The Scoop on Your Kitty’s Litter Box – What They Want You to Know

Patchy playing in the litter box just after I added fresh litter!

Just Another Article about Kitty Litter…

Right?

No.

It’s all been written already. If you Google search “cat litter boxes”, there is probably a bazillion articles on the “best” way to set up their boxes.

So, instead, I decided to just share how I have mine set up, and maybe help you to understand, through our own human experiences, why your cat may not like using his litter box.

Inappropriate elimination and litter box problems are among the top reasons for pet cats losing their homes and being surrendered to shelters.

I hope that this post helps to save at least one cat’s life, if not MANY!!

How the Wrong Litter Box Setup Could Cost Your Cat’s Health

He Was Holding His Pee Until He Couldn’t Anymore

I have a friend who adopted a former feral cat in 2016. As soon as he arrived at his new home, it was love at first sight for both of them. Once we let him out of the carrier, he started purring, and I don’t think he has stopped purring since!

He adjusted to indoor cat life very well and had no problems.

However, just about a year ago, my friend realized something was “off” with him. He wasn’t eating much and appeared lethargic. So we called my vet to come out and take a look at him.

When our vet examined him, his bladder was SO painfully full that he eliminated all over the room. That ruled out a urinary blockage, but they had to get to the bottom of this, so they took a urine sample.

No crystals, no signs of infection. The only thing that was abnormal in his urinalysis was that his urinary pH was 7.0, which is a little higher than I would like to see, especially for a male cat since they are so prone to blockages from crystals. I aim for a pH of 6.5 for my own cats.

It Was His Litter Box

Soon after, I was cat sitting for my friend while she was away for the weekend. When I went downstairs to scoop his litter box, the FIRST thing I noticed was a horrid perfumey smell. If you ever had a grandmother that used to wear the Jean Nate body splash, THAT’S how offensive it was to me.

Now, follow me here. Kitty was raised feral in my yard. He used sand to cover his “business”. Plain, old unscented sand.

Imagine how unpleasant the Fresh Step with Febreze was to him?

That stuff should SERIOUSLY be outlawed!

I got on the phone with my vet and told him my theory. The litter box was SO unpleasant to her cat that he only went in to use the box when he ABSOLUTELY HAD TO. The poor baby waited until he could no longer hold his pee to eliminate in the box!

Isn’t that just heartbreaking? What’s more heartbreaking is that her kitty still used his box like a GOOD little boy rather than eliminating elsewhere in the house.

When my vet did a house call for his followup visit, he checked out the litter box and agreed that it likely was the litter scented with Fabreze that was causing his issues.

Since we switched him to Young Again Zero Mature to balance his urinary pH and we switched him to Tidy Cats Free & Clean unscented litter, (knock wood) he hasn’t been having any problems and uses his litter box much more frequently!

If she had just followed my suggestions when she first adopted her kitty, she would have saved herself over $500 in vet bills! And saved him A WHOLE LOT of pain and discomfort!

When I Took the Hood Off of His Litter Box, I was HORRIFIED

My neighbor asked me to feed his rescue cat while he and his boys were away for the weekend.

I decided to scoop his litter box and was HORRIFIED when I took the hood off the box….

That box hadn’t been scooped in at least a week. And God only knows the last time it was changed completely.

And he was using scented litter.

It was so disgustingly dirty and smelly that I don’t even know how kitty didn’t start using another area in the house to do his “business”.

This is animal cruelty in MY book.

Let’s put it this way. Imagine leaving your toilet lid open, not flushing the toilet for at least week, leaving the bathroom door closed at all times, and using the worst perfume you can find to cover up the odor, and add ammonia to the mix. In other words, a Porta Potty that hasn’t been cleaned in AGES.

Wouldn’t that make you reluctant to use the litter box? Have you ever held your pee until you could get to a REAL restroom rather than using the Porta Potty? Because I know I have!

I talked to my neighbor about his kitty’s litter box when he returned and how it can affect his cat’s health if he didn’t make some changes. I can only hope that he took my suggestions.

The Method to My Madness

I have a “system” for EVERYTHING. Our litter boxes are NO different!

How I set up my boxes is loosely adapted from Dr. Lisa Pierson’s recommendations on Catinfo.org.

How Our Litter Boxes are Set Up
How Our Litter Boxes are Set Up

After I rescued The Kits, I needed to come up with a better way to handle six litter boxes. Since I was graduating from two indoor cats to FIVE, I couldn’t see discarding 120lbs of litter every week. I used to do a complete litter change once per week.

I didn’t love the idea of using Rubbermaid totes as Dr. Lisa suggests, especially since Penny was having problems with spinal arthritis. So, I modified Dr. Lisa’s recommendations by using the large Nature’s Miracle litter boxes. By using Dr. Lisa’s method of keeping the litter REALLY deep (at least 3-4″), the pee and poop never hit the bottom of the litter box, therefore eliminating the need to scrub the boxes every week and/or use litter box liners.

Another reason why you want to make the litter DEEP is so that they can completely cover their “business”. This, instinctively, is VERY important to cats. Cats bury their “business” as a way to keep predators off their track. If predators smell their poop, they will know cats are nearby, which means either there is a food source nearby or the cats ARE the food source. This behavior is ingrained into their DNA, so a cat is more comfortable when they actually have enough kitty litter to completely cover their “business”. Therefore, they need litter deep enough to bury the hole that becomes their “toilet” and they need enough litter to bury it completely.

Creamsicle buff tabby, Teddy (feral), digging a big hole in the ground outside before he uses the bathroom.
Teddy digging his way to China before he does his “business”.

I use Dr. Elsey’s Cat Ultra Premium Clumping unscented scoopable litter. This stuff binds SO well that you could lay a foundation to a house with it when it gets wet, so it’s easy to get ALL of their “business” out of the boxes while scooping.

TYPE OF BOX

Like I said, I use the corner Nature’s Miracle Litter Boxes. They have a nice “entry way” that was great for when Penny was in her final days and very weak. As sick as she was with kidney disease at the end, she never once failed to use her litter box. Most recently, this helped Fluffy easily get in and out of her box after her mammary mass removal. She had a large incision that extended under her left armpit and she had NO trouble getting in and out of the box while she recovered.

They are large enough for even my bigger cats to turn around in. Penny was once 16lbs and she was a large Maine Coon mix. If she can turn around in the box, any of my cats can!

