The Perils of Pilling Pearl

“You cannot look at a sleeping cat and feel tense.” – Jane Pauley

Pearl, my eight-year-old cat, began sneezing recently. I took her to the vet, who in turn referred me to an internist who proceeded to explain that Pearl might have aspirated a seed or a piece of grass. On the other hand, and a bleaker possibility, the vet explained it could be polyps, feline herpes, or cancer. And here I thought it was just a cold.

And so began the “talk” about that four-letter word: test. Or in this case, lots of recommended tests, from a CT scan—aka, a “cat scan”—to inserting a tiny camera on a scope up Pearl’s nose and then down her throat. During the procedures, she’d need to be anesthetized and intubated and I’d need to pay $3,500.

“Is there any medication we could try first?” said my bank account, knowing that feeding a pill to my skittish Pearl may present a whole host of challenges.
Fortunately, medication was an option with anti-viral and antibiotic pills to try. Pearl is not the docile kind of feline who naps in the sun and entertains by agreeing to play dress up in a cute or kitschy costume. She and I have a clear social contract: she lets me feed her and I let her sit on my lap while I work. It doesn’t include coercion. She took one look at the pills and locked eyes with me, clearly saying “no” to drugs. Then she darted. How was I going to help her get well? Could I skip the pills and let nature take its course?
So I did what any well-intentioned cat parent would do—I turned to the Internet.

I watched the YouTube video, “How to Give a Cat a Pill.” While it was tragically funny and mirrored my early failed attempts, it didn’t help me. Next, I turned to my neighbors who tried valiantly, but in vain, to pill Pearl. No luck there. Once again, I turned to an expert—a vet technician who, for $40, made a house call to demonstrate the trick to getting a pill into my cat and having it stay there.

She was a patient teacher and Pearl tolerated the procedure. I learned how to give her the pills and because I didn’t force it, I never got scratched.

I, like most, love having pets. Our pets give us consolation and company. They provide endless entertainment and are conversation starters. They require our devotion and our care.

For months we’ve been missing human hugs and touching. We miss the heartbeat connection. Pets help fill that need, which explains the recent wave of adoptions from local shelters, a trend that I hope continues in a post-COVID-19 world.

As for my Pearl, she is getting better. And petting her certainly helps meowt by lowering my blood pressure after a day of grappling with the human news stories.

Dori Gillam is a speaker and writer on positive aging. She’s worked for Sound Generations (a local nonprofit serving older adults) and AARP. She is a speaker for Washington Humanities, facilitates Wisdom Cafes throughout King County, and is a member of the Seattle Age-Friendly Task Force.  

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