Saturday, December 31, 2011


Today is December 31st, New Year's Eve.  My brother and I are so excited that Buddy is still with us.  Today is the third New Year's Eve Buds has seen since his diagnosis.  To say we are grateful for all who helped us get him to this milestone is understatement.  To say we are amazed by his patient, loving, sweet personality that has not changed one iota since all this began is definitely more understatement.

Yesterday, I took a break to meet up with two friends for a holiday celebration lunch.  We also squeezed in some errands, touristy stuff and of course, shopping for bargains.  We checked out Saks Fifth Avenue's windows.  What was that all about?  The windows were low-grade Steam-punk and had absolutely nothing to do with Christmas or any other holiday as far as we could see.  For us three native New Yorkers the windows were a big disappointment.  Oh well!

Our lunch was terrific and it was great to get the chance to catch up on what we've all been doing.  Our stops also included the Rockefeller Center Christmas Tree, the Channel Gardens and the second Swarovski Star (same as the one atop the tree) on display at the Rockefeller Center Promenade and shopping, shopping, shopping.

We did all this after I spent the morning running around to the library, post office, comparison shopping at Duane Reade and Rite Aid then picking up Buddy's meds.  Once evening came and I plopped down in my living room, my feet were killing me.

Today will be a down day.   I intend to straighten up, get ready for the new year, cook.  And because it is a holiday there will be some pumpkin puree and some especially tasty meat and fish treats in store for my boy and girl.  Thankfully, Buddy let me sleep a bit longer this morning before he became his usual demanding self.  He's taking a siesta now after having his milk, IV, meds, NF, capsule, clams - it never ends.

Annie on the other hand is still sleeping in!  Talk about a lay-abed, my girl is definitely it.  Additional meals were made for her yesterday so all I have to do today is warm them up and serve.  Savvy planning on my part I must say.

2011 brought many changes and I know 2012 will bring many more.  Some will have significance only to me and mine; some will have worldwide impact, possibly good, possibly bad.  My wish for myself, family, friends and the global community is simple - health, happiness, more of all our basic needs fulfilled.  By that I mean a roof over our heads, plenty to eat, the opportunity to earn a living, freedom from sadness and depression, freedom from oppression and fear.  Wherever we are, may our world improve for the better.

Happy New Year to all!  I have to go - I hear Annie's collar jingling.  She's up and our day together starts.

Thursday, December 29, 2011


Today Annie is a bit off her food.  I think Buddy knocked some of his NF on the floor yesterday and she ate it.  She's sneaked his food in the past and it gives her an upset stomach.  Buddy managed to devour a decent amount of food today and I spent the day cooking for all of us.

Back to last winter:  Everyone was doing well.  Annie was looking better but she also had the additional problem of some gum irritation over one of her upper canines.  The vet dentist looked at that and prescribed some powder to add to her food; it made short work of that issue.  Buddy was holding his own, weight-wise and otherwise.  My brother was helping me with Buddy and his meds; I was finally starting to calm down.

During this time I kept thumbing through the books and trying different recipes which met with varying degrees of success.  Then things got a bit hectic so I decided to try concocting my own meals for Annie since I was finding it a bit hard to cook large quantities of food, mix it together, puree it and portion it.  The process wasn't going as smoothly as I'd hoped.  It seemed like I was always just one step ahead of another mealtime.

Cooking for Buddy was now following none of the feline recipes but rather the "mouse model" which is mostly meat.  Cooked chicken, turkey and sometimes pork added to his NF along with canned clams or canned tuna became what he ate and continues to eat.  Occasionally we add clam juice, canned pumpkin, peas and Whiskas pouch food to the mix.  

One day Buddy decided he no longer wanted dry food (much to my relief).  Before I started to cook for both of them Spot's Stew (chicken and salmon varieties), Holistic and Merrick's canned dog food became Buddy's meal of choice.  Concern about Buddy wanting dog food led me to call the vet's office.  Dr. Young said to feed him spaghetti and meatballs if that was what he wanted - with his condition the main goal was to keep him eating.

