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Home Care for Cats

Posted by at 3:09 PM | Permalink | Comments (14)


Home Care for Cats by Lisa TowellWhen I was 5, I had to get a series of painful shots, and I’ve been afraid of needles ever since. So when my cat was diagnosed with kidney failure and the vet told me he would need regular injections for the rest of his life, I thought, “There’s absolutely no way I can do this. I can’t even look at a needle, let alone give my cat a shot every day.”

Kidney failure or chronic renal failure (CRF) is common in older cats. It is usually a terminal condition, but with good home care, the cat can enjoy months or even years of high-quality life. An essential treatment for CRF cats is regular subcutaneous (beneath the skin) injection of fluids. The fluids keep the cat well hydrated and comfortable and allow the remaining healthy kidney tissue to work as effectively as possible. The vet showed me how to give the injection: You pinch up some skin above the cat’s shoulder blades, slide in the needle, then wait for the fluid to flow through a tube from a bag suspended overhead. I was amazed to see that my cat didn’t mind at all—apparently, cats don’t have needle phobias like some people do.

For our first try at home, I was so nervous my hands were shaking. I thought we were off to a great start until I realized that I had pushed the needle right through my cat’s skin and out to the other side. The fluids were making a nice little puddle on the table. My cat, picking up on my distress, decided that he didn’t want to sit still for this craziness. For the next several treatments, my husband had to hold him while I managed the needle  But we got better at it with time. I always warmed up the bag of fluids so that it would feel nice going in, and eventually my cat started looking forward to fluids time—it really did make him feel better.

I’m so thankful that my vet encouraged me to overcome my fears and give the injections. (And I’m not as afraid of needles anymore.) Some cat guardians consider immediate euthanasia when their cats’ kidneys begin to fail, but my cat lived for more than 2 years after his initial hospitalization, and for all but the last few weeks, it was hard to even tell that he was sick. After we both got used to the injections, I didn’t even need to hold him and I could practically do the whole thing with my eyes closed. It was heartbreaking knowing that he was going to die, but I was grateful for each additional day that we had together.

FelineCRF.com is a great resource if your cat has just been diagnosed with kidney disease. You can find out about symptoms, treatments, diet, and how to interpret your lab results. The website even has a step-by-step illustrated guide to giving subcutaneous fluids. It’s also a good idea to find a cat sitter who is comfortable giving the injections. Try asking at your vet’s office—many cat sitters offer medical services, or you can find a veterinary technician who does cat sitting on the side.

My other cat was diagnosed with feline diabetes, another common cat ailment. As with diabetes in humans, it can be fatal if unmanaged. But once it’s under control, a cat can live with it for many years. After my experience caring for my CRF cat, I felt comfortable taking this on. It was surprisingly simple. Giving the insulin shots was a piece of cake—the needle was so small that my cat didn’t seem to feel it at all. I also bought a glucometer, which tests a small drop of blood to determine the blood glucose level. This enabled me to give him insulin only when he needed it, and having the glucometer at home saved us many stressful trips to the vet. Getting the drop of blood was just a matter of pricking a vein on the outside of his ear. Check out FelineDiabetes.com for tips on caring for your diabetic cat.

I wish there were support groups for home medical care of cats. Now that I know how to do it, I help out friends who have CRF or diabetic cats. It helped ease my grief when my CRF cat passed away to know that the home care had given him so many additional months of life.

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14 Comments

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    Susan Mullen says...

    August 27th, 2010, 12:06 pm

    For people taking care of cats with health problems, the website http://www.holisticat.com offers excellent resources.

    Kate Berg says...

    August 27th, 2010, 12:07 pm

    How wonderful that you were able to find the courage to take care your cats the way you did. My little boy Smokey had to go through the same injections for kidney failure, and boy was that tough to do to him. They did help him for awhile, then he eventually had to be put to sleep which was heartbreaking. I am grateful that the injections did prolong his life for a little longer than what he would have had otherwise. Thank you for sharing your story with us!

    Yannieck says...

    August 27th, 2010, 12:25 pm

    Animals deserve all the care they need so this is a wonderfull story, I’m very sorry for your loss though.

    Tanya says...

    August 27th, 2010, 1:09 pm

    Your story is so familiar, we have had to do this with 2 of our babes through the years. My Muffin has been getting fluids weekly for 2 years now, she is 22 years 4 months. If it not for the fluids she wouldnt have made it this far. Its a life saver. I too remember the first time, my whole body was shaking, and I swear I held my breath the whole time. Afterward Patience (true to her name) looked at me like what was the big deal.
    As hard as it may seem, its harder on us than them. And it really does perk them up. Nice piece Lisa, I really enjoyed reading, thanks…

    Lacy says...

