Sugar’s not fading away, yet

Judging by comments, a surprisingly large number of my regulars are interested in the medical state of my house’s visible soul. If you’re not of them, go ahead and skip this blog entry.

It’s now three weeks and change since the crisis that nearly killed Sugar. And it is less clear now than we thought it was two weeks ago what actually happened to her. The diagnosis after the sonogram was a serious kidney infection. After antibiotics and 72 hours of hydration she bounced back amazingly, displaying more physical energy than we’d seen in years. Like, casual three foot jumps to get from chair to daybed.

But the culture from Sugar’s urine came up negative. That is, no evidence of bacterial infection. So either we’ve had a lab error or something else was going on. Our vets (Drs. Hayduke and Rockwood practice as a team) are puzzled. Dr. Hayduke says he has no explanation. And the really interesting question is whether it was mostly the antibiotics or mostly the hydration that put her back on her feet. We don’t know, and it makes a lot of difference to her prognosis.

If it was the antibiotics, and she’s still got normal kidney function, she might live quite a while yet. The evidence for this is that her bloodwork suggests her kidneys are functioning almost normally – proteins close to normal ranges, blood pressure not elevated.

If it was the hydration, then she’s going to need periodic subcutaneous fluid injections to live, and is unlikely to live long. Evidence for this is that she does seem to be drinking more since the attack of whatever it was.

Dr. Rockwood recommends we start weekly sub-cu, evidently more as a way to take some load off Sugar’s kidneys than because she’s diagnosing final renal failure. We’re going to learn the procedure – and whether Sugar will tolerate it well – on Saturday.

Meanwhile, Sugar seems happy. Not as energetic as the first few days after she came home, which is a concern and tilts towards the hydration-is-what-helped theory, but she’s alert, not in pain and her appetite is good. Her behavior is reassuringly normal, which is to say cheerful and touchingly affectionate. On the other hand, Cathy thinks she may be losing weight, which is a bad sign in a geriatric cat. We’re both watching her very closely.

The indicators are confusing and mixed, and the range of plausible outcomes is wide.

Hm. As I was writing that, Sugar padded into my office, uttered a greeting meow, and jumped up on the guest chair (a couple feet behind my right shoulder) to hang out. She’s now purring quietly, enjoying human company and licking any hand that comes within reach. This is what I mean by “reassuringly normal” — and encouraging, if you know that she did that jump up to the chair a lot as a younger cat but had seemed to lack the energy for it the last couple years. Recently she would sometimes ask in cat language to be lifted into the chair.

In some ways it seems like the treatment response to her crisis peeled years off Sugar’s age. Besides the jumping coming back, the night-yowling episodes we had been suffering through (and attributing to feline hyperesthesia or mild senile dementia) have entirely stopped. She has stopped meowing at the mirror, too. We don’t know what this means. Did she have some kind of slow infection or chronic inflammatory problem that was inducing dementia-like symptoms? Diagnosis unclear.

Cathy and I are taking it day by day. We’re giving Sugar plenty of quality time and love. She seems a little more reluctant to have us out of her sight than before. I think all three of us are stealing jewels. They seem more precious than before.


  1. My comment is completely off-topic.

    I just saw this piece of news about Nokia’s low-end phone division developing a new Linux-based phone OS.

    Building a new Linux-based OS while at the same time killing off the MeeGo product line seems insane to me. I suppose there may be technical reasons not to use Maemo/MeeGo or Android on low-end hardware… hey, that’s as good a reason as any to have an enjoyable software platform U-turn, right?

  2. I liked seeing this post, because it appeared just as my cat is showing signs of recovery from a sudden bout of anemia which required an emergency blood transfusion, and it really mirrors my sense of relief.

  3. Mr. Raymond, I hope that your visible soul recovers well, truly, and quickly. As you say, the clock is ticking regardless and I’m sure that weighs on you, but take each moment with your precious companion as they come, absorbing all the life and joy available in each. Give little or nothing to other possibilities until you must. Your friend knows that the future is For Us, The Living. I know you do too, but even you sir, are subject to humanness.

    I feel like an ass for preaching at you so I’ll silence myself on this after this paragraph – I do empathize with you and your wife and your cat, your family, and sympathize with you all as well. I have two cats, three dogs, and numerous wild creatures that call my property their home, and outside of a few certain groups of humans, I often prefer the company of my four legged pals over my two legged ones. I develop deep, emotional bonds with my animals who are not my pets but my family. My old tom cat Clark is in a very similar situation as your Sugar. In February, I lost my little man, Bradley to the UPS driver – he was just a puppy, learning how to escape. It has been a good many years since I’ve shed a tear about anything in this ugly world, but goddamn did I ever then.

    All that to say that I express my true and honest honest sympathy and empathy to you and yours, and truly, truly hope that you have much more quality time left with Sugar.

    Take care brother, all the best from this end of the pond.

  4. RE: Biology is a bitch Yeah, meat programming sucks. God, the gods, or whomever-the-hell should have went open source. Their spec manuals ae less than informative ;-)

  5. Are you sure that cat doesn’t have a mutant healing factor? Becuase that is a remarkable recovery.

    I hope you and she are availing yourselves of this unusual and fortunate opportunity to spend some quality time together.

    1. >Are you sure that cat doesn’t have a mutant healing factor?

      Not sure at all, anymore. That’s a hypothesis our vets seem to be entertaining.

      Until very recently Sugar’s physical health was so consistently good that we never had to think about it. (Well, we did see some stiffness from the arthritis.) Now it is becoming apparent that she is as tough as old shoe leather.

