We thought we were losing her. Limp and lifeless, she had stopped eating and drank very little. I coaxed and bribed her with her favorite treats, but even those she refused. I placed water right next to her bed to make it easier for her, but the only way she would drink is if I held it right up to her mouth. Even then she would lap only a little.
Tula, our 18-year-old Lilac Point Siamese cat, was apparently dying. She had been our loquacious companion through many years that had been hard and painful for us, personally. Now she was strangely quiet, unsteady on her feet, and spent all of her time in her bed. We did not want to lose her! It just didn’t seem like the right season of life to let her go.
After a couple of days of this behavior, I called our vet, but she couldn’t get Tula in for four days. I was afraid she wouldn’t live that long. They suggested an urgent care facility for animals, but I saw hundreds of dollars flying out the window at the mere thought of it. I texted a praying friend of mine, and she agreed to intercede. She asked if I had considered a mutual friend of ours, Dr. Pat, who is a veterinarian. No, I hadn’t thought of her, so I quickly texted her. Sure enough, she had a cancellation and could see Tula that afternoon. What a relief!
Expecting labs to reveal diabetes or renal failure, I agreed to a panel of tests. I was surprised to find out Tula did not have either of these diagnoses, but rather was anemic and dehydrated. How did that happen? The vet couldn’t be sure. Before this all began, Tula had been eating and drinking but had suddenly stopped for no apparent reason.
Dr. Pat suggested switching to wet cat food, but I informed her that Tula has always turned up her nose at it. The next suggestion was to try rehydrating her with subcutaneous IV fluid therapy. For this procedure, an IV needle is inserted into the loose skin at the base of the neck, and fluid with electrolytes are infused under the skin. This can be effective in quickly rehydrating a cat. She suggested I could do this myself at home. Feeling squeamish at the thought of it, I reluctantly agreed to have one of the technicians show me the procedure.
That evening I found myself clumsily holding an IV bag with a long tube and needle attached, standing before our helpless, stressed-out cat. I managed to infuse the liquids while my husband kept a firm grip on Tula. After two days of treatments, she began to rebound. We also tried a different brand of cat food, and she found it exciting as we allowed her to eat directly from the bag! Soon, she was not only back to baseline but even a little friskier than her usual 18-year-old self. She had awakened!
Dehydration. What a surprise diagnosis! And it’s not just animals that can fail to thrive once essential fluids are lost. The average adult human by weight is approximately 60% water so it stands to reason we must replenish fluid loss regularly. If we don’t, dehydration sets in and can lead to life-threatening conditions.
In the same way that God designed us physically with an unavoidable need for water, He designed us spiritually with an unquenchable need for living water. No matter how strong we may be in our spirits, we never outgrow our necessity for living water. But where does it come from and how do we get it?
Jesus told the Samaritan woman, “But those who drink the water I give will never be thirsty again. It becomes a fresh, bubbling spring within them, giving them eternal life.” (John 4:14 NLT)
This water is the Holy Spirit, and once He abides within us, He “springs up” (hallomai), meaning jumping or leaping up within us.
Cats also like their water leaping and moving! They would much prefer to drink from a fountain that is constantly running than a bowlful of still, stagnant water. God created them that way so they wouldn’t get sick from drinking bacteria-filled water. How much more do we need to drink daily from the fresh, moving waters of Holy Spirit, our fountain of life! And how necessary it is to keep that fountain open and unclogged!
Cats who hunt their prey in the wild don’t drink a lot of water because most of their need for moisture comes from their food. Likewise, our spiritual diet (what we read, the music we listen to, and sights we take in) can rehydrate our spirits.
Cats can also get very bored with the same diet so introducing something novel can perk up their appetites. In the same manner, sometimes our appetite for God can wane, and we need to switch up how we engage with Him. In times like that, we can try reading a new version of the Bible, listening to a different type of worship music, or praying outdoors with an invigorating view of nature.
Sometimes in life, we can go such a long time without fresh, living water that we become spiritually dehydrated and need intervention. We don’t want to delay until we are in a desperate state of being. Let’s call for help! Let’s gather trusted friends to pray with and for us. We can ask the Holy Spirit to fill us again and again or pray for extended times in the Spirit. We can drink lavishly from the Word of God or get away on retreat with the Holy Spirit.
My husband and I are experiencing so much delight in having our Tula awakened back to life through rehydration. And there is joy for us and our families when we keep the fountain of living water flowing!
~ Janet Mueller, writer and photographer