I’m slowly switching over to the high-sided boxes to reduce the amount of litter being scattered all over the house by some of our more rambunctious cats, who seem to think bathroom time is also play time!! These high-sided boxes still have that “entry way” that older or arthritic cats need to easily enter and exit the box.

Nature’s Miracle High-Sided Litter Box

WHY I DON’T USE HOODED BOXES

I’ll admit I once used a hooded litter box for Taz and Tabby. They were also as bonded as two cats could be, and I’ve always scooped litter boxes twice per day, so it was not an issue for them. Honestly, I really didn’t know any better then, either. I was very lucky with Taz and Tabby as they were the best-behaved cats a girl could EVER ask for. In EVERY way!

That being said, I really don’t like hooded litter boxes. And I have several reasons why. I watch my Yard Cats do their “business” outside every day. And usually, when one of them is going to the bathroom, there’s at least one cat stalking them to chase them. When a feral cat is going to the bathroom, they are vulnerable.

Charlie preparing to ambush Teddy just after Teddy went to the bathroom.
Charlie getting ready to ambush Teddy after Teddy went to the bathroom!

I noticed my indoor cats like to stalk who is using the box too. So, if there’s a hood on that box, they are TRAPPED inside and cannot escape. This happened to Penny when she was still at the rescue and using a communal litter box with a hood on it while their cages were being cleaned. There was a large male cat on top of that hood waiting for her to jump out. And he attacked her as she jumped out of the box.

Unless your cats are super-bonded and join paws every night to sing campfire songs together, a hood could be a problem on that box.

P. U.!!!!

Another reason why I don’t like hooded boxes is that it confines all of that odor inside the box. I totally get it. I don’t want my house smelling like cat poop either. But if you’re keeping the box well-scooped, using the right litter, and keeping the litter boxes out of high traffic areas (we will get more into why this is a good idea, anyway), smell should be a non-issue.

If you INSIST on using that hood, I want to ask you to try something for me. I want you to use your bathroom all day and ONLY flush it once. Close the door to the bathroom and keep the toilet lid open all day…

Now, if you can honestly say that at the end of the day, the stench in that bathroom didn’t bother you or make you want to vomit, then be my guest and leave the hoods on!

But, also remember, your cat inhaling all of that dust confined into the box is no good for their respiratory tract, either. And I’m not afraid to dust. Those Swiffer dusters are a cinch to use!

WHY I HAVE SIX LITTER BOXES

Because I have five indoor cats. And even though four are litter mates and the fifth one is their former feral mama, they don’t all get along. My shy, timid Patchy does not like to use the litter box with ANY other cats around, even the cats she’s friends with. Following the “number of cats + one” rule is an assurance that Patchy won’t ever have to hold her “business” for fear of being ambushed.

WHY I USE UNSCENTED LITTER

Remember that my indoor cats were all born and raised “feral”. They are used to using sand outside. When I rescued The Kits, I wanted the transition from using the great outdoors to a litter box to be as easy on all of us as possible.

Our Yard Cat (feral), Domino, covering his "business".
One of our Yard Cats (feral), Domino, going to the bathroom.

Also, having had a cat with chronic kidney disease, I cannot help but to wonder if the scent agents and Fabreze in kitty litter aren’t going to have any long-term health effects on my cats. These scented litters are made with CHEMICALS. They use the litter box, and later, when they are grooming, they clean their paws that stepped into that litter box. Cats like my Patchy enjoy rolling around in and sitting in the litter box.

Do you see where I’m going with this?

Believe me, once you’ve had a cat with chronic kidney disease, it makes you question EVERYTHING you are using around your kitties!

SCENTED LITTER SMELLS LIKE BAD PERFUME ANYWAY!

Did you ever have that one co-worker/relative/friend who drenched herself in the foulest smelling perfume around and it made your eyes water and your throat hurt whenever you were in the same room or car with them?

Cats’ respiratory systems are sensitive and they have a MUCH stronger sense of smell than we do. I imagine that’s what these scented litters smell like to THEM. Especially the new brands that have Glade, Fabreze or any other air freshener in them. If my friend’s scented litter with Fabreze made MY eyes burn, imagine what it did to her kitty’s? Did I mention that his third eyelids were protruding when the vet saw him? And did I also mention that they stopped protruding and his sneezing stopped when my friend switched to unscented litter?

WHY I ONLY USE CLUMPING LITTER

Since I don’t do complete litter changes (unless I suspect a parasite or illness), GOOD clumping litter makes it easier to totally remove their urine when you scoop the box. Scoop, top off with fresh litter, and it’s CLEAN!

I also use litter box scooping time to get a good idea of their urinary tract health. Back in the 1990s, my Taz became blocked with urinary crystals when he was just a year old. My sweet, shy boy spent five days in the hospital with a catheter in him so he wouldn’t die. That ordeal cost us over $1500 and cost Taz a whole lot of unnecessary pain and anguish. Although he never became blocked again, he suffered with urinary tract infections for the rest of his life.

I swore if I ever had a male cat again, I would take what I learned from Taz to spare them the pain and suffering that Taz endured.

My Siamese mix Taz during Christmas of 2000. He was 4 years old.
Taz, Christmas 2000. He was 4 yrs old.

When I scoop the litter boxes, it’s much more to me than making their boxes nice and clean and odor free. It’s also my time to check to see how the kitties are doing in THAT department.

LEARN YOUR KITTY’S BATHROOM HABITS AND WHAT’S NORMAL FOR THEM

Paying attention to my cats’ bathroom habits is also how I caught Penny’s feline diabetes so early. As soon as I saw the LAKES of her urine, I KNEW.

In this case, size DOES matter! A healthy, well-hydrated cat should produce “pee balls” anywhere from the size of a rubber bouncy ball to a small tennis ball. If you’re using clumping litter and seeing pee balls smaller than the size of a ping-pong ball, and ESPECIALLY IF YOU HAVE A MALE CAT, treat this as a medical emergency and get in touch with your vet ASAP!

The size of the “pee ball” also depends on the cat. Patchy, my female runt, only weighs about 6 1/2 lbs even though she’s over 3 years old. Her “pee balls” are much smaller than her brother Rascal’s, who is a hardy 14lbs. However, I know her habits, so I will know if she develops a problem.

On the flip side, if you have a cat peeing LARGE amounts and/or really large pee balls, this could be a sign of feline diabetes, feline chronic kidney disease, or hyperthyroidism, among other diseases. A vet check with blood work and a chem panel should be a PRIORITY if you encounter increased urine output.

POOP IS IMPORTANT, TOO!

