Crazy Cat Lady: Holistic Vet Edition

So once upon a time I promised to regale the internet with the tale of my kittens’ holistic health experiences. This promise is being fulfilled a bit later than intended but here it is!

My fiance Jim and I have had Nacho and Charlie for about seven months now. They turned a year old last month, and they’ve recently moved from their “cute, mostly harmless” kitten phase to a new “I will stare at you as I knock down this full glass of water because I want all of your love right this minute” phase. But they still like to cuddle… so I guess that’s cute.

Anyway, about two months ago we were having serious issues with Nacho. He was managing to scratch wide, long abrasions into his shoulders and neck; these huge, painful wounds that never seemed to go away. We noticed them for the first time the night that we brought him home from his foster’s home. At the time, they were small and only looked like nicks- we chalked them up to what was probably scratches from playing with Charlie, and called the vet to make an appointment just in case. At the time we were concerned about a ringworm resurgence, because they had been living in the city and animals in more highly populated areas are more susceptible to fungal infections. Luckily, Nacho tested negative for a whole slate of infections. He was given a steroid and we spent his first two weeks giving him a liquid antibiotic that smelled nauseatingly like strawberries. At the same vet appointment, Charlie was treated for feline acne. Our hope at the time would be that that was the end of things. Off we went.

We had taken the cats to a standard veterinary practice, and I was quite honestly unhappy with the level of care that my kittens received for a great many reasons that made me immediately decide to stop using them as soon as the medications that we were using for Nacho and Charlie were finished. Charlie’s acne went away (albeit it was a painful, itchy process for him through use of medicated wipes that I actually threw away mid-batch because they were clearly doing more harm than good) and Nacho’s scratching and abrasions seemed to fade. He was good for about six weeks, and then it began to flare up again.

For about a month, Jim and I tried to simply manage the situation. Nacho had been made so miserable by the antibiotics, and I was worried about keeping him on a long-term treatment, that I was hesitant to subject him to another vet appointment. At that point, the holiday season had started and the temperatures had just plummeted. We thought it was maybe the weather, or an allergy to our detergent, or all of the business and excitement. We switched to gentler cleaning products and to a baby detergent without perfumes or dyes. I had sewed (poorly) a few more “sweaters” for Nacho to wear- baby onesies with a tube sock connected by the neck- to keep him from being able to itch. His claws were clipped and filed weekly. We went through an incredible amount of antibiotic ointment just in the attempt for his wounds to not become infected. The wounds would heal, and then a week or so later new ones would appear in a different location. It was incredibly frustrating.

Around this time I was made aware of a local veterinary service called House Paws. They are a mobile service that comes to your home, and treats your pets in the comfort of your living room (or bathroom or kitchen- wherever the light happens to be best). I made an appointment, and vet and her assistant came and checked out Nacho (and gave some love to Charlie, who was very jealous that Nacho was getting all kinds of attention while he was not). She felt that Nacho mostly likely had an allergy-related skin condition that was further compounded by a food allergy. Essentially, the vet explained that Nacho’s abrasions could be healed in two ways. The more conventional way would be to give him 3-4 steroid shots a year, which she could come to the house to provide. She also informed us that in going that route, we would be undertaking the very likely risk that Nacho would develop feline diabetes within a few years of treatments, which is very hard to manage in cats. But, it would be what people like to call a “quick fix,” and take less management overall.

Luckily, we had a second option. She sat down with us and started by explaining how to read food labels on cat food. We were buying a high-end food brand which, for all of the expense, actually contained quite a few fillers and grains that weren’t great for cats. Our wet food, too, despite being high end, contained animal by products (which is any parts of an animal not deemed for human consumption). She taught us how to phase out the old food into whichever new food we chose, in the hopes that getting rid of the grain in their food would help with Nacho’s skin (and just be better for both cats in general!) Next, we had to tackle the anxiety and the skin issues. She recommended a twice-daily vitamin supplement for hair and skin, a pet-dosage cod liver oil supplement for their dry food, and a natural herb remedy for anxiety to use when periods of high-emotion or stress were happening in our lives. A sample of most of these things were grabbed from their truck, and we were able to kick off Nacho’s treatment immediately.

We also had a chance to have a conversation with the vet about natural remedies in general. I keep vials of different dried herbs such as Valerian root, chamomile, lavender, eucalyptus (etc. etc.) along with a wide variety of herbal and green teas. We discussed a few skin-soothing options for Nacho (fresh catnip soaks, green tea, etc.) to help ease the abrasions that he already had, while working to prevent new ones.

Nacho has been going through his treatment for a little under two months. His hair is starting to grow back and he seems a bit calmer overall. We’ve been able to taper off mostly everything except for the cod liver treatment, which is a safe long-term supplement. House Paws calls every few weeks to check up on his progress.

It’s been such a relief to not only be able to feel like we’re managing and caring for Nacho’s condition, but to have found a veterinary service that does’t just want to “cure” my cat, but to make sure that he’s healthy too. Jim and I both feel that we’d rather our kitties live long, healthy lives with a more complex plan of care (i.e. the supplements, vitamins, etc) than just make the symptoms disappear, and I’ve never been to a vet before where I felt like I was being kept “in the know” about my animal’s treatment. Typically, I have been left waiting in a room for someone to come and tell me what was happening. This experience with House Paws not only allowed me to feel involved and be able to become a knowledgeable caretaker of my pet.

Essentially what I’m saying is that, if you live in the Philadelphia area and are looking for compassionate care for your furry loved ones, try House Paws (whether you want to go the holistic route or not). If you don’t live in the area and want to explore holistic vet care as an option, consider this a glowing review of the experience to add to the “pro” side of the pro-con list you’re making.

Also, leave some comments if you’ve had your own experience with holistic vet care and your thoughts!

Anyways, enough of my crazy cat-lady soap boxing. Let me make it up to you with a photo from Nacho and Charlie’s first birthday (Which totally dials down the crazy! Stop judging!)

Nacho and Charlie enjoying their kitten foliage

Nacho and Charlie enjoying their kitten foliage

They were SO happy about the bows.

They were SO happy about the bows.

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