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Apr 28, 2013


Fostering a Cat
Fostering a cat is a rewarding and satisfying experience that provides a needed home to a cat who otherwise would remain homeless, or stay in a neglectful or abusive home, may be starving, or possibly would be euthanized at a shelter. But when you take in a new foster cat, especially an adult cat, you never really know how long it may be before they are adopted—or how long it will take to find just the right home for that particular cat.


Finding Gigi


I found Gigi—a beautiful, graceful Calico—abandoned and living along the Iron Horse Trail in Walnut Creek between two busy streets–just after receiving a hotline call to the cat rescue group I belong to called Community Concern for Cats (CC4C). The caller was concerned about a calico cat that looked thin, sick, and weak, and was seen falling down outside of the local feed store near the trail. Living close by, I walked the trail to see if I could find her near the described spot. I started feeding every night -- putting wet and dry food out by some bushes along with a bowl of water. Two weeks later, I finally saw her! She appeared from a ditch right beside me that was completely covered by tree branches, probably hiding while waiting for me. She knew it was feeding time. Scared, hesitant, but trusting me—she allowed me to touch her and pet her. Once her trust was gained, I ran home, grabbed one of my cat carriers, walked back quickly to where I had left her, and the rest is history.


Treating Gigi


Once home, I set up my big cat cage with a 2nd shelf for her bed, put in a litter box, water and food, and immediately took her upstairs and put her in the bathtub to wash her. Poor Gigi was covered in a black blanket of fleas and the water quickly turned a dark grey while they tried to abandon ship. Following her bath, I combed her with a flea comb to remove the remaining fleas—I think I counted over a hundred fleas from just from the flea comb alone! So I knew she was dealing with possible anemia amongst other health problems. I put her to bed, and the next morning woke up and found blood in her cat bed. I sat and observed her for a while and noticed that she was going in and out of her litter box several times, straining, and unable to urinate. So I raced her to our wonderful veterinary hospital, Four Corners Animal Hospital, for a complete workup—blood test, urine test and culture, X-rays and routine checkup. Her urinary test proved she had a raging urinary tract infection needing immediate treatment. The X-rays showed that the lining of her bladder had grown thick and inflamed from having a urinary tract infection for so long, and left untreated. And as part of her full blood panel test, she was also combo tested for FIV (Feline Immunodeficiency Virus) and FELV (Feline Leukemia Virus) exposure, which she thankfully tested negative for. I brought her home with a two-week supply of antibiotics and some lactated ringers for subcutaneous fluids.


Healing Gigi


So treatment began for Gigi—giving subcutaneous fluids to treat her dehydration every day for a week, then every other day for a week; antibiotics given twice daily; Advantage for fleas and Drontal for deworming; and lots of love and attention to reassure her. Within a day or two, she was so much happier and more comfortable, in significantly less pain, starting to play and enjoy life, and very affectionate as her health continued to improve. I could tell that she was so grateful for being rescued from the hell she experienced outside, alone, afraid, in pain, suffering, and with no ability to find food or water. Gigi quickly became this amazing, trusting, incredibly loving, beautiful cat—who thanked us every day for making her feel better. We fell in love with her.


Within a couple of weeks her treatment ended. She had gained weight and I moved her upstairs to join our five other rescue cats that live on our second floor. She proceeded to bully all of them and became the alpha cat, which made our oldest cat very unhappy!


I began taking Gigi to CC4C’s adoption weekends. I took her every weekend for several months and posted her on the CC4C website. But Gigi was always overlooked for younger cats and those adorable kittens. She was the diamond, but no one could see or appreciate her beauty. She didn’t show particularly well and would turn her back to every person who tried to pat her and pretended she wasn’t there! I went through periods where I thought we would just keep her and have her join all our other cats who were never adopted, are blind, feral, shy, have extreme allergies, or are chronically ill. But Gigi was healthy and loving, had no issues, and would make someone incredibly happy so I had to persevere and continue to try to find the home that she deserved. Gigi would come to live with us for a little more than two more years, until she finally found her forever home. That is another story saved for another day!

























