FYI: I'm writing this for the people out there who are Googling "feline liver failure" or "feline anorexia" right now. I am not a veterinarian and therefore this absolutely cannot be considered advice or anything of the sort. But while I was going through this with my cat, I found that reading about other people's experiences was not only comforting, it also gave me information that I needed to help my cat recover. It's taken me five months, but I'm finally keeping the promise I made to myself that I would pay it forward if my cat survived!
During Labor Day weekend of 2011, my husband and I were in South Dakota for a family reunion when we got the news that our cat, Angelus, was dying.
Dwayne's parents had had to take him to the vet in our absence because he was listless and refusing to eat. We got a call from the vet while we were at the Corn Palace. She told us that Angelus was in very bad shape. She said that his blood test results were off the chart. She said that he was never going to survive without $5,000+ in treatments, and that even then, there was only a 25% chance. She said that the best option was euthanasia.
Obviously, we were very upset by this news. We felt terrible that we'd never see him again. We felt even worse that Angelus had known us since the day he was born, but since we were in South Dakota, his final minutes were going to be in a vet's office with Dwayne's mom instead of with us.
After talking it over together, we decided that if it wouldn't be painful for him, we wanted to see if he could survive until we got home on Monday. The plan was that we'd spend a couple of hours with him at home, and then take him in for euthanasia ourselves. The vet said that that would be all right. She already had him on an IV for rehydration. She then gave him an appetite stimulant and sent him home with Dwayne's parents.
Dwayne's mom did some research about feline liver failure and found some tips about how to help a cat in this situation. (I did the same from my hotel room, using my phone to read whatever I could find on the subject.)
We checked in every day, and he still lived on. He was even eating tiny bits of food here and there. When we got home on Monday, Dwayne's parents said that they really didn't think we should have him put to sleep. They thought we should keep trying to get him to eat and see if he'd continue to improve. We agreed to try, but weren't particularly confident that he'd ever fully recover. We were glad, though, to have this extra time to spend with him, since we had been worried the whole weekend that we wouldn't have the chance.
As it turned out, I'd already requested the entire week off from work, so I was able to spend a lot of time taking care of Angelus. Every couple of hours, I was putting something in front of him. These are the things I was able to get him to eat and drink:
1. The lowest-sodium chicken broth I could find at the store (slightly heated).
2. Sodium-free canned sardines.
3. Water drained from the sardines.
4. Low-sodium deli turkey.
5. Low-sodium canned chicken.
6. Water drained from the canned chicken.
7. Water drained from low-sodium canned tuna. (I didn't feed him actual tuna, because it's not supposed to be good for cats.)
I also gave him a "high calorie nutritional supplement" gel to eat about three times a day. My mother-in-law picked it up from a natural pet food store. It's called Nutri-Cal. She had tried mixing it in his food, but he wouldn't eat much of it that way. I took a more aggressive approach and smeared dollops of it on the back of one of his paws. He'd then lick it off and get filled with calories whether he liked it or not!
Every day during that week, he got better and better with more energy and a bigger appetite. After a while, I realized that he probably wasn't eating or drinking as much as normal because he was getting filled up on the gel, so I switched to giving him that only once a day.
That Friday, six days after the vet told us that Angelus was dying, Dwayne took him back in and had his blood tests redone. His numbers were in a normal range once again. He had completely rebounded.
It's now been five months, and he is doing very well. He still hasn't fully regained all the weight that he lost, but he looks healthy and seems to feel completely normal--including being his whiny-baby self on a regular basis!