Archive for January, 2008

Jellybean, aka Jelly Belly, aka Jelly Belly Bean, aka The Firecracker… formally “Jellybean II” as named at the shelter.  Funny (to me) as the name “Jellybean” always makes me think of a black cat (like the anise/licorice-flavored jellybeans), but my Jellybean is a tortie (tortoishell), black and red.

Jellybean in window

Jellybean was admitted to the shelter in February 1997, as a newborn kitten with her mother and littermates.  She was adopted quickly after she was old enough to be weaned and spayed.  She was returned years later for urinating outside the litter box.  The shelter staff discovered her urine red with blood and treated her for an infection.  She was adopted again.  Again, returned – this time to a different shelter, one that wasn’t no-kill.  That shelter scanned her microchip and returned her to the original shelter. 

In the summer of 2007, shelter staff noticed increased drinking and urination, and Jellybean was diagnosed with diabetes.  She was monitored for a time, and eventually placed in the new canned food-only room at the shelter, and placed on the oral medication Glipizide.  Glipizide doesn’t work for the majority of cats, and it didn’t work for Jellybean.  She was placed on insulin (PZI-Vet).

I adopted Jellybean in November 2006 – only a few days after she’d started insulin.  I continued the low-carbohydrate wet diet (canned or raw) and tested her blood sugar levels at home.  On December 30, 2006, Jellybean received her last insulin injection – she’s maintained normal blood sugar numbers on diet alone since then.

Jellybean with BG log

We had other issues to work out, though.  When Jellybean moved in, she determined she was going to be “queen of the castle”.  She picked on the other cats, even my large boy Studley.  My friend Jenny laughed the first time she met her, and exclaimed “Wow, she’s a *pistol*!”  (several times)  I think she’s a *firecracker*. 

Eventually, Jellybean made the mistake of attempting to start a spat with little old Afer.  Afer may be 19 years old, and have kidney insufficiency and heart disease, but Afer does not take guff from *any* cat.  Afer promptly chased Jellybean into the bathroom and stood in the doorway, forcing Jellybean to take a time out.  It happened a few times after that, until Jellybean learned not to mess with the Afer E Granny!  However, in the process, the other cats decided they had no reason to be intimidated by this little firecracker.  If Afer could stand up to her, so could they!  They did, and a few of them even started picking on Jellybean.  She lost much of her confidence and spent more time sleeping in a cubby of the cat tree or in a pet tent, and became very fearful of Studley.

I tried separating her in her own room many times, either alone or with Latifah.   Then, I’d attempt to re-introduce them, but it didn’t work out great.  It’s been over a year now that Jellybean’s been with us, and things are better but not perfect.  I’ve seen her sleeping on the bed with Kitty.com (not cuddled together but both on the same bed), and she’ll lick Ralph on the head, and hide behind him from other cats.  She used to lick Louie on the head, but he has teased her several times (chasing her or swatting her pet tent) and she no longer likes him much. 

Jellybean does not have perfect litterbox habits, unfortunately.  She seems to think boxes, matts, rugs, and even dish towels lying on the kitchen counter are just as nice for doing her business as litter boxes.   She is doing better – we’ve found she prefers the Smart Box or “pellet” litter (like pine) rather than clumping.  We have a litter box with just  a puppy housebreaking pad in it that she uses often.   I find it’s easier to find something they’ll use and work with that than re-train them.  Perhaps I’m just lazy or a bad trainer.

Jellybean is very sweet and very cute.  Her fur is very soft and she has the adorable habit of rubbing against you or furniture, arching her back so high she goes up on her tippiest of tiptoes.  Though she is feisty, she quickly learned to cooperate very nicely for her blood sugar testing.  I’m optimistic we’ll continue to make progress toward more peace and harmony at home.

Jellybean face

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Louie (Aloysius)

Louie, aka Lucious Louie Twinkle Toes, aka Louie Primo, aka Lou-Lou, was named Aloysius by the shelter staff.  Too much of a mouthful for me, I shortened it.  Louie generally seems made of springs, as he has a propensity for bouncing around the house – and is voted most likely found on top of the refrigerator.

