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.

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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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! 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.

 

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

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

 

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

Junior’s Story

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

HELLO??? Whatever happened to common sense?

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

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

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

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

My aunt was charged $350 for that visit.

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

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

And Then There’s Penny

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

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

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

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

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

Taz Would Have Lived a Better Life

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

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

Taz September 2000
My Taz in September, 2000

Live and learn.

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

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

On The Flip Side..

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

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

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

So what’s my point here?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

 

 

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

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

 

This is “Brett”.

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

Why?

Because his previous owner failed to neuter him.

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

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

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

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

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

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

All through absolutely NO fault of his!

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

Emaciated and dirty Chatty
Chatty when he first found me.

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

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

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

But he was not neutered.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

 

*Some names were changed.*

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

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

 

 

 

 

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

#2. “Home testing is expensive!”

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

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

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

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

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

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

Never, right?

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

Bribery.

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

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

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

Doesn’t sound too stressful, right?

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

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

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

No?

I didn’t think so.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Robyn and Penny selfie
Penny and me taking selfies-2014

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

#10: “I don’t want to hurt my kitty!”

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

#11: Simply, “My vet told me not to!”

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

BOTTOM LINE

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

No?

Then please don’t for your cat, either!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

Penny’s Battle with Kidney Disease is Over

The eyes that knew my soul…

 

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

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

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

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

Her body was shutting down.

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

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

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

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

Why?

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Turn your mess into your message.”

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

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

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

And we are just getting started.

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

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

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

Her best life yet!!

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

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

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

Those are Penny’s and mine to keep!

Penny and Mommy – April 2017

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

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

Rest in Paradise, my Precious Pup.

PENELOPE WILSON

8/8/08 – 11/15/17

 

 

Penny’s Journey to Her First Remission from Feline Diabetes

 

Pennys BGs after switching to Lev

FINALLY we were seeing the food changes and insulin take effect!

For more about our introduction to Feline Diabetes, read here … Our Introduction to Feline Diabetes

First Lessons

The first thing I learned was that it was TOO dangerous to blindly shoot insulin into my cat without home testing. Learn more here.

The second thing I learned is that there is more effective and SAFER insulin for cats in the US & Canada than Vetsulin.

Dietary change is key

The third thing I learned was that a FOOD CHANGE to LOW CARBOHYDRATE food was our ONLY chance at regulation and remission. There are a few diabetic “prescription” foods out there for diabetic cats. BUT, they are all high-carb and full of JUNK ingredients.

Feeding high-carbohydrate foods to a diabetic cat, or a diabetic human, for that matter, is like putting fuel on a fire and hoping it extinguishes the fire.

Does that make sense?

I was told to feed low-carb wet food, such as Fancy Feast Classics or Friskies Pates. But, I have a kibble addict on my hands. I’ll be honest and admit I didn’t try very hard to switch her over to an all-wet food diet because she tends to have loose stools, diarrhea, and hairball problems (she IS a Maine Coon who doesn’t like to be brushed, after all lol) when she eats only wet food. She does much better overall on half-wet, half-dry.

Putting the Changes into Place

I decided to try this ultra low carb dry food that’s touted to help diabetic cats achieve remission called Young Again Zero (carb). It’s available online-only, so in the meantime, while I was waiting for her new food to arrive, I worked on learning how to home test Penny and talking her vet into switching her to Lantus, which is considered a much safer and more effective insulin for cats than Vetsulin.

getting our vet on board

When I called her vet that Monday morning after she had the strong reaction to Vetsulin, I was armed with everything I learned from Feline Diabetes Message Board and also what the AAFP (American Association of Feline Practitioners) recommends as a first course of treatment for feline diabetes.

Lucky for us and my vet, Dr Moreno is not an egomaniac, is open-minded and willing to listen as he knew I was smart and did my research, So he gave me a prescription for Lantus pens and the U100 syringes to draw out the insulin (often cats need half-unit or quarter-unit doses so the needles that come with the pens are useless for a cat) and agreed to try a diet change for just a short while before re-starting insulin until we learn to home test.

HOME TESTING

I went to Walmart and got her testing supplies. They can be expensive when you’re paying cash, but everybody I talked to over the weekend told me to get the Relion Confirm meter and strips, which are MUCH less expensive than most human testing supplies. AND the meters made for pets!

Then, we had to learn to home test.

And I was terrified and not really sure we would be able to do this.

