Thursday, November 29, 2012

It Takes a Village

It takes a village to raise a child but it also takes one to care for a sick pet. As a caregiver for some of my family members I can tell you it’s stressful. But to be honest, it’s by far easier caring for a person than it is a sick pet. I’m lucky enough to have my mom helping me care for a senior kitty with health issues in my home right now. I was also lucky enough to have her helping me with Alex when she was alive. But I get a lot of emails from people who are doing this all alone. I cannot imagine trying to give a shot to a sick and irritated cat by myself. My sister’s cat Midnight is a little sweetheart and I can pretty much pill her, give fluids, shots, etc. by myself if need be. But what do you do when it’s just you and your cat is completely uncooperative?

Things are getting better and easier in that regard thanks to new methods and medications. These days you can get a whole slew of medications compounded into either liquid form that you squirt into their mouths, or transdermals that you rub onto their ears. They also sell special bags where you can zip your kitty up for easier maneuvering. I don't know how well that works though, kitty may get even more irritated but I've heard of some using it with great success. If you can afford it you can have your vet come to your home or even call in a mobile vet for things like shots, fluids, etc. This might be a better solution than carting kitty off in a carrier each time to go to your vet’s office. Travel for most kitties is very stressful and can even be debilitating for some. My poor Alex used to vomit each and every time we went to the vet so I tried to do as much for her at home as I could. I even had the vet show me how to change her dressing for her feeding tube; something I don’t recommend unless you’re very good with this sort of thing. I had a mini hospital set up in my kitchen for her and my mom, who lives downstairs from me, would come upstairs several times per day and help me. She would hold and soothe Alex as I’d give her sub q fluids, her tube feedings, shots and pills. Again, Alex was a good patient, I was lucky. But I’ve learned that soothing a kitty by playing soft music and speaking quietly to them works great. You can also try flower essences, rescue remedy and keeping a Feliway diffuser plugged in next to the area you give kitty their medication. Never use anything like essential oils as they are toxic! Make sure there are no loud noises and/or talking going on other than the soothing and soft sounds of yours and your helper’s voice. Try to be calm yourself, kitty will know if you’re nervous, believe me. They are sensitive and perceptive. Try to stick with a routine of doing treatments and medications at the same time each day.

And I know I say this a lot but don’t forget about having support for yourself as well. Caring for them is a full time job that is exhausting. Recently I had to put out an SOS for help and the response I got was overwhelming. I always knew I was grouped with wonderful and caring people. But when you’re stressed, afraid and in need of help, that’s when you really find out how much people care about you. And I sure did! Having the support you need to get through a hard time is vitally important and for me it’s just something I cannot live without. I have found that the animal community are the best and most loving people in the world and while you won’t see me running through the streets shouting “Merry Christmas, it’s a wonderful life”, (from the movie of course), I do right now feel rich inside and well cared for. This helps me be a much better pet parent to my two healthy ones, and a better nurse maid to my sick little one. Positive energy, no matter how it comes to you, keeps you going. Whether its emails saying they love you, they are sending their prayers and hugs; or whether they help you out in other ways needed at the moment. Take it and use that energy for your sick pet and yourself. Know that when the time comes, you can return the favor because that’s what our community is all about. That’s what our worldwide village is made up of; love, support, caring and positive energy. And I’m so very grateful for that. 

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

The War on IBD

It’s been almost four years since I started IBDKitties and although I always knew it would be an important resource, what I didn’t know is how much more prevalent IBD would become. To say it’s a war on IBD would be an understatement as I now have readers from every corner of the globe. And while I’m glad I can bring much needed information to pet parents struggling to treat this awful condition, it just shows me how much worse it’s gotten and how much more work there is yet to do. Thankfully since the site began there are a lot more studies, trials and research happening and many more ways to treat it. There is also a vast improvement in how veterinarians deal with IBD and its ever growing associated conditions.

Four years ago there was hardly a vet to be found that would be happy about you putting your cat on a raw food diet, let alone recommend it; not so these days. Yet there are still plenty who will never consider it, or even a grain free diet for that matter. But the communication between pet parents and vets has improved greatly for the most part. My beef is with the vets who still refuse to listen to the parent’s concerns and ideas, but also the refusal by some to drop the ego and learn something new. I’ve seen many a cat die in the last four years because of incompetent vets who refuse whatsoever to try a different medication, even with some of the case studies listed on my site as proof that it’s worth a try. Nothing is a guarantee, but when you have a kitty that is quickly failing in health, anything is worth a try. I’ve also seen some older vets agree to start using newer (to them) treatments for IBD such as giving B12 injections. Kudos to them for not only doing what’s important for the patient but also learning about what could possibly help others and using it.

I know we’re probably seeing a lot more cases of IBD because more cats are getting the proper testing done but no one can tell me that cases of IBD, pancreatitis, lymphoma, etc. haven’t gone through the roof. Of course there are many factors involved, including diet, bacterial overgrowth, genetics, chemicals, poor immune systems, etc. etc. But why so many? Hardly a day goes by that I don’t get one or more emails from someone or comments on my Facebook page asking for help. Lately I’ve had quite a few shelters and rescue groups write me as they see a large amount of cases. And though it’s not always financially feasible for them to change their diets to grain free (which can be more expensive), we can try and help them get it under control as much as possible. Hopefully teaching the adoptive parents about IBD can make the difference in some of the cats getting a good home. But unfortunately this could also be a huge deterrent for an adoptive parent. Who wants to adopt a kitty with a lifelong and unpredictable disease? I know some people that have and they are a blessing to those pets! That takes a mighty big heart to take in a kitty with health issues.

