Thursday, October 28, 2010

Wisdom From My Cat

In the previous post, I talked about the consultation Vixen and I had with Laura Stinchfield, Pet Psychic. At about 20 minutes into the 30-minute session, we'd covered the three areas I'd mainly wanted to address during the call, and I'd gotten some valuable information about the state of Vixen's health and where she is having pain. Since we still had a few minutes left, Laura asked if there was anything else I wanted to know.

I told her that my mother had passed away last year, and shortly afterward Vixen had walked over to my mother's chair and sniffed it, like she missed her. I wondered if she still remembered my mother, if she missed her, if she was aware of what had happened to her, and if she ever sensed her spirit around. Animals are supposed to be sensitive to spiritual presences, so I was curious. What Vixen said absolutely shocked me:
"my grandma comes here one night a week. she comes here on the night that mom sometimes goes out and she stays here with me and she tells me that when i go to heaven i can live with her until i am ready to go be on my own. She says that she has a comfy lap still and she says that she is someone that is helping cats that miss their people on earth."
Laura asked if there was a night each week that I regularly went out with friends for dinner or something, and I said no, but I do to go choir rehearsal on the same night each week! How interesting that my mother would come and sit with the cat while I'm gone. The comment about her lap was curious, as my mother had never particularly liked holding any pets in her lap. What my mother was telling her made me wonder if Vixen was getting closer to the end of her life than I liked to think, and the next part made me wonder even more about that.

"grandma is saying that to me because I am going to be very sad to not live with my mom. my mom talks to me everyday and tells me many things about the world. She is my connection to life and i fear that if I die that I will be lonely for her and I will not know how to learn with out her. mom has taught me everything."
Cue the tears! I knew that Vixen liked to be near me, especially in her later years, but didn't have any idea that she felt that way about me. She was a very smart feral kitty when she decided to come and live with me at about a year old. I do talk to her a lot, but since she can't hear any more, I figured that was more for me than for her! But apparently the messages still get through.

The next part was also unsolicited, and made my eyes leak even more:
"can you tell my mom that i know that sometimes she gets worried and I think that worry is not good for her stomach. tell her that worry is not good for her stomach and worry should be drank away with lots of water and good thoughts. We should spend a little time each day thinking good thoughts together." That made both Laura and me smile, and we wondered what Vixen thought of as "good thoughts". So Laura asked her, and before relaying her response commented that, "She's very wise." Here's what she said:
"I think a good thought is planting something and believing it will grow and i believe a good thought is thinking that you will always be comfortable and cozy and you will have good food to eat and music in your mind even though you can not hear. I believe good thoughts is believing you are rich even though some may look at your life and think your not."
Wow! Laura asked if my mother or I had listened to a lot of music around her, and I told her that not only did I listen to a lot of music, but that Vixen had loved listening to music when she was younger; she'd position herself in my living room at the "sweet spot" and cock one ear toward each of the stereo speakers. Laura thought it was interesting that she would still remember the music from then and be able to enjoy it in her mind. There's usually a song going through my mind, so if cats really communicate telepathically, perhaps she's picking up on some of those, as well. Yeah, I was pretty emotional over this!

We were almost out of time, so I got in a quick final question about when I will sometimes pick Vixen up and set her beside me on the sofa, but she'll sit very near the edge, where I'm worried that she'll fall. She doesn't stay for long, and usually jumps back down at the first opportunity. I wondered if perhaps she would get a little vertigo up off the floor. Here's what she said:
"Yes, my neck hurts a lot. You right about me getting dizzy and i dont like being confused up high. I have a lot of moments of confusion. If i was an old lady my mom would have to pick me up at the supermarket."
My girl made a little joke! We both wondered where she would have gotten that image of a confused older person being picked up at the supermarket; perhaps it was another conversation she'd had with my mother, something that had happened to my mom that she'd never told me about. Fascinating!

The repeated mention of Vixen's neck hurting made Laura think that a chiropractor may help her; I told her I'd already mentioned her symptoms to my own chiropractor and would ask him about adjusting her. He's adjusted animals before, so may be open to the idea. She also needs to have some blood work run at her own vet, to see what's causing her lack of energy and determine what type of supplements may help her. Native Remedies makes something for just about every ailment, so I'll be trying out some of those items that I carry on; perfect way to write reviews on them!

Who knows if our pets really do try to communicate with us telepathically? It certainly seems like they are sometimes. If you're also wondering about that, there's a link to The Pet Psychic from's links page. I'd highly recommend Laura; she definitely knows animals very well and has given me some valuable information on how to make Vixen's remaining time with me as long and comfortable as it can be.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Do Your Cats Talk to You?

