Pookie Hooper – New Jersey, USA
Male, Domestic short hair
May 20th, 2003 – April 16, 2015
Diagnosed with suspected IBD in January 2009
Diagnosed with subcutaneous hemangiosarcoma March 13, 2015
First Entry, October 20, 2010: I adopted my first cats, Pookie and his sister, Bonnie, when they were about 8 weeks old from a co-worker who took in a stray that later accidentally got pregnant by another stray. Pookie was the only male of the litter. I free-fed commercial dry food and gave them some canned in the morning and evening. All was fine for a while but now and then, even before they were a year old, one or the other would vomit or regurgitate their food. Experienced people told me that cats sometimes throw up and told me not to worry about it. It seemed odd to me, but since I was new to being a cat mommy I took their word for it. By 1 year old, the vomiting and regurgitating was happening almost daily. I asked my vet about it and he mentioned it could be food allergies. There were tests that could be run, he told me, but they were expensive and may not be conclusive. Since he didn’t seem very confident that it would be worth the expense, I decided to do a food journal of everything they ate, when they threw up and where (in case it was environmental), and who did it (if I was home). I started the journal in June 2005 and switched them to Purina One Sensitive Systems. A month later I started giving them smaller portions of canned food, thinking perhaps the problem was that they were eating too fast. A few months later I started mixing Eukanuba Sensitive Stomach with the Purina One. In January 2006 I added large beads to their dry food to slow them down, still thinking at least part of the problem was that they were eating too fast. I also tried Natural Choice dry food with the Purina One and began giving them pepcid as needed.
In February 2006 I switched their dry to Hills ZD and also began feeding the canned formula. They stayed on the canned for about 10 days. They would still bring the dry up for another look, though not as often. I did find that they usually regurgitated foods that contained fish products. Even if it only contained salmon oil, they couldn’t tolerate it. So I made sure the canned didn’t contain fish, and fed a dry that I thought didn’t contain fish, however it took me until their next vet visit a few months later to realize that just because the bag says “chicken & rice” doesn’t mean that there’s no fish in it. I switched them to a dry with no fish products and things did improve, though they would still have hairballs a lot. In April I began mixing the Purina One (no fish) back in with the ZD. In May I pulled the ZD completely, since it hadn’t seemed to make much difference. August 2006, after Pookie’s sister had 4 teeth pulled (both were 2 years old) I added a dental rinse to their water and started to brush their teeth. Pookie’s teeth were fine. September 2006, I started mixing Science Diet Hairball Light (no fish) with the Purina One, since they seemed to have a lot of hairballs. By the time they were about 3 years old, they were vomiting/regurgitating several times a day and night, every day and night. September 2007, I began weaning them off the Science Diet. The vet stated that it was like feeding them cappuccino (high calories) and I needed to watch their weight so they wouldn’t become diabetic. At that time Pookie weighed 15 pounds.
In November 2007 I added river rocks to their dry food. At some point I had removed the beads but don’t remember when. In December 2007 I removed the Science Diet dry completely. A few days later I replaced the Purina completely with Hill’s ZD after Bonnie had a severe bout of vomiting which led to an endoscopy. I added a little of the Purina One back in a few days later. In January 2008, Pookie couldn’t keep down any dry food. I called my vet and asked how I could get him back on the dry and was told that he “didn’t have a clue.” I took Pookie to a different vet who suggested pepcid, and advised giving him the canned with 1-2 kibble mixed in, making sure they were coated in the gravy, and over time increase the number of kibble. I did that, and also gave him dry softened in water, and over several weeks I was able to get him back on his dry food. Looking back, though, I’m amazed that no one ever suggested that I not feed the dry food at all and feed only canned, and that I never thought to ask. I had been told that cats should eat dry food to clean their teeth and I’d never heard of anyone feeding only canned food.
In February 2008 I bought a timed feeder and started putting very small amounts in the feeder so Pookie would have some to eat without (hopefully) irritating his stomach. It was set to dispense at certain times throughout the day. In April I started giving him Excel for his hairballs and later switched to Petromalt. By May, the vomiting/regurgitating had started up again so I began switching them off the ZD dry and back to the Purina One Sensitive Systems. June 2008 I switched Pookie to Kitty malt for his hairballs, even though it did contain fish. I also was using the Furminator on him but it seemed to make the hairballs worse, probably because it loosened up so much hair. Pookie doesn’t care too much for brushing so I couldn’t do it for very long. In July I started giving them canned pumpkin to help with the hairballs. I stopped using the Furminator and at some point I stopped giving the pumpkin. In August I took them to a completely different vet, who prescribed Lax’aire for the hairballs and told me that “a cat will throw up as soon as look at you.” He felt the tummy issues were “genetic” since they’re litter mates and because their mother and sister also had similar problems (I was still in touch with the woman who gave them to me, who kept one of their sisters and their mother). Lax’aire contains cod liver oil, and while Pookie seemed okay with it (I assumed due to the low amount I was giving him), his sister became violently sick.