Often, people will come to me for help because their cat stopped eating. The first question I ALWAYS ask is, “When was their last bowel movement?”

Most of the time, they have NO idea.

After parenting a senior cat who suffered with chronic constipation and a Maine Coon with hairball issues, I can honestly tell you on most days when each of my five indoor cats pooped in the past 24 hours. And some of my ferals, too!

Our Maine Coon mix, Penny, sitting on the bed - 2013
Penny – Spring, 2013

PAY ATTENTION to what they’re doing in that litter box! It very well could save their life!

WHY I DON’T USE THOSE PLASTIC LITTER LINERS

I’ve tried to use them in the past with Taz and Tabby. And they just tore them to shreds while trying to bury their business.

I’ve scooped litter boxes with those liners in it. They never quite fit right. The liners push all the litter to the center of the box. And trying to keep the “pee balls” intact while scooping a lined box is damn near impossible. They break apart. And then I cannot see how big they are.

If you pour the litter deep enough, the liners are completely unnecessary.

I don’t think they are BAD, but I see no reason to use them. And my cats’ boxes never stink.

I SCOOP TWICE PER DAY

No ifs, ands, or buts on this one. I flush the toilet more than once per day, so I scoop their boxes more than once per day.

AND, if someone poops and I happen to be around, it only takes me a SECOND to scoop that poop out.

I don’t ever want to give my cats ANY excuse to go outside of the box. I’ve had cats with urinary issues my entire adult life, between Taz’s crystals and chronic UTIs, and Penny’s diabetes and her chronic kidney disease. And I can honestly say that NEVER ONCE did any of my cats do their “business” outside of the litter box (knock wood).

Believe me, barring a medical problem, if your kitty is going outside of the box, they’re either adults who are not spayed or neutered (why isn’t your kitty fixed, anyway?), or they are telling you they don’t like their litter box.

My Choice of Poop Scooper

I cannot STAND most of the poop scoopers on the market today. They are plastic, with holes that are too big, so “little bits” go back into the litter box. Some of the really big, cumbersome scoopers just don’t do the job right. The plastic scoopers make it hard to sift the litter around to locate kitty’s “business”.

This is my FAVORITE poop scooper and it’s well worth the $12 I spend on it! It’s lightweight (great for carpal tunnel syndrome), metal, easy to clean, and I can wack the side of the box to bang off any “pee balls” that are half on the side and half in the corner of the box. Since it’s more flat, it’s easier to get under the pee ball to scoop it out intact, which is neater and cleaner. This scoop even passed the “my Penny has kidney disease and pees lakes” test!

Make It as Easy as Possible for Yourself, Too!

I’m a convenience gal. If something is not convenient, I won’t do it. Or I will procrastinate until I absolutely HAVE to… ie: meal prep! I live in fast-paced New Jersey. Life here demands convenience!

So, I have a poop scooper by each one of my litter boxes, as well as bags to put their “business”. It takes me less than five minutes to scoop six litter boxes in six different rooms on two levels of my house. Easy, peasy.

WHAT IF MY CAT LIKES TO PEE ON THE SIDE OF THE BOX?

I have one of those, too. Actually, both of my boy cats like to pee on the side wall of the box. So, I keep Lysol Daily Cleanser Disinfecting Wipes and a roll of toilet paper by each of the boxes. I push the litter out of the way, wipe with the wipe, dry with a wad of toilet paper, and push the litter back. I like these new unscented, “pet area safe” Lysol wipes. However, I take the extra step of drying the area I wiped just as a precaution.

LITTER BOX PLACEMENT AND TOILET TRAINING

I do have a three out of my six boxes in corners of bedrooms. However, I make sure they have an escape route on either side of the box so if one of my other cats decides to ambush, they ALWAYS have an “out”.

I have four boxes upstairs and two down in the unfinished basement that is slowly turning into a large cat playroom! My cats never have to travel very far to use the litter box.

I set this up this way back when Penny was still alive. I never wanted to make it difficult for her to get to a litter box with her health issues.

PLEASE consider your cats when choosing to place the litter box(es)! It’s not fair to an older, arthritic cat to make them have to travel up or downstairs to use their box.

BATHROOM TIME SHOULD BE QUIET TIME

Choose a quiet location for them to do their “business”. Cats startle with loud noises easily, so placing the box near the washer, dryer, furnace or A/C may not be the best location for them.

Also, keep litter boxes away from high-traffic areas, especially out of kids’ play areas. I watch my ferals. They always go off away from all of the action to do their “business”.

You don’t want an audience while you’re going to the bathroom, right?

Well, neither do our cats.

Also, the “Number of Boxes Rule + 1” rule requires proper placement!

If you have ALL of the litter boxes sitting next to each other, and I see this ALL OF THE TIME, it totally defeats the purpose of this rule! If you have a bully or stalker cat, and most people with multi-cat households do, they can STILL intimidate the more timid cats in your household if you’re putting all of the boxes together in one spot. Please don’t make bathroom time a stressful time for your more timid cats. This can and WILL lead to health problems down the line, I promise you that!

This rule only works if you place the boxes in different areas throughout the house. And if you have more than one level to your house? You should have litter boxes on every level!

WHAT ABOUT TOILET TRAINING MY CAT LIKE MR. JINX IN “MEET THE PARENTS?
Jinx from "Meet the Parents" using the human toilet.
Jinx from “Meet the Parents” (Image may be subject to copyright)

That’s a big, fat NO.

Cats urinating and defecating are an instinctive way for them to mark their territory. Again, I have the benefit of observing my feral cats bathrooming outside on a daily basis.

Please, don’t take that method of marking their territory away from them! They will find other ways to mark their territory if you do!

Plus, I never want to compete with my cat over the toilet!!

MY THOUGHTS ON THE TIDY CATS BREEZE SYSTEM

I’ll pass.

I considered the Tidy Cats Breeze Litter System back when Penny was still here. It sounded so alluring…no tracking litter, no pee balls, only change the pee pads once per week.

But then I got to thinking…if I’m only changing the pee pads once per week, how can I really properly monitor my cats’ urinary tract health?

I’d have to change those pads daily. And they’re expensive. I wouldn’t ever want to ration those pee pads because they’re too expensive.

I’m sure the pellets are not unscented.

The litter boxes are too small.

However, I do see how they can be beneficial in special circumstances.

