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

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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.

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!

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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.**

I Am a Feral Cat Caregiver

Oreo (left) and Domino (right) keeping warm during a record cold streak in NJ.

 

And I am exhausted.

People constantly ask why I do what I do when I have so many other priorities. When it costs money out of my own pocket. When I have my own indoor cats to tend to.

My answer?

Because somewhere down the line, a human let them down. Either they were dumped off, their parents were dumped off, or their great-grandparents, etc etc.

Because people may have been feeding them, but nobody bothered to neuter them so that they wouldn’t keep giving birth to kittens who would potentially suffer and die out there. So that feral kittens would no longer be dropped off at shelters and healthy shelter cats who had been waiting for homes would be euthanized to “make room”. So that Toms would never have to fight for territory or mates anymore. So that they could live healthier, happier lives.

We are just coming out of a period of extended record-breaking cold weather in NJ and many parts of the US & Canada. And feral cat caregivers are exhausted and over-extended trying to help our kitties survive it.

We are out there in sub-zero temperatures trying to feed them wet food before their food freezes and scheming ways to keep water from freezing so that our kitties don’t dehydrate. We are trying to figure out HOW we can get them to use the shelters we have set up for them to weather the elements.

We are worrying ourselves sick when our babies don’t show up after the snow storm. When they get sick because of the rough conditions out there. When one goes missing to hunker down somewhere til conditions improve.

Big Orange enjoying his heated shelter during the January Thaw

We look at untouched food bowls and hope that TODAY will be the day they are able to come out and eat.

We look at the pictures we took of them before the storm and HOPE we get to see them soon…alive and healthy.

Shadow before the New Jersey Blizzard 2018. It’s been six days and he still has not returned.

We spend time on social media talking to other caregivers because our families and friends JUST DON’T UNDERSTAND.

We pray to God, St Francis, and/or the Universe to help our babies survive the harsh weather.

We spend money we don’t have on heating pads, heated bowls, straw, shelters, food, medication and supplements…hell, some of us build additions on to our houses or sacrifice our basements, garages and porches for our babies.

We dig our feral cat shelters out of the snow before we even dig ourselves out.

We scheme ways to treat sick ferals who cannot be handled or touched or just put into a carrier to take to the vet.

Fluffy, who is currently dealing with a bout of diarrhea and is too feral for me to help her much.

We look helplessly at our babies who can’t be handled while they deal with a mess on their bum from diarrhea and think “if she would JUST let me scruff her and wipe, she will feel SO much better!”.

Then we get a little break in the weather. And they come back or come out of their shelters. And enjoy the thaw right along with us.

They follow us around and try to trip us as we walk in the snow and ice and mooch treats and love.

They even roll around and play in the snow!

Oreo enjoying the January Thaw while Domino looks on and wonders what is wrong with him!

Those are the moments us caregivers LIVE for. Those are the moments that make it ALL worth it. When they look at us with love and gratitude in their eyes because they KNOW that all we do makes their lives THAT much more bearable.

Feral Cat Caregivers are unsung and often misunderstood heroes!

We may “think” that we aren’t making a difference in the world because we haven’t won a Nobel Peace Prize or saved children from sex trafficking or aren’t making six-figure incomes.

But to that feral cat, we have changed THEIR entire world.

And that’s ALWAYS enough!

***For more info on some of the products shown in the pictures, click Here ***

***For pictures of all of the shelters I have out for the Yard Cats, click Feral & Yard Cat Shelter Pics***

 

Feline Diabetes – Where I Went Wrong with Penny

Penny-Christmas 2014. She spent DAYS trying to figure out how to climb this tree!

To catch up on our experience with Feline Diabetes, read:

Our Introduction to Feline Diabetes

Penny’s Journey to Her First Remission from Feline Diabetes

When Penny achieved remission, I was told to do everything in my power to protect that remission because once they come out, it’s VERY difficult to get them back to the point that they are “diet controlled”.

Anything can knock a cat out of remission. Illness, long-term stress, pain, infections, excess body fat, letting them eat high-carb foods again. It’s definitely a careful balance.

I actually just had to review her spreadsheet from that time to refresh my memory, as I’m writing this almost three years since she lost that remission.

2014 was a very difficult year for our family. I had to foster my brother’s cat, Andy, while my bro was moving and doing some heavy construction work at the new house. My dad became ill with Stage 4 non-small cell lung cancer, suffered GREATLY for many months, and passed away.

Dad’s passing took its toll on the entire family.

Including Penny and Weeny.

