Saturday, 23 August 2014

Goodbye to Sparkle Cat

Actually, it looks pretty good on me!
Our hearts are so, so sore and the tears have fallen hard and fast when we read of the loss of the amazing Sparkle. We can only guess how heartbroken her beloved human Janiss is and the difficult time this is for all. Her dignified post is a tribute to her and the magnificent Sparkle.
Sparkle and her human took us to their hearts and we have loved reading their posts for fun, for wisdom and companionship. I had never seen a Somali cat and Sparkle is clearly imprinted on my brain as the standard setter for this gorgeous and dignified breed. That Sparkle's human could be thinking of Magic's illness while Sparkle herself was so desperately ill really touches us.
We so hope Sparkle's human doesn't mind us appropriating one of our favourite pictures of her to say goodbye. It is not only Sparkle's blog that is dark this weekend it is many of our hearts at losing such a bright star. May Sparkle's spirit continue to twinkle wherever she is and may she reflect that light on Janiss and little Summer who has some huge paw prints to follow.

Monday, 18 August 2014

Red to the Vet

Last week I took little Red to the vet's for his routine vaccination. As he has had a dreadful reaction in the past I only allow him to get this every 18months which is still within the license of the vaccine.

He was a complete sweetie and though clearly terrified he just snuggled up close to me as much to get near me as to get away from the vet. However, he sweetly let them get on with it without complaint. I did have to open the carry box at the top as no way was he coming out the door but he let me lift him without protest although it was like lifting wet spaghetti.

The vet found two things which she asked permission for the student vet to feel/listen to 1. an impressively palpable full bladder 2. a 'squeak' in his lungs. My head snapped up at this and I asked what the squeak meant. She smiled and said poor Red was so scared that fear was making him squeak and he was suppressing it when he was breathing in. Awww, my poor boy....!

The vet was quite amazed that Red is normally bold, tricky and quite the character at home except if someone comes in as he throws himself over the back of the sofa to hide. He's just not great with strangers.

I drove him back home quickly so that he could visit the litter box and not the carry box!

Saturday, 16 August 2014

Rule of Thumb

This is written in response to The Stunning Keisha's Claws post as it would have been too long for a comment. I am no expert and neither would I advocate something for another cat I've never laid hands on. However, I am happy to tell my story of how I trim my cats nails. It works for us so I am happy to share on that personal basis.

I only realised when I was rereading this before posting that it probably says more about me than about nail trimming. Obviously, anyone knows the theory of how to trim a cats claws as all you do is clip the very end of the claw avoiding the red vein...seeemples! Well, it would be, but we all know about the gap between theory and practice when working with a cat who has other ideas.....!

Magic and Red have been having Mani-Pedi's since kittenhood but it was on Cat, their predecessor, that I first started doing nail trims. Cat was a much trickier proposition with an overdeveloped sense of ego and we were inexperienced cat owners. Nail trimming started when she was an adult cat and serious wrangling was often needed as she was an outraged ninja cat. There was always protest but as the years went on it became token noises just to save face! I don't always win the first couple of rounds and have received a fair few 'second prizes' for my troubles as I posted last year. 

Nail trims are essential around here every 3-4weeks. Magic in particular shares her love by hanging on in a fierce cuddle over my left shoulder. She's so secure I have actually been able to take both hands away and she stays in place. Unfortunately if her nails are not kept under control she unintentionally shreds my shoulder. Red has huge soft long fingered paws which I suspect may have an opposable thumb. He uses them very dextrously and I fear him getting a nail caught and ripping it off. It is fine if someone is around and knows not to help him pull the nail out but to do the converse and stroke the top of the paw to make him retract it. 24hr supervision is not possible but regular nail trimming sorts this.

Both sleep well but neither does the profound 'sleep of the dead' that Cat used to achieve so I always do it with them awake as they would trust me less if they woke to find me attacking their nails. I also don't do it in their sleeping or resting places as that would make these places seem less safe. I tell them what needs done in advance and ask for their permission and help. Yeah, I know.... how nuts am I?

I quietly get a bath towel and some toenail clippers which are only used for the cats. Don't open the nail clippers in advance, they can hear them from a hundred paces and vaporise! I don't use the curved vet nail clippers as I found them awkward to know where I am cutting and the nail shredded which still makes me sick to think of it-eeugh. When they were kittens the small fingernail clippers worked fine.

