The Miracle of Turkey Meatballs

I sit here at my desk half expecting Baxter to pad over and nudge for food. Or leap up onto the back of my chair and purr. It is too quiet—no scratching sounds in the litter box or on his digging board, no whining for us to move the baby gate so he can come downstairs. God, this one hurts.

I’ve spent too many sessions in the comfort room at the vet’s in recent years. We lost our rescue Westie, Vinnie, in June 2020 after a five-year battle with chronic liver disease. Shortly thereafter, a conflagration of health issues showed up in our shelter cat, Baxter, which turned into another marathon of daily medications. But a cat doesn’t take pills as easily as a dog.

There were times when Baxter, who was extremely resistant to taking pills, required medication four times a day. We’d spin the dial to see what he would prefer—deli ham or roast beef, cooked chicken, or melted cheese, or none of the above. He was over pill pockets long ago. Our daily lives were regulated by the exasperating process of pilling this cat. If he didn’t get the medication, his lungs could fill up with fluid, or he’d form a blood clot and die a painful death.

And then several months ago, we discovered the miracle of the turkey meatball. I had recently tried a recipe for turkey meatballs that involved crushed tortilla chips, salsa, and cheddar cheese. (Yeah, all the good stuff.) I took a chance at offering him a pill in a tiny piece of meatball, flattened out and spread with a dab of cream cheese. Eureka! He loved them and seldom refused a pill offered in one of these meatballs. His health actually seemed to improve to the point that it was almost better than before all of these cardiac and metabolic issues started. He came downstairs more, started wandering around outside, ate well, and appeared to be a happy senior cat.

Until this week, when it was like a light in his body gradually flickered and then went out. He started leaving food in his bowl on Wednesday and by Friday was curled up in one of our closets, refusing all food. Apparently there were electrolyte and potassium level issues caused by the dosage of diuretics he was prescribed, and the vet wanted to try some form of potassium supplementation. But Baxter would not eat anything, including his beloved turkey meatballs, even after receiving an appetite stimulant at the vet’s. So we tearfully sent him home to Jesus this past weekend.

Our guest bathroom, which had become a sort of apartment for Baxter, is now stripped of its litter box,  packages of food and medications, and the giant roll of paper towels that we used to clean up his messy eating area (he had almost no teeth and dropped morsels of food everywhere.) My husband and I are both so very sad, and yet, we are grateful for the miracle of the turkey meatballs. They allowed us to get meds into him with minimal drama. He loved them, and he seemed almost rejuvenated during these last few months

Would that we all could experience the miracle of turkey meatballs when we reach that stage in life—something that tastes good and helps us take our medicine and for at least a little while, makes us purr with contentment.

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