Cat is meowing after eating and seems like she's in pain

srpjuly

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I apologize that this will be a long post, but I'm hoping someone could have some insight into what might be going on with Henrietta. She's a former feral cat I adopted about a year ago and seems to have a plethora of random symptoms that the vets either weren't concerned about or went away on their own. It's been a lot - extreme fearfulness/hyper vigilance, chronic ear/face itching with no signs of mites/bacteria/infection, constipation, "dribbles" in the litterbox with otherwise normal pee (and blood in her urinalysis without crystals or infection that points to FIC), infrequent episodes that look like hyperesthesia, very rarely a cough with head forward and no hairball, very fussy eater with a highly variable appetite.

I've always worried about her but trusted the vet and moved on with life. But for the past 3 weeks, Henry has been struggling with new symptoms and the vet can't find anything wrong. I'm at my wit's end and $2000+ into testing with an abdominal ultrasound scheduled on Thursday. I have no idea which of her past symptoms might be related and help us get closer to an answer, so wanted to see if anyone has experienced anything similar and can help connect the dots.

So basically, three weeks ago in the morning, about 10 minutes after she ate her breakfast (Fancy Feast petites chicken pate), I found her standing in the corner in the living room with her ears and tail slightly lowered, breathing a bit faster/harder than usual. When I called over to her, she started doing an unusual meow - loud, repeated, high pitched and generally painful sounding. She darted off the to bedroom to hide under the bed. Later in the day, she wouldn't eat (not even a creamy treat!) and was hissing at me when I went to pet her.

I rushed her to the emergency vet because I was so freaked out. It's tricky because the symptoms don't really point to what exactly is causing her this pain. Long story short, after chest and abdominal x-rays, full panel blood work including heart protein, urinalysis, a thorough physical, and having the results reviewed by a specialist - there was nothing "clinically significant" to note. The only things slightly out of the ordinary were:
  • Slight inflammation of her lungs
    • This is what they ended up running with and gave her a 2 week course of doxycycline in case it was bronchitis. This oddly seemed to help her ear itching? But she had one of her coughing episodes on the last day of the meds which led to a probable diagnosis of asthma - however this appears unrelated to her ongoing issue of pain after eating
  • Asymmetry of the kidneys. "Her right kidney seems longer than the left kidney. Currently, with the results of the urinalysis and blood work, this doesn't seem clinically significant"
  • "Signs of inflammation in the fatty tissues surrounding her spleen which could be secondary to a pancreatitis (current or passed), it could also be an insignificant change"
  • Potential thickening of the stomach wall
  • Abnormal bony proliferation of her left hip bone, potentially associated to an ancient fracture
The vet called it a very boring blood test. I noticed she has a couple values very slightly outside of the normal range: AST 14 IU/L (normal 16-67), TP 62g/L (63-88), GLOB 28g/L (30-59), RETIC-HGB 15.2pg (15.3 - 22.9). She mentioned the slightly lower GLOB could mean she's losing some protein in her digestive tract (no idea what causes that).

Since she finished the antibiotics, she's had good and bad days but hasn't improved, with the same discomfort/pain recurring daily after eating. I took her to my regular vet who was also stumped and gave me GI food to try (Hills, Royal Canin and Purina - she literally will not come anywhere near any of them no matter what I try to entice her). I need her to eat something so I've gone back to giving her Fancy Feast and the Royal Canin Fibre Response GI dry food she usually only gets at night. The vet also gave me Cerenia for nausea, Omeprazine for any reflux, and Mirtazapine and Gabapentin as needed.

Still no luck. I've been feeding her meals 1-2 tsp at a time every hour or two, and elevated her dish but it's still happening. What's worse is it's not always consistent - sometimes she has her meowing in pain and hiding reaction 15-20 minutes after eating, sometimes she has one lick and does it. Sometimes her meow is loud and urgent, sometimes it's soft and strained. Tried offering all manner of different foods (high end, junky, wet, dry, stew, pate, on a plate, in a bowl, on a silicon mat, on the floor, etc.) and she won't touch them so I have no idea if diet would fix it. She's already a picky eater and I don't want to limit her options when she's barely eating what would have been half the amount she would get in a day before this.

