This is a cautionary tale for those of us who keep dogs and cats in the same household. And what happens when pet caregivers make a terrible mistake.
I don’t want to write it, because it makes me feel like a terrible, negligent person. But I will write it, because sometimes those experiences are the ones that impact someone else.
But enough of that… I didn’t get much sleep last night and I called out of work today… let me explain why.
Monday night when I got home from work, I was exhausted. For the second day in a row, I had surpassed expectations at work and was achy and just wiped out from getting up at 4 a.m. and grouchy.
The teenager gave me flea meds for the two foster cats that like me best and asked me to apply it. I tossed it with a little a package of Reese’s Peanut Butter cups into my clean laundry basket. I carried the basket to my room and started my nightly routine of feeding the birds, checking water bowls, cleaning cat boxes and organizing my clothes for the day to come.
Meanwhile, the teenager applied flea meds to Opie, our personal tripod cat who has survived bone cancer; Misty, another personal who is her baby— the runt of a litter born under a neighbor’s porch and the critter responsible for getting us involved with Feline Urban Rescue and Rehab; and Touch of Grey, an adult foster cat who used to be extremely aggressive who is finally learning to be loved and appropriately social.
I grabbed the little silver packages from the basket and was about to set them aside (I’ll do it tomorrow, I told myself, I’m exhausted right now) when I noticed the words on the package— K9 Advantix Extra Large Dog Do Not Use on Cats.
For those of you who normally read this blog, you know we have a 60 pound puppy, a mastiff/pit bull/black lab mix named Bean. These were her flea meds. Flea meds are extra important when you have dogs with indoor cats because the dog can transport fleas and other parasites into the house. So even if the cats never go outside they can get fleas and worms from the dog. So the teenager is religious about giving the dog her flea meds.
The cats get flea meds about every three months, or once a season, just in case. But, like the dog, you can apply monthly.
So immediately text the teenager— yes, from within my own house— because it’s the quickest way to get a teenager’s attention.
“You gave me dog flea meds. Please check what you gave the others.”
She kicked into action and gave all three of the cats baths with Dawn dish soap. (Which we later learned was the right thing to do.)
So the next step was to wait for signs of neurological distress. And for 24 hours nothing happened. We thought everything was good.
The teenager is hosting a party on Friday and some of her guests are allergic to cats. She has an elaborate plan for cleaning and limiting cats to certain rooms. But we didn’t know what to do with Touch of Grey, because if she gets upset or can’t do what she wants she redirects and can be a bully.
Basically, no one wants to be trapped in a room with her. I suggested putting her in my room with the tripods, Opie and Louise, because Louise will hide and Opie is a boss with a good stare down. Touch of Grey had sneaked into my room when the teenager came to visit, so we decided to make her spend the night. And she decided to sprawl out in the middle of my bed.
I go to bed ridiculously early as I rise at 4 a.m. for my 6:30 a.m. 10-hour shift folding clothes at the Stitch Fix Bizzy Hizzy warehouse. I turned out my light at 8:30 p.m. and muttered sweet nothings to the cockatoo before falling asleep probably around 9 p.m. (26 hours after the application, for reference)
At literally midnight, I wake up to the cockatoo rustling and this horrible knocking sound, repetitive and frantic. I turned on my light. I am extremely near-sighted (like on a good day I might be able to see my toes versus my feet). I saw a cat thrashing against the wall, feet flailing on its back. I knew it was white.
That meant Touch of Grey or Louise. I put my glasses on and started counting legs. The two cats are extremely similar, except Louise is more white in the face and only has three legs. This cat had four. Touch of Grey! Flea meds!
I leapt out of bed and stopped to her side. The thrashing stopped but she was twitching and panting. I ran my hand across her and her heart was racing. I could feel it. I ran down the hall and woke the teenager.
She called our cat foster godmother, also president of the rescue, and brought her binder of pet first aid. The seizure had settled to twitching at this point, and Touch of Grey kept trying to leave the room. Lethargically.
Godmother told us to call poison control and Harmony Animal Hospital, one of the local emergency vets. Poison control directed us to animal poison control. We were given two numbers (which I wrote on the teenager’s arm with a giant green Sharpie)— one (the ASPCA) kept us on hold for about five minutes and the other kept trying to sell us car insurance.
Opie is looking at us as if to say, “What’s going on?”
We can’t find Misty anywhere.
We took Touch of Grey to the vet, and the vet explained that dog flea meds are extremely toxic to cats. I knew it was toxic, but had I know they were this toxic I would have brought them all in right away and not waited for symptoms (which can take three days to manifest).
We get home from the vet at 1:45 a.m. and the teenager finds her baby, her Misty, seizing in a cat box. I drive her to the vet and Misty is admitted. He’s running a fever of almost 105 degrees and showing more intense neurological symptoms.
Each cat could cost us $900 in vet medical bills.
We got home at 2:30 a.m.
No news this morning about how they are doing, but the vet is administering IV fluids and muscle relaxers. Opie seems okay.
Word of advice: store cat products and dog products in very different locations.