The dilemma of care vs trauma

KatScritch

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TL/DR- How do I (towel) capture my cat safely without stressing her out to the point of hunger strike.

Okay, backstory... Hello! As the title states, I am currently faced with a dilemma of applying ointment to my cat's ear without traumatizing her to the point of hunger striking. I don't think this is a vet medical question but rather a behavior question. Yes it involves medicine but the problem is not the medicine finding a diagnosis, but the capturing of my sweet cat in order to give her the medicine. My vet and I have already identified and diagnosed what is wrong and the proper meds have already been prescribed. This is not a medical question. Please read to the end.

She is a 2 year old rescue, lived most of her life in shelters. I adopted her in December 2023, so we are currently at 6 months together. This is not my first cat but she is my first rescue cat. All other cats who have owned me came to me as kittens.

I am sold on clicker training to get her comfortable with me touching her, but this is a longer term goal IMHO. In the short term, I have to apply ointment to her ear once per day for the next week. Please remember, this is not a medical question. In order to get her to the vet, I had to catch her with a towel, administer an oral liquid gabapentin dose for anxiety, and wait 2 hours before transferring her to the carrier for vet trip. The challenge was the gabapentin capture. I had to chase her from under my bed and she ran into the bathroom. I shut the door and chased her all over the bathroom, including when she jumped behind my dryer and I had to pull it away from the wall. I finally towelled her, got the meds in, and the rest of the day was cake. This was yesterday.

As the gabapentin was still in her system from earlier in the day, she was nice but cautious. Came to me for a small snack and head scratches and later ate all her dinner. Then this morning, she ate less than half of her wet food. I give her a tbsp of dry kibble after finishing each of her wet meals at two wet meals per day. Anyway, at dinner earlier tonight, she only ate half her food. I'm certain it is because of the stress from yesterday. I called the vet with my dilemma and they said she had to have her meds but gave not much guidance on how.

One thing, there is a very small teeny tiny possibility that this could be a food issue. She came to me addicted to Fancy Feast wet food and I successfully transitioned her to Fussie Cat a couple months ago and she loves it. After I gave her the gabapentin, I squeezed a small amount of mackerel wet treat puree into her mouth. I'm wondering if she liked the wet treat better than her normal wet food and is now holding out when I give her a meal? Or another theory, did she associate wet food with the trauma and now she is afraid of wet food?

Sorry, it sound like I am rambling but I am just trying to work through possibilities for why she didn't eat much today and how I can do better capturing her next time.

I have her records from the shelter and in September 2023 she was force fed for 5 days for hunger striking. I don't want to get to this point but we are rapidly moving backwards with socializing. I just don't see many options for getting this ointment into her ear, starting tomorrow, with a potential hunger strike looming overhead. Can anyone help me find the least traumatizing way to keep my kitty still long enough for me to stick some goop in her ear with my finger? For 7 days?

Thank you!
 

Caspers Human

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Came to me for a small snack and head scratches and later ate all her dinner.
Try to figure out what you did to encourage that and do it some more.

A little head scratch is just inches away from a scratch behind the ears and that's just inches away from actually touching her ears. If you can do that, it should be fairly easy to quickly dab on a little shmoo.
 

susanm9006

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I sympathize, one of mine was a mostly feral who didn’t trust me or any other humans. Catching her for anything was just so traumatic for both of us. And then not knowing if the hiding or not eating afterwards meant illness or just fear.

Anyway, I would try the churu route. Churu in one hand, ointment on your finger in the other. Then when she gets engrossed in eating you swipe the ointment from your finger onto her ear.
 
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KatScritch

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Try to figure out what you did to encourage that and do it some more.

A little head scratch is just inches away from a scratch behind the ears and that's just inches away from actually touching her ears. If you can do that, it should be fairly easy to quickly dab on a little shmoo.
Thank you for this, I do think we are close. Since I got her from the foster, the foster told me she gets a few snacks twice a day. I've used these snacks to condition her to come to me for skritches twice a day as well as to use the sisal scratch post.

She went through a lot in the shelters, so she is keen to me holding anything in my hands during pets and she only allows pets if I'm sitting on the floor. No standing and bending over or even kneeling. I've actually been preparing her for the ointment during the last couple of pet sessions by doing exactly what you say, touching her ears and following with a treat. The next time she comes for a treat, I will curl my finger and pretend the ointment is on the finger then see if she will still let me touch her ear. When med time comes, I fear she will see or smell the ointment and back off. I also fear I will only get the ointment dose in once and the next day, if she comes for snacks at all, she will pay closer attention to her ear and my finger.
 
