Cats on a Horse Blog: My Project Cat(s)

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After Max passed away, our remaining cat Kaylee cried every night. In heartbreaking bad timing, I went in for complicated foot surgery, so no kitty could come into the house for months.

Between the two of us, her vocalizations and the clicking of my walker, nights were noisy.

I healed up, and months later, we decided we missed the personality and wit of an orange cat, so we put out feelers for another. We got an orange rescue kitten lined up.

On the day after Thanksgiving, also our wedding anniversary, another rescue worker “seeking orange” for us called us because she’d found “an orange mush.”

The catch?

He had diabetes.

I didn’t want three cats anyway. We’ve had three cats and they more attention than I have bandwidth to do, in addition to everything else. And with one of them sick? Fugeddabouddit!

We turned her down.

She raised the ante. He loves getting his chin rubbed, and he’s scheduled to be put to sleep in five days.

Our hearts outvoted our brains.

We called her back and said, if he didn’t have anything communicable and dangerous, we’d take him. But he had to be tested first.

I was still dubious, but we went all in.

When we met him at a vet clinic, as soon as he leaned in my fingers to be scratched, I knew not only was he going home with us, but anyone else would have to pry him from my cold dead arms.

He was all plush tawny fur over lanky protruding bones. His hindquarters moved like a show pleasure  Tennessee Walking Horse walking deep, which I later learned was an apparent sign of feline diabetes.

Will's first day home
The morning after Will came home. He was all skin, bones, and happiness. Photo by Rhonda Lane

So, we learned to give insulin shots. We learned how to test for glucose in the urine. (There are multiple ways to obtain a sample, BTW. So glad you asked.) We also soon learned he brought live roundworms home to our new kitten and Kaylee.


About ten weeks later, we realized he could barely walk. It had been one of those gradual slides in condition, a disaster creeping up in slow motion.

On my phone camera’s gallery, there are pictures of him perched on the toilet seat to lap water from the bowl. (I know. I know. Let’s just say, Kaylee has bad habits and enough swagger to inspire every cat in the household to copy her. ) Then, Will could barely crawl the length of his body at a time without resting.

We made the tearful “it’s time” phone call to our house call vet. He said there was still hope. Will still enjoyed affection, but we wondered if living on pee pads was really the best way for him to live.

Our vet came and doubled down. Tests for every body fluid. Antibiotics. We injected subcutaneous fluids under his loose skin. Gradual raised his insulin dosage.

Meanwhile, Kaylee starts sliding

Kaylee and Cheddar
Cheddar, the new kitten, is still besotted with Kaylee, who couldn’t care less. Photo by Rhonda Lane

Despite her swagger, Kaylee is a special needs cat with a thyroid condition on the verge of kidney disease. The twice-a-day feedings didn’t suit her. She’d lick her dosed food a couple of times, and then reject it. I was so distracted with Will, plus the new kitten Cheddar, I didn’t realize how much trouble she was in until her coat went raggedy and I could feel her spine.

We learned to pile up her food just so. Then, we realized she preferred it in a can. After she’d smacked her lips while making a face, MacGuyver suggested she might want more water in her food.

Now, she’s eating more. Her coat is sleek and silky again. And her topline isn’t knobby. No more spinal bumps. But I feed her multiple times a day.

Since I first drafted this post, Kaylee was recently diagnosed with full-blown kidney disease. Was it inevitable? Or did all the excitement hasten its arrival? Frankly, we try not to dwell.

Whatever the case, we’re giving her subcutaneous fluids to slow her decline. We have no idea how old she really is, but she looks as if she aged five years in the past three months.

Why am I telling y’all about this?

Figuring out how to keep a cat eating and save hardwood floors from a cat too weak to climb into even a low doggie litter box is a challenge.

I’d had big plans for December 2018, let alone for early this year. I wanted The Book to be done. I’m close, but not there yet. And I wanted to be better about blogging. I even wanted to start my long-delayed newsletter.

We learned how to juggle three hungry cats underfoot during the twice a day feeding time. (Early on, our house was like the stage of a French farce, as we stashed cats in rooms behind swiftly closed doors.) I can tell you where to get Great Dane puppy-sized pee pads (Ocean State Job Lot, if you live in New England) to line a hardwood floor. We learned that frisky Cheddar is a good egg who wants to cover Will’s business, but the little guy gets in the way when I’m trying to clean up the mess.

Cats on pee pads
Two new cats, diabletic Will and Cheddar the kitten. Photo by Rhonda Lane.

Also, since I first drafted this post, we’ve learned Will isn’t incontinent. He’s walking, more or less, but not enough to get in and out of a litter box. His insulin dosage has been full of ups and downs, but currently, his dosage is lessening. He’s been diagnosed with a kidney infection, stubborn worms, and acromegaly, best-known for its most famous patient Andre the Giant. Other than brain surgery, which our vet said he wouldn’t do on his cats–let alone ours–the only treatments for the rare condition are what Will is receiving anyway.

Face of Acromegaly patient
Recognize that chin? Cats can get acromegaly, too. Source: Wikimedia Commons. Acromegaly. Orphanet Journal of Rare Diseases 2008, 3:17. doi:10.1186/1750-1172-3-17


Will in Window
The most recent photo of Will, looking regal on his bay window heating pad. Photo by Rhonda Lane

Project Cat(s)

A lot of horse people get what they call “a project horse.” They get a horse that needs a little training and or fattening up.

Childhood friends used to take on neglected ponies, clean them up, socialize them, and basically flip them to new owners. Some horse rescues have a similar modus operandi.

Will, however, isn’t going anywhere when he gets better. And he is. He’s getting stronger. Some days it feels slow, others fast.

Kaylee is doing better, but still gives us the occasional scare, so we cherish the time she’s still with us.

lheddar is a joy. We’re supposed to be socializing him more to strangers. That project is a work-in-progress.

I guess we have three project cats.


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