Now we were into the summer, mid-June to be exact, and Annie started to pass what looked like small clots in her urine.  She appeared listless, a bit warm and with a bit of discomfort.  She had several accidents involving large amounts of urine alternating with piddling small amounts of urine frequently.

Off we went to the doctor's.  Could this be from leaving the water dish out all day?  A tumor?  No to both was the doctor's response.  If it was a tumor, the bouts wouldn't come and go.  The consensus was this was coming from outside and the doctor suggested baby wipes to clean her after she did her business.  As an added preventative we should stir a small amount of cranberry juice into her meals.

My mission now was to find unsweetened cranberry juice.  Finally located the needed elixir at a Park Slope health food store.  Mission accomplished!

This post pretty much brings us up-to-date.  Future posts will consist of what we're doing to improve Annie and Buddy's health.

Wednesday, December 28, 2011


While all of this was going on, I took a few stabs at creating meals for Annie by adding vegetables to her store-bought food but she still wouldn't eat so I gave up and tossed all the commercial dry food.  While surfing the net, I stumbled across Ann N. Martin's book "Foods Pets Die For: Shocking Facts About Pet Food".  To say that this book opened my eyes would be an understatement.  The information inside was major scary and incredibly upsetting.

The bottom line?  You don't want to know what makes it into pet food.  It was a shocker to find out that the pet food industry isn't regulated at all.  Did I want to keep feeding this stuff to my cat and dog?  Hell no!  When I told Dr. Young I was considering cooking for both Annie and Buddy, she thought I should give it a try.

And so started a dialogue about what books would be good to read in addition to Ann Martin's book.  Dr. Young recommended "Dr. Pitcairn's New Complete Guide to Natural Health for Dogs and Cats" and Andi Brown's "The Whole Pet Diet: Eight Weeks to Great Health for Dogs and Cats".  We also discussed the types of commercial foods to try if I found cooking too daunting but Dr. Young assured me that it would be easy once I developed a routine.  After all, other pet lovers do it.

How bad could this be?  There were people who started home cooked pet food businesses - that was how Andi Brown started - by cooking for her cat who was ill.  She eventually developed Spot's Stew and started Halo Foods.

I never realized my biggest problem would be me.  Bad habits are never good to have and my biggest bad habit is that I love to jump around when reading informational books - OK, I confess, I even jump around when reading novels and sometime (gasp!) I read the end before I read the book.

So I started on my new cooking regime by reading a little bit here and a little bit there in both the books.  Annie still wasn't having what I was serving but after a couple of meals she must have realized the food was different and hey! this is what the people in this house eat (meaning the same ingredients not the same finished product).  The thought of getting the same as everyone else must have been appealing and Annie began to eat better.  The amount of coaxing was diminishing, Annie was eating almost all of her meal with every meal I served.  Even though she was taking in more food, after 2 or 3 days I noticed she was looking better and she definitely had more energy.  I was finally starting to relax.

Buddy, however, was another story.  NEVER, EVER try to get a cat to do what you want him to.  Once you learn this lesson, life with your cat will be wonderful.  I cooked a few recipes I found in the books and met with total indifference at worst or a small "taste test" at best.  Dr. Pitcairn's contained a recipe for felines with kidney failure so I cooked up a big batch intending to portion it out and freeze it.  Was I ever excited - this recipe yielded approximately 2 weeks worth of meals.  If I cooked a few more recipes, I would be ahead of the game as far as feeding Buddy which would give me time to focus on Annie.  The recipe contained egg, rice, parsley and some other ingredients and I thought Great! cats like egg.  It turned out that cats do like egg but not my cat.  Annie ate the food I cooked for Buddy with vegetables and grain added.

All of this took time but I was hopeful we were on our way to better health and greater control of our canine and feline medical issues.

Tuesday, December 27, 2011


It's time to pick up Annie's story...