In January 2009, Bonnie had a very bad episode, I suspect due to my dry pilling her medication. No one had ever told me to follow a pill with water or food, and I didn’t know the pill could dissolve in the esophagus and erode it. I took her to the vet and asked if she had IBD. He said that she could, so I began feeding Hill’s Prescription Diet I/D dry food to both, thinking that Pookie might have IBD as well since he also would vomit his food (at no time were either of them “officially“ diagnosed with IBD). Pookie continued to get his normal canned food and Bonnie got the I/D canned. In less than 3 months, Pookie gained 1 pound and Bonnie gained 3. Both were 16 pounds! Bonnie became lethargic and groggy, and both drank a lot of water. The volume in the litter box went up dramatically. Pookie seemed to be having problems tolerating canned food with beef products in it. I mentioned this to a co-worker and she asked if I’d considered home-cooked diets. I was desperate and began searching the internet, where I found Dr. Pierson’s site, www.catinfo.org, and that’s when I FINALLY began to understand what was going on. I eventually was directed to Dr. Hodgkin’s book, “Your Cat: Simple Secrets to a Longer, Stronger Life.” That book has become my cat Bible, and it’s what finally motivated me to remove the dry food and begin feeding a grain-free canned food. Amazingly enough, once they went grain-free they could eat food with fish without any problems! I also wanted to raw-feed and the first time I gave Pookie a small piece of raw chicken, he didn’t know what to do with it. He licked it off my finger several times and I finally had to hold it for him before he ate it. He really liked it and when I took the plate to his sister in her basket, he followed me. She knew immediately what to do with it.
About 2 months after I removed the dry, Pookie’s coat became like silk, soft and shiny. Bonnie’s coat got much better, too, and they both slowly lost weight. I tried giving them the Nature’s Variety chicken raw medallions, but neither seemed to care for it and Bonnie couldn’t keep it down. I’ve tried the Bravo raw with Pookie and he likes it, though he did regurgitate the turkey once and had an upset tummy for a couple of days after that, which was resolved with pepcid. In April 2009, I made the mistake of leaving out a string toy and Pookie ate it during the night. I didn’t know who’d eaten it so both went to the vet for x-rays. Pookie was given 3 doses of hydrogen peroxide but was so nervous at the vet’s that he wouldn’t vomit. I had to leave him there and they gave him something else to induce vomiting, which worked. I brought him home that night and he began vomiting every couple minutes, and every time the bile was a darker pink. I called the vet and they told me he’d be fine, but when he kept vomiting I called back and they told me to bring him in. He stayed for 5 days because he was so nervous he wouldn’t eat, and they wanted him to have a bowel movement to make sure there wasn’t any more string in him. They finally had to force feed him and when he had a bowel movement (no string in it), I brought him home.
Late October 2009, I began giving Pookie the Chinese herbal, shen calmer, to try to calm him down so he wouldn’t upset his sister so much (she didn‘t seem to like him anymore). He was on it for a month and it didn’t seem to make a difference. Pookie has been in the kibble addiction recovery program for over a year now, and I am happy to say that he is no longer on pepcid or any medications and is enjoying his grain-free canned food. I rotate Wellness and Nature’s Instinct (he doesn’t care for Evo) and continue to try other grain-free can foods to see if he’ll like it so I can add them to the rotation. I also give him raw chicken gizzards a couple of times a week and a raw turkey breast tender or chicken tender at night. He just had his annual check-up in August 2010. He’s 7 years old, 13 pounds, which the vet says is a perfect weight for him, and his teeth look great. The only time he throws up/regurgitates now is if he eats too fast or is overly excited, like when I open a can of Weruva as a treat or if I come home really late (he’s such a momma’s boy), but once he calms down he’s fine (knock wood). I still keep the food journal as a precautionary measure. I no longer feed him anything with beef, I don’t think he cares for it too much, and since he seemed to have developed a sensitivity to it while on dry food, I don’t want to give it to him if he doesn’t want it. He was eating the Wellness beef & chicken, though it wasn’t his favorite, but the last case of that flavor really turned him off for some reason. He wouldn’t eat it, so I’ve taken it out of the rotation. I may give him some at a later time to add to his variety.
