Sylvester Bean (on rug) with interloper Bruno Williams (on sofa)
This is a very, very common ailment with elderly cats these days - their thyroid goes hyper, pumping out far too much of a thing called T4 which revs up their metabolism, causing their heart rate to increase which, in turn, puts pressure on their kidneys. An increased metabolism also means they're hungry all.the.damn.time and will bloody well let you know about it. Constantly. At deafening volume. Like a small kid going 'mum? mum? mummy? muuuum? MUM! mum?' relentlessly until you're shrieking at them like a fishwife to shut up already, damn.
Plus increased metabolism + increased food = increased quantity of ploppage. This I can do without, especially as Sylvester has been preferring to use his indoor facilities (i.e., litter tray) rather than his outdoor ones (i.e., the garden). We have become adept at knowing what many esoteric kinds of incense smell like (we like Champa, by the way).
Also, increased metabolism, despite increased food, also = weight loss. The poor things just can't get enough food inside them to keep up with it all, it passes through them so quickly they don't get a chance to absorb the nutrients properly so, in fact, they end up starving and getting very thin as their body utilises muscle tissue as their body fat has gone.
The weird thing is that the veterinary world doesn't know why all old cats these days seem to have hyperthyroid issues. I had a vet once who had an interesting theory - he said that the increase in dodgy thyroids in pets started at about the same time as the Chernobyl disaster, and he reckoned it was down to radioactive fallout dropping all over Europe, where it would land on the ground and, of course, small household pets are closer to the ground that we are so are more likely to be affected by it. It's an interesting theory but I've no idea if it holds any water.
Anyway, this time last year Sylvester had a blood test and his T4 levels were a little elevated - the normal range is from 10-60. His figure then was 44, so getting towards the top end, but just about ok for now. About a month ago, I decided it was time to check the levels again as I was sure he'd lost weight and was starting to feel bony about the shoulders and hipbones. Sure enough, his levels were now 88 and he'd lost some weight. Time for medication.
About 12 years or so ago, I had an old girl cat called Suki and her thyroid had gone doolally. She was put on medication then, a small pill, twice a day, crushed into her food. I remember she was more or less ok about taking it, and she lived to be 19. Times have moved on since then and you now give them a single pill, once a day. It's time-released which means it has an enteric coating so it doesn't dissolve in the stomach all in one go, but lasts for 24 hours. This, however, means you can't crush it, it has to be given whole.
Sylvester doesn't like having pills jammed down his throat and I can't say I blame him. Interestingly, in the last six months, there has also come onto the market hyperthyroid cat food, in both wet and dry varieties. The pros of this is no forcing a pill down a reluctant cat's throat with subsequent blood letting (on your part), the cons are that the cat cannot eat anything else at all apart from this special food (it's to do with cutting out iodine in food). The Lovely Husband and I debated for a while - I was pro-special food, he was pro-pill, not least because Sylvester does so love his cream and it would be an awful shame if he had to give that up. Plus we had no idea if he would even eat the special food.
We decided to go with the pill. Took us about 3 days before discovering there was no way we could shove it down his throat, so it was hidden in his food bowl overnight, tucked under a bit of tuna. He ate this quite happily for 2 nights, then started spitting the pill out.
I went online and did some research and found some things called Pill Pockets made by a company called Greenies, which are specifically designed for hiding pills in, so I ordered some. When they arrived, I took one out and showed it to Sylvester, who tried to bite it but spat it out. I actually think it might have just been too big for his mouth and, as he has no back teeth, he couldn't chew it properly.
And it works! I've now done this every night for about a month and he swallows it every time. Yes, it's a bit of a faff for me but this way he gets his medication without any stress on either of our parts so it's most definitely worth it.
After being on the medication for three weeks, he had to go back for another blood test to check the T4 levels to see if they're heading in the right downwards direction. We had to do this last Saturday and, unfortunately, it was a bit traumatic for him. He has to be starved for 12 hours before having the sample taken, which does not impress him AT ALL. Plus he really hates going to the vet and, this time, he put up a struggle when they came to take a blood sample. It seems that, at my vet at least, they shave the cat's neck and draw blood from there. Seemed he wasn't having any of it this time and the vet said 'he bounced around on the needle a bit' which, unfortunately, meant some scabby lumps, bruising and blood on his pristine white bib, poor lovey.
Still, he got some compensatory cream when we got home and settled down. The vet rang a few hours later to say that his T4 levels had gone down from 88 to 14!!! And he'd put back on a bit of weight, and his heart rate was better, and slower, than before. So he's to stay on the prescribed pill and we have to take him back for yet another blood test in 3 months, just to keep an eye on everything.
The difference, I have to say, was noticeable practically from the first pill, so I guessed it was working. He stopped shouting at me, was definitely less hungry and eating much less and - wonderously - not pooping nearly as much! So I'm hopeful we'll get at least a couple more years out of him.
*I've put this post up as a kind of public information thing for those out there with cats that are starting to get a bit old and creaky, and whose thyroids may need checking out. It's a condition that's easily treated these days with very simple medication, as long as you can get them to take it. If they object to you sticking a pill down their throat manually, you may want to try the method I use*.