Cousin Andy the Foster in my folks’ room shortly after he moved in-Jan 2014

Cousin Andy the foster was not exactly a nice house guest. He was raised an only child and was around Penny’s age (6 or 7) when we fostered him. It was only supposed to be for a month, but he ended up staying for six months. And Weeny did NOT like him. And he did NOT like living with other cats. Despite my best attempts at introductions and integrating him into the household, we never were successful. It resulted in Penny kicking his ass a few times and him urine marking in the house (he was neutered). So, even though they lived separately, his presence caused a lot of stress.

While all of that was happening, Dad started to suffer immense pain, which resulted in a cancer diagnosis at the end of June. He was in and out of the hospital through the Summer and ultimately passed on August 28, 2014. Penny was very attached to him and I’m sure she was as concerned and as heartbroken as Mom and me.

She helped him cross over to his new life…she was lying on his feet when he took his last breath.

I had become Andy’s primary caregiver and Dad’s advocate and primary caregiver. Plus I had my coaching business.

Poor Penny and Weeny ended up on the back burner.

Weeny and Penny Bird Watching – 2015

In October 2014, Penny had what I thought was a seizure. She started falling over and that scared her so she was freaking out and falling over more as a result.

Between a trip to the emergency vet and a new vet I was trying, I found out that she had gained a TON of weight and was up to 18lbs. She was a Maine Coon and a large girl, so, ideally, she was a 12-14lb cat. And she had developed spinal arthritis, which I’m sure was aggravated by the excess body weight.

I was disgusted with myself for allowing that to happen to her. She was still on her low-carb food (Young Again Zero Carb) but I know from working in the fitness industry that excess body fat causes insulin resistance. And I’m sure that was in play here.

Now, I hope what I’m about to say doesn’t ruffle too many feathers. But after this whole arthritis diagnosis with Penny and losing her remission, I will NEVER blindly listen to a vet again without researching the hell out of what they are selling me.

That being said, it was suggested that Penny go on pain medications for long-term management. The only safe painkillers for cats are Buprenex (buprenorphine) or Neurontin (gapapentin).

Here’s the problem…Buprenex (Bupe) is an opioid narcotic. It’s often used to wean heroin addicts off of heroin, however, many times, they end up abusing it. Also, anybody who knows the nature of opioid painkillers knows that they often tell the body that it is in more pain than it actually is to strengthen the body’s dependence on them. And, over time, as the body acclimates itself to the medication, it becomes less and less effective.

They say that doesn’t happen in cats. I don’t buy it.

Couple that with the fact that my ex husband became a heroin addict after becoming addicted to Percocet for a legitimate medical condition. Hence the “ex”. He died as an indirect result of his addiction just six weeks before my dad passed in 2014.

Imagine my struggle with deciding to put her on a narcotic long-term for her arthritis.

So that leaves Neurontin. Which is commonly prescribed for neuropathy (think: pins and needles) pain. But what Penny was experiencing in her spine was not pins and needles. She was SORE to the touch.

With that all being said, I started her on Bupe and then switched her to Neurontin. Without doing any research.

Her blood glucose numbers were creeping back up to diabetic range, which told me the medication was not managing her pain as well as I would have liked. See her spreadsheet with my notes. Click on the 2013-2014 tab Penny’s Blood Glucose Spreadsheet.

I don’t like the thought of just using pain medication to mask a problem when there is a solution to the problem instead. I’m not stupid. I know she needed to lose weight. And I learned there are better options for cat arthritis than to mask it with painkillers. I learned about Adequan-Canine, which, rather than masking the pain, actually helps to rebuild the cartilage in the joints, therefore reducing or even possibly eliminating the need for long-term pain medication. Learn more about Adequan here: Heartland Veterinary Supply – Pet Supplies, Vet Supplies, Horse Supplies at Discount Pricing and search “Adequan-Canine”. This is also where I found the best pricing. You can have your vet fax a prescription directly to them.

FINALLY! A SOLUTION!

I prefer to live in the solution rather than just masking a problem.

I went back to new vet and showed her what I had found by playing Dr. Google. Kind of like going back to my old vet with what I had found out about Feline Diabetes after playing Dr. Google. She was on board so we started Penny with an extended “loading dose”.

Adequan-Canine can be given by subcutaneous injection, which we are pros at! The loading dose prescribed for Penny was two injections weekly for the first 4 weeks, one injection weekly for another 4 weeks, then one injection every 4 weeks indefinitely so long as she remains responsive to the treatment plan.

Penny – January 2015 in her favorite napping position. Like a little hairy human!

Now to get Penny to lose weight to take the excess weight off of that spine! She was free fed Young Again Zero (Carb) but was a “social eater” and would only eat with me sitting RIGHT THERE with her, so I did have control over how much she ate. She also ate wet food in four mini meals per day, which is best for a diabetic cat to keep the blood glucose levels stable. I decided to do with Penny what I had done with myself back in 1987 when I lost 70lbs.