At some point I may try to do more raw-feeding, but after all these years of internet searches and trying to find answers, I’m just enjoying having a healthy cat and the peace of mind that comes with knowing he’s being fed in a way that’s healthier for him. I brush and comb him daily to help with the hairballs he had in early spring/summer, but I do it now partially because he likes the attention. I no longer give him dental rinse or hairball gel. I had brushed their teeth for a time but don’t do that anymore, either. I no longer get Pookie vaccinated and got a waiver from my vet. Both Pookie and his sister were given FVRCPC annually through age 4 (I didn’t know that vaccines are labeled for use only in healthy animals and the vet I had at the time continued to vaccinate despite their obvious health problems). When they were 5, I went to another vet who told me that they’d been getting the three year rabies vaccine, so they weren’t due for a couple of years. They haven’t been vaccinated for anything since they were 4. Pookie was due for rabies this year (the others aren’t required by law in New Jersey at his age), which is when I requested the waiver. It took years to get him to a better place and I don’t want to “fix” what isn’t “broken,” especially since he’s strictly indoor, doesn’t have access to the attic and I don’t have a fireplace for bats or other animals to get inside. He also doesn’t get boarded and he’s not a show cat. I have a strong suspicion that over-vaccination contributes to, if not causes, IBD, and after everything he’s been through, I’m not taking any chances. He’ll continue to get annual check-ups to make sure he’s doing well.
Side note on Bonnie: Bonnie had always had more health problems than Pookie. Her first episode of vomiting pink bile happened at 2 ½ years old, and she had several episodes over the years. She had an endoscopy and was diagnosed with food allergies, and was put on metronidazole, amoxicillin, pepcid, sucralfate and prednisolone. At no time was she ever “officially“ diagnosed as IBD, but in looking at her endoscopy results and reviewing the “Cat Owner‘s Home Veterinary Handbook“ I concluded a year later that she had IBD.
While Pookie was on shen calmer, she was on the Chinese herbals Jade Lady and later, Eight Gentleman. After Pookie came home from the “string incident,” Bonnie hissed at him and never quite got used to him again. She would hide under the sofa and hiss or growl when he came by. I tried the Feliway diffuser and over a couple months things seemed to improve, until August ‘09 when both of them must have had a fight, and hacked up huge hairballs within 10 minutes of each other. He couldn’t keep his food down so I put him on pepcid for a couple of days, and he was fine. Bonnie couldn’t keep food or water down (vomiting pink bile) so I gave her pepcid as well and moved her to the spare bedroom with the thought that I’d reintroduce them once she calmed down. That never happened. I also noticed that she would smack her lips after eating, like she was going to vomit, and/or sort of burp (with a closed mouth). My vet told me not to worry about it, but I wasn’t comfortable with that and took her to a holistic vet who gave me probiotics and colostrum to add to her food. A couple of months later, she couldn’t keep down the tiny piece of raw chicken I would give as a bedtime treat, and she began vomiting her grain-free canned food. This is when I tried the Chinese herbals vet, but the herbals didn’t help. By February of 2010, using the food log I realized that she was developing allergies to chicken, turkey, beef and fish (she had been able to tolerate the turkey & salmon grain-free canned for a while). I contacted a homeopathic vet and we tried various remedies, but the lip smacking and burping only got worse. This vet had recommended “cool” foods like duck, so I gave her Evo duck which she tolerated. I was feeding her a tiny portion, waiting 13 minutes, another tiny portion, etc. to make sure she got enough food/moisture, and did this 3 times a day. With the vet’s approval, I tried a tiny amount of a pre-made raw rabbit with bone but she couldn’t keep it down. The vet had also suggested browned ground turkey, but she couldn’t keep that down, either.
I began researching NAET, but on Saturday, April 17, 2010, Bonnie had a small hairball and regurgitated her food. I had to run out for an appointment and when I returned, she had vomited pink bile several times. (I’m sure she had drunk some water and it was irritating her throat which triggered the vomiting). I followed the homeopathic vet’s instructions on what remedy to use and how often, and also gave her small amounts of food throughout the day and into the early morning. Sunday night she had diarrhea, which she’d never had before, and the next morning she began vomiting again. I had started adding water to her food that morning and she couldn’t keep it down. At that point I made the heart-breaking decision to surrender her to the Chinese herbal vet (who also does NAET), who earlier that year had offered to take her if I couldn’t care for her anymore, and on Monday, April 19th, I gave up my Sweetie Girl. One month later, a week after she turned 7 years old, the vet contacted me that Bonnie had a seizure, was blind and couldn’t walk or lift her head. She suspected Bonnie had a microscopic GI cancer that had reached her brain, and Bonnie was scheduled to be put to sleep the next day. When I called the next morning, her euthanasia had been delayed because she was responding to light. The vet now suspected GME, a form of encephalitis. The last I’ve heard, Bonnie could see, was slowly improving, and though she would fall down often, she could walk.
