Farrah – The Senior Blind Miracle Stray Kitty That COULD

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I shared about Farrah so much on our Facebook page that I would have to link to about nine different posts in order to bring newcomers and those who missed some posts up to speed.

So, I decided to write an entire blog post about Farrah.

Her story is certainly WORTHY. As she is.

And if Farrah’s story doesn’t give you hope and make you cry, well, you must be made of stone!

A Little Backstory First…

I don’t often dream about my Rainbow Bridge kitties. However, Tabby Wonder Cat Wilson came to me in a dream one summer night. Here was part of my Facebook post after I rescued Farrah…

“…I haven’t mentioned yet that Farrah came to me in a dream about five days before I even knew she existed.

In the dream, my late Tabby, my little soul cat of 16 years, came back to me. And I was petting her. When I told my mom about the dream the next day, I described the cat as kind of a brindle pattern but light colored. It was a different cat, but it was Tabby.

Monday when I picked Farrah up from her finder and got a better look at her, I was shocked to realize SHE was the cat in my dream.

Tabby passed six years ago and Farrah is 12-15 years old per the vet, but I have no doubt my Tabby played a part in this girl’s rescue ❤️ “

Crazy, right?

How Did I Get Involved?

September 24, 2018. My house was torn up because of a complete HVAC replacement. The Innies (my indoor cats) were in lock down in ‘safe rooms’ while the work was being done.

I was already stressed out beyond belief with the noise, the cats, Mom… This was the beginning of a two-day job that I just wanted OVER.

While I was sitting outside, trying to decompress and trying not to hear Rascal tearing up the bedroom door, I saw a friend tagged me in a post about a ‘found’ stray cat.

“Oh, no, no, no. Not today. I’m not a rescue. I have no room to help a cat. I can’t worry about this today…” These were the thoughts going through my head.

Facebook Post, “This stray cat is in Franklinville. I believe the cat might be blind. Please share.”

And NOBODY could take her in off of the street.

NOBODY.

I couldn’t leave her out there. She was BLIND. How she managed to survive out there for God knows how long is beyond me! But I had ZERO room to take in a cat. Not with my indoor cats on lock down and the workers making enough noise to raise the dead.

But I had to do SOMETHING.

Later, after I picked Farrah up , I noticed that three other Facebook friends tagged me in different posts about the SAME cat.

Okayyyy, Saint Francis, I Got the Message

I got in touch with Joe, the guy who posted Farrah’s picture on Facebook. He told me she showed up at his sister’s house a couple of days prior. His sister fed her. Farrah was hanging out under a batting cage in his sister’s yard. Since she has dogs and he has a dog, nobody could bring her inside.

They believed she was TOTALLY blind.

His sister was going to take her to a shelter, but Joe was concerned that a shelter would euthanize her. He was hoping to find her owner or someone who could take her first.

I asked Joe if he called around to area rescues. He contacted several and not one rescue could help her. It was near the end of kitten season and rescues are bursting at the seams in September.

I was trying to think of how I could JUST get her inside to safety. My wheels were turning. With everything going on inside my house that week with the construction, I had nowhere to put her.

FINALLY, Someone Stepped Up

I called my friend Linda, the Director of Jersey State Animal Rescue. And she was FULL. Over capacity at that point. We were texting back and forth, talking about how nobody could at least get her in off the street for that night.

I read her next text, “Can he get her here?”

I said, “Linda, if you can take her, I will personally go get her myself if I have to!”

Since I had workers all around my house with my elderly mother and really didn’t want to leave for too long, I did manage to talk Joe into bringing Farrah to a nearby bank where I could pick her up.

Joe set about borrowing a cat carrier from his neighbors and went down to his sister’s house to get her.

I sat on eggshells, waiting for that text that he got her safe and sound. So many things could go wrong…

After what seemed like HOURS (it was 45 minutes), I got the life-changing text message that they were on their way to meet me.

Her Rescue

When I arrived at the bank parking lot to pick her up, Joe was talking to her and petting her while she was in the carrier.

As soon as I saw her, I knew there was something REALLY special about her. But I hadn’t made the connection that she was the cat in my dream yet.

She was an absolute DOLL. Beautiful. And as much as she wanted out of that carrier, she was just sucking up all of the affection she was getting from us.

I assured Joe that she was going to the best possible Rescue and I would keep him updated.

Once I got her home, I was able to get a better look at her.

I could NOT believe it.

Farrah waiting for the rescue to pick her up.
Farrah waiting for the rescue to pick her up.

She Was the Cat in my Dream

I went to get Mom…

I was SHAKING because I couldn’t believe I dreamed about this cat five days before I even knew she existed.

My mind was racing. Was it Tabby come back to me? Where the Hell would I put her? I already have five indoor cats, two of whom don’t get along, and their mama, who I still have to integrate into my household.

All while this was going through my mind, I sat with her while she happily gobbled down Temptations treats and soaked up all the love.

I had no choice but to let her go to the rescue

I knew she would be in great hands there. This is the ONLY rescue that I would trust with my OWN cats. I adopted Penny and Weeny from Jersey State. I know firsthand how well she takes care of her cats…like they are her own. And her facility, even with all of the cats, is cleaner than my own home (and I’m a clean freak!)

Does She Even Have a Chance?

Once Linda arrived, she took her out of the carrier and we both got a better look at her. She was scary skinny and dirty. Her eyes were so swollen they were bulging out of her eye sockets. She couldn’t even close them. Her one eyeball was completely filled with blood.

Farrah when she first arrived at the rescue.
Farrah when she first arrived at the rescue.

Linda stated she saw eyes that looked like this before. And it was cancer.

My heart BROKE. I really wanted this little star to have a chance.

We weren’t sure if there was ANY hope for her.

I had to take comfort in the fact that she would be SAFE, WARM and WELL-FED for that night, anyway. It’s STILL better than the alternative!

Hope…

Linda said she would take her to the vet that week. Honestly, at this point, we both thought she may not make it through. I posted on Facebook to drum up donations for her vetting since Linda was over capacity and I wanted to help this baby.

Later that evening, when I was in the shower, her name came to me.

Farrah.

Incredible beauty. Strength. A survivor. HOPE.

I texted Linda when I got out of the shower and asked if they could name her “Farrah”. She agreed that was the PERFECT name for this little warrior princess!

MORE Hope…

Linda texted me the next day. She saw what I saw in Farrah. She wanted to give her EVERY chance and committed to seeing if there was ANYTHING the vet could do for her.

Two Days after Rescue-Farrah closing her eyes for the first time.
Two Days after Rescue-Farrah closing her eyes for the first time.

Here was my Facebook post after her first vet visit..

“Yesterday, Farrah, our sweet little blind girl, closed her eyes for the first time since she was rescued on Monday 🙀

She wasn’t able to close her eyes before because of the swelling 💔…

…Every time I talk to Linda, the director of Jersey State Animal Rescue who so selflessly stepped up to take Farrah, I just get more good news.

Without getting too technical, here’s what I know so far.

❤️ she’s not microchipped
❤️ she’s FIV/FeLV negative
❤️ blood work is relatively normal. Which was a shocker with what she’s been through.

eyes

Vet does not think it’s glaucoma. She has a condition called Uveitis. Often in cats, Uveitis is secondary to another condition. However, vet hasn’t figured out the condition yet. And often, they never do pinpoint an exact cause. So they’re treating the symptoms for now and we wait and see if she responds.

The fact that she could close her eyes less than 24 hours after she started the antibiotic eyedrops, systemic antibiotics, and medication to relax the eyelids shows that she is responding to treatment quite nicely so far 👏👏👏

She has ulceration in both eyes so she will go back for that next week. Once that is cleared up, they will start steroid eye drops.

Her iris adhered to the eyeball and the fluid was not draining. That explains the swelling and the blood in her eyes. 😮

Farrah is blind and likely will remain blind.

She may need eye removal surgery in the future but only if she’s in pain. Linda does not believe she’s in pain.

She told me Farrah is very content and comfortable. And extremely sweet ❤️

I guess so…now that she doesn’t have to fend for herself on the streets, blind and maybe a little hard of hearing, anymore.

This girl is just AMAZING. She’s somebody really special and I’m so glad that Joe (her finder), Linda, and all of YOU see that too!

I’m amazed at this girl’s will to win. She reminds me of my Penny 💪💕

I want to THANK each and every one of you for the prayers, shares and the donations.

She has come so far on her own. She’s not alone anymore. She has a whole army of amazing people making it possible now.

I cannot put into words how grateful I am for all of your help with Farrah!”

there’s just something about her…

Shortly after that post, I went to visit Farrah.

I was IN LOVE. As thousands of my FB followers and Jersey State’s FB followers are!

When I first walked into their intake cage room, I didn’t even recognize Farrah.

Farrah when I visited her
My view of Farrah as soon as I walked into the intake room during my visit.

SHE WAS CLEAN!!

She cleaned up so well in just a couple of days and already looked so much better! Just a few days of good food, love, safety and a clean place to rest made all of the difference in the world!

She could not get enough love from me. She would have had me there for HOURS petting her if she had her choice! I’d like to think that I’m special, but, apparently, little miss Farrah is like this with everybody!!

And this girl is a PURRRRRR MACHINE!

If I had a room to put her in, I would have taken her home THAT DAY!

Lovin' on Farrah during my visit with her!
Lovin’ on Farrah during my visit with her!

A Setback…

After initially improving with treatment, Farrah’s eyes were swelling again after they started the steroid eye drops.

Since Farrah was already completely blind, the vet and Linda decided it would be best to remove her eyes if Farrah was to have any kind of quality of life. Farrah’s health was otherwise stable and she even gained 2lbs in the few weeks she was at the rescue! There was no good reason why they couldn’t do this surgery at this point.

She couldn’t continue to be poked and prodded and doused with eye drops just to have the painful pressure and swelling return.

Especially since her eyes were never going to regain sight anyway.

I agreed with their decision to remove her eyes. The goal with our pets should ALWAYS be quality of life!

Farrah Found a Home!!

Farrah and her new mama, Alison
Farrah and her new mama, Alison, the day they met and fell in love!

In the meantime, Linda told me a girl named Alison was coming to meet her that weekend.

My heart stopped. I figured now was the time to tell Linda…

I told her that if it didn’t work out with Alison, if Farrah couldn’t find a home once she was cleared for adoption, or if at any time the vets decided there was no hope for her, I would take her here on hospice care.

Farrah deserves to have a HOME before she dies.

She didn’t survive out there and go through all she had gone through for nil. She HAD to have a home again before she died. Even if only for a short while.

Linda replied, “You got it!”

However, Alison, like ALL of us, FELL IN LOVE WITH FARRAH. And the deal was sealed. Farrah will be going HOME with Alison once she’s cleared for adoption!!

it worked out the way it was supposed to…

Farrah’s new home will be much better for her than the P&K Estates. We have five very energetic, rowdy indoor cats. They still run around like kittens. The Innies have free reign of the basement. And although I cleaned the basement and it’s safe for cats, the twelve floating steps leading down to the basement may not be the safest for a blind senior cat who has Lightning Legs aka Patchy running past her at 100 MPH or Dennis the Menace aka Rascal jumping OVER her on his way down the steps…

Her new mama, Alison, has a partially blind special needs kitty already. So her house is SAFE for Farrah. And Alison probably knows better how to care for her than I would.

Alison cannot wait to bring her home. She’s already SO in love with Farrah!

I truly believe it was Meant to Be for Alison to adopt Farrah!

One Step Closer to Her New Home

The day of Farrah’s eye removal surgery, I was on EGGSHELLS.

Farrah waiting at the vet office.
Farrah waiting at the vet office.

I stalked my phone.

Stressed.

And I PRAYED.

It felt very much like the day Penny had her emergency dental while in a “crash” from her kidney disease.

There’s ALWAYS a risk with anesthesia. But for senior cats, even more so.

When Linda texted me at about 2pm that afternoon, I cried with relief!

“Out of surgery. Waking up. On my way to pick ‘queen’ up.”

Farrah was one step closer to going to her new HOME.

she had trouble adjusting

I didn’t share this on Facebook, but initially I was concerned about Farrah’s recovery. Linda told me that she had some trouble adjusting to not having two heavy, swollen, ginormous eyeballs weighing her head down anymore. I imagine it all felt very different to her.

It’s amazing how we adapt to discomfort and pain.

Linda had to assist feed her the first two days after surgery.

Just as I was really starting to worry, Linda texted me and told me that she just ate two entire bowls of food by herself!

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I then figured maybe Farrah was having trouble clearing the anesthesia because of her age. Which happens.

Then I remembered how LOOPY Penny used to get while taking buprenex, which is a pain medication. I mentioned that to Linda and she agreed maybe that’s why Farrah was acting a little strange….because she was hopped up on dope, basically. Once they adjust to the medication, they start acting more like their normal selves.

She’s improving every day and definitely back to her sweet and loving self!

Almost There…

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Linda texted me over the weekend that they removed Farrah’s stitches and she likely would be going home this week.

She looks so much more comfortable now.

I’m writing this before Adoption Day because I want it ready to post on Facebook with her adoption. Then I can edit with her “HAPPILY EVER AFTER”.

I asked both Linda and Alison (Farrah’s new mama) if I could join them on Adoption Day so I could kiss Farrah “goodbye” and take lots of pics.

I’m so excited for her, but I’m going to cry like a baby. It’s bittersweet because she was almost ours.

But, like I said earlier, her new home is where she belongs. God and St Francis just used us as the pathway to get her there.

Adoption Day is HERE!!

I will fill in this part when Farrah’s adoption is complete and she’s en route to her new home with her new mama.

Inspired…

Farrah touched our souls deeply. So deeply that I cannot accurately put it into words. Anybody who met Farrah or has been part of this journey the past three months understands what I mean.

Farrah and her story are INSPIRING. FULL OF HOPE. And, most importantly, full of LOVE.

Saying that she’s “special” is an extreme understatement.

I’m a writer and I can’t find the words to describe what it is about her.

More than the fact that she survived out there for we don’t even know how long without all of her defenses.

