Friday, February 25, 2011

Our cat Remy is Sick

Remy is 10 and a half years old. His mother had wandered up to our rural home a few months earlier with two kittens in tow. We took in the babies when they were weaned. Mah-mah was still too skittish, but by the time she'd weaned her second litter, she walked straight into the carrier. She spent the rest of her life as a well-loved indoor cat.

Remy has been throwing up a little more than usual, and we felt like he'd lost a little weight. He's also been acting like he's extremely hungry all the time. He's always had a sensitive stomach, and he really didn't like the Solid Gold food we recently switched to. He liked it at first, but after a while, he started turning up his nose.

We took him to the vet a couple of weeks ago, and he had lost a pound since he was last in a few months ago. The blood test results came back showing high liver enzymes. The doc initially thought it might be hyperthyroidism, which made sense to us (my husband had that), but the thyroid was fine. He was on Baytril for a little over two weeks and showed some improvement. Then he started throwing up again, always within a couple of hours of having his Baytril. He was down to 3 pills left and it was Saturday night, and I said, "Let's not give it to him again."

On President's Day, my husband took him back in and more blood was drawn. The test results showed that his liver enzymes were even higher. We stopped by and picked up some Clavamox, and made an appointment to bring him in for a liver x-ray in the morning.  I gave him a small portion of dry (his favorite Iams digestive care) about 6:30pm or so. He had the Clavamox with some tuna for dinner. About three hours later, he threw up again.  After he threw up, because we knew he wouldn't be able to have his usual late night snack or his breakfast, we gave him a little more dry, and he's been fine.

We lost Remy's brother Quinn to a heart condition in 2005. Mah-mah died of cancer in 2007, and a few weeks after that, Remy's brother Missy had to be put to sleep due to kidney failure. Remy takes heart medication daily because he has a murmur, but otherwise, he has been very healthy.

Has anyone else every had a situation like this?

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Monday Make-It for Cats: Plush Critter Toys

If you have talent with a needle and thread, let me steer you to instructions for a trio of really cute soft toys.

The patterns and instructions are available at CraftBits. You'll need to print two copies of the pattern, cut out the pieces as directed, and stitch them up. You'll need a needle and thread, glass beads for the eyes (or make some felt ones), fabric and fiberfill, and a little catnip, if you are so inclined. My cats get violent over catnip-filled toys. Once you have all the stuff, it'll only take a few minutes to make each one of these critters, and your cats will love them!

Monday, February 14, 2011

Valentine Cats

Happy Valentine's Day!

In celebration of the love holiday, I wanted to share with you a link to a great collection of cat pics. Catsparella collected 21 photos of cats displaying all-natural fur hearts. They are guaranteed to make you say, "Awww."

Monday Make-It for Cats: Kitty Climbing Tree

All cats like to stretch, sharpen their claws, and sleep, and a large cat tree fulfills all those feline needs. For some people, though, ready-made cat trees are a little pricey, and their configuration might not be ideal for your cat's preferences or the space you have available.

A terrific tutorial at shows you step by step how to build your own cat tree. Of course, this one is designed to meet the needs of the maker, but once you see how it's done, you can adjust the plans to be the perfect cat tree for your home.

Build It Yourself
Cat Tree
Judy de Passe of De Purrs Persians posted the tutorial and images, including the photo of the finished tree shown at left. It has places for four cats to sit, and three tall legs that allow the cats to scratch and claw to their hearts' content.

One of the best things about the tutorial is, it lists everything that you need, from tools to materials. Just a quick glance lets you know what you already have and what you need to buy.

I really liked that it explained how to attach the sisal rope with nails. We had looked at some sisal scratching posts at pet stores, and while we had seen nails or staples in the end, we weren't sure if they also needed glue to hold the rope in place. This tutorial didn't mention gluing it, which will make creating a sisal scratching post a lot easier.

This five-foot-tall climbing tree is great for younger cats, but we have cats that are 11 years old or older. Indy is overweight and has diabetes; sometimes he has a little trouble walking or climbing onto the bed. We wouldn't risk building a tree this tall. By taking the elements of construction, we could build something that's wider and shorter, and perhaps add a ramp to the highest point.

If you're not an experienced DIYer, maybe your tree won't look perfect, but as long as it's stable and sturdy, your cat will love it, even if it's not perfect.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

New Winner Selected

Sleppery did not contact me, no email was listed on the associated blog profile, and no email was listed in the entry. Therefore, I have selected a new winner.

