Katz Tales/Dog Talk

Published: Sunday September 14, 2014 MYT 12:00:00 AM
Updated: Friday September 19, 2014 MYT 4:05:30 PM

Flushed with fever (and how to tell if your cat is sick)

Good patient: Guido recuperating on the red chair. The very next morning after the jab, he was his bouncy self again.

Good patient: Guido recuperating on the red chair. The very next morning after the jab, he was his bouncy self again.

When Guido goes dancing in the rain, he comes home with a high temperature.

The cats have a tuna dinner at 8 o’clock every night. Most nights, they trot in on the dot but if there’s something terribly interesting going on, like a fight in the tree shrew community, they come in late.

So when Guido was late, I didn’t worry. Then I saw him lying on the garden bench. He looked a bit hunched up, and when I touched him, he felt hot. His fur was also wrong; it felt rough instead of smooth.

Panicked, I gave him a gentle once-over. Abscesses, infections under the skin, can form very quickly and pull a healthy kitty right down, but Guido had no hot spots. His tummy wasn’t sore, his glands weren’t up but I didn’t like the feel of him.

I was also extremely worried because he’d been perfectly well at lunchtime. In fact, he’d been out dancing in the rain. That sounds odd but Guido is an unusual boy. As long as it’s a light rain, he loves to be out and about.

At this point, it was past clinic hours, but one of our doctors was still in his office and he offered to wait for us.

Usually we’re less than 10 minutes away but it was Hungry Ghost Festival and the clinic is smack between two excellent coffee shops. To make matters worse, I’d lent our cat carrier to someone so we were using the old one that doesn’t lock properly.

Luckily Guido was very good. He sat in the carrier and didn’t even try to get out. I abandoned the car a block away from the vet, kept the carrier tight against my chest and ran.

Guido sat on the table while his physician did the usual tricky business with the thermometer. Of course, my brain had evaporated with fear for my fuzzy, so when the vet announced a temperature of 39.3°C, all I could do was stare at him.

Luckily, he knows that the human often needs just as much reassurance as the pet. “Not serious,” he said. “Probably a light cold. I’ll give him an injection and you’ll see an improvement by tomorrow.”

I’m telling you, I could have hugged him.

Guido took the shot like a trooper. Actually, he has a well padded furry bum, so he may not have noticed it. The improvement was practically instant. By half past 10, Guido felt well enough to have some supper. He still felt hot, though, so we took him to bed. He was out like a light, poor lamb.

When Target is ill, he needs attention 24/7 that includes ear squizzles and having his paws massaged. In fact, one vet once gave us a lecture on the principles of massage for cats. Target took it all in, and has sworn by it ever since.

Guido turns out to be rather different. He lay in bed, and made it clear he just wanted to sleep. He slept until 8, went out for a quick wee, and came straight back upstairs.

A cat can do without food for a few days, especially one as tubby as Guido, but it’s very important for cats to stay hydrated. As I didn’t see him use his water bowl, I resorted to one of my tricks: a tin of tuna for human people that is packed in water.

Vets will point out it’s not advisable for cats to eat too much human grade tuna, as it contains a balance of nutrients that doesn’t work well for kitties; the tuna that we buy as pet food has been altered so that it’s appropriate for furries. However, a little doesn’t do any harm and as the water is gently flavoured, encouraging sick cats to drink, the liquid can be a life-saver.

Guido adores the stuff, so he lay in bed, lapping it up. Of course, Target pitched up straight away and demanded his share as a treat. You won’t be surprised that he got it.

By teatime, Guido got up and joined us downstairs. Target would have milked the situation for all it was worth, demanding treats and paw rubs but Guido shrugged off our concern in a fine macho manner.

I messed up, though. We were given some medicine and when I gave it to Guido, he immediately threw up. He foamed at the mouth and it looked rather dreadful. As it was the vet’s day off, I wasn’t sure if I should take Guido to the other vet. For one thing, I had no idea what the meds were as it came in a little generic bottle.

As Guido was at that point eating, drinking and using his cat box nicely, I decided it could wait till the next day.

The next morning, he was bouncing about, full of the joys of life so I let it slide. I thought he might be allergic to the meds, so I binned them. Then I watched our fuzzy, checking his ears and paws for temperature spikes and making sure he was all right.

Guido never looked back, so it wasn’t till just now that I asked the vet if Guido could have been allergic. Apparently it’s highly unlikely, and much more probable that he just didn’t like the taste of it.