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KatScritch

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I sympathize, one of mine was a mostly feral who didn’t trust me or any other humans. Catching her for anything was just so traumatic for both of us. And then not knowing if the hiding or not eating afterwards meant illness or just fear.

Anyway, I would try the churu route. Churu in one hand, ointment on your finger in the other. Then when she gets engrossed in eating you swipe the ointment from your finger onto her ear.
Thank you for your reply. Yes, she is still only eating half of her wet food.

The churu idea is a good one. I know, however, that I would have to train her to eat the churu out of my hand before trying the ointment, which could take a couple of days. I posted more info and was typing when you posted this but she doesn't allow me to approach her with anything in my hands.

I think I might be able to get one dose in with or without churu, but I think the real challenge will be the following day when I have to re-dose. The vet showed me how to apply the dose while I was at the clinic but I could tell later that day that the ointment annoyed my kitty.

Thank you all for your advice. I know some of my replies might sound like I am arguing but that is not my intent. I am just running though scenarios in my head based on what I have already tried and how my cat reacts to all of it.
 
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KatScritch

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Hmmm. Is there a way you can set the churu onto a lick mat or something while you do her ears?
Yes, I think that is an excellent idea that I had not thought of. I think a lick mat would be great to try but I also think it could take a few days to get her used to it. She is already becoming averse to her wet food, which she normally loves. I just don't think I can plop a lick mat down with churu on it and expect her to come check it out with me sitting next to it. She is very suspicious of new things, even when it involves yummy snacks.

I definitely will begin training her with a lick mat for the next time, but at the present moment, I don't think I have time for it. We missed yesterday's dose because she wasn't eating. I don't want to miss today's dose because I don't want the ear infection to return.
 

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If she's still coming to you for scratches, it means she's not mad at you. She's willing to forgive you after a negative encounter.

Honestly I think you're trying to too hard to make the ointment a pleasant experience, and you run the risk of her associating snacks with ointment. Don't jeopardize her trust in you by using snacks or scratches to trick her. She may stop coming to you altogether.

With Cosette I kept her in a secure location where I could easily access her, and once a day I made it obvious she was getting her drops, and a treat was used to make up with her later. It's better to keep her in one accessible room/place for a week than to traumatize her every day with chasing her.

As for the eating, don't see it as a hunger strike. See it as she's too scared to eat. Cats are vulnerable when they eat so they'll often avoid eating when they don't feel safe. I bought a multivitamin gravy/gel (it's like Churu but healthy) and I gave it to Cosette a few times a day. I never associated the food with the medicine. When I gave her food she knew she could eat it. She happily licked it from my fingers even when she was grumpy.

I know you're worried about a setback with her socializing, but you'll have to be realistic, medicine isn't fun no matter how hard you try, and when they are sick it just it what is it. Sure you'll have a setback for a few weeks, but it's not the end of the world.
 
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KatScritch

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If she's still coming to you for scratches, it means she's not mad at you. She's willing to forgive you after a negative encounter.

Honestly I think you're trying to too hard to make the ointment a pleasant experience, and you run the risk of her associating snacks with ointment. Don't jeopardize her trust in you by using snacks or scratches to trick her. She may stop coming to you altogether.

With Cosette I kept her in a secure location where I could easily access her, and once a day I made it obvious she was getting her drops, and a treat was used to make up with her later. It's better to keep her in one accessible room/place for a week than to traumatize her every day with chasing her.

As for the eating, don't see it as a hunger strike. See it as she's too scared to eat. Cats are vulnerable when they eat so they'll often avoid eating when they don't feel safe. I bought a multivitamin gravy/gel (it's like Churu but healthy) and I gave it to Cosette a few times a day. I never associated the food with the medicine. When I gave her food she knew she could eat it. She happily licked it from my fingers even when she was grumpy.

I know you're worried about a setback with her socializing, but you'll have to be realistic, medicine isn't fun no matter how hard you try, and when they are sick it just it what is it. Sure you'll have a setback for a few weeks, but it's not the end of the world.
Thank you so much, I think this is what I needed to hear. I've been saying the lick mats and churu snacks and all this stuff is great long term but the short term is what worries me most.

And I think you're right, she is currently scared to eat. She has regressed to hiding all day again but still comes for the snacks and pets, so I don't want to ruin that.