  6. God, the gods, or whomever-the-hell should have went open source. Their spec manuals ae less than informative ;-)

    The source is available. Coupla hackers named Watson and Crick found the repo a few decades ago.

    Problem is, it’s all obfuscated. And written in a language which we don’t even know yet. Oh, and the interpreters and build system for this language are implemented in the language itself.

  7. Having lost two long time cats over the recent years (one making it within months of 20 years) I read your posts on Sugar and hope for the best with her. As for giving sub-cu fluids — it is very easy and my cat was as feisty as they come and she tolerated it with no problem. Wrapped in a towel to keep escape options limited she would settle down and just let it happen. Best of luck.

  8. “The source is available. Coupla hackers named Watson and Crick found the repo a few decades ago.

    Problem is, it’s all obfuscated. And written in a language which we don’t even know yet. Oh, and the interpreters and build system for this language are implemented in the language itself.”

    LOL. Yeah. Maybe they shoulda’ used reposurgeon…

    Also, the…ahem…intelligent designers…should have read “Homesteading the Noosphere”

  9. “The source is available. Coupla hackers named Watson and Crick found the repo a few decades ago.”

    “Problem is, it’s all obfuscated. And written in a language which we don’t even know yet. Oh, and the interpreters and build system for this language are implemented in the language itself.”

    I’m not sure I’d call that “source” — that’s more like disassembling the raw assembly language and reverse-engineering it.

    I hope Sugar lives a long and happy life. Cats are terrific companions.

  10. We had to give sub-cu hydration to our cat a few years ago, as well as 2x daily insulin injections. He struggled in the beginning, but after the first few iterations, I think he started to understand that it was making him feel better. After that, the struggling stopped, and he would sit and wait while we prepped the syringes.

  11. I have the privilege of feeding a group of feral cats that come and go around my house out in the country. They are greatly amused by my dachshund male, who noisily lets me know of every intrusion. Cats are good for the soul. Some of them are somewhat friendly, and I’ll tell you that apparently old spice shower gel has catnip as a major ingredient, because they actually try to rub any open skin. We have a lot of coyotes around, and they make short shrift out of any of the clan who are foolhardy. I actually think some are gonna stay for a while. So, I hope your cat slides away easy, and that you rinse and repeat……The crazy thing is that these “beasts” have different sounds they make that are in fact communication.

  12. Unlike many cats, Sugar welcomes the occasional hug, if it’s done properly. Here’s my technique:

    1. Settle cat on lap.
    2. Wrap arms gently around cat.
    3. Gently squeeze cat. If you got it right, purrs will remain constant or even increase.
    4. Release.

    Repeat as often as both of you like.

    Thanks for the outpouring of sympathy and good wishes for all three of us; they are much appreciated.

  13. Eric,

    That all sounds very familiar to Karmul’s reactions when he had a diabetic episode (3 of them before the final one that put him in a coma without treatment response).

    I assume they’ve checked Sugar’s sugar levels.

    1. >I assume they’ve checked Sugar’s sugar levels.

      They did. My wife is a Type I diabetic, so the possibility would have occurred to us even if the vets hadn’t jumped on it right off. No, diabetes is not the problem.

  14. Mr. Raymond,

    My wife and I own a geriatric dog who has developed some problems recently, after a lifetime of good health. We are very satisfied with our primary care vet. These disturbing symptoms prompted him to refer us to a practice made up of specialists in different areas of veterinary medicine.

    We are very impressed with the specialists. Their diagnostic capabilities are very high.

    Good Luck,


  15. I am emotionally touched, even I don’t personally know any of the actors. It is so inspiring to read about rejuvenation and the emotional bonding that gives meaning to our lives. It gives me a window to the compassion in your private life. I had this thought which I find to be inspiring, each of us is unique FOREVER, notwithstanding cloning.

  16. I’m no expert but the symptoms you describe are very close to one of my old favourite Cats “multi”. He suffered from bouts of kidney infection for years and as he got older his weight would drop and bounce back after intensive hydration. The biggest problem was that he was a roaming cat who would disappear for a couple of days at a time. On one occasion he returned from a jaunt with enough weight loss to go cross eyed. We would have to get him to the vet to rehydrate him and he would bounce back. Eventually, he disappeared long enough (I think it was four days) that on his return he was in bad shape and he suffered renal failure. RIP multi.

  17. Very glad to hear you’re making the most of your time together. I’ve nursed two cats through chemotherapy, had another fall from a roof and tear her bladder open, and they can be damn tough. My Cinders, despite a long battle with lymphoma, was still strong enough two weeks before the end that I had to hold her down for the vet to take a blood sample. He wanted me to leave her there to calm down for a couple of hours (for her, bad temper was a sign of good health! She was very affectionate and sweet but vicious – a badly mistreated rescue cat) but I convinced him to let me do it. Even though I was about the only person who could control her, mostly because she knew I didn’t care about bleeding, we only just barely got the sample. She was still strong and damn quick.

    The kidneys got her in the end. I knew it was over when she stopped fighting me. Treasure every moment, and best wishes for Sugar.

  18. As an EMT, I can say that sub-q bolus is pretty easy.

    As a human, I just say: Kitty! :) *squishes*

  19. I recently visited the Walter Anderson Museum in Ocean Springs, MS. He liked and painted quite a few cats. I thought about you and Sugar when I saw this quote from him, after being given a particular cat by a friend:

    “Friend of witches and friend of start, what strange force do you carry in your fur? Whose black velvet dress is sprinkled with pearls on a dark night, whose body is alive with white fire?”

    Visible soul, indeed…

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