My friend’s cat has urinary tract health issues. She uses the Breeze system. She found out that her kitty still had blood in her urine when she changed the pee pad one day after kitty finished taking her course of antibiotics. That prompted my friend to have the vet culture the urine to figure out which antibiotic kitty should have been taking.

But this would be about the only use I can see for this type of litter box setup.

And, again, I have the benefit of watching cats outside in the “wild” daily. Litter that mimics sand is best. After reading some reviews on Amazon, I did notice that some cats just won’t take to those pellets.

THIS IS ABOUT THE CAT’S HEALTH AND HAPPINESS

I’m pretty sure Better Homes & Gardens will not be stopping in anytime soon to take pics of my house and decor.

But if they do, I’ll have to vacuum up the scattered kitty litter and dust really quickly.

Yes, I know it’s a pain. And life is short.

But I decided I wanted cats. It wouldn’t be fair to give a cat a home and then make their bathroom time as unpleasant as many people make it for their kitties.

If you’re committed to having a pet cat(s), then shouldn’t you be committed to health and happiness?

Creamsicle red tabby, Mischief, relaxing on his cat hammock.
Mischief lounging on his hammock.

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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.

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

Me and my “Teacher” – April, 2017

 

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

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

Who Was the Mommy Kitten?

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

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

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

Yeah, no shit?

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

That she was. All of the above.

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

In Tune with Penny

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

That day, I KNEW she was something really special.

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

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

Boy, was he was right.

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

lesson #1 – nothing is impossible

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

But they didn’t know my Penny.

And, apparently, neither did I!

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

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

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

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

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

I have said ALL OF THE ABOVE before meeting Penny.

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

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

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

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

i just had to figure out a way!

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

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

She was only 5 years old.

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

So I DID.

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

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

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

Yeah?

Watch me!

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

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

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

lesson #3 – take nothing for granted

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

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

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

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

slow down…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

These little moments make rough days bearable.

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

lesson #4 – live in the moment

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

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

how humans live

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

And I suffer from the disease of “projection”.

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

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

Dreading Monday when I wake up on Sunday morning.

A LOT of us do this!!

how cats live

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

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

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

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

But so is LIVING IN THE MOMENT.

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

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

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

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

As if to say, “Is that all you got?”

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

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

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

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

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

she just didn’t give up!

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

She watched those squirrels during her last conscious moments.

To the very end, Penny NEVER gave up.

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

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

A Lifetime

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

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

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

But the “reason” is evident.

And the lessons are a “lifetime”!

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

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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.

 

 

LOST CAT! Some Tips to Help You Bring Kitty Home!

But First! A Couple of Stories…

Before I get into tips to help you find your missing kitty, I wanted to share a couple of stories.

Blue

Blue went missing in my neighborhood December, 2017, just as an early deep freeze set in. This deep freeze lasted about a month. Blue was an indoor/outdoor cat who was outside when their neighbor’s shed caught on fire. Blue’s owner corralled his cats inside before he called 911, but Blue never came in. By the time the fire department came and left, Blue was nowhere to be found.

His owner just about knocked himself out to find Blue over the next couple of months. He rode around on his bicycle with a flashlight during sub-zero weather the first two weeks and got in touch with every feral cat caregiver in the area. He followed up with sightings by setting humane traps baited with stinky food and put up flyers. His daughter posted all over social media. Our entire block was on high alert.

At one point they believed Blue was living outside at another house about a half mile away. But they never did trap him. I was on high alert because I have my own colony just a half mile from Blue’s home in the other direction and was in constant communication with Blue’s owner.

But, Blue never was found.

His owner stopped here about six months after Blue went missing to ask me a question on another issue.

I inquired, “Did you ever find Blue?” He replied that they did, in fact, find Blue when they opened their pool a few weeks before. His body was found under the pool cover. Blue must have hid under the pool cover when he was frightened by the fire. They never thought to check under there. The heartbreaking part was knowing he likely froze to death.

Sometimes we get so busy looking far and wide that we don’t think to look right under our noses.

Blue's social media post when his owners were looking for him.
Blue’s social media post when his owners were looking for him.

Blacky

Blacky is my neighbor’s indoor/outdoor cat. He hangs out here the better part of the day when it’s nice outside and he eats here regularly.

One day I was outside mowing the lawn when my neighbor, Rose, stopped over in a panic because Blacky never came home the previous night. Most nights he will come home when she calls him and he stays inside overnight.

The last time I saw him was the previous day in the afternoon when he came here to mooch food. She feared him dead because he has his routine and sticks with it. But I knew differently. I had a feeling he was alive somewhere. I feared he was sick and was hiding. Blacky is a true survivor who has lived in several towns in South Jersey and survived Superstorm Sandy while living at the Jersey Shore.

So, I sprang into action. I searched EVERYWHERE with my Mag Lite. Day and night. Called him during every feral feeding since he often came over during their feeding time. I posted on social media and alerted all of the neighbors on our block since Blacky was known to be the Man About Town. His mama went next door to my other across-the-street neighbor and asked them to check their barn since they often have it open during the day while doing yard work. I even crawled under my next-door neighbor’s barn, where Fluffy once had The Kits tucked away, and shined a flashlight to see if he was under there. Nothing.

By Day Three, I Was Starting to Panic

The third morning, I was REALLY getting worried. My hopes of finding Blacky alive were fading and fading fast.

While I was out during the morning Yard Cat feeding, I started calling him. I kept picturing Blacky’s face in my mind and willing him to let me know where he was. I told him I couldn’t help him if I didn’t know where he was. It occurred to me to look UP. I spent so much time checking under things and in bushes that it didn’t occur to me to look up in the trees. Maybe something chased him up the tree and he couldn’t get down? He’s so quiet-spoken, I’m not sure I would hear him if he was stuck up in a tree.

Just as I was saying out loud to myself while looking for him, “I bet he got his dumb ass stuck up in a tree!”, I heard it. A loud “MEOW!” from across the street. It sounded like a cat in heat but any cat on this block is neutered, unless there was a new one I didn’t know about!

I started making my way across the street to the house next door to Rose’s. And I saw his dumb little face in the window of the barn door, crying his little heart for me to come save him!

I got the neighbor to let me into the barn. Blacky knows them since he hangs out on their property all the time. But he wouldn’t make himself known to them while they were in there looking for him. He cried for me when I called his name. But wouldn’t come out until I asked them to leave us alone for a bit and I brought back a can of his favorite food to crack open, knowing he would come out once he heard the can open.

And he did.

But he was skittish. Starving. And I’m sure mildly dehydrated because it was hot that week and he was stuck in that hot barn for three full days.

