I got him out of there 2 hours and 36 minutes before he was to be killed.
I want to judge you.
I want to run into you on the street and cold clock you.
But I can’t.
You said you were moving and “don’t have no space”.
I don’t know your circumstances.
All I know is that I saw a picture of your pet online. The look of fear, despair, and heartbreak on his face was so great, I couldn’t bear it.
I could read into his soul in those pictures.
And I could NOT allow that to be his “ending”.
So, even though I truly had no room nor the finances, I had to make it work.
I guess I saw something in your pet that you just couldn’t see.
And, apparently, so did my online friends. Because MANY of them chipped in to help me help your pet.
You reported him to be quiet, shy, and said he likes to hide a lot.
But that he was a “nice cat”.
You stated you didn’t have a vet and he never saw the vet.
You said that you got your pet from a friend. Does that friend know where your cat ended up after 14 years?
Like I said, I, too, had no room, because I already had a house full of forgotten former feral cats.
But something pulled me to him.
Did you know that your “quiet” cat is really quite talkative?
Did you know that since your cat has a nice little cubby in his cat tree that he really doesn’t “hide a lot”?
Did you know that your “shy” cat solicits our attention every chance he gets?
Did you know that your cat LOVES to play and already has two favorite toys that he places on his beloved tissue paper we set out for him?
Did you know that your cat, who never saw a vet, is rather healthy and active for a 14yr old cat now that he’s on the right diet?
Did you know he has a hip problem that makes his right leg bow inward when he walks?
Did you know his mouth is in a lot of pain?
And, be honest with me because I already know the answer…
Do you even CARE?
Because he is OUR pet now.
I will get him fixed up.
He knows happiness and love.
He enjoys the fresh air of the South Jersey woods, watching the deer and wildlife in the backyard, and having the kittenhood I suspect he never had.
And if he doesn’t like living with our other cats, I will find him the perfect HOME.
No matter what, as God as my witness, Winston will never, ever set paw in a shelter again.
He will never be homeless and forgotten again.
I made him that promise when I got him out of that horrible place where you left him.
And I promise you that, too.
Winston was rescued by someone who thought he was important enough to make it work.
Because he is.
I’d love to say that I hope karma doesn’t come back to you to bite you, but I’d be lying.
And I always tell it like it is.
Winston’s FAMILY ❤️
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We are coming up on one year since Penny crossed the Bridge. Has it really been a whole year? It feels like yesterday, yet it feels like a lifetime ago.
I’ve been “meaning to” write this post for a long time. Since before Penny passed. I felt now was the best time to finally get this out to the world.
Who Was the Mommy Kitten?
We once used an animal communicator to help us figure out what to do with Mischief’s behavioral issues (more on that in another post). There was a little time left after we covered everything I wanted to cover, so I asked the communicator to check in on Penny to see how she was feeling with her kidney disease. I wanted to make sure everything we were doing was helping her.
I was still on the fence about this whole animal communicator thing. And either this lady was REALLY in tune with cat breeds and behavior, or she really could communicate with them.
What she said at the end of our talk blew my mind.
“Penny feels that you are her pet and she is your master.”
Yeah, no shit?
She described Penny as strong (physically and mentally), extremely intelligent, patient, and very charismatic.
That she was. All of the above.
The animal communicator even told me that Penny felt she was VERY patient with The Kits since I rescued them and she wanted to make sure I acknowledged that!
In Tune with Penny
I often describe Penny not just as my “soul cat”, but my “soul mate” in general.
We finished each other’s sentences (if she could speak “human”) from the get-go. I understood her and she clearly understood me.
When she was still at Petsmart with the rescue and I brought the folks up to meet her and Weeny, I knew before I left that we understood each other. She used the communal litter box the volunteers set up in the cat room while they cleaned their cages. It was a hooded litter box and one of the male cats was on top of the box bullying her while she was trying to poop.
When she jumped out, she had blood and diarrhea all over her bum. I told the volunteer and helped her clean Penny up.
Before I left, Penny looked up at me. I read her eyes. “I blew it, didn’t I?”
And I told her, “No, Penny, not at all! You’re still coming home with me on Adoption Night! We will get you all fixed up!”