From my blog: http://www.homelesstohousecats.com
 
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Posted: Apr 28, 2013 12:38pm
Apr 27, 2013

Our sweet, darling Red passed away almost four months ago to this day, the day after Christmas. I wanted to honor our beautiful Red by writing about him and sharing his story of survival, challenge, and incredible transformation. Red touched us everyday of his life with his beautiful soul, his profound courage, his hard earned trust, and his huge heart and unending love. I believe we were meant to find each other on that fateful day thirteen years ago, and I’m forever grateful for crossing paths with Red and having the honor of knowing him and sharing every day of his life since.


In the early morning on Sunday, December 23, I did my usual routine of feeding all the cats upon waking—always wet food first—followed by dry food. Every cat gets their own bowl of wet food and dried food bowls are shared. Red is usually eager to eat, loves his food, and craves food nearly round the clock in his old age. At 19+, he enthusiastically waits for us to wake up, curling into our arms, licking my husband’s face, snuggling into our necks, until one of us finally opens our eyes. As soon as one of us is up, Red excitedly jumps off the bed and runs hobbling with his crippled hind legs to the kitchen. But this particular morning, Red wasn’t interested in eating. He just looked at his food, and walked away. This was at first alarming to me, because the day before he ate well. But I sensed this was possibly the beginning of Red finally “letting go.” I knew that I could no longer give him Mirtazapine, to stimulate his appetite, and to turn things around. I knew on this morning, things were different. I couldn’t save him.


 


For the past six months, Red had been hanging on quite happily, but we observed a slow, gradual decline in his health and energy. The arthritis in his hips was causing him increasing discomfort, he was sleeping longer hours, and was craving being very close to us, sleeping with us under the covers, and wanted to be held. He was seeking constant companionship with the other cats, and the cats loved comforting him and piling on top of his poor old, broken body, and keeping him warm. And he was rapidly losing weight, which he had done in the past, but this time he was losing weight while eating 12 times a day. In the last month before his death, he began sitting in the “arched” position—a signal of discomfort and pain in cats, with his paws underneath him. For the previous three years we had been giving Red weekly injections (periodically) ofAdequan to treat his arthritis pain, the steroid Prednisilone every other day to treat his irritable bowel disease (IBD) and lymphoma in his intestines, sub-Q fluids to hydrate him, and Mirtazapine to kick start his appetite when needed—all with great success in alleviating his symptoms.


But this last month, in addition to his weight loss, his coat was getting more dull and oily, he stopped grooming himself, and he was having greater mobility discomfort. So it was with deep sadness that I watched him turn away and leave his food.


As Murphy’s Law would have it, my wonderful vet was closed for the Christmas holiday for three days! So we decided to comfort him, watch him closely, hydrate him daily with sub-Q fluids to keep him from experiencing kidney pain, and syringe-feed him a little daily to keep him more comfortable—to get him to Wednesday, when our vet was open again.


 


Each day, Red became weaker, but still loved receiving our attention, our love and pats, and sleeping close to us. We kept him warm with blankets over him in his cat bed, and transported him in his bed, wherever we went, to be with him. His breathing seemed to become more rapid, sometimes so fast I thought he would have a heart attack! Christmas came and we met with friends for brunch, but then raced back to be with our boy, knowing our time was now short and we wanted to be with him every last moment we could. We said our goodbyes during the evening and following morning, thanking Red for his wonderful life, love, and gift that he gave us.


Finally, December 26 came. Our vet was open again after the holidays, so we scheduled an afternoon euthanasia appointment. They all knew Red well, and were sad to hear the news. With a heavy heart, we brought him in wrapped in a warm blanket in his bed. Our wonderful Dr. Kubicka confirmed that he was in pain now, suffering, and dying—and it was the kindest thing we could do to let him go quickly and painlessly.


Red was our first cat to be euthanized, so I felt much trepidation, anxiety and apprehension about the process and whether Red would feel anything. He was so peaceful on the table, I knew this was the right decision. I held Red as he lay there, petting him, and said my final goodbyes—as the sedative was given. The sedative made him drowsy and very sleepy. Ten minutes later the IV catheter was put in place in his hind leg, and the doctor proceeded to administer the euthanasia solution. And Red was gone. Instantly. Peacefully. Forever. I couldn’t believe he was actually gone. Red’s 19+ years had come to an end and our 13 wonderful, blessed years of sharing Red’s life, ceased as well.


