Friday, May 8, 2009

Sick cat, raw food (part 1 of 3)

When I adopted the Tweeb as a companion to Shadow (my other black cat), there was no reason to think that she had renal failure--a slowly progressive disease that is fairly common amongst elderly cats. Now, I knew she was old, as she'd been in "foster care" for six years. But she was healthy, for all her physical shortcomings--she has had no less than five broken bones in her little tough life, and most of them healed at odd angles, giving her the appearance of a Cubists' cat.

I'd been feeding Shadow a raw diet. Shadow was doing incredibly well on it, growing in leaps and bounds, and miraculously not getting fat despite my studio apartment being barely big enough for the two of us. The Tweeb took to raw instantly, too, much to my relief, chowing down enthusiastically on her bloody morass of ground chicken and organ meat.

But she was still drinking water.

That was the key: had she remained on her kibble diet, I would have thought nothing of the Tweeb drinking water, and would never have brought her in for the tests. Had she remained on kibble, I would not have realized that something was wrong until much, much later--possibly too late, when the sole choice remaining to me was not if euthanasia, but when.

Now, two years post-diagnosis, the Tweeb is doing quite well. She is energetic--perhaps even more so than Shadow, trotting after us when we go to the kitchen in hopes of begging a morsel out of us, and skittering through the apartment in a bout of the cat-crazies--and her appetite is undiminished. Far from losing weight, she's actually gained a significant amount of muscle and fat (not so much as to be anywhere near obese, but she's no longer the skin-and-bone kitty she used to be). She's quite personable, too, loving nothing better than to curl up on me when I sleep. You'd be hard-pressed to believe that she has renal failure, unless you were at the vet's with us.

I do not attribute this entirely to the raw food. Renal failure progresses differently in every cat, and it could simply be that she had the fortune to get the long-term variety. At the same time, though, it's hard not to believe that a diet of easily-synthesized protein, minimal carbohydrates, and plenty of water (in the form of meat and canned food) has nothing to do with her good health. I realize that the disease is progressive--that eventually we will have to give her more intensive care, along the lines of subcutaneous fluids and medications, and may even have to make that hardest of decisions concerning a rainbow bridge--but for now her renal failure seems to have been beaten into a sort of remission.

Next: the Great Protein Debate

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