And despite whatever she endured out there, she still has the ability to love and trust so completely. It blows my mind!

There’s a quiet strength and serenity about her.

Linda said when she picked her up from my house, “Man, I wish I knew her story.” So do I.

Farrah during our visit.
Farrah during our visit. I stopped petting her to take a pic and she still had her butt in the air waiting for more free pets!
Farrah’s Lessons…

If you’ve been following our stories, you know I believe we learn lessons from these precious babies that enter our lives. Here are a few of Farrah’s lessons:

  1. Survival. Cats are survivors as are all of God’s creatures. Their ability to adapt to change and survive against all odds simply amazes me. Much like the Human Spirit.
  2. Never Give Up. I’ll repeat what I’ve heard a million times in 12-step recovery. “Don’t give up before the miracle happens!” It’s a good thing Farrah didn’t!
  3. Don’t Let the World Break You. I imagine somebody let Farrah down in her little life. She doesn’t move around much so I don’t believe she traveled a great distance before arriving at Joe’s sister’s. They really tried to find her owner. Either someone left Farrah behind or they dumped her. Sad, but true. But that didn’t stop Farrah from being open to loving and trusting other humans. We can ALL learn a lesson from her on that one!

Stay Tuned…

Farrah has thousands of fans from all over the world on social media!

Since I became Facebook friends with Farrah’s new mama, I will be following her progress and her life, every step of the way! And I’ll be sure to post updates on our Facebook, so if you haven’t followed us yet, do it now!!

Her rescue and healing would not have been possible without all of YOU. This was TRULY a group effort.

It warms my heart to know that we have a TRIBE of like-minded, amazing people who are so willing to offer support, prayers, and donations to save a special girl like Farrah. We hear of SO much “bad” in the world, but I always said that for every person doing bad things, there are a hundred doing good things.

And for Farrah, the “little bit” that every person offered was the difference between life and death.

Please don’t ever discount the part YOU played in her rescue!!

affiliate disclaimer:

**This post may contain affiliate links, which means we earn a small commission at no extra cost to you. We only recommend products that we use and wholeheartedly believe in!**

All treatments, foods and supplements mentioned in this blog are based on my own research, experience and done with my vet’s knowledge and consent. Consult with your vet as necessary.

Cats are Life’s Teachers – Lessons I Learned from Penny

Me and my “Teacher” – April, 2017

 

We are coming up on one year since Penny crossed the Bridge. Has it really been a whole year? It feels like yesterday, yet it feels like a lifetime ago.

I’ve been “meaning to” write this post for a long time. Since before Penny passed. I felt now was the best time to finally get this out to the world.

Who Was the Mommy Kitten?

We once used an animal communicator to help us figure out what to do with Mischief’s behavioral issues (more on that in another post). There was a little time left after we covered everything I wanted to cover, so I asked the communicator to check in on Penny to see how she was feeling with her kidney disease. I wanted to make sure everything we were doing was helping her.
I was still on the fence about this whole animal communicator thing. And either this lady was REALLY in tune with cat breeds and behavior, or she really could communicate with them.

What she said at the end of our talk blew my mind.

“Penny feels that you are her pet and she is your master.”

Yeah, no shit?

She described Penny as strong (physically and mentally), extremely intelligent, patient, and very charismatic.

That she was. All of the above.

The animal communicator even told me that Penny felt she was VERY patient with The Kits since I rescued them and she wanted to make sure I acknowledged that!

In Tune with Penny

I often describe Penny not just as my “soul cat”, but my “soul mate” in general.

We finished each other’s sentences (if she could speak “human”) from the get-go. I understood her and she clearly understood me.

When she was still at Petsmart with the rescue and I brought the folks up to meet her and Weeny, I knew before I left that we understood each other. She used the communal litter box the volunteers set up in the cat room while they cleaned their cages. It was a hooded litter box and one of the male cats was on top of the box bullying her while she was trying to poop.

When she jumped out, she had blood and diarrhea all over her bum. I told the volunteer and helped her clean Penny up.

Before I left, Penny looked up at me. I read her eyes. “I blew it, didn’t I?”

And I told her, “No, Penny, not at all! You’re still coming home with me on Adoption Night! We will get you all fixed up!”

I knew it was stress related. She didn’t want to be there. She just arrived at Petsmart for her “big chance” a couple of weeks before I met her. Linda, the director, told me that Penny strongly protested being there every chance she got!

That day, I KNEW she was something really special.

Penny the day after we adopted her - May, 2012
Penny the day after we adopted her – May, 2012. Her eyes look sad in her early pictures. We often felt she was bonded with another cat at the rescue and was missing her friend.

Her first night home, she came out into the kitchen to talk to us. My dad looked in her eyes and said, “There’s SOMEBODY in there.”

Boy, was he was right.

I think our bond had something to do with the fact that Penny and I are both Leos. My birthday is August 7th and Penny’s was August 8th.

lesson #1 – nothing is impossible

Penny taught me, my family, her vets and the world this lesson over and over and over again.

Many of you know Penny was a diabetic cat. She was in remission, meaning she was diet controlled, when she passed away. But the road to get her there was long and difficult.

After she lost her first remission, she spent ten LONG months in insulin resistance and I couldn’t even get her “regulated”, much less back into remission.

I posted this post on Facebook just about three years ago when Penny and I were having a “pajama party”. Basically, that means that I got up in the middle of the night to test her blood glucose since her numbers were suddenly running lower than usual. What I didn’t know then was that Penny was starting to head back into remission at full speed.

At this point, she was on a high dose of Levemir because of the insulin resistance. When a diabetic cat’s numbers go into the “danger zone”, you have to feed high carb wet food, re-test in 15 minutes, and keep repeating until their numbers are in the “safe zone” and steadily rising.

We had PLENTY of these parties at 2am!! I was convinced Penny was doing it on purpose so she could enjoy her beloved Fancy Feast Gravy Lovers food, which was the high-carb wet food I used to get her blood glucose to rise.

As you can see, when my friend asked me if there was a chance at a second remission, the tone of my reply was HIGHLY doubtful. That’s because I was always told by seasoned lay people that once we lost that first remission, a second one was unlikely.

But they didn’t know my Penny.

And, apparently, neither did I!

She broke ALL of the rules. Even when she made them herself!

lesson #2 – WHEN it’s important enough, we find a way

“I CANNOT pill a cat to save my life!”

“I can’t torture my cat by poking her ears for blood multiple times per day!”

“If my cat gets kidney disease, I’ll just humanely euthanize so they don’t suffer.”

I have said ALL OF THE ABOVE before meeting Penny.

When she was diagnosed with Feline Diabetes, I was saying AND thinking that we could NEVER do all of this. The insulin injections, changing her diet, home testing…

I couldn’t even brush this cat without her biting me!

The morning after she was diagnosed and already having been unsuccessful with giving her the first insulin injection the night before, I woke up feeling hopeless. Physically sick with heartbreak, I just wanted the nightmare to end.

I really thought I was going to have to euthanize her.

i just had to figure out a way!

Then I looked into her big, green, trusting eyes.

She waited so long for this forever home with her “very own” humans.

She was only 5 years old.

When my back was to the wall, and it was either treat her diabetes or put her to sleep, I realized that it literally was DO or DIE.

So I DID.

When Penny was diagnosed with feline chronic kidney disease, I had yet another wave of self-doubt.

“I can stick a cat with needles like a pin cushion but I still can’t pill them!”

“Penny will NEVER sit through daily sub q fluids!”

Yeah?

Watch me!

She was only 7 when the vet diagnosed her with end-stage CKD and she almost died. I had to TRY. I had to give her a chance at a quality life and give us a chance at more time together.

It’s funny how what we THINK we will do changes when we are actually IN that situation, isn’t it?

Penny taught me that there is ALWAYS a solution, ALWAYS a way around what seems impossible…WHEN IT’S IMPORTANT ENOUGH TO YOU.

lesson #3 – take nothing for granted

I didn’t have enough time with both Penny AND Weeny. Weeny was only with us for 3 1/2 years when she succumbed to mast cell cancer, and Penny was only with us for 5 1/2 years.

I really thought I would grow old with Penny and Weeny!

Yet, it’s funny…I remember looking at Weeny one night, shortly before she was diagnosed with cancer, and could not picture her as a senior cat. It’s like I KNEW…

Weeny the Wacko being Weeny - 2013
Weeny the Wacko being Weeny – 2013

slow down…

We get so busy sometimes that we forget to stop and enjoy those little moments that make Life so great. ESPECIALLY with our pets!

Not the big moments… The LITTLE moments. Those little day to day things that help us get through even the toughest times.

Like Weeny running through the house like a little maniac, squeaking at the top of her lungs, while playing.

Like Penny and her never-ending tail wag. Her tail wagged every waking hour. And didn’t stop until she was in a DEEP sleep.

Mom bringing miller moths inside for Weeny so she could hunt. And when the miller got away, Mom and me climbing all over the furniture to bring it back down into the “little hunter’s” reach.

While testing my dying father’s blood glucose, Penny came running into the bedroom and onto the bed, trampling my poor father, because she heard the meter “beep”. She associated eating raw chicken with that “beep” because that’s how I trained her to test HER blood glucose! We ALL laughed so hard. We NEEDED that laughter! It’s one of my favorite Penny Memories!

Penny, Dad and Mom in 2013
Penny sucking up Grandpoppy Kitten’s attention while mooching turkey off of her Grandmommy Kitten – 2013

Tabby sitting half in and half out of the house to enjoy the warmth outside while still enjoying the central air conditioning inside.

Tabby sitting outside - 2011
You thought I was kidding? Tabby enjoying the heat and AC at the same time on the back step – 2011

These little moments make rough days bearable.

Which is why I share them each day on social media.

lesson #4 – live in the moment

This is quite possibly the most life-changing and important lesson I’ve learned IN MY LIFE.

This is one I’ve always struggled to put into practice.

how humans live

In 12-Step recovery, we learn “One Day at a Time” or “ODAT”.

And I suffer from the disease of “projection”.

Projecting the outcome of a situation before it even happens. And, of course, it’s NEVER a happy outcome! Example: The phone rings and before even looking at the caller ID, I think it’s a bill collector or work calling me in.

My mom is very guilty of this one, which is where I probably got it from. EVERY SINGLE YEAR, in August, she starts talking about how Winter is here and the days are getting shorter. Yet, sunset in NJ in August is STILL close to 8pm and it’s usually 90+ degrees when Mom starts her “Winter Talk”!

Dreading Monday when I wake up on Sunday morning.

A LOT of us do this!!

how cats live

Cats don’t don’t live in the past or future like we do! They only know the moment! Penny didn’t anticipate her death, even though it was imminent for almost two years!

The Yard Cats don’t care if the forecast is calling for rain the next seven days. They are just enjoying the nice sunny and warm weather they are experiencing RIGHT NOW.

Trouble, Oreo and Rascal
(Outside) L-R: Trouble and Oreo
(Inside) Rascal. Trouble and Oreo enjoying a rare warm Winter day in 2018, just a few weeks before Oreo crossed The Bridge.

There’s one thing to plan for the future. Of course we should! It’s necessary for a successful and happy life!

But so is LIVING IN THE MOMENT.

Since Penny came into my life, I make a conscious effort to stay in the moment more often!!

lesson #5 – the strong don’t give up – ever!

Penny is one of THE strongest souls that ever came in to my life. No understatement!

As many times as Penny’s health knocked her down…with the diabetes, spinal arthritis, dental problems, digestive issues and then kidney disease, she ALWAYS got back up swinging.

As if to say, “Is that all you got?”

She was a force to be reckoned with in every way. Ask any of the vets and vet techs that ever worked with her. Ask Linda, the director of Jersey State Animal Rescue, the rescue I adopted her from!

In her final weeks, when she really started to decline, she didn’t give up. Whenever she felt well enough, she tried to eat, tried to participate with the family, and even hunted.

Penny taught The Kits to hunt black crickets by the basement door where they got in. She taught them to catch their prey and bring it upstairs. (Penny would bring them up, howling with the live bug in her mouth, with its little legs dangling out of her mouth!) One night, about a week before she passed, Mischief caught one and proudly brought it up to the kitchen.

Penny was really sick at this point. But once she heard Mischief bring the cricket upstairs, she came out from her hiding spot and snatched the cricket right out from under Mischief’s nose and ate it alive.

The night before she passed, she hunted a flying bug in the kitchen. She was so sick and at that point, she wasn’t eating anymore. But she STILL had the desire and ability to do what cats are born to do, which is to HUNT.

she just didn’t give up!

In her final moments, in so much pain and so sick, she still managed to jump up on the windowsill to watch the squirrels outside.

She watched those squirrels during her last conscious moments.

To the very end, Penny NEVER gave up.

When Life gets gnarly, as it often does, I will remember that.

It will give me the strength to KEEP pushing forward, even when I want to give up!

A Lifetime

I only touched on a few of the MAJOR lessons. I could, and really should, write a book on this topic. At some point, I’m sure, I WILL.

“People are put into our life for a reason, a season, or a lifetime.”

So are our pets. And most of the time, it’s only a “season”.

But the “reason” is evident.

And the lessons are a “lifetime”!

Penny sitting in the window bird watching in 2013
Penny sitting in the window bird watching in 2013

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Meet Weeny the Wacko – Nee Irene

Weeny in 2013
My favorite pic of Weeny in 2013
Her Beginning

“On the day I was born
The nurses all gathered round
And they gazed in wide wonder
At the joy that had found.

The head nurse spoke up
And said leave this one alone
She could tell right away
That I was BAD TO THE BONE” – George Thorogood & The Delaware Destroyers

She Couldn’t Find Her Forever Home

I first saw Weeny at my local Pet Smart when I was there buying food for Tabby.

Every week, I would visit the adoptable cats when I went cat food shopping. And week after week, Weeny was passed over even though the other cats were being adopted and new cats were coming in. I felt so bad for her. But at Tabby’s age and the fact that Tabby was an “only cat” for the past five years, I didn’t know how she would react if I brought a kitten home.