So what can we do now? What’s next in finding ways to control and maybe even cure this disease? We need to find and develop some protocols that won’t put places like shelters and rescues into financial constraints - as well as people with large multi-cat households. Treatments that involve less medication and actually work long term, so these animals can continue to be adopted into good homes and live healthier and longer lives. For me Alex was not my last IBD kitty as I’ve had to care for two of my sister’s cats that have it; one has since passed. I was quite upset when I realized I was dealing with this again so soon after Alex died. But I’ve come to realize that any one of us could have another kitty with IBD at any time, or any other condition for that matter; which is all the more reason to keep searching for answers. My goal is to find some of those answers and keep chipping away at this mountain called IBD. Sooner or later we’ll make a dent in this war and maybe even someday win it.

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Why I Love My Cats

There are a whole lot of reasons why I love my cats, but let’s start with why they drive me crazy. Any pet lover who says that their furry kids don’t do anything to drive them nuts is flat out lying. Because let’s be honest here, they are just like kids. When they want you attention they will do everything in their power to get it, no matter what that is. But when it’s the other way around, they have very short attention spans as well as selective hearing. At times it even seems like they’re doing the opposite of what I want on purpose. Sometimes I swear I can hear those wheels turning in their heads, they are just too smart. If my cats were to write a book it would surely be called “How to Make Your Parents Insane”. That would no doubt be a best seller. On any given day you can hear me saying “stop that!”, “don’t touch that”, “get down from there”, and many other colorful exclamations. I often find myself wondering “why will they eat junk off the floor and not the food in their bowls?”, “why will they beg me to open a door, just to ignore it once I do?”, “why would they rather watch me playing with their toys instead of playing themselves?” So many questions without answers, but I’m guessing the answer to all of these are “because I can”; hence the driving me insane part.

At the same time they are so cute sometimes I can hardly stand it. They love each other so dearly, the grooming and kissing practically never stops. When one wants to play, they’ll simply go over and bop the other one on the head and run. That look of “what just happened here?” makes me laugh every time. When Lacey runs around the house she practically skips and lets out the funniest meow at the same time; she’s such a character. She is a big ball of sunshine, a happy go lucky girl who gets into more trouble than any other pet I’ve ever had. I’ve had to baby proof everything in my house, she’s entertaining to say the least. Finnegan has become a real momma’s boy. At this time last year I thought our relationship was over. I accidentally poked him in the eye and that was the end of him loving his mom. He was terrified of me after that and refused to come near me. Lucky for me one of my good friends online sent us a calming collar and it saved my relationship with him.

It took about a month for him to be completely over that horrific ordeal but when he was, it was a brand new start for us. He only needed that collar a short time and hasn’t needed it since. Now a year later, he wants to cuddle with me all the time. He’s a giant, puffy, ball of floof with a soft and tiny meow. It used to be that I could hardly hear it but Lacey has taught him some bad habits; one being how to yell at the top of his lungs for attention. The other is how to pound on the bedroom door all morning so mommy has to sleep with ear plugs. They sleep with me some of the night but at the witching hour, Lacey must get up and start knocking everything off my bookcase. She’s compelled to do it, she can’t help herself. These are all minor incidents compared to when they were kittens. They were little hellions to say the least. But as I sit here writing this, they are both napping and all I can think about is how much I want to tickle their furry little toes and bellies. They are everything to me and as much as they can drive me loony tunes, they make me laugh and smile a whole lot more. Life without them would be dull and I would be missing out on a lot of snuggles and kitty kisses. I’d be able to have plants in here again, I wouldn’t have to clean as much and I wouldn’t be eating fur all the time. Life would be a whole lot easier. But who wants that! I know I don’t!

Monday, November 5, 2012

Up Close & Personal

This is the age of technology and more often than not, this is how we form our relationships now…online. Whether it’s on Facebook, Twitter, online dating and friend sites or joining a particular group, we are bound to make some incredible connections. For a long time I fought off going this route and wanted nothing to do with talking to new people because let’s face it, they can be very nice or they can be incredibly cruel. But when Alex got sick I was pushed into joining an online support group. I had no other way to find the help and answers I needed to treat her illness. It was scary to be honest and yes, there were days when I wanted to scream at people to stop being so rude. But this gave me the opportunity I needed to realize how much something like IBDkitties was needed and it also got me to open myself up to new people.

I have long since left that group but found another one I feel much more at home with. In the 2 ½ years I’ve been in this group I have met truly some of the nicest people I’ve ever met in this life; so much so that they’ve restored a lot of my faith in humanity. They’ve showed me how to have fun, how to let loose and open myself up, and most importantly to trust people. This trust always comes with a healthy dose of caution of course, as it very well should. But it’s very important to have that trust and let yourself be a part of something bigger than your little world. I’ve also joined some other groups and have my own newsletter from my website of around 300 people or so. In all of these people I talk to online and sometimes on the phone, I had never met a single one in person…until now.

Yesterday I was lucky enough to meet one of my fellow pet parents for the first time. She and her husband live across the country and were here visiting relatives. They were nice enough to take time out of their very busy schedule to come over and meet with me and even though it was a short visit, it was a memorable one.  I realize now how important this was for me, talking with someone about a subject we are both so passionate about connected us very deeply online. But talking in person was truly effortless, as if we’d already met before and have known each other for years. Even in that short time I felt so glad I’d made that long journey from seclusion to proud kitty parent who has that special bond with so many people, it’s made me a better person. I now hope in the future to make this happen again with other pet parents and hopefully even see this particular friend again. Who knows, maybe it’ll be me travelling that way this time, you never know.

This has shown me how important it is to meet new people not only online but in person. Nothing can beat that human, personal connection. And in this world where technology can seem so cold sometimes, we all need that, we really do. As I said, be careful and cautious but know when it’s time to open those doors and let some fresh air in. Find that something you are passionate about and share it with others! You’ll be glad you did.