Wednesday, January 29, 2014

2014 Budweiser Super Bowl Commercial

I figured I'd better post this for my family, because it's just too cute for words.

(Hey, sorry if you got an error. Apparently I did not copy from the Budweiser YouTube version and copied an unauthorized version that was removed. I have replaced it with a link from the Bud YouTube channel).

And then of course, who can forget last year's:

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

The best presents are sometimes the most basic ones

I hadn't seen Gretchen, a past volunteer, then adopter, now friend (the best part of rescue work), since before Christmas, so when we met at our usual watering hole in Owego after a very long hiatus, she had presents for the cats:

Of the basics of cat rescue (above and beyond food, of course, which many rescues are picky about), cat litter and paper towels head the list. They are depressing to buy because--while for one cat they aren't that expensive--to manage the care of a bunch of cats, they take a bite out of the budget.

I am always so surprised and thrilled when a person comes to visit the cats for the first time, perhaps to adopt, and they come toting a great big package of paper towels. I have to admit, the fact that they realized we would need these and brought them before they even learned whether this was a nice place (versus a frightening dump) always impresses me. And those people almost always turn out to be some of the nicest people I have ever met.

Toys are always appreciated from those who know us (and from those who are mailing gifts--obviously paper towels would be a bit ungainly and pricey to ship!). New toys are great, not only for the cats, but for the experience of adopters. Shabby, fur-covered cat toys make potential adopters shake their heads quietly in concern. They may not say anything, but believe me, they are thinking it. So to have the option of throwing out old toys and replacing them with new keeps the cats interested, and the adopters more comfortable interacting with them. Also, should any cat fall ill, even with a sniffle, all the toys have to go in the trash and be replaced with new, so that virus doesn't hang out after the place is disinfected.

Yet paper towels are gold. They may seem to be a modest $10 donation to the person giving them (well, almost $11 or more now), but they are 1/3 to 1/2 of a bag of good-quality cat food for us! The cats can get by without premium toys if they need to, but a place like this can't function without cat litter and paper towels. And if the day came when there were only X dollars to spend and all three had to be purchased, it's the quality of the cat food which would have to go down to afford them all. You only save about $2 if you skimp on the quality of paper towels. You save $20, and can buy almost two more bags of economy food, if you go down to lower-quality food. And that's not a place we would want to be. Back when we only had younger cats, a few weeks of a cheaper food wasn't too much of a concern. I recall the days of ping-ponging between a lower-grade food and Purina One depending on my budget. But now that we have four senior sanctuaried (non-adoptable, except to the most understanding of homes) cats who are over 13, two senior adoptables, and three 3+ year old adults, skimping on food could result in huge veterinary bills (Decent kitten chow is actually fairly affordable compared to high-quality adult food).

Luckily, early last spring we received a HUGE donation of quality food, so the cats will stay on that gravy train until probably March.

So thank you, Gretchen and Brian, for the gift!

Here's little Zoe, their Owl House cat:

I still have past thank-you posts to make for other gifts the cats received this holiday season as well. And our 2013 wrap-up newsletter should be in the mail soon.

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

TinyCat gets a home.

Good deeds multiply! Over a year ago I helped catch a scared, shy cat in a trailer park, who had been abandoned by the family of a man who passed away. The woman who lived next door had looked for help for the cat, fed him, and kept an eye on my traps. I went into her home one day to meet her cats (so I know she has a lovely home and takes wonderful care of her cats). The day before yesterday she sent me an email: her beloved 16 year old cat had passed away this fall.

And she had fallen in love with TinyCat online.

So finally this handsome and hilarious guy gets a home. Although I don't know what Molly will do without her kitten to play with. I may need to bring the upstairs kittens down to keep her occupied!

Kitten Bowl!

A little competition for the Puppy Bowl. Hallmark Channel now has the Kitten Bowl!

Wrapping the goal posts in sisal rope was inspiration. And they are all shelter kittens, just as the Puppy Bowl are shelter puppies We used to joke that we had to have two TVs come Super Bowl Sunday. Yikes, now we either have to pick, or get three!

Personally, I'd have two and just watch the puppies and kittens. ;)

Saturday, January 11, 2014

The Great Cinnamon Experiment

Ivan is still hanging in there. In fact, I now have the opposite issue with him. After months of his glucose being way too high (400-600 range) I'm now having to watch to make sure it's not too low! How's that for a kick in the gut?