Dave's email was clearly visible on his blogspot profile, and he has been emailed. He has until 11:30pm CT on February 13 to email me his shipping address or I'll keep going down the line.

If you enter giveaways, be sure to visit your blogger profile and make sure your email address shows up. It's easy to do.

First method: After you post a comment on a site using your Google/Blogspot login, click on your name. It should take you to your Blogspot profile, where you should see a Contact area with a link to your email address.

Second method: Go to your Blogger page and see if you can click on your profile there. For example, I would go to and on the right there's an About Me section that has a link for "View my complete profile." If I click on that, I can see my profile with contact information.

I've seen a lot of other bloggers who host giveaways post that they've been unable to find a way to contact their first winner. I've won prizes because the first person either didn't leave contact information or never responded to an email. Please take the time to make sure your email is visible on your profile OR always be sure to leave your email address within your entry post.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Care and Feeding of Catnip

Despite the cold, my tomato plants are still holding on, which got me to thinking about what other useful  plants I could grow. We'd like to start some strawberries in the spring, and I thought it would be nice to grow some fresh catnip for our pride of cats.

Virginia Tech and several federal and state agencies produced a terrific fact sheet on catnip, which I'll summarize here. If you'd like to read the whole thing, click on the link.

The paper starts out with a history of medicinal uses for the catnip herb, formally known as Nepata cataria. Did you know that catnip is a member of the mint family? I just learned that. In ages past, it's been used to combat insomnia, fight the common cold, alleviate toothaches, and ease intestinal cramps and gas.

The catnip oil that's so attractive to cats also contains compounds that act as natural insecticides and fungicides.

The Virginia Tech paper includes some interesting advice for growing catnip. You can plant in fall or spring, and if you're growing from seeds, you should freeze and thaw them a couple of times, then soak them in water to soften the casing. The plants grow well in full sun and produce clusters of tiny white or lavender flowers on a tall stalk. Both the flowering tops and the leaves are used for medicinal purposes, and the leaves are dried and chopped for cat toys.

The fact sheet concludes with a list of books and websites that contain more information, including how to efficiently grow and harvest catnip on a large scale.

I visited several websites reading about catnip and its cousin catmint. One interesting bit of folklore has it that if you set out a catnip plant in its pot or plant a grown plant, it will attract cats, but if you grow it in the ground from seeds, the cats won't notice. I wonder how that would work, but then again, folklore is quite often built on the practical experiences of real people.

Have you ever grown catnip? Do you have any tips for growing it or preparing it for use in cat toys? Have you ever drunk catnip or catmint tea? I'd love to hear about your experience.


Monday, February 7, 2011

Monday Make It For Cats - Cheap Cardboard Cat Toy

Have you ever paid good money for a cat toy and within six hours, the toy is lost or destroyed? A project posted on Instructables demonstrates how to make a cat toy out of cardboard that's just going to end up in the recycle bin anyway.

Basically, you cut a vague mouse shape, including a thick tail, out of cardboard. Cut an extra mouse body. Slot both pieces and slide them together. The Instructables page has a template to help you get the shapes and slots right for a mouse, but I'm not sure how much the cats will care.

One sturdy cardboard box could be re-purposed into at least a couple dozen toys. You could cut all your A parts and B parts at the same time and store them in 1-gallon resealable bags. When the cat needs a new toy, pull one from each side and slide them together.

These toys are cheap and easy enough to make that you could whip up a batch and take them to your local shelter to entertain the homeless cats or give them as gifts to your cat-loving friends.

Sunday, February 6, 2011

WINNER Harry Potter 4 Ultimate DVD


Congratulations to Sleppery who made post #20 on January 31!

Unfortuately, Sleppery doesn't have an email address her on blog profile or on her blog or in her post. Hopefully, she'll see the update to the original post or this announcement. I must receive her name and mailing address by 12:15am on February 9, 72 hours from now) or I will choose a new winner.

Sleppery, if you're reading this, you can find my email on my profile.

ALERT for pets on Vetsulin

On Friday, the FDA dropped a bomb on our family when they announced that Vetsulin will be taken off the market.

