Today, we’re going to talk about something difficult: end-of-life care. It’s a sad truth that more often than not, people find their way to the CatCentric website and its Facebook discussion group, when their cats have come to the end of a long line of failed treatments. Sometimes, the advice they receive from these groups is able to help turn their kitties completely around. Other times, we find out their cats have cancer, or multiple diseases their little bodies just can’t beat. It is very, very hard to say good-bye to our companions. Always. And it is especially difficult, when IBD is involved, to know if what they are experiencing is a temporary set-back, or if we need to prepare ourselves to say good-bye. And there are no right answers. No one can tell us what to do, how or when. We have to talk to our cats, and listen to what they tell us. One of the approaches recommended in RFIBD for dealing with a kitty that is suffering from ongoing issues with diarrhea is to just stop; feed a bland diet, give their bodies a chance to rest, and start over. And there is a similar, profoundly beautiful concept to use when we fear – or just wonder – if we are facing an end of life situation. Amy Lindemann Cichowski, owner of Auntie Em Creations and new CatCentric friend, calls it ‘Love and Cheese Danish.’ Here is the concept, and how the name came about.
Written by Amy Lindemann Cichowski and published here with her permission.
“Many years ago, our dog Ellie Mae started to bleed from her mouth. The vet found a tumor on the roof of her mouth and the biopsy showed that she had a highly malignant form of cancer. He removed what he could, but gave her a 30 day prognosis, due to the fast growing nature of this type of cancer.
Ellie Mae was our heart dog and we wanted her as comfortable as possible for the last days of her life. We bought her canned food (which she absolutely loved), DH slept on the floor with her (and would often wake up to find her up on the sofa and he on the floor), and everything we did with her was things that she wanted to do. One morning we had some cheese danishes that we bought from a bakery and decided to break one up, put it on a plate and feed it to her while she lounged on the sofa. Ellie Mae was a smart girl, and quickly realized that with all this special treatment, she didn’t want to leave us for a while. She got cheese danish a lot from us, and lived another 18 months before she died from a massive stroke at age 14 (old for her size). The ‘Love and Cheese Danish’ treatment was born.
I’ve used this for every one of my babies when they have been given a terminal prognosis. When Bob Marley and Eightball were diagnosed with cancer in 2010, Bob lived another 7 months with a lung cancer diagnosis (they gave him 2 months), and Eightball lived for a year.
I know we all spoil our babies, but there are some things that I do differently during their treatment. I found that Eightball loved to be fed on the kitchen counter, and while he loved to sit on my lap, was often crowded out by the other cats. He immediately got top lap priority and was grateful for it. The vet prescribed medications which didn’t settle well with him – first of all he hated to be medicated and secondly they appeared to upset his stomach. He freaked out with every trip to the vet so I stopped forcing it on him. Sometimes the treatment causes so much stress that it adds to their fragile condition more so than helps them. I would never suggest to anyone to stop what the vet prescribed, but realize that I talked to the vet before I made any changes.
He thought it was fun to drink out of our water glasses, and even more fun when he thought he was getting away with it (we used to scold him for it), so I’d leave glasses of water around the house so that he could “get away with it” and drink from them. If he was settled in my lap and I needed to do something, well, that something had to wait (if it could). He thrived.
Finding their “cheese danish” isn’t always easy, particularly if they are spoiled in the first place. But I always work to find what makes them happiest, and it’s almost as if they start to enjoy life so much that they put in the extra energy to live longer. No restrictions on what they want to do (unless it truly harms them) and give them things they least expect. Give them what they want, and love, love, love on them the entire time.”
Obviously, if kitty is on medications that will do harm if just stopped, discuss any change in treatment with your vet. But when nothing seems to help, consider ‘Love and Cheese Danish.’ And maybe you’ll find the end isn’t as near as you feared. If it is? Kitty knew nothing but love without the stress before saying good-bye.