It’s the Friday 21st October: my kitten is 8 weeks and 3 days old. Here is the previous instalment of Billy’s Blog
Isn’t it extraordinary how quickly a small animal can feel like a part of your life? Billy is already one of the family.
Ground level kitten
One of the challenges I anticipated before bringing a kitten into my life, was Billy jumping and climbing all over the kitchen units and shelves, and possibly knocking china and pottery over.
But he has not been a problem at all in this respect.
At least – not yet.
Some kittens are very into racing up curtains and bouncing around on shelves. But Billy seems fairly content to be at ground level for now. Or almost.
His new skill today is jumping onto one of the kitchen chairs and curling up there, under the table, for a nap. It’s where our old cat Gadget used to be fond of sleeping
People would pull out a chair to sit down, and there she would be, dear old thing. Fast asleep.
It’s a bittersweet feeling to see him there reminding me, as it does, of her.
Our kitten meets a spaniel
Billy seems very at home now, and has made friends with our older Labrador Tess. So this morning we introduced him to our elderly spaniel, Meg who is thirteen going on three.
Meg is a very busy person, always rushing around and certainly has no time to stand and chat with kittens.
Apart from giving him a brief sniff to make sure he didn’t have any food concealed about his person, she pretty much ignored him.
Billy sat on a chair, like an old hand and watched her hunting the kitchen and hall for interesting human paraphenalia – a shoe to add to her special collection – a morsel of breakfast under the table.
She then climbed up on the kitchen bench next to me and went to sleep. So he climbed onto Lucy’s lap and did the same
And that was that.
Lack of sleep and antihistamines have left me feeling pretty much like climbing into someone’s lap and going to sleep myself!
I did get four hours or so last night but at 2:30 am was woken once more by the most intense itching and burning sensations.
More facial swelling added to the fun, and my upper lip looked like one of those botched filler jobs that the newpapers love to report on.
At least this ‘trout pout’ didn’t cost me any money. Though swelling around your airways is never a joyful experience.
Life on steroids
I could not wait to get my hands on the steroids the doctor had prescribed for me to take with my breakfast today. There were four pill, all to be taken at once.
I had high hopes and I was not disappointed
I have never taken steroids before and I confess to being impressed. Their effects have been, I can report, nothing short of miraculous.
Within a couple of hours of taking them, my itching was subsiding. Two hours more and the itching was gone and the huge pink wheals all over my body were pale pink and nearly flat.
Another couple of hours later and the rash was all but gone.
A glance in the mirror also confirmed that my regular face had returned. It isn’t the best face in the world, and has a bit of wear and tear, but it is my preferred face and it was a great relief to welcome it back.
And as I write this evening at 8pm the hives are still conspicuous by their absence.
Of course in just three days time when my steroids run out, the angioedema may return, and I may have to make a very tough decision .
But the (possibly temporary) respite from my symptoms is welcome
Meeting the family
This evening, my grandchildren came to visit. Billy was a charming and playful kitten. And well, just as perfect as a kitten can be.
He is astonishing us all with his calm self possession.
Billy played enthusiastically with the children (and their duplo bucket) and managed to keep his mittens on.
He takes everything in his stride, responds with purrs and pleasure to every human contact, and simply could not be a nicer addition to our family.
Even if I can’t keep Billy, I just know he is going to be a great cat for someone.
Though the thought of losing him brings the biggest lump to my throat.
Saturday 22nd October
Today, Billy met the third and bounciest of our dogs. She is VERY interested in Billy, to the point where she finds it hard to concentrate on anything else while he is there.
So I’m glad I waited until Billy was comfortable around dogs, to introduce him to her.
Billy was a star. He just sat on the kitchen chair and watched her with calm interest while she wagged her tail furiously and pushed at him with her nose.
Unlike my older dogs, Rachael is probably too young to remember much of our last family cat. Gadget used to spend much of her time upstairs while puppies were at the bouncy stage so it’s quite possible that Rachael doesn’t remember her at all.
I was armed with a plateful of tiny pieces of sausage and kept Rachael on the lead as a safety precaution.
We simply spent a few minutes with me asking Rachael to complete simple (very simple) tasks ( such as ‘sit’, ‘down’, ‘turn’ and ‘touch my hand’ ) while Billy watched.
This was quite difficult for her when all she wanted was to investigate this amazing new ginger playmate. But she did pretty well.
I’ll repeat this several times each day until I am happy she won’t frighten Billy, or trample on him, and that she is able to respond to my voice when he is in the room. Then I’ll ditch the lead.
It was great to wake up this morning and discover that I have neither rashes, nor a football for a face.
I took my second dose of steroids with breakfast and spent some more time scouring the internet for information on cat allergies
I have read so many conflicting accounts now from people with allergies to cats, that my head is spinning
I have read accounts from people who claim to have got over their cat allergy by persistent exposure to their cat.
And accounts from others who ended up in hospital attempting the same.
It’s all very confusing, and it is very difficult to find accounts from people who have the skin reaction I have had, rather than the respiratory symptoms which seem to be the norm when it comes to cat allergies.
