Spoiler: the kitties are fine, better than fine.

New Year’s Eve dawned upon a great slaughter. Charlie and George turned the house into an abattoir: two moles, one vole, and a bird. It was Charlie who caught most of them—including the bird—and George who ate them—including the bird. The bird, in particular, was messy. Charlie brought it in recently-dead, and proceeded to toss it around and get feathers everywhere.

Tabby cat with feathers stuck in its mouth standing next to a dead songbird

Nope, wasn’t me

Then he threw it into the Christmas tree, where it got stuck. So of course he had to pull off ornaments (one shattered) and countless branchlets and pine needles to get to it. After a while, though—once he’d got feathers stuck in his mouth a few more times—he got bored, as he always does, and abandoned the bird for his dish of real kitty food. 

Enter George. He threw that thing around with enthusiasm, leaping, tossing, catching, pouncing, and then—again, as he always does—he settled in to eat it. The feathers—and beak—were a challenge so he left those and what seemed to be a crop and assorted tubules in a glistening pile on our white (oh yes) carpet. Then he, too, went to eat real food. 

We cleaned everything up, had our usual private and lovely New Year’s Eve celebration that begins with Champagne and caviar and conversation, and went to bed. The fireworks were a nuisance: they were the loudest I remember—and after recent events I was sympathetic of the urge to make a joyful noise, but it was like the Battle of the fucking Somme out there. Charlie jumped the first time then settled on the bed unfazed; George was nervous for an hour—or what I thought was nervous. But then they slept, so then I could sleep—about 3 a.m.

We woke up the next morning to a vast steaming pile of vomit on the white carpet, full of feathers and bird feet. (Happy New Year!) George didn’t want to eat anything—but we weren’t worried: he’d eaten a lot the day before (lots of catfood, a bird and a shrew). They both went outside and ran around, came back, played, had lap time—the usual. But then George started moving slowly, and he still didn’t eat. There was clearly something not right, but we didn’t know what. I began to fret that maybe Charlie had found a bird that was already dead of some kind of poison. But George wasn’t hiding, he wasn’t vomiting, he was just not eating and moving very slowly. But, oh, he looked pitiful.

Tabby cat sitting on the carpet looking up, woebegone

George feels woebegone

On most days, we would have called the vet and tried to get an emergency appointment. George is a jumpy cat, and we always take him to a veterinary practise that caters exclusively to cats (called, oddly enough, Cats Exclusive—a wonderful practice). But, well, holidays. So we resolved that if he wasn’t markedly improved by the next morning, we’d take him to the emergency 24-hour animal hospital, Blue Pearl. After all, he wasn’t bleeding, he didn’t appear to be in pain, and he was using the litter tray.

The next day, he was clearly worse. Off to the hospital he went. He had a very high fever. The vet suspected Salmonellosis—birdsong fever. I’d never heard of it, but it made complete sense. If the bird was already ill with Salmonella when Charlie came across it, it would explain why he’d been able to catch it—he’s been after birds for months but never managed to get one. But George was pretty ill, and apparently about 10% of cats with Salmonellosis die, so we were worried. They admitted him, and put him on IV fluids and antibiotics, and anti-nausea meds. They also did a lot of blood work. And an X-ray just in case he had some kind of intestinal blockage.

The results of these tests were not as clear as anyone would like, so they did some more.* His fever remained stubbornly high. He still wouldn’t eat. We were even more worried. But twelve hours after that, although he was still refusing to eat, his fever finally began to come down. George is a nervous cat, and the hospital was full of to-him dangerous animals like dogs; we were convinced that if we could just get him home he’s recover much faster. Eventually—late Monday night/early Tuesday morning—we managed to bring him home, along with a grab bag of meds: anti-nausea, antibiotic, and appetite stimulant. He’d lost a fair amount of weight (down to 11 lbs) but we were confident we could persuade him to eat.

