Cat Health and Alternative Medicine

So, not that long ago, I overheard one of our volunteers telling another one about her adopted ICS cat and his health woes. Poor Mr. Lemmywinks has – of all things – chylothorax. Do you know what that is? Not many do! It sure does sound weird, and it’s rare in cats. Dogs, cows, and people can get it, too, and there isn’t always a good reason for why it happens. Sometimes, it just does.

Essentially, it happens when chyle fluid (fat deposits and lymph fluid that drain from the small intestine into the lymph system during digestion) is collecting in chest cavity, something it definitely is not supposed to be doing. Normally, some of this fluid is present but it absorbs into the body quickly as it moves through the lymphatic system, providing nutrients to the body as it goes. When it’s collecting in areas it’s not supposed to, it can prevent those nutrients from getting to where they need to be, and it can also prevent other body functions from working properly. When it’s in the chest cavity, it’s thick and milky so it can make it hard to breathe as it’s around the lungs.

And that’s what happened to Mr. Lemmywinks. He was starting to have trouble breathing, especially when he was playing (and he plays a LOT!), so his mom took him to the doctor. An X-ray and something called a thoracentesis, or chest tap, told the doctor that yes, this was definitely chylothorax, and more tests showed no known cause. What do you do to treat a disease with no cause? Well, that’s when you go to the research.

Mr. Lemmywinks in the Christmas TreeScientific research in veterinary medicine is really interesting stuff. Some of the articles are a little hard to read, but you can often learn a lot by skimming for details about the treatment and the effects. Mr. Lemmy’s owner and her doctor found some stuff about the use of a plant mineral called rutin that was found to help with and possibly even cure chylothorax in kitties. It’s something you can get at the health food store that supports the lymphatic system – people can take it, and apparently so can cats and dogs. It was definitely worth a try, and it was the only option Mr. Lemmy seemingly had that didn’t involve surgery (double scary!).

Mr. Lemmy got 250 milligrams of rutin three times a day for two months but he showed definite improvement even after a few weeks. And some of the reason why he improved so quickly might have been because of some additional alternative medicine supplements his mommy also gave him – a small amount (3 milliliters) of mangosteen juice mixed with two drops each of ALCOHOL-FREE (very important) liquid herbs “mullein flower,” dandelion, and goldenseal, two to three times a day. It’s weird, I know, but this is the same mommy who goes to the acupuncture place to get her own health issues taken care of – did you know they stick needles all over you when they do that? Apparently they do it to cats too!

Anyhow, thanks to friendly folks on the Internet, Mr. Lemmy’s mom learned all about the right herbs to give and how much, and she kept him nice and quiet and free of stress for many days and weeks. It helped him get better. He only needed to go three times for those big scary thoracentesis sessions, and a few more times for X-Rays to see how he was doing. Every day, he gets a little better.

Isn’t is amazing what nature can do? Sometimes, alternative remedies like herbs can be the right thing, but you do have to do your research, be cautious, and ask your vet when you’re not sure. Many of the same people herbs don’t help animals in the same way, but in some cases, they do. For example, I once heard of a guy who gave mangosteen juice to his dogs every day and it helped them stay arthritis-free and happy well into old age. It sure did put a bounce in Mr. Lemmy’s step.

Hmm… maybe I’ll ask for some of that stuff for me!

Dreaming of a Forever Home

Port, Serena, and Chia go off to their new home with their forever familyPort, Serena, and Chia got adopted today!

Why is this big news? Well, because Port came to our shelter in 1998. Yes, that’s right, almost 16 years ago. He was a just a young guy then – a teenager by cat standards. He was here before me, as a matter of fact, and he’s imparted a lot of shelter wisdom to me over the years. In fact, until yesterday he was our OLDEST shelter resident! Can you believe it? Now that crown must fall to dear Lucy, who is also 16. I’m sure she will rise to the challenge of Elder Stateswoman of the Shelter!

And Serena, well, I don’t have to tell the volunteers this, but she’s a beauty, but a shy one. She’s been at the shelter since 2002, when she came in as a spry one-year old. She got overlooked a lot but she had a friend in Port, and they always cuddled together in Kitty Korner. You could almost always find them resting in bed together, quiet little Serena and Port with his big loud-mouthed meow. I’ve never heard a more distinctive talker in all my years!