My little cat is about 22 1/2 years old now, a sort of "super-senior", since they say cats become "seniors" by about age 8. She doesn't hear well, yowls a lot, sometimes gets a tremor in her back leg, seems to move more gingerly, and several other things that let me know she's feeling her age. We have a pretty close bond, but if she's hurting somewhere she can't tell me that (although it certainly seems like she's trying, sometimes).

So when Facebook told me one of my friends had "liked" a page called "The Pet Psychic", I was curious. I'd watched professed pet psychic Sonia Fitzpatrick's show on Animal Planet, and was convinced that she could actually "hear" what animals were trying to say to her. And while I think the term "psychic" is a misnomer that can get these gifted people lumped into a group with charlatans, soothsayers, or just plain kooks, I thought it worth further investigation.

So I visited the pet psychic's actual web page and found lots of wonderful testimonials from people whose animals she'd helped, along with photos of their smiling faces. She offers both live and phone sessions, so she can work with animals located anywhere, and even those who have passed away. I thought perhaps she could tell me what I could do to make Vixen's super-senior life more comfortable for the time we have left together, and also wondered if she may have any hidden health issues. So, yes, this crazy old maid cat lady scheduled a session. I filled out the information form, uploaded a photo of Vixen, made my payment, and scheduled my half-hour consultation.

The Pet Psychic is a California woman named Laura Stinchfield, and she called right on the dot at the appointed time. She was quite vivacious and struck me as a genuinely happy person. I gave her some preliminary information about Vixen, pretty much what I said above, and told her I was just curious as to what's going on in her little head. Laura said that she'd get images in her mind when the animals are talking to her, and sometimes if they're having pain, she'll feel it in that portion of her body. Sonia Fitzpatrick had reported something similar about the messages she receives from animals.

Vixen had just been asking for food before the call, but I'd delayed feeding her before checking with Laura on where Vixen needed to be during the session. Laura told me that she could eat and talk to her at the same time, so I went ahead and gave her some canned food. She was happily smacking away as the consultation began.

I first wondered if Vixen was experiencing pain anywhere. Laura told me she'd get silent for a minute while she asked Vixen and waited for her response, and said I may hear her typing. After that, she'd read to me the response she'd "received" from Vixen. At the end of the call, she'd forward her notes to me via e-mail. The very first bit was an alert to a new issue about which I'd had no idea. Here's what Vixen told her:
"sometimes i feel like my heart beats really fast and if i was younger i would be playing. i like the idea of playing but my knees sometimes bother me."
Whoa! She has a cardiac problem? That was something I didn't have any idea about, but certainly something to ask her vet to investigate. I'd noticed her limping sometimes & thought it may be her claws getting too long, but also didn't know it was in the knees.

Next, I wanted to know about the head shaking she'll do sometimes, almost like something's tickling her ears, or perhaps it could be something with her hearing that's bothering her. After a little silence and the clicking of her keyboard, here's what Laura got:
"i tilt my head cause it hurts. yeah my head and neck actually hurts and mom is right i dont hear at all. i hear like a beeping noise sometimes (alarm, microwave...) and sometimes i get very thirsty. I am hungry because my body needs it to stay alive otherwise i would feel tired all the time. i need the food to feel energy. My smell has been gone for a while."
So, cats can get tinnitis, too! Who knew? Laura said that sometimes older cats can have problems like hyperthyroidism or diabetes that will cause their blood sugar to fluctuate, and they can eat all the time without gaining weight if their thyroid gland isn't functioning properly. Something else for the vet to investigate. Not having any smell was another surprise; how sad, that she can't even enjoy her food for lack of smell! Maybe that's another reason she's always asking for more and eating four or five helpings of breakfast.

The next part, Vixen volunteered without being asked:
"Can you tell my mom sometimes i want her to pet me softly but not pick me up using my stomach. i dont like that feeling. I am also very sensitive to temperatures so I dont like it when her hands are cold. I like light areas but I dont like light areas for my eyes. its hard. my eyes hurt in the light but my body feels warm."
This puzzled me, because I don't ever pick her up by her stomach, but underneath her arms. She's never particularly liked being picked up or held (or even petted, for that matter!). But perhaps it was an alert that her stomach is bothering her; she has had quite a bit of diarrhea that even a probiotic supplement didn't help. Laura suggested that perhaps she could benefit from a heating pad or bed warmer, which I can certainly get for her. I'd known that her eyes were cloudy and wondered how much she could see, but knowing that the light hurts them was certainly another revelation. She used to love to bask in the sun; how sad that she can't enjoy that simple pleasure any more.