With tears we brought Red home to bury him in our backyard. But first, we wanted all his kitty friends that had shared his life to know that Red had passed on, so they could say goodbye and know that he would no longer be with us in our physical world. We wrapped him in a soft blanket, surrounded him with roses of all brilliant colors that I bought, lit faux candles, and let him lie in state so his soul could ascend and leave this earthly world.


Three days later, we buried Red with all his flowers and the cards that friends had sent—in our back yard. We shared our beautiful memories, read the touching poem, “When Tomorrow Starts Without Me,” said a prayer, and our final goodbyes.



His candles burned outside brightly by his grave for a week in the winter cold, to honor our boy’s light in this world. We miss you Red, and will always love you Red—forever.

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Posted: Apr 27, 2013 8:24pm
Aug 13, 2012



The deep satisfaction that comes with rescuing homeless, abandoned, and at-risk cats comes when you finally find the perfect match for their adoption. It happened to me this weekend.


Two months ago I received a desperate phone call from one of my fosters. She told me the family across the street from where she worked had two litters of pit bull puppies (15 puppies in all) along with a mother cat who had a litter of kittens, and eight of the kittens had just been killed by the pit bulls. The last remaining kitten was weak, thin and vulnerable due to the dogs and the mama cat was showing signs of extreme stress having just lost her kittens. Thankfully, she was able to convince the owners to give the mama cat and kitten to her, since they were clearly overwhelmed with the dogs and had been very negligent with the cats—and proceeded to bring them to my house to begin their needed medical treatment and recovery.



That night when they arrived, the 4-week-old kitten was severely dehydrated, vomiting, and flea infested. Not able to stop her vomiting and knowing she was losing fluids quickly, I raced both mama and kitten to the Sage Emergency Care Center in Concord, located very close to my house. In my early years of fostering kittens, I knew how incredibly vulnerable they were, and how their health can take a turn for the worse rapidly. In emergency, the kitten was quickly examined, received subcutaneous fluids, a Parvo Snap test and a PCV/TS blood test for anemia and red blood cell counts, plus was given an injection of Anzemet to stop the vomiting and relieve the nausea. The kitten’s red blood cell count was an alarming 40 percent of normal, plus she was badly anemic from a flea infestation. Mama cat was given the FIV/FeLV Combo Test to screen for feline immunodeficiency virus (FIV) and feline leukemia virus (FeLV)—fortunately the results were negative, which was a great relief. So nine hours later, both kitten and mama were signed out and came home with me, again, where they were to begin their rehabilitation in my upstairs bathroom.



The next week I maintained a laser focus on addressing kitten’s lost red blood cell count with intensive 2-hour syringe feeding of KMR; daily subcutaneous fluids for hydration; syringing Immune Plus three times daily to stimulate the immune system; syringing an herbal powder mixed with water for nausea and stomach distress; and deworming and defleaing. Within four days, kitten went from lifelessness and listlessness to the pure joy of running, jumping, playing and leaping onto her mama’s back. Once kitten turned this corner, she immediately began eating wet food and returned to nursing, and promptly started gaining weight—a good sign! It was a miracle to watch this transformation and a pleasure to witness kitten’s amazing healing and recovery.



Through the week, I observed mama cat’s right eye was constantly draining and causing her discomfort. Taking her to the vet, she was given a corneal eye stain to check for corneal abrasions and damage, and was given a blood chemistry panel and a PCR Upper Respiratory Test to check for Bordetella, Chlamydia, Calicivirus, Herpes 1,influenza and Mycoplasma—all that could cause her eye problems. So for the next two weeks, I gave her daily prescriptions for Terramycin and an anti-inflammatory eye drop, which was repeated for another two weeks by her 2nd foster. When mama’s eyes were finally clear, and her tearing stopped we took them to their first adoption weekend—two long months after beginning their care and rehabilitation. Last week, I took mama cat to be spayed, and under anesthesia, her right eye tear duct was examined, but the vet discovered they were unable to clear it due to extensive scar tissue from chronic upper-respiratory illness when she was younger. Undoubtedly due to not being given the proper FVRCP vaccine protocol and being outside.



