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The cat who came to stay

Growing up, we always had cats and dogs. The first one I remember was Nina, a temperamental Siamese who hated everyone but my mother and never missed an opportunity to swipe me. Many more followed and at one point Mum had six, all strays fallen on their paws.

 

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Vizzy hiding his one white whisker 

When, in my thirties, I finally bought my own home, having a cat of my own was top of my list. I adopted Camden, a large black and white bundle of love three months after I got the keys. We spent nine wonderful years together. It was just the two of us at first, then along came Other Half whom she adored, but then to her intense irritation, came a puppy followed shortly after by a second dog. She ruled us all with an iron paw and we loved her for it. Losing her broke my heart and I swore that there would be no more cats.

 

Our one white-whiskered friend

When Mum passed away last year, she had just one cat left. Vizzy, a seventeen year old black cat with one white whisker. She used to say that the white whisker was to make sure a witch wouldn’t steal him. He too had turned up as a stray many years before, skittish and scared and in desperate need of medical care as his back foot was flayed open like raw meat.

It took days to catch him and his story might have been a short one had it not been for my mother’s strength of character. Taking him to a well-known charity, the vet offered to put him down there and then, telling her that he was obviously in agony and should be spared further suffering. All this while, as my mother recounted, Vizzy rolled on his back purring and playing with the stethoscope of the woman offering blithely to end his short life.

Mum took him to another vet and paid for the operation to remove the ruined pad and put his foot back together. Vizzy went home with her and there he stayed, a determined house cat for the next twelve years – until disaster struck and Mum passed.

Poorly boy

 

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Tuckered out after an evening’s play

When I told people about Vizzy, some acquaintances, (my friends would know better,) actually asked me if I would ‘keep the cat’. Just like that, as if he was a piece of furniture to be retained or disposed of at will. There was no question in either my mind of Other Half’s that he would come home with us, the real question though was whether he would live long enough to make the trip. With horrendous digestion issues, a thyroid condition and stage four kidney failure, things looked pretty bleak.

 

I stayed in Wales for two months to look after him while he underwent a barrage of tests and we ran up a truly hideous vet bill. He took it all in his stride and seemed content to be prodded and poked just so long as there was a cuddle at the end of it. He slept every night on my head and purred loudly on my lap during the day as I wrote, and for a while I thought that might be the best I could offer him. The vets were gloomy – but Viz had other ideas.

After a week on a new veterinary diet, our last-ditch attempt at settling his stomach, everything returned to normal. I never thought I’d be so excited that I’d photograph cat poo but hey, I am that person! After finding the right medication, his thyroid stabilised and he began gaining weight too. Through it all though, he remained an utter delight, lapping up love like a sponge and taking everything in his stride.

Homeward bound

I brought him home five months ago – a three-hour journey that felt like six thanks to the yowling. Our spare bedroom is now his, replete with a kitty en-suite, water fountain, three cat beds (although of course he prefers the double bed) plus enough toys to keep him entertained.

 

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Vizzy on his portable chair bed – he stays put as we carry him between offices 

As he and Bear have yet to really ‘bond’ (Little Bear, thanks to Camden’s training is scared witless of him,) Viz spends most his day on his chair bed in Other Half’s office. We swap office dog for office cat during the day just to mix it up for them and ensure we both get the requisite amount of cuddle time. Each night he howls the place down if one of us hasn’t played with him for at least fifteen minutes, so, being good human slaves, we wiggle shoelaces, throw toy mice and set up tunnels for him to wiggle through.

 

I have no idea how long we’ll have him. For now his health is stable and he certainly seems to be content. It’s a juggle keeping him and Little Bear supervised, but we’re getting there slowly. I know there will be further heartache ahead, but for now I’m just happy to have such a wonderful little soul in our lives.

  • While I’ve just discovered that there’s a book by Lesley Fotherby called ‘The Cat Who Came To Stay’, my inspiration for the title of this blog though was the truly wonderful ‘Cat Who’ series by Lillian Jackson Braun. If you love cats, they’re a magical read and thanks to the fabulous narration, the audible versions are even lovelier.

 

 

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Our darling Camden 

 

 

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Camden Cat

Camden Cat

A few months ago Camden, our much loved thirteen year old Cat became suddenly quite ill. After a few days with all the symptoms of a nasty tummy bug she refused her breakfast and an hour later we were both sitting in the vet’s waiting room on a bank holiday. 

They took bloods, gave her a vitamin injection and packed me off home with a large bill, enough antibiotics for a small pit pony and ten sachets of Royal Canin. 

Research 

She’s had digestive problems for the nine years I’ve been lucky enough to have her and as a result, I’ve done the usual poking around online reading blogs, reports and research papers on what cats do and do not need in their diet.  Sugar as you can imagine is not on the list and yet the sachets from the vet listed ‘various sugars’ as the second ingredient. I knew this before they gave them to me but to be honest, feeling stressed and willing to do just about anything to make sure she’d eat, I caved in. 

They certainly went down a treat with Camden. The first ten sachets lasted barely three days – her appetite returned with an ear-piercing vengeance as she howled for her bowl to be topped up throughout the day.  A box of twelve lasted just long enough to get her to her follow up appointment but now that she was looking so much better I was determined to get her off the junk food and back onto something more healthful. So, I asked the vet…

The conversation went something like this: 

Me: So now that she’s feeling better I’d like to wean her onto a better quality food. Any recommendations? 

Vet: The Royal Canin we sell here is an excellent brand. 

Me: Really? But it contains various sugars and is made with meat derivatives? 

Vet: Sugars? Where did you hear that? <he sniggered at this point> 

Me: Er, it’s written on the ingredients list on the packet…

Vet: Is it?  Well the Rep always says what a great quality food it is.

As he was just about to take more blood from Camden, I bit my tongue at this point – hard.  

Integrity

Now don’t get me wrong, I am incredibly grateful to the vets who have helped all of my animals over the years, they do a job I would never want to do in a million years, but it absolutely beggars belief that such learned professionals seem to have such little knowledge – not to mention such little interest – in diet and nutrition, the one thing that we know has such an enormous impact on health. Even more worrying is the idea that once qualified their source of information on such matters comes from pet food Rep with a vested interest in flogging more products. 

Sadly, this isn’t an isolated case. I’ve heard from lots of friends who have had very similar experiences.  We’ve since changed vets but although lovely, our new vet freely admits to ‘not knowing much about pet food’ which is a bit like my doctor saying she doesn’t know much about a healthy human diet – it’s just absurd!  

Ignorance or a blind eye? 

If the veterinary profession really cares about the health of our animals they need to focus on preventative health care for our pets. Just like humans, we know that diet plays a huge part in health and wellbeing which begs the question: why are so many vets still apparently ignorant? Is it a genuine gap in their training or is there simply too much money tied up with the big pet food manufacturers to risk rocking the boat?  

What’s your experience with vets and pet nutrition?  Does your vet disprove this theory? If so, please share via the comments as I’d love to be wrong on this one, for all our sakes. 

 

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