Portion control and exercise. No “diet” foods, no “low fat”, and no making her unhappy!

Since Penny was EXTREMELY food motivated, I decided to make that her motivation to exercise. So we started “chicken run” twice per day. I would run her down the steps and reward her with a small piece of raw chicken, then run her up the steps and give her another small piece, and so on and so forth. We worked her up to 20 times per day.

I had to be careful that her weight loss was slow so that she wouldn’t go into fatty liver disease, which can happen very quickly and can be life threatening to a cat.

She lost 2lbs in six months doing this. When I rescued the kits in 2015, she actually lost another pound in four months just being more active with them!

Penny bird watching – October 2016

The spinal arthritis became a non-issue. After that loading dose, I took her off the pain medication because while playing Dr. Google, I found a rare side effect of Neurontin is blood sugar fluctuations. So, it’s possible this medication, that wasn’t even helping, could have taken her out of remission. At best, I didn’t want any blood sugar fluctuations in a cat who is back on insulin.

And she did go back on insulin, much to my heartbreak, on January 3, 2015.

And we spent ten long and frustrating, horrifying months in insulin resistance.

More on this to come…

**This blog contains affiliate links. When you purchase a product through a link in this blog, we receive a small commission at no extra cost to you! This helps to pay for the cost of running this site. We never recommend a product that we don’t wholeheartedly believe in and use ourselves!**

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.

 

 

Penny’s Battle with Kidney Disease is Over

The eyes that knew my soul…

 

For almost 21 months after a Stage 4 feline kidney disease diagnosis, Penny lived a STELLAR quality of life. You would never even know she was sick if you didn’t see her blood work or look in her litter box. But on November 15, 2017, Penny lost her battle. The kidney disease won.

Penny passed peacefully with her favorite vet’s assistance while squirrel watching and listening to me singing my awful rendition of “Earth Angel” and “The Penelope Song”.

I didn’t have NEAR enough time with Penny, and she was NOT mentally ready to leave…

But I have to remember that things happen in God’s time, not ours.

Her body was shutting down.

And as much as she tried to rally the past month, as much as she fought HARD to just live her life, her kidneys were shutting down and the rest of her little body was following.

However, she died in remission from diabetes. Small victory. But a victory nonetheless. She was buried in my backyard with her OTJ (Off The Juice) party hat that I made to celebrate her achieving her second remission.

Penny was laid to rest on her favorite blanket in a water case box with her favorite toys and her first food bowl when adopted her in 2012. And a lock of my hair since she loved my hair so much.

I still have to write on our journey with Feline Diabetes and Feline Chronic Kidney disease.

Why?

Because one of the inspirations and driving forces behind this blog is Penny’s journey and her incredible strength and will to win.

And she DID win. Because she outlived the “averages” by over a year with a STELLAR quality of life.

Because she achieved that oh, so obscure second remission from diabetes.

Because her spirit NEVER gave up. She was hellbent on living her life to the fullest…up until her last day.

Penny, bird watching just about a week before she passed.

Because we have a story to tell to save lives. Penny has a legacy to carry on. And her spirit is here with me to share her story with the world so that we can help other special needs cats.

“Turn your mess into your message.”

We will shout from the rooftops on how to prevent Feline Diabetes because in most cases, it IS completely preventable.

We will also show that a cat can live a QUALITY life for a long time even with Stage 4 kidney disease.

There are those in Social Media Land who have traveled this journey with us. Some since her diabetes diagnosis in 2013 and some since we started our Facebook page in 2017. She has touched SO many lives already.

And we are just getting started.

I always said I wouldn’t treat kidney disease in a cat because I thought it would be “torture” and we would just be fighting something progressive and incurable. Until I was faced with it with my little Soul Mate.

Love changes EVERYTHING. Love makes us do things we normally wouldn’t do.

She wasn’t “tortured”. She acted healthier since that diagnosis than in some of her years when she was “healthy”.

Her best life yet!!

Given the chance, I would have fought with her for TEN YEARS if we could have maintained her quality of life for that long!

And I’d do it ALL over again – without a doubt!

Kidney disease may have taken her body, but it will NEVER take her spirit, our bond, our love, and our memories.

Those are Penny’s and mine to keep!

Penny and Mommy – April 2017

We have had signs that Penny is still here. I sensed that she was holding on because she didn’t want to leave here. I told her she didn’t have to. Just because her spirit was leaving her body didn’t mean that it had to leave home.

This IS her forever home, after all. That means FOREVER.

Rest in Paradise, my Precious Pup.

PENELOPE WILSON

8/8/08 – 11/15/17