Mama cat, now named Sabrina—and kitten now named Simone—was adopted just yesterday at adoptions by a wonderful, loving couple that had lost their two cats last year due to old age. They patiently waited a year before adopting another pair, and fell in love with mama and kitten, who are inseparable and deeply bonded.


On Wednesday, I will drive Sabrina and Simone to their new home in Alameda, and say my last good-byes to them. I’m sure I will cry as I walk away as they have touched me with their special beautiful souls and loving spirits, but I will be incredibly happy for them as they begin their new life and adventure filled with people who will love them, care for them, and provide for them with a safe, healthy, happy home. I could not ask for more for the two of them, and they deserve this.


All cats and dogs deserve a safe, loving, caring, healthy home that will be committed to them for their entire lives till their natural death. So when we find a good adoption match for the cats in our temporary care, we feel a sense of relief but we also feel deep honor to have met these special cats that enter our lives and a profound gratitude in knowing them.



Bless you Sabrina and Simone, and here’s to many wonderful years ahead in your new home!


From my Blog: Homeless to Housecats
http://www.homelesstohousecats.com

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Posted: Aug 13, 2012 1:54pm
Jul 15, 2012

I’m sensing the time is close now for my cat Red. I instinctively felt it early this morning that Red could possibly be in the early stages of the dying process, which could takes days or weeks. He is getting weaker, slower, more feeble, and appearing more gaunt and fragile.

He came to me in bed this morning seeking to be close—very close, nosing to get under the covers for warmth and safety. He gently plows his head into mine messaging me he wants to lie next to me. I cuddle him, hold him, embrace his frail, skeletal body. As he lies stretched out along the length of my body, I spoon him. I gently run my hand over his thin remains feeling his thin sheath. He purrs loudly, strongly, breathing and purring. I can’t sleep to his constant machine of a purr, but somehow it comforts me. I will miss this purr, this beautiful soul, this survivor, this brave cat that has endured so much.

Every morning—early, Red climbs up on the bed and waits for us to awake, to show signs of life again. He watches me intently; his eyes open wide, staring into my face—I can feel his warm breath, patiently waiting for my eyes to show any sign of life. He nudges my face, my chin, in an effort to wake me. Failing, he climbs inside my sheets for warmth, comfort, and closeness. I hold him tight, knowing that these moments will eventually pass and I want to hold onto them. This is our routine every morning, faithfully, never failing.

As Red has aged in the past few years he has sought more and more comfort and closeness from us. He wants to be with us, near us, lying beside us. His fear of people, of feet, shoes approaching him—has all dissipated. His fear of us is long gone. In the autumn of his life, he’s slowed down, lost his robust muscular body and strength, but he has gained a beautiful grace, wisdom, confidence, and above all trust—something that took him years to gain.

Red lived at the Oakland Airport before he was trapped by a wonderful rescue group called Feral Cat Foundation (FCF) in the San Francisco East Bay. Red was originally a domestic cat that had been dumped at the Oakland Airport at a very young age. He learned to survive there with the horrific noise of planes arriving and departing. He had being chased constantly by workers, because he had developed a profound, deep, consuming and overwhelming fear of people and feet. Shoes were the enemy. The fear was so overpowering that when he was finally held in human arms—ours—he shook; buried his tail deeply between his legs and buried his head so that no one could see him. He wrapped himself in a ball to protect his body, but didn’t fight to get away from us. He curled onto my shoulder and held on for dear life. Scared beyond belief, he was a cat that had been abused, before being abandoned. We learned later from our vet, that his hind leg joints had been pulled out of the hip sockets, by humans, and painfully healed to allow him to walk with a stiff gait.

While house hunting in the Oakland hills with my fiancé at the time, we encountered Feral Cat Foundation who was holding their weekly cat adoptions outside a local pet store. My fiancé and I had been thinking about adopting a cat for our only cat Pumpkin, who was showing signs of being lonely with our very long work hours and commute. As we approached the adoption site, we saw Red curled in a ball, then climb the cage walls as we approached. Our hearts broke. His stress was palpable. The woman managing the site gave us his history and said he was on his way to the “cat sanctuary” if he wasn’t adopted in the next week, because he had already been up for adoption for nine months. Immediately we felt deep compassion for Big Red, and though he wasn’t the cat we imagined adopting, we knew our fate was sealed. For the next week, we could not stop thinking about him. We really knew he was ours really from the moment we held him. We knew this was a kitty that needed a second chance at life. He deserved this chance. He deserved so much better than he had experienced. We wanted to give this to him—for the rest of his life—one full of love, dignity, trust, peace, safety, comfort and healing.