But I didn’t want Penny to go into insulin shock and die or become debilitated, either.

However, this is a cat that I cannot even BRUSH without her swatting at me.

And I’m gonna poke her ears several times a day to “play vampire”? lol

WITHOUT ending up in the hospital??!!

But all my new friends online ASSURED me that we could do this!

Penny working out with me Nov 2013

Penny “working out” with me! You see who’s getting all of the exercise, right?

My friend Kay sent me this thing she wrote up about ear testing. She had a semi-feral cat and she learned to condition HIM. This really helped me to form a plan on how I was going to “train” Penny for home testing. Read Kay’s Ear Testing Psychology.

bribery was the answer…

What I know about Penny is that BRIBERY will get me EVERYWHERE with her and I can condition her to do just about ANYTHING so long as there’s raw chicken waiting for her! So that’s what I used to condition her to home test.

Here are two videos I made on training Penny to test her blood glucose.

How I Conditioned My Cat for Home Blood Glucose Testing

Home Testing a Diabetic Cat’s Blood Glucose

I did my first successful home test while she was sleeping… lol. But, awake? It took about seven days of conditioning her like my videos show you before we were testing.

The Changes Were in Place!

By then, the new kibble was here and thank God both cats LOVED it! And they tolerated the abrupt food change very well!

The change in Penny’s energy once I got her on the Young Again food was REMARKABLE! She was a NEW cat and we hadn’t even gotten her diabetes regulated yet!

So, we started Penny on .5 units of Lantus twice per day, were home testing, and she was a CHAMP about the testing and the shots, as long as I shot her insulin WHILE she was eating. I learned VERY quickly that I cannot give this cat a needle unless she’s eating something scrumptious! Then, the house can crash down around her and she won’t even NOTICE!

We set up a spreadsheet on Google Docs that FDMB had created a template for…that way my vet could just pop in and see her blood glucose numbers at any time. Here’s Penny’s spreadsheet. Click on the 2013-2015 tab to see how it looked in the beginning. Penny’s Blood Glucose Numbers

And we followed something called Start Low Go Slow Method since I was still REALLY new to all of this and was afraid she would go into insulin shock at some point. I recommend this method for ALL newbies until you really learn how your cat responds.

Two Steps Forward, One Step Back

Things were going really well until about three weeks in, when all of a sudden, Penny started being really difficult with her shots…like, she would JUMP a mile when I attempted to give her a shot. It was becoming IMPOSSIBLE to get insulin into this cat! I should mention that she had also started acting a little crazy and had started howling in the wee hours of the morning.

So I went back to the Message Board and the Feline Diabetes FB page and posted questions and started researching Lantus just a little bit more.

Turns out a small fraction of cats, and OF COURSE my Penny, are very sensitive to the sting on injection with Lantus because Lantus is VERY acidic. Everybody said with the little bit she was getting that she “shouldn’t be” feeling it, but she WAS.

AND HOW!

Lantus can also make SOME cats, but not many, just a little crazy. Apparently, Penny likes to be the exception and not the rule!

Our Switch from Lantus to Levemir

So, my friend Gayle strongly suggested we switch her from Lantus to Levemir, which is another slow-acting insulin with “flat curves”…which is what you want for a cat. When their “curves” are flatter, there’s better control overall and less risk of insulin shock or a “hypo” (hypoglycemia).

So BACK to Dr Moreno for ANOTHER prescription! Again, thank God he’s a pretty easygoing vet and I suspect he lets me have my way (within reason) so that he can shut me up!

I saw immediate changes in Penny. She was no longer running around howling at night, and she slowly learned that “shot time” wasn’t hurting anymore!

After a couple of days on Levemir, I FINALLY saw her blood glucose numbers heading in the RIGHT direction! Obviously, Levemir is “the” insulin for Penny because within a month of switching to Levemir, Penny’s OTJ Trial had begun!

Her “Off the Juice” Trial

“OTJ” means “Off The Juice” or off insulin. The trial is done for 14 days and if your cat can maintain blood glucose numbers mostly in the “normal” range (generally 50-150, depending on who you ask) in that trial period, they are considered “in remission” or “diet controlled”.

I was a NERVOUS FREAKING WRECK during that two-week trial. I would SHAKE when I tested her blood glucose because she was STILL giving me trouble with shots and I wanted SO BADLY for her to pass this trial!

Penny and Weeny Oct 2013

Penny & Weeny a couple of days after Penny went into diabetic remission!