And finally, after all those years of waiting, a nice family – the right family – came to take them to their Forever Home. They went home with Chia, too, a young lovely who wasn’t at the shelter long, but she’s going to be able to help keep Port and Serena feeling young and playful for more years to come. There was not a dry eye in the shelter when this picture was taken. We’ll miss these great senior felines – they were loved by all who met them, and a part of the shelter for so long. But finally, the right time came, because they were patient and knew that their time would come someday, and they would finally know what a Forever Home was all about.

We will miss Port and Serena and Chia around the shelter. But we can only hope that all of our kitties, no matter how long they have waited, will be able to share what these three learned yesterday – that that special family is out there waiting, and that the right time will come someday. In the meantime, great people like the folks at ICS will shepherd us and care for us, and that’s just about as much as any homeless kitty could ask for.

A Day in the Life of an ICS Sweetheart Cat

“Cats have it easy.” I hear this all the time. But really, we cats don’t have it that easy. I talked with Sweethearts Smudgie and Junco last time I was in the Kitty Korner room, and they agreed – being a cat can be rough!

Reesie at the shelterFirst thing in the morning, sometimes pretty darn early, we’re awoken by a bunch of people coming in to see how we’re doing, clean up after us, and get us food. The food part is great, but the checking up and the medicine and all of the people running around trying to keep the place clean can be . . . challenging, to say the least! Now, I appreciate a clean litterbox as much as anyone, but when that person has to bring in a big bucket and a mop and cleaners, and move everything around while trying to get things looking their best, it tends to disturb a lot of resting kitties. We run around and jump around and sometimes try to hide, which usually leaves all of the good sleeping spots occupied for later on when it’s time to relax!

Then there’s the medicine. Boy, those people really like to put stuff in our eyes and our mouths and our ears. They say it’s supposed to make us feel better . . . and I’ll admit, sometimes it does. But jeez – do they really have to do that stuff every day?

But then Smudgie made a good point. “You know, after they chase us around and do their mopping and stuff, things are a lot nicer in the room.”

Junco sat up and mewed in agreement. “And the medicine really does make you feel better. Without it, it definitely wouldn’t be as fun around here because we’d all be coughing and sneezing and stuff. So, I guess these people sure do care about us, huh?”

Well, yeah – I suppose they have a point. Later in the day, there’s volunteers who come and brush us and play with us, and that’s usually a good thing unless someone gets the treat I really wanted. But, usually all I have to do is ask for another one. Sometimes the volunteers like to come and rearrange our beds and mess things up in our rooms too – not sure why. Cleanliness again, I suppose. And outside of the rooms, they do stuff like organize donated items, put information into the computer, print out forms, go over adoption applications – you know, all of the work that us cats would love to help with, if we had opposable thumbs. Alas, we don’t so we have to just sit back and relax and let the people do it all.

Volunteer sitting with George on her shoulderWait a minute, Smudgie and Junco – you guys just might be on to something! No wonder they named you guys Sweetheart Candidates this year – these two have brains and beauty! Us cats, we’ve got it pretty good. Even at a shelter where we have to share our space with a lot of our friends. Why? Because of the people. Every step of the way, there’s a person working on something at our shelter, trying to make our home a little better while we wait for our real, Forever Homes. They’re cleaning to make everything more sanitary, feeding and medicating to make us happier and healthier, and fixing things up and working to keep things running smoothly. It’s a big job – I guess that’s why there’s so many people who have to come and help!

You see, people’s help makes all the difference. Don’t believe it? It’s true! Without nice people – like you reading this right now – Smudgie’s eyes would still be infected like they were a while back, and Junco would never have that beautiful black coat she has now. They owe it to you too! Each day in our lives wouldn’t be possible without these great people like you. Can you help make a difference in our everyday lives? It could be through volunteering, or sharing our stories with your friends, or adopting, or even making a generous contribution.

Why not cast a vote for Smudgie or Junco or any of our other Sweethearts now? It sure would make our day that much brighter – we’ll even purr in your honor!