He wasn’t himself

When his mama Rose came to collect him, I asked her to bring back a carrier because I thought he should be inside for a while so she could thoroughly check him out and make sure he’s eating, holding down food, etc.

Blacky when I found him in the neighbor's barn - May 2018
Blacky when I found him trapped in the neighbor’s barn – May 2018

He was SCARED. So scared that he hid when his beloved mama came in to get him. I had to feed him more food to coax him out. Then she went in for the grab to get him in the carrier so he could go inside for the day.

Blacky, safe and sound and heading home for a while to rest up and recover after his ordeal.
Blacky, safe and sound and heading home for a while to rest up and recover after his ordeal.

What Do Blacky and Blue Both Have in Common?

They are both allowed to go outside. Blacky is one thing. His mama, Rose, found him as a feral cat when she lived down the Jersey Shore. He was already neutered and ear tipped when she found him. He never forgot his feral roots. Although I strongly suggest people keep their cats as indoor-only cats unless they are caring for a feral cat colony, I know Blacky and know how impossible that is for him.

However, Blue’s owner adopted him from a shelter and his owner likely entered a contract to keep him indoors-only. They let all of their cats outside. In the US, in our town, on our street, in this day and age, there is no way I would let my cats outside. I don’t even like my ferals living out there! Blue’s owners have since adopted another kitty and are doing the same thing…letting new kitty out with all of their others. It’s frustrating because I feel it will only be a matter of time before he puts our entire street on “high alert” once again to help him find a cat that he LETS outside to begin with!

That being said, indoor-only cats get out by accident, too. Here are some tips to help you find your kitty! I’ll also talk about tips to keep them safely indoors, as well!

Let’s Find Your Lost Cat!

  1. Scent is EVERYTHING to your cat! The FIRST thing you want to do is put their soiled litter box outside, as well as something that smells like him AND his favorite human in the house. A shirt that hasn’t been laundered yet, his favorite bed..and catnip can’t hurt, either. They say that a cat can smell their own litter box from miles away!
  2. USE SOCIAL MEDIA! I’ve seen SO many pets reunited with their owners using Facebook and the Next Door app! Share, with a GOOD picture of your kitty, in all local pages as well as any lost and found pet pages for your area. Do a post from your personal profile and make it “PUBLIC” so other local friends can share! Make SURE you include location, town and state so local people can share your “Lost Cat” post. And include a phone number. Make it EASY for your cat’s finder to actually get in touch with you! Also, if you report your lost pet to Pawboost, your lost pet will be added to a nationwide database and they will do a Facebook post in your local state’s lost pet Facebook page. While on social media, check all local pages and lost and found pages for “found pet” posts!
  3. PUT OUT FLYERS!! Don’t skip this step! Not everybody in your neighborhood is on social media, especially elderly neighbors. You can use any one of the preprinted flyers on Google or make one yourself on a word processing program. Be sure to use a CLEAR picture in good lighting and include anything that’s unique to your kitty, such as a rare marking, scar, stumpy tail, ear tip, etc. Again, include your phone number on the flyer. You want to make it as EASY as possible for someone to get in touch with you if they find your kitty! Use a staple gun to place the flyers on every other telephone pole for a one-mile radius in each direction of where kitty went missing.
  4. For indoor kitties, search close to your house FIRST. Likely, they won’t be far from the house. My aunt’s indoor-only cat (and my former feral), Junior, got out twice. Both times, she set off her smoke alarm while cooking and, without thinking, she opened her slider door a crack to air out the house. The piercing wail of the smoke alarm scared Junior and he and BOOKED out that door. Both times I found him in the alley behind her townhouse, hiding in the brush. I should note that when I called him, he came crying to me, he ran from me when I tried to grab him. My aunt noticed her sensor porch light lit up a couple of times, so we thought he was trying to make his way back to the house. I sat quietly in the yard and we put wet food by the door. Both times he came back home when we quieted down and she was able to coax him inside.

    Junior's "Missing Cat" post on Facebook
    Junior’s “Missing Cat” post on Facebook
  5. USE A FLASHLIGHT, even if it’s during the day! A flashlight will help you to see their eyes if they are hiding under a deck or in bushes. If your cat is particularly timid to begin with, it may help to wait until dusk or nighttime when everything quiets down and try looking then. Often, when it gets quiet outside, they will work up the nerve to come out of their hiding spot.
  6. LOOK UP! I forgot this when Blacky was missing and almost forgot to mention it in this blog post!! Cats climb trees and forget how they get down all the time. They get up there and then forget how they got up there. Use a flashlight, even if it’s during the day, so you can see the reflection of their eyes.
  7. KEEP CALM! I’m guilty of this one. Cats mimic our energy. I made this mistake with Junior and also when I found Blacky. I couldn’t contain my excitement when I found Blacky alive and well and my nervous energy frightened him.
  8. Use a humane trap. This one works particularly well if your indoor cat has never been trapped in a humane trap before. Here are some tips for trapping cats. Using tuna or sardines works particularly well. If you see your kitty near the trap but just won’t go inside no matter how hungry they are, try using a dog cage to trap them. Here’s a Facebook Live video I did showing how to do that. **PLEASE NEVER LEAVE SET TRAPS UNATTENDED!!**
  9. VISIT your local shelters to check for new intakes! Calling them isn’t enough. You want to visit them every day or every other day and ask to see the new intakes. Find out which shelter does “open intake” for your town or municipality. Check that shelter first because if someone calls Animal Control when they find your kitty, Animal Control will take kitty to that shelter. Also, check with local rescues, as they often take stray pets and adopt them out if the pet doesn’t have a microchip. They see so many dumped off pets, they may assume that’s what happened with YOUR beloved pet.
  10. If you live in an area with commercial establishments like restaurants or fast food joints, check with them. Your kitty may go after the food in their dumpster or the rodents who frequent their dumpster.
  11. Bring cat food and treats with you when you search! If your kitty is anything like ALL of mine, they react to the can of cat food cracking open or the shake of the Temptations treat bag! That’s exactly how Blacky came out of hiding!
  12. PICTURE THEM home safe and sound. Get a mental picture of their face in your mind and talk to them. Tell them you can help them if they will just let you know where they are hiding. I swear this worked with Blacky. Telepathy is not as freaky as it sounds and is much more common than you think, especially if you and your kitty have a tight bond!
  13. DON’T LOSE HOPE! In May 2016, an emaciated gray/blue cat showed up on my property late one Saturday night screaming for my help, despite the fact that my resident ferals were trying to chase him off. We held him in Mom’s bedroom until Monday morning so I could take him to the vet. Luckly, he had a microchip. While I had the vet examine him and treat him for worms, etc, the owner called the vet back. We delivered him home later that day. Smokey was missing for 3 1/2 months from a house 1.5 miles from my house. He was an indoor-only cat. The kicker of the story is that his mama owns an animal rescue!

