Friday, July 24, 2015

Cat Problems, Lucky and Lucy

Although cats are known to be standoffish, they can be demanding--especially if you aren't doing just what they want. And with the four at my house that usually involves food, petting, and more food.

Lucky, doing what all cats do--get into bags.

Two of my cats, Lucky and Lucy, have needed a lot of attention in these areas recently. They are both elderly so when I noticed they were losing weight, I was upset, but not surprised. This had been a pattern in other older cats I had had before and the cause of their problems was failing kidneys. Cats have fragile kidneys which often fail as they get older. When the kidneys aren't filtering well, toxins build up and take away the cat's appetite. Thus, they eat less, and lose weight. You can treat the symptoms of kidney failure, but can't really stop the progression of the disease. Ward and I talked and agreed on how far we were willing to go with treatment before I took them to the vet. We were ready.

Part of our suspicions were confirmed when we found that they had both indeed lost weight. However, followup blood tests showed that both of their kidney functions were good as well as all of the other screening tests that were done. That was a relief, but something was still going on. What? This was uncharted territory for us. Follow up blood work showed that Lucky had hyperthyroidism, meaning his body was burning off more than he was eating. And many other followup tests showed that Lucy had pancreatitus--meaning her body was not digesting her food enough to absorb it.

Luckily, both of these conditions are treatable IF the cat decides to cooperate. Lucky's treatment is not too bad. It involves putting gel on the inside of his ear flap once a day. He tolerates this well except when he runs away or flattens his ear making it hard to get the medicine inside. However, he is responding to treatment and gaining weight.

Lucy demanding better food.
When howling doesn't work,
she tries the pleading eyes.
Lucy is another story. She has what on paper seems to be a simple treatment. Powder gets sprinkled on her food containing the enzymes she needs to help her digest it. However, Lucy wants nothing to do with this altered food. We have tried multiple foods, both wet and dry, commercial and home cooked. We have also tried feeding her with a little powder and no powder, separately and with the other cats, or just she gets the powder or all of the cats get the powder, We've also tried feeding frequently or not so often as well as giving her B vitamin shots and appetite stimulants. We've tried everything we can think of with very limited results. In the beginning she went for two days without eating anything because of the enzymes. (Not a good thing for an already emaciated cat.) Now, she will eat a few kibble with a very slight dusting of powder in the bowl--sometimes. The vet said that Lucy is acting very typical for a cat and to keep trying. She may give in and slowly adjust. I hope so because I'm getting tired. However, as the vet pointed out, we've only been at this for a week. My how time doesn't fly when you aren't having fun.

I hope Lucy adjusts and we get a lot more time with her. However, if this simple treatment doesn't work, we're in for some difficult decisions ahead. In the meantime, Lucy is begging for more food (she's been here howling three times since I stared writing this) because the last time I fed her, I put enzyme powder on her food. And in her eyes, that's just not acceptable.


  1. Poor Lucy! Poor you! Those furry babies steal our hearts, don't they? Hope you come up with something that works for Lucy soon.

    1. Me too. She has always been a picky eater. She has never been interested in any kind of cat treat or people food like a bit a chicken or tuna. Not a good way to start.

      However, some of our more adventurous eaters think that it's Christmas because they are getting to try all kinds of Lucy's tasty leftovers.

  2. Your poor kitties. Would Lucy take the powder if it was sprinkled on a treat food, like a piece of real meat? Or would that be bad for her?

    I know in humans, pancreatitis can be very painful, especially after eating. If feline pancreatitis is like the human version, she may also be feeling adverse to eating in general, as she remembers pain after eating. As the vet said, maybe it will just take a bit more time for her to accept the enzymes on her food.

    1. Thanks for you ideas. I appreciate any and all suggestions. However, like I told Kris, Lucy doesn't like any kind of treats or human food. She is happy to eat her regular food, just not food with the powder on it. After she got really hungry in the beginning, I first tried several different kinds of food with no powder hopefully to get her used to eating some different things. She ate wet food for the first time during this rotation. However, when I tried to slip a little powder into these different foods, she would have anything to do with them.

      Pets are like babies when they are sick. You just wish you could speak the same language so they could understand why they need to do this thing they don't like.

  3. I would just mix the enzymes in water, suck it up in a 3 cc syringe, scruff her and squirt it slowly towards the roof of her mouth, then let her eat her food as usual with a lot of "good girl" after the syringe thing. Or, mix it into nutrical or soft butter and smear it on her paws.

    1. We asked about something with a syringe and the vet recommended that we wait a little longer before we try that. That might bring some negative associations with eating. However, we haven't thought about trying it on her paws. Something to consider if we stay stuck where we are. Thanks for you suggestions. I thought you might have some ideas that we haven't thought about yet.