I knew it was stress related. She didn’t want to be there. She just arrived at Petsmart for her “big chance” a couple of weeks before I met her. Linda, the director, told me that Penny strongly protested being there every chance she got!
That day, I KNEW she was something really special.
Her first night home, she came out into the kitchen to talk to us. My dad looked in her eyes and said, “There’s SOMEBODY in there.”
Boy, was he was right.
I think our bond had something to do with the fact that Penny and I are both Leos. My birthday is August 7th and Penny’s was August 8th.
lesson #1 – nothing is impossible
Penny taught me, my family, her vets and the world this lesson over and over and over again.
Many of you know Penny was a diabetic cat. She was in remission, meaning she was diet controlled, when she passed away. But the road to get her there was long and difficult.
After she lost her first remission, she spent ten LONG months in insulin resistance and I couldn’t even get her “regulated”, much less back into remission.
I posted this post on Facebook just about three years ago when Penny and I were having a “pajama party”. Basically, that means that I got up in the middle of the night to test her blood glucose since her numbers were suddenly running lower than usual. What I didn’t know then was that Penny was starting to head back into remission at full speed.
At this point, she was on a high dose of Levemir because of the insulin resistance. When a diabetic cat’s numbers go into the “danger zone”, you have to feed high carb wet food, re-test in 15 minutes, and keep repeating until their numbers are in the “safe zone” and steadily rising.
We had PLENTY of these parties at 2am!! I was convinced Penny was doing it on purpose so she could enjoy her beloved Fancy Feast Gravy Lovers food, which was the high-carb wet food I used to get her blood glucose to rise.
As you can see, when my friend asked me if there was a chance at a second remission, the tone of my reply was HIGHLY doubtful. That’s because I was always told by seasoned lay people that once we lost that first remission, a second one was unlikely.
But they didn’t know my Penny.
And, apparently, neither did I!
She broke ALL of the rules. Even when she made them herself!
lesson #2 – WHEN it’s important enough, we find a way
“I CANNOT pill a cat to save my life!”
“I can’t torture my cat by poking her ears for blood multiple times per day!”
“If my cat gets kidney disease, I’ll just humanely euthanize so they don’t suffer.”
I have said ALL OF THE ABOVE before meeting Penny.
When she was diagnosed with Feline Diabetes, I was saying AND thinking that we could NEVER do all of this. The insulin injections, changing her diet, home testing…
I couldn’t even brush this cat without her biting me!
The morning after she was diagnosed and already having been unsuccessful with giving her the first insulin injection the night before, I woke up feeling hopeless. Physically sick with heartbreak, I just wanted the nightmare to end.
I really thought I was going to have to euthanize her.
i just had to figure out a way!
Then I looked into her big, green, trusting eyes.
She waited so long for this forever home with her “very own” humans.
She was only 5 years old.
When my back was to the wall, and it was either treat her diabetes or put her to sleep, I realized that it literally was DO or DIE.
“I can stick a cat with needles like a pin cushion but I still can’t pill them!”
“Penny will NEVER sit through daily sub q fluids!”
She was only 7 when the vet diagnosed her with end-stage CKD and she almost died. I had to TRY. I had to give her a chance at a quality life and give us a chance at more time together.
It’s funny how what we THINK we will do changes when we are actually IN that situation, isn’t it?
Penny taught me that there is ALWAYS a solution, ALWAYS a way around what seems impossible…WHEN IT’S IMPORTANT ENOUGH TO YOU.
lesson #3 – take nothing for granted
I didn’t have enough time with both Penny AND Weeny. Weeny was only with us for 3 1/2 years when she succumbed to mast cell cancer, and Penny was only with us for 5 1/2 years.
I really thought I would grow old with Penny and Weeny!
Yet, it’s funny…I remember looking at Weeny one night, shortly before she was diagnosed with cancer, and could not picture her as a senior cat. It’s like I KNEW…
We get so busy sometimes that we forget to stop and enjoy those little moments that make Life so great. ESPECIALLY with our pets!
Not the big moments… The LITTLE moments. Those little day to day things that help us get through even the toughest times.
Like Weeny running through the house like a little maniac, squeaking at the top of her lungs, while playing.
