Thursday, July 30, 2015

Jewel's Journey

I'm sure that many of you can relate to this when I say that I would do anything for my kitties.  I will do everything I can to ensure my fur babies have happy and comfortable lives and stay as healthy as possible.

Sometimes being a cat parent means we have to clean up after our fur babies.  This was the case with Jewel.  As Jewel aged, she began to defecate outside of the litter box occasionally.

As her arthritis and kidney disease progressed, the frequency of these occurrences increased.  Of course I never yelled at her, punished her, or got angry with her.  It wasn't her fault that her body was failing.  Instead, I dutifully cleaned up the messes whenever she made one.

Sometimes I could tell she had made a mess because she would hit the door stop on the back of the bathroom door as she was coming out of the room.  The boing noise would alert me to go check the floor for a mess.

Unfortunately, she didn't always hit the door stop and I would squeal when I accidentally stepped in a mess (the joys of living a life with low vision, haha!).  I learned pretty quickly to check the bathroom floor before stepping into the room!

Jewel was such a trooper.  She almost always made it into the bathroom to do her business.  I was thankful for that as the linoleum floor is so much easier to clean than the carpeted floors in my living room and bedroom.  Jewel was so intelligent; I think she knew the best places in the house to make a mess if she couldn't make it to her box.

What do you do for your kitty as a loving cat parent?

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

The HHHHHMM Quality of Life Scale for Cats

A badge featuring Jewel with rainbow hearts. It says, "Jewel Forever."
Euthanasia.  It's the subject nobody wants to think about, let alone talk about.  Yet it's one of the most important and difficult decisions you will ever face as a pet parent.  How will you know when it's the "right" time to help your precious fur baby go to the Rainbow Bridge?  Unfortunately, there's no cut-and-dry answer to this question.  However, using a quality of life scale might help you assess your cat's well-being objectively, which can help you with this incredibly difficult decision.


Dr. Alice Villalobos, a veterinary oncologist, developed the HHHHHMM scale to give owners and veterinarians an objective way to evaluate the success of palliative or hospice care for a cat.  Using this scale, pet parents and veterinarians can work together to assess a pet's well-being and make adjustments to palliative or hospice care when appropriate.  

The scale uses seven parameters to measure your cat's quality of life.  Each parameter is scored on a scale of 1 to 10, with 1 being the worst and 10 being the best. 

Hurt: Does your cat have adequate pain control?  This can be so hard to assess as cats are so good at hiding their pain.  

Some signs that your cat is in pain include: 

  • Limping.
  • Licking one spot on his body repeatedly.  A cat with cancer experiencing pain may lick his tumor repeatedly.
  • Your kitty's posture is different or unusual.
  • Your kitty spends more time resting and interacts with you less than usual.
  • Your cat sometimes trembles or shakes while resting.
  • Your kitty's breathing is labored, exaggerated, or abnormal.  Your cat's ability to breathe comfortably is essential.
  • Your companion protects or guards one part of her body and will snap if you try to touch it.
  • Your cat rests with his eyes open all the time and seems uncomfortable. 
I could always tell when Jewel's arthritis was really hurting her despite the pain management program we had her on.  She would sit with her back feet right by her front feet so that she wasn't putting any weight on her back legs.  It was absolutely heartbreaking for me to see her in pain, and it was definitely a major factor in my decision to help her to the Rainbow Bridge.

If you think your cat is in pain, please talk to your veterinarian about what options are available to treat it.  Oral and injectable medications are available to help control pain. 

A calico cat sitting outside among some trees.
Hunger: Is your cat willing to eat?  Have her eating habits changed?  Does she refuse to eat her normal food?  Will she eat the "good stuff," like treats or human food?

Refusing to eat is one of the most obvious signs that your cat isn't doing so well.  Fortunately, there are several options to help your cat eat.  Talk with your veterinarian about the various options.  Is your cat nauseous?  Many cats with chronic renal failure also suffer from acid reflux.  Kitties taking antibiotics sometimes feel nauseous.  If your veterinarian rules out nausea or acid reflux, you might want to consider trying an appetite stimulant, such as Mirtazapine or Cyproheptadine.

You can also try hand-feeding your cat.  If that doesn't work, syringe feeding or getting your kitty a feeding tube may be an option.

Hydration: Hydration is as important as eating is for cats.  Sick cats are at risk of becoming dehydrated, especially if they are vomiting or have diarrhea.  Cat dehydration can be serious and should be treated right away.  

There are several things you can do to encourage your cat to drink.  For instance, place several water bowls around the house so he doesn't have to walk far to drink water.  Get a pet fountain; many kitties enjoy fresh flowing water.  Try adding an ice cube to the water bowl.  You can read more about how to encourage your cat to drink in my post, "Eight Ways to Get Your Cat to Drink More Water."  Subcutaneous fluids (fluids under the skin) and intravenous fluids are treatment options if your cat becomes dehydrated.  
An orange cat laying on a brown carpet.

Hygiene: Can your kitty keep herself clean?  Cats are very sensitive about cleanliness, but if they are in pain, they may not be able to groom themselves.  You can help your cat stay clean by brushing her regularly and using cat bath wipes or waterless shampoo made specially for cats.  For the last several months of her life, I helped Jewel stay clean by giving her baths with cat wipes.  She didn't mind it too much, and I'm sure she felt better after a little grooming assistance.

Happiness: Is your companion still interacting with you and other family members?  Is he experiencing any joy in life?