So Red became ours. Ours to see the magical transformation of a cat that had been abandoned and tormented, into the beautiful soul he has become today and always was.

Red may you live many more weeks or even months with us, we will be with you to the last moment, loving you as you have loved us. Bless you my beloved boy.


From my blog: Homeless to Housecats
Website: http://www.homelesstohousecats.com 

 


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Posted: Jul 15, 2012 11:36am
Jul 15, 2012

I’m sensing the time is close now for my cat Red. I instinctively felt it early this morning that Red could possibly be in the early stages of the dying process, which could takes days or weeks. He is getting weaker, slower, more feeble, and appearing more gaunt and fragile.

He came to me in bed this morning seeking to be close—very close, nosing to get under the covers for warmth and safety. He gently plows his head into mine messaging me he wants to lie next to me. I cuddle him, hold him, embrace his frail, skeletal body. As he lies stretched out along the length of my body, I spoon him. I gently run my hand over his thin remains feeling his thin sheath. He purrs loudly, strongly, breathing and purring. I can’t sleep to his constant machine of a purr, but somehow it comforts me. I will miss this purr, this beautiful soul, this survivor, this brave cat that has endured so much.

Every morning—early, Red climbs up on the bed and waits for us to awake, to show signs of life again. He watches me intently; his eyes open wide, staring into my face—I can feel his warm breath, patiently waiting for my eyes to show any sign of life. He nudges my face, my chin, in an effort to wake me. Failing, he climbs inside my sheets for warmth, comfort, and closeness. I hold him tight, knowing that these moments will eventually pass and I want to hold onto them. This is our routine every morning, faithfully, never failing.

As Red has aged in the past few years he has sought more and more comfort and closeness from us. He wants to be with us, near us, lying beside us. His fear of people, of feet, shoes approaching him—has all dissipated. His fear of us is long gone. In the autumn of his life, he’s slowed down, lost his robust muscular body and strength, but he has gained a beautiful grace, wisdom, confidence, and above all trust—something that took him years to gain.

Red lived at the Oakland Airport before he was trapped by a wonderful rescue group called Feral Cat Foundation (FCF) in the San Francisco East Bay. Red was originally a domestic cat that had been dumped at the Oakland Airport at a very young age. He learned to survive there with the horrific noise of planes arriving and departing. He had being chased constantly by workers, because he had developed a profound, deep, consuming and overwhelming fear of people and feet. Shoes were the enemy. The fear was so overpowering that when he was finally held in human arms—ours—he shook; buried his tail deeply between his legs and buried his head so that no one could see him. He wrapped himself in a ball to protect his body, but didn’t fight to get away from us. He curled onto my shoulder and held on for dear life. Scared beyond belief, he was a cat that had been abused, before being abandoned. We learned later from our vet, that his hind leg joints had been pulled out of the hip sockets, by humans, and painfully healed to allow him to walk with a stiff gait.

While house hunting in the Oakland hills with my fiancé at the time, we encountered Feral Cat Foundation who was holding their weekly cat adoptions outside a local pet store. My fiancé and I had been thinking about adopting a cat for our only cat Pumpkin, who was showing signs of being lonely with our very long work hours and commute. As we approached the adoption site, we saw Red curled in a ball, then climb the cage walls as we approached. Our hearts broke. His stress was palpable. The woman managing the site gave us his history and said he was on his way to the “cat sanctuary” if he wasn’t adopted in the next week, because he had already been up for adoption for nine months. Immediately we felt deep compassion for Big Red, and though he wasn’t the cat we imagined adopting, we knew our fate was sealed. For the next week, we could not stop thinking about him. We really knew he was ours really from the moment we held him. We knew this was a kitty that needed a second chance at life. He deserved this chance. He deserved so much better than he had experienced. We wanted to give this to him—for the rest of his life—one full of love, dignity, trust, peace, safety, comfort and healing.

So Red became ours. Ours to see the magical transformation of a cat that had been abandoned and tormented, into the beautiful soul he has become today and always was.

