Never Let Your Cat Eat an Advil

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Ojo in happier days

It was an accident. I set out two on a tray and forgot to take them. In the morning there was one. I looked around on the counter, in the crack behind the counter, on the floor. I figured one of the cats had knocked it off and batted it around. Or maybe he ate it, but so what? How bad could it be?

A couple of days later, after I’d been away all day, I returned and my little black cat walked in from the woods. Usually he runs to greet me. Inside, he threw up some clear liquid with a piece of grass in it. Awww, he’s hungry, I thought; usually he’s eaten half a can of food by that time of day. I fed him, he ate, he ate again later, but he didn’t want his treat.

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Cat on a Sunfrost last winter. He always comes running when I open the refrigerator door.

In the morning I found a pile of vomited kibble. Poor baby, he’s constipated. We’ve struggled all summer with vomit and constipation with both cats, likely from all the grasshoppers they’ve been chasing and eating. But he didn’t finish his breakfast. I had to be out again all day. When I returned that afternoon, he moped into the house and lay down. His back end was moving funny. I tried to tempt him with treats, wet food; no response. An hour later, into the evening when all the vets were closed, I remembered that missing Advil. Online warnings were dire:

A single 200-milligram ibuprofen tablet can be toxic to a cat or small- to medium-sized dog; toxic effects can occur rapidly and damage the kidneys and stomach… The damaging effects of ibuprofen or naproxen in pets include inhibiting blood flow to the kidneys and interfering with the production of compounds that help protect the inner lining of the stomach. Therefore, toxic effects of ibuprofen and naproxen in dogs and cats include kidney damage that can lead to kidney failure and severe stomach irritation that can progress to stomach ulcers.

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On top of the world, walking the deck rail in early spring

I called the Animal Doctor. She said to bring him in in the morning. He was practically comatose when I did. This is going to be the worst part, she said as she prepared to shave the fur under his neck in order to draw blood. He’s not going to like it. He didn’t care, he didn’t move. We lay him on his back in a foam form so she could do an ultrasound. He didn’t protest when she shaved his belly and rubbed it with gel, or when she moved the wand around. Until she hit something and he was in obvious pain. One kidney looked ok, she said, but the other looked off; maybe that was a hairball in his upper intestine; maybe his liver was swollen.

She warmed a bag of liquid in warm water in the sink, then hung it and stuck his neck with a huge needle to give him subcutaneous fluids. Twice more she stuck him and he moved feebly for a second then settled. She let me take him home, where he slept the day away. After a few hours I offered him some tuna water diluted with filtered water and he drank. Late afternoon when I fed the dogs he came in with a pitiful meow, and I offered him wet food mixed with water. He ate.

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On a walk to the canyon rim in May

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Covered in grass pollen after a romp along the driveway this summer

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Loving on cousin Melinda in July

In the morning the doctor called with bad news from the blood test. Both his BUN and Creatinine, the tests that measure kidney function, were five times the high end of normal, revealing acute kidney failure. That afternoon we went back for more fluid injections. By then he was stronger and objected to getting in his carrier, then later hissed at the vet as she reached in to give him the needle.

In a phone consult that evening a second vet said his numbers were so bad they suggested antifreeze poisoning, which is usually fatal. That’s possible but not likely where we live; and we do know one Advil is missing. I scoured the nooks and crannies of the kitchen again and could not find it.

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Hanging out by the fish and frog pond last month

But his behavior keeps improving, and we’ve got our fingers crossed. There’s nothing we can do now while his life hangs in the balance except keep him hydrated and eating, and hope his strong little cat body can flush it out of his system and his kidneys recover. Day by day. They’re just kitties, said Fred.

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A basket full of love just a few weeks ago

At the same time that I feel a fierce clinging to this kitty, a need for him to survive this, I recognize an inclination to just let go, to distance myself from him and the strength of my love for him. If I love him less perhaps it won’t hurt so badly if he dies of my mistake, unknowingly leaving poison within his reach.

