How long can I live like this? I'm not talking about the pandemic.

This is really looking for a silver lining: If there was ever a good time for isolation, it’s now for me because it coincides with a worsening of my cat’s inflammatory bowel disease. For both health and aesthetic reasons, it’s best to not have visitors.

Lizzy has chronic diarrhea. She also doesn’t always use the litter box, which is why her previous owners gave her up 11 years ago. Their vet thought she was anxious and would do better as a single cat in a one-person household.

Until lately Lizzy’s condition was manageable, she used the litter box most of the time, and I felt proud to have gotten her to her 14th birthday.

I’ll try not to be disgustingly explicit in describing how I’ve been living the past several weeks. You’ll get the picture.

I sleep with an old beach towel under my shoulders, where Lizzy cuddles up. You’d think this is a hotel from how often I’ve been laundering the bedding. When I took the bedspread and blankets out of the dryer a few days ago, I decided not to put them back on the bed. Now ratty sheets, blankets, and throws cover the mattress. They’ll need to be washed often, but I don’t care if they become threadbare.

The bathroom floor needs washing frequently because there’s often a trail from the litter box out the door. Lizzy can’t help leaking, but she deliberately soils in other places. Plastic bags cover the spots on the bedroom carpet that she sometimes prefers to the litter box. At least I can pick up a bag and throw it away. When she chooses an unprotected place on a carpet, it’s a bear to clean up. She’s also been peeing outside the litter box, and I don’t know whether I’ve found every spot.

I sit with a towel on my lap because she likes to snuggle there.

Thank goodness cat feces aren’t harmful to humans.

When do you give up on an animal? The usual advice is when the animal’s quality of life — not yours — has greatly declined and won’t improve. Lizzy is not acting like she’s in pain. She eats heartily and has even gained half a pound, 15 percent of her body weight, since we were at the vet’s in February.

At that visit the vet added the antidiarrheal medication metronidazole and a probiotic to Lizzy’s repertoire of the anti-inflammatory steroid prednisolone, an anxiety medication (changed from fluoxetine to buspirone), and a Vitamin B12 supplement. When I reported no progress a couple of weeks ago, the vet increased the dosage of prednisolone. There’s no indication that it is helping.

The only suggestion left from the vet is a prescription diet with protein that’s hydrolyzed — broken down so that the cat’s system does not detect it and flare up. I’ve hesitated because I doubt that Lizzy will eat it. She has rejected all of the limited-ingredient, novel-protein foods that are also recommended as less likely to trigger a reaction. She’s also turned her nose up at freeze-dried foods and my home cooking. I finally started feeding her “kitty crack” Fancy Feast — a variety with few ingredients and no harmful additives, but it passes right through her. It’s the only food she’s eaten enthusiastically, and wanting to eat is as important as what she eats. Even so, I suppose hydrolyzed protein is worth a try. I don’t want to give up until trying everything.

Some days I think that I can’t go on living in a potty. Then Lizzy jumps into my lap, meows and curls up, and I feel like a traitor.



“Americans must put a president in the White House come January 2021 who will understand that public health should not be guided by partisan politics.”

— editorial in the British medical journal The Lancet

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