Me in my PJs coaxing Smokey the Missing Cat into a carrier.
Me in my PJs coaxing Smokey the Missing Cat into a carrier.

Prevention is KEY

The best way to find your lost cat is to prevent him from getting out in the first place!

I looked up articles to link to for this post and I cannot believe how many missed this first and MOST IMPORTANT tip:

  1. SPAY AND NEUTER YOUR CATS! This alone will greatly reduce the likelihood of your kitty ever getting outside to begin with!
  2. DOORS CLOSED! When I moved back home, I noticed how Mom likes to start talking to visitors AS they are leaving. Like, when they open the front door to walk out of the house! They stand there with the door open to continue their visit or just to be polite. I now walk our visitors out when they leave for two reasons…first, it’s the polite thing to do. Second, it prevents our visitor from standing there with the door wide open while I’m silently having a heart attack and stifling the urge to scream, “UH, CLOSE THE DOOR!!”
  3. LOCK THEM UP FOR DELIVERIES OR RENOVATIONS/CONSTRUCTION. I cannot even tell you HOW many times I hear, “My cat escaped while during the furniture delivery!” or any variation thereof. Renovations stress cats out. The noise that comes with large deliveries or renovations scares cats. They may be looking to escape the noise.  Your frightened cat may grab that opportunity to dart out that open door. Just recently, we had to replace our entire HVAC system. And the cats were NOT happy because I locked them in their “safe rooms” for the job. I provided food, water, litter boxes and hiding places in the closets of all three rooms (for five cats). There was a lot of scratching at doors, meowing, and dirty looks from my cats. But, now the job is over and they are SAFE.
  4. When cats are scared, they go into “fight or flight” mode. Try to minimize opening doors during loud thunderstorms, fireworks in your neighborhood, or loud windy storms (nor’easters, hurricanes, blizzards etc). I bring this up as we had the remnants of Hurricane Michael slide just to our South last night. The wind and thunderstorms scared my indoor cats most of the night. If someone opens the door while they are in “flight mode”, anything can happen, even if your cats usually aren’t interested in the door in the first place.
  5. FEAR THE DOOR. This happened by accident with my cats. Our door jamb swells in the humidity and sometimes it’s impossible to close the storm door quietly. As a result, our indoor cats are afraid to approach the door when someone is going in or out. If they are lurking by the front door on a summer night because of the bugs flying around our porch light, I will knock on the door to get them away from the door before coming inside. If I am going outside and Rascal decides to walk me out, I completely ignore him by the door, walk to the other side of the room, then give him love. I don’t ever want my cats associating that front door with positive things. We never open the door when our cats are right near it.
  6. Have a plan for emergencies. My biggest fear is fire. If we have a fire, I have to get five indoor cats safely outside as well as Mom, who is a stroke survivor. She is mobile, but takes her a while. I always remind her if we have an emergency like that to just quietly go outside. She tends to get very anxious and yells a lot when she’s anxious, which will work against me if I’m trying to calmly get five cats into five carriers. I try to make sure I have at least one carrier per cat in accessible locations throughout the house. I also have a lidded hamper with a roll of packing tape near it just in case I have to put a couple of cats in there to get them safely outside.
  7. For more tips on helping to prevent your cat from getting out, Click Here.
  8. If you have a “door dasher”, here are tips for your particular kitty!

Picture I took of Smokey to post on Facebook and make "Found Cat" flyers
Picture I took of Smokey to post on Facebook and make “Found Cat” flyers

Suggestions are Welcome!

I wanted to do this post so I could share on Social Media every time I see a “missing cat” post.

This is by no means a complete list and we are always open to hearing suggestions, tips, and things that have worked for YOU!

Please, if there is something I missed, or something that helped you to bring your kitty home, comment with your suggestion or connect with us on Facebook and share your idea!

Our hope is that our post helps to bring more lost kitties home!

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We only recommend products that we use and wholeheartedly believe in! Your support is crucial to us as it helps us to continue to advocate for special needs and community cats!**

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.

 

Meet Weeny the Wacko – Nee Irene

Weeny in 2013
My favorite pic of Weeny in 2013

Her Beginning

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

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

She Couldn’t Find Her Forever Home

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

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

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

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

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

Meeting Weeny for the First Time

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

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

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

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

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

And, boy, was she BAD!!

She won my heart!

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

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

I Met Weeny’s Angel…

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

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

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

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

How appropriate.

Weeny TOTALLY lived up to her name!

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

Coming HOME

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

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

“Institutionalized”

Red, talking about Brooks in Shawshank Redemption…

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

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

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

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

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

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

She Finally Found Her Way!

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

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

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

Penny Became Her “Mentor”

Penny & Weeny on Cat Beach, 2013

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

She didn’t like that.

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

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

Weeny the Comedian

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

It Wasn’t “Just” a Lump

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

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

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

A swollen lymph node under her forearm.

My heart DROPPED.

I knew.

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

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

Quality of Life v. Quantity

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

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

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

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

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

Playing with her plastic ring on Grandmommy’s desk chair – 2013

Weeny Told Me She was “Ready”

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

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

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

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

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

Then the seizures started.

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

I Had to Honor Her Wishes

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

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

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

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

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

Bird Watching – 2012

I Meant “FOREVER”

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

And she deserved to die on her terms.

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

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

On Cat Beach. AT HOME.

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

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

SONGS: 

“Rock You Like a Hurricane” – The Scorpions

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

“Bad, Bad LeRoy Brown” – Jim Croce

**We are a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for us to earn fees by linking to Amazon.com and affiliated sites.
We only recommend products that we use and wholeheartedly believe in! Your support is crucial to us as it helps us to continue to advocate for special needs and community cats!**

 

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

Tabby – Summer, 2011

We Almost Got a Dog Instead…

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Best $5 I EVER Spent!

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

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

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

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

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

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

It was the best $10 I EVER spent!

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

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

My Apartment Was Finally a “Home”

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

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

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

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

Taz and Tabby Christmas 1999
Taz and Tabby – Christmas, 1999

Miss Congeniality

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

And she never complained about anything.