  4. I feel your pain. I'm sitting her knocking on wood (literally) because for the past week I've actually been able to get Princess to eat real food instead of Fancy Feast (which is very high in phosphorous and thus terrible for her failing kidneys.) BTW, have you tried Fancy Feast? It's sorta like kitty crack in my experience - that being said, Smoky won't go near the stuff...

    My thoughts are similar to Strayer's. I've become an expert at giving pills lately, and Princess has even come to enjoy the process. Of course, she always gets roast chicken after a pill, which she totally LOVES. So I'd just put the powder in an empty gel cap and pill her before she gets her dinner. Not sure how that would go over...

    Sounds like Lucy is a dry food junkie? Maybe you could... put the enzymes in a gel cap, put the gel cap in a pill pocket... not a whole one, just enough to cover the gel cap (works best if you put a drop of water on the gel cap first so the pill pocket sticks to it), and crush up some of her regular food and stick it to the outside of the pill pocket?

    Or maybe you could find some canned food that she doesn't hate, mix the powder in the food and then crush up some of her regular dry food and sprinkle it on top so it smells right? Smoky hates canned food, but I can usually trick him into eating some if I warm it a little in the microwave (testing it with a finger to make sure it's not too hot) and then sneak up with it while he's sleeping and stick it under his nose.

    You said you've tried appetite stimulants, have you tried Cerenia? It's an anti-nausea med and we've had pretty good luck with it.

    Or... you could back off, let her eat some unaltered food, and then very, VERY slowly start to add in the tiniest bit of powder on top - like just a few grains of powder to begin with and slowly increase it.

    I hope you find something that works - I totally understand how frustrating it can be. This is why I have a basement filled with every conceivable variety of every conceivable brand of cat food on the planet! (that's an exaggeration, but not a big one!)

    Hang in there. I'm pullin' for you... and for Lucy!

    1. Once again, thanks for all of the suggestions. I know that you have tried many, many things trying to get various cats to eat. And what I'm learning most from you and everyone else is there is always another way to tweak things that might just work.

      Before all of this, all of the cats ate the same thing—prescription dry food in water. Lucky has a tendency for urethra blockages, so he needs this. When there were other foods in the house, he somehow managed to sneak them which resulted in a second blockage. Not good. Thus they all get his food which is okay for them.

      The powder works best, and the actual instructions say to mix it with water and the kibble or in wet food and wait 20 minutes to start the digesting process. While Lucy does not like the dry powder, she hates when it has been wetted and starts to work. While the smell is not bad to me, it smells and has the consistency of throw up—the kind that hasn't been down for very long. While dogs will eat what they vomit, cats will not. I think she has some kind of instinct at work in refusal of the enzymes.

      The current status is that she will eat her regular dry food with a few grains of powder on it. I have no idea whether or not she is getting enough to do anything. The dose is 1/2 teaspoon. She gets a B vitamin shot once a week which I have learned to do. They really help her feel better. The blood work showed that she essentially was absorbing no B vitamins. She gets an appetite stimulant, mirtazapine, every 3 days. That has had mixed results, but sometimes helps. For the first day afterwards, that's when we've gotten her to try some other wet foods (without powder) and a little of the dry kibble with the powder.

      We have not tried gel caps yet, but I think that is the next step. We are really bad at giving pills no matter how many times we try, so we're waiting a little longer upon the vet's suggestion. Once again, trying to avoid a negative association with feeding. If we get to that stage, I will remember your suggestions. If those don't work, the next step is a feeding tube and we're not sure that's something we want to do with a fifteen year old cat.

      I read about Cerenia and it is definitely something to ask the vet about.

      As we've been feeding Lucy many times a day, I've thought about you and Princess and her many feedings a day. We're with you in spirit.

    2. OY! The multiple cat thing with dietary restrictions... been there, done that. It's sooo hard when they have competing "issues" in the dietary department.

      Have you tried force feeding her with a syringe? You have to be REALLY careful so they don't aspirate it, but if you go very slowly from the side of the mouth, you're generally safe. Sometimes, if you can get a teaspoon or two of food into them that way, it will "prime the pump" so to speak and they'll be a bit more interested in food afterwards.

      My only other thought is that if the smell is the issue, I'd try some really smelly cat food - that usually means fish flavors. Of course, fish is horrible for cats with urinary blockages, so you'd need to keep it away from Lucky.

      If you do go the "pilling" route, and want some tips, let me know. I've developed a somewhat complicated system over the years that makes it MUCH easier. It's worked well with all three cats I've had to use it on.

      Sending you big hugs...

    3. So far, she had not been interested in any of the smelly food. She is spending time scouring the place where they're fed hoping to find a piece of unadulterated kibble. I think they're all gone. Next she just sits and stares at the box containing her regular food from before. She can be very patient.

      I haven't actually weighed her at home, but I'd like to believe she's not losing weight as fast, or is holding steady. It may be wishful thinking or I'm just getting used to her bony body.

