Of Litter Boxes and Delicate Paws

Stepping on leftover litter pieces is THE WORST! (From CatVsHuman.com)

Stepping on leftover litter pieces is the worst. (From CatVsHuman.com)

I’ve never been picky about litter. At the end of the day, I don’t care how much you want to defend your brand of litter, cat pee and poo is awful no matter what kind of litter you use. I used to be a frequent buyer of Fresh Step, but the perfumes and the ridiculous amount of dust it gave off every time I scooped, and every time Shelby would visit the litter box finally drove me crazy. Its distinct perfume was all over my furniture and clothing; the leftover dust had completely caked the inside of my vacuum cleaner, and quite possibly Shelby’s and my lungs; and I had had enough of the stray razor-sharp pieces cutting into my feet and seeing little scratches on my brand new, wooden floors from the damage incurred from the necessary daily sweeping just so my apartment could be maintained. I was also sick of my allergies going haywire since Shelby was dragging the remnants of the litter everywhere, including my bed. There’s nothing worse than finally lying down at the end of a long day and finding pieces of razor-sharp litter in your bed. So, after four years of customer loyalty, I decided that I needed to change litter brands.

Happy teddy bears kitty paws!

Happy teddy bears kitty paws!

I told Jen, a close family friend, who has had cats her whole life about my litter woes and she recommended I check out Shweat Scoop, which she uses for her cat, Maybe. From the first pour, I liked the Shweat litter right away. It smelled sweet like, well, wheat, and not at all like the nauseating perfume of Fresh Step. It wasn’t accompanied by a mushroom cloud of dust, though there was a little bit of it, and the little strays that didn’t make it into the litter box were admittedly annoying and uncomfortable, but didn’t make small incisions into the pads of my feet. Shelby seemed quite pleased as well. He spent less time licking his paw pads post litter box trips, and he seemed to be more comfortable while there. It was pretty great! The only real noticeable downside was the odor-covering capacity of the Shweat was most definitely not as powerful as the Fresh Step, meaning necessary daily scooping, and / or a required addition of baking soda after each scoop. Small price to pay if you ask me! Needless to say, it was disappointing to have the vet tell me that, until Shelby’s paw issue improved or outright healed, I should switch over to Yesterday’s News or something similar. For those of you who have ever owned a ferret, Yesterday’s News is a very familiar litter brand. I had a 20lb. bag left over from when before I put Lucía down, so I brought it over and put it to the test.

Worst. Cat litter. Ever.

Is it absorbent? Yes. Does it smell of perfumes? No. Does it leave dust clouds? No. So, what’s the problem? Have you ever stepped on a tiny LEGO or tiny rocks while barefoot? Have you ever scraped ammonia-scented cake batter off the side of a pan? Have you ever smelled uncovered cat poop? If any of those three examples are familiar to you, then you’ve probably used Yesterday’s News or even Feline Pine. I just don’t even know how either of those could possibly be marketed as cat litter. Seriously. I fortunately already had a 20lb. bag of Yesterday’s News from when before I had to put Lucía down, being that pellet litter is amazingly great for ferrets, but those 20lbs. were gone in 2 days. Not only did Cass think the pellets were little toys, but I could tell that neither she nor Shelby were fans of stepping in the box. They made sure to communicate their discomfort by making a dramatic display of seeming like a first-time swimmer diving into the deep end of the pool every time they needed to use the box, and by making sure to cover up their litter box presents with little to no litter pellets. Let me tell you how thoroughly unpleasant eau de chat sans cover-up is!

Anyway, after nearly 3 weeks of treatment with nearly $1,000 in vet fees and medication and $60 of useless litter, Shelby finally has a nearly completely healed paw, and we are back to using Shweat, much to the cats’ and my delight. The vet and I reviewed Shelby’s case one last time and came to the conclusion that Shelby has suffered a mild bout of Plasma Cell Pododermatitis, AKA Pillow Foot. It all added up since he had elevated eosinophils (white blood cells), which I originally chalked up to his IBS / IBD, or the mysterious case of Roundworm that Cass, the kitten, somehow did not have. In the end, we will never know exactly what caused this since biopsies are unbearably expensive, but at least we know it wasn’t allergies to his litter.

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Poor Shelbycat!

Shelby's paw after 5 days of diluted Nolvasan soaks.

Shelby’s paw after 5 days of diluted Nolvasan soaks.

A closer look at poor Shelby's paw pad crater.

A closer look at poor Shelby’s paw pad crater.

After our last visit with the vet, Shelby was sent home with a vial of Nolvasan Concentrate (AKA chlorhexidine diacetate) to dilute in warm water, so he could have 5-minute paw-soaks; and more Buprenex to help with the pain. My poor little boy has been dealing with the indignity of being sat on, while having his paw soaked in what I bet feels like what mouthwash feels in your mouth when you have a canker sore. Afterwards, he gets his dose of Buprenex, and then has to don the cone of shame so he wont lick at his paw and, in the process, ingest the extra dilution of Nolvasan, which is exactly when Cass decides to start trying to attack him. Poor Shelby. He’s been such a good boy and a major champ about the whole thing. I can’t even imagine what It must feel like to be him right now.

I have no idea how his paw got that horrendous-looking crater in it. When we went in for his check-up the day before his paw started showing signs of inflammation, bleeding, and limping, I had some blood work done for him. According to the vet, everything was completely normal, minus elevated levels of eosinophils, which are usually signs of parasites or allergies. Unfortunately, the vet and I let it slide, since we both know he suffers from IBD. So, at this point, it’s kind of hard to say where all of this started, but at least it’s healing. My poor little champ. I know he’s mad at me right now as he sulks about with his E-cone on, but at least he’s going to live to see another day, and with all four paws.

Shelby and the terrible, no good, very bad weeks

Shelby has somehow managed to pick up a paw infection. (Dun dun duuuuuuun!) Not only has my poor boy been seeing the vet quite regularly, he has been getting liquid medication, pain killers, paw soaks, shots, and is required to wear an E-cone. To top it off, Cass can’t seem to completely wrap her kitten head around the need for the cone of shame, and keeps on pouncing poor Shelby, seeing it as an opportunity to claim top cat.

Poor, poor, Shelby. It has been a terrible, horrible, no good, very bad last two weeks for him. Still, he’s been a champ about it all, and it’s given me quite the opportunity to learn a variety of things about cat behavior, caring for a sick kitty, and cat medication.

Cats are, as every cat owner knows, territorial, stubborn, and, more than anything, privileged little bastards. Introduce me to one cat who doesn’t believe that they don’t just automatically deserve the very best just because and I will be absolutely shocked. By the same token, they’re also amazingly tolerant of things as long as you have earned their love.

Cass likes to sleep on my pillow now, directly on top of my head. I’m not as to why, but I think I need to work on that before my 16-week-old kitten is old and big enough to take over the whole pillow. I welcome any and all tips.