Houdini Makes a Comeback, Part 2

by Beverly Berwald
I fed Houdini kitten formula and just stroked him telling him he was going to grow up to be a strong boy. Regardless of the kitten formula, Houdini still looked sickly – he was not absorbing any of the nutrients.

One Saturday afternoon, I lay him down on the passenger’s side of the front floor to keep an eye on him while I did my errands. It was agonizing to watch, he didn’t have the energy to keep his head up. He was growing weaker by the hour. I pulled over to the side of the road – I could only think about this kitten – believing there had to be something that he could eat and absorb for energy.
Houdini all grown up in a loving home

Iron-Rich Blood Revives Houdini

At this point, it was like the proverbial tale of the car driving me, for I was in a dream state when I found myself at the meat counter at Whole Foods asking for chicken liver. They were all out, but they gave me a 16-ounce container of beef blood. After I paid, I went back to the car, pulled out a little oral syringe (have to keep these handy for kittens that won’t drink or eat) and vacuumed up 2 cc of blood and squirted it inside his mouth; I repeated 3 times.

After a few minutes, Houdini crawled off my lap and sat on the backseat; in another few minutes he jumped to the back window of the car and sat there, with a look that told me he was feeling mighty fine. He jumped down and crossed between the front seats; then settled in my lap and stared up at me, his eyes now so bright. I always have Mannheim Steamroller’s Fresh Aire Christmas in my CD caddy, so O Holy Night came blasting out of my car speakers as we drove through the hills, celebrating our victory!
L-Lysine gel for cat herpes

Growth Spurt in Second Week

During the next week, I took breaks to continue alternating between 2 cc of blood and the kitten formula every couple hours. Blood has to be kept at an evenly cold temperature; I decanted the blood into a smaller container with a lid and placed that into zippered square “ice” boxes with a cold pack (of non-toxic freezer gel). By the end of the week, I’d noticed Houdini’s body began to fill out; his fur was becoming thicker to the point that I could see domestic Bengal tiger markings.

Week two after his comeback his body was now getting longer. He was absolutely stunning! Just to complicate things however, his eyes were now revealing a hazy film over them which indicated a herpes infection. It’s not uncommon for kittens to pick up herpes from their mother while passing through the birth canal and for the herpes to lay dormant for awhile. Houdini responded well to Dr. Pasternak’s recommendation that he take L-lysine, a gooey mixture inside a tube with plunger to squirt a dab in his mouth. It took about three weeks before the eyes were clear again. If herpes goes unchecked, kittens can go blind. So once again, timing is crucial in treating the kitten with the amino acid L-lysine.

He’s Ready for a Permanent Home

The September sun was growing hotter as Houdini was growing bigger and I could no longer keep him in my car, windows half-cocked or not. This little foster was ready to be adopted. The timing again was impeccable for my friend Linda called Edna who had been rescuing and adopting cats of all ages all her life. Edna’s hands were full with her own cats, but a compromise was struck: she promised to take Houdini until I could find a home for him. I had six weeks to achieve my goal of securing a permanent caretaker for him.

Something happened within the first few minutes after they met each other: Edna and Houdini fell in love. She has since renamed him Harry and he now lives happily with her other cats. When I visit Edna, Harry is aware of who I am, nuzzles me, bites my nose and my hair affectionately – yes, he actually pulls my hair with his teeth. I suppose it’s some ancient ritual of recognition and deep longing. At least I want to believe so. And before I leave Edna’s, Harry beseeches me with his eyes to move into Edna’s place – he doesn’t mind, he can handle the attention from both of us.