Vetsulin is manufactured by Intervet/Schering-Plough Animal Health for diabetic cats and dogs. According to the official Vetsulin website, "Vetsulin (porcine insulin zinc suspension) is an insulin developed specifically for veterinary use in both dogs and cats with diabetes. Vetsulin has been used successfully by veterinarians in over 30 countries worldwide for more than 15 years." still contains the assurance that the product is,"the only veterinary insulin FDA-approved for both dogs and cats." That's surprising because in November 2009, the company announced that a problem had been discovered:

The product has been found to be out of specification in regards to the long term stability of the crystalline, or long acting, component. Specifically, the concentration of the crystalline component is higher than what is outlined in the specifications of the product. Consequently, the amorphous, or short-acting, component may have a lower concentration. This could mean that diabetic patients on VETSULIN may experience a delay in onset of action, a delay in peak activity and an overall extension of the duration of activity. The product is remaining in distribution, but supplies will soon be exhausted. Veterinarians should plan on transitioning their diabetic patients to other insulin products and should not be starting any newly diagnosed diabetic patients on Vetsulin.

At the time, we had a new bottle, and the vet had a good supply available, so we kept using Vetsulin in hopes that the company would sort out the problem.  Here's the big question: Our cat Indy has been on Vetsulin since at least early 2008. It's managed his condition very well. In fact, he had his latest glucose check on Saturday morning, and his blood sugar levels were, as the vet told us, "perfect." Why, after more than 12 years of successful management of small animal diabetes, was the product suddenly found to be of questionable efficacy?

In May of last year, Schering-Plough created the Vetsulin Critical Need Program. If a veterinarian determined that a dog or cat's diabetes could most effectively be controlled with the use of Vetsulin, the pet owner and vet could complete paperwork to join the Critical Need Program. When more Vetsulin is needed, I pay my vet, the vet orders it, and the product is shipped directly to the consumer.

I don't recall if Vetsulin ships via FedEx, UPS or USPS Express.
You know what that leads to? Indy's Vetsulin sitting in a delivery truck all weekend.

We stopped by our vet's office on Monday just before noon and paid for the order. Vetsulin, as with human insulin, is supposed to be kept at a constant temperature. From the client information sheet provided at "Vetsulin should be stored in an upright position under refrigeration (2-8 Degrees Celsius / 36-46 Degrees Fahrenheit). Do not freeze." It's packed with ice, and we have it shipped to my husband's work, so it can be refrigerated instead of left sitting on our front porch all day.

Our vet's office faxed in the order Monday afternoon. We called on Thursday because we hadn't received it yet. The vet's office called Schering-Plough, and notified us that it didn't ship right away because of bad weather, but it was on the way and should arrive on Friday. On Friday at 4:30, my husband called, but the vet's office had not been provided with a tracking number. So, our Vetsulin is sitting on a truck somewhere. Maybe it's outdoors or parked in an unheated warehouse. Maybe it's between 36 and 46 degrees in the truck. Maybe it's below zero with snow packed around it.

We have maybe a week's worth left. It's a very stressful situation for our family all around.

I just visited and found some discussion of other products. The only one our vet had mentioned to us before and today is Humulin. The discussion on the Feline Diabetes Message Boards suggest that Humulin is a lot more difficult to dose and regulate than Vetsulin has been for us. Someone had also posted a link to an article about a lawsuit against the makers of Vetsulin. I think Mr. Friedman is to blame for the product being pulled off the market. I'm truly sorry that his dog died, but I wonder if he can prove that Vetsulin is to blame.

We have been very careful to give Indy his doses on time. He gets injections at 8am with breakfast and 8pm with dinner. The vet said we could be safe giving it to him within an hour of that time. I think maybe once we gave it to him nearly an hour late, and we skipped a dose one night when we went to an event out of town for a special occasion. We were back for his morning dose. On a typical day we might be 15 minutes early or late. We keep the bottle refrigerated. We use the syringes twice, with the vet's blessing, and after first use, we keep it in the fridge, too. We swirl the bottle carefully, mixing it with the least amount of air bubbles as possible. My husband doesn't trust the last couple of doses in the bottle, usually (though in the coming days that may not be an option).

I wonder if Mr. Friedman has been as careful with giving his dog injections on time. I wonder if he stored the bottle upright (in the photo accompanying the article, he's holding the box on its side). I wonder how careful he was mixing up the solution each day. The thing is, these things cannot be proven in court, for either side. If it goes to trial and Mr. Friedman testifies he did everything by the book every time, will the jury believe him?

And again, why this problem with the mix of long-acting and quick acting components not a problem for the first dozen years the product was on the market. Did someone else complain because their pet died? Did the FDA suddenly get stricter, or did the manufacturer stop paying off their government contact?

If you have a pet on Vetsulin, I'd be really curious to hear your thoughts and experiences. If you have a pet on Humulin or another alternative, I'd like to hear about that as well.