    August 27th, 2010, 2:17 pm

    Thank you for this wonderful article! My Sweetheart PeeWee has been diabetic for 4 years, and tolerates her twice daily shots to the point she will come for me when it is time if I am running a little late. But we haven’t missed even one shot…it is really fun to be a part of keeping her healthy and active, and you are correct…the needle phobia just goes away somehow!!

    KIM CHENHALL says...

    August 27th, 2010, 4:14 pm

    Thank you so much from Australia. Extremely helpful. Have just obtained two rescued cats and gathering all information possible to ensure they live a happy and healthy life without constant vet visits.

    K. from NYC says...

    August 27th, 2010, 4:29 pm

    My cat has been taking Plavix for more than a year now. It’s a quarter of a small pill every other day. She is pretty good at taking it, but I still feel guilty every time I force it on her.
    I have been trying to figure out what has been going on with her lately. She has been having diarrhea for about one month now, and in it there are white round things. Many of them, practically her poop is made out of them, there is more white that brown. They are small, round or oval. I can’t afford to take her to the vet, but they did write a prescription for her for a medication against giardia (why for giardia — I don’t know). It did not work, so I am guessing it’s not giardia. Her poop is kind of greasy, and she poops several times a day. Amount of poop varies. Does anyone know what it may be? Thank you so much.

    sandy says...

    August 27th, 2010, 4:42 pm

    Thanks for this. One of my cats has slightly elevated creatinine (an early warning sign of something wrong with the kidneys) and I’m stressed about the idea of him being sick and about how and if I can care for him and how long he can live with it. Your article is very timely for me. It’s so good to know that your kitty lived for two more years. Now, if I could just get a urine sample from my cat and find out what exactly is wrong with him, we’d be on our way to taking care of this! (I’ve been trying for weeks to get him to pee in special non-absorbent litter and taken him to the doctor twice – he won’t pee in the litter and they always say his bladder is empty when I take him in. Cats have their own timelines.) Thanks again for all you did and will do for your cats.

    Carol says...

    August 27th, 2010, 5:40 pm

    I also went through this process with a super kind and encouraging vet. I am so glad that I could have a few more months with my precious kitty. We had only a few years, because I adopted her from a shelter at an older age. She was soooo patient and sweet with me and purred during her IV fluid treatments. It’s very worth it to learn the process. Thanks for sharing this.

    Beth says...

    August 27th, 2010, 10:21 pm

    I have had a cat who had kidney failure but she didn’t need the fluid injections until she was really sick toward the end of her life–otherwise she was fairly healthy and the only thing we had to do was to monitor her diet and make sure she had enough water to drink. Later we also had a cat who had diabetes. She actually loved the times when it was time for her insulin shots because that was when she got one-on-one time with either me or my mom alone–without her daughter (whom we also adopted along with her) and she really did quite well on the insulin–only had to be at the vet for monitoring twice. She actually ended up dying of cancer, but her diabetes was under control even at that time. Its amazing how much we can do for our animal friends nowadays and its also really sad to think about how many people put an animal to sleep simply because they have been diagnosed with something as manageable and treatable as kidney disease or diabetes.

    Natalia says...

    August 27th, 2010, 11:19 pm

    DEar Lisa, your article was very important to me.
    I recently heard that vacines can cause tumor in cats. Do you have some info on that to elucidate me?
    Its hard being on your own at these times.
    TY
    Natalia

    bonnie zarrillo says...

    August 28th, 2010, 12:10 pm

    thank you for thiis information, sometimes the little things we can do really help us all in this big world

    Kris says...

    August 30th, 2010, 11:20 pm

    Great article, Lisa – I think it will help a large number of people who have pets that need medical care involving needles, regardless of whether they are needle-phobic or not. Working in the veterinary field for 12+ years, I sometimes forget how much bravery it takes for a person to decide to do these life-saving medical procedures at home…thank you for my own little refresher course!

    Natalia, to answer your question regarding tumors caused by vaccines: yes, there has been some evidence that some vaccines can cause fibrosarcomas in cats. The cases that have been documented are rare. Originally, it was thought that the feline leukemia vaccine was the primary vaccine that was causing these tumors, but there have been cases when it was a different vaccine associated with the tumor. Every cat caretaker needs to weigh the pros & cons, and risks and benefits of the vaccines. You will want to discuss this with your veterinarian to determine if any vaccines can be skipped without risking your kitty’s health and safety. And remember: even if you and your vet determine that you can forgo the vaccines, it’s still important to take your kitty in for his/her yearly checkup!

    Lisa Towell says...

    August 31st, 2010, 10:11 am

    Natalia,
    The question of benefits vs. risks for feline vaccines can be a complicated one, and these tradeoffs are different for each individual cat. I recommend discussing vaccination risks with your vet, who will be able to advise you how to make the best decision for your cat.
    -Lisa

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