I notice she does sometimes have a "burp" after eating - kind of looks like a hiccup, sounds like throwing up in her mouth, and she does a big gulp after. She doesn't take a vomiting posture and hasn't thrown anything up. But the vet says reflux is just a symptom and we have to find the cause.

Is it possible this is a food allergy? We've suspected it in the past with the ear itching but she wouldn't eat the hydrolyzed food and I didn't want her to starve herself since it's already hard to get her to eat enough calories. Her vet file from before I got her noted early signs of resorptive lesions which could definitely be at play, but weirdly she has this reaction only after her wet food, and is actually preferring her dry food right now. She crunches away on both sides of her mouth no problem, no dropping.

Are there any other tests you would suggest besides the ultrasound? Thanks for reading my novel (lol) and any advice for this frazzled cat mom would be appreciated more than you know!!
 
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stephanietx

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Has she had a dental done recently? That would probably be the first thing I'd try. The burping could be gas, actually, and it could be related to food. I would suggest feeding her a single protein that's not fish or chicken. Try rabbit, venison, duck or turkey and see if that helps.
 
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srpjuly

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Has she had a dental done recently? That would probably be the first thing I'd try. The burping could be gas, actually, and it could be related to food. I would suggest feeding her a single protein that's not fish or chicken. Try rabbit, venison, duck or turkey and see if that helps.
No, she hasn't and my vet said since she's not feeling well she'd rather do the ultrasound first and only if that came back clean proceed to try dental. Pretty worried about how much debt I'll be in by then lol.

When switching to a novel protein, would you suggest just giving it to cold turkey with no other options? I've tried transitioning to duck before and she wouldn't even eat her regular food with 1 tsp of duck mixed in :/ Worried about making a change when she's already feeling unwell too but I do wonder if that might help.
 

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Hi S srpjuly !

From everything you've written to describe her history and behaviour, only one issue repeats itself in my ears: oral/dental. [I suspect it was the same for stephanietx stephanietx ]

Those "early signs of resorptive lesions" have had more than a year to progress/worsen and I suspect that a very careful, exclusive oral exam right now would provide all the evidence needed to put your immediate focus on her mouth. Perhaps it's ironic to you, but I found your commentary "weirdly she has this reaction only after her wet food, and is actually preferring her dry food right now." to be perfectly indicative of tooth sensitivity. She is able to keep the solid bits of dry food away from the sensitive teeth.....the wet food gets mixed with her saliva and just 'permeates' throughout her mouth....and so there's just no way for her to protect those sensitive teeth.

Given that her current vetcare has taken exotic routes down a number of 'rabbit holes' and the very basics have been overlooked, if I were in your shoes, I think I'd be looking for another professional for her. If you can access a Veterinary Dentist, I'd suggest putting the brakes on the ultrasound, and putting your resources there.

Keep us updated!
.
 

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Hi! How old is this cat?

I'd suggest having the pancreatitis test run - FPLI (feline pancreatic lipase immunoreactivity) which requires analysis by a lab. There is a SNAP version that many vets can run with same day results, but it is typically less reliable.

It is possible that the vet may want to wait until after the ultrasound is done, but sometimes it is very hard to see the pancreas, especially if the condition isn't extreme.

And, regarding the ultrasound, please make sure that they include a possible FNA (fine needle aspiration) IF they find any suspicious tissue that they can collect. It is not a chargeable item unless they actually have to do it. But, it is good to have it 'approved' should it need to be done. It can answer things that may not be conclusive on just the ultrasound alone. It is not considered invasive and doesn't require any additional prep or sedation. Many ultrasounds can be done without sedation at all.

Keep us posted.
 
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srpjuly

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Hi S srpjuly !

From everything you've written to describe her history and behaviour, only one issue repeats itself in my ears: oral/dental. [I suspect it was the same for stephanietx stephanietx ]

Those "early signs of resorptive lesions" have had more than a year to progress/worsen and I suspect that a very careful, exclusive oral exam right now would provide all the evidence needed to put your immediate focus on her mouth. Perhaps it's ironic to you, but I found your commentary "weirdly she has this reaction only after her wet food, and is actually preferring her dry food right now." to be perfectly indicative of tooth sensitivity. She is able to keep the solid bits of dry food away from the sensitive teeth.....the wet food gets mixed with her saliva and just 'permeates' throughout her mouth....and so there's just no way for her to protect those sensitive teeth.