One week, shortly before Tabby crossed The Bridge, I asked a volunteer what will happen if Weeny doesn’t find a home. Will she be put to sleep? That’s when I learned that Jersey State Animal Rescue, a no-kill rescue, houses their adoptable cats there. I felt SO much better because, at that point, Weeny was up there for MONTHS and couldn’t find her forever home. The volunteer I spoke with said that she was shy and, therefore, had problems connecting with potential adopters.

When Tabby crossed The Bridge in April, 2012, I was devastated. I never took a pet loss SO hard. Tabby and I moved back to my folks’ house four years prior and after Tabby passed, it didn’t feel like “home”. I realized that Tabby made this place “home” for me.

It occurred to me that there was this cat who desperately needed a home and we had an “opening”, so why not give her a chance? I knew she could never replace Tabby and I wasn’t looking to. I just wanted to help this beautiful baby who deserved a good home.

Meeting Weeny for the First Time

That next weekend, I went to Pet Smart to “meet” her. She was a little shy, but very sweet. I was already “sold” before I even officially met her!

There was another cat there who was SO beautiful and was trying to get my attention SO badly that I studiously avoided eye contact with her because I didn’t know how the folks would react to having TWO cats in the house!

The next day I brought them to meet Weeny. My dad became VERY attached to Tabby and was just as heartbroken as I was when she passed, so I really wanted him to be okay with adopting Weeny, even though she was going to be my cat.

Weeny in Dad's Cooler
As SOON as Dad put his cooler on the table…

That day a volunteer was there cleaning out the cages and all of the cats were in the cat room playing. We watched Weeny play for a few minutes. She was a TOTAL PUNK with the other cats. She would ambush, then hiss and hide! That’s when I saw her little personality sparkling through! She LIVED to play.

And, boy, was she BAD!!

She won my heart!

I tried to hold Weeny and get her to bond with my parents, but she wasn’t very interested in us. That’s probably why she kept getting passed over. She was more interested in playing than she was in us. But I didn’t care. She was already coming home if my application was approved.

In the meantime, Penny attached herself to me and practically BEGGED me to get her out of there. By the end of that visit, I put in applications to adopt BOTH of them!

I Met Weeny’s Angel…

On May 2, 2012, we went to Pet Smart to bring Penny and Weeny HOME!

I was lucky enough that night to meet Weeny’s rescuer. She was a tiny girl, a vet, and had balls of steel. She used to go around Camden, NJ, the most dangerous city in the US at that time, and demand that gang members and drug dealers hand over their pit bulls that were being used in dog fighting rings. This lady was crazy and she was fearless…and absolutely wonderful!

She often tried to help this Hispanic gentleman who kept hoarding cats. Every time the authorities were called, she would broker a deal with them to let her take the cats to rescue so they wouldn’t be sent to a shelter. She rescued Weeny from this house on one of her trips. That’s how Jersey State got involved. They were often the recipients of these cats. This particular rescue took MANY a Camden cat off the streets over the years because they know just how awful conditions are for them in that city.

Weeny was just about a month old when she was rescued. They named her after Hurricane Irene since she they rescued her around the time that Irene hit New Jersey in August, 2011.

How appropriate.

Weeny TOTALLY lived up to her name!

Weeny napping in her favorite place, Grandmommy’s desk chair
Coming HOME

On the ride home, Penny was serenading us the WHOLE WAY, while poor Weeny sat in the back of her carrier, scared and shaking. She had NO IDEA her life was about to change for the better!

We had a plan to put them in an isolation room together since they already knew each other from the rescue. However, Weeny was so shaken and SCARED TO DEATH she kept hissing at Penny every time Penny went anywhere near her. Since Penny was so relaxed about the entire ordeal (she knew she was home already and was excited to explore), I decided to let Penny out so that Weeny could just calm down and decompress.

“Institutionalized”

Red, talking about Brooks in Shawshank Redemption…

“These walls are kind of funny. First you hate ’em, then you get used to ’em. Enough time passes, gets so you depend on them. That’s institutionalized.”

My dad and I quickly figured out Weeny was suffering from this phenomenon. She lived at Pet Smart for eight of her nine months. She didn’t know any other way to live.

By the next morning she came out of hiding and was eating. She was very afraid of my dad when we would go into her room to visit and let her get to know us. That’s when I figured out she was still semi-feral. She was my first experience with a feral or semi-feral cat. She wasn’t mean….just extremely afraid of people and fearful of change or new conditions.

I had Mom and Dad sit on the floor with her so they would seem less intimidating and I had them feed her treats so she could associate positive things with them. We all played with her and that was the absolute BEST way to bond with her.

It took her WEEKS to come out of her safe room “for good”. The first time I opened the door to let her start exploring, I chose a night that my parents were out since the house was quiet. Weeny started by sniffing near the door, then running back in and hiding. Then she took a step out into the hallway, got scared and ran back in. A few more steps, then back into her safe room. And so on and so forth.

Eventually she got comfortable in the rest of the house, but it definitely took some time and patience!

She Finally Found Her Way!

Like I said…she LIVED to play! So we had every toy imaginable in her room. Linda, the rescue’s director, told us her favorite toy was the Turbo Scratcher, so we made sure we got one for each of the girls. I never really got the whole point of a Turbo Scratcher until I saw Weeny in action with it! She played with it for HOURS and HOURS. She ate her treats on it and slept on it. That thing was her bestest friend!

Weeny sleeping on her Turbo Scratcher
Weeny napping on her beloved Turbo Scratcher on Cat Beach-2013

We brought Penny in for many visits to allow them to get to know each other. Penny was only up at Pet Smart for a couple of weeks before I adopted her, so I suspect that they really didn’t know each other all that well and were not friends at Pet Smart. For a while there, I was afraid they wouldn’t get along. After having Taz and Tabby, who were as bonded as two cats could possibly be, I was a little worried that these two would never bond the way Taz and Tabby did. But, in time, they forged their own little friendship.

Penny Became Her “Mentor”
Penny & Weeny on Cat Beach, 2013

Weeny learned EVERYTHING about being a house cat from Penny. The first time Weeny saw the cat water fountain, it scared her. She had NO idea what it was or what to do with it. One day, she watched Penny drink from the water stream. I could almost see her taking out a notepad and pen and scribbling notes down…”and then you stick your head near the water, then you stick your tongue out, and then you lap the water…” After Penny was done, she went over the fountain to try it herself and proceeded to spill water all over her bib.

She didn’t like that.

She shook her head “no” and ran off! To this very day, I hold that memory near and dear to my heart and WISH I took video!

Weeny drinking from water fountain
Weeny drinking from the fountain-2012
Weeny the Comedian

When my dad was dying from cancer in 2014, Weeny provided very much-needed comic relief for all of us. My dad had bilateral cataracts and couldn’t see very well near the end. But he could HEAR. And Weeny had a habit of running through the house at random times for random reasons, or for NO reason, all the while squeaking and making this trilly chirpy noise. When she ran, it sounded like someone was doing demo work in the house! Dad would hear her and just laugh.

It takes a very special cat to make a dying man smile!

My mom doesn’t understand cats very well. She bonds with dogs much more easily. Yet Weeny, who had trouble bonding with people, and Mom, who had trouble bonding with cats, became really close. Mom spent hours playing with Weeny on her favorite computer chair with a feather or tossing a plastic milk carton ring for Weeny to chase. She even set up cat videos for Weeny to watch on the computer!

Weeny watching cat TV
You thought I was kidding? Grandmommy setting up Cat TV for Weeny – 2013

Weeny also loved to chase bugs. Mom spent many summer nights catching miller moths in a plastic cup to bring in for Weeny’s amusement. Sounds sick and morbid, I know. But what Weeny wanted, she got, especially from Mom! Dad always warned us that Saint Bugnacious was watching and would make Mom repent when the time comes…

On the rare occasions that Weeny wasn’t playing, she spent her time sunbathing on Cat Beach by our glass slider door in the kitchen, where we had direct sunlight for nine months out of the year. She liked to take shady breaks behind my dad’s NJ State Police jacket that he always had hanging on one of the kitchen chairs. After he passed, we had to leave it up on that chair for her. I buried Weeny with that jacket. It’s what Dad would have wanted, I’m sure.

Weeny with her favorite jacket
Weeny and her beloved NJSP jacket. On Cat Beach, of course!

Weeny actually turned out to be a pretty affectionate cat when she was in the mood for love. She absolutely LOVED belly rubs! She had the softest fur of any pet I ever touched. Her fur kind of felt like velvet.

It Wasn’t “Just” a Lump

In May of 2015, I noticed a lump on her side. Around the same time I noticed her ten hours of play each day was slowing down a bit. At first I chalked it up to her hitting maturity. Weeny was coming up on 4 years old, after all!

She also started vomiting every so often, which was not like her AT ALL. Weeny was always very healthy and she was still so young. We took her to the vet and he diagnosed the lump as a sebaceous cyst. He drained it and gave her an antibiotic.

By mid-July, she was itchy all of the time and was vomiting more frequently. We took her back to the vet. This time a more experienced vet looked at her. She still didn’t think it was anything major, but just as she was finishing up her exam, she felt it.

A swollen lymph node under her forearm.

My heart DROPPED.

I knew.

She pulled some tissue from the lymph node and the skin lump to biopsy.

The results came back as an aggressive, malignant mast cell cancer. Typically, cutaneous (skin) mast cell tumors in cats are “in situ”, meaning they don’t spread. There are more rare forms, like this one, that spread to the lymph nodes and spleen. This cancer is usually more common in dogs than in cats.

Quality of Life v. Quantity

Most veterinary cancer treatment is not curative. The majority of the time the goal is to extend their life a bit. Treatment of aggressive mast cell cancer has a 50/50 shot at working to extend life for maybe a few months. If it was in the spleen, removing her spleen would have bought Weeny maybe a year, at most.

I know Weeny. Going to the vet scared her so much she shook uncontrollably. Her favorite activities in life revolved around playing and running. To take that away from her by making her undergo surgery and chemo, just to possibly extend her life for a year, would have been for ME, not for her.

I firmly believe with our pets that the goal should ALWAYS be quality of life over quantity. So I opted for palliative care until I couldn’t keep her comfortable anymore.

For the most part, we did a good job of that. I kept her vomiting in check as well as her itchiness. She possibly ate more while she was sick than when she was well because the medication she was on for the itching also works as a mild appetite stimulant in some cats.

As her illness progressed, she wasn’t really herself anymore. She would still play and chase bugs sometimes, but not near as much as she used to. She didn’t feel well despite our best efforts to keep her life as “normal” as possible. Her lymph node tumor turned into a big gaping, oozing wound that I did my best to keep clean. At this point, she was also on pain medication and antibiotics for the tumor.

Playing with her plastic ring on Grandmommy’s desk chair – 2013
Weeny Told Me She was “Ready”

The day before she died, she gave me “the look” just after I medicated her. Her eyes said it all.

People say your cat will TELL you when they had enough. Tabby did, albeit subtly. When I looked into Weeny’s eyes that day, she told me LOUD AND CLEAR…”I just can’t do this anymore.” She just wanted freedom from her pain.

It was Saturday evening and my only choice was to take her to the emergency vet. I couldn’t do that to Weeny. Not while she was still stable. I promised her right then that we would call her vet first thing on Monday so they could come out and free her from her pain. Since the going to the vet terrified her, I wanted them to come here instead.

The next day, she seemed a little better. She ate very well and even played a little. She ate her 4pm meal with no problems…clean plate and everything.

Just about an hour later, she was sitting on her favorite afghan by the picture window when she actively starting dying. She started projectile vomiting and pooped while she tried to jump off the couch. She was scared and you could see it.

Then the seizures started.

It was a Sunday evening. Our only options were an emergency vet a half hour away or Lap of Love out of Philadelphia.

I Had to Honor Her Wishes

She was going to die that night. I saw my dad during the active dying process and I know what it looks like. I called Lap of Love to see how quickly they could come out instead of allowing her to suffer all night.

Penny kept trying to approach her to check on her and comfort her, but it was just freaking Weeny out. I had Mom take Penny down to the basement to occupy her.

Lap of Love called back within a half hour and the on-call vet was on his way out to assist her in crossing The Bridge.

While he was en route, Weeny’s seizures finally slowed down and she settled in the kitchen on Cat Beach. She was still terrified and struggling to breathe. I wanted so badly to put her on my lap, but Weeny was NEVER a lap cat. She was a “next to you” cat. I had to honor what I knew she wanted by just sitting next to her and talking softly to her.

She took her last breath on Cat Beach with me by her side just about five minutes before the vet arrived.

Bird Watching – 2012
I Meant “FOREVER”

Weeny was a cat who deserved to live life on her terms.

And she deserved to die on her terms.

I won’t lie…it was heartbreaking to watch her in those last hours of her life. However, I did not want to terrorize her by rushing her off in a carrier to go to the emergency vet in her last moments.

For a shy cat who waited SO long for her forever home after being in the public eye at Pet Smart for nine months, to this very day, almost three years later, I’m still glad she got to cross the Bridge in her very favorite spot in the whole world with her very favorite person by her side.

On Cat Beach. AT HOME.

I promised her a forever home when I adopted her. And I never broke that promise.

NICKNAMES: Weener, Weeny-Schnitz, WeenerSchnitzel, Booger, Boogie Board, Der Veener Schnitzel, Wacko, Squeaky McGee, Bad Bad Weeny Brown

SONGS: 

“Rock You Like a Hurricane” – The Scorpions

“Bad to the Bone” – George Thorogood & The Delaware Destroyers

“Bad, Bad LeRoy Brown” – Jim Croce

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Tabby Wonder Cat Wilson July 22, 1996 – April 24, 2012

Tabby – Summer, 2011
We Almost Got a Dog Instead…

I’ll never forget the day my ex and I adopted Tabby and her “brother” Taz. We just moved in together a few months before and he decided he wanted a dog, so looked in the paper and found a beautiful older Alaskan Malamute. She had to be re-homed because her owner was moving into a nursing home.

