Thursday, October 05, 2017


As reliable as the swallows returning to Capistrano, at least a couple times a year, you can count on me to write one of my patented, "Wah! I'm so old! Where did the time go?" columns. I suppose this could be considered one of them, but unfortunately, this column isn't about me.

For years, I've written about my feline furbabies, Bez and Isobel, my twin rescues from Animal Aid. Truth is, though, they're not exactly babies any more. I still picture them as the tiny balls of fluff I brought home from Animal Aid, but that was eleven years ago this month. My kitties are more like grannies these days. Last week, the reality of their age was cemented home.

Last Sunday, Bez came walking up and it was clear something was wrong. Her normal confident gait was reduced to a pained limp. Her head was down, her tail was low. For the first time in her life, she was a sick kitty. I took her to the vet on Monday, and the news wasn't great. My favorite non-human on the planet has bad arthritis. Worse yet, her blood work showed that she was in acute kidney failure.

Last week was pretty much awful. Every morning, I had to take her into the vet, where they've been placing her on an IV to get her rehydrated. They've also been giving her laser treatments to curb the arthritis. On Day 1, the nurses at the vet told me, "She's such a sweetheart." On Day 2, they told me, "She's feeling a little bit sassy today." By Day 3, it had turned to, "Can you help us move her into her carrier? We're kind of afraid to touch her." I was kinda proud. My cat might be down, but she's not going out without a fight.

So where does that leave us? Well, she's home and happy. Her limp has disappeared, her tail's back up in the air, and she's back to her old self. To keep things that way, all I need to do is give my cat subcutaneous IV fluids three times a week at home. Not good. The last time I had to have a vaccination, I screamed so loud it broke all the blood vessels in my face and I walked around purple for a week. I have acute needlephobia, and now I have to basically become my own worst nightmare and stab my cat in the neck multiple times a week for the remainder of her life.

This isn't my first hurrah with cats and needles. I once had a diabetic cat that required daily insulin shots. I've already had to play Freddie Krueger: The Home Game to save a cat's life. But insulin needles are tiny. IV needles are big and awful.

"Don't worry," the vet tech told me. "If you inject her at the scruff of her neck, they barely feel a thing."

"Barely feel a thing," my fanny. The first time I put that needle in her scruff, she yowled in pain and wouldn't stop screeching until I was done. This, of course, made ME start shaking and crying, so together we make a super awesome health care team.

Loads of my friends have experience giving cats fluids, and I've been taking advice from them non-stop. Distract the cat, they say. Give her food and she'll be so preoccupied she won't even notice the IV. Yeah, not MY cat. I went out and got some gourmet cat food, but I didn't raise a dumb cat. When she saw me holding the IV, she started yowling before I'd even touched her.

Food is another challenge at the moment. Some friends have recommended a low protein cat food that's easy on the kidneys. My vet says a high protein cat food won't help the kidneys, but WILL help her keep weight on. The choice is mine. Well, the choice is actually Bez's, because so far, she's not a big fan of the low protein stuff. I even bought an amino acid supplement to sprinkle on her food. She took one whiff of it, looked at me like, "really?" and sauntered off in disgust.

The OTHER cat, meanwhile, wonders what's become of her high-test Cat Chow, and she shouldn't be eating low protein cat food, because she's already a skinny Minnie. But they've spent their entire lives eating out of the same bowl, so now EVERYONE's confused. Like I said, it's been a real banner week.

There's no magic fix for kidney disease. It's not going to get better, and I'm a realist. But if I can get her to cooperate with the fluids and dietary changes, my cat could be around for a good long time still. So for the foreseeable future, I guess I'm the proud owner/operator of the Brown Home for the Aged & Infirm. Wish me luck, keep Bez in your thoughts, and if any of you have any more advice to make this process better, shoot me an e-mail. I'm all ears.

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