Given that her current vetcare has taken exotic routes down a number of 'rabbit holes' and the very basics have been overlooked, if I were in your shoes, I think I'd be looking for another professional for her. If you can access a Veterinary Dentist, I'd suggest putting the brakes on the ultrasound, and putting your resources there.

Keep us updated!
.
Honestly thank you so much for this comment. Now that you explain how she might be experiencing the pain (and why the dry food is different), it seems so obvious! Especially since she hasn't had any signs of something internal that needs so much further exploration after the extensive testing already done (0 vomiting, diarrhea, etc).

Come to think of it, her appetite is actually pretty normal (I haven't even given her any of the Mirtazapine), it's just that she's having this pain reaction to the wet food, which makes me further skeptical that something serious is to blame internally. I'm going to bite the bullet and cancel the ultrasound even though they made me put down a $150 deposit - the writing is on the wall that her teeth aren't great with the resorptive lesions and even the current vet commented that she had noticeable gingivitis!

I was able to find a vet even closer to me that does dental, general practice, ultrasound and lab testing on site that gave me an appointment tomorrow! Especially for my anxious girl, only having to do one visit to rule out multiple things is a way better option and well worth the $150 loss...or at least that's what I'm telling myself lol.

And I'll probably switch to that vet permanently if things go well because you're right about the vet going down a rabbit hole, and they have to refer me out for everything anyways, so...

I'll keep you posted and thank you so much again!
 
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srpjuly

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Hi! How old is this cat?

I'd suggest having the pancreatitis test run - FPLI (feline pancreatic lipase immunoreactivity) which requires analysis by a lab. There is a SNAP version that many vets can run with same day results, but it is typically less reliable.

It is possible that the vet may want to wait until after the ultrasound is done, but sometimes it is very hard to see the pancreas, especially if the condition isn't extreme.

And, regarding the ultrasound, please make sure that they include a possible FNA (fine needle aspiration) IF they find any suspicious tissue that they can collect. It is not a chargeable item unless they actually have to do it. But, it is good to have it 'approved' should it need to be done. It can answer things that may not be conclusive on just the ultrasound alone. It is not considered invasive and doesn't require any additional prep or sedation. Many ultrasounds can be done without sedation at all.

Keep us posted.
She's around 6/7 according to the foster org I got her from, but they don't know for sure.

Thanks for the tip, this helps make my decision to cancel the ultrasound easier knowing that isn't the primary diagnostic tool for pancreatitis anyways, which was actually my main concern after many, MANY, hours of googling...They even did a "quick ultrasound" at the emergency vet and didn't see anything obvious so it might be time to look at something else.

I'm taking her to a new vet that can examine her teeth on Friday so I'll definitely ask them to do that test as well, as it doesn't look like they did it during the initial bloodwork. And this way I'm also getting a second opinion, and if this vet tells me I'm barking up the wrong tree, we can change course since they have a lot of diagnostic tools available on site.

Thank you so much!
 

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I'm sorry Henry is having issues! 🥺 Sadie is also having some dental issues at the moment, she would eat her wet food but the moment it hit whatever sensitive area she would jerk up and run down the stairs. She would get hungry, but be weary of eating. Since she has an autoimmune disorder we have to wait for her to see a specialist to find out how bad it is, and if we absolutely need to do dental surgery. Right now she's on a course of low dose antibiotics (just in case there is any secondary tooth infection) but I also have taken to warming her wet food before she eats. Funny enough, I bought a mug warmer that has a very low setting and I'll place her can of food on it for 5 min. It's enough to warm it inside the can, and I serve it on her ceramic dish. It seems like this helps; I think the colder temp of her wet food was making things worse. The things I do for my princess 😻