March 12th, the day of our scheduled doctor visit and Annie's acting OK.  Blood was drawn and urine was taken for testing.  A stronger one-week course of Clavamox was prescribed and we got through dispensing all of the pills by hiding them in peanut butter -which continued to work like a charm!  No battles and no missed pills.

Midweek, we made our follow-up call.  Annie's blood was perfect!  No underlying diseases indicated so far - the results ruled out diabetes and kidney stones.  The urine culture showed absolutely no signs of any infection.  This was all great news but there still was the issue of the battle of the meals (twice a day every day).  Annie continued to refuse to eat her meals but still scavenged garbage in the street, begged for our food and ate her own poop instead.  I wondered if this could be a mineral or vitamin deficiency.   My brother noticed that Annie was constantly licking her private parts - allergies? The doctor wanted a follow-up urine sample in two weeks and a stool sample now.

We scheduled a second follow up.  Annie was doing better at the time of the visit; no more signs of urinary infection.  However, I wasn't happy at all.  Sure, the emergencies were gone, the bleeding had stopped but Annie's energy level was at an all-time low.  She was fat but she wasn't eating well, she looked like she was retaining water, her coat was dull and rough and her eyes had lost their luster.  I was very distressed - my beautiful girl was looking and acting old but she was just eight!

My brother and I were at our wits' end.  There was only one road for us to go down so I made the decision to wean my babies off commercial food by cooking for them myself.  I had no idea what I was getting into.

For the record, it's not easy to post while your cat is sitting on your mouse pad...

Monday, December 26, 2011


Well, it's the day after Christmas and we're back to normal.  I'm not continuing my narrative today either since I need a bit of downtime to recoup from all the pre-holiday activity.

Buddy is back to normal.  That means being a pest and waking me up very early to have his milk, eat and take his capsule but today I am back to coaxing him to finish the remaining half of his milk and all of his capsule contents.  He definitely would not eat all his food no matter what I did.  To top it all off, he didn't want to hold still for his IV but he eventually gave up and stayed until I was done.

Annie came in for a bit of bullying from Buddy when he decided that the sun-covered part of my bed wasn't big enough for the two of them to bask in.  Never mind that Annie got there first.  He just walked up to her and stood in front of her face then let loose with a litany of meows until she decided it was better to yield the spot to him.  Buddy promptly made himself comfortable and Annie was left to settle down on another part of the bed.

This scenario goes on often and I find it a bit perplexing with Annie being 42 lbs. and Buddy only 6 lbs.  I never understood why she just gives up the bed, chair or couch to him.  She even allows him to eat from her bowl on occasion, just standing there watching him and looking distressed about the fact that he decided that what was in her bowl was more interesting than what was in his.  All he ever does is meow at her or just stare at her and she caves.  He's never been aggressive but he always gets his way.  All I can think is that she can't stand to hear the constant talking as much as I can't stand it.  Buddy has always been very vocal and incredibly persistent - he just doesn't shut up until he gets what he wants.

I hear the click of nails on my hallway floor; I know it's Annie and she is looking to go out so I'm ending this post to spend some quality time with her and relax before we begin a regular day tomorrow.

Sunday, December 25, 2011


I'm breaking from my usual narrative today to wish everyone a very Merry Christmas and to shout from the rooftops that my little Buddy is here for a third Christmas since his diagnosis!

The only children in this household are the four-legged variety so you can imagine how important it is to us to have Buddy with us this Christmas Day.  I truly believe that even Buddy realizes today is special - he wasn't his usual demanding or contrary self this morning.  He drank all his milk, ate most of his NF prescription food, licked up all his capsule medicine and he even held still for his IV and injected meds, all without a single complaint.  To top it all off, he ate a bit of canned pumpkin without any coaxing and believe you me that's saying a lot!