    4. Hmmm... you know, I'm sorta hesitant to say this because I'm not an expert, and I don't know the specific concerns of this condition, but I'd be really leery about withholding the food that she does like and will eat. I've just never, ever had any luck getting a cat to change their minds about what they will and won't eat with the "starve them out" method - it's really backfired on me a few times and the cat just decides to go anorexic and won't eat anything. And once they stop eating completely, it's really, REALLY hard to get them started again, even with foods that they used to love. It just seems to me that you'd be much better off keeping her eating and looking for ways to sneak the enzymes into her.

      I could be wrong, but my gut just tells me that you're never gonna get a cat to gain weight by not letting her eat. Maybe there's some way to use the food that she does like as an enticement (putting it on top of the laced stuff) or as a reward (give it to her after syringing, pilling, or force feeding the enzymes). Because once she decides that she won't eat anything, then you're really hosed.

      I'm no expert, but that would be my instinct. -xoxo

    5. When I say withholding, it's not totally. What often happens is that she eats a few of the powdered kibble, then stops and begs for something different. I put a couple of fresh kibble (no powder) in, present it to her. Sometimes she eats a little more and sometimes she walks away. When there's been a little more time since her last feeding (a couple of hours), she eats more. It's a very delicate balancing act.

      What I have figured out is that she eats best when the other cats are with her which was the way it was before. Two of my cats are overweight and don't need extra food, so this is another balancing act. I fix four bowls with varying amounts depending on who needs what. I sometimes also put a bit of powder in all of the bowls so when they play musical bowls that part smells the same. I put the most in Lucy's bowl. They used to always line up in the same order to eat, but not any more since I've been changing things around. Now they start almost randomly and switch themselves around (Annie, the fattest, has an uncanny ability to find the bowl with the most food in it). I then move the bowls around when their heads are down eating and sometimes can get each one eating from the bowl I want.

      I would just leave food out all of the time with the powder on it and let her and the others eat what they want. However, I don't think that would be optimum. First, some of the other piggy ones would probably eat her food. She is third in the pecking order and can be easily pushed aside. Second, the powder reacts with the moisture in the air and is not effective after a while, And the third, the powder is VERY expensive. I'm trying to use it judiciously meaning not putting it on all of the food all of the time even though it is perfectly fine for the others to have it.

      And after carefully watching all of them eat, I have figured out that Lucy is the slowest eater. She chews her food more than the others. As you know, cats generally just swallow their food without chewing it up first. They have very powerful enzymes in their stomachs to digest things like whole mice, bones skin and all. She crunches the kibble a lot more than the others. I think that's a good thing because it's got to make digestion easier.

      I really appreciate all of your insights. You should write a blog called, "From My Experience" and give advice on what's worked for you with you various cats' maladies. You've done a lot of research and learned a lot from trial and error with your cats over the years. It was interesting when the vet said to me the other day that among all of my cats, I've dealt with most everything. Well, of course, there's a lot that they haven't had, but I have been in there a lot. Right now each of the four has a chronic health problems and Lucky has two. If we get more cats in the future, I'm gonna get pet insurance because taking care of them the way we want is expensive.

    6. It sounds like you've got it figured out... or at least as best as it can be figured out under the circumstances.

      Can you tell I'm a total pushover for all creatures of the feline persuasion? Seriously, just hearing about a cat crying for food turns me inside out! No wonder they've all got me wrapped around their little paws!

      Anyhow, I'm glad you took my comments in the spirit in which they were meant.

      I've been there with the piggy vs. skinny ones too. Before Sputnik got sick he was supposed to be on a diet because he was overweight - one trick that worked was to leave food out up on a shelf or counter that he, in his corpulent state, couldn't jump up on, but where the boys could easily reach it if they were hungry. I don't think that would really help in your situation, but just thought I'd mention it.

      I can't believe you're dealing with all four having chronic health problems. It's hard enough when one is sick! I think I'd be a total wreck if all of my fur babies needed special care!

      I've got pet insurance with a company called Pet's Best, and it's a real mixed bag. It used to be great, but then the company got bought out and changed their policies. The monthly premium used to be fixed for the life of the cat, but now they raise it as the cat gets older. By the time Sputty died (he was 15 or 16) the premiums were around $100/month, which was about the cost of his meds, so it was pretty much a wash. So, if & when you get there, you probably want to shop around a bit.

      Anyhow, thinking of you and wishing you and your whole brood the very best.

  5. The only way I could get my cats to eat liquid prozac (now there's a long story... it was a short-term treatment for cats who decided to start attacking each other... it actually worked) was to get the really gross meat baby food that I would never feed my children. Not the ones with rice mixed in; just the straight up gross processed meat. It might not work if the cat only lieks dry food, but one jar is cheap :-)

    1. She didn't want anything to do with the baby food. However, the other cats loved it.


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