Louie in a Purr Pad

Louie was abandoned on the front porch at the shelter in June of 2003.  He was scared, but definitely socialized to people.  He tested FIV+ (feline immunodeficiency virus positive) and therefore was put in the room designated for FIV+ cats.  FIV+ cats can live long, full lives without complications, provided they’re not exposed to illnesses (that is, kept indoors), but there’s a certain “stigma” with the status that decreased Louie’s chances of adoption.  In September of 2003, when people noted his matted fur and unkempt appearance, he had blood tests done and was diagnosed with diabetes. 

The shelter staff started insulin injections, but his blood sugar levels remained high.  A few different insulin types were attempted, finally settling on PZI (protomine zinc insulin).  Eventually, his dose was up to nine units twice daily, but his blood sugar levels were still higher than ideal.  Yet, he went into insulin shock once when he vomited up the dry food he’d eaten and his blood sugars plummeted.

I adopted Louie in November of 2006.  I changed his diet to eliminate all dry food.  No small feat, as Louie vastly preferred dry food – when he would eat.  I don’t know if it was just his nature, or all the syringe-feedings at the shelter before insulin injection, but Louie seemed to think he could live on air and exercise.  He was a roly-poly boy without much of an appetite, it seemed.  Eventually, we found a few wet foods he liked, and after time he even decided he liked the homemade raw diet I fed the other cats.  His insulin needs dropped dramatically (to two units twice daily or less), and his blood sugar levels improved.  We followed Dr. Hodgkins’ protocol, and he lost weight, became more active, and his coat took on a soft shine that had been lacking.

Louie - ready for a blood sugar test

Louie is a real joy to have in the house.  He’s the type of cat anyone can pick up and cuddle (for as long as his short attention span will allow).  He loves to wrestle with and cuddle with my other boy cats.  He would love to play with the girl cats too, if they’d let him.  Instead, he bounds up to them and they scream at him to get away – and sometimes he “pulls their pigtails” (gives them a few playful swats) like a naughty boy before he leaves.

Louie and the tiger

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Latifah, aka Tifah, aka Teefie, aka Teefah da Teethless… a sweet sad little princess who wishes she had a home she didn’t have to share with other cats, and who’s life-long ambition is to hold the world record for most diseases/ailments in a single cat.


Latifah was found wandering the streets and admitted to the shelter in June of 2005 by a kind person who realized she needed help.  She was in bad shape, down on her hocks (neuropathy), matted, and thin – and was quickly diagnosed with diabetes mellitus.  She had obviously been someone’s cat as she was declawed, and most likely was thrown out when she became ill.  Maybe the former owner didn’t know she was ill, only knew she was urinating excessively (and perhaps out of the litter box), or maybe they just didn’t care.

I originally agreed to foster Latifah for a cat shelter, in an effort to better regulate her diabetes with a diet change to all all canned food (from canned and dry).  She wasn’t on a large dose of insulin at the shelter, 2 to 3 units twice daily, but she’d had episodes of hypoglycemia (insulin shock) a few times.  In looking back at her records, the cause became rather apparent to me.  Latifah loves canned food.  She’ll eat dry if canned isn’t available.  During the day, caretakers provided her canned food three to five times daily.  During the night, there was only dry food.  Her “hypo” episodes occurred during the day.  She was eating significantly lower-carbohydrate food (canned) during the day, but getting the same insulin dose.  This dose was too much on the lower-carbohydrate diet.  This was compounded by the fact the dry food she ate at night effectively put the liver “to sleep” so it wasn’t prepared to release glycogen to save her from these “hypos”. 

I fostered Latifah from March 17, 2006 to October 20, 2006.  Her blood sugar levels quickly decreased and grew more steady on the canned diet.  She went off insulin completely for weeks at a time.  Unfortunately, when her other medical conditions (stomatitis, arthritis, gastro-intestinal issues, pancreatitis, etc.) flared up, so would her blood glucose levels and she’s need some insulin to bring them down.

Latifah in tent

I grew so enamoured with her, I adopted her on October 21, 2006.  Besides the diabetes, Latifah has pancreatitis, stomatitis, a heart murmur, and an intestinal disorder. However, she does very well on a proper diet – primarily homemade raw food based on the recipes at CatInfo.org and CatNutrition.org. She does well on Dr. Hodgkins’ treatment protocol for feline diabetes.