(Above, Ivan sinking down to rest between lunch sessions).

As a person who works/lives on a computer, I could not help squirreling around on the Internet looking for info on insulin resistance in cats. First off, let me stress: The best option for a cat in this situation would be an extended (day or more) stay at a 24-hour clinic where he could be properly regulated, if possible, with an addition of short-acting insulin.

(I deleted paragraphs about why some people might not be able to pay additional thousands for this option depending on the cost of 24-hour care in their area--we've been there before and don't need to visit it again)

Let's proceed to why people resort to hair-brained Internet options.

Let's talk --- Cinnamon.

If you Google around on "cinnamon and diabetes" you'll discover there was an initial flurry of excitement over this common household spice possibly making people more sensitive to insulin. Then there was discussion over the dangers of too much cinnamon, which contains coumarin (toxic to the liver), and the unfortunate apparent fact that less-toxic cinnamon (ceylon) did not have the same benefits as the more-toxic common cinnamon (cassia). Then there was discussion that, after all, cinnamon of any sort really was not recommended for diabetics.

What the hell. Ivan is at end-of-life anyway, and increasing insulin dosages did not appear to be helping. Previously I made a decision of this sort with my dog, Sadie. Put her on pain-relief for her arthritis and risk kidney/liver damage and grant her a shorter but less painful life? Or leave her without pain relief and grant her a longer but more painful life? We went with the pain relief.

Would a week of cinnamon kill Ivan? I doubted it. I mixed 1/16th (approx) of cinnamon in Fancy Feast wet that was run through a blender, and gave it to him via syringe. (For the record--I did call my veterinarian about this issue on Day Two of the experiment to let her know I was doing it. Bless her--she actually researches these things for me. Seriously, she should get a hourly payment for the time she puts into my hair-brained schemes).

Ivan didn't think much of the taste. He didn't spit it out or froth at the mouth, but clearly he was giving me "what the hell?" looks. However, since it was just once a day and the rest of the time anything I put in his mouth was tasty, he grudgingly allowed me to continue. Grudgingly.

I didn't have much hope, but again, what could it hurt? I tested his glucose 4 hours later. 314. That was promising. However, his following levels blew me away:

230, 254, 238, 259, 248. This from a cat who was bouncing between 400s and 600s for weeks. Dinnertime: 186. Midnight: 207. Holy crap!

Next day: 254, 398, 356, 284, 229, 304.
Following day: 304, 292, 268

However, he once again began to "creep up," hitting over 400 one day, and I figured that if cinnamon had initially worked to make him more insulin sensitive, it appeared his system was still compensating against it. In addition, Ivan was becoming increasingly resistant to eating it. The "go to hell" looks were becoming "let me see how far I can fling this stuff out by flicking my tongue" actions. It's possible the increasing glucose numbers were because he was ingesting less cinnamon. He began eyeing me balefully when I approached. Ivan's happiness is more important to me than keeping him alive, unhappy. I figured if the cinnamon had had an initial impact, it was still losing ground. So I pushed the insulin up one more unit and stopped the cinnamon.

Right after this decision, I also had a couple things occur that lowered my personal stress quite a bit. Between having "accepted" that Ivan was soon going to pass, plus two other major stress-reducers, my level of calm increased exponentially.

I had stopped testing Ivan a day or so after upping his insulin and cutting the cinnamon. I figured I would judge his time to go by his actions rather than his glucose level, to give him some last days of relaxation without me looming over him with a lancet. I expected him to deteriorate, but he remained about the same.

About a week after stopping the cinnamon, he was acting just a bit odd, so I figured I'd test him.

63. Yikes!

I began testing him three times a day to make sure he didn't get too low. He was running just below to just over 100. He never got over 220. I began having to feed him more. Home glucose meters are not accurate, and 100 could be 50, or 150, so very low levels can be a bit scary. Yesterday I heard crunching, and he was at the dry food bowl, which he hadn't touched in a month.

So currently I have a diabetic cat who is running decent glucose numbers, who has almost zero muscle mass, serious neuropathy, but last night somehow managed to leap up 3 feet onto my bed, ignoring the ottoman I have for him as a step-up. He still walks away from wet food after eating only a tablespoon, and has to be syringe-fed.

