Feline health update

This one is for the surprisingly large number of my blog readers who have sent inquiries about the health of Sugar, Cathy’s and my cat, following her near-death experience late last year. The rest of you can proceed about your business…

Sugar bounced back amazingly after the acute kidney infection was treated and seemed like she’d shed a few years off her age. But it’s clear from her blood work that she has compromised kidney function and we were advised to do regular subcutaneous hydration if we wanted to keep her alive.

It took us a while to work out an M.O. for this, and at first our frequency was spotty. But hydrations about twice a week are now part of the routine, and Sugar tolerates them very well. She’s still eager to jump onto Cathy’s lap in her office chair and become a relaxed cat-puddle there, despite the fact that every few days or so this results in a whacking big hydration needle being poked through the loose skin behind her neck. (Cathy does the insertion with her right hand, holding the cat in place with her left; I work the valve below the hydration bag.)

Sugar will squawk indignantly when the needle goes in, but is then pretty compliant for about 7 or 8 minutes after, which typically allows us to get about a unit and a half of fluid into her. Eventually she decides she’s had enough, at which point she starts seriously squirming to get out from under Cathy’s hand and I know it’s time to shut the valve. Cathy lets go, she jumps off Cathy’s lap in a huff…and ten minutes later she’s back to purring at us as per normal.

It would still be hard for anyone who didn’t know it to guess that Sugar is an ancient with kidney trouble. She’s still bright-eyed, active, curious, and very outgoing to our guests. She seemed to be gradually losing weight for a while, which is a bad sign in an elderly cat, but that’s reversed in the last couple weeks – she’s gained a pound or two, maybe, and has a healthier layer of fat over her ribs and spine than she did in late spring. Our vet thought she was looking fine at her last examination.

Sugar is now about 6 months shy of being 20 years old. It looks like she’ll make it to 20 in style. Every day is a blessing – she was curled up against my bare right foot in my desk pigeonhole while I wrote most of this, half-asleep and tribbling contentedly to herself.

We know the clock can’t be turned back. If heart failure or a stroke doesn’t kill her, the day will come when Sugar has deteriorated so much that the last gift we can give her is a painless death. But that day is not today, and doesn’t look like it’s coming soon. Sugar continues to amaze us with her fortitude and delight us with a heart as big as all outdoors.

22 thoughts on “Feline health update

    • >Take good care of her.

      Everything that the combination of lots of human affection and a competent, sympathetic vet can provide is being done.

      One of the consequences of Sugar’s 18/00 on the charisma dice is that the human support network around her is unusually dense and active, considering that she’s, well, a 13-pound housecat without an organ of Broca. :-)

  1. We had a 13 year old cat Muffin that was a wonderful cat. But his liver started shutting down, so had to put him down – I miss that cat still 12 years later. He was friendly, kind and wonderful. The cat we have now is devoid of any personality. She’s a eat/sleep/go outside cat and doesn’t have anything to do with humans essentially. Really not a people cat. /sigh. Enjoy your kitty and I hope she keeps going for a long time.

  2. Sounds like all the more reasons to find out why naked mole rats live so damn long yet so small.(They can live up to at least 28 years!) They also never been shown to get cancer and can reproduce up to their final days.

    Once we figure it out, we can use the knowledge gained to helping catkind, other pets, and mankind to live longer fruitful lives.

  3. Glad to hear it. I’ve done the subcutaneous hydration thing for many of my cats…. You might consider warming the fluid up to body temperature before injecting it–less of a shock.

  4. Rock on, Sugar.

    Desiree, at 18.2 (roughly) bounced back after a scare, and is back to acting like a kitten – vocalizing at her humans when she’s doing her kitten thing, sitting on them whenever they sit still, demanding seafood or chicken (duck is also popular, but less likely to be on hand), and sunning on the patio when not otherwise engaged in Very Important Kitten Business. A bit less coordinated – she misses when she jumps sometimes – but she still tries, and mostly succeeds.

    It is hard to think about what is next. Two more years and committing to another cat will mean we will be here again about the time I theoretically will be retiring. But, we’re suckers, someone will find a rescue in need, and I’ll keep sweeping up fur. Sun rises in morning, news at 11.

    On the mean time, Des is special, at it seems like Sugar is. Enjoy, and Bob bless.

  5. I’m glad to know she’s still with y’all. I lost my ancient kitty (he was about 17) back in the first week of May. He, too, had kidney problems, and I had just recently taken him to the vet for the first time in years, thanks to the charity of neighbors. We thought he was getting better when he went MIA, presumed dead. We suspect a coyote or great horned owl got him. At least he died in the fresh air, as he lived. In his 17 years, I don’t think his total indoor time amounted to as much as a month.

  6. I have another friend who lost a beloved 17 year old cat in May. Her cat had a heart murmur, as well as kidney problems.

    @ + Eric h I know about warming up the bag, but actually doing it with a drip bag (which is what I have from the vet) is tricky, especially when I can’t count on Sugar coming by just when it’s warmed up. Part of the reason she’s been so good is that I try to do the hydration when she’s relaxed and in the mood to be on my lap anyway, and I include lots of petting and scritches both before and during the procedure. Trying to grab her and just do it when *I* want to do it doesn’t work very well (she’s more likely to be restless and/or try to fight it), and is one reason why it took us awhile to be able to hydrate her regularly.

  7. @ Deb I’m sorry your cat isn’t a people cat.

    Back when we had just moved into our present home, I sometimes took Sugar outside on a long leash. Her personality was different when she was outside–she’d still acknowledge me if I came close, but she sniffed the air and stalked wildlife with great determination. I found the distinction between her indoor and her outdoor behavior interesting.

  8. I’m pretty sure if I tried to give a hydration bag to any cat I’ve ever owned, I’d be missing an arm and assorted facial features.

  9. Maybe the “Great Programmer” made an ‘off-by-one’ error, and granted Sugar ten lives, instead of the usual nine. :-D

    Seriously, may she live as long as she is comfortable, and may she continue to give and receive much love from her servants.

  10. In EMS we use IV warmers all the time. I’ve tried to find the models we use online, but they or anything comparable is ~ $500. You might see if you can get a CrockPot to hold steady at ~98F (err on the cool side if need be) and keep the IV fluid bag in there with extra water to act as a medium. If you keep that nearby, you’d have warm IV fluid whenever you need it.

  11. I learned a trick from a vet tech that infuses the same amount of saline in much less time. Once you open the valve, you can put both hands around the bag of fluid and squeeze down on it. Less needle time = happier cat.

  12. Great news — glad Sugar’s still going strong. The cumulative effects of kidney disease, hyperthyroidism and cripping arthritis finally killed Tom last December, and I still miss him like crazy.

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