It can be dangerous not to complete a medication cycle but, thankfully, Guido recovered with the help of that jab alone, possibly because we had him in so fast. However, if it happens again, we’re going to need to think about a way to get that stuff into him.

Thankfully, Guido has remained perfectly well. In fact, he’s currently settled into the best chair, snuggled up against his pillow and dozing in front of the television. Life is good.

For updates on Target and Guido, follow Ellen at

Rhu is up for adoption.
ADOPT ME: Rhu is two years old, vaccinated and neutered. She has short fur that’s easy to maintain and a lovely long feathery tail. Interested adopters, please contact the SPCA Penang (04-281 6559/e-mail:


Cats tend to have a body temperature of 37.5°C to 39.1°C (99.5°F to 102.5°F). I know by holding an ear or paw if my cats are hot or not, but it takes practice and you should know that cats are quite individual about this. Also, when your pet has been sunbathing, you might panic unnecessarily.

Healthy cat noses can range from warm and dry to cool and damp, again depending on what your kitty’s been up to.

Taking a cat’s temperature isn’t easy. You can’t use ear thermometers made for kids because cats’ ears are the wrong shape and you won’t get the right reading. You could ask your vet to advise you on what thermometer to buy and how exactly to take the reading – but if your cat is not comfortable with you doing the bum routine, you could do untold damage. Frankly, it’s not something I would want to get into.

Simple signs that signal you have to go to the vet are:

> You touch your pet and he or she squeals, or scratches you.

> Your pet is limping or clearly in pain.

> You see blood or dripping mucus.

> Your pet has a hot spot, signalling an infection under the skin.

I’ve found the following infallible signs that indicate all isn’t well:

#1 Your cat just “isn’t right”. He or she seems tired, depressed, too quiet, unusually crabby, and so on. Cats are good at hiding illness so behaviour is often the first sign of a health problem.

#2 Your pet isn’t drinking or eating as normal. He or she drinks too much, too little, doesn’t seem to like dinner, or is permanently starving. Diet changes are vital clues to health.

#3 Your pet has something wrong at one end or both. If your cat has an upset tummy, diarrhoea or vomits, then have it checked out. Sure, one case of the hurls might mean that your pet ate something disagreeable, but if you see other symptoms or it happens twice, a safe option is to have it checked out.

Tags / Keywords: Ellen Whyte, Katz Tales, cats, sick cat

More Articles

Filter by

Good patient: Guido recuperating on the red chair. The very next morning after the jab, he was his bouncy self again.

Flushed with fever (and how to tell if your cat is sick)

14 September 2014

When Guido goes dancing in the rain, he comes home with a high temperature.

Energy buster: Dogs need companionship, toys and adequate exercise so that they do not get bored and resort to chewing or biting things in the home. - AFP photo

Dog chewing up the home? Here are 5 reasons why and 5 ways to stop it

24 August 2014

When your pup tears into your Jimmy Choos, what do you do?

Charlie from across the street. He adores sitting on the wall under the tree in our columnist's garden. Most mornings, he can be found lounging there.

War and peace

10 August 2014

Katz Tales: When Guido and Target pick different best friends, war breaks out.

Giving your dog the snip will nip your unwanted pet worries

27 July 2014

Curious to know what happens when you spay or neuter your dog? Read on.

House-bound: Now a grand dame at 21, Chichi is also deaf and on medication for a kidney problem.

Living with an aged cat

13 July 2014

Chichi the Persian is 21 years old and determined to use up all her nine lives, even if she gives her ‘mum’ a heart attack in doing so.

Shelter dogs in a fix

22 June 2014

We don’t like to talk about it, but shelter dogs don’t live an easy life. Our columnist talks to two shelter managers about the realities of dog adoption.

Stretch and scratch: Target shares how to spread ginger fur on the sofa.

Muss, fuss and totally adorable

8 June 2014

When you bring a cat home, be prepared for lifestyle changes.

Solely devoted to you

25 May 2014

Is there such a thing as a ‘one person’ dog? And if there is, how did the social canine become so solitary?

Defects in purebred dogs

19 April 2014

A clash of philosophies leads to some introspection about pedigrees and breeding standards.

Guido's roof adventure

5 April 2014

An evening’s observation leaves Guido the cat stranded on the roof.


Recent Posts