Let's be clear. I am not saying his current low glucose level are due to the initial knock-down by cinnamon. Keep in mind:

A) I did kick his insulin up a whole unit. Maybe he finally reached the correct level. Maybe the big jump gave his system a kick in the ass. Don't you love my highly technical terminology? That doesn't explain the initial drop before I increased the insulin, but it could account for the current low levels.

B) I have been exhibiting considerably less stress around the house after emotionally deciding to put him down. I have been testing him less (fewer ear pricks) and have been acting more relaxed around him. I may have been stressing him out with my previous actions. Cats are far more sensitive than we are, and Ivan's whole world pretty much revolves around me. Me being stressed could equal Ivan being stressed. More stress could equal increased illness. Less stress might allow his body to react more normally to insulin.

C) He is nearing end-of-life. He could have systemic changes (increased organ/gland activity out of the body's alarm mode to keep alive, keep alive!) that have made him more insulin sensitive.

D) A combination of all of these.

I'm absolutely not convinced a week and a half of cinnamon, which was then discontinued, would have a continued long-lasting impact on a living creature's insulin sensitivity. However it did seem to have an initial impact on his glucose levels.

I am not a "magical thinker" but I do believe that animals--who cannot articulate their every concern in words--are so incredibly sensitive to body language and tone of voice, that their powers of observation would seem nearly magical to us if we could actually comprehend it.

When you think about all of the anecdotal evidence about pets who perk up immediately after an owner has finally let go and decided "it's time," you do have to wonder how much of our pets' well-being is influenced by the stress they pick up for us.

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Digging out the Fast Food Ferals

Pictures speak for themselves.

I purchased straw from Agway for the sleeping shelters. I had a bunch left over and put it up for free on Craigslist but had no takers. I'll give a call to a few colony caretakers I know to see if they need any.

Downsizing (square feet) the cat facility in prep for the cold's 5 degrees F at the moment and headed downhill. It's going to be a cold night, and we're nowhere near as cold as the Midwest. The wind is howling outside. I'm not looking forward to heading outside for my pre-bedtime cat-check.

You can imagine heating the second story of a 100-year-old barn is a bit of a challenge. Luckily, with five of the fosters in the house with me, I don't need both 12x24 sides of the 24x24 cat facility area. I hate to shut the cats down to such a small space when they are on their turn for "liberty" however, so I decided to shut the door between the the entrance area (where cats are commonly kept in cages while recovering from spay/neuter) and cut a cat pass-through in the door to the run-area/cat room side.

I tacked a thick towel over the flap to reduce the amount of cold air that can come through to the heated side. Now if the cats want to go to the cold side (and they usually do--it doesn't seem to bother them at all to "visit" out there) they can, and aren't stuck on just the warm side.

I then moved the cage-room heater into the cat-run vestibule so there are three heaters and a heat lamp available. That side is now a toasty 67 degrees, which is a bit of a marvel when it is near zero just two plank-widths away, outdoors. The barn is plank walls with tongue-and-groove interior siding. That's it for insulation. The floor is insulated with fiberglass batting (or, rather, the ceiling of the floor below is insulated) which helps a bit. The windows are decent quality and were very well installed back whenever they were put in. In fact, the barn windows are less drafty that my house windows.

I sleep better at night knowing it's quite warm out there. If I were trying to heat the whole place it could be flirting with falling below 50, or even to the 40s if it falls to 10 or 20 below, and that's just too cold. Luckily the temps don't fall this low that often. Once they go back up into the 20s, it's not too hard to heat the entire space to 65. Expensive, yes (to the tune of $200 a month). But do-able.

Still, I'm very happy that I have few enough cats that that isn't even an issue. They are actually warmer out there than I am in the house.

Saturday, January 4, 2014

How do you say goodbye?

And by that title I literally mean, how do you say goodbye. Apparently italics are not permitted in titles in Blogger. Or, how have you said goodbye, in the past?

I am in "goodbye week" with Ivan. (I wrote that and got choked up. I came back later to continue) As his glucose levels go up and up, despite his change in insulin and a short-lived experiment with cinnamon that actually brought his glucose levels down for three beautiful days...until they started slowly climbing again. His neuropathy is severe, and he is unhappy walking. Not just uncomfortable--unhappy. The only time he seems content at all is when he has found a comfortable place to sleep with one of the other cats or clambers up on the bed to sleep with me. Then the old purr rumbles out. He doesn't eat more than a few bites even though he is hungry. His attention wanders, and off he goes away from the plate. If you set it in front of him again it's like he rediscovered it. Look! Food! Imagine that! So I'm syringe-feeding him after he's had his tiny bit from the elevated plate he eats from, to make sure he gets the same amount of food at the same times every day.