June 23, 2011: Pookie’s been doing well. He’s had the occasional hairball or regurgitated his food once in a while, the latter usually due to nerves such as my neighbor doing renovations (Pookie startles easily and can be jumpy). Starting in August/September 2010 he would occasionally burp or smack his lips, which was new, but was fine until late November when I made the mistake of giving him some raw chicken tenders which I hadn’t frozen until after they had expired. I had thought he wouldn’t eat it if it was bad. He did eat it, but after a few days he didn’t seem interested in eating his regular food. I added a probiotic to his food for several days and his appetite came back, and I’ve continued to add the probiotic to his food every other day. The lip smacking/burping seemed to increase in January/February of 2011, which concerned me because his sister Bonnie began doing that, and that was the beginning of her becoming allergic to several proteins. On March 5th, I gave him his first dose of B12 (methylcobalamin 1,000 mcg) & folic acid (400 mcg) in his food. I did this almost daily for a month and have been doing it several times a week since, and it seems like the burping has decreased (knock wood) though he still does it now and then. I also started increasing the times between mini-meals, from 30 minutes to 40 minutes.
As a result of the Wellness recall, I have had to take Wellness out of his rotation, only because for some reason, Pookie will not eat the food that comes from the manufacturer with “7w” on the bottom of the can, except for the grain-free Turkey & Salmon. After the recall, I have been unable to find Wellness that isn’t marked “7w .” Now he is currently eating mostly the Nature’s Variety Instinct grain-free canned, with an occasional treat of Weruva grain-free (none of the fish varieties) and raw chicken hearts and gizzards. I’m also continuing to try to find more foods to add to his rotation, but he can be picky. Also as a result of the recall, I decided to add spirulina to his food to give him more nutrients, however even though I was giving much less than the recommended dose, it seems to decrease his litter box usage, so I only give him a tiny amount once a week. His last dose was May 22nd. I haven’t given him any since then because of other issues.
On June 3rd, he had a very large hairball which upset his tummy and caused him to regurgitate his dinner. I gave him a dose of the homeopathic remedy nux vomica, waited an hour and fed him small amounts about 40 minutes apart and he was fine. In fact, the next night he caught a mouse in my basement and ate it. While he’s caught mice there before, this was the first time he actually ate one. He caught another mouse the next night, but I was able to get it away from him before he could eat it, though not before he killed it. On June 10th, he regurgitated his dinner, so I gave him another dose of nux vomica and followed the same process I did a week earlier, and he was fine. As a result of doing this update, however, I went back through the food log and it seems Pookie may be developing an intolerance to lamb. On several occasions, he has either burped/smacked his lips or regurgitated his food after eating the lamb, usually in the evening. He has also occasionally burped/smacked his lips after the raw chicken hearts/gizzards, but this has not been consistent. I need to keep an eye on this situation, but may have to remove the lamb from his rotation. Right now, I’m starting to add a couple more brands to his rotation, so I’m hoping that feeding the lamb with more days in between will help, but again, I will keep a close eye on this.
May 13, 2012: Pookie is still doing well, though I did pull the lamb from his rotation. I continue to try brands of grain-free wet food but he can be picky, or else he doesn’t tolerate them. So he’s currently getting 4 wet foods, 2 that contain chicken or chicken and turkey, 1 rabbit and 1 duck. I have noticed that when he eats the chicken or turkey canned foods his lips swell. Sometimes in the corner of his mouth, sometimes on the bottom lip near the middle of his mouth. The swelling and redness goes down after a day or so, and I deliberately alternate the days when I feed the chicken with the days I feed rabbit or duck. I’m concerned that this is an allergic reaction, esp. since he seems to scratch more on those days, and am trying to give him more raw. I don’t see the swelling when he eats raw chicken, but he doesn’t seem to tolerate raw very well in the morning. I have added whole prey mice (frozen mice from Petco) to his diet as a “bedtime snack” every other day or so. He loves them and tolerates them well. I have also been giving him canned pumpkin twice a day to help with hairballs. I freeze the pumpkin in ice cube trays and give him ½ a thawed cube before his 1st breakfast and the other half before his 1st dinner. It seems to be working well. I no longer give the spirulina but Pookie still gets a probiotic (Wholistic brand) almost daily, and the Superior Source No-shot B12 (with B6 and folic acid). The burping/lip-smacking is almost totally gone, and it seems to come back if I go too long without giving him the B12. I’ve also added a digestive enzyme (NaturVet Digestive Enzyme) to his food.