Red may you live many more weeks or even months with us, we will be with you to the last moment, loving you as you have loved us. Bless you my beloved boy.

From my blog: Homeless to Housecats
Website: http://www.homelesstohousecats.com 

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Posted: Jul 15, 2012 11:20am
Jul 4, 2012

The 4th of July is associated with loads of venerable traditions including town parades, barbecues, picnics, fireworks, and events paying tribute to our nations independence. For me, this July 4th commemorated my first ever town parade that I participated in and one with a very important message to communicate—the spay and neuter of cats! Our formal float name was the “Champions of Spaying and Neutering our Animals.” Our float was the creative idea of a woman in my cat rescue group, who is a luminary in planning and executing events and has a history of participating in town parades. As visionaries do, she saw in her mind exactly how to visually communicate the message of spaying and neutering to a large audience, then set about to fulfill her idea.

Our signs, which we held proudly on tall posts and also wore on sandwich boards read “If You See a Stray, Spay Today!,” Save Lives! Spay & Neuter!,” and “Prevent a Litter, Fix Your Critter.” We also towed two wagons (our float), the first one carrying a male and female cat with an equals sign pointing to the second wagon carrying a cage full of stuffed cats literally exploding through the cage displaying the slogan, “370,000 in 7 Years.”

We also handed out fliers with the contact information for low cost spay and neuter for pets and also for feral and free-roaming cats and another information sheet with the leading reasons to spay/neuter your pet. The benefits to spay/neuter are numerous starting with reducing the number of healthy, adoptable pets euthanized each year in U.S. shelters due to an overpopulation of cats and dogs in this country. Tragically, a staggering 12 million unwanted dogs and cats are euthanized every year in the U.S.—and even more are abandoned left homeless to suffer.

I believe there are 370,000+ reasons to spay and neuter your cat, but the top ten include:



      1. Spayed and neutered cats live far healthier lives.





      1. Female cats can’t get uterine cancers; and mammary cancer is reduced by 25%.





      1. Female cats are less prone to getting urinary tract infections.





      1. Neutered male cats can’t get testicular cancer.





      1. Spayed and neutered cats live far longer lives and don’t wander, but want to stay home.





      1. Cat fights are significantly reduced, decreasing their risk of acquiring FIV, FELV and getting seriously injured.





      1. Cat urine spraying and marking is reduced.





      1. Aggression toward other cats is reduced.





      1. Spaying and neutering is good for the community, reducing the number of cats on the street.





      1. Spaying and neutering reduces the serious problem of overpopulation of cats in the U.S. and reduces the amount of suffering experienced by homeless, abandoned, and stray cats.





So the next 4th of July, I hope to be there again with our spay and neuter float in the Pleasant Hill town parade, getting the message out to the community how important it is to spay/neuter cats. But in the meantime, I will continue to work on trapping feral and homeless cats, spaying and neutering them, finding homes for the adoptable domestics or returning the ferals to their colonies. And I will continue working our county spay/neuter events held at the local animal shelter.

Really, I will do anything to reduce the suffering experienced by homeless and feral cats, and reduce the horrific euthanasia rates that occur at every animal shelter across our country. Let’s create a nation where every cat and dog has a home, not one that disposes of animals because there are too many, or abandons its animals because they don’t want them anymore. 


From my blog: Homeless to Housecats
Website: http://www.homelesstohousecats.com 

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Posted: Jul 4, 2012 9:31pm
Apr 15, 2012

Being in cat rescue, people had always told me about how difficult it was to see their cats age. I now have two rescue cats over 17 years old that have been with us over 12 years now–and so far (knock on wood) they are still very healthy. No diseases, no chronic health issues. But as two of my cats turned 14 this past year, each of them has been diagnosed with hyperthyroidism. What to me felt like the dreaded “H” word! But several months into this condition, I have realized it’s very manageable and should not be dreaded.

My first cat who was diagnosed, Godiva, a beautiful, lively chocolate Persian who as a kitten, was taken to our local animal shelter, blind with hydrocephalus (water on the brain). Fortunately, she was given a second chance by one of the shelter volunteers who gave her a home for five years, and then relocated across country and gave her up. The cat rescue group I was fostering for at the time, Friends of the Formerly Friendless (FFF) took Godiva, and so we had the good fortune of fostering sweet Godiva. But after a year of going to adoption day every weekend, Godiva was never adopted, so we adopted Godiva ourselves and have found her to be an amazing, courageous, determined survivor navigating our house beautifully, despite her blindness and many cat “obstacles.”