But I think of the words of deep ecologist Joanna Macy that I heard recently, touching on our grief for the natural world in light of toxic man-made disasters like Chernobyl and the BP Gulf Oil spill: 

…the other face of our pain for the world is our love for the world, our absolutely inseparable connectedness with all life… It’s a double-edged sword, isn’t it? … say you’re taking care of your mother, and she’s dying of cancer. And you say, “I can’t go in her house or in her room because I don’t want to look at her.” But if you love her, you want to be with her. If we love our world, we’re able to see the scum of oil spreading across the Gulf. We’re able to see what it’s doing to the wetlands and the marshes, what it’s doing to the dolphins and the gulls. When you love something, your love doesn’t say, “Well, too bad my kid has leukemia, so I won’t go near her.” It’s just the opposite.

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Looking a little miffed after having his neck shaved and needles stuck in him, he’s back in his windowsill just a day after knocking on heaven’s door.

Just the opposite in microcosm. While I do what little I can to save the planet from our poisons, I’ll do everything possible to save this accidental little black cat that surprises me every time he jumps in my lap with the force of my love for him. And now we’re off to the vet to get more subcutaneous fluid to flush out that poison. Never ever let your cat eat an Advil, or any other pill meant for you.

12 thoughts on “Never Let Your Cat Eat an Advil

  1. Beautifully written. I will have your lovely black kitty in my thoughts. Sounds as if he is a strong fighter.

    • I’m sorry to hear it, Allie. I hope your cat survived whatever the cause of her distress was. This happened three years ago to my kitty, and while he is fine now he’s had a rough time of it since the Advil incident. He’s had a malignant tumor, and has had pancreatitis twice. The upshot of it all is that he seems to have a compromised immune system, and remains on a daily immune booster called Beta-thym. I can’t feed him more than a quarter can of food at a time without him vomiting it right up; nor give him more than a couple of kibbles a day, the times I’ve tried to feed him more dry food he’s gotten pancreatitis after a couple of weeks of it. I attribute his systemic delicacy to that acute kidney failure from the Advil. Again, best wishes with your kitty. Probably wise to keep a sharp eye on her going forward to see if she has any lingering effect.

  2. yoooo i just read this whole thing to my friends!! Hope your kitty’s doing well. much love from the basement❤️

    • thank you! he’s coming up on 5 years old and though he has some dietary restrictions (like so many of us) and is on a more or less permanent immune boosting supplement, he’s doing great! i hope no kitties you know have had a similar experience.

  3. My cat ingested ibuprofen about four days ago Now… well he will drink he will barely eat at all anymore he hasn’t eaten but very little in the last 24 hours or so. He will drink and lay around. How long did it take before your kitty was back to being himself?

    • Hi Toshi. I’m so sorry to hear this. My cat took several weeks, I can’t remember exactly how long, to get back to normal. But he did have significant veterinary intervention, including every other day fluid IVs, for about a week immediately following his ibuprofen ingestion, and several months’ worth of Azodyl pills at least, for improved kidney function. Have you gotten vet intervention? That really helped Ojo. After that, I fed him almost exclusively canned food with a bit of added water, for the next few years, as well as half a ground-up Beta-thym pill mixed in once daily for immune support. He experienced two bouts of pancreatitis of unknown origin in the next few years, and about two months after the ibuprofen he was diagnosed with a virulent intestinal tumor that was removed surgically, but he did seem to recover completely from the Advil incident over time. He ate the Advil when he was about 1.5 years old. He was just over five, and I had just noted that he seemed to be in the prime of his life and completely healthy and thriving, when he was killed by a mountain lion last month… We do the very best we can for them, and we still can’t control what happens to our beloved pets. I wish you the very best luck with your dear cat.

  4. Your post has given me some hope, my cat ate an ibuprofen overnight (a liquid tablet and I found the chewed coating) and she is currently at the vet hopefully being treated. I just wanted to read something to give me hope that it’s realistic for her to come out of this..her only symptom has been vomiting but I’m really scared.

    • Oh I do hope she makes it through! I would think that if she’s vomited some of it up she stands a really good chance of surviving and being just fine going forward. Please let me know. All the best wishes.

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