Caturday – Isabel’s Time in the Spotlight

I've dedicated so much energy to Dunkin lately because of his medical scare, I decided to give Izzy some time to be the center of attention. One of the funniest thing about Isabel is that she EATS FISH FOOD! How crazy is that?

It's a morning ritual in our house, right around 7:00 on weekdays that everyone gets their breakfast – the cats first, then the fish, then me. I always turn the tank light on just before I feed the fish and they have been trained like Pavlov's dog to come running… ummm, swimming… when the light goes on because they know the food will be following.

Well, the tank light makes a pretty darn loud clicking sound when it turns on and what is hysterical is Isabel comes running too… from wherever she is in the house. I click the tank light on and immediately hear her paws hit the floor from wherever she is perched at the moment. Ha! Cracks me up. This morning I got some shots of Izzy and the fish, enjoying a light snack together.

In case you're wondering, she never goes after the fish. Even when they are nose to nose eating in the same spot. She looks at them but doesn't swat or try to grab them. I suppose they both know there's more than enough fish food for everyone. Hee hee.

These are from our last trip to the vet. Isabel is smarter than Dunkin in that she remembers the cat carriers and immediately runs and hides when they come out of storage because she knows they only mean one thing… a trip to the vet. So every day that contains cat carriers is automatically a bad day in Izzy's world. Dunkin, bless his heart, does not clue in until I have grabbed him and am trying to finagle him butt first into the carrier. Right about then is when the light bulb goes off over his head and he starts frantically trying to get away.

So here's Izzy desperately trying to find a good hiding spot in the vet's office. Can you find her in this picture?

Ok, not such a great hiding spot. Try again Izzy.

How about this one?

MUCH BETTER! Good job, Izzy. She actually found this spot when I had stepped out to go to the bathroom. I got quite a good laugh out of it.

Such a sweet girl.

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Owners of Male Cats – Please Read

It'll be a Merry Christmas after all but we had a pretty big scare yesterday.

I was sitting on the couch, drinking my morning quart of coffee and snuggling with Dunkin, my male cat. As usual in these situations, I have to get up periodically thus displacing the cat.

My cats and I speak a common language and there are certain phrases that we completely understand from each other. From them, jumping on the bed and purring in my face means "I'm hungry", climbing on the computer keyboard means "I'm more important than your blog, love me", and swatting the venetian blinds means "I'm bored".

From me, "Time for bed, picklehead" means, well, it's time to go to bed, and "Gotta get up" or "Gotta go to the bathroom" mean "kindly remove yourself temporarily from my lap so that I might take care of business. I shall return momentarily at which time you may resume your snuggling".

Usually, we understand each other perfectly, but yesterday Dunkin didn't budge with the usual "Gotta get up". Didn't budge with "Gotta get up, Dunkin Donut". Didn't budge with "Gotta get up, Pookie Poo Poo" with accompanying physical cue of wiggling the legs. But being as I really had to get up, I picked him up to move him and he let out a yowl and thrashed around in the air until I put him down.

Now, he was not mad at me, I could tell, and though he is a vocal cat, this yowl was more like pain. So I start cataloging possible reasons in my head and really couldn't come up with anything except that he had been tussling with another cat again. I did not find any puncture wounds or cuts in a quick sweep on his back half, but I was very concerned so I called the emergency vet (mostly for reassurance, to be honest). That phone call lasted all of 5 minutes and in 15 minutes I was in my car on the way to the emergency hospital.

The vet tech who answered the phone asked three questions:
"Is he male?"
"Where was the pain?"
"Have you seen him pee lately?"

For me the answers were:
"Right near his hind legs."
"No, he's indoor/outdoor and he pees outside."

They responded, "He could be blocked. You need to get him in here right away."

Oh crap.

That was most definitely NOT reassuring.

So after a prolonged battle of attempted bribes and physical force, I finally got Dunkin into the cat carrier and into the car for the trip. Now, he is very talkative as I mentioned before and gave me all kinds of not-so-nice words and cat cursing the whole way there. But I talked to him about being sick and going to the doctor and loving him so much and  wanting him to be healthy and happy.