So last year, at the age of 14, Godiva started exhibiting some concerning signs—she was losing weight (already thin with a fast metabolism), she was hyper-active and restless (even more than she normally is), her appetite was through-the-roof (it was already very healthy!), and she cried incessantly for food and could not get enough. Her coat, which was normally shiny and healthy, started to develop a dull finish and became matted, which had never happened before. She exhibited nearly all the signs of a hyperthyroid cat.

So as with all of our cats, I took her for her annual checkup. Our vet ran a senior blood screen (chemistry panel), thyroid level T4, and urinalysis to screen for hyperthyroidism. In the exam, the vet detected a faster than normal heart rate and of course noted her weight loss. When the tests came back positive for hyperthyroidism, my heart sank. Godiva was our first cat with a chronic illness after 14 years with our many cats. I was devastated. The good news was that she was not in the 3 percent of cats with thyroid cancer, but rather, in the 97 percent with benign thyroid disease.

The treatment for Godiva is Felimazole (Methimazole coated tablets) two times a day, and every 2-4 weeks, we have made trips to the vet for an exam and blood chemistry panel to confirm that her T4 level has fallen into the normal range. It has taken three blood panels and three dosing adjustments, and finally–we’re there!

Now our second cat, Gracie, also 14 years old started exhibiting worrisome signs—losing weight, upper respiratory problems, muscle weakness, lethargy–again all possible signs of hyperthyroidism. So after a vet visit, and tests run, she too was positive for hyperthyroidism, and is now on Felimazole twice a day. With Gracie, we’re still in the process of adjusting her dosing and will have her T4 levels checked again next week, then if still too high, again in another 2-4 weeks. However, the medication for these cats will be given for the remainder of their lives, even though their T4 levels will fall into normal range. The Felimazole twice a day will keep their thyroid level under control–it’s a life long commitment and one we’ll happily make for them.

Through this, we have learned that hyperthyroidism is most common in female cats, over the age of 8. Cats show signs slowly, but as time passes, if not treated, symptoms become more severe, and it can be very debilitating leading to extreme weakness, overheating, muscle tremors, wasting, difficulty breathing (panting), blindness, and even death. Every organ of the body is affected with thyroid disease–the kidneys, liver, heart, nervous and digestive system are all over-stimulated. Often cats will get diarrhea or have loose stools as the increased level of thyroid hormone causes their intestines to be more active.

There are two other possible treatments that are more long-lasting. One is radioactive iodine–a permanent cure for hyperthyroidism. It requires a special facility that conducts this treatment and a 5-7 day hospitalization. The procedure is said to be safe, and cats, on average, are said to live twice as long as cats treated with daily methimazole. The second option is surgery, also providing a permanent cure, for the most part, but may be riskier due to anesthetic risk factors. The tricky part of the surgical thyroidectomy is how much of the cats glands to remove–too little and the cat will remain hyperthyroid, too much and the cat will become hypothyroid. The surgery is considered to have less predictable results.

So for Godiva and Gracie, I’m thinking about the radioactive iodine treatment, if they are accepted as good candidates. The treatment in the Bay Area costs between $1200-$1500, so we’ll need to start saving for this …. uh, maybe Godiva and Gracie could have a bake sale, or car wash, or wash dishes … to help us finance this?! Don’t think so, they’re way too busy enjoying eating, napping, playing … napping, playing, eating … and living the life of Riley!

From my blog: Homeless to Housecats
Website: http://www.homelesstohousecats.com
 

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Posted: Apr 15, 2012 7:33pm
Apr 10, 2012

My desire to blog my cat stories has been ruminating for a couple of years now. It seems daily that I learn something new about my cats, how to care for them, improve their health, improve the quality of their food, and understand them better, and I feel so grateful for them each and everyday. My cats have taught me so much over these last 15 years, that I wanted a way to share what I have learned. I love my cats so much, that I'm constantly on the quest to provide them with the best--veterinary care, nutrition, comfort, contentment, safety--and yet with a multi-cat household, this can be challenging, but I have found, it is also very doable, but you have to be willing to spend the time and make the commitment.

