Walking for the animals

Following on from Zumba Gold and cold water swimming, my exercise challenge for today was a brisk walk in the Auckland suburb of Hobsonville. I did this partly for health benefits but more importantly to raise awareness for my favourite charity, the Society for Prevention of Cruelty to Animals or SPCA. A group of supporters, many with their dogs, gathered at the site where a new centre serving the North Shore area is to be built next year. Brian came too.

Although there are plenty of animal lovers in New Zealand, there are also many cases of cruelty and neglect. I know from my years of volunteering with the SPCA that the organisation does wonderful work in rescuing, rehabilitating and rehoming animals, educating school children about animal welfare, running low-cost desexing programs to prevent litters of unwanted kittens, seeking justice in cases of animal abuse, and more.

Until now the SPCA has operated from the Animal Village in Mangere in South Auckland, close to the airport. As the city’s population has grown, not only are these premises too small, but traffic congestion is making it very difficult to service the area efficiently. The new centre in Hobsonville will make it possible to help many more animals such as my own beautiful Magic (pictured), who was brought into the SPCA as the only survivor of a litter of kittens left to die under a hedge. More funds are still needed to build the centre and donations can be made through https://www.spcaauckland.org.nz.

Magic on cyclamen bed

 

 

 

Homer: rest in peace

clare & homer

Sad news for the many friends of Homer the cat.  He had developed an untreatable abdominal lymphoma, and yesterday the heartbreaking decision to euthanise him was made.

Being officially my cat, he has been buried in our back garden, though he never really regarded our property as his home.  After many wanderings he settled with my mother Clare (pictured) and they spent several happy years together until she died in 2015. After that he chose to live in turn with two younger couples, both of whom cared for him lovingly and are devastated by his loss.

To read more about Homer’s remarkable life, search for his name on this blog.

Daisy’s renal function

I took Daisy, our 15-year-old cat, to the vet to have her long sharp front claws trimmed. She had taken to jumping up on the bed every morning, expressing her desire for food and attention by scratching my forearms hard enough to make them bleed. The vet recommended a geriatric health screen. Daisy was kept in the clinic all day for blood and urine tests, and the results showed that her renal function was somewhat impaired. I agreed to another blood test to assess the extent of the problem.

Renal (kidney) failure is very common in older cats. The many possible causes include urinary infections and ingestion of poisons. In many cases no specific cause can be found, though I wonder if processed food is implicated, for example cats fed on dry biscuits may get too much salt and not enough water. Our own cats certainly love dry biscuits, but I have always limited their intake, and fed a mixed diet with moist canned food and fresh meat, poultry or fish. The symptoms of renal failure can include increased thirst, increased urine volume, loss of appetite and weight, vomiting, diarrhoea, and general weakness. It is sometimes associated with other conditions such as anaemia, hypertension and hyperthyroidism.

Although diet is an important aspect of management, according to my reading there is some controversy around this. The standard prescription foods are low in protein, but some experts recommend feeding plenty of protein from fresh high-grade animal sources. Medication may delay progression of the condition. Adequate fluid intake is important, and severe acute cases may need parenteral fluids. Some specialised centres even offer renal dialysis and kidney transplantation.

Daisy’s second blood test showed that her renal function was “borderline”. She appears very well and has none of the symptoms listed above. After a long discussion with the vet we agreed not to initiate drug treatment or a special diet at this time.

I was about to leave the clinic when I checked on her claws and found that they had forgotten to trim them, so she was taken back to have that done. It had turned out a very expensive manicure; I could have tried to do it myself at home, though I am sure she would have scratched me.

Whether investigation of Daisy’s renal function has been worthwhile, only time will tell. Both in veterinary and in human medicine, screening for disease has pros and cons. Sometimes it does pick up a serious condition for which early treatment is desirable and even life saving. But modern tests are so sensitive that they often detect very minor abnormalities, prompting further investigations which can involve a great deal of discomfort, anxiety and expense and usually prove to have been unnecessary. On several occasions I myself have had blood results, X-Rays or biopsies reported as “borderline” or “suspicious” that eventually turned out to have been false alarms.

Daisy lying back

A Christmas Cat-Fest Part 3: Daisy the pianist

daisy-in-bedDaisy (aged fifteen) is our most musical cat. Of the many cats I have known, she is the only one to be fascinated by the piano. Whenever I attempt to practice she jumps onto the keyboard and marches up and down on it, taking particular satisfaction from playing the bass part. She is also a keen vocalist, expressing her desires for food or attention with raucous cries at all hours of day or night. When Daisy was about a year old, she and her three kittens came to us for fostering from the local veterinary surgery, where she had been left by her previous owners. We soon found homes for the kittens, but I nearly always end up keeping my fosters and so Daisy stayed on. Confident of her position as the senior cat in the household, over the course of her long life she has reluctantly tolerated the comings and goings of feline companions Felix, HomerMagic and Leo.

This is the end of my mini-series about cats, and I expect to return to posting on more serious topics in the New Year. Happy Christmas, and thank you for visiting my blog.

A Christmas Cat-Fest Part 2: Leo the lounger

  • leo-curled-up

Leo (aged two years) is our most laid-back cat. He is also the most affectionate, purring whenever I pick him up or stroke him or even just look in his direction. Leo is a solidly built cat who has a hearty appetite and spends most of his time relaxing around the house and garden. However he occasionally shows other sides of his character by chasing other cats off the property, and by running away from human strangers. Although he was a rescue kitten, he must have come from quite a kind background because he was so friendly and plump from the start. I fostered him for the Lonely Miaow Association but ended up adopting him myself because he got on so well with Magic.

 

A Christmas Cat-Fest Part 1: Magic the huntress

magic-on-cyclamen-bed  Magic (aged two years) is the most adventurous of our cats, sometimes to be found roaming far from home up on the mountain behind our house. She is also the only serious hunter in our feline family, being capable of catching large rats despite her delicate build. Magic’s small size is perhaps the legacy of a difficult start in life; she was brought into Auckland SPCA as a kitten, having been found cold and starving under a hedge beside her dead litter mates, and soon afterwards she became sick with cat flu and an eye infection. But she survived these traumas and has grown into a strong and healthy cat, with a ravenous appetite and a passion for raw chicken necks.

Daisy the piano cat

Every cat is unique in appearance, personality and behaviour. Our black and white Magic is addicted to raw chicken necks; Leo the tabby likes to relax in the letterbox; and tortoiseshell Daisy is interested in music. My attempts to practice the piano are often interrupted when she jumps up on the keys and plays a loud accompaniment. Here is a short video of Daisy’s latest composition.

Daisy may not be so skilled as the famous American piano cat called Nora but then, like me, she only started learning to play in later life.

P.S. A reminder that my short novel Blue Moon for Bombers is free from Smashwords until the end of November. To download a copy click here.