significant discomfort.

Pig was remarkably composed and uncomplaining as the vet attempted to relieve the blockage, but her efforts were in vain - he needed to be admitted and remain on the premises overnight, following sedation and a small procedure.

After a short interval, the vet phoned to tell us that our poor pet was more seriously unwell than they had suspected; his stoicism and calm nature had disguised his suffering.

Things were at a critical stage with his kidneys, and his potassium levels, instrumental in the effective performance of his heart, were dangerously high.

The procedure could go ahead, but we were warned Pig might not make it.

With tremulous hope, we granted our permission, and waited.

Thankfully, we weren't left long on tenterhooks, soon receiving the happy news that the operation had been successful, that Pig was catheterised and comfortable, and that he should make a good recovery.

We were overjoyed, especially when we heard a little later that the wilful puss had de-catheterised himself and could come home - I think he was missing us as much as we were missing him.

The vet delicately explained that our rotund feline's weight might have contributed to his medical condition.

She recommended a calorie-controlled cat food and advised that we encourage Pig to move around the house more, a suggestion which made me chuckle - he rarely rouses himself to run and escape the frantic attentions of the ever-overexcited Miss Pup.

Still, I dutifully collected the dietary food when I picked him up the following evening, his bandage-wrapped paw and the shaven area at his throat touching testament to his ordeal.

As I handed him over to my daughter's rapturous welcome, the first thing we noticed was that his purring had been restored.

Our darling cat was back.