September 3, 2013: Overall, Pookie’s doing well, and he rarely smacks his lips anymore (knock wood). I’m still doing a food log and also tracking his litter box habits (size of the bowel movements, color and consistency, and size of the clumps of litter) to be better aware of any changes that may occur. He also gets several meals during the day, and the meals may be smaller if I sleep in or get home late, as a regular portion (¼ can) seems to upset his tummy if it‘s been more than 10 hours since he‘s eaten. For example, if I work late, he’ll get 1/8th can when I get home, another 1/8th after 35-40 minutes, and the remaining ¼ of a can after another 35-40 minutes. All meals are spread apart by a minimum of 35 – 40 minutes to reduce the chance of digestive upset, whether I‘m running late or not. I’m no longer giving Pookie B12. I got out of the habit after Hurricane Sandy hit, and my schedule has just been too crazy since my last update to be consistent with the supplements I was giving him. I will give him the probiotic on occasion, like when his appetite seems off, and once in a while he’ll get the digestive enzyme. I was giving him lysine for several weeks to see if it would help with his lip, but I didn’t notice much change other than he may have had less dandruff. I’ve tried salmon oil and quercetin with vitamin C, but I wasn’t consistent with it. I do give him 1 capsule (600 mg) of the Nature’s Plus egg yolk lecithin daily or almost daily to help with his hairballs, and it does seem to help.
Currently he’s eating one 5.5 oz can of grain-free wet food a day. One is from Go! (which I may have to stop since my store won‘t be carrying it anymore), 3 are Nature’s Variety Instinct (chicken, rabbit or duck, though he really only likes the rabbit), and 2 are Wellness Core. None of these foods have fish in them. In order to get him to eat the flavors he doesn’t like, I crumble small PureBites duck treats over the food. I also have a couple of small treats in a timer feeder so he has a little snack an hour or two before I get home, to help keep his stomach calm. I use just the duck PureBites, as it seemed the chicken PureBites irritated his stomach and triggered hairballs or made him regurgitate his dinner. I’d like to replace the Go! and the Wellness Core because they contain carrageen, but it’s been difficult to find something that he both likes and tolerates. I did try for 2 weeks to feed him foods without carrageen (like Weruva) to see if that would help the swelling on his lip, but I didn’t notice a difference, and the other foods didn’t seem to satisfy him very much. He also gets a bedtime snack, which is always raw: chicken gizzards and hearts, turkey tenders, Primal chicken and salmon, RadCat turkey or RadCat chicken. I’ve continued to try to find raw that he likes and can tolerate, and RadCat works well. He also likes and tolerates various flavors of the Primal. I had tried giving him uncooked, scrambled free-range egg now and then (instead of the lecithin) but he doesn’t care for it too much, I think because of the texture. I don’t give him the feeder mice very often anymore, because once or twice he has regurgitated them and it is not pleasant. I no longer give him canned pumpkin.
November 29, 2014: Pookie continues to do well, and I still feed him small portions of grain-free canned. He gets 1/8 can when I get up, another 1/8 about 35-40 minutes later, and ¼ can another 35-40 minutes later. This is also his feeding schedule when I come home from work, for a total 1 5.5 oz can/day. I have a timer feeder that I set for about 1 hour before I get home, so he can have 3 very small PureBites duck treats so he has a little something in his tummy. He’s currently getting several varieties of Wellness Core and Nature’s Variety Instinct. Due to work, family issues, and a nutritional course I was taking on weekends, I really haven’t pushed trying to find other brands to add to his diet, though I will on occasion give him a small amount of hard-boiled, free-range egg and he likes that. His bedtime snack is still raw: RadCat chicken or turkey, Primal pheasant, a turkey or chicken tender, chicken hearts, or cut up chicken gizzards. I’ve had to chop up the gizzards into smaller pieces since the larger ones seemed to block him and cause him to vomit or regurgitate, esp. if he had a hairball. This year was a horrible year for hairballs, so in addition to the egg yolk lecithin (1 in the morning, 1 in the evening), I also was freezing canned pumpkin in ice cube trays and giving him 1 cube a day. During the summer, though, he would occasionally have a hairball with a piece of tooth in it, which made me realize that he needed a dental. My vet wanted to use Convenia, which is an injectable antibiotic that stays in the body for over 60 days. After researching, I decided I didn’t want to use it, so we tried Amoxicillin and Clavamox (I didn’t realize they’re the same class) and Pookie did not tolerate those well at all. He threw up all over the house. At that point, I took him to a holistic vet to confirm he needed an antibiotic, which she said he did. She suggested Baytril, and he tolerated that well.