Good luck, I hope you find some answers with the other vet!! ❤
 
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srpjuly

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I'm sorry Henry is having issues! 🥺 Sadie is also having some dental issues at the moment, she would eat her wet food but the moment it hit whatever sensitive area she would jerk up and run down the stairs. She would get hungry, but be weary of eating. Since she has an autoimmune disorder we have to wait for her to see a specialist to find out how bad it is, and if we absolutely need to do dental surgery. Right now she's on a course of low dose antibiotics (just in case there is any secondary tooth infection) but I also have taken to warming her wet food before she eats. Funny enough, I bought a mug warmer that has a very low setting and I'll place her can of food on it for 5 min. It's enough to warm it inside the can, and I serve it on her ceramic dish. It seems like this helps; I think the colder temp of her wet food was making things worse. The things I do for my princess 😻

Good luck, I hope you find some answers with the other vet!! ❤
The mug warmer is genius! Gonna look into that for Henry as she wants nothing to do with microwaved food. I hope Sadie feels better soon!! It does sound like a really similar issue, that "jerking up and running away" is totally it. So hard to see them uncomfortable when there's not an easy answer or magic pill to cure them, especially with other issues at play like her autoimmune. She sounds lucky to have you keeping her comfortable in the meantime <3
 

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I'm sorry I'm late in seeing this, but you can introduce new wet food without a transition, but I usually like to give it as a treat first to see if they like it, then I put it in the bowl alongside their regular food, then when that's acceptable, I mix it together.

It could be that your vet is correct, but teeth are pretty easy to examine and quite honestly, can contribute to many other health issues. It's pretty much the first thing my vets check, no matter why I take my cat in. They get a general quick exam, then focus on the issue.

I hope this new vet works out for you and I'm glad you were able to get him seen quickly.
 
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srpjuly

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Update: She saw the vet on Friday and they looked at her teeth. There is one tooth with noticeable redness and tartar but she said she wasn't "too worried" about it and it didn't look so bad to her. They couldn't anesthetize her to take X-rays or do a cleaning, I'm not sure if it was because I'd given her gabapentin or because of time constraints. They also did the pancreas blood test and we're waiting on the results.

I also ended up showing them a video of a twitch she has daily, which I chalked up to pain/anxiety or just a neurological quirk (when I was a kid we had a had a cat who had a lifelong face twitch that never had any impact on him). The vet was alarmed by it and said it was almost certainly epilepsy (partial seizures) that could get worse over time and should be treated with a 3x daily medication. She didn't recommend wasting money with an MRI/CAT scan since the visible signs were obvious to her.

I was honestly a bit hesitant about this because she's been through so many medications for things that have turned out to be mis-diagnoses, and 3x a day possibly for life is a LOT for someone who stupidly didn't get pet insurance. She was already 6 when I got her and had pre-existing stuff on her file, so I figured it would be a waste. Lesson learned!

I just want her to be back to her normal self! We ended up deciding to start by trying her on a different food (the vet poo-pooed my Fancy Feast...) and treat her daily with the gabapentin she'd been on rather than just as needed. The vet also suggested that it's possible her intense anxiety was causing inflammation and possibly generalized pain, so we could also try proceeding with anti-anxiety meds at some point.

I think I will take her back in a few weeks to deal with the dental stuff, because it still feels like it's probably the most likely culprit, and since she had really comprehensive bloodwork done at the emergency a couple weeks ago, they won't have to do all that again for it.

Still just feeling like it could be absolutely anything since she's just racking up the diagnoses: asthma, epilepsy, hyperesthesia, FIC...it's exhausting. Tonight we had a really good play session for the first time in weeks. Even on the gabapentin she's still going into her "cave" after eating (it's a bed behind the curtain near the heater lol) and meowing more/differently than normal. Her signature chirps have been gone since this all started and she rarely sleeps on the bed with me anymore :(

I'm also at such a loss because the other day, she had one of these "episodes" that's been going on just because I moved a blanket near her — eyes got wide, acted fearful and meowed weirdly then went somewhere secluded — so is this not even linked to food at all? WTF is this!

What if the first episode she had was some weird one-off and all the vet visits and meds have amped up her anxiety causing it to continue? Her routine is nothing like it was 3 weeks ago now because of her not being around most of the day, so maybe it's some kind of self-perpetuating loop. I wish they could just talk to us and tell us what's wrong 😭

Thanks again everyone for the input and I'll keep you posted!
 