And on November 15, 2013, Penny PASSED her OTJ Trial and was OFFICIALLY in remission!!

But, it wouldn’t last….

Because NOTHING is ever typical or easy with Penny!

More to come!

**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.

Our Introduction to Feline Diabetes

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Penny, 2014, in all her scruffy splendor!

One of the main reasons why I decided to start this blog was to help raise awareness about Feline Diabetes. Because I hear people talking about how they feed their cats potato chips and ice cream. And if I see ONE MORE video of a cat eating something completely species-inappropriate and carb-laden on Facebook, I’m going to gouge my eyeballs out. Because I’m SICK of seeing Diabetic Cats in Need pulling yet another diabetic cat from a kill shelter at the LAST HOUR because an owner fed their cat high-carb dry food, maybe even made the cat obese, and then dumped that poor baby off at the shelter…or worse yet, euthanized them on diagnosis because feline diabetes is “too hard” or too expensive for a pet parent to handle.

As I sit and type with “Smelly Penelly” cleaning herself next to me right now, she is in her 15TH MONTH of her SECOND remission. Her blood glucose reading yesterday, WITHOUT insulin, was 58 about an hour post-meal. Which is an excellent number for a diet-controlled diabetic cat. “Diet-controlled” meaning that with the right low-carb food, her blood glucose is able to stay in the “normal” range without insulin. Penny currently eats Young Again Zero (Carb) Mature Health and Fancy Feast Classics Pate wet food.

I’m not sure WHERE I’m going with this post yet, but this will likely be the beginning of an entire category on this blog with Penny’s journey with both feline diabetes and feline chronic kidney disease, with a little bit of spinal arthritis and dental issues thrown in for fun.

I remember when I first adopted Penny from Jersey State Animal Rescue on May 2, 2012. And the director told me to buy one of two different types of food. One was an internet-only food that for the life of me I cannot remember the name of, and the other was Solid Gold Indigo Moon. Solid Gold was one of those “premium” pet foods and back in 2012 it was relatively low-carb for a cat kibble. They have since changed the formula and it’s much higher in carbs now. And I remember thinking, because I know some things about HUMAN nutrition, “but cats needs carbs for energy!” So I added in Chicken Soup for the Cat Lover’s Soul adult dry food and mixed the two. And she also got four wet mini meals throughout the day.

Getting that high-carb Chicken Soup food was a BIG BIG mistake…

Summer of 2013, I KNEW well before I took her to the vet and she was diagnosed. I come from a LONG line of diabetics, including my dad, and knew what the symptoms were because they are about the same in cats. Frequent urination, incessantly thirsty, constantly hungry. She hadn’t experienced weight loss yet but I acted somewhat quickly once I could no longer justify why I was seeing LAKES in their litter boxes.

On September 5, 2013, with an in-office blood glucose reading of 516 (normal is 50-150 depending on the meter), Penny was diagnosed with Feline Diabetes. And at the time, DEVASTATED was NOT even CLOSE to describing how we felt at the vet’s office. I knew a little about the treatment of Feline Diabetes because I had come across the Feline Diabetes Message Board online a couple of years earlier when I researching constipation issues for my late cat, Tabby.

And I didn’t want to put Penny through getting needles twice per day, home testing her blood glucose, glucose curves and all this other stuff that seemed just SO complicated at the time and I remember thinking, “That is NO quality of life for cats!”

Until I was faced with her diagnosis when she was only FIVE years old and knowing full well it was either treat or put to sleep. I remember freaking out, bawling, and telling the vet that I didn’t have time for home testing and all that jazz and how was I gonna give her insulin injections when she was so difficult to handle that I couldn’t even brush her?

Pennys BG 10.3.13

The very first day that I managed to get Penny’s blood glucose down below “renal threshold”…which is a very good thing!!

He assured me that I could successfully give her injections while she was eating, had a vet tech come in to show me how and let me do a practice shot with an insulin syringe full of water. He told me that home testing was not necessary and that we could bring her back in for a fructosamine test (think kind of like a human H A1c test) in about a week and he would adjust her insulin from there. He didn’t think a dietary change was a good idea until we had gotten her insulin requirement down pat and got her blood glucose in a safer range. (Which, was some very bad advice. by the way. If you get the insulin requirement right and then do a food change to low-carb WITHOUT home testing, you may lose your cat to insulin shock. NEVER, EVER change food to a lower carb food for a diabetic cat on insulin without home testing!)

