Chaco Bell, Minneapolis, Minnesota, December
2008, photo © 2008-2009 by QuoinMonkey. All
It’s still the dead of Winter in Minnesota, and we’ve got the temperatures to prove it. How do you know it’s January in Minnesota?
- it’s -8 when you get up in the morning (that’s on a good day, without wind chills)
- running water (if you’ve got water at all) sputters and spits through sluggish, half-frozen pipes
- water turned off from 10:30pm Friday to Noon the following Saturday, after you are greeted post-work by a broken water main that creates an ice skating rink on the street in front of your house. All we needed was Kristi Yamaguchi (did you know she was one of the first to be photographed by Annie Liebovitz for the ‘Milk Mustache’ campaign?).
- the annual Art Shanty Projects kicks off on Medicine Lake
- the U.S. Pond Hockey Association holds its annual tournament on frigid Lake Nokomis in Minneapolis (See the winners of the nearly 1,600 pond hockey fanatics that participated in the U.S. Pond Hockey Championships of 2009)
- close to 9,000 anglers gather on Gull Lake’s Hole in the Day Bay north of Brainerd for the World’s largest ice contest — the Brainerd Jaycees $150,000 Ice Fishing Extravaganza (from an aerial view, you could swear those were gopher holes!)
Meantime, life inside home and hearth goes on. The week before Winter Solstice, our middle-aged cat Chaco (named after the canyon in New Mexico, elevation: 6200 feet) became seriously ill; we got him into the vet on December 18th. By the weekend, he needed to go to emergency care for IV fluids, medication, and monitoring, then back to our clinic on Monday. So began the last 6 weeks of caring for a chronically ill cat.
On our last visit to Dr. Heidi, she checked his blood again, and after treating a massive infection with three prescriptions of antibiotics, it seems his numbers are up on the kidneys, yet his anemia remains below the norm. He tires easily, but is eating, drinking, sometimes playing. He’s gained 1.2 lbs. of the 2 lbs. he lost. But there’s that nagging anemia.
The problem with anemia in cats is that it’s hard to diagnose the origin; it can be anything, including chronic kidney disease. We’ve elected home treatment for another month to see if we can get his anemia under control. This means continuing antibiotics, vitamin paste, subcutaneous fluids every 2 or 3 days, prescription foods tailored for kidneys (rich in lean meat, low in fats and additives), and monitoring his habits and schedule.
Chaco — “Room To Heal”, Minneapolis,
Minnesota, December 2008, photo ©
2008-2009 by QuoinMonkey. All rights
Those of you who have cared for ill animals know the drill. It’s good to call on friends who’ve been through a “cat crisis” when you need to make hard financial and emotional decisions involving care for ill pets. It’s truly a miracle that Chaco is alive. Right before Christmas, our vet told us the staff was begging her to put him down. But she saw a few signs of hope in his numbers; otherwise, I would be doing a very different kind of post.
The bottom line with seriously ill pets, is that it’s a very personal decision you must make about how much money to spend (prepare to dip into your savings), what kind of long-term care you are willing to sustain, and if the animal’s quality of life can be maintained without pain and hardship on either side. Tough choices.
Liz and I take it a day at a time. And are happy for the time we have left with Chaco, whatever that may be. On March 22nd, he’ll be 13 years old. With Liz caring for him most of his life, he’s lived like a prince!
We’ve learned quite a bit about cat care over the last month. Perhaps others can benefit from what we’ve been through.
Creature Comforts – 10 Cat Care Tips
Below is a short list of Creature Comforts that have made our lives easier over the last 6 weeks of caring for a chronically ill cat. Some can be found around the house. Others take a little cash up front, but we found it helpful to stock up on items that make long-term medical care more bearable for both cats and humans.
We created a home base (see photo above) tucked away in the bedroom where we could monitor Chaco, and followed his movements closely during the first few weeks. Creating a space where he felt safe was important. We also set aside a centralized place in the kitchen for his food, meds, syringes, vitamins, and a high place to hang the Sub-Q bag. Below are other ideas and product brands, but experiment and find what works best for you.
Products and items we’ve found to be helpful during the critical first week:
- Complete For Cats, A Fresh Approach To Home, disposable litter box — portable, made with 100% biodegradable, recycled paper with a unique, patented material that will not leak, tear, or shred.
- ExquisiCat Scoop, hard clumping, easy scooping litter — or Scoop Away Odor Control litter. Make clean-up as easy as you can; you’re going to be tired!
- Simply Out! 30 floor protection pads — extra thick, ultra absorbent, fragrance free, leak-proof. Treated to attract pets, controls odors, no leaks, guaranteed (pet training pads but work great when pets are sick).
- Old towels and rags, plastic tarp as a base — and sanitary wipes like Scott MoistWipes. You may go through a lot of these.
- Heating pad, water bottle, reflective heater — to keep everything warmed up and cozy!
Products and items we’ve found to be helpful over the long haul:
- Sub-Q fluids and fresh needles on hand, along with web links to videos on giving subcutaneous fluids — Videos can help augment the vet training you receive before bringing your pet home. We found that watching a few different videos gave us a better-rounded picture of the process, and details of ways to handle problems that cropped up along the way. (If you are needle phobic, Sub-Q is NOT for you. You may have to pay your vet to administer fluids.)
- Stash of prescription foods (wet & dry), medications, and droppers for water and meds — cats like food, meds, and Sub-Q fluids better at room temperature. Experiment with different prescription foods until you find a few your cat likes. Two of our cats will drink from a dropper (good to know when they don’t feel well enough to drink on their own).
- SmartyKat Kitty Canyon Pet Bed — all of our cats love this. It’s plush, deep, and flips inside-out for a quick style change! It’s also Eco-friendly, made of EcoRest fibers, using 8 recycled 1-liter soda bottles. In the beginning, when Chaco was having trouble walking, carrying him this way gave us more mobility.
- Collar with bell to track movements in the night — Liz had one of Chaco’s old collars around and we strapped it on so we could track where he was during the night.
- Keep a handwritten log of your cat’s progress, from beginning to end — you can’t keep all this in your head! We made up a grid with categories for Meds, Food, Sub-Q, Bathroom Habits. You’ll also want to keep your veterinary and emergency clinics’ numbers handy at home, in your cell phone, and in your wallet. We have made a lot of phone calls!
I know there are many who have done long-term care for aging or sick pets. If you’ve got any other cat or pet care tips, we’d love to hear them. Please feel free to add them to this post. And remember, cat care is stressful, so take advantage of all the winter sports the Great White North has to offer and get some exercise!
Miracle Cat, Minneapolis, Minnesota,
December 2008, photo © 2008-2009 by
QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.
- Feline Kidney Disease/Ch5-SubQ Fluids - video on Subcutaneous Fluid Therapy for Cats
- Mar-Vista Animal Medical Center Home Education Series – Administering Subcutaneous Fluids - most detailed video on Sub-Q, demonstrated by a veterinarian
- DIY: Sub-Q Fluids - refresher course on giving Sub-Q fluids to rabbits
-posted on red Ravine, Monday, January 26th, 2009