Latifah showed symptoms of hyper-thyroidism (ravenous hunger, thin, poor coat), so in early 2007 I took her to a specialty center for a technitium (or scintigraphic) scan. The scan confirmed the hyper-thyroidism, although her T4 blood levels were normal. She had radioactive iodine treatment and the hyper-thyroidism resolved quickly.

Her stomatitis (mouth inflammation) was a huge source of pain for her.  The shelter veterinarian extracted all her teeth in September of 2006.  Still, sometimes the inflammation was so bad she struggled to eat.  We finally found a protocol that keeps her comfortable, using Metacam (a non-steroidal anti-inflammatory) and cyclosporine, as well as the supplements lactoferrin and agaricus blazei.  The drugs have risks, but I feel they are with it as they improve her quality of life significantly.

Latifah thinks of the kitchen as “her” room, but most days she’ll let the other cats come in for their meals. 

Latifah on cat tree

 Update:  Sadly, I lost Latifah on February 16, 2008 to something neurological.  Fly free, my sweet princess.

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In my spare time, I often research feline nutrition – yes, I’m THAT much of a super geeky crazy cat lady.

Every so often, I run into an item of information that doesn’t make sense to me.  What I love about what I understand about feline nutrition is it makes sense – it’s logical!  An obligate (true) carnivore, evolved from a desert species, needs meat and moisture.  Even my simplistic mind can get a grip on that!  As my nutritional heroes say – this isn’t rocket science!

So, it bugged me when I discovered taurine requirements were lower for dry food than wet food.  Why?  WHY?

For those that don’t read articles on pet food in their spare time – taurine is an amino acid.  (An amino acid is a component of protein.)  Most species (including humans and dogs) can manufacture enough taurine on their own, so it’s not an essential amino acid for them.  Not cats, one of the facts distinguishing them as true obligate (strict) carnivores rather than an opportunistic carnivore (meaning they’ll eat meat if they can get it – but they can also survive, even thrive, on plant proteins.)

Interesting little sidenote – when cat food was first created, it was basically dog food – made into smaller cans or smaller kibble pieces.  In the 1980’s a researcher was studying heart disease in cats when he found that nearly all his patients were deficient in taurine levels.  When he supplemented taurine, they improved.  Thus, pet food manufacturers began supplementing cat foods with taurine.  Turns out taurine, which naturally occurs in raw meat, is easily destroyed by cooking.  It also oxidizes quickly once meat is ground – and may be degraded by freezing.

So, back to my ponderable.  Why is less taurine needed if cats are on a dry diet?  WHY?

Well, in doing some other research – I found a great recent study on carbohydrate malabsorption.  The study found that carbohydrate malabsorption was a common feature in IBD (inflammatory bowel disease) in felines.  That didn’t surprise me in the least.  In my experience (with five cats with IBD so far – either adopted or fostered), foods containing high levels of carbohydrate (such as dry food) were not tolerated well at all.  Again, cats are obligate carnivores – they’re not designed to eat carbohydrates, they’re designed to eat protein and fat.  They have absolutely no nutritional requirement for ANY carbohydrate. 

Then, reading another study, one of the items they noted was that cats on antibiotics required less taurine than cats that weren’t on antibiotics.  Through some research, they concluded that taurine was in some way utilized by the healthy gastro-intestinal (GI) bacteria.  Antibiotics, as we know, kill off not only unhealthy bacteria, but healthy ones as well.  So, by having less GI bacteria, the cats needed less taurine.

LIGHT BULB MOMENT:  So… if carbohydrates may affect GI bacteria (as indicated by malabsorption), and dry foods are naturally higher in carbohydrates (as a starch is required to process those little kibbles), and GI bacteria utilize more taurine – then it makes sense that less taurine is needed in dry foods because dry foods are probably damaging the healthy GI bacteria that would otherwise utilize the taurine!

YAY!  I think I get it!  Or, at least I have a theory – and I’m always happier having a theory, even if it may ultimately be proved incorrect – than I am just being clueless.