I have about $900 on my CareCredit card and considered taking him off to the emergency vet for an extended stay to see if his levels could be brought down there. But given how much he hates the car and the veterinarian, and how much he has been through, as well as his other issues, like his potassium deficiency and his seizures during sleep, I have decided against it. I also don't think $900 will do it in this day and age. There will be a part of myself that probably will always regret that I didn't make that last-ditch effort, but I've weighed it pretty carefully.

I had emotionally decided to have him put down before I began traveling again this spring for work. He requires too much hour-by-hour care for anything less than a live-in pet-sitter. I figured we'd at least have the winter together. Of course, if he rallied, I would have changed my mind.

However in the past four days his joie de vivre has tanked. Oh, he can get around. He can eat, and drink, and poop, and pee, and get from A to B (sort of). But clearly he's doing those things because his body says "It's time to eat. It's time to pee." Not, "Gee, I'd like to go look out the patio door and see what's going on."

There is still some "Gee, I'd like to jump up there to lie with Bear, or with Susan" left. I'm glad of that. But not much. And not always.

Both he and Cricket (who is also 16 plus years old) have taken to sleeping off in the bathroom by themselves (which is 42 degrees F right now in this below-zero freezing snap). Wandering off away from everyone else is a common behavior I've seen in the ill and elderly cats that have come through my life, when they are reaching that time when they just don't want any sensory overload, want to be left alone, and shortly pass on or become so ill they need help crossing over.

Still, when he's hungry or restless, Ivan still wobbles over to me in the kitchen, or will suddenly appear by my feet as I work at my stand-up desk. I'll look down in surprise and there he is, looking expectantly up at me with that sort of half-kitten look that is so surprising in a normally distinguished cat-of-attitude. His eyes aren't vacant. They are curious. This happens maybe once every few days. The rest of the time he focuses off in the distance, and even calling his name doesn't draw his attention. He is often too tired to make it to a comfortable bed and just pauses, eases over on his side, and lays down--even on cold hard floors that he never would have chosen when he was healthy.

I don't want his death to come after a frantic 45-minute drive to an emergency clinic at 2 in the morning because he has gone into convulsions. I feel he's really reaching the point where that kind of thing could happen at any time. I also don't want to discover him in a cat bed soaked with pee because he just can't be bothered to try to get to the litter box. He hates it when he gets food on his fur when I hand-feed him and he can no longer groom it off (Luckily Nellie takes care of that for him, since he also despises a washcloth. She grooms him religiously). I can't imagine how he would feel about being regularly soaked with urine.

So it's goodbye week for Ivan. He'll get all his favorite foods, to the extent that they won't make him feel too ill from diabetes. I'll take care not to yell at my computer when I get peeved with what appears there, to keep the stress level down. Because I close the house down to just the den, kitchen area, and bathroom in the winter, I've opened up all the rooms and cranked the heat so he can go where ever he wants. He immediately toddled off into the great room and popped up on the couch there, momentarily interested, and lay down. But soon he was back in the bathroom, this time with Nellie laying over him like a blanket. Nellie is my Angel of Death who suddenly begins paying special affectionate attention to the next cat to die, probably because she--a shy cat--feels less threatened by the dying one. Monday I'll call my vet and arrange for a home visit when it's convenient for her to come all the way out here. I'll take the day off from work. And I'll get used to it being very empty at that special place by my chest where Ivan likes to sleep.

I'm sure most of my readers have lost a cat, dog, or other animal who was very close to them. I know we love them all, but there are those few who simply complete us, the same as some humans--but not all--complete us. I'm guessing we all have our own rituals, when time gives us the opportunity to say goodbye to our friend.

So instead of "Susan, I'm so sorry" posts which might normally come at the end of an entry of this sort, it would bring some peace to me to hear how some of you have said "goodbye" to your pets in the past, whether it was before they passed on, or after. I'd rather hear about how much other people loved their past pets, rather than being told folks are sorry about me losing mine. If you are a blogger and you have blog posts of those times, feel free to leave a link or URL. Or if you want to write a blog post now, and then link from here to there, that would be fine, too.

Molly-the-dog front and center at the Feral By Nature blog