This will be a different post and a little longer. Most of this blog focuses on my current pursuit of a more meaningful and mindful life but more than 20 years ago I met the cat that made me a more mindful pet owner and was my first foray into mindfulness, but I did not know it then.
Kali came to us as so many cats did back then, an owner brought her in to euthanize her at the vet I worked with at the time. They said she peed on the floor and they had hit her over and over and she stilled peed. She was almost 3 at the time and absolutely terrified. I said, “will you agree to turn her over to me instead of euthanasia?” I received the usual response, “what do I care.” I took Kali home and she proceeded to hide in the back of the closet for nearly three weeks. We had her urine checked for a medical issue. None was found. After a few months at our house Kali never had an accident. I came home and found Kali laying on the floor. She was lethargic, barely responsive, the veins in her neck, visible through her fur, were black. I rushed her to the clinic.
I knew when I heard the vet say, those can’t be her kidneys they are smaller than raisins that Kali’s life was hanging in the balance. That proved true. The vet came in explained Kali must have been born with congenital kidney failure. Her numbers were higher than they had ever seen. They advised I say good-bye and end her suffering. I asked for a few minutes with Kali, a cat I had only known a few months, but felt a connection to instantly. I sat quietly with Kali. She was one of those cats who change your life. She was a very clear communicator. I sat with her and asked her if she was ready to go. I asked her if she even wanted to try. In that quiet I got a very clear answer. “I want to live. I looked in her eyes and promised right then. “Okay. I will try, if you will try.” My vets stabilized Kali. It took a week in hospital, two weeks at home on IV fluid diaeresis and two trips to the ER. After a month Kali’s numbers were down to what would be considered within the range of CRF, Chronic Renal Failure.
Here is where our real journey began. My vet said they were surprised we got her values down, and I should enjoy her, but at most we would have 6 months. I could tell Kali did not agree. I was so tuned into her and I felt like she and I worked together. I started researching and one of the things I researched and joined was the Holisticat CRF internet group. There I learned about nutrition and the companion role of traditional medicine and holistic medicine. I got Kali to Susan Wynn, DVM and we worked on nutrition and supplementation. Nutrition is Kali’s lasting legacy in my feline household. I learned about how cats digestive tract is designed for meat. I learned about the pet food industry and what is in most pet food. Working with Dr. Wynn we created a homemade diet. Since we had 7 cats at the time all of our cats transitioned to this diet.
At first we started with a cooked diet and after they were weaned off of kibble we transitioned to raw. For a long time we fed whole ground chicken with a few supplements and some rotating vegetables. This is what we fed Kali for her whole life and the other cats for about 10 years. Kali thrived on this diet and the Chinese herbs she was prescribed. She went for regular bloodwork and blossomed into the funny mischievous calico she was always meant to be. Kali did not leave us after 6 months. She never had to go back on IV fluid therapy.
As I mentioned Kali was the clearest feline communicator I have ever known. When Kali was 8, nearly 9, I noticed she was slowing down. I again talked to Kali and this time I got a different feeling. I made a different promise. “No more this time. When you are ready let me know, and I will let you go.” About a month after that my husband and I woke up on a Saturday. Kali was sitting on the dresser and my husband and I turned to each other at the same time tears in our eyes and said “Kali is ready.” We spent that weekend letting Kali do everything she loved. We put up the Christmas tree, event though it was July, because she loved laying under the lights. We let her lick down an ice pop because she loved that and we helped her go out to the cat enclosure to enjoy the sun. On Monday I held Kali and I hope I was a clear communicator when I told her how much I loved her and how much I learned from her.
Why tell Kali’s story? So many people have asked me about why I feed what I feed? Kali taught me that my cats’ health is my responsibility. What I learned through research and then what I experienced in my own cats changed the way I viewed cat nutrition. Yes we lost Kali at 8 but those other cats I told you about lived into their 20s and late teens. Mo is the last of those 7 cats. He has been raised on raw. He is now 18. More than how long they live is how amazing their coats are, how much energy and vitality they have while they are with us.
It is work and I am not perfect. About 10 years ago. Work was crazy and I had left the animal field. I thought now there are so many organic and grain-free foods. Surely I can feed that. So I did. I mean these cats were on premium all natural, grain-free kibble. All but Mo. He never ate anything except homemade food and he refused to recognize anything else as food so I continued to cook for him, a smaller undertaking than cooking for 6. The others became quickly addicted to kibble and the cats that joined us and were on kibble did not understand homemade food. After about 5 years I had 6 obese cats, lazy,with no energy, greasy coats, bad teeth.
Again a funny demanding cat would lead me back. My little Georgia was diagnosed with Hypertrophic Cardiomyopathy. She was only 5.
I had to prioritize and my cat’s health is my priority. Fast forward 5 years I have 5 cats: 3 are 10, 1 is 9 and Mo is 18. If you walked in my house you would never guess it is full of senior cats. They now eat three small meals a day. Georgia’s HCM is controlled on a 1/4th of what would be considered a normal dose and there is little to no real evidence of heart disease anymore. She goes every 6 months for a check up. Pablo, who topped the scales at 21 ponds is down to 16 pounds and my cats continue to be the picture of health. I don’t know what pet food manufacturer will watch everything my cats eat and adjust their diet weekly based on preference and reaction. Right now we have a diet that is partially lightly cooked and raw and we use a complete supplement Wysong Taste of the Wild. We no longer feed bone. It was too much for our cats and research has changed. In closing I will give you the diet that works for me. Also some encouragement. I have over the years gotten a lot of push back from vets. Fortunately, my vet now supports me in my decision. She readily admits she wishes she had received more independent research and education on nutrition in vet school. She says she can’t argue with the health of my cats and my commitment to research.
My cats Diet prepared weekly for 5 cats
6 lbs boneless skinless chick thighs – lightly cooked
2 Turkey thighs with skin- lightly cooked
1/2 pound chick organ meat (Hearts, kidneys, liver, etc.) – Raw
1 package chicken breast strips – raw
Wysong Taste of the Wild added per instructions for weight
Two Gerber Pumpkin Baby Foods
24-36 oz. of water
The chicken and organ meat is ground with a Maverick meat grinder. Everything is mixed together. Packaged per day and frozen.
Yes it takes work and time. I think of all the time I have freed up not running them back and forth to the vet and chasing them to medicate them. Also there is nothing like sitting with your little carnivores listening to them eat a species appropriate diet and knowing their bodies don’t have to eliminate all the junk in traditional cat food. Also I can still clearly hear Kali. Telling me she came to us for a reason. All the cats we have had, with her and since her, have one tough, plucky, funny, loud calico to thank. To this day I miss Kali, but her legacy lives on my cats clear eyes and healthy lives.