Like Penny and her never-ending tail wag. Her tail wagged every waking hour. And didn’t stop until she was in a DEEP sleep.
Mom bringing miller moths inside for Weeny so she could hunt. And when the miller got away, Mom and me climbing all over the furniture to bring it back down into the “little hunter’s” reach.
While testing my dying father’s blood glucose, Penny came running into the bedroom and onto the bed, trampling my poor father, because she heard the meter “beep”. She associated eating raw chicken with that “beep” because that’s how I trained her to test HER blood glucose! We ALL laughed so hard. We NEEDED that laughter! It’s one of my favorite Penny Memories!
Tabby sitting half in and half out of the house to enjoy the warmth outside while still enjoying the central air conditioning inside.
This is quite possibly the most life-changing and important lesson I’ve learned IN MY LIFE.
This is one I’ve always struggled to put into practice.
how humans live
In 12-Step recovery, we learn “One Day at a Time” or “ODAT”.
And I suffer from the disease of “projection”.
Projecting the outcome of a situation before it even happens. And, of course, it’s NEVER a happy outcome! Example: The phone rings and before even looking at the caller ID, I think it’s a bill collector or work calling me in.
My mom is very guilty of this one, which is where I probably got it from. EVERY SINGLE YEAR, in August, she starts talking about how Winter is here and the days are getting shorter. Yet, sunset in NJ in August is STILL close to 8pm and it’s usually 90+ degrees when Mom starts her “Winter Talk”!
Dreading Monday when I wake up on Sunday morning.
A LOT of us do this!!
how cats live
Cats don’t don’t live in the past or future like we do! They only know the moment! Penny didn’t anticipate her death, even though it was imminent for almost two years!
The Yard Cats don’t care if the forecast is calling for rain the next seven days. They are just enjoying the nice sunny and warm weather they are experiencing RIGHT NOW.
There’s one thing to plan for the future. Of course we should! It’s necessary for a successful and happy life!
But so is LIVING IN THE MOMENT.
Since Penny came into my life, I make a conscious effort to stay in the moment more often!!
lesson #5 – the strong don’t give up – ever!
Penny is one of THE strongest souls that ever came in to my life. No understatement!
As many times as Penny’s health knocked her down…with the diabetes, spinal arthritis, dental problems, digestive issues and then kidney disease, she ALWAYS got back up swinging.
As if to say, “Is that all you got?”
She was a force to be reckoned with in every way. Ask any of the vets and vet techs that ever worked with her. Ask Linda, the director of Jersey State Animal Rescue, the rescue I adopted her from!
In her final weeks, when she really started to decline, she didn’t give up. Whenever she felt well enough, she tried to eat, tried to participate with the family, and even hunted.
Penny taught The Kits to hunt black crickets by the basement door where they got in. She taught them to catch their prey and bring it upstairs. (Penny would bring them up, howling with the live bug in her mouth, with its little legs dangling out of her mouth!) One night, about a week before she passed, Mischief caught one and proudly brought it up to the kitchen.
Penny was really sick at this point. But once she heard Mischief bring the cricket upstairs, she came out from her hiding spot and snatched the cricket right out from under Mischief’s nose and ate it alive.
The night before she passed, she hunted a flying bug in the kitchen. She was so sick and at that point, she wasn’t eating anymore. But she STILL had the desire and ability to do what cats are born to do, which is to HUNT.
she just didn’t give up!
In her final moments, in so much pain and so sick, she still managed to jump up on the windowsill to watch the squirrels outside.
She watched those squirrels during her last conscious moments.
To the very end, Penny NEVER gave up.
When Life gets gnarly, as it often does, I will remember that.
It will give me the strength to KEEP pushing forward, even when I want to give up!
I only touched on a few of the MAJOR lessons. I could, and really should, write a book on this topic. At some point, I’m sure, I WILL.
“People are put into our life for a reason, a season, or a lifetime.”
So are our pets. And most of the time, it’s only a “season”.
But the “reason” is evident.
And the lessons are a “lifetime”!
**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.
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.
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.
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!
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!
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.
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!
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!
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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.
If only I knew then what I know now. How many times do we say that in our lifetime?
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.
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.
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.
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!
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!
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.
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.
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!
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.**
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 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.
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.
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!
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…
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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.