I must say at this point that I did ask him how often they’ve had cats go into insulin shock or hypoglycemia and he did allow that it HAS happened to patients of their practice before and that it was often enough that I was NOT comfortable with his answer.

He gave me a rather affordable insulin called Vetsulin, some syringes to go with it, and assured me that we could do this.

Now, before I go further, I will say that all of the above is NOT how I got her into remission and was NOT how I got her into remission SAFELY. More on what I DID do to come! But it was enough at the time that I didn’t feel as hopeless and thought that MAYYYYBE we could handle this.

We got home that night and I figured I’d TRY to get that insulin shot into her. I didn’t want to give her the shot while she was eating and ruin her meal time. I should mention that at this point I had NEVER given a cat an injection before, or ANYBODY, for that matter. And I was a SHAKING, nervous wreck!

So, that night, I spent a half hour chasing her around with a loaded insulin needle, grabbing her, torturing her, and making her go hide from me. I had broken the trust that took me 18 months of being her mommy to establish to begin with. And I was a freaking WRECK. I remember flipping out and going outside while yelling that we were just going to have to put her to sleep then.

And I was HEARTBROKEN.

The next morning, I tried again while she was eating her breakfast. And I was PRETTY SURE I got the insulin IN her! She’s a Maine Coon, after all, and when you’re inexperienced and she has ALL that LOOONG hair, there’s the possibility for error.

But then something happened. She was lethargic ALL DAY. Slept in the top of the cat condo and was OUT of it. She did get up to eat when it was meal time but then would go crap RIGHT back out. I hadn’t made any food changes yet, so she was eating higher carb foods.

Knowing what I know now, I’m willing to bet everything I’ve ever worked for that she had a mild hypoglycemic episode. And because she was still on high-carb kibble and low-carb wet food, it’s probably what saved her life that day.

BECAUSE I BLINDLY SHOT INSULIN WITHOUT HOME TESTING OR EVEN KNOWING HOW TO HOME TEST HER FIRST.

So, for the rest of that weekend, I did not give her more insulin. And I spent the ENTIRE weekend, except for sleeping, GLUED to the computer learning EVERYTHING I could. I joined the message board and corresponding Facebook group. They gave me a shopping list, told me the best insulin to use, assured me that I COULD home test and that it would be no big deal once we got used to it.

I read the stories. One I will share with you in a future post from my friend Susan, who’s cat DID, in fact, “hypo” (meaning went into insulin shock) and was never the same again. His name was Baxter. And even though Baxter lived clear across the country, I love that cat. Because his story saved Penny’s life. He will forever have a place in my heart!

Baxter learning how to walk again

My friend Susan’s cat, Baxter, learning how to walk again as he started to recover from insulin shock.

I will also share with you what we did, how we did it, how I trained her for all of this so that it was no big deal and even trained her to look forward to testing her blood glucose with a little bit of bribery!

I really felt like it was the end of the world when Penny was diagnosed with Feline Diabetes. I didn’t know HOW I was going to handle it all. I was so freaking overwhelmed that first week or so that I had the case of the “F@#K it…she’s going to die!” MANY times. I woke up in the morning and my heart would SINK when I realized that this wasn’t just a nightmare. This was our life now.

And I HAD to fight for her. I couldn’t look into those big, round green eyes and let her down. The rescue allowed me to adopt her because they KNEW I would do right by her. NO FREAKING WAY could I let Penny down.

penny-otj-may-26-16-2

Penny the day she achieved her second remission from diabetes. OTJ means “off the juice” or off insulin. She was NOT letting me stick her party hat on her head! lol

And that’s what got me through in the beginning.

I can honestly say, just about four years later, that all the stuff we had to learn to do…the testing, the shots, “tight regulation”, remission, relapse, remission again, blood glucose curves…all the stuff that I didn’t even understand at first…is just now an intrinsic part of my thinking and just the routine of the day. I can do this stuff without even thinking about it now!

And so can Penny!

My hope is that my posts about Penny’s journey with diabetes will keep another diabetic cat from being dumped off at a shelter. My hope is that Baxter’s story will keep another diabetic cat from going into insulin shock. If we help just ONE cat with our stories, our job is WELL DONE!

Stay tuned!

And please SHARE if you know anybody who has a diabetic cat! Please encourage them to get in touch with me on this blog or on our Facebook “like” page. I will be MORE than willing to help them help their furkid!

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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.