I go and collect the victim cat and close the door of the room I am using which doesn't have inaccessible hidey holes. I settle us down and offer lots of reassurance and an opportunity to do it by cooperation without a restraining towel. It is soon clear whether this is going to be possible and if not I go straight to the towel to save prolonging any distress. I reckon the towel is used around half the time. I am very purposeful about nail trimming and I like to think both of mine are secure in knowing it is not a battle to the death to escape but a fairly short procedure with a fixed end and cuddles to signal it being over.

I normally sit on the bed cross-legged holding the cat like a baby with their spine to the crook of my left arm and rest their bottom in my cross legged lap as this gives a little hollow to sit them on and make the back legs stick out. This means I can restrain them by trapping them between my arm and side/tummy and still have the left hand for securing the paw and extending each claw. If I'm using a towel I use a kidnap style wrap crossing it over tightly at the neck, not too tight but firm enough to repel an escape. It can be useful to lay the towel out across your lap for quick access. The right hand is the clipping hand. If you are a leftie, just read this in reverse :-)

Shouts of outrage I ignore and talk softly and reassuringly as I work, but if they get very distressed I release them and restart within an hour. Usually, I just do the other one then come back to the protester. This allows them to settle but also underlines that when I say it is nail cutting time then it is! I think this cuts down on confusion and lessens distress.

If the cat is not very compliant I always cut the back claws first so that if a rogue paw escapes I don't end up with the skin flayed from the underside of my forearm. Alternatively if everyone is playing nicely then either I pick up the first paw or loosen the towel a fraction and 'allow' a front paw to pop out then retighten the towel and start the snipping.

I only snip the tips and avoid the red area with the vein because it is correct and also because the thought of a bleeding one makes me want to vomit and my tummy flip inside out! Be prepared for your otherwise normal cat to appear only to have three legs. I have no idea how they do it but both seem capable of secreting a back leg about their person at nail trimming time!

I don't stop for treats or draw it out in any way. I do lots of reassurance but make it clear this is happening, I am totally on their side but it needs done, and I am doing it. It is very purposeful and over as quickly as possible then I use final words like 'all done', 'finished' and do lots of petting or a big cuddle. Sometimes they just want to jump down which is fine and I fill the food bowl or crack out the really good treats all with loads of praise.

I prefer to do nail trimming at home. It isn't exactly fun but this way there are no scary trips to the vets. It is all done at home by the beloved human and it is all very routine, firm but fair. It doesn't always go to plan but I will win the war if not every minor battle. The job doesn't involve the use of sedation but with Red I very occasionally use zylkene when other situations are distressing him. It is a milk protein derivative and doesn't cause any of the scary side effects of the traditional sedations. I wrote a pile of posts between here and here on my experience of using it on Red. Our vet recommended it and I wouldn't suggest anyone tries anything without checking with a vet.

In the past this used to be a two or even three person job but in all honesty early on I realised it was much easier by myself. Involving the rest of the family meant coordinating holds and changing positions and I found that more stressful. I also think the cat felt more distress at being outnumbered. Doing it one-on-one with the cat means the focus is exclusively on the cat, they are in a cuddle hold and facing outwards without being crowded and it is easier to adjust the hold and pace more easily.

If anyone has good tips of their own I am always opening to learning something new.

When not perky meets pinky

Magic is doing well and although her readings are a little higher than I was hoping they are still in a good range on half unit of insulin twice daily. She is well in herself, her little necklace of itchy bumps have all gone and she is eating well.

The mornings are becoming a little bit of a flashpoint again but all credit to her that she walks through to the living room and jumps up on the sofa when I ask her and show her the syringe. There are a number of humans and many children who wouldn't be that compliant so I am counting my blessings. Occasionally she will jump down but can usually be coaxed back.

Maybe her ears are becoming sore from being stabbed twice a day, either that or she is just getting a bit hacked off as this is going on much longer than she wants to tolerate. Not being a morning personality she is not that perky and is definitely crankier than she is in the evening.

In the past few days she's taken to snapping her head round as I prick her ear and letting out a little snarly ouch! Unfortunately, as she turns round with her mouth open, she ends up swallowing my pinky finger which is level with her mouth as I work on her ear. This shocks her and I jerk too when I feel her jaws round my finger! She isn't biting me but she does give me a fright and she looks pretty startled herself at choking on an unexpected finger...!