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Were there any environmental changes 3-4 weeks ago? New cologne, soaps, cleaning/laundry supplies? Any construction (road, house, etc) nearby? Anyone burning brush, fireplace, etc? -- ANY new scents seeping into home? Were any of these things used the day of are within 48 hrs of the eating problems?

Irritated sinuses don't always mean sneezing & congestion...at least for me. It often means feeling like skin burning on face or feeling sinuses expand...which isn't fun on gums....or teeth & can make ear(s) hurt...& cold food often irritates already irritated gums, teeth, ears.

The discomfort about the blanket made me think of this. My spouse STILL just shakes head when I tell him "I don't care if you eat that, but my sinuses say you'll need to go outside to do it, & air out afterward."

...just a thought (& something to keep eye out for in future) brought on becuz you mentioned the blanket in your last post, plus no definitive diagnosis from Drs.
 

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Not saying this is what's going on, but when you have a tooth that's bad or abscessed below the gum (the vet/dentist can't necessarily see this, only an x-ray can) when something touches that tooth, or just too much salvia collects you get an electric shock through your mouth and down your throat. Been there, done that. The Moment the tooth was pulled the abscess broke and the pain receded. Note my dentist had denied there was a problem for months. Another dentist did the x-ray and that was that. MONTHS.

Just saying, getting rid of the 'not so bad' tooth could make a world of difference.
 
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srpjuly

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Were there any environmental changes 3-4 weeks ago? New cologne, soaps, cleaning/laundry supplies? Any construction (road, house, etc) nearby? Anyone burning brush, fireplace, etc? -- ANY new scents seeping into home? Were any of these things used the day of are within 48 hrs of the eating problems?
Honestly, the first episode happened the same day as a really stupid, unfortunate incident where I was boiling water to humidify the house...and fell back asleep with the pot boiling (I know, I know). Woke up to the pot boiled dry and the ceramic coating starting to burn off. It was PFA/lead/cadmium free but yeah, definitely not ideal to have smoke of any kind in the air. Opened up all the windows for the entire day and night, turned on the kitchen fan, threw the pot out and blasted my air purifier. Initially that's what I thought the problem was, and brought it up with the vet when they mentioned the inflammation in her lungs, but now that it's still going on and this was 3 weeks ago with nothing like that happening again, I'm not sure it's related.

I try to be really cautious with scents in the house but this was a good reminder, thank you!

Not saying this is what's going on, but when you have a tooth that's bad or abscessed below the gum (the vet/dentist can't necessarily see this, only an x-ray can) when something touches that tooth, or just too much salvia collects you get an electric shock through your mouth and down your throat. Been there, done that. The Moment the tooth was pulled the abscess broke and the pain receded. Note my dentist had denied there was a problem for months. Another dentist did the x-ray and that was that. MONTHS.

Just saying, getting rid of the 'not so bad' tooth could make a world of difference.
Thank you for saying this. That's what I initially thought too but then my mind started going down all the other rabbit holes of weird internal things it could be if the vet wasn't "so concerned" about the tooth and I'm getting panicked about cost.

I'll definitely get her back in for the dental soon and hopefully (?) they just find obvious teeth that need and she'll be back to her normal self. I always hear such comforting stories about situations where a tooth extraction totally rejuvenates a cat that's been on edge and having issues so I'm really praying that's what it is.


As another note, I know it's generally a dumb idea to get pet insurance for an older cat with medical issues, but I'm kind of considering it now for Henry. "The best time to plant a tree was 10 years ago...". Even though she has all these issues that I'll have to be paying out of pocket for, this experience has woken me up to the fact that things can go so wrong so fast. She's never had issues with vomiting which is a symptom of so many things, and she just got this bloodwork done that the vet called "perfect". I do worry that having taken her to the vet for various things will make them try to get out of paying claims, but if anything maybe the fact that the doctors aren't finding anything and her symptoms are so non-specific make it a good time to apply. I'm just thinking jeez, right now she's basically fine but just acting a little weird. If she ever got seriously ill with like kidney disease or cancer or something, I'm just not in a place to shell out that money myself.