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Sugar Rehab

I’m on Day Five of a self-imposed “Sugar Addiction Rehab”.  I’ve gone from wanting to eat my arm, to merely gnaw on my arm, to just a little licking.  Seriously, this is teeth-gritting hard for me.  I LOVE my sugar!  I love my pastries!  I love my cookies!  I love my candy bars!  I love my sugary chocolatey coffee beverages!  But, I’ve gained yet another ten pounds since October and I felt dangerously close to being unable to tie my own shoes.  So, here I am – an intervention of sorts.

Day one really stunk.  I cheated a little and had some “no sugar added” hot chocolate mid-afternoon.

Day two was less bad.  I thought ahead and bought a fruit at lunch to snack on later.

Day three and four were better. 

Today, there was cake for a coworker’s anniversary.  I decided it best not to even LOOK at that cake.  Still, I noticed later there was one lonely piece sitting in the training room uneaten.  Calling to me sadly “Oh, Lynette!  Why don’t you like me?  Why must I sit here, feeling neglected and drying out.  Whyever have you forsaken me?”  I walked by quickly and tried to ignore its pleas.

I am most certainly not being perfect about this.  The oatmeal I’m eating has 10 grams of sugar in it, according to the box.  No “sugar” listed in the ingredients, but suspicious items like “cane juices”.  Would those be SUGAR cane juices?   Still, I believe in pragmatism and realism, and if I impose unrealistic goals I know I’ll fall on my face (in a pile of cookies, I hope) so I’m just avoiding the really-bad-no-nutritional-value-but-oh-so-delicious sugary delights.

Once I’ve semi-conquered that I can attack the other stuff… like “normal person” portions.  Baby steps!

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Since I spent some time over my lunch hour talking to a lady about feline nutrition, I thought I’d post an easy one:

Six reasons not to feed dry cat food:

  • Diabetes:  High carbohydrate diets can lead to diabetes mellitus.  Dry food, even “low-carb” dry food, is naturally higher in carbohydrates than most canned foods, as it requires a starch to create “kibble”.  Dry food is also more processed by heat, and thus more glycemic than wet food – raising blood sugar levels.
  • Kidney disease (CRF):  Lack of moisture in dry foods leaves cats subclinically chronically dehydrated, compromising kidney health.
  • Obesity:  As noted above, dry food is high in carbohydrates.  Low-carbohydrate diets have been shown more effective at weight loss while maintaining lean muscle mass than high-fiber foods.  “Low-carbohydrate” dry foods have been shown ineffective at weight loss, as they are very high in calories.
  • Urinary tract disease (FLUTD):  Lack of moisture in dry foods increases urine’s specific gravity, leading to cystitis (urinary tract inflammation).  Regular non-prescription canned food has been shown more effective at preventing recurrence of urinary tract stones/crystals than prescription dry foods.
  • Gastro-intestinal disorders (IBD):  Grains are not tolerated by many cats, causing diarrhea and vomiting.  Excessive fiber may stretch and inflame the GI tract, leading to constipation and megacolon.  Carbohydrate malabsorption has been linked to gastro-intestinal problems.
  • Cancer:  Heat processing of grains and potatoes creates acrylamide, which has been shown to cause cancer in animals.  Many dry foods also contain preservatives such as BHA and BHT, shown to cause cancer.  A low-carbohydrate food has been shown beneficial in slowing cancer growth as cancer cells seem to “feed” more easily on simple carbohydrates (and again, wet foods are lower in carbohydrates and less glycemic than dry foods).

FelineOutreach.org, CatInfo.org and CatNutrition.org are all great sources of information.  Visit PetFoodCrusade.com for information on pet food safety.

To read more of my posts on feline nutrition and health, click on the “feline nutrition and health” category on the home page.  Of particular interest may be, “Canned food – which one?”

 Note:  I neglected to mention hepatic lipidosis (fatty liver disease), asthma/allergic respiratory disease, dental disease, and heart disease… that would have made ten reasons – not that I personally needed more.