One thing is for sure, I’m not looking forward to coping without the steroids! And I would be kidding myself if I said this hasn’t affected the way I behave around Billy.
I am wary when he rubs his face on mine, or up and down my hands, which he loves to do. And my hands are getting really dry where I keep washing them.
It feels as though I am ‘letting him down’ but I am trying to keep a little ’emotional’ space between us. In case I have to let him go.
Sunday 23rd October. Billy is 8 weeks and 5 days old
Billy had a wonderful day today. Most Sundays, my younger son and his girlfriend visit and they were very excited about meeting Billy.
He spent most of the afternoon giving them instructions on how best to align their laps and arms in order for him to get the most comfortable position for his naps.
We have a nice routine now. And Billy is becoming increasingly relaxed and at home here.
A new kitten feeding schedule
I feed Billy four times a day – every three and a half hours from 7:30 in the morning.
We actually get up soon after six and Billy would like very much for me to feed him then.
But he is now very vocal around feeding times and I am wary of getting him into the habit of yelling for his breakfast. I could see that leading to me having to get up earlier and earlier each day in order to stop the yowling.
So Billy has to wait until after we have finished our own breakfast before I prepare his.
Training Billy to come
I have been whistling Billy at meal times for a while now, and he now comes running whenever I whistle. I only do this when he is near to me at the moment, to ensure success.
His sense of directions seems to be improving too.
I am also whistling Billy from short distances away, in-between meals now, and I have a few tiny pieces of kitten kibble ready to give him each time I do so.
We live in the UK where most cats are allowed to roam free. So it’s really important to me that Billy comes when I call him as he may well be allowed outdoors when he is older.
A good recall will help me call him in at night and whenever I think he has been away a bit too long
Cat allergy report
This morning I took my third and last dose of steroids. And they have almost completely suppressed the symptoms of an allergic response that I was suffering from.
So now we have to wait and see if my allergy returns when the steroids are withdrawn.
I have an appointment at an allergy clinic next month and if the allergy does return, I have decided to wait until I have been tested and to seek advice from the consultant, before making any decisions about Billy’s future.
So that is at least another two weeks.
What that decision is, will depend on whether or not Billy is the cause, and on how severe the symptoms are.
I am trying not to let the events of the week spoil things, but it has inevitably taken some of the fun out of having Billy. It’s horrible feeling ‘in limbo’ over all this. I’m taking less photos than I would really like to and trying not to get too attached to Billy in case I lose him.
My younger daughter has offered to keep Billy for me if I can’t, which although a relief brings its own problems.
Because having a cat allergy isn’t just a matter of not keeping cats.
Cat allergy facts
Many of my friends and relatives have cats too. As you can imagine, I have read extensively now on cat allergies, and on managing them safely.
Studies have shown that cat allergens are extremely good at spreading themselves about!
Cat allergies are usually caused by a protein called Fel d 1 It is found in the saliva of all cats and their dander, or dead skin cells, get coated in it when the cat washes.
This dander is incredibly light and sticky and coats the walls of your home, soft furnishings, and clothes. No matter how carefully we clean, it would be in our house for months after Billy is gone.
Fel d1 is transported around by people who live with cats, and can be found in schools and offices, and other places that cat owners may regularly visit.
If Billy goes to my daughter, this could make it difficult for me to visit visit my daughter and grand-daughter.
And as we work together it could mean I am still being exposed to the allergen because Lucy will inevitably have it on her clothes and possessions and some of it will be transfered to my home again.
I suppose much depends on how severe and how controllable the allergy is, without steroids, as these are not safe to take on a long term basis.
Rest assured, that no matter what the outcome, I will make sure Billy has a loving and permanent home where he will be safe and protected.
Monday 24th October. My kitten is 8 weeks and 6 days old
It is now a whole week since we collected Billy and brought him home. In some ways it seems much longer!
Today, Billy has been given access to my carpeted dining room. This is a long room that opens on to both the kitchen and the hall via a door at each end.
He’s been in here briefly under supervision, but apart from an hour or so after each meal, I’m now letting him in here unsupervised.
This means that Billy can have great fun racing in one door, along the room and out through the other.
Kitten toilet training at nine weeks old
Billy has not had a single accident in our home. His breeder clearly made a great job of litter training him, and I want to make sure I build on that.
My strategy has been to increase the rooms Billy has access to one at a time, adding a room when I am confident he can find his way to his litter tray from the other rooms.
Restricting access to new rooms during periods when the baby animal is least likely to need to empty themselves, works very well with both puppies and kittens.
I want Billy to build up a habit of not even considering toileting in my dining room. Which is why I don’t let Billy into the dining room just after he has eaten, as this is the time he is most likely to need his litter tray.
And to make sure he can remember the quickest route back to his litter tray before he is allowed access to the dining room at those ‘risky’ times.
Billy’s ability to jump is improving swiftly. He can now take hop on (and off) the kitchen chairs effortlessly and from some distance.
Billy’s style when exploring anywhere new seems to be to sniff around the edges of the room first, then to run up and down the length of the room very fast indeed for several minutes, until he is exhausted.
Then he likes to take a nap.
And that’s exactly what he did today.
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