When Babies are Old and Proteins are Evil

I love my pets.  I have 3 cats and a horse, and I love them all.  And like us, they just keep getting older.  My oldest cat is a black and white Tuxedo kitty named Martini.  She, like all my cats, is a shelter cat, and I got her as an adult (I have a soft spot for the adults who otherwise might not find homes).  When I got her, the shelter folks estimated her age as 3-4 years, but of course we all know that is just a guess.  That would make her almost 12 now, but she sometimes seems older than that.  In addition to her unclear age, Martini was diagnosed two years ago with a protein allergy, after almost dying of her illness.  It happened like this….

I had an old cat who was a diabetic, and he ate a special diabetic cat food.  After he died, Martini was lonely, so I got another cat, Oliver, from the shelter.  Oliver had some tummy issues, and got diarrhea easily.  After some trial and error, I discovered that Oliver did best when he continued to eat the diabetic food. So I just bought that for the both of them.  Fast forward several years, to when I met my husband, and his cat Oscar moved in.  With three cats eating the expensive diabetic cat food, and none of them actually being diabetic, I decided to switch them to a less expensive food.  Probably one of my more expensive brilliant moves.  Martini began to get very sick within a month – of course at that point there was no way to know it was the food.  I came home one day to find liquid vomit “plops” all over the house.  At least 8 of them.  She was hiding under the bed, feeling absolutely crummy.  She didn’t improve.  That evening, we were in for a trip to the emergency clinic, where she was put on IV fluids.  And kept vomiting all night.  The only comical part of that story was that I was so stressed out, when we were waiting for her exam, I got sick and vomited in the exam room.  Of course, it wasn’t funny at the time, but now I can have a good chuckle about it.  I couldn’t find the garbage can, which was tucked into one of the many cabinets, and the only suitable receptacle was a glass bowl they had out on the counter on a scale, probably for weighing foods and small animals.  Let’s just say it was messy, and I felt terrible.  Of course, when the vet arrived and saw that I was sick too, he thought we both had eaten the same human food and had food poisoning.  I tried to convince him otherwise, but I’m not sure that they believed me.

But at any rate, Martini was so sick, that they kept her overnight on IV fluids to rehydrate her.  If you have ever had cats, you know that they tend to be dehydrated all the time, and when they get are vomiting or have diarrhea, they can easily get extremely dehydrated.  When I picked Martini up the next morning, after worrying the whole night, she had to go immediately over to her regular vet.  They couldn’t find anything wrong with her, so once she was feeling better, she got to come home.  Within a couple of weeks she got sick again, and had to go back for another round of IV fluids.  I was worried that she would die, because things were not looking good.  This time the vet did an X-ray and thought she might have a bowel obstruction.  They pumped her full of dye and did a series of X-rays, to watch the dye move through her system, revealing that there was no obstruction.  At that point, I think the vets were very confused by her symptoms.  Severe vomiting and dehydration that only alleviated after several hours of no food and IV fluids.  At that point the vet recommended that we take her for an abdominal ultrasound at a specialty clinic across town.  When we got there, the vet had reviewed all her charts and believed we were either looking at cancer, or it could be a severe allergic reaction.  The ultrasound prep and procedure took several hours and the waiting was excruciating.  The results were nothing short of amazing.

The vet showed me the ultrasound pictures, with these tiny little black pockmarks all along her liver and pancreas.  And he showed me where the intestines were thicker in some areas than in others.  Given that we are looking at small pictures of organs that full size are about the size of a nut, I was impressed that he could tell anything at all.  He took some biopsies of the abnormal areas to test for the abnormal cell growth that would indicate cancer.  I crossed my fingers for the couple of days that it took to get the test results back, but they came with no signs of cancer!  So, we knew we were dealing with a protein allergy.

We started Martini on the Hill’s Prescription Diet ZD (low allergen) food, and has been doing well ever since.  However, this tiny little kitty (she weighs in at 7 pounds) is a fiend for human food!  She loves meat of any kind, green beans, cream of mushroom soup, milk, yogurt, cheese and tortilla chips.  And probably lots of other stuff we don’t know about.  She is relentless in her search for the foods that can kill her.  She will stalk us while we are eating, and if you look away from your plate for just a second, you are likely to find a black head buried in your bowl or a white tipped paw trying to hook that piece of steak.  Once she grabbed a giant steak from the bowl on the counter where it was marinating.  She managed to get it down to the floor and under the bed, where she was gnawing on it when Jon found her.  That steak was as big as she is!  We try really hard to be careful, but on occasion she is successful, and then we usually have to do some carpet cleaning.  YUCK.  It would be much easier if we could explain to her that the food is what makes her sick.

I’m just glad to still have her.  If it means we buy stock in carpet cleaner companies, I guess that’s how it will have to be.

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