He went in for a dental in October, and had several teeth removed (he‘d never had a dental before). He apparently also had several resorptive lesions. The vet told me that his jaw bone was soft, which told me that the issue was a form of osteoporosis, and in the nutrition course that I took, one of the things we learned is that bacteria is not what causes tooth decay, it’s malnutrition. In other words, the body isn’t getting the minerals needed to rebuild the teeth, and instead it‘s pulling the minerals from the bones and teeth to maintain the proper levels needed in the bloodstream to survive. In humans, the deterioration could be the result of several things, including improper diet, or the food isn’t being digested properly (you need stomach acid to get the minerals out of the food you’re eating). I don’t feed raw bones. I’ve never worked up the nerve to give Pookie bone and I doubt I ever will. However, after I started learning about dental health, I made bone broth from organic, free-range chicken with some organic apple cider vinegar to help leach the minerals out of the bones, and have been adding ½ tablespoon to his raw snacks. This is basically a bone broth, very easily absorbed, and I’m hoping that by adding it to his diet, it will slow down, stop, or possibly reverse whatever damage may be occurring. I won’t know if it’s made any difference, though, until his next vet visit. I have to go by what works for him, and he doesn’t like the bone broth with the commercial raw, so he only gets it with the hearts, gizzards or tenders. I had also started him with 1 tablespoon, but that seemed to make his stools softer, so I reduced it to the ½ tablespoon and that seems to be well-tolerated. I would like to add raw goat’s milk to his diet, once a week, but haven’t had the chance yet. The nutrients in that would also be good for his teeth and bones.
Supplements: in addition to the lecithin (he’s still getting that twice a day, because for some reason even though it’s November, the hairball issue seemed to come back when I reduced the lecithin), he also gets 1/8 teaspoon of Super C for dental health, a few drops of Omega 3s provided by a holistic vet, which I think has made his fur even softer, and a probiotic every day. I also sprinkle his food with FortiFlora if it’s a food he doesn’t particularly like. He has had several tummy issues this month, and in reviewing my log I’m suspecting it’s the Omega-3, which I can only add in small amounts to certain foods, or he won’t eat the food. I didn’t realize that the Omega 3 needed to be refrigerated after it was opened (it would help if I actually looked at the box), and I hadn’t, so it’s very possible that it’s rancid and that could be causing the tummy upset. It doesn’t happen immediately after eating, so I’m not completely sure. I will remove it for a week or two and see if that’s the culprit. It may also be the bone broth, but again, it’s not an immediate reaction so I’m not sure. I would rather stop the Omega 3 than the broth, so I’m hoping it’s as simple as the Omega 3 being rancid.
The only other issue was using a pet sitter while I stayed at my parents’ overnight to take care of my mother after surgery. I had to come back the next morning, and he’d thrown up his dinner and was smacking his lips repeatedly. He was also very agitated, pacing around and twitching his tail. I gave him a ¼ pepcid and that seemed to help, but in the future, I’m going to try the Feliway diffuser in the hope that calms him down. He’s a scaredy-cat who hides in his safe place whenever anyone comes, and he stays there until they leave. So I’m sure he was upset that I wasn’t home during the night. If the Feliway doesn’t help, then the only other thing I can think of is for the sitter to leave ¼ pepcid in a small Pill Pocket, and put his meals in the timer feeder that I have. It’s not an option I like (I don’t like acid blockers), but it may be necessary so that he can keep his food down. I almost forgot; when he went to the vet for his pre-dental check-up, he weighed 15 pounds. I suspect the pumpkin had a lot to do with his weight gain, and he’s no longer getting it (esp. since the worst of hairball season is over). The last time I weighed him he had lost almost a pound. I need to keep an eye on his weight, and may have to cut back on the canned food to get him to lose a little more. I’m not sure what to do about his hairballs next year, though, if the pumpkin isn’t an option. The holistic vet suggested psyllium, but I haven’t researched that yet and don’t know if I want to use it, since it absorbs water. I would need to determine how much to add, and hopefully the holistic vet could guide me on that.