They weighed him – a whopping 12.8 pounds – and the vet felt his bladder which she said was very small at that point. She asked tons of questions about his habits, what food he ate, grooming habits, changes in his behavior, etc. Then told me that what she was concerned about was a urinary track blockage which in male cats can be fatal very quickly if left untreated.

So, for all you Voxers out there who have male cats, and especially neutered male cats – please read this. She said this is one of the most unknown and most important medical problems for male cats and lots of people lose their cats before they even know something is wrong.

A urinary track blockage can be caused by lots of things (bacteria, virus, change in food, bad water, stress, change in environment, etc) and no one is exactly sure from cat to cat why it starts. Essentially a male cat's urethra is longer and more narrow than a female cat's and is therefore much more prone to getting clogged. If a cat experiences any of the above issues, crystals can start building up in his urine which can be irritating causing mucus to be produced. The combination of crystals and mucus form a plug which can partially or totally block the urethra limiting or stopping urine flow.

Like a bladder infection in people, having difficulty or pain attached to urinating is a horrible feeling. It can be bloody, there can be pushing and straining, and excessive licking of the genital area (in cats – ha ha) to try and clean it enough to function properly. Many people actually think their cat is constipated because the behaviors in the litter box are the same.

But unlike being constipated, if the urethra is allowed to get completely blocked, the urine backs up, the bladder gets bigger and bigger, the kidneys stop creating urine because the bladder is full and thus stop cleaning the body of toxins, and finally the bladder ruptures and urine and toxins leak into the cat's body killing him pretty quickly. It is very serious, very dangerous, and oftentimes lethal.

By some extremely fortunate circumstances, I was at home yesterday, snuggling with Dunkin, and happened to hit exactly the right place to make him yowl and raise my concern. Because it turned out that he did have crystals in his urine and though his bladder was small when I brought him in at noon, by 8:00 last night it had grown twice as big and he was only able to produce a couple of drops of urine even with the vet palpitating and squeezing his bladder directly.

By the grace of God I got him in EXACTLY when he needed to because if I had not, he most likely would have died.

That yowl is the only thing that triggered my concern. He was still eating normally, he was still snuggling and purring, he was still playing and going outside and picking on my female cat, Isabel. Except for that yowl, every other thing about him was normal and I never would have known. Cats often will not let you know anything is wrong until it is almost too late.

So last night the vet inserted a catheter both to unblock him and drain the urine. Dunkin will wear it for 48 hours to make sure he does not block again. The good news is his blockage was very crystally and right at the tip, as opposed to being much more solid and blocked throughout the whole urethra. He was expelling urine and yelling his displeasure at the vet by 10:00pm. She is also giving him IV fluids to keep him hydrated, kick his kidneys back into action, and keep him urinating under observation. They will remove the catheter and watch him for another 12 hours or so to make sure he continues to urinate on his own.

He will be home Wednesday morning at 7:00am. I am very blessed. Another few hours or if he hadn't yowled and I might have lost him.

So, everyone who has a male cat, please get yourself educated about FLUTD. Google "cat blocked urinary track" and read read read. I recommend this site because it is almost word-for-word exactly as my vet explained it to me and is in language anyone can understand.

I hope all of you are as fortunate as I was if this ever happens to your cat.
Bless you, bless your cats, and Merry Christmas.

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Adpoting my Kids… I mean cats… Part Two

Last weekend I decided to tell the story of adopting my first cat, Dunkin. Today, Isabel takes the spotlight.

As I mentioned in Dunkin's story, when he was a kitten he thought everything and everybody was put on this earth to be his friend. He walked up to each animal or person he encountered without fear, sniffing them and rubbing on them.

It was amazing to watch because he literally seemed to be without fear even of things it should have been in his natural instinct to be afraid of, or at least wary of. Like deer. And dogs. And other cats. And cows. There were times I wished wished wished I had my camera as he went nose to nose with something many many times his size. Remarkable.

It was absolutely clear from Day One that Dunkin needed a friend, but I was already hiding him in my apartment, so I needed to wait. As it happened, I was in the final process of buying my first house, so I knew it wouldn't be long.