We did a meet and greet with this beautiful, ginormous white gentle giant and I fell in love. She reminded me of a bigger version of my Siberian Husky I had growing up, Dipsey. Her owner was ready to adopt her to us ASAP.

I got home and really thought about it. We had a small one-bedroom apartment at the time and she was a BIG dog. I was a bank manager and since we had one car, I had to drive us both to and from work. We were gone most weekdays from 7am to at least 5pm, if not later.

Dipsey and Robyn 1977
Dipsey as a puppy and me in 1977. I was five years old.

Dipsey had her own doggie door and a fenced yard that she could go out and relieve herself anytime she wanted. This poor pooch would have been stuck in that apartment crossing her legs for over ten hours per day. That was no kind of life for a pooch. I had to call her owner and explain why our home was not the best fit for her.

To this day I hope and pray she found a great home to live out her Golden Years.

The Best $5 I EVER Spent!

We decided a cat would be a much better fit for our home. We saw an ad in the paper selling kittens for $10 each. Labor Day Weekend, 1996, we drove out to meet these kittens.

When we arrived at this private home, they brought out two carriers full of kittens. One was full of Siamese kittens and one was full of regular domestic short hair kittens. I’m writing this 22 years later and I don’t really remember all of the other cats besides Taz and Tabby! Of course, once I met Tabby I KNEW we belonged together and I didn’t really even bother meeting the other kittens.

I didn’t ask too many questions but I imagine these kittens were the product of two unspayed pet cats and the people just wanted rid of them. At least they were charging an adoption fee for the kittens!

My ex immediately fell in love with Taz. I thought he was adorable…but I was distracted by this little tabby thing who just came right up to me and sat on my right side like she had always known me. It was almost as if she was saying, “Okay, Mommy…we can go home now.”

Tabby's First Christmas
Tabby’s First Christmas, 1996. Watching the train under the tree. I wish I took better pictures back then!

Here’s the problem. We only had enough money to adopt one of the kittens. We argued back and forth for probably 20 minutes. But, thankfully, she got tired of hearing us argue and let us have both kittens for $10.

It was the best $10 I EVER spent!

We had no carriers, no litter box or litter, no food bowls or food…nothing. Nelson (ex) held them in the car while I stopped at the store on the way home to pick up litter, a litter box, food and bowls for them.

I think back now and realize how LUCKY we were that neither one of them got out of the car or got away while we carried them into our apartment!  We got them safely home and they promptly hid under the TV stand.

My Apartment Was Finally a “Home”

I set up their stuff and was so excited I called Mom to come over to meet them! I’m reliving that moment right now. I remember this as being one of THE HAPPIEST days of my life. I’ve always had pets. I couldn’t bring my cat Smidgen with me when I moved out of my folks’ house because Smidgen was an indoor/outdoor cat and I knew she would NOT be happy as an indoor-only cat in an apartment. Smidgen was very bonded to her land, and I couldn’t take that away from her. For many cats, their bond with their territory is stronger than ANYTHING, including their bond with their humans.

After we adopted Taz and Tabby, our apartment felt like HOME. Finally!

Those poor cats hid under the TV stand their first three days with us. Tabby wanted to creep out, but I believe she was responding to Taz’s fear and wanted to stay with him. I’m not sure if that lady had them together before we adopted them, but they were bonded from the very beginning of their life with us.

They were not blood related. I believe they were two weeks apart in age. Their birth dates were guestimates by me going by how old they looked when I adopted them. Tabby was only about 6 weeks old and Taz was 8 weeks old when we brought them home.

Taz and Tabby Christmas 1999
Taz and Tabby – Christmas, 1999
Miss Congeniality

As a kitten, Tabby was pretty independent and low maintenance. Honestly, she was low maintenance her entire life. She never demanded much attention and was a pretty healthy cat until her senior years.

And she never complained about anything.

Even when I had a frying pan full of hot canola oil in my hands and tripped over her and spilled it on her, she didn’t complain. I’ll never forget that night. Nelson grabbed a towel and put cold water on it and threw it on her to stop her from running like a maniac. We wrapped her in that cold towel and rushed her right to the emergency vet. Luckily, my quick thinking worked! She had no permanent injury from that oil, although she was oily when we got home. The vet felt it best that we wait a day or two before bathing her since her skin was tender.

After we got home from the vet and settled in for the night, she came over to lie on my lap. Taz jumped up and proceeded to clean her for at least two hours that night.

Her first 10 years, Tabby had to take a back seat to her much needier and not-as-healthy brother. Taz suffered with health issues his entire life. He was a super affectionate cat and hogged all of the attention, but he was also a very shy and skittish cat.

But, again, she never, ever complained. And she loved Taz as much as we did!

My Rock

Tabby saw me through some of my most trying times…active alcoholism and constant fighting with the ex, recovery, marriage, divorce, several moves. After my divorce I was gone even longer hours between work and a hellish commute and just my general need to run away from the house where I had so many bad memories with the ex.

Tabby and Me – Christmas, 1999

Yet she STILL never complained.

When Taz died in 2007, I didn’t adopt another cat. Tabby was 10 by then and I wasn’t sure how she would be with another cat in the house. And I felt it was finally a chance for me to make it all about her. And I did, believe me! She was my daughter and I DOTED on her.

Tabby lived indoor-only but when we moved to a house in the woods, we would take her and Taz outside for supervised outdoor time. In the beginning, she would scratch and protest when I picked her up to carry her inside when it was time to go in. But by the time we moved back to my folks’ house in 2008, she was very well trained. She would stay by my side and even stop, wait, turn around and meow for me in her quiet little way when I was lagging behind.

I had to move back home in 2008 when I was laid off and was one paycheck away from homelessness. By then, my folks were pet-less so it was a very easy transition for Tabby.

And it was actually a very good thing. Tabby liked people and I think she missed living with other people besides just me. Dad was a cat person and she knew it. She and Dad took to each other right away and he doted on her maybe even more than I ever did!

I always say Tabby turned cat haters into believers. My mom was always more of a dog person. Cats don’t like my mom very much..probably because she just doesn’t understand them and treats them like dogs. But Tabby was different. She was just SO good-natured and she LOVED my mom.

She showed Mom what the hype was all about!!

Her Brush With Death

Tabby was getting up there in age and she wasn’t on the best diet because I didn’t know back then how bad most commercial kibbles were for cats. I always fed half kibble, half wet food, but Tabby never really liked wet cat food all that much. She started having problems with chronic constipation when she was 12-13 years old.

In 2011, she had a bout of constipation that almost killed her. I didn’t catch it early like I would have now because I didn’t have much experience with feline health problems and honestly wasn’t paying attention all that much. Up until that point, Tabby was a very healthy cat.

But, she stopped eating and was very lethargic. I took her to the vet and we had complete blood work and a chem panel done. Her blood work showed full-blown fatty liver disease, which will happen when an older, overweight cat stops eating for over 24-48 hours. The vet did an ultrasound and felt strongly that it was liver cancer or possibly an infection.

The vet gave her a Convenia shot that day in case there was an infection. They sent me home with Denamarin, fluids to give her, and an appetite stimulant.

Great! But at the time, I was NO GOOD at medicating cats!

I took her back two weeks later. She still wasn’t eating and now was very weak. She also had some pretty bad jaundice.

Tabby while sick with fatty liver
Tabby – Spring, 2011. See how bad her jaundice is?

I was afraid it was the end. I thought maybe they should admit her. However, my vet is not a 24-hour vet and it was a Saturday morning, so there was a chance she could die in a cage alone. I couldn’t let that be her end. NO WAY. Instead, they had the vet tech show me how to give her fluids and syringe feed her. They gave her another Convenia shot and we brought home a bunch of supplies to save her life.

I was able to force feed her to a point with Mom’s assistance. As for the meds and sub q fluids? Forget it. Wasn’t happening. Remember, I was NO GOOD at medicating cats at that time.

Penny taught me how to become a pro at that stuff a few years later!!

I couldn’t shake the fact that the vets were missing something. This wasn’t denial. My gut was SCREAMING at me that this was NOT her end and we were missing something.

This is when I learned to play Dr Google and taught myself everything I could about fatty liver disease.

I took her back to the vet later that week and INSISTED they check her to see if she was constipated. She wasn’t well enough to have anesthesia, so I had to allow them to attempt a fecal extraction with just lube and a finger.

I bought some Wellness pouch food at Pet Smart later that day and tried feeding her.

And for the first time in six very LONG and stressful weeks, she ate on her own. She didn’t eat the food but she did lick all of the broth up! I ran back to Pet Smart and must have purchased 50 of those packets. Pretty much their entire stock. And I fed her as much broth as she would drink by squeezing the broth out of the packets. She was starting to blow through at least 8 packets per day.

I didn’t care about the cost. WE HAD HOPE!!

She Made a FULL Recovery!

It was a few days later that Tabby started to eat her regular food on her own again. She was becoming more active. Gaining weight and looking less jaundiced as each day passed.

Three weeks later we took her to the vet for a follow up and did another chem panel to check her liver values. When the vet called me the next day, he was AMAZED! He told me that her liver values were almost completely back to normal. Her bilirubin went from “off the charts” to “mildly elevated”.

She was on the road to a FULL recovery! And earned her new nickname…Tabby Wonder Cat Wilson.

I will get more into this with another post, but I did switch her to better quality, all natural food after that. Knowing what I know now, it still wasn’t the BEST diet for a feline, but it was progress and it did make a difference! I also added Miralax to her wet food every day. I gave her 1/8 tsp once per day but if she went longer than 24 hours to defecate, I increased her to 1/8 tsp twice per day. And I PRAISED her every time she pooped!

It worked like a charm.

Tabby Spring 2011
Tabby on one of our walks together shortly after she recovered from fatty liver disease – Spring, 2011
Our Last Year Together

She had another great, quality year after that. I remember her last Christmas was her best one yet. She was playing with all of the ribbons, bows, tissue paper, and had a blast with her new toys. It was like she was a kitten again. She must have known it would be her last Christmas.

The following Spring, she developed some really bad breathing problems. I had her checked by her regular vet and my current vet (who was my 2nd opinion vet at that time). We tried steroids and an asthma inhaler with a spacer, hoping against hope that it was only asthma and not something terminal.

But it was something terminal. We found it was a tumor pressing on her trachea. Likely lymphoma. The steroids worked temporarily but I didn’t want her on long-term steroids to put her at risk for Feline Diabetes (go figure, right?). Knowing what I know now, steroids would have only worked for so long, anyway.

The weekend before she passed, I knew it was time. She wasn’t really eating. She would only lick water off of my fingers so I spent the better part of that weekend dipping my fingers into water for her to lick off. The poor girl couldn’t breath to be able to drink or eat. I had her litter box up on the bed with her because she couldn’t make it to the box and kept having accidents. I slept on the floor since it was a twin bed. To this very day, I wish I could have made room on that bed to sleep with her on her last night.

Her Final Good-Bye

About an hour before the vet arrived to put her to sleep, she actually got off of the bed for the first time in four days. Dad and I were like, “Omg..what do we do NOW? Maybe it’s not time?” Remember, Tabby was the Comeback Kid! She was a fighter!

Tabby used the litter box in the other bedroom and walked around the entire house. By the time she got back to my room, she had such trouble breathing that she collapsed on her side and it took her 10 minutes to catch her breath. That’s when I knew for sure it was “time”.

The vet arrived a few minutes later. This vet, who has since passed on, had a bedside manner like no other vet I ever met. He went in to my room where I put her back on my bed and I knew by the way she reacted to him that she was ready to go. She just wanted her suffering to end. And so did I.

She passed very peacefully, although it took him some time to stop her heart. That last little part of my strong daughter was holding on. But I know in my heart of hearts that I could not have let her suffering go on for one more minute than I already did.

After the vet left, I was BROKEN. Inconsolable. So was Dad. There were many, many tears that week.

Her Last Gift To Me

I went into the bedroom where her litter box was in the corner.

Remember I said that I always praised her when she pooped? When I looked in her litter box, I realized she left me her last little gift. I totally lost it when I saw that. I know now that when she got up to walk around the house that last time, she wasn’t rallying. She was doing one last check of her home before she crossed the Bridge.

She took a large chunk of my heart that day. There’s always that one Special One. And that was my Tabby.

Tabby wrapping gifts
Tabby – Wrapping gifts with me in 2009

July 22, 2012 would have been her Sweet 16th Birthday. Tabby sent a stray balloon to my side yard. None of my immediate neighbors had any graduation parties or BBQs that previous weekend. I know that Tabby sent that balloon to let me know she was okay, flying free, yet still with me. And celebrating up at the Bridge with her beloved brother, Taz.

Keep flying free Tabby. Til we are together again… I love you!

SONGS:

“You Are the Sunshine of My Life” – Stevie Wonder

“Pretty Little Angel Eyes” – Sha Na Na

“If You Only Knew” – Shinedown

**This post contains affiliate links, which means we earn a small commission at no extra cost to you. We only recommend products that we use and wholeheartedly believe in!**

Any treatments, food and supplements I mention in this post are the result of my own research and experience. Please consult with your vet as necessary.

 

 

 

Treating Stage 4 Feline Chronic Kidney Disease – Penny’s Regimen

 

Penny May 2012
Penny in May 2012-soon after I adopted her.
 Disclaimer

My experience with treating Penny is NOT a substitute for veterinary advice or treatment. Please consult with your vet when treating Feline Chronic Kidney Disease (Feline CKD) or any other ailment.

Introduction

I am part of a Feline Chronic Kidney Disease Support Group on FB and every day I see posts from pet parents of newly diagnosed Stage 4 CKD kitties. Often, their vets give them no hope.

Penny's blood work results after starting treatment.
Look how much her values dropped three weeks after we started treatment and after her much-needed dental!

I’ll start with this – We are taught to treat the CAT, not the “numbers” (meaning, their kidney values). Although I don’t think my vets could have never imagined in a million years that Penny would have gone on to live such a quality life for 20 months after she was diagnosed, they never let on to me that her situation was “hopeless”.

All of Penny’s treatments became such a part of the routine. I already forgot some details  since she crossed the Rainbow Bridge November, 2017, so I decided to bust out all of my notes and her worksheets (yes, I kept worksheets) to refresh my memory and blog about her treatment so that I could easily share with others.