Monday, 11 August 2014

Ladies and Gents

Red is a little Gentleman and insists on escorting me to the toilet almost every time I go. He will even wake up and come running from another room if he hears me moving about in case I need him to lead the way.
I am not sure why he does this as it's been going on since he was a kitten.
I've been managing to get to the toilet by myself since childhood so I think I am quite competent but no, my fluffy guide insists and will even run to overtake me and shoulder open the bathroom door.
I am the only one he does this for so I don't know if he thinks I am daft or it is in honour and recognition of my favoured human status.
I don't mind the escort as it is very endearing and he is so sweet but I do wish he wouldn't remain and sit expectantly while I attend to matters! Sometimes he insists on being lifted and sits purring while I am otherwise occupied.
I am fairly certain this is not normal but I don't know how to break the news to him without hurting his feelings. I have tried closing the door but he becomes distraught, yells and batters hell out of it. Any suggestions are welcome or should I just accept that toilet visits are a two person role around here?

Friday, 8 August 2014

Instrumentally stupid question

Time for an amusing tale I think as things have been very serious around here. Magic is still doing ok but there have been some higher blood sugar readings which I hope are to do with the new can of test strips rather than her. I've ordered some more to compare and will post how we get on. Red continues to shed fluff and we are still spitting, sneezing and chasing the stuff. I haven't yet asked the hairdresser about a Sphinx haircut for him but I am getting there...! I also saw something funny tonight and posted it on my other blog if you are in the mood for another silly story.

This happened the day before Magic got critically ill but I was too focussed on what was happening with her. Now things have calmed a little (fingers crossed) it seems like a good time to share and I hope it makes you smile too.

I was in the vet's collecting a prescription and a great big burly man came in with a cat box. He sat down, put the cat box on the floor and his cat started registering it's protests. The two receptionists laughed as apparently he does this each time he comes, the cat not the man! The man opened the small flap on the top of the box to stroke the cat but it was not buying it. It was not in distress, it just wanted out, NOW!

When I looked over I thought it was possibly a Siamese and I was really keen to say hello to it as I've never seen one in the flesh, or more accurately, the fur. At the time I had been listening to Doreen Tovey's audiobooks at night about her two Siamese which had left me both intrigued by these cats and too scared to contemplate having one of these four legged demolition experts. The chap was happy for me to stroke the cat and it felt utterly beautiful and had such a sweet angular face. Even tho' it was still singing the song of its people!

I told him I'd been listening to an audiobook on Siamese and he knew her books. Incidentally, the man looked like a bouncer and it surprised the hell out of me that he'd read these frightfully twee books. It just goes to show, I suppose, how into the breed Siamese owners are which is something Doreen Tovey talks about in her stories.

I went on to ask him what his cat's name was and he said "Trumpet". At the time I was bending down to the box so was at his head height as he was seated and I said "Trumpet? That's unusual, where did you get that from?". The man looked at me as if I was an imbecile, then looked down at the cat bawling its head off as I twigged and burst out laughing before agreeing it was a stupid question because the deafening 'Trumpet' was very aptly named.

Tuesday, 5 August 2014


You haven't seen much of this boy on the blog recently. While Magic has been getting all her care he has been a little star and I've been making sure he gets his full quota of cuddles and sweet talk. However, he is in BIG trouble with me......
....You all know how much I love my floofy boycat but right now I am plotting various assaults upon his little angora person. Why, you might reasonably ask? Well, he's shedding what seems like a polar bear amount of balls of soft fluff which is rolling up and down my hall like tumbleweed, coating every single surface he looks at and lodging itself in clumps on the carpets. Don't let this cute face fool you.
No matter how much I vacuum within seconds he's replacing the stuff I sucked up. Every time I hear the familiar 'doof, doof, doof, doof, doof' as he scratches another chunk of fur out of his neck I can feel my heart sink. Lifting him for a cuddle or being swiped by his tail as he passes means you spend ages trying picking his almost invisible hairs from your mouth, skin, clothes and eyelashes.

I have tried brushing him but he only allows his face and neck to be brushed if he can hold the brush. It also must be one of my hairbrushes, for some nutty reason.
Sweet he might be but the we are rapidly disappearing under a blanket of ultra-soft floaty fluff which gets everywhere. It is not good for him either as he's been yakking up some substantial furballs these past couple of mornings.
Currently, as he wont let me brush him properly, I'm debating taking him to the hairdressers with a picture of a Sphinx cat and asking them to style him pretty....!
 If you do feel the need to call the SSPCA to come and rescue him due to my threats......
....just make sure you tell them to bring an extra big pet brush and a great big tranquilliser dart for the gibbering woman clutching the vacuum and muttering "out, out damned fur" in the style of Lady MacBeth !
 Till then, while I am trying to live under a haze of the floatiest cat hair the culprit sleeps the sleep of the innocent....!