Annie slept in (as usual) getting up about an hour after the rest of us.  Even she was undemanding this Christmas morn.  She spent some time on our back porch and didn't even sit staring at my back while I prepared her food.  No whining or impatient fidgeting either.  She ate her meal with her usual gusto and went back to bed.  As I write this post, the two of them are lazing together on my bed, keeping each other company and soaking up the sunlight streaming through the windows.

Buddy's survival is a triumph for my brother and myself.  Not just because of the longevity but more so because of the quality of his additional time.  We cannot take all the credit for this, his doctors and the veterinary staff are a large part of this success and of course we cannot forget Buddy himself.  If Buddy had decided not to put up with all the fussing, poking and prodding he would not be here today despite all our best efforts.

It's important in this type of situation to set short goals - we try to keep Buddy going for an additional six months or until someone's birthday; this past year our goals have been shorter - an additional month, two weeks, a week, until the next holiday.  Our next goal is to keep him going into the new year.

Today will definitely be a holiday for me.  I'll do whatever strikes my fancy - read, listen to music maybe watch some Christmas-related programming and later on, my brother and I will go out for Christmas dinner - what should shape up as a pleasant day.

So, as I sit typing this post while I drink my mulled hot cider and devour a Christmas Day brunch consisting largely of the remains of Christmas Eve dinner, I'm thankful for the simple gifts of family, friends and my two "babies" because it's the simple things that are the most important after all.

Merry Christmas to all and to all a Happy Hanukkah and Happy Kwanzaa too!

Monday, December 19, 2011


The December 16th office visit brought with it injections of famotidine and antibiotic then orders to purchase Pepcid AC (famotidine) administering 1 pill a day and more antibiotic for 5 days - 2 pills a day.  Annie also went home with 3 cans of  IAMS Veterinary Formula Intestinal Low-Residue food to eat giving her system a chance to settle down.  The problem cleared up.

We made it through the holidays and were now in the dead of winter when Annie became sick again.  February 17, 2011 was a particularly bitchy day at work; my brother and I were so looking forward to kicking back for the evening when at 9:30PM Annie piddled little blood clots.  It was hard to see and it looked like spotting from her anal sacs so we weren't concerned.

At 11PM she urinated clear with a bit of blood in the end part of the flow but by 11:30 she was pestering us to go out yet again and the urine she passed contained blood.  It was off to Warren Street Emergency.  We didn't have to wait long but by the time anyone could see Annie no one could get a urine sample since she'd wet the reception room floor 3 times.  Diagnosis: urinary tract infection (surprise!) and the emergency team wanted to do sub-Q since she was a bit dehydrated.  Since I was doing it for Buddy, I decided to play doctor for Annie as well and told them I would administer the 300ML at home.  This never happened because once we arrived home, Annie started to drink on her own.  We decided to pass on X-rays, wanting to clear the infection up before we went exploring for additional causes.  Once the round of medicine was finished we were to take Annie to Dr. Young for a follow up visit.

Two weeks' worth of Clavamox was prescribed.  Administering the pills turned into a royal battle.  I could only assume that they tasted vile since Annie wouldn't take them plain, wrapped in any kind of cold cuts or in pill pockets.  The only way to get them into her was to coat them thoroughly in peanut butter - and we're not talking your run-of-the-mill peanut butter like Skippy or Jiff, we're talking expensive organic peanut butter made from fresh peanuts and oil at about $4.99 a 18 oz. jar. At this point I was trying to figure out if there were jobs that either of them could do to earn a living!  The medical care was getting expensive.

As if the battles to get the antibiotic into Annie weren't enough, mealtime was turning into a battleground as well.  She would sit in front of her food dish, look at it, look at me but refuse to eat.  Once anyone else in the house had food she would beg; something she never did before.  Eventually, she resorted to stealing the cat's food so we had to make sure it was well out of her reach.  All unusual behavior for our sweet little Annie.  Around this time she started eating her poop and eating stuff off the floor and the ground outside.  I was ready to tear my hair out.

