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April 01, 2004: The perils of high fiber diets

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We’ve had quite the wind storm in the last two days around here, to the point that driving to and from work was a challenge in keeping the car in my own lane. So it was not a complete surprise when the power started flickering in the house this evening, and it was only inevitable that a few hours later the power went off completely.

It wasn’t so big a deal for me because I was at choir practice at the time, but Richard ended up camping out at Starbucks (the only place open that late) for a few hours to at least be able to work on his homework (a feat which requires light). So after choir I joined him there and played backgammon on my Palm Pilot and sipped a chai tea latte for about an hour until it was time for E.R.. Since the power was still out at home we ended up going over to my parents’ house to watch it there. I think if we’d been home we might not have bothered with that kind of effort, but we were already loitering around town taking advantage of other people’s electricity, so this was just a continuation.

After the show was over we gave up and went home, since normally one does not require electricity to go to sleep, but luckily the power had finally been restored in our neighborhood so we didn’t have to stumble around the house in the dark. This also meant that I could see what I was doing when I checked in on Zucchini, and could see quite clearly the huge nasty pile of hairball and slime he had puked onto the floor. This might normally not be cause for celebration, and before this week I would never have thought I’d be so happy to see something so disgusting. But that hairball means that he does not have to go in for surgery after all, and that maybe, just maybe, he’s all better.

I noticed he wasn’t eating when we fed the cats on Monday night, but that sometimes happens with him and it’s not been a problem before. But Tuesday morning he didn’t come out to eat and he’d been throwing up periodically all night. I gave him some hairball medicine, but by Tuesday night not only was he not remotely interested in food, he was lying in a little ball in one of the cat beds by the fireplace, lethargic and reeking of cat puke and obviously sick.

X-rays Tuesday night showed an obstruction in his stomach which - based on the shape and the shading, looked like it was probably the mother of all hairballs. Most of the time cats can pass this sort of thing on their own, but every once in a while things get so impacted that it can just sit there and mat tighter and tighter, and refuse to exit through any of the usual methods. Wednesday after work I took him in for x-rays again to see if things were progressing, but there was no change. And this afternoon the third set of x-rays showed the same problem. This afternoon we finally decided that he needed surgery to get this thing out. Tomorrow morning I was supposed to drop him off so the vet could cut him open and remove the offending clump of nasty goo.

So when I saw that huge mess on the floor this evening I admit to giving a small cheer. And at least now I know what caused the problem. Someone (I suspect Rosemary, since she's usually the toy shredder of the house) has been recently disemboweling some of the cat toys, and there've been a few times in the past week or three that I've found great wads of stuffing draped all over the floor. Apparently at some point Zucchini decided this stuff was edible. Guess what. It's not.

He’s not out of the woods yet, because there’s still the possibility some of this has lodged itself in his intestines and could be causing blockage there. He’s still going to have to remain confined and under observation for the next few days until we're certain that everything is moving along like it’s supposed to. But after the force-feeding and the daily visits to the vet and the worry and all the worst-case scenarios that have been running through my head, what a relief to have such physical proof that the worst seems to be over.

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