I moved into my new house, a cabin in the mountains, on September 7th, 2003. That date is very important because on September 18, 2003 that category 5 Hurricane Isabel rocked Virginia like a canoe in a tidal wave. Being that it was (1) within my first two weeks living in my new house, and (2) the first hurricane I can remember to make it all the way inland and still retain some force, I was freaked out. My friends clued me in to sleep in the basement because of all the tall trees in our neighborhood… thank God… because I woke to the sound of running water at about 1am. Isabel, b***h that she was, had pushed a crack in one of the walls of my basement up to 1/2 inch wide and water was pouring in like a spigot.

I cannot even tell you how depressed I was. Buying my first house was a HUGE mental and emotional hurdle because

of the commitment it took. I was freaked out because of the money. I was freaked out by the responsibility. I was freaked out by living alone. I was just generally already a walking nerve. Then, to have such devastating damage to my house ELEVEN days after I moved in was almost too much. I sat in the basement and cried.

Honestly, I was pretty depressed and numb for about 6 months afterwards. Every time it rained more than 3-4 inches water would come pouring into my basement. It got to the point where I could not sleep at all whenever it rained because I was on alert for the sound of flooding.

I bought a wet vac and would sit on the floor by the crack sucking up water as it poured in. It was not entirely successful, but it was the best I could do.

A lawyer friend suggested I contact FEMA because they were in the area looking at hurricane damage. I did, and a really nice lady came out to look at my house. I am sure she felt sorry for me because I was clearly so sad and depressed. I'm also sure she must have taken pity on me because I was honest with her and did not try to claim a bunch of things not related to the storm damage. Whatever the case, I got a grant from FEMA that paid to repair my driveway, the crack in the basement wall, and most of a drainage system under the floor. All in all, when I had originally thought I was going to be shelling out upwards of $25,000 in repairs that my insurance company would not help with, thanks to FEMA I ended up paying about $1500 out of pocket because the grant covered the rest. I know FEMA has gotten a bad rap over the years, but I am nothing but grateful and thankful.

Before the hurricane, I had already planned that this was the weekend I would find a friend for Dunkin. He had been quite the trooper through his scary transition from his family to my place then moving to a new house. I decided despite the damage, I was going to soldier on and went to visit a local fostering agency. I visited a man who had 24 cats and 16 dogs in foster care. They were friggin EVERYWHERE! In a garage out back, outside in the yard, and in every room of his house. Holy guacamole.

I've gotta admit it was really fun to get down on the floor and get smothered by a gaggle of sniffing, licking cats,

kittens, dogs, and puppies. As it turns out, there were only two cats they were adoptable because I was looking for a female about the same age as Dunkin. What cinched it was the foster dad said "Amy" was the biggest lap cat he had ever seen and would immediately jump in his lap whenever he sat down. SOLD! That's exactly what I wanted – a snuggly, loving cat.

Enter Isabel…

So, Amy, now re-named Isabel to forever commemorate the timing of her entrance into our lives – came home to live with Dunkin and me. It was love at first sight for Dunkin, who took to her immediately and welcomed her into our home with a great show of kitty love, excitement, and playfulness. Isabel blended in right away and she and Dunkin quickly became inseparable.

I live in the world's best location for cats – in the mountains and woods, hardly any traffic, and lots of animals and critters to keep them interested. For the first year, I would let the cats out when I left for work in the morning and call them back in at night. They were usually cooperative and this went on without issue for most of the winter. But there came the night when I called and called and neither cat came home. I tried again an hour later. NO luck. I walked around with a flashlight. Isabel, by some really hysterical force of genetics, absolutely cannot ignore a flashlight. She goes into psycho kitty mode and chases the beam of light. But that night, not even a flashlight could get them back in the house. I went to bed worried because it was cold.

The next morning I made the rounds of my neighbors, describing the cats to see if they had seen them. No one had. That day came and went and still they did not come home. By this time I was worried sick.

The second day a neighbor knocked on my door to tell me he had seen two cats that looked like mine making a

beeline down the mountain towards my house. Literally two minutes later they arrived – together – at my door. I can't tell you how relieved I was and I knew then that as long as they were together they would be ok. Kinda like the Wonder Twins from the old super hero cartoon on Saturday mornings.

To this day it is the same way. When I take them to the vet, they cry and cry if put in two separate cages but curl up together and seem much more relaxed if they are together in one. They are more like brother and sister than boyfriend and girlfriend and it is always fun to watch them together. They are my heart.

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