March 11th, the day before the follow up visit: as we came in the front door, Annie wet the floor.  Immediately we went for a walk.  She passed urine with blood and three little piddles with clots.  It looked like we were back where we started.  Needless to say my brother and I were extremely upset - we hadn't even made it to the follow up visit and Annie was sick again although she was acting fine - she ate dinner, had water and treats.  Two hours later she urinated again but this time the urine was clear.  We decided to keep an eye on her, taking her for her follow up visit the next day.  To say we were stressed would be an understatement; to deny that we were terribly upset and concerned would be the height of denial.  Where was this leading to?

Tuesday, November 15, 2011


And so we settled into a routine of extra feedings, medicines and IV treatments.  The situation changed again when we caught Buddy looking at his litter box like he didn't know what it was for.  He decided my hall closet was an ideal place to turn into a toilet and thankfully we caught him just before he relieved himself.  A bit of ingenuity on our part solved the problem.  By lining the floor of this small closet with newspapers and placing overlapping chucks (paper pads used to cover the bed sheets of those who are incontinent) which we taped to the wall and another thick layer of newspapers on top of that Buddy had the privacy he needed.  Apparently cats can get peculiar about their toileting and look for dark corners to relieve themselves in.  

We clean this area frequently to keep it odor-free and actually it's easier to maintain than the litter box.  Just roll everything up and stuff it in an old shopping bag then discard.  I never liked kitty litter anyway!  It's also a good use for all the newspapers and paper ad circulars we collect.

Dr. Young cautioned us to remember that Buddy was sick regardless of appearances and to always keep in mind that our primary goal was to manage the disease and keep him as healthy and comfortable as possible.  

To complicate matters, we had major flea problems during the summers of '09 and '10.  I do not believe in flea collars or medicine added to my babies' fur which posed a problem in flea control.  My brother and I combed Annie and Buddy several times a day.  Any fleas caught by the flea comb were thrown in water and flushed away.  I also added raw garlic to Annie's meals but not Buddy's because of his condition.  Frequent washing of bedding and vacuuming of rugs and upholstery got the problem under control.

Buddy had a bout of tapeworm (because of the fleas) and that was cured by a pill.  By now it was June 17, 2010 and we were closing in on Buddy's one-year anniversary.  Off to the Doctor's we went for his 6-month visit.  I was apprehensive, what would his blood work show?  How sick was my little man after one year of controlling his renal failure?  Dr. Young was amazed.  The blood work showed that his values were holding and he actually put on a half of a pound.

Everything was going along fine for Buddy.  We were looking forward to a calm end to 2010 and an uneventful holiday season with our beloved little man and our sweetheart of a girl.  However, more medical issues were on the horizon.

November 8th came and Annie had streaks of blood in her urine.  At first, her urine appeared darker than usual and I attributed that to not drinking enough water.  Never a big fan of water, Annie has to be tricked into "drinking" by adding extra water to her food.  By late in the day it was apparent that the 'dark urine' was actually urine streaked with blood.   Off we went to the Doctor's and Annie started a round of antibiotics.  

Thanksgiving passed, Buddy was doing fine, Annie's infection had cleared up and the fleas were a distant memory.  Now we began to focus on the holidays.  December 16th, Annie relieved herself and what immediately followed was a large amount of bright red blood and mucous.  She was quite subdued.  This frightened us.  Since it was late at night, we took her to the 24 hour Veterinary Emergency. The diagnosis was gastritis but we did not have a definite cause.  Could it be Annie ate something outside we weren't aware of?  Was stress the cause?

This was by no means the end of Annie's medical issues.  

Monday, November 7, 2011


First order of the day was for my brother and I to learn how to administer the IV.  One of the Hope Vet Tech Reps demonstrated the procedure.     Let me tell you it took a bit of doing.  We were nervous at first but determined.  Ultimately it took about a week to get used to doing this.  Famotidine, which inhibits the production of gastric acid and, in Buddy's case, improved his appetite, also had to be administered by injection.  We quickly learned to inject it into the IV line.