At 12:30 a.m. he crept from his cat carrier, saw we were all there, that he was safe, and sat and cleaned himself nonstop for thirty minutes. Then he followed us to bed and crawled onto my lap, stuck his head under my arm, and fell straight into sleep. Awkward for me. I sat up for an hour just holding him while he twitched and mewed in a series of bad dreams. He had a shaved band on his right foreleg where they’d attached one IV—it looked startlingly like he was wearing a single, fashionable Ugg—and a shaved patch on his right rear foot where’s they’d put another. Just after 2 a.m. I was beginning to prepare myself for being the Mean Mom of the Year and to push a poor sick kitty off my lap so I could lie down and get some sleep, when he woke up, purred, and ambled over to where Charlie was sleeping at the foot of the bed. There he accepted a good head cleaning, and settled down to sleep again. He slept hard.

Tabby cat tucked up on a green sofa throw, displaying a shaved foreleg that looks oddly like he's wearing a single Ugg boot


The next day he was clearly fragile, still slow-moving, but he ate—not nearly as much as he would normally but definitely eating. Charlie, though, was driving us insane: He wanted to go out! Out! Out now! He was alternately stonking about in high dudgeon, knocking things down, and climbing high to find an alternate escape route. Oh, well, I told him. Maybe that will teach you not to bring home disease-riddled birds. He just glared.

Tabby cat on to of a stove vent hood with a skylight just visible above him

Figuring out if he can reach the skylight

Meanwhile George made one sad and pitiful attempt to pat open the door swooned in exhaustion. The vet had suggested it might take four days or so for George to feel like himself again, so I wasn’t worried. I explained to Charlie that maybe, if he let George eat and sleep in peace, they could both go out in three or four days when he was better.

Oh, ha! Ha ha ha! At one o’clock that morning I was woken up by kitties in full knock-down, drag-out, chase-me-now mode, including the destruction of almost everything on a shelf or table top in the living room and family room. Fortunately we had just taken the tree down. When we got up in the morning, every single scrap of food was gone and George was yowling his head off for more. We fed them. George ate everything in two seconds flat. Yowled for more. Repeat. We let them out that lunchtime—just for two hours (they didn’t mind: it was cold). The day after, they were back to their usual routine.

Two tabby cats with their back to the camera sitting on a deck bench on either side of a plant pot full of very dead flowers

G: You killed it while I was gone!
C: No, you killed it.
G: I wasn’t even here!
C: Dead, though.
G: Definitely dead.

There are days when they are obviously twins— 

Two tabby cats lying face to face on a blue throw looking like conjoined twins

Conjoined twins

Two tabby cats on a kitchen windowsill

Window twins

—and days when it’s hard to believe they belong to the same species, never mind family. They have days when they look startlingly young—

Tabby cat on the top shelf of a kitty condo

George no longer fits at the top of the kitty condo but every now and again he tries to revisit his youth

—and days when Charlie in particular looks old.

Tabby cat lying along a woman's arm, looking wise and contemplative

Charlie’s ennui is soothed only with a massage

Charlie saw fit to help with the Spear rewrite, but found the experience debilitating, so I was on my own with Menewood—probably why it went so fast.

Tabby cat lying on a cat bed—in between a screen and a keyboard—with his head on a juggling sack

Rewriting is so tiring

As I write, both cats are in fine fettle. They seem to have discovered a mole colony, and the daily round of rescuing the poor things is getting tedious—they don’t seem to kill them the way they do shrews and voles and mice, just bat them about—but both are currently in contentment mode.

Tabby cat blissing out on his back

George finds his bliss

In fact, George is mostly now so glad he’s not in the hospital that he almost glows.

Tabby cat looking fat and happy and almost glowing with contentment

George glows with contentment

May we all find such contentment in 2021. Meanwhile, if you need a break from doomscrolling and might be soothed by pictures of kitties, feel free to read previous Kitten Reports here.

*We got those results a couple of days later: he’s fine, completely normal.