My boy, Jack

Posted by Liz on 25 July 2010 | 0 Comments

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Three years ago my two cats, Jack and Rimmer, affectionately known as ‘the boys’, came from England to become farm cats in South Africa. They settled in right away and over time have even made friends with the 4 somewhat lively dogs that share their space. I tried to look on the succession of night time gifts of mice as their way of telling me they were having fun, although unfortunately their presence did nothing to reduce the rat population in the chicken house. Perhaps they were just too big (the rats that is). Six weeks ago, at the ripe old age of 12, Jack was diagnosed with kidney failure. He had become a bag of bones, and this was a cat who regularly weighed in at 7kg. He loved his food and didn’t seem to know when to stop but now it didn’t matter how much he ate, he never put on weight. He spent hours sipping at the water bowl and then got so desperate to pee he couldn’t always make it outside. Mats and cushions were permanently on the washing line. Everything I read about kidney disease in cats described Jack – the cat is likely to have lost 70% kidney function before showing symptoms, typically weight loss occurs quickly, coat is out of condition. Kidney failure is a one way street. There is no cure and the best hope is to try to prevent his kidneys from getting any worse. I didn’t really know what to expect for his future and we all felt very sad that night. The vet prescribed ACE inhibitors to improve Jack’s kidney function and a special diet but after 6 weeks he didn’t seem any better. Perhaps I had been too optimistic to hope for improvement. Hannes suggested a second opinion and what a good idea that turned out to be. This week I loaded Jack again into his international flight basket, which doubles very nicely as a cat carrier. At the clinic he behaved impeccably throughout a whole range of examinations and tests and, it has to be said, captured the heart of everyone who saw him. It turned out he had high levels of glucose in his urine so more tests were ordered and the results would be available at the end of the day. I waited all afternoon for the phone. It was nearly 6 when the vet called to say Jack’s primary problem is diabetes. I let out a shriek that had all the dogs barking. That was fantastic news! Like humans, diabetes in cats can be treated with diet and/or insulin so Jack’s outlook had just improved enormously. I’ve started giving him twice daily insulin injections and, being a special boy, when distracted by food hardly seems to notice my fumbling around the back of his neck. He also has a special slow release diet which helps to keep his blood sugar more stable. It’s early days but already he seems more alert and I’ve started to imagine he may even be putting on weight. Time will tell... we’re going back to the vet next week to monitor his response to the insulin, but I am cautiously optimistic once more. Hannes will witness that I sometimes get frustrated with the boys when they call for food, or (as I perceive) constant attention, or run pirouettes with the dogs for no reason other than to cause chaos on the stairs. One time I even said I wished I had left them in England, wash my mouth out. But really I love them and wouldn’t be without them, and this whole episode with Jack has served to remind me how special they, and how lucky I am to share my life with them and all the other animals of Angels Rest Farm.

UPDATED February 2011 - I took Jack to the vet for a check up this week and goodness he's regained all the weight he lost and now a healthy 6.5kg! He still has twice daily insulin injections and the task now is to make sure he stays just as he is. This is a boy who has always loved his food but now coming up to his 13th birthday it's best to stop growing and enjoy a long and healthy retirement.

Thank you to Dr Mark Shortreed and all at Knysna Veterinary Clinic for taking Jack to their hearts and helping him back to good health.

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