There were issues that cropped up along the way. Feline CKD is progressive, and as their kidney function diminishes, new secondary illnesses can develop. When she was first diagnosed, she was not anemic. Even at the end she was only slightly anemic but didn’t require medication. Knowledge is POWER when advocating for our pets!  I learned how to read her blood work results and sometimes would find things that the vet missed, including a low-normal hematocrit reading just a few months after she was diagnosed with CKD. You will see that I included B-complex in her regimen, with my vet’s blessing, when I saw her borderline anemia start to develop. I believe that was an integral part of preventing anemia that is so common in CKD cats.

She also developed hypertension secondary to the kidney disease progression about six months after she was diagnosed. Her symptoms were similar to a minor stroke in cats. She had a couple of seizure-like episodes followed by an unstable gait (she was actually stumbling around trying to re-orient herself). These episodes would be over as quickly as they started. I took her to the vet the very next morning and had a blood pressure check done. Her symptoms resolved and never returned once she started treatment for hypertension and her blood pressure remained well-controlled.

I will not be including her Feline Diabetes treatment in this post. If you have a diabetic cat and would like to see her insulin dosage and blood glucose readings, click Here. For more on our Feline Diabetes journey, see Feline Diabetes Category-Penny & The Kits.

Penny’s Treatment

At the time we began treatment, Penny was 15lbs. As she lost much-needed weight (her “ideal weight” was 12lbs), her fluids and Adequan doses were adjusted with my vet’s supervision.

MORNING:
  • Breakfast: 1/8 – 1/4 teaspoon Miralax mixed in her breakfast on an as-needed basis**
  • 9am: Amlodipine 1.25mg, 1/6 Sundown Naturals B-Complex. I used a Size 3 Gel Cap and put both medicines inside so I was only pilling her once. Watch Pill Time here!
  • 11am: 150ml lactated ringer’s solution subcutaneously. As she lost weight, the dosage was adjusted. Generally, we stuck to the golden rule of 10ml per pound of body weight. Watch Penny getting fluids here!
EVENING:
  • Half hour before her dinner: Pepcid 2.5mg. It’s more effective to give Pepcid on an empty stomach, if possible. This was to combat the excess stomach acid that is common with CKD kitties. I also would get up around 3am to feed her a wet meal (she was a social eater so wouldn’t eat all night when I slept) since stomach acid tends to really bother empty stomachs. She very rarely vomited and when she did, it was typically just a hairball (she was a Maine Coon, after all!)
  • Bedtime: Renadyl, 1 capsule mixed with food. I used Weruva Cats in the Kitchen gravy pouches that I purchased from Chewy.com because it mixed easily with the gravy. For more information on how Azodyl/Renadyl can help, click here. Scroll down to the “Probiotics and Prebiotics” section. I chose Renadyl because I only had to give it once per day (rather than three times) and it’s less expensive than Azodyl. I firmly believe it did make a difference for Penny!
WEEKLY:
  • I gave Penny a B12 injection (0.25ml) once per week. This was recommended by both Tanya’s Comprehensive Guide to Kidney Disease as well as my vet. My vet recommends B12 injections for any cat with chronic disease. Penny was actually taking B12 before her CKD diagnosis because of her diabetes.
MONTHLY:
  • Penny was taking Adequan-Canine injections every four weeks for spinal arthritis. It was a Godsend for her. Up until her last day she was still jumping on windowsills to bird watch and had no problem keeping up with The Kits without the assistance of ANY painkillers! If you have a cat with arthritis, PLEASE inquire with your vet about Adequan!
Penny on High Tower
Penny up on “High Tower”, the highest vertical point in the house!
Special Notes
 PENNY’S DIET

Since Penny was diagnosed at Stage 4 with a very high phosphorus level, I immediately switched her kibble from Young Again Zero (Carb) to Young Again Zero (Carb) Mature Health, which has a phosphorus level of 0.5%. The phosphorus level is the same, if not lower, than the “prescription” diets, yet was still low-carb for her Feline Diabetes. Often, food the vets and experts recommend for CKD kitties isn’t the best for diabetic kitties, especially the “prescription” diets. Most diets formulated for CKD cats are entirely too high-carb for ANY cat, much less a diabetic cat! When feeding a cat with BOTH conditions, it’s important to feed for the diabetes FIRST. If I lost control of her blood glucose levels, glucose would have spilled into her urine, which would only advance the kidney disease that much quicker.

I was able to switch her wet food to the lower phosphorus/lower carb Weruva and Fussie Cat flavors at first. After a while, she started refusing any of the foods that were low-carb and low-phos. I had to switch her back to Fancy Feast Classic pates (her favorite wet food). Fancy Feast is very high in phosphorus, so I added in an aluminum hydroxide (ALOH) binder. I mixed in max dose split between four wet mini meals per day. I purchased the ALOH online from Thriving Pets.

MIRALAX FOR CONSTIPATION AND OTHER DIGESTIVE ISSUES

**Re: Miralax and constipation. Penny had a slight case of IBD. The day I decided to adopt her, she had a very loose bloody stool while I was at the Pet Smart adoption center visiting her. When I took her to her first vet visit, her anal glands impacted and infected. Poop consistency is VERY important for a cat with IBD who has problems with their anal glands. Normally, a cat’s anal glands will extract when they poop, but when the poop is too soft there is enough pressure to properly extract them. If I didn’t see Penny poop for more than 48 hours, I would start Miralax at a more aggressive dose, but I had to be careful not to use too much so her poop wouldn’t get too soft. The dose I listed is a recommended maintenance dose. Ask your vet about using Miralax for your cat.

A note on using slippery elm bark (SEB), which recommended by MANY lay people and “cat experts” on the internet and social media. For a short while, I had decided to try slippery elm bark for Penny in lieu of using Pepcid since I’m a big fan of safe and effective holistic treatments. Slippery elm bark is good for everything from nausea and stomach acid to diarrhea and/or constipation. I know a lot of people who have used it on their cats with great success. However, I’m not one of them. Penny developed the worst case of constipation she ever had while taking SEB – to the point that she stopped eating completely for a day, so we had to discontinue and treat her stomach acid with more traditional drugs.

Quality of Life was Our Goal

As you can see with the videos I included, Penny’s treatments were not stressful for me OR her. She was easy to bribe with raw chicken or Fancy Feast Broths, which made treating her health issues SO much easier for us! The pills, fluids, etc became just a regular part of our day.

Up until Penny, I had never been able to successfully give cats medication on a consistent basis. She was so young when she was diagnosed with Feline Diabetes (5yrs old) and Feline CKD (7yrs old) that I had to figure out what works for US so that I could extend her quality of life for as long as possible.

I had decided in the beginning that I would continue this treatment regimen for as long as it worked to keep her feeling great. If it had worked for ten more years, we would have kept going, but when everything I did no longer worked, it would be “time”.

In hindsight, I’m glad that I made that decision early and stuck by that decision when I was losing Penny and couldn’t think objectively or unselfishly.

Penny was a kitty of grace and dignity. I made SURE she maintained her dignity throughout her entire illness. I’m proud of the fact that we maintained her quality of life for so long. Since cats live in the moment and don’t fear death like we do, it is ALWAYS important to consider that above ALL else when our fur babies get sick. As their trusted parents, caregivers, servants (lol), we OWE them that!

Penny's 9th Birthday Picture
Penny’s 9th Birthday Picture. This was a BIG deal because I didn’t think she would make it to age 9!

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My Baby – My Soul Mate – Was Diagnosed With Feline Kidney Disease

 

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I’ll admit I’ve been putting off this post. I was hoping that when I typed this particular post that I could report that Penny was still doing really well. Tomorrow will be two years since she was diagnosed with Stage 4 kidney disease.

Instead, I lost her on November 15, 2017.

I’d like to share what I posted on Facebook a year ago today..

Penny-February 2017. One year after her kidney disease diagnosis.

Penny in all her scruffy splendor after trying to mooch lunch off of me this afternoon. And just about a year ago today she was diagnosed with Stage 4 chronic kidney disease and we didn’t think she’d be here another week or month much less a year!

Her kidney values still suck, it’s progressive and incurable, but clinically she’s been doing very well and even gaining weight she doesn’t need to gain. Her diabetes is still in remission, playing with The Kits and just living her happy, spoiled life. She takes her sub-q fluids and meds really well because she likes the reward she gets afterwards! Bribery will get you everywhere with this cat!! 😂😂

I don’t know what tomorrow or next week or next month will bring with Penny, but if you had told me a year ago when she was very sick and dying that she would live an A+ quality of life for another year, I would have told you that you were nuts!

She has taught me so much about life and being resilient. About having a positive attitude. About doing things you never thought you could. Because a year ago I thought that I could “never” give a cat a pill or subcutaneous fluids and I thought that her life would be sheer misery with all the meds etc. Yet all of her treatments take less than 10 mins per day and she gets to enjoy the other 23 hours and 50 minutes each day like there’s nothing wrong.

She lives in the moment. And I’ve learned to do that WITH her. With Weeny, I spent her last days mourning her. I won’t do that with Penny. I will mourn her when it’s “time”. Today I just enjoy her living her happy life!

She has shown me what strength and resilience look like. And, most importantly, she has shown me what’s possible when there is LOVE.

She is the strongest, toughest, most hard-headed daughter I’ve ever had and I love her for it!!

This still stands true. I would do it ALL over again for her. I would have done it for another ten years if I could have sustained the quality of life she enjoyed while she was “sick”.

I always said that if I had a cat diagnosed with kidney disease (Penny was my first), I would just put them to sleep rather than torturing them with fluids and pills and vet visits, etc.

It’s funny how quickly what you think you “would have” done changes when you’re actually faced with the situation.

Back to 2016

Penny was only 7 years old when she was diagnosed. And if I had gotten better control of her diabetes when she came out of that first remission, she may not have been faced with her death sentence at such a YOUNG age. (Read about Penny’s Feline Diabetes)

When I got the news that she was “end stage”, I was DEVASTATED. Penny was overdue for a dental when I had taken her to the vet. She had stopped eating, was very depressed and lethargic, started hiding and being anti social, and was drinking what seemed like GALLONS of water, even though her diabetes was under good control at that point.

The whole time she was dealing with insulin resistance, I knew it was only a matter of time before her kidneys would show some damage. She had blood work done just seven or eight months before and her kidneys were fine. I could not believe she had gone from “fine” to Stage 4 kidney disease that quickly, but she did.

I took her to her old vet for a second opinion. One of the issues on the table was that dental. She really NEEDED it because she had an infected tooth and significant inflammation.

I Had to Trust my Instincts

Everybody was telling me to admit her to the hospital for IV fluids to try to flush out her kidneys. The problem was that Penny was on insulin at the time. Since she wasn’t eating much, I was not able to give her the full dose of insulin. I had to test her blood glucose like crazy to make sure she stayed safe. A lot of dosing decisions I made at that time were based on my knowledge on how Penny responded to insulin and my gut instincts.

There was NO WAY I was going to admit her to a hospital and have a vet who was not familiar with PENNY’S diabetes and who didn’t live, eat, and breathe this disease day in and day out for 2 1/2 years administer Penny insulin. The only way I could guarantee her safety was to keep her home. If she died at home because she was not getting her kidneys flushed, so be it. I was NOT going to take a chance of Penny dying alone in a cage from insulin shock!

Not with Penny’s history at the rescue. Not with her separation anxiety.

My vets agreed with me on this issue. They knew that nobody could handle Penny’s diabetes better than I could. However, on the Facebook support group, I had people telling me that my cat was going to die if I didn’t admit her.

This is one of those instances where you have to trust your gut instincts and PRAY.

FIND A WAY!

Penny was prescribed sub q fluids, phosphorus binder, Cerenia for nausea, an antibiotic to get the tooth infection in check, and was given an appointment for her dental a few days after her diagnosis.

And I was wondering if this would be it. Was I going to lose her so suddenly?

Especially because I didn’t “think” I could pill a cat or give subcutaneous fluids. I was never successful in pilling a cat before and had never given sub q’s before. It was very scary. I thought I’d be spending hours per day chasing her around for her treatments while she hid in terror from me. And I almost gave up.

Until I looked into her big, round, emerald green trusting eyes. And I remembered that promise I made to her the day I saw her at Pet Smart and knew that we belonged together.

One of the biggest lessons Penny ever taught me is the old, “When it’s important enough, you find a way!”

And that we did.

I watched a bunch of YouTube videos on how to give sub q fluids to a cat. Those well behaved kitties on YouTube were NOT my feisty, bossy Penny! I watched videos on how to pill a cat and give liquid meds. Here I was…a PRO at giving her injections and testing her blood sugar, yet I couldn’t medicate her! Even then I had to laugh at myself.

Here are some REAL LIFE videos for ya!

Giving Sub Q Fluids to a Difficult Cat

Pill Time!!

WHEN IT’S IMPORTANT, YOU FIND A WAY.

And our “way” was BRIBERY. Just like with everything else I’ve done with Penny. As long as there’s something in it for her to enjoy when it’s over, she will cooperate. She was a VERY smart girl. But I will never forget the first time we did Penny’s sub q fluids. I was shaking the entire time. I knew SO, SO much rode on us being able to give her fluids daily. Fluids are the single most important treatment you can do for a cat in late-stage kidney disease. I was so excited when we were finished successfully giving her fluids the first time that I totally annoyed Penny praising her!

Penny sniffing her sub q fluid bag
Penny with her fluid bag just after we successfully did sub q fluids for the very first time!

I will get into detail in another post about Penny’s specific treatments. I learned everything I know from Tanya’s Comprehensive Guide to Kidney Disease and the sister Facebook page, Feline Chronic Kidney Disease. Of course, I never started ANY new treatment without discussing with my vet first and getting their FULL blessing. Luckily, my vets were well versed with Tanya’s site, so that made them going along with my ideas much easier.

I wanted to get Penny more “stable” before we attempted that much-needed dental. I was so afraid of losing her at the vet that I almost risked her life. I cancelled the dental that she had scheduled five days after her diagnosis.

