Nova the Cat has the worst luck. This poor, gentle little soul has endured so much ill fate.
It was a particularly frigid winter, I had just moved again and was situated up in the mountains in a very rural area. I kept an extra close eye on the cats in the sub-zero temps wer were having. It was so cold that I was bringing them inside at night.
A day came when I hadn’t seen Nova all day. Very odd. Then she didn’t come home that evening to sleep inside. Very unusual. I hesitantly assumed she had a warm nook in a shed nearby. The next day I still couldn’t find her and I knew something was amiss. Nova doesn’t disappear. I went out searching for her. It was below 0ºF and I was very worried for her.
I looked high and low. I checked sheds, trailers, outbuildings, and even wandered near the neighbor’s place calling for her. Nova didn’t show up. Evening came and something compelled me to look behind the stairs on the porch. There in a long-forgotten dog bed was Nova, huddled on her belly, face down in the bed, covered in frost. My heart sunk. I cooed and called and she didn’t respond. I extracted her from under the stairs. She was stiff and almost felt frozen solid.
I rushed her inside, emotions swelling up. I sat with her by the fire and took stock of her. I opened her eyelids and looked into her eyes. There was a fine layer of ice crusting her eyeballs, even underneath her eyelids.
But she was alive.
Crying fitfully, I began slowly warming her up. What happened!? She was the picture of health just 2 days prior! Why was she holed up under the porch? Why didn’t she come inside for the night!?
As her body slowly restored warmth, over the course of many hours, she began to stir. She uncurled into a slightly more comfortable position. I had her bundled in a fluffy throne of luxury near the fire. As she came ‘round I offered her warm water mixed with powdered colostrum (something I had on hand from the last time she got sick). She sipped the colostrum briefly and closed her eyes, grimacing and huddling in her blankets.
That first night I had no idea what happened. I assumed she was simply hypothermic. I warmed and dried her and got some fluids in her. I assumed that the next morning she would be bouncing back. But the next morning she was still grimacing, curled tightly in a ball. She wanted to respond to being pet and cooed at, but she seemed to be in incredible pain. I laid close to her and held her.
She burped in my face.
It made my stomach turn. That little cat burp left the air thick with the rancid stench of rot.
That was the only explanation!
I proceeded to flush Nova with cat-sized doses of activated charcoal. This is done simply by mixing the AC thoroughly with water and sucking it into a plunger-type syringe. Then, of course, administering the fluids into the mouth from the syringe.
For two days I flushed her system with AC and allowed her to drink rehydrated colostrum and raw egg. She hadn’t pooped or peed. She hadn’t gotten out of the little cat bed by the fire. Her body trembled. She laid in one spot enduring the pain. The smell coming from her was horrible. There was a stench cloud around her.
When using activated charcoal for acute poisoning you need to keep in mind how it functions. The AC adsorbs everything it comes into contact with; molecules adhere to the AC powder and are effectively stripped from their previous environment, destined to go wherever the AC goes. In this case, out the bowels and bladder. So AC is highly effective for incidents of poisoning that are fresh. If the poison is in the stomach or digestive tract, the AC will leech it- and everything else- out of the body as it passes through. You really can’t go wrong with it, but keep in mind that extended use may lead to constipation and malnourishment. It doesn’t seek out the bad stuff, it takes EVERYTHING out of the system. So nutritional support is vital in combination with using AC.
For a poison scenario on a cat-sized creature I’d personally hydrate about 1/8 – 1/4 teaspoon of AC. You really can’t go wrong on a single dose.
It’s been many years since this happened, but my memory says that it took Nova two weeks before I was confident she would live to tell the tale. She rarely left her throne by the fire. I offered nutritionally dense semi-liquid foods throughout the day. I set up a litter box a few feet from her to use, but she seemed to have little bladder control. There were several incidents of cat pee on the furniture, much to my dismay. Baking soda’s your best friend on that one!
With the poison removed from her system, her body had to repair the damage it sustained. I could only offer her supportive dietary care. Had I been more knowledgable about herbal medicine at the time I probably would have been able to speed her healing up quite a bit.
My best guess is that someone in the neighborhood was baiting rodents. Nova probably ate a poisoned mouse or rat. This is one of the many reasons I will never use poison for any reason. Within 3 weeks she seemed to be on the mend, but it was a month or two before Nova really got back to her old self.
To this day she has no residual effects from the poison that I can perceive. She is one tough cookie!