Complete and Balanced Nutrition

References include:

  • The Carnivore Connection to Nutrition in Cats, Dr. Debra Zoran
  • Antech Diagnostics News, December 2003
  • Understanding feline diabetes mellitus: pathogenesies and management, Dr. Jacquie Rand and Rhett Marshall
  • Update on Feline Diabetes Mellitus, Dr. Claudia Reusch (World Congress 2006)
  • Feline Diabetes Mellitus, by Dr. David Church (Word Congress 2006)
  • Canine and Feline Diabetes Mellitus: Nature or Nurture? Rand et al
  • Carbohydrate Malabsorption Is a Feature of Feline Inflammatory Bowel Disease but Does Not Increase Clinical Gastrointestinal Signs
  • Feline Obesity: Causes, Consequences and Management, Dr. Rand (WSAVA 2004 Congress)
  • Increased Dietary Protein Promotes Fat Loss and Reduces Loss of Lean Body Mass During Weight Loss in Cats, Dr. Laflamme and Dr. Hannah
  • Evaluation of effects of dietary carbohydrate on formation of struvite crystals in urine and macromineral balance in clinically normal cats
  • Treatment of feline diabetes mellitus using an α-glucosidase inhibitor and a low-carbohydrate diet
  • Managing FLUTD – Clinician’s Brief
  • Final FDA Acrylamide Action Plan, Data
  • Role of Diet in the Health of the Feline Intestinal Tract and in Inflammatory Bowel Disease
  • Management of Feline Lower Urinary Tract Disease – Dr. Forrester
  • Nutrition and Cancer: New Keys for Cure and Control 2003!
  • Small Animal Oncology
  • For more information, visit Feline Outreach.

    To read more of my posts on feline nutrition and health, click on the “feline nutrition and health” category on the home page.  Of particular interest may be, “Canned food – which one?”

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    Pet Peeves

    I have about 5,483 pet peeves, from what I can tell.  Stupid little things that annoy me.  Feel free to chime in, comments are open!

    1)  People that driving to the left of me, that are turning left, whereas I am turning right – that keep pulling just a *bit* further ahead of me so I can see around them to see oncoming traffic.  Hello?  I am turning right – I will be able to turn before or at the same time you will!  Why do *you* need to be ahead of me, therefore making it impossible for me to see so I can turn? 

    2)  People that exit revolving doors to their right, instead of their left, making it impossible for me to *enter* the revolving door coming from the opposite direction as them. 

    3)  Likewise, people that try to enter revolving doors on their right, ergo they’re trying to get in the door before I’ve left it. 

    4)  People that ride escalators or elevators and step off and stand still – blocking my exit from the same escalator/elevator. 

    5)  People that walk three across, with their arms flailing madly to the sides, so I can’t get by them on the sidewalk. 

    6)  People oblivious to other people either because they’re busy talking on their cell phone or just stupid – thus stepping right in front of me, or weaving around while walking so I can’t get by, or (my favorite) suddenly stopping/turning/reversing direction without looking, thus plowing into me. 

    7)  People whose arms apparently don’t work so when you hold the door open for them (as you’re passing through) they don’t reach out to *take* the door from you, but force you to either close it upon them or stand there holding it while they walk with their non-functional arms. 

    8)  Businesses that don’t shovel their sidewalks.  Residences I can understand, they might belong to someone who is elderly or disabled.. but businesses?  Shovel your walks!  Don’t force me to walk through snow and ice.

    You can see a lot of my peeves are related to my commute to/from work.

    Of course:

    9)  “Miracles” as I posted recently

    10)  People that insist they are right and I am wrong, and get very defensive about my “radical ideas” when I can provide studies and research to back up my position and they can provide oh… NOTHING.  (Perhaps explaining WHY they get so defensive.)

    11)  Cats choosing to hop up into my lap without regard to the fact there is already a plate of food perched there, therefore either planting four little paws into my dinner, or spilling it all on the floor.

    12)  Use of “fether” for “further, as in “It’s just a little fether down the road…”

    13)  Misuse of “ideal” for “idea”, as in “I have an ideal, let’s go just a little fether down the road.”

     14)  Misuse of “pet” the noun for “pet” the verb – as in “Fluffy enjoys being pet” – no, Fluffy enjoys being PETTED, she enjoys PETTING, she even enjoys receiving PETS (the noun)

    15) People that take the last donut at work and leave the empty box sitting out.  Throw the box away!  Do you think I want to be reminded I missed donuts, or that I’ll want to lick the empty box, savor the aroma of donuts gone?

    I have about 5,468 more… but it’s time to face my evening commute.

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