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

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

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

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

My Rock

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

Tabby and Me – Christmas, 1999

Yet she STILL never complained.

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

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

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

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

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

She showed Mom what the hype was all about!!

Her Brush With Death

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

She Made a FULL Recovery!

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

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

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

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

It worked like a charm.

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

Our Last Year Together

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

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

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

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

Her Final Good-Bye

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

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

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

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

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

Her Last Gift To Me

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

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

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

Tabby wrapping gifts
Tabby – Wrapping gifts with me in 2009

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

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

SONGS:

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

“Pretty Little Angel Eyes” – Sha Na Na

“If You Only Knew” – Shinedown

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

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

 

 

 

Fluffy’s Sudden and Unplanned Rescue from Feral Life

Fluffy…INSIDE! April 2018

Did you notice that Fluffy is listed as an “Innie” (indoor cat) rather than a “Yard Cat”?

She Was Stuck Outside in the Sleet

February 17, 2018, started out like any other day. I noticed a couple of days previously that Fluffy wasn’t hanging out on her Queenie Throne in the shed as often as usual. It was a nice morning, but by evening we were getting heavy sleet and snow. The first of four Nor’Easters were forecasted to hit NJ later that week.

I was still outside getting the Yard Cats situated for the night when the heavy sleet started. Fluffy couldn’t use her heated Queenie Throne because Domino was on it and wouldn’t stay off no matter how many times I moved him. He can be very passive aggressive and he had his mind set on using her heating pad that week.

Fluffy is a creature of habit and would not use the two unoccupied heating pads in the shed. She FINALLY went into the shed after a lot of coaxing and treats.

There was a loud bang in the shed while I was in Charlie’s Corner waiting for him to finish eating. I looked over to the shed area and Fluffy ran out of there and across the yard like a cat out of Hell.

I ran to the shed and saw Trouble and Domino standing there with their fur bristled as if they were about to fight or something spooked them. To this day, I have no clue what caused the bang. My guess is that Fluffy tried to jump up to her Queenie Throne and saw Domino there. The heated food bowl was flipped over and kibble was spilled on the shed floor. I’m thinking that when she jumped back down, she knocked it over.

I called and called her and finally found her under a large tree in the driving sleet. After a particularly dramatic week with the Yard Cats not getting along, this was the climax. I was fed UP.

Fluffy’s Rescue

I was NOT going to have Fluffy, who raised her Kits so amazingly and risked her life to protect them, out there in the driving sleet storm afraid to use her shelter.

I ran into the house, grabbed a cat carrier, ran back outside, and used food to coax her in.

Then I questioned my sanity. I planned on rescuing Fluffy at some point in the future since I worked intently the past year to tame her. However, she still routinely turned around to swat at me with her claws out when I attempted to pet her. Up until that point, I could only pet her while she was eating, and she often would position herself in front of the food bowl and pretend to eat so I could stroke her back. Only for a few seconds. Then she turned around and swatted.

I also have Mischief and Patchy still living separate lives inside the house since they don’t get along. Something I still have to blog about.

That first night, she hid inside the closet most of the evening. She woke me up at 2am sitting in her window, squeaking her little heart out. The next couple of days she would squeak whenever she saw Trouble or Oreo out front. I came VERY close to putting her back outside, especially since the weather got really nice that week.

Fluffy sitting on the windowsill
Fluffy-Sitting on the windowsill trying to figure out how to get outside the morning after her rescue.

But the weather was about to change with an impending Nor’Easter. I had an opportunity to save her. I couldn’t lose the thought that if I put her back outside and something happened to her in the future, I would never forgive myself.

Her Health is at Stake!

I took her to the vet that Monday (the night I rescued her was a Saturday night) and she did very well for a feral cat. She weighed in at 12lb, which confirmed my fears about her weight. She, at most, should weigh 10lbs since she’s such a tiny little thing. Siberian, Maine Coon and Norwegian Forest Cats have a higher risk of Feline Diabetes than other breeds, and Fluffy is a mix of one of those breeds, for sure.

And I knew. I looked at Fluffy the past two years and knew she was at high risk. That’s why she was on “the list” to begin with.

I knew to get the excess weight off of her, I had to remove the high carb kibble from her diet and feed her Young Again Zero (Carb), a food she flat out refused to eat while she was outside. Since there are other feeders on my block, I feed the Cat Chow out there so my Yard Cats won’t cross the street to get to the junk food. But once she’s inside and has no choice, she will eat it!

Fluffy playing with a feather
Fluffy loves play time every night before bed!

She Adjusted to Indoor Life Beautifully!

I will get more into that later, but the change in Fluffy this past six weeks has been remarkable. She is in SUCH better spirits and was so good when I brought Oreo, who was dying, into her room with her. Fluffy LOVES to play and I’m able to pet and handle her more and more each day. I’ve made more progress with taming her the past six weeks than in the entire previous year! I am now training her so I can pick her up and fully handle her. We have to go MUCH than Mischief and I did, but we will get there.

I honestly never believed that she would transition to indoor life as well as she has. We haven’t officially started introductions with her Kits yet, but so far the entire process has gone much more smoothly than I ever imagined it would with her!

I got a very strong feeling when Fluffy and I left the vet that day that Penny played a part in her rescue. It wasn’t something I planned or even wanted at this time, but I firmly believe that everything happens for a REASON.

She’s a completely different cat, and I get the sense that she’s enjoying the kitten-hood she never had a chance to enjoy. I’m pretty sure she was maybe just six months old when she got pregnant with The Kits.

Hence, after 3 1/2 years of being a Yard Cat, Fluffy graduated to an Inside Cat!

Welcome home, Fluffy!

Fluffy relaxing with me.
Fluffy shortly after her rescue. Relaxing after a play session.

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We only recommend products that we use and wholeheartedly believe in! Your support is crucial to us as it helps us to continue to advocate for special needs and community cats!**

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.

Oreo Crossed the Rainbow Bridge-Surrounded By Love-With Me By His Side

Oreo and Trouble 11.1.17
Oreo and his protege, Trouble-November 2017

Too Soon After Penny Passed

I think I mentioned in Oreo’s Introduction about a thousand times that if Oreo were to become terminally ill and unable to care for himself out there, I hoped I would be able to take him in so he wouldn’t have to die alone under a bush somewhere.