Another problem is her sterilization certificate says she was born in 2018 (6 yrs old) but her vet docs from the foster agency say 2016 (8). Which I feel like will make a big difference with my premium. What do you guys think?
 

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Pet insurance should send you a file/contract like human insurance which will list the items/illnesses not covered due to pre-existing conditions. Our dog wasn't insured for CL tears until the repair on the two she had was done and held for a year. Somethings will never be insured. Read the offer carefully. I'm thinking vomiting would not be a pre-existing condition, but the specific diagnosed cause of the round of vomiting might be. The insurance company will contact your vet for information.
 

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How is Henri doing? I hope better! I just dropped in to share Sadie's update, since she had something similar. The vet checked her teeth and gums as well, and while she does have a few not so great areas she didn't see anything that was too concerning. However - she noticed she had some eye and nose discharge, and thought she may have a kitty cold that could be related to or affecting her teeth and gums. The vet decided to try a week dose of clavimox pills, and voila! She is back on track. 😁
Sending good vibes for Henri! ❤
 
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srpjuly

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How is Henri doing? I hope better! I just dropped in to share Sadie's update, since she had something similar. The vet checked her teeth and gums as well, and while she does have a few not so great areas she didn't see anything that was too concerning. However - she noticed she had some eye and nose discharge, and thought she may have a kitty cold that could be related to or affecting her teeth and gums. The vet decided to try a week dose of clavimox pills, and voila! She is back on track. 😁
Sending good vibes for Henri! ❤
So happy to hear Sadie is feeling better! It's so funny that you go from "she's not liking her wet food" to "she has a cold"...cats are truly an enigma!

Henry also seems to be feeling better, but I still have no idea what was going on! Since I last posted I made sure to get her back on her normal routine, which meant bringing her food to her at her usual meal times even if she was hiding and making sure to sit and play with her for as long as she was interested, whenever she asked. The more we played and got back into the routine, the less she was hiding, so I'm leaning towards it having been what I mentioned above - a mystery one-off that triggered that first episode and then really bad anxiety from all the subsequent vet visits. She's off all her meds now too.

I actually think she has kitty PTSD from the 3-4 times I had to corner her to get her in the carrier. I started to notice that even as the hiding has completely gone away, she's much more on edge from noises from the neighbours (things that bothered her when I first got her but we had made a lot of progress on). As recently as 4 days ago, I was putting on a pair of pants and the fabric moving near her caused her to crouch and cry. Any time I move blankets she's ready to run, and the other day I just looked behind the couch (where she likes to hide from the carrier, she wasn't even back there at the time) and she screamed and ran away lol.

The vet said since I'd had such extensive blood work done recently it would be great to do her dental in the next month since they won't have to do the pre-anesthesia tests, but I also have to go away for work next week and honestly, she's feeling better and eating totally normally, so I think I have to just let her recover from that month of fear!

Does anyone have experience with daily anti-anxiety meds? I don't feel the gabapentin is the solution long-term but it's clear now that her stress (between the FIC flare ups and whatever this was) needs to be addressed. I'm just so happy to have my chirping, playful baby back to normal, but just like in humans I'm sure chronic anxiety is going to cause health issues.

Pics of Henry at the vet on the day she started acting off (imagine me in tears behind the camera) vs. sleeping with me in bed last night and being her perky self today! She's never cuddled up to me like that in the year I've had her so it just warmed my heart. Choosing to believe that she knows I have her best interests in mind and trusts me more for it even after what I had to put her through <3 Thanks everyone for the advice, I just love this site!
 

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BellaBlue82

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Aw, Henry is beautiful! 😍❤ I'm glad she is doing better.
I can empathize with the anxiety piece, after going through a years worth of blood draws every two weeks for Sadie she had quite a time adjusting to knocking at the door. She still doesn't come out for visitors, but at least she no longer hides under the bed!
I never went down the medication path though. In looking at some other posts on the site, I saw S silent meowlook provide a great link about anxiety medications for cats. I'll relink it here so you can do some reading.
I hope this helps!!
 
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