April 20, 2015: In January I noticed Pookie’s voiced changed, his meow became raspy. I also thought that the left side of his face seemed a little fuller, but I wasn’t sure because I thought it might be the angle that I was looking at him. I noticed in the coming months that he would snore (his purr changed later, too). Unfortunately, due to several family emergencies, and then the active weather in February, I didn’t get Pookie to the vet until the second week of March, after I was laid off from my job. The vet definitely thought the left side of his head/neck was fuller, and thought it might be cancer, and told me tumors of the head and neck are not usually benign. She did an X-ray and said his jaw bones looked good, so she ruled out bone cancer, which she said is actually easier to treat. She also looked at his dental X-rays to see if a tooth’s root had been left behind, but those X-rays showed most of his teeth didn‘t have roots. She did bloodwork, which came back normal and showed it wasn’t an infection, and an aspiration, but the results were inconclusive. I then took Pookie to a specialist, and they did a biopsy on March 13th. The surgeon later told me that they were able to intubate him, but the tumor had shifted his trachea to the right. The results came back over a week later: Pookie had subcutaneous hemangiosarcoma, a cancer of the endothelial cells (in the lining of blood vessels — these tumors are filled with blood) that’s apparently very rare in cats, and very aggressive. I met with a veterinary oncologist, who told me that because of the tumor’s size and location, surgery was not an option, and even if it was, these tumors usually grow back quickly. We could try chemotherapy and/or radiation, which would give him a 50/50 chance at 4-6 months, though the oncologist was not optimistic about 6 months. Without any treatment, he would have 1-2 months.
This place, which was almost an hour from home, could do the chemo, which would be once every 3 weeks, but they couldn’t do radiation. I would have to travel at least another hour away for that, which would be once a week for 4-6 weeks and would require Pookie to go under anesthesia. The oncologist suggested we could try 1-2 chemo treatments to see how he responded, but I was concerned about the side effects. She told me 5-10% of cats have side effects, and that they tolerate chemo much better than humans do because it’s a much smaller dose. I had my doubts. I had them do an ultrasound and X-ray to see if the tumor had spread to his lungs, and they weren’t sure but said it looked like the cancer might be spreading to his lungs. They also felt nodules in his right lymph node, and thought the cancer might have started to spread there as well. It had not spread to his liver or spleen. His windpipe was 40% compromised. When they brought Pookie back from the ultrasound and X-ray, he tried several times to jump out of the carrier, when in the past he would want to stay in it. Based on how distressed he was, I decided not to put him through the stress of the travel for chemo and radiation, esp. given the side effects. It was more important to me that Pookie be comfortable and have a little stress as possible for the time he had left.
The oncologist mentioned that the tumor could bleed slowly, or it could be very quick, in which case I would see it swelling quickly. If that happened, I would have less than 1 hour to get him to the vet to send him to the Bridge. There was a 40% chance that it could bleed, slowly or quickly. I asked if the risk of bleeding increased as time went on, and was told “not necessarily.” Knowing I prefer holistic options whenever possible, the oncologist suggested a Chinese Herbal, Yunnan Bai Yao, that had been shown in studies to reduce the risk of tumor hemorrhaging in dogs. It also might have anti-tumor properties. It’s also safe for cats, and I agreed to try it. I gave Pookie the herbal for a week, but it had a very strong odor and he didn’t like it. I felt it was more important to get food in him, so I stopped adding the herbal. I had also ordered Transfer Factor Feline to add to his food. A co-worker had used Transfer Factor for her dog when it had cancer, and while it didn’t stop the cancer, she felt it had significantly added to the dog’s quality of life and time with the family. I thought it might be worth a try. In the past I had fed Pookie in portions: 1/8 can, 1/8 can then ¼ can spread out. I had to change it to only 1/8 can meals spread out. I did what I could to add his usual supplements to his food: probiotic, vitamin C, egg yolk lecithin for his hairballs, and eventually I had to stop with the Transfer Factor because Pookie was eating less, though toppers like FortiFlora and catnip helped a little, and it was getting harder to include the supplements without the Transfer Factor overpowering the food. I had tried adding a good Omega 3 supplement to his food, but he wouldn’t eat it, even if only 1 drop was added.