The next step was changing food.  That did not go easily; all Buddy ever wanted to eat when he was well was Deli Cat.  Reluctantly, we continued to feed Buddy Deli Cat since he continued to  eat only a little bit of any of the prescription food we offered him.  We tried all three kinds of canned renal food as well as a pouch version but Buddy's fascination with the new food wore off quickly. 

During July 4th weekend 2009, Buddy ate only a little portion of rinsed tuna and some crumbled soft Pounce treats.  He became very listless, disinterested and he stopped grooming.  Doctor Young suggested an appetite stimulant.  We also tried a prescription diet pouch food.  Buddy decided the pouch food was more interesting than the canned versions and his eating habits improved.

An abdominal sonogram confirmed that Buddy didn't have any tumors.  We set up a daily schedule for shots, IV, meds and feeding along with a weigh-in once or twice a week.  With renal failure the key to good care is maintaining a good schedule and making sure the patient eats.  That means keeping a variety of foods readily available to offer at all times.  And the variety of foods can be pretty bizarre but we feed him whatever it takes to keep him eating. 

Currently, some of Buddy's favorite foods are:
Low Sodium Tuna (rinsed)
Fresh Salmon
Chopped Clams (rinsed) (I purchase Snow's Chopped Clams because they are MSG-free.) 
Chicken - white, dark and organ meat
Milk and Yogurt (cats are lactose intolerant but constipation is a problem with renal failure; a small amount of milk or yogurt every day promotes regularity.)
Turkey (This is the big one!  Buddy will run the New York Marathon for a piece of turkey.)
Chinese Roast Pork (Another favorite; we rinse it before giving it to him.)
Bok Choy (I can't figure this but Buddy will steal it out of your dish while you're eating.)

We spent the remainder of 2009 dealing with Buddy's eating habits as well as his temperament concerning his medicines.

At this point, Buddy was still eating commercial pet food and would continue to do so throughout most of 2010 until something happened with Annie that prompted me to consider cooking for them both!  I will continue this narrative with my next post.

Friday, November 4, 2011


In this day and age, our pets have become members of our families. They bring us joy and give us grief and, sad to say, they also become ill and need our care.

May 31, 2009 was the first time we realized Buddy was pestering us for all kinds of food even though he had access to his favorite dry food all the time. A check of his weight revealed no major issues - he weighed in at 11 lbs. which was standard for him so we didn't think anything of it.

From that day in May to mid-June, Buddy hounded us for all kinds of food, which we provided, but even though he asked for different foods, he was being picky. He felt light so my brother checked his weight - 7 lbs!  What a difference from less than a month before. We decided to visit the vet.

The tests turned up a slight heart murmur. Doctor Kristine Young of Hope Veterinary Clinic decided to do complete blood and thyroid panels to check for renal failure and thyroid issues. June 22, we received our answer, moderate chronic renal failure. The next step was to do a urine analysis - that was OK. Doctor Young went over all his values with us and explained where he was in the progress of the disease.  Apparently we caught it earlier than most pet parents. If Buddy did not respond to treatment, he would have two to three months. If he responded to treatment, he would have up to two years and with a little bit of luck, he would have slightly more than two years.

Now began the task of learning how to administer saline solution by IV and injecting meds into the line.  Have you ever given a cat a pill orally? Not. A. Fun. Experience. There also was a capsule that had to be opened and dumped on top of food. Thankfully, Buddy liked the taste of that one.  Along with all of this came the trial and error of trying different Prescription Diet foods of which Buddy liked NONE after initially eating all three varieties with gusto thus creating a false hope in us that we might actually make a smooth transition from Buddy's favored food (Deli Cat) to his prescription diet.

We are now entering the two-year five-month mark since Buddy's diagnosis and quite frankly we are amazed that he is still doing well.  In subsequent posts, I will document Buddy's two-year plus journey and all my brother and I have learned during the course of caring for him.

My reason for blogging.