When Jewel began to decline, I sat down and thought about the things that made her the happiest in life - eating treats, getting to eat a bit of people food with us at dinnertime, and curling up for a comfortable snooze in one of our kitty kubes.  Another major factor in my decision to help Jewel over the Rainbow Bridge was that she was no longer enjoying the things that made her the happiest.  Likewise, determining what makes your cat the happiest and assessing whether he is still enjoying these things may help you with your decision.

Mobility: Is your kitty able to move around on her own?  If she can't, there are various interventions you can try depending on what is causing her immobility.  For instance, if your companion is having trouble walking due to arthritis, you can talk with your veterinarian about pain management.  Using pet stairs, low-sided litter boxes, and raised feeders can also help arthritic cats.  Mobility devices are very helpful to some kitties as well - as long as their pain is being managed well.

A rainbow over a pond. There is a tree in the foreground.
More Good Days than Bad: Every kitty, especially those with chronic illnesses, will have bad days.  However, a cat's quality of life is compromised when he has more bad days than good ones.  Bad days will look different for each cat.  A bad day could consist of vomiting, diarrhea, unrelenting discomfort or pain, an inability to breathe, seizures, nausea, and/or an inability to get around on one's own.

When using the HHHHHMM Quality of Life Scale, rate each parameter on a scale of 1 to 10, with 1 being the worst and 10 being the best.  A total score of 35 or more constitutes an acceptable quality of life.

While this scale may help you measure your companion's quality of life objectively, you will ultimately need to do what you think is best for your beloved friend.  He will let you know when he is ready to go to the Rainbow Bridge.  As difficult as it may be, try to keep your heart open to receiving his message.  Helping your kitty cross the Rainbow Bridge is the last gift of love you can give him.


Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Opt to Adopt Handsome David Draiman

David Draiman

Rocky Mountain Feline Rescue
Denver, CO

Here I am with David at Rocky Mountain Feline Rescue.

If David looks familiar, it's because we have featured him before.  We cannot believe our sweet and loving friend is still looking for his forever home!

David is a very handsome orange mancat who enjoys getting attention.  He can be a little shy at first around new people, but he will come out of his shell if you give him a little time.  When I visited him last month, he gave me lots of headbonks!  The volunteer who was showing me around told me that David headbonks people when he likes them (awww!).  

David enjoys hanging out in high places, so he would love it if his new home had a kitty tree, shelves, or other fun high places to watch the world from.  He gets along with other cats and with children.  

David tested positive for FIV.  FIV+ cats can live as long as any other cat, and FIV can only be transmitted to other kitties through penetrating bite wounds.  FIV cannot be transmitted to humans or dogs.  

David is up-to-date on his vaccinations, neutered, and litter box trained.  Please visit this sweet mancat at Rocky Mountain Feline Rescue, located at 2390 S. Delaware St. in Denver, CO.  You can also call the shelter for more information about him at 303-744-6076.  David is much loved at the shelter, and I'm sure any volunteer or staff member would be more than happy to tell you all about him! 

Monday, July 27, 2015

Milita's Monday

Milita sitting on the couch
Hi everyone, it's Milita this week!

Thank you so much to everyone who wished me a Happy Birthday last week!

Last week, the Mom made me go see Dr. Stabby.  Of course, I was not pleased!

Dr. Stabby took an x-ray of me and told the Mom that my lungs look clear now.  So....that means no more vet trips, right?!

But alas...Dr. Stabby gave me a listen and said she still hears congestion when I breathe.  She says it is now an upper respiratory infection.  The Mom says it is wonderful news that my lungs have cleared out, but if it were all that wonderful, then why did they insist on giving me more antibiotics?

Dr. Stabby gave me something called Clindacure for my upper respiratory infection.  It isn't as bad as that awful pink stuff (Clavamox), but I still don't like it.  I spend a lot of time hiding under the bed in hopes that the Mom won't find me to give me my medicine.  I still have to take that yucky Prednisolone, too.

The Mom says that I am "almost done" with my medication.  Where have I heard that before?

The Mom here: Milita will finish this course of antibiotics and continue to take Prednisolone until she goes back to the vet next Tuesday.  At that point, we will reassess her and see how she's doing.  If she is doing better and is no longer congested, we will likely wean her off the Prednisolone to see how she does.  

I hope we are finally at the tail end of this infection.  It has been a long fight for poor Lita.  Thank you for all the purrs and prayers you have been sending Lita's way.  We really appreciate them and know they are helping her heal.  

Friday, July 24, 2015

Meow Mobile Offers Subsidized Spay/Neuter Surgeries to Cats

Last month, I went to Denver Dumb Friends League's seventh annual CatFest and had a great time!

They had their Meow Mobile, which offers low-cost, subsidized spay/neuter surgeries for cats in underserved areas of the community, sitting in the parking lot.  I decided to go check it out.

An operating table in the Meow Mobile.

The operating room inside the Meow Mobile. 

An operating table inside Meow Mobile

The operating room inside Meow Mobile actually has two operating tables so that two cats can be spayed or neutered at the same time.

All of the veterinarians who perform the surgeries are licensed to do so in the state of Colorado.  Some of the veterinarians are volunteers from private practices and others are staff members at Denver Dumb Friends League.

At the time of this writing, Dumb Friends League is offering free spay and neuter surgeries and age-appropriate vaccinations (rabies and distemper) to cats.  There are no qualifications you need to meet to get these free services.

Cages and carriers inside Meow Mobile
You can see a schedule for the Meow Mobile here.  Be sure to call the mobile help line at 720-241-7098 the morning you intend to have your cat spayed or neutered to find out about any changes or cancellations.

You can find pre- and post-surgery instructions for your cat here.

After seeing how sanitary and organized the Meow Mobile is, I am confident in recommending its services to the residents of the Denver metro area.