Pookie continued with his usual routine, though it seemed he couldn’t get comfortable in his bed under the daybed anymore, so he would sleep on the daybed. Then he switched to the recliner. He also kept scratching at the incision where he’d been cut for the biopsy. A little over 2 weeks after the biopsy, I took him to the vet to have the sutures removed, and she said the area was healing well. I also had her trim his back nails (he’d never let me do it) to help keep him from re-opening the incision. He continued scratching at the incision, and over the next few weeks, would scratch at other areas around his head and neck as well. I used various things to try to keep him from scratching, but the tumor was just too uncomfortable. And he freaked when I put a soft collar on him, which would have likely irritated the area anyway as the biopsy was near his throat. I had Buprenex, but it made him sleep a lot and seem out-of-it, and he didn’t seem to eat as much on it, even on a reduced dose. My biggest concern, though, was that it’s not to be used in animals with respiratory issues, and it can cause respiratory depression. Given that his windpipe was already compromised, and the cancer had possibly spread to his lungs, I was very uncomfortable giving it to him, and I gave him the last dose on April 12th. Instead, I gave him the homeopathic remedy, arnica, which is used for bruising, swelling and hemorrhaging. I don’t know if it helped him or not, but he was alert and enjoyed looking out the window at the birds. Now and then, Pookie would have a very small hairball. On April 12th, he had one with some blood, so I started adding a little slippery elm bark powder to his food. He would also have coughing fits, which had started in January (just one fit), but more often in March and April. He didn’t bring anything up during those fits, so I was always afraid it meant he was having trouble breathing, which I was told was an emergency situation, but when I mentioned it to the oncologist, she told me that it was more likely the tumor was irritating his throat, and he was coughing like we would if we had a tickle in our throat.
He continued to hunt in the basement, and also began stalking my bottom kitchen cabinets. On April 6th, he caught a mouse! I was able to get it away from him (I was afraid he’d eat it, and I didn’t think his throat could handle it), and he continued to hunt the cabinets and basement for the next few days. The week of April 13th, Pookie seemed to have more “off” days, and he would shake his head and paw at his mouth when he ate. I told him that he didn’t have to stay for me, that I would miss him and it would take time, but that I would be okay, and that I’d rather let him go than let him suffer. I told him that I would help him go, but he needed to tell me, because I wanted to be sure he was ready and I didn’t want to send him too soon, or wait too long. On the 15th, he didn’t want his favorite canned food, so I offered him some of his favorite pouch food. I put it in a blender to make it easier for him, and I was able to get him to eat a full pouch that morning, but in the afternoon, he ate less and less, and eventually wouldn’t eat at all. He stayed on the back of the sofa all day, except for an afternoon nap on the recliner. From the sofa, he seemed to be watching the world outside the window. He didn’t go to the basement or the kitchen cabinets, and he only stayed on my lap once that evening.
That night, he came up to bed with me as usual (though not always during the last week or so) and stayed with me most of the night. I think he was saying good-bye. At 5:17am on the 16th, he went back downstairs and when I got up to feed him, he had returned to his spot on the back of the sofa. He had eaten some food I’d left out for him overnight. He ate, and would talk to me when I brought the food to him and seemed to perk up a bit. At one point, he came down from the sofa, sort of hid to the side of it, looking at me, jumped on his condo by the window, was there for a few seconds and then jumped back to the back of the sofa. Even there, he would sit for a few minutes then get up, turn around and settle down. At that point, I realized he couldn’t get comfortable anywhere except the sofa, and even there only a little. He would look out the window sometimes, but also just sit, meatloaf position, with his eyes closed, and I wondered if he’d been able to really sleep at all over the last couple of days. I also saw him paw his mouth that morning when I hadn’t given him food. I felt, what kind of quality of life is it when he can’t get comfortable, and when he wants to eat but it bothers him? I couldn’t see making him go another day like that. I took Pookie to the vet and she looked at the biopsy area, where the tumor had already grown back. She told me the area was becoming necrotic, explaining that the tumor was outgrowing the blood supply so the blood cells die and can become infected, which could lead to sepsis. He had lost ½ pound in the almost 3 weeks since he’d been there to get the sutures removed. I let Pookie go at approximately 11:47am on Thursday, April 16th. He was 1 month and 4 days shy of his 12th birthday. I was with him through it all, and am grateful that I had those weeks at home with him. Looking back, I think him going to the side of the couch, looking at me, jumping to his condo and then the couch again may have been his way of telling me that it was time. I love and miss my Big Kitty, but I know he’s free now, and I will be with him again someday.