Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Watering the Cat

Both of our teenaged cats, Snictoria (16) and Snalbert (14-1/2), have renal disease. Snicky has had hers for a few years, and it's mild. We give her daily potassium supplements and an appetite stimulant. She's a fragile, skinny old girl, but she still enjoys life. Every day, she demands that I play with her and give her extra meals. If she can't get my attention by staring at me and complaining in her guttural little voice, she'll come over to my chair, stand on her haunches, and smack my leg. Every night at bedtime, she poses like a sphynx on my husband's chest, purring as he strokes her.

Snicky insists on chasing her fabric "moth" 
on a string every single morning.

Snalbert's disease has developed more recently, and it's worse. He doesn't seem the least bit unwell, fortunately, although he's too thin. We were giving him subcutaneous fluids every other day — the same bags of Ringer's lactate they use for IV fluids in hospitals. This helps to flush toxins from his kidneys because they no longer work well on their own.

As the Top Cat  of our four, Snalbert commands all the 
highest spots in the apartment, including the oak bookcase.

I just got off the phone with our vet, who had the cats' latest test results. Snicky is still stable, but Snalbert's disease is progressing, although it isn't severe yet. But she says we have to start giving him fluids daily.

Bertie is not the first cat I've had who needed hydration, but he is the easiest. He often purrs through the procedure, a sign that we're doing it well. We always heat the fluid first, by putting the bag in a sink full of hot water, so it feels soothing and warm under his skin. Then we hang the bag of fluid from a kitchen cabinet knob. Long, thin plastic tubing runs from the bag to the needle, which we change each time, and there's a clamp on the tubing to control the flow of the fluid (faster is always better).

Usually, one of us inserts the needle and holds the cat while the other person operates the clamp, keeps an eye on the fluid level in the bag — we administer 150 ml —and offers steady, encouraging banter. The hard part is getting the needle properly under the skin and keeping it positioned so the cat doesn't feel it. They have very few nerves in their coats, so you just pull up their skin, make a sort of "tent," and stick the needle into the gap you made, without touching the cat's body. If you did it right, the cat barely notices. Easier said than done sometimes....

Hydration is never fun, but it gets easier for both cats and humans over time. Some people actually take their cat to the vet for it every day or have a vet technician come to their house. But it's not that difficult if your cat is even slightly cooperative. Daily practice on my own, while my husband is away, should turn me into a pro. The whole routine takes just a few minutes — only five minutes for us tonight — when the needle is in a good spot. Keeping a positive attitude and focusing on how the fluids are improving the cat's immediate health and well-being are important keys to success, too. 

On Saturday, our vet discovered that both cats have high blood pressure, a complication of renal disease. She shaved a bit of fur under both cats' tails, and that's where the little plastic "cuff" goes. The blood-pressure machine has a speaker so we could hear the blood whooshing through the cat's tail. I'd never seen this done before, and it would have been amusing if I hadn't been so concerned. 

Both cats now need hypertension medication twice a day. We have to give the pills exactly 12 hours apart for the next two weeks, until the vet can do another reading. If their blood pressure is controlled, we can slack off by an hour or so if we're not home, but for these first two weeks we have to right on time, and even our vet appointment is timed to be when their medication level is at a low point.

So I set the alarm clock for the morning doses, and I'm not planning any evening events until after the next vet appointment. That's okay; I'm feeling antisocial these days, anyway, so this is a perfect excuse for me to stay in on these winter nights.

Snalbert loves his medicine because it's formulated as a soft, chicken-flavored treat. He takes it from my hand, licks my fingers, and looks for more. 

Snicky is less pleased with her many pills, but we have developed a clever technique with her. We hide all her pills in a soft treat called a "pill pocket." Because she's so tiny and the pills are so big, we give her a half a pill pocket at a time, sticking it behind her fangs and inside her cheek. She has to swallow it from there because she can't move it forward on her tongue to spit it out. Most of the time. It's always an adventure.

Possum waits as Snicky naps in his favorite chair.

I am trying not to think about where all this medicinal stuff is leading. I know what's inevitable, but I continue to hope that we'll be doing all this for months and years to come. It will complicate traveling, especially our summer trips to Maine. But the cats come first. It's the promise we made them on the day we adopted each one. And I think they know it.

1 comment:

  1. What a very good post--informative, caring and full of love for your kitties. I had my first CRF cat for 5 extra years because of daily fluid therapy and would do it again in a heartbeat. You are a good mummy!

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