Next, we addressed the yelling. Vixen will sit in the dining room and yowl, something I'd recently read was a sign of kitty dementia. She'll do it even after I've just fed her, sometimes if she wants more food, and sometimes when there's still food in her dish. Here's what she had to say about that:
"i yowl for food cause i like it fresh and when mom mixes it up it makes it smell more. i like to be able to smell somethings. I get confused sometimes. I dont like confusing. sometimes in my box i get confused. i dont like paper in my box. i like soft litter that feels light when it moves. some litter feels dusty i dont like dusty."
Her pattern of having one subject lead to another was certainly interesting. Vixen does miss her litter box quite often, something I've previously talked about in this blog. I've resigned myself to having the floor replaced after she's gone, but I just figured she'd lost a sense of how big her body is, not that she was experiencing confusion while she's in there.

Laura told me she could feel the confusion in Vixen's mind; she'd be getting something from her, and then feel her thoughts sort of wander off. I asked her for clarification on Vixen's comments about the litter; I've been using three different kinds in her box, and wondered which she preferred. One is the Tidy Cats litter I've used with her for years, but she only rarely uses that box. The other box now has a mixture of the Dr. Elsey's Precious Cat Senior, which she seemed to prefer to the other, and some Purr & Simple mixed in with it. Since I've mixed the two when I ran out of the other, she doesn't seem to like that box, either...more reason to have the floor replaced one day. Here was what she told Laura:
"No i like the one that is like sand. Its really soft. that one is not soft."
Based on her having used the box with the Precious Cat Senior in it before I'd mixed the two, I think she meant that it's no longer soft with the other kind mixed in; Purr & Simple is large, brown pieces that look almost like rabbit pellets. I made a note to order more of the one she liked.

This post is getting rather long, so I'll save the rest of the consultation for the next one. There's lots more that had me in tears before the call was finished! Stay tuned.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Cats Can Get Breast Cancer, Too

Breast Cancer -- in Cats?

In addition to conjuring thoughts of Halloween, October has been deemed Breast Cancer Awareness Month for many years now. Why mention this on a blog about cats? Because people also belong to cats, and people sometimes need reminders!

Cats aren't immune to breast cancer, either, although it's referred to as "mammary cancer" in pets. Little advancement in the treatment of feline mammary cancer has been made over the past 20 years. Early detection and treatment greatly improves outcomes, however.

What Cats Are at Risk?

One in 4,000 cats will likely develop mammary cancer. For some unknown reason, Siamese cats are twice as likely as other breeds to develop it. Older cats are at higher risk, with onset at ages 10-12 being average (slightly earlier for Siamese). But it's been found in cats anywhere from 9 months to 23 years in age. Rarely is it seen in male cats. It is more common in unspayed females, so there's yet another reason to get your cat spayed, if you haven't already. Spaying the cat before her first heat cycle further reduces her likelihood of developing mammary cancer.

Mammary tumors are the third most common types of tumors found in cats. They account for 10-12% of all tumors found in our feline friends. 80-85% of them are what's known as malignant adenocarcinomas. These very aggressive tumors often spread into the surrounding lymph nodes, lungs, pleura, liver, diaphragm, adrenal glands, or kidneys. They are generally treated with surgery to remove all the mammary glands on that side, since more than half of the tumors involve multiple glands (cats have 8 of them, 4 on each side). This is known as a "radical chain mastectomy". Often, chemotherapy is used in conjunction with the surgery, but up to 65% of the tumors return within a year of removal. Most cats survive less than a year after diagnosis. The smaller the tumor when treated, the better your cat's chance of surviving longer.

Finding and Preventing Feline Mammary Cancer

How would you know if your cat has mammary cancer? After all, cats are very good at masking the symptoms of illness, so you have to be diligent. Delay in treatment means higher likelihood of a fatal tumor. Fortunately, you can turn a cuddling session into a check for cancer symptoms! Lie your cat on her side or back in your lap. Check for lumps, just like we ladies are supposed to do. They may feel like a pebble, a BB, or a dried pea. Look also for any abnormally swollen place. A sore or ulcer that won't heal is another sign to look for, especially if it smells bad or bleeds. As always, weight loss or changes in appetite are indicative that something's wrong, as is a discharge or bleeding from the nipples or red, swollen nipples. Any of these things should prompt an immediate visit to the vet. If cancer is suspected, referral to a veterinary oncologist is highly recommended.

As mentioned before, early spaying before first heat is the single most effective precaution against mammary cancer in your cat. Annual veterinary checkups are also important. If your cat has miliary dermatitis (also called "feline eczema", "scabby cat disease" or "blotch"), avoid treatments that involve progesterone-like drugs. These types of drugs are rarely used any more, but in the past were occasionally prescribed for miliary dermatitis or even for behavioral problems such as urine spraying. Always be aware of what's being prescribed for your cat; ask questions of your vet if you're uncertain.

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