Sunday, 3 August 2014

Magical Update

Mainly very good news from Thursday's vet visit at the Glasgow University Vet School's Small Animal Hospital with Magic. This place literally has been a lifeline for my girlie. The staff are wonderful and really know their stuff as well as genuinely relating to their animal patients which is so reassuring.
The weekend before I'd done another glucose curve which showed a lovely stable blood sugar profile in the range of 5-8mmols with no seriously low hypo readings that made me want to wet myself. I was again humbled by how accommodating she was in allowing me to repeatedly stab her ears to check her readings. I was grateful she worked with me but sad to see the little haematoma I had caused on her ear with the repeated testing. The twice daily routine tests I do have allowed me to pinpoint which varieties of food have the least or most impact on her blood sugar which is useful info for the future.
In herself, Magic has become more playful and although I thought she was bright enough she has been doing a little more like raiding the toy box for something to play with and giving Red some decent hisses. Luckily the hissing is the usual 'wind and water' that doesn't even scare my wussie boy-cat!  

As usual at her appointment she was a little star and did her usual potter round the reception desk afterwards to say hello to the lovely receptionists. She came home with a leg bandage which displeased her greatly and I was struggling to loosen or cut it off until I realised I could just slide it off. Note the little poodle-style sock haircut on her leg from her time in ITU. Note also we do NOT mention it, point at it or worse laugh at it.....!
The offending bandage...
Her blood sugar levels have been going well on the 1unit of insulin and following a very positive lab sugar and fructosamine test she has been reduced to half a unit of insulin twice daily. Although its only been a day and a half she has been stable on this which I am delighted about.

Her vet was most cheeky when I asked if she thought a remission might be on the horizon. She said she was hopeful we were going in the right direction as "1unit for a cat of her weight was almost too low a dose to be controlling diabetes".....huh, my girl a chubby puss...I'm outraged...well, ok, maybe 5.4kg is on the voluptuous side, but we never speak of a lady's weightEmoji I've been cautioned against being too hopeful that she is achieving remission but each step is very positive.

On Friday the vet called with the latest blood results. She still has some results which are outwith normal but most have been heading in the right direction and they are very pleased with how things are progressing. However one dark cloud is looming as her creatinine has come back as elevated and is raising concerns that her kidneys may be developing signs of a degree of failure. We've come through so much recently and I am just hoping that perhaps it is maybe a reaction to the traumatic insult her body has had to handle as I can't really face up to another problem right now.

The vet was adamant that I didn't feed her the high protein diabetic food if her kidneys are in trouble but, as Magic has absolutely no intention of even looking at that stuff, there is not much chance of this being an issue. Trust her to develop a condition that stops her getting onto a diabetes control regime!

On Tuesday, after she allowed me to cut her nails, I removed her soft collar that was protecting the healing oesophageal tube site. It is looking a little tattered as she is a bit of a neck scratcher. My sewing skills are not up to much but I definitely think this is prettier than her exploded bandage look!
As a little side issue, since her collar came off she has developed a 'necklace' of bumpy spots around her neck. I'd initially thought the first two at either side were from the failed central line placement during her surgery but they were soon joined by half a dozen more.
I found it quite hard to get a look at them as, if I wasn't helping her scratch them, she was not interested in wasting time raising her neck. The vet thinks they are just from clipper rash and has prescribed a once daily antibiotic which is clearing them up beautifully.

Since she came home during her tube feeds and essential diabetes care I have signalled that we are in serious care mode by putting a towel down on the sofa and telling her what is happening. At all other times when the towel is gone she is quite safe from any treatment interventions and happily sleeps there or comes up for cuddles. As I needed to give her the oral antibiotic directly and with the nail trimming I chose to do this elsewhere so that I did not confuse her, or worse lose her compliance. And what hell both of them have been. This little girl who allows me to stab her with lancets and needles turns into a ninja octopus when it comes to giving her half a tablet or a mani-pedi. So I was right keeping the two strands of her care apart and it proves cats are a law unto themselves.