Many of you who follow the blog, know me personally, or follow our Facebook page know that I don’t always trust vets. I don’t always trust lay people, either.

That Life-Saving Phone Call

But when Dr. Jared called me from his home at 10pm the night before she was originally scheduled for her dental, I had to at least listen. He felt very strongly that if Penny had ANY chance of pulling through for a while that she had to have this dental. He even offered to go in on his day off to oversee her surgery if I would just agree to do it. She would have TWO vets making sure she pulled through.

Knowing that an out of control infection can just damage the kidneys further, and putting some really blind faith into Dr. Jared because he was just so convincing, I agreed to bring her in for that dental the next morning.

Boy, did I CRY. I sat on eggshells and was a nervous, shaking wreck ALL DAY. The vet said they would call me when she was done and by 4pm I hadn’t heard anything. I was literally SICK with worry.

They FINALLY called me back around 5pm and told me she pulled through just fine. Two years later, and I’m actually crying as I type this. I REMEMBER the feeling of RELIEF I experienced when I heard she was fine. She had a much tougher time recovering from this dental. She had five extractions and significant infection. It would be a few weeks before she would eat anything besides Weruva Cats in the Kitchen gravy pouches. I had them on auto-ship from Chewy.com and we were blowing through up to six pouches per day just to keep her nourished. I must say, the gravy from those pouches alone was enough to keep her out of fatty liver disease until she started eating normally again.

She also took much longer to clear the anesthesia from this dental than her first one in 2013. Likely because her kidneys were so compromised.

Living Our “New Normal”

She did bounce back, though. By mid-March, her kidney values had decreased significantly from “off the charts on on death’s door” to a high-Stage 3. In one way that was good news…the treatments were working! But I remember my heart broke all over again when we got her results. I had been hoping against hope that it was acute kidney failure and that this would “go away”, but the test results just confirmed her death sentence.

Copy of Penny's Blood Work
Penny’s Blood Work Re Check from March. You can see I wrote in her old values from her diagnosis blood work.

“Treat the cat, not the numbers.” I read that on Tanya’s site. I heard it repeatedly on the Facebook support group.

And it’s very true.

She lived her best life yet between her diagnosis and her passing. We had our hiccups. Like when she appeared to be having seizures or mini strokes and we learned that she had developed hypertension secondary to the kidney disease. We had to change and/or add some treatments as the blood values showed progression after a year of being stable at a low-Stage 4.

Treat the cat, not the numbers.

Rescuing The Kits had been very good for Penny. For two years prior to their rescue, we had experienced death in our family. First my dad. Then Checkers. Then Weeny. The Kits brought LIFE back into the house. They helped with Mom’s depression after losing Dad. Penny was running, playing, taking jumps I never thought she could take, being spoiled, helping me raise The Kits, and eating enough to choke a horse. She was still gaining weight in the Fall to prepare for Winter. If you didn’t look in her litter box or see her blood work results, you would NEVER know that she was “sick”.

Penny in her favorite spot at the top of the living room cat tree – March 2017

She had earned the nickname of “The Comeback Kid” by her vet.

She amazed me EVERY SINGLE DAY with her will to win.

Her Final Decline

Which made it that much harder when she started her final decline in the Fall of 2017. Was she just crashing or was this IT? Would she bounce back this time? When was it time? Was she suffering? I had made her final appointment two other times before we actually followed through with it. And each time, her vet was so happy to hear she had rallied yet again. After all, she was The Comeback Kid!

I ANGUISHED over “The Decision”. When you’re hurting and you see the love of your life hurting, it makes it extremely difficult to know when to make that VERY final decision.

I had to recall what I decided back when she was living her quality life. I always said that when the treatments stopped working, it would be “time”.

It was a very difficult decision to stick to when faced with the fact that I would no longer see her face everyday…when she would no longer trip me or nag me for food.

When my little Soul Mate would no longer be by my side 24/7.

When her quality of life was no longer there, it was “time”. Whether I liked it or not. I kept putting off the final appointment when she would show me she was still interested in living after spending hours or days hiding and hunched in pain.

Even when the vet was en route, even when he was here, I was doubting myself.

She panicked when the vet got here. She calmed down when she figured out it was her favorite vet, but she still didn’t like it very much. Mentally, she was NOT ready to go and I don’t think she ever would have been. She spent her last conscious moments watching squirrels and listening to my awful rendition of “Earth Angel”. HER song.

It wasn’t until after she passed that I was sure I made the right decision. I scooped the litter boxes. Throughout her entire illness, she was always good for 6-8 ginormous “pee balls” a day. In the 24 hours prior to her passing, she had only produced two.

Her kidneys were just days or hours away from shutting down completely.

It Was ALL Worth It!

I still feel like we won. Because up until that last month, she spent 20 months living her life and didn’t care that she was “sick”.

It was worth all of the treatments, vet visits, heartbreak and triumphs to have that time with her. Like I said earlier, I would do it all over again for Penny.

I miss her more than I ever thought I could miss anybody…even my dad, who I was close with as an adult. This has been a very painful week for me, reliving what happened.

But if our story saves another cat’s life…If our story gives someone else the hope and strength to fight…reliving this pain is ALL worth it.

When she was hiding and sick in that final decline, I recall feeling like Penny was holding on because she didn’t want to leave the home that she had waited SO long for in her 3 1/2 years at the rescue.

I told her she didn’t have to. I told her that even though she had to leave her body, she never had to leave her home. This is her FOREVER home. Which means FOREVER.

Penny napping with Patchy March 2016
Penny and Patchy – March 2016

If you follow us on Facebook, you know that she understood and listened. Shadows and orbs show me that Penny didn’t go anywhere. She is still VERY MUCH here! And that has made all of this just a little more bearable.

Rest In Paradise, my Precious Pup.

**This post contains affiliate links, which means we earn a small commission at no extra cost to you. We only recommend products that we use and wholeheartedly believe in!**

All treatments, foods and supplements mentioned in this blog are based on my own research, experience and done with my vet’s knowledge and consent. Consult with your vet as necessary.

 

 

 

 

Vet Care – Be Your Pet’s Advocate…It May Save Her Life!

close up of Junior at emergency vet
My aunt’s cat, Junior, at the emergency vet.

 

If only I knew then what I know now. How many times do we say that in our lifetime?

Junior’s Story

I’d like to share a story. The cat in the picture above is Junior. He was one of my feral cats who came here in 2016. Soon after he was neutered, he suddenly turned into a love bug with me and Mom (not so much with the other ferals) so I adopted him out to my aunt.

Last year, my aunt had asked me to meet her at our regular vet. She was concerned because she found that Junior had been snacking on her Peace Lily plant and had since stopped eating and was lethargic. My first thought, as well as the receptionist at our vet’s, was, “Oh no! LILY! Kidney failure!” My aunt had already paid $55 to the Animal Poison Control line and had a case number for the vet to reference. The receptionist on duty directed us to the emergency vet 45 minutes away without even calling Animal Poison Control to get direction.

I admit I walked in there on guard. I have had plenty of BAD experiences at emergency vets and I really DO reserve them for emergencies because of the expense and price gouging that occurs in my area.

When we were taken back to the exam room, I told my aunt not to commit to admitting him without my seeing his blood work first. We had a LONG wait because they messed up the results of his first blood panel and had to re-run it. I think we waited at least three hours just to see the blood work results. While we waited, I decided to start playing Dr Google on my phone.

I was AMAZED at what I had found out. Although lilies are toxic to cats and cause kidney failure, Peace Lilies are not really a lily. Therefore, although they cause unpleasant side effects, they do not cause kidney failure in cats. The side effects include “Oral irritation, intense burning and irritation of mouth, tongue and lips, excessive drooling, vomiting, difficulty swallowing.” (Source ASPCA – Peace Lily)

When the vet FINALLY came in with his blood work, she reported everything was “within normal limits”. Since she couldn’t figure out WHY he had stopped eating, she recommended admitting him to do IV fluids (even though his liver and kidney values were FINE), more blood work, x-ray, CT scan… You get the idea, right? I could almost hear a cash register ringing each test up as she mentioned them.

Cha-ching! Cha-ching! Cha-ching!

I asked the vet for a copy of the blood work and an estimate before we made any decisions. Of course, she didn’t bring the results into the room with her, so we waited another half hour just for her to bring back a piece of paper.

At this point, I should bring up that my aunt is 75 years old, retired, and on a fixed income. So when the vet re-appeared with normal blood work, an estimate for $1800-$2200 and yet another recommendation to admit, I asked again why the vet felt that he should be admitted. She reiterated that she didn’t know why he was not eating and needed to run tests.

I showed her what I found on ASPCA’s website about Peace Lily poisoning. She had the case number from Animal Poison Control and had consulted with them already. I asked her (and I think I backed her into a corner at this point because I was fuming), “You mean to tell me that the intense burning he’s feeling in his mouth, throat, esophagus and GI tract ISN’T causing his loss of appetite??”

She said, “No. I think it is completely unrelated.”

HELLO??? Whatever happened to common sense?

I asked her if HER mouth, throat, and GI tract felt like they were on fire, would she have an appetite? She never did answer me.

I told her I wanted him to receive 100ml of sub q fluids, a Pepcid injection for the heart burn, and a Cerenia injection for the nausea. I told her my aunt was on a fixed income and I was SURE that once the burning passed that he would feel like eating again and if he didn’t, we would come back. Admission wasn’t necessary.

She left the room to get his meds and sent two vet techs in to do his fluids.

Man, how her attitude CHANGED when she came back in. She started the discharge instructions by saying that she still thought he should be admitted. And I cut her off and told her that my aunt didn’t have the money and it wasn’t necessary. After that, she got downright rude with me. She explained the treatments she was giving him (uh, they were MY idea) and blah blah blah.

My aunt was charged $350 for that visit.

Had I not been there to advocate for my aunt and Junior, they would have gotten a retired women who lives alone and on a fixed income for upwards of $2000.

Do I even have to tell you that Junior was fine the next day and hasn’t had a problem in almost a year now?

And Then There’s Penny

Penny would have died four years ago had I blindly listened to a vet without doing my homework and talking to lay people who live Feline Diabetes day in and day out. You can read more at Our Introduction to Feline Diabetes.

Penny would have died two years prematurely had I blindly listened to a 2nd opinion vet who suggested that I give her 400ml of sub q fluids daily when she “crashed” and was diagnosed with stage 4 kidney disease. (The maximum “safe” amount for Penny’s weight would have been 150ml daily).

The vet also recommended that I admit her for IV fluids, which is common practice and normally beneficial for a cat who in a “crash”. However, Penny was on insulin at the time. Since she was not eating her usual amount, her blood glucose levels were dropping low and I had to follow my gut with her insulin dosing to keep her safe. I knew her diabetes very well and knew her “trends”. This is something a vet tech who was not familiar with Penny would not be able to do as well as I could. If Penny were admitted to the hospital, there would be nobody with her overnight to monitor her blood glucose and I couldn’t take that chance. Once I explained all of that to the vet and showed him her blood glucose spreadsheet, he agreed with me.

Penny sniffing her sub q fluid bag
Penny with her fluid bag just after we successfully did sub q fluids for the very first time!

He respected my opinion and admitted that he didn’t think of the insulin issue and the potential for hypoglycemia without somebody there to monitor. That is a vet whose ego does not get in the way of his work. We treated her safely on home sub q’s, although I did the recommend 10ml per pound of body weight rather than the vet’s suggested 400ml daily.

Taz Would Have Lived a Better Life

My Taz (1996-2007) would have lived a much better quality of life if I played Dr. Google back in 1997 when he was blocked with struvite crystals. The treating vet taught me a lot about urinary tract blockages and how to prevent future episodes. What they DIDN’T teach me was how to prevent the urinary tract infections he was riddled with for the rest of his life.

In 2006, Taz became very ill and stopped eating. My vet could not figure out what was wrong and recommended I ship him off to a veterinary diagnostic hospital up in Ocean County, which was a good hour from where we lived. I opened up a Care Credit that day and took him up there. Five days later, I picked up a terrified and still sick Taz. My new Care Credit was maxed out at $5000 already. He rallied for nine months, but eventually passed away from this mystery disease. The outcome would have been different if I had just asked questions and gotten online to LEARN. It turned out he had liver disease. I could have learned about feline nutrition and how to properly medicate a cat without terrorizing him. But I didn’t. I was told nothing else could be done. I blindly trusted the vets.

Taz September 2000
My Taz in September, 2000

Live and learn.

This is not to bash vets. AT ALL. Like I’ve said before, I could not do their job. God bless them. There are MANY phenomenal vets in the world who treat their patients like their own pets. But I have learned through experience that every cat is different. Some vets see hundreds of patients per week. Including OUR pets. They aren’t given extensive training in specialized diseases such as Feline Diabetes. They aren’t given extensive training in feline nutrition. And since they get a commission for every bag of “prescription food” they sell, I have to wonder if they truly have our pets’ interests at heart when those foods are filled with slop that I wouldn’t feed my worst enemy.

Vets, much like doctors, surgeons, and weather people, are HUMAN. And not always RIGHT.

On The Flip Side..

When my Penny “crashed” and was diagnosed with Stage 4 kidney disease just about two years ago, her vet felt strongly that she needed an emergency dental if she had a chance of pulling through the crash. I had originally cancelled her surgery. He was so adamant about it that he called me at 10pm at night from home to try and talk me into it. He offered to go in to work on his day off to oversee her dental since a less experienced vet was scheduled for the surgery. I had a tough time taking a risk like that with my bad experiences with previous vets, but my gut was telling me that Dr Jared was probably right.

I took her for that emergency dental the next day. And cried and prayed all day long. I didn’t want her last moments to EVER be at the vet or in a cage, alone and scared. She pulled through. And lived 20 more quality months before she crossed the Bridge. I don’t believe we would have ever had that time together had I not listened to my vet that night.

Robyn kissing Penny on the head-Feb 2016
Penny & Me – February 2016 about a week after her emergency dental.