The thing about the small space is that her litter box is in my bathroom, so if I can get her into the bathroom I can keep her there. BUT it will still be a daily traumatizing chase. For her recent vet appt, I was able to chase her into the bathroom and close the door. I then had to chase her all over the bathroom with a towel so I could administer the gabapentin. The main difference between chasing her around the bathroom and chasing her around my bedroom is that she can't get under the bed. But in the bathroom she got behind the dryer, which was also a pain to deal with.

I really do feel like we are making progress in this thread and I am very appreciative of the help I have received. I'm about to chase her into the bathroom and maybe wait 30 min - 1 hr before going in with ointment. Ugh.
 
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KatScritch

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Okay, welp. I got a dose in. One thing that concerns me is that she was ducked down inside the litterbox when I entered the bathroom. I considered chasing her from the litterbox to a different location, like inside the tub or next to it. The risk was that the litterbox is between the washer and dryer so one hop could have put her behind the dryer again. In a split second I opted to place the towel right where she was. However, rather than tuck underneath and burrito her, I was able to simply hold her body with one hand and pull the towel back to reach her head. I quickly pulled the ointment out of my pocket, squeezed some on my finger, and applied it in both ears. Mission accomplished... For now.

So 3 things I am thinking about:
  1. Will she now fear the litterbox? I tried to be as gentle as possible and I think the burrito would have been worse than what I did, which was to simply hold the towel on top.
  2. Will she eat? I will definitely give her more time to eat her wet meals. I noticed today that rather than inhale it down like normal, she would take a few bites, walk to the corner and see where I was, then go eat a few more bites.
  3. For the next 6 days, will med time become easier or more difficult? I can see this going both ways. Either she will evade smarter and sooner or she will give in and by the end or the week, hopefully realize I am not going to hurt her.
Thanks again, everyone. With y'alls help, I don't think it could have gone any smoother. I will try to check in tomorrow.
 

Caspers Human

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Ya' gotta' do what ya' gotta' do! Right? ;)

Nice job! Here's hoping things will get easier as the two of you get to develop an agreement between you.

Okay, cat! We've gotta' do this thing and I ain't takin' no fluff out of you! I don't like doing this any more than you do so let's just get it over with and be done. Capiche? We can do it the easy way or we can do it the hard way. Do youze wanna' do it the hard way? Not a problem for me! I'd rather do it the easy way. The choice is up to you. Now, what's it gonna' be?
 

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Yay for success! Whatever works! The less disruptive the better.

As for your questions...

1. Doing it once shouldn't cause major damage. In the future be careful not to get her in the box every time.
2. She'll learn the routine of ointment once a day, and when she sees it's never at the food bowl, she'll somewhat relax.
3. Could go either way depending on your cat's personality. For my Cosette it was worse every time.
 
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KatScritch

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What is the ointment and the diagnosis?
The ointment is called Animax and the diagnosis is yeast infection in her ears.

It appears she may have seasonal allergies or some other type of allergy that caused itching and scratching. She got a small cut in front of an ear from excessive scratching with her hind leg. Vet checked inside ears and said yeast infection.
 
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KatScritch

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Yay for success! Whatever works! The less disruptive the better.

As for your questions...

1. Doing it once shouldn't cause major damage. In the future be careful not to get her in the box every time.
2. She'll learn the routine of ointment once a day, and when she sees it's never at the food bowl, she'll somewhat relax.
3. Could go either way depending on your cat's personality. For my Cosette it was worse every time.
Thank you!

1) This morning she was not sitting in litterbox and there was a urine clump inside, so litterbox still okay for now.
2) She did not eat any of her wet food this morning. I left it out for 45 min then had to go to work so I removed it and left her dry food.
3) We shall see.

Regarding the wet food, I normally feed her a wet portion in morning and evening followed by a tablespoon of dry kibble both times. Since she is avoiding her wet food, should I increase her dry portion so she still gets nourishment? I started out keeping dry portions the same hoping her hunger would entice her to the wet meals. But since she isn't eating wet at all now, I'm afraid she will begin losing weight.
 

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Willow, my former feral, was extremely skittish about food and even when she loved it never ate it all at once. She was also skittish about eating if I was anywhere near. I would leave her remaining wet food out and not pick it up when you leave. It won’t spoil and she may relax and eat it while you are gone. As long as she is eating something I wouldnt give her more dry but I would try other brands, consistencies and flavors.
 

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I also leave the wet food out for hours and Cosette takes her time to eat it. Knowing you're gone may be just the thing she needs to eat. I've done it for months and we've never seen signs of sickness from it. I'd try that before giving too much kibble.
 
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