Looking back, I never set out to have more than a couple cats. So when I reflect, it's interesting how life led me on this path and how one experience led to other experiences, that brought me here today. Of course, my decisions and choices have all brought me to this place, but also my deep compassion for animals and my desire to alleviate their suffering, homelessness, abandonment--did as well. I found that as soon as I entered the world of cat rescue, my eyes were opened to a new world and the reality of how people carelessly discard their cats outside, abandon them when they move, decide they no longer want to care for them or have a pet and take them to the shelter, or get frustrated with their behavior or a habit and just give them up. I came to see the problem of overpopulation of cats, the need to spay and neuter to reduce the population, and the high rate of euthanasia throughout the country. Everywhere I went, I came to realize that many cats were living a life of quiet suffering and starvation, outside, somewhere, in every community. That was the point that there was no going back for me. My eyes were opened, my life was changed, and I had to try to do something about it, and reduce the suffering and overpopulation, as well as raise awareness about these problems.

So today, along with caring for my own rescue cats, I work for the county's largest cat rescue group; work to trap and spay/neuter homeless cats; work our shelter's spay/neuter clinics; help manage our adoption site; produce and manage our cat rescue website (great site!); feed feral cats in my neighborhood, and help the community trap-neuter-return cats to their own communities, all as a volunteer. I advocate for cats, will always advocate for them, and help them to get the help they need.

This blog is my effort to share my stories and experiences, but also to raise awareness about what I've learned about cats along the way. It's a journey that I'm so incredibly grateful for, would never change if I could do it all over again, and one that has given me profound respect for animals in general--and cats in particular. I cherish every day that I am blessed to share with these amazing, smart, loving, connected, sensitive, emotional creatures.

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Posted: Apr 10, 2012 11:41am
Apr 10, 2012

There's a beautiful black and white homeless cat that has lived outside our house for several years now. I named him "Alex." He wanders between several neighbors' homes, but he has two specific homes that he actually calls "home"--ours and our neighbors.

I had trapped Alex about three years ago, and learned that he had already been neutered when I took him to the vet. So I knew that he was a domestic cat who had been abandoned outside. Now, scared, shy, and extremely cautious around humans, he doesn't allow people to come too close, but he trusts me enough to let me within about five feet. He watches me intently, eyeing my every move--seeing if I'm going to betray his trust. But over time, Alex has come to know that I'm not a threat, but his friend. Nonetheless, he just can't let go of his fear--it probably keeps him alive.

I feed Alex and another feral cat on our backyard patio doorstep every morning and night. I love seeing Alex (and opossums and raccoons!) appear in our French door windows eating his breakfast and dinner. As soon as I see his lithe black silhouette at the doormat, I come to the window and talk to him through the glass and let him know how happy I am to see his sweet face and inquiring eyes.

With the recent heavy rains, coupled with the homecoming of one of our neighbors from long-term convalescent care (the other house that Alex shares his time), I seized the opportunity to tell our neighbor about possibly providing Alex warm shelter under her back patio doorstep. He spends considerable time in her back yard, as it has provided a safe haven for him over the years. At our house, I have provided Alex a "dog house" and several cat beds on the patio chair cushions under the dining table tarp, so he can sleep and keep warm. So while talking with Dorothy, I mentioned that we would be happy to build Alex a cat house out of a large plastic box and bring it over. She welcomed the idea (she's as fond of Alex as we are), so we went to work that night on building a simple cat house and delivered it.

I got this simple and inexpensive idea from a feral cat Website. For $10-15 dollars you can buy a large plastic container from Home Depot, Target or any home-building store. Then simply cut a cat door at one end of the plastic for an entrance. You can take the cut-out and make a roof from the rain. Add warm, soft blankets inside, cover it, and you're set! It's that simple. Then put it in a place out of the sun as plastic degrades and off-gasses. We recommend under a tarp, roof, eve, or where it's shady all day.

Now Alex will have a house that keeps him warm and dry from the rain. Hopefully, his little life will be just a little bit better now!

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Posted: Apr 10, 2012 11:35am

 

 
 
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Jennie Richards
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