So what’s my point here?

We have to advocate for our pets like we would advocate for our sick parents (been there, done that too!), sick children, and ourselves. Ultimately, the decisions are OURS.

We have something with our pets that no vet will ever have with them – an emotional bond. They are our FAMILY. It’s okay to ask questions to fully understand what is going on. It’s okay to admit that you play Dr Google and discuss what you learn online with your vet. Any GOOD vet will RESPECT that and listen to your concerns.

My vets all know that I know my stuff. They know I play Dr Google. They know that I’ve managed Penny’s diabetes and kidney disease from things I’ve learned online and from lay people. I’ve ALWAYS cleared these treatments with my vets first. They respect that I do my homework, ask smart questions, and take the time to educate myself and understand everything so that I can better help my pets.

I have good vets. I’m very lucky. If I ever came across a vet who didn’t respect and understand that I advocate for my pets, they would never see me or my pet again.

At the end of the day, WE are responsible for our pets’ well being. The vets are there to help. But we make the final decisions.

Don’t be afraid to do your homework before allowing a vet to treat your pet. Please don’t be afraid to speak up. Your pet is DEPENDING on YOU!

Spunky and Robyn selfie Jan 2016
Spunky and me – Jan 2016. She was about 8 months old in this picture!

 

 

 

 

#neuteriscuter Why Spaying or Neutering Your Cats Will Save Lives!

Marbles in a carrier at his new rescue
Marbles, now “Brett” on Rescue Night-Scared, but finally safe!

 

This is “Brett”.

He’s scared. He’s scared because I had to pluck him out of the only home he has ever known and take him to Jersey State Animal Rescue.

Why?

Because his previous owner failed to neuter him.

The ONLY reason why he did not end up as bait for a dog-fighting ring or in a shelter this week is because I saw the previous owner’s (we will call her “Sarah”*) Facebook post..

“Anyone want an almost 1-yr-old male cat? Photos and more info on cat in comments.” This post was done on a Monday. If she didn’t find any takers by Wednesday, he would have been taken to a local high-kill shelter.

Her other cat, an older spayed female, was attacking him so badly that he spent most of his life hiding in a closet and when I rescued him, I noticed he had a huge gash on his neck. “Sarah” had been cleaning it and applying Neosporin but didn’t have the money to take him to the vet.

She rescued him off the street and did a phenomenal job cleaning him and fattening him up! I even helped her to treat an upper respiratory infection he had. Then things in “Sarah’s” life changed and she no longer had the money or mental capacity to get him neutered and worry about re-introducing the two cats. She couldn’t isolate him because she lives in a one-room efficiency. Poor Brett pretty much lived in a closet for the past few months.

Brett, dirty and malnourished.
Brett when Sarah first rescued him.

Now he is spending his second full day at the rescue, scared shitless and hiding under his little bed in the cage at the rescue.

All through absolutely NO fault of his!

This is Chatty. Chatty came to me as a terrified stray cat in the Summer of 2015. He was emaciated, so scared he was shaking like a scared chihuahua, and could only eat if I was standing right there with him because he just kept getting his ass kicked out there.

Emaciated and dirty Chatty
Chatty when he first found me.

He was not neutered. It’s likely he was dumped off in the woods because of typical intact Tom behaviors like urine marking and aggression. Or it could just be that he had a home and escaped because he wasn’t neutered and knew there was a female in heat nearby. He has permanent scars on his ears and face from cat fights. And is FIV+, likely from having to fight to survive out there.

This is Brucey. I found Brucey while doing a TNR project for my Township and his feeder had called looking for help. He was malnourished with permanent scars all over his face, ears, and back. He had a dislocated hip that took two surgeries to correct. Yet, he was the SWEETEST little boy.

Brucey sick and injured
Brucey, the first day I met him in July, 2017.
Brucey close up of face
Despite his very rough life, Brucey was looking for love. Or more wet food!

But he was not neutered.

Again, it’s very likely that he was dumped off in the woods when he came to sexual maturity and started the typical instinctual intact Tom behaviors such as urine marking and aggression. Or, he escaped out of his previous home because he smelled a female in heat nearby. Intact Toms are known to wander until they find them. And if they are confined inside, they will do just about anything to get OUT.

Almost ALL of my so-called “feral” yard cats came to me intact. All but Big Orange.

I could not tell you how many nights I heard Oreo and Charlie (the cat formerly known as Hitler) have their screaming matches in my backyard before I neutered them. Oreo has so many scars on his left ear that I’m surprised it’s still even in one piece! Trouble and Junior fought almost daily before they were neutered. As did Shadow and Trouble before I neutered Shadow.

Oreo, my senior boy, who went from hardened feral to total love bug after he was neutered!

All because they were intact Toms acting like intact Toms. And I say “so-called” feral because out of the nine that I feed out here, only ONE of them is TRULY a feral cat. The rest likely once had a home, even if just as kittens.

I didn’t worry too much about neutering my feral cats in 2014 when I first started feeding because I was feeding two cats who I figured were boys (Oreo and Charlie) and one girl who was already eartipped (Tiggy). I had spoken to a few people who fed community cats and they didn’t worry about the boys all that much.

But I learned my lesson when Charlie brought his little pregnant hussie (Fluffy) here in 2015 to have her kittens in the barn next to my house. I was so naive at the time that I thought she was just a kitten that Charlie had taken under his paw.

I was right about the kitten part. But those six cans of Fancy Feast she blew through each day were because she was PREGNANT.

And if I hadn’t stepped in to that situation and rescued The Kits, all of whom are sleeping in a heated house with full bellies as I sit here and type, let me run through all of the possible scenarios that could have been their fate.

  1. If Fluffy hadn’t found my good eats and had proper nutrition, she may not have had the full surviving litter of four kittens. If she hadn’t eaten the proper food, at least one of those kittens, if not ALL, would have developed herpes eye infections that very well could have led to ruptured eyes, blindness, and/or a horrible painful death. These kitten came inside with perfectly clean bills of health besides some roundworm.
  2. I rescued them at four months old. Had I waited another couple of months, Patchy and Spunky would very likely have become pregnant. They would have spent their lives with the physical and emotional stress of raising litter after litter and being hounded by all the male feral cats out here. And Fluffy was already pregnant AGAIN when I TNR’ed her four months after her first litter. It doesn’t take long.
  3. Rascal and Mischief would have been outed and forced to go find their own territories. And how would they have been evicted? Oreo would have kicked their asses until they no longer came around. These bonded brothers, who were each other’s lifelines when I first rescued them, would have turned on each other while they competed for food, territory, and mates.
  4. To date, 3 1/2 years after The Kits were rescued and all of the adults were TNR’ed, we have prevented the births of over 1 million unwanted feral cats over the next ten years.
Picture of all of our cats-all spayed and neutered.
Every single one of these cats are spayed and neutered! Clockwise from top left: Oreo, Mischief, Rascal, Blacky, Shadow, Patchy, Spunky, Fluffy, Domino, Big Orange, Trouble. Center tortie is Penny and black/white cat is Charlie

My backyard feral colony at the time of this writing consists of one lone female and five full-time males, plus two more males and one female who stop by here most days to eat. For the most part, they live with each other in peace.

My “fulltimers” (Fluffy, Oreo, Trouble, Domino, Big Orange and Charlie) would not all be in their heated shelters in my shed and my yard on this COLD windy night. They would NEVER live in such close proximity to each other if they weren’t fixed. Not in a million years!

I can cite facts and figures ALL DAY LONG. But I wanted to tell the STORIES. You can Google search to learn about the spread of Feline Immunodeficiency Virus (FIV), Feline Leukemia (FeLV), all off the feral and shelter cats who are killed each year due to overcrowding, all of the cats who are abused by sick individuals, all of the female cats who are predisposed to mammary cancer and other types of cancers because they are not spayed, and on and on and on.

We hear why spay and neuter is so important EVERY day, yet people fail to do the responsible thing for their pets to have the happiest and healthiest life possible.

They and/or their litters get dumped off into the woods. I live in the woods. THIS HAPPENS EVERY SINGLE DAY OUT HERE. And rather than fixing their cat, people just lather, rinse, and repeat, repeat, repeat.

That cute little kitten you just brought home is ADORABLE until they come to sexual maturity and start exhibiting instinctive sexual behavior for an intact cat…

This shit happens day in and day out. To hundreds of thousands of cats.

They get dumped off at shelters because their urine marking is stinking up the house. They are fighting with the other cats. Their female goes into heat every few weeks and hounds and yowls all day and night until either she gets out and mates or the estrus cycle passes…or she gets pregnant. Female cats in heat often spray, too.

And they are scared like Brett…wondering why they aren’t home with their human who used to love them so, so much.

He lost his home through absolutely NO fault of his own.

Let’s hope he finds the RIGHT home with a FOREVER family this time around.

Do you need help finding low-cost spay or neuter clinics in the South Jersey/Philly area?  Contact Us!

For help in finding low cost options in your area, Google “low cost spay and neuter cats” or contact your local SPCA or no-kill shelter.

To learn more about how you can help feral cats through Trap-Neuter-Return (TNR), click here!

Close up of Brucey in his forever home
Brucey-his first Christmas in his forever home. Happy, healthy, loved, and NEUTERED.

 

Chatty in his forever home with his bonded brother
Chatty (now Cosmo, top), neutered and in his forever home with his new bonded brother, Winston.

 

*Some names were changed.*

**This post contains affiliate links, which means we earn a small commission at no extra cost to you. We only recommend products that we use and wholeheartedly believe in!**

All treatments, foods and supplements mentioned in this blog are based on my own research, experience and done with my vet’s knowledge and consent. Consult with your vet as necessary.

 

 

 

 

Home Testing Your Diabetic Cat – Why It’s SO Important

Penny with her blood glucose test showing she was back in remission
May 2016-Penny achieving her SECOND remission from Feline Diabetes and showing off her new “OTJ” Party Hat! OTJ=Off The Juice (insulin)

 

Even though Penny has crossed the Rainbow Bridge, I’m still a member of the Feline Diabetes Facebook Page and Feline Diabetes Message Board because I want to continue to share Penny’s story to help others. I also want to stay on top of my knowledge on how to treat this disease since it’s so prevalent these days. All of it had become second-nature to me and I don’t want to lose that! You can read more about our journey with Feline Diabetes here: Feline Diabetes Category-Penny & The Kits.

I’m writing this today because I recently encountered a new member on the Facebook page whose vet had advised against home testing. And this vet has this cat, in my opinion, on a dangerously high dose of insulin. When I heard that their vet increased the dose, my heart started POUNDING. I feel it’s only a matter of time before this cat has a hypoglycemic episode and possibly sustains permanent neurological damage or dies if they don’t start home testing. If I can save ONE cat’s life with this post, my job is done.

I’ve also recruited the help of some members on the Facebook page by asking them to share some common vet or pet parent objections to home testing.

#1. The general: “You don’t need to home test because I (vet) don’t want to overwhelm you.”

I will start with my story. When Penny was diagnosed with Feline Diabetes, I FREAKED OUT. I already THOUGHT I knew enough about Feline Diabetes to know that it’s expensive, time consuming, and I’d be torturing my cat with blood glucose curves and home testing all hours of the day and night. I mean, who has time for THAT, right?

And my vet KNEW I was freaking out because it seems like it’s such a complicated disease and I was OVERWHELMED already! I think I even said to him that I would NEVER be able to home test Penny’s blood sugar because she was a “difficult” cat to handle. When my vet told me that I didn’t have to home test her, I remember saying, “Oh thank GOD!”

I went home with my insulin, needles, heartbreak and fear. That first night, I wasn’t even able to get the first shot into her.

And I’m SO glad! She was prescribed much too high of a dose of a much-too-harsh insulin for cats!

The next day I was more successful and got the insulin into her. And she SLEPT the ENTIRE day. She slept SO deeply that I thought she was dead at one point because she was so difficult to rouse. I knew enough about diabetes in general to know that her blood sugar may have dropped too low, but I had no way of knowing because I didn’t know how to home test. I remember making sure she ate that day and hopped online with a more open mind and started talking to my new Feline Diabetes friends. I came across THIS post on the Facebook page that evening..

“By a cruel turn of fate, on Thursday evening my most precious and special sweetheart Baxter went into a diabetic hypoglycemic coma and I almost lost him that night. As of now, his body vitals and sugar are stable, but he was fighting continuing seizures and was not fully conscious. We don’t know how much neurological damage has occurred and how much can be reversed. Right now it’s a waiting game. Yesterday, we saw a bit of progress for the first time. To my animal loving friends and family — I welcome all prayers for Baxter’s healing and recovery.”

Baxter before and after his hypoglycemic episode
Beautiful Baxter…the kitty who saved my Penny’s life with his story and journey back to health.

He partially recovered, but it took SEVERAL months, vet hospitalizations, vet visits, and rehab to teach Baxter how to walk, eat and groom himself again because of the neurological damage he sustained from the insulin shock. Some of the damage was permanent, including blindness. His treatment cost over $30,000.

Susan’s posts were enough to convince me that shooting insulin without home testing was downright DANGEROUS. When I adopted Penny, I promised her a happy and healthy life. I had to keep that promise to her!

I had decided that Penny will NOT get any more insulin until I switched her to a low-carb kibble I had read about, changed her insulin from Vetsulin to Lantus (much safer for kitties!) and learned how to home test.

And we did. And it saved Penny’s life MANY times. Some cats are known to spontaneously go into remission from Feline Diabetes, and Penny was one of them. Not once, but TWICE. Had I not been home testing, I would have never had four more beautiful and fun-filled years with her! See her blood glucose numbers here: Penny’s Blood Glucose Spreadsheet.

#2. “Home testing is expensive!”

Like bringing your cat to the vet every three weeks for a fructosamine test is NOT expensive? Like the $30k+ that my friend Susan spent on Baxter to save him is NOT expensive?

The meter the vets recommend, AlphaTrack (AT), is expensive, although still cheaper than NOT home testing. But many of us use human meters. There IS a variance between the human meter and the AT, but we are testing to watch trends and keep the cat safe.