That time came March 1, 2018. His official “Gotcha Day”. I noticed weight loss in February, which is much too early for the Yard Cats to start their “Spring Shed”, especially with harsh Winter we had here in New Jersey. He then started refusing food. I knew right away it was the beginning of the end, but the eternal optimist in me decided to try a few things to help him out. Especially since it was too soon after losing Penny.

I first tried Revolution for fleas and Drontal for any worms he may have had, especially since I saw that he had diarrhea. Oreo was chewed up by ticks in the Spring of 2017, and he had fur mats in the areas where I pulled the biggest ticks out of him.

Once he got Revolution, he was able to pull those fur mats off. He had one on his side that he got off, and I noticed he ripped off a small piece of skin. He developed an abscess that burst, so I started giving him 125mg amoxicillin once per day, which was a challenge since I couldn’t pill him outside without him running away from me. We managed to get six days worth of antibiotics into him and he appeared to be doing better on Days 5 and 6. He started to get back to his old self again…eating, running to greet me, hanging out in my neighbor’s yard during the day…but he wasn’t playing as much as he had been this past year.

Oreo’s Rescue

In hindsight, I realize that was his last rally before his final decline. He started refusing just about anything I tried to feed him. In an attempt to separate himself from the others, he moved out of the shed and started using the heated shelter I have under our back steps. That one isn’t as wind-proof or waterproof as the shed shelters.

They were forecasting the second of four Nor’Easters (in less than a month) to hit NJ. They were calling for 10″ of heavy, wet snow, 60mph winds, and widespread downed trees/power outages. I was REALLY worried that he would run off into the woods and die during those conditions . And if he didn’t, it still would have been rough out there for him since he was so sick. so I brought him in.

I got him the evening the storm was starting to hit. He was TERRIFIED. He would not calm down even with his carrier covered with a sheet. My vet came to see him right after he came inside and we found he was in full blown late stage liver disease. I didn’t want to put him through extensive testing and treatments and break the trust I worked SO hard to earn. Especially since I knew it the back of my mind that there was a good chance it wouldn’t help.

After the vet left, I put him in the room with is pal, Fluffy, who I rescued just two weeks prior. He was sound asleep in his carrier and even when I opened the door, he stayed asleep for the first 15 minutes. This, after all of the excitement and fear. That’s when it really hit home how sick he was.

I REALLY Wanted to do More!

He didn’t want to be inside. I knew that. I didn’t really have a choice. After that bad storm, during which we lost power and heat for 30 hours, we had two more Nor’Easters in the following two weeks. I wasn’t even able to entertain the thought of trying to put him back outside. My heart broke every time he sat in the window and cried when he saw his pal Trouble.

I resisted the urge to break his trust completely by giving him supplements, sub q fluids, B12 injections, appetite stimulants, etc. For his sake and the sake of our relationship, I had to go with the minimal treatment of antibiotics only.

He did allow me to cuddle him and even played with a peacock feather from time to time. My poor boy held his pee for the first two days until I got the idea to go outside where he usually went to the bathroom and get a leaf from that area to put inside his litter box. Once I did that, he used the litter box maybe an hour later and used it faithfully throughout his time inside. I must say…he was remarkably easy to pill for a feral cat!

It Was Time…

Unfortunately, it didn’t help. He was at least 13-14 years old, FIV +, with extensive dental disease. After two weeks on antibiotics and one week of him flat out refusing ANY food, I had to make the gut-wrenching decision to let him go.

It was one of the hardest decisions I ever had to make. I really hoped that I could get him healthy and return him back outside. Or at least give him a good year or two inside with the cats he protected and played a big part in saving.

Trouble, Oreo and Rascal
(Outside) L-R: Trouble and Oreo
(Inside) Rascal. this is where Oreo took his last breaths.

When the vet came, I was clinging to the false hope that maybe we could try something else. I know Dr Matt very well. If he truly thought there was anything else we could try that would help, he would tell me. He felt that there was nothing more we could do.

And I knew it, too. I was just living in Denial Aisle to get me through the heartbreak.

His Final Moments

They administered a sedative so that I could take him out on the back step where he used to nap in the sun. I wanted his last moments to be where he considered “home”. Dr Matt and his assistant stayed inside while I sat with Oreo on the step. I called Trouble over to us to say “goodbye” to him. That was important to me and I’m sure important to Oreo. They had a very weird and special friendship. Oreo didn’t react to Trouble because of the sedative, but I have to believe that he knew Trouble was there.

Once Trouble left us, Dr Matt came outside. We sent him to the Bridge, with me by his side, petting him, and telling him how loved he was.

Just like I hoped, he passed surrounded by love, not alone under a bush.

For the past two years since he moved here, I always told him that this was his forever home.

And it is. We buried him in our backyard with his flag overlooking his colony.

RIP Papa Oreo. Thank you for making a profound impact on our lives, Fluffy and The Kits’ lives, and the Yard Cats’ lives.

You will always be here protecting us. We love you!

Oreo's Final Resting Place
Oreo’s Final Resting Place overlooking his colony.

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

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

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

 

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

 Disclaimer

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

Introduction

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Penny’s Treatment

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

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

Penny on High Tower
Penny up on “High Tower”, the highest vertical point in the house!

Special Notes
 PENNY’S DIET

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

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

MIRALAX FOR CONSTIPATION AND OTHER DIGESTIVE ISSUES

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

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

Quality of Life was Our Goal

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

Instead, I lost her on November 15, 2017.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Back to 2016

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

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

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

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

I Had to Trust my Instincts

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

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

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

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

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

FIND A WAY!

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

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

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

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

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

And that we did.

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

Here are some REAL LIFE videos for ya!

Giving Sub Q Fluids to a Difficult Cat

Pill Time!!

WHEN IT’S IMPORTANT, YOU FIND A WAY.

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

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

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

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

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

That Life-Saving Phone Call

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

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

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

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

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

Living Our “New Normal”

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

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

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

And it’s very true.

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

Treat the cat, not the numbers.

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

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

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

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

Her Final Decline

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

It Was ALL Worth It!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Rest In Paradise, my Precious Pup.

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

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

 

 

 

 

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

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

 

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

Junior’s Story

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

HELLO??? Whatever happened to common sense?

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

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

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

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

My aunt was charged $350 for that visit.

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

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

And Then There’s Penny

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

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

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

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

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

Taz Would Have Lived a Better Life

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

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

Taz September 2000
My Taz in September, 2000

Live and learn.

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

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

On The Flip Side..

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

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

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

So what’s my point here?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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