I use the Relion Confirm meter, which can be purchased at Walmart. It uses the smallest blood drop of any of the human meters and the strips are under $20 for 50 of them, which is MUCH less expensive than other human meters’ strips or the AT strips!

I tested my meter against the vet’s and there was a 30-point variance. But, we also adjust the “normal” numbers accordingly based an the variance. The goal is to keep your cat under renal threshold (the point where excess glucose spills into the urine) yet keep them safe! You can learn more at Feline Diabetes Message Board.

#3: “Home testing is not as accurate as vet testing! Regular fructosamine tests are adequate.”

Let me explain something. When a diabetic becomes stressed out, their blood sugar rises. Humans, cats, dogs, armadillos (okay..not really sure about that last one but you get the point, right?) Now, think about it…when was the last time your cat was actually HAPPY about going to the vet?

Never, right?

So when you have a stressed out cat at the vet getting a blood draw, or worse yet, an 8-hour blood glucose curve, don’t you think that’s stressful for them?

Of course it is! So what do you think will happen to your diabetic cat’s blood glucose reading when she is stressed out? There is a very real thing called “vet stress”. There have been times that Penny was at the vet and her reading was around 160 because she hated the vet and hated blood draws. I would test her JUST before we left for the vet, at home under “normal” conditions, and it would be anywhere from 60-90. And when you have a vet making insulin dosing decisions based on those falsely elevated numbers taken at the vet, the result can be deadly. And I’ve seen that happen time and time again with the members of the Feline Diabetes group.

Fructosamine tests are kind of like A1c tests in humans. They only show averages to see how well the insulin is managing the diabetes. They will NOT give you data at shot time to know whether or not it’s safe to administer insulin to your cat. They will NOT tell you mid-cycle that your cat is too low and needs Karo or high carb wet food ASAP to steer them out of low numbers. Which is the MAIN reason why we test our cats! And I had been there PLENTY of times with Penny!

#4. “Home testing is too stressful for my cat! They will hate me and hide from me forever!” and any and all variations thereof.

I thought so too. But I knew we were facing life or death here. Penny was only 5 years old when she was diagnosed and too young for me to give up on her. So I watched countless YouTube videos of nice, agreeable cats sitting there like little angels while their pet parents poked and prodded their ears for blood.

THEN there’s Penny! She’s HARDLY agreeable! This is what REAL LIFE looks like…

 

My beautiful, dear sweet Penny who I couldn’t even brush without getting swatted at or a warning nip. She was the cat that the vet techs had to wear those rubber gloves up to their armpits just to handle her. The boss lady who ALWAYS had to be in charge! And I thought, “How in the world am I gonna poke her ears??”

Bribery.

Penny was a foodie. And I mean she would walk over hot coals for something she loved to eat, such as raw chicken breast. So, do you know what I did? I TRAINED her. I trained her to associate positive things with the experience. Feline Diabetes-How I Conditioned my Diabetic Cat to Home Test.

This write-up by my friend Kay also helped! Ear Testing Psychology.

It worked so well that when my diabetic dad was dying, I used her old meter to test his blood sugar. When she heard the beep of the meter, she came running from across the house and clobbered all over my poor, sick father because she thought there was raw chicken in it for HER. I kid you NOT! I used to test her after my workout, about 2pm most days. She would STALK me while I worked out, just WAITING for me to test her so that she could get her raw chicken.

Doesn’t sound too stressful, right?

Me working out with Penny rolling around on the floor.
Penny impatiently waiting for me to finish up Turbo Fire so she can get tested and have her chicken snack!

#5: “Testing the Edge of the Ear Will Cause Cancer”

Did YOU or someone you know EVER get ear cancer from having your ears pierced?

No?

I didn’t think so.

#6: “Kitties don’t like their ears being messed with!” or any other variation thereof.

I’m pretty sure kitties don’t like to be dead, either. Again, BRIBERY works wonders!

#7: “A slow acting insulin (ie Lantus or Levemir) won’t cause hypo’s.”

While Lantus and Levemir are longer acting insulins than Pro-Zinc and much safer for cats than Vetsulin/Caninsulin or Novolin, it’s still insulin and too much of ANY insulin can and will kill.

#8: “My vet told me to just watch for symptoms of a hypo.”

Okay, are you home all day with your kitty, always watching her? Are you up all night with your kitty?

Furthermore, I’ve seen countless people whose cats’ blood glucose levels drop dangerously low and they have shown NO symptoms. They would have never figured it out until it was “too late”. This has happened MANY times with Penny, as well! I’ve probably steered her out of potential hypoglycemia at least 30 times when she was heading full speed toward her second remission. And she never once showed any symptoms of low blood glucose.

#9. “It will ruin my bond with my beloved kitty!”

Robyn and Penny selfie
Penny and me taking selfies-2014

Au contraire, it will only STRENGTHEN your bond with kitty. When they told me this, I thought they were full of shit. But they were RIGHT. Although I only had Penny in my life for a short 5 1/2 years (she was 3 1/2 when I adopted her), I had a bond with her like no other being on this Earth. Between her diabetes and her kidney disease, it only strengthened over the years. Believe it.

#10: “I don’t want to hurt my kitty!”

So you’d rather kill her? Maybe I’m being flip, but, that’s always my first thought when I hear this one. Penny never once yelped or snapped when I poked her. The part she hated the most is when I held the rice sock up to her ear to warm it. Not because it was too hot; she just didn’t like me holding that thing up to her ear! I used the One Touch Delica lancing device, which seemed to be much more effective and gentle than the generic one that came with my meter. But I never hurt her. She would get a little sore when I had to test her often to steer her out of low numbers using high-carb food, but I didn’t hurt her. As long as she got her chicken afterwards, all was right in Penny’s world!

#11: Simply, “My vet told me not to!”

Vets are lifesavers. I know many vets who I respect greatly. I couldn’t do their job. However, they are not ALWAYS right. Nobody is! If they give you a reason not listed on this post, I’d love to hear it in the comments! I cannot think of ONE good reason why not to home test. And MANY good reasons why it’s SO, SO important!

BOTTOM LINE

Here it is. Would you administer insulin to yourself without knowing if it was safe to do so? Would you administer insulin to your diabetic child without knowing if it is safe to do so?

No?

Then please don’t for your cat, either!

My friend Darcy brought up an excellent point when I was looking for feedback from Feline Diabetes members on Facebook…

When Lebowski was diagnosed, I remember SO clearly…The vet came from the back and said “I’m so sorry, he has diabetes . . . ” Then SHE had the look on her face as if she’d just told me he was riddled with cancer.

I looked at her and said “Huh, well THAT sucks. Okay, what now?”

Then she smiled as I obviously was going to take this well. But I’ve never forgotten HER reaction. I almost wish that she’d have said “Okay, he has diabetes, this is NO biggie and it is totally manageable!” But that wasn’t what I got. I don’t think she knows how much HER delivery could possibly affect how clients see it.”

I know how I felt and I reacted when we got the diagnosis. The vet may as well have told me that she was going to die any minute. It’s scary and overwhelming! But, when I joined these groups and started to learn, it really all became just a regular part of our day and an intrinsic part of my thinking. When Checky was sick and was being tested for this and that and the other, I remember WISHING it was Feline Diabetes because it’s SUCH a manageable disease and remission is very possible with the right treatment and food!

Also, there are cost-effective ways to manage Feline Diabetes. I will share my tips and tricks in separate post. You can also join the Facebook page that I linked to above or join FDMB (link above). You can also like OUR Facebook page and shoot me a private message there or comment here!

Please heed the warnings of experienced people who live, eat and breathe this disease day in and day out! We see the tragic stories every day. Some of us have lost our babies to insulin shock. And people like me have learned from their mistakes to keep our cats safe! I thank God every day for people like Susan who shared her and Baxter’s journey so freely to save other cats from the same fate. Penny and I are forever indebted to Susan and Baxter and ALL of our Feline Diabetes friends!

Special Note: IF you feel that diabetes is too much of a burden to bear or you just don’t have time to treat your cat safely, PLEASE try to re-home her with somebody who you KNOW will give her the care she needs. And if you don’t know anybody, please contact an organization that works tirelessly to help diabetic cats, Diabetic Cats in Need. They also help people who want to  treat their diabetic cat but do not have the funds to do it.

 

Robyn and Penny gazing off in the distance while cuddling
Like Mommy Kitten, like daughter!

**This post contains affiliate links, which means we earn a small commission at no extra cost to you. We only recommend products that we use and wholeheartedly believe in!**

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All treatments, foods and supplements mentioned in this blog are based on my own research, experience and done with my vet’s knowledge and consent. Consult with your vet as necessary.

Conquering Penny’s Insulin Resistance-Feline Diabetes

Picture of Penny with caption "sugar cats rule...other cats drool"

For more on Penny’s diabetes up until this point –

Our Introduction to Feline Diabetes

Penny’s Journey to Her First Remission from Feline Diabetes

Feline Diabetes – Where I Went Wrong with Penny

Okay, now that you’re up to speed…I really should write an ENTIRE book on the subject!

I may get a little technical here, but I just helped out a girl on the Feline Diabetes Facebook page who was in a very similar spot as we were. My hope is if someone else is dealing with insulin resistance with their diabetic cat that our experience will help!

Like I said in my last post, when she came out of remission, she came OUT. As in ten long months in insulin resistance OUT. My nerves were shot. I was really feeling like I would never get her regulated!

And I knew the damage was being done to her kidneys from all the excess glucose spilling into her urine.

I can tell you this much in hindsight…WE do not determine how much insulin a cat needs to regulate. The cat’s body is totally calling the shots here. No pun intended!

Demonstrationg a "flat shot" with a long-haired diabetic cat
Me showing how I gave Penny a “flat shot”. With long-haired cats, the traditional way to give shots ends up in many “fur shots”, where the insulin ends up on the fur. Flat shots worked much better on Penny!

And even though I’ve gotten some very good advice from many lay-people who had much more experience than I had, I’ve also gotten bad advice. Advice that many people told me not to follow. But I did anyway.

Of course, hindsight is always 20/20.

My reasons for saying all of the above is because I should have followed FDMB’s Tight Regulation Protocol to a “T” the second time around. But I didn’t. When Penny’s insulin dose was getting higher and higher, I kept bringing her back down to one unit to “start over again”.

This may be too technical if you’re not familiar with Feline Diabetes, but many people who have experience will understand and I believe it’s important to mention. When lay-people suggest that you go back down to one unit of insulin because you have may surpassed that “magic dose”, they are talking to the people whose vets have started their cats out on a dose that was too high or people who have increased doses by full units rather than the suggested .25 units as outlined in the Tight Regulation protocol that I linked to above. Neither of these applied to us.

Because she had gone into remission so quickly the first time, I really had little experience with shooting insulin with lower blood glucose numbers. Ultimately, my chicken shittiness is what kept her blood sugar over “renal threshold” (the point where glucose starts spilling into the urine) for FAR TOO LONG.

And this is likely one of the reasons why she developed kidney disease so quickly at such a young age.

I hadn’t trusted the process and the advice of MANY who had been at this same spot.

And you’ll see on her Google Spreadsheet that once I “got it” and just trusted the damn process, it was like night and day.

Now that the technical talk is out of the way…

There were a few external issues that I also feel affected her. Cats are sponges to our emotions. And, like human diabetics, they respond to stress with higher blood glucose numbers.

The much-needed weight loss was happening. She was getting off of gabapenin and the Adequan was really working for her arthritis like a charm. In February 2015, we had a sick stray cat show up on our back deck. (Checkers – The Sick Stray Cat Who Broke Our Hearts) Although Penny never met him, I’m sure she smelled him through Mom’s door (he lived in Mom’s bedroom til he was well enough to introduce him to Penny and Weeny). It was a very stressful time while we worked so hard to figure out what was wrong with him and to try and save him. For a cat like Penny, who was SO in tune with MY emotions, I’m sure this took a toll on her.

Then Weeny was diagnosed with a rare (for cats) malignant mast cell cancer in June. And for three months we watched her decline rapidly and she just wasn’t herself anymore. Again, Penny was VERY in tune with what was going on. Although they weren’t bonded, they were friends and Weeny’s illness and subsequent passing affected her as much as it did Mom and me.

Penny (left) and Weeny (right) sitting in the bathtub.
The Divas (Penny-left and Weeny-right) in the bathtub!

Weeny passed on September 13, 2015. For two years we had been surrounded by death in our family, with losing my dad, Checkers, and Weeny. It took its toll on ALL of us.

I remember thinking when Weeny passed that I cannot allow Penny to just lie around here and get old.

After Weeny passed, I rescued The Kits from my backyard. More on that story here: Meet the (Former Feral) Kits!

Now, I don’t know if there is any other cat in this world that I could have sprung four 4-month-old kittens on. Since Penny was used to being surrounded by other cats with her 3 1/2 years as a show cat at the rescue, I knew she would be okay with the right introductions. She took all of the changes like a TRUE champ. She truly was an angel here on Earth!

Penny on the couch watching squirrels while Rascal sleeps
Penny squirrel watching while Rascal naps.

What I didn’t realize until about six months after I rescued The Kits is that Penny needed them as much as they needed us! She was a NEW cat. More playful than I had ever seen her! Not as obsessed with food. She seemed to like helping me to “raise” them. As long as I made sure Penny always came first (like I had a choice…lol), she was happy!

It actually felt MORE like Penny, Mom and me were the humans and The Kits were the cats!

And, when you look at her blood glucose readings, you will see how her diabetes suddenly became well regulated around the same time and she needed less and less insulin! That was a bonus that I honestly didn’t see coming!

However, the insulin resistance took its toll. Mom says I blame myself too much. This isn’t about blame. It’s about learning from my mistakes so that I don’t repeat them. It’s about learning from my mistakes and sharing them so that we can save another cat’s life.

Penny was put into my life to teach me SO many lessons. And she did.

Now it’s my duty to share them.

More to come….

**All treatments, foods and supplements mentioned in this blog are based on my own research, experience and done with my vet’s knowledge and consent. Consult with your vet as necessary.**