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Monday, May 23, 2022

Thoughts On Power Outages

 During thunderstorms following unseasonably hot weather, we lost power last night.  This power outage lasted several hours.  I've experienced longer power outages before, but I realized while sitting in the dark last night that it had been a number of years since a power outage had caused inconvenience for me beyond having to reset the clocks.  With that, I bring you the various epiphanies I had last night, with the (possibly unrealistic) hope that I won't be repeating the experience anytime soon.

1. In spite of my hopes, I (and you) might experience more frequent power outages.  I'm no meteorologist and I know next to nothing about electricity.  However, I do know from life experience that power outages often happen during storms, which are increasing in both frequency and severity.  Having grown up in North Carolina, I'm no stranger to summer thunderstorms, but I'm often struck and how much more violent storms seem now than they did when I was a child.  So in my mind, it stands to reason that more frequent and severe storms may lead to more frequent power outages.  Yet one more reason--on top of so many already--to take meaningful action on the climate.

2. Hand-cranked devices rule, battery-operated devices drool (and leak battery acid).  I connected some dots last night.  We've had battery-operated flashlights we've had to throw away because they've gotten horribly sticky, apparently for no reason.  The same thing happened last night with a hand-cranked radio with battery back-up.  I hadn't used it since losing power during Hurricane Sandy.  Well, we tried to use it last night, but it was incredibly sticky (and also had stopped working) and I had a lightbulb moment that the stickiness was probably coming from batteries that had long ago corroded.  Fortunately, we had one hand-cranked flashlight and one hand-cranked lantern, which were delightfully un-sticky and worked quite well.  If you're considering an impulse purchase today, one of those wouldn't be a bad way to go.

3.  Pets aren't happy about the power outage, either.  At least Stella wasn't.  The last apartment we rented before buying our condo had one of those climate control systems where heat and AC couldn't coexist and they had to switch back and forth with the seasons.  Of course, with weather patterns becoming less predictable, this invariably led to lengthy spells of discomfort while the management tried to decide if the hot/cold spell was some sort of anomaly or a true change in seasons.  Stella used to get pretty grumpy during the hot spells when we didn't have AC, so it's not surprising that she was unhappy last night when we had no AC to alleviate three days of temperatures over 90 degrees.  She spent much of the night meowing loudly, possibly thinking that Scott and I were just being dense and if she could only be loud enough we might turn on the AC so we could all be comfortable.

4.  Sitting in the dark makes you tired.  I was struck at how early I became drowsy, sitting in the dark, even with a couple of light-emitting devices.  Of course, falling asleep in bed was another story, due to it being hot and stuffy and certain cats complaining bitterly!

Wednesday, May 11, 2022

Caring For A Sick Cat, Part 2

 I first wrote about caring for a sick cat when our old cat, Laila, was approaching the end of her life.  At that point, we were pretty sure she was nearing the end, and it was a matter of exactly when it would happen and trying to maximize her quality of life.

Stella's situation is different, in that we don't think she's approaching the end of her life, but we're trying to prevent her early demise.

Stella has always been a loud and vocal kitty, but she had gotten louder and more persistent, especially at night.  There were times when her meows ventured into scream territory.  The first time this happened, I bolted out of bed, fearing that she had hurt herself.  She seemed fine.  Internet searches suggested this was a behavioral issue and that we try to give her a lot of attention during the day and then ignore her at night, so as not to reinforce the behavior.

I had wondered if there was something else wrong, but I wasn't getting any clue as to what.  Taking Stella to the vet is always very traumatic for her; plus, we had a bad experience with the vet we took her to after moving to our current home and we needed to find a new one.  We ended up pushing this until it was time for her annual physical, and we made an appointment at a veterinary clinic that is just for cats.

Stella was not shy about airing her grievances at that appointment, so the vet had an idea of how loud she could be.  She said that sometimes loud meowing/screaming is due to high blood pressure--they think cats get headaches from that.  She checked, and sure enough, Stella's blood pressure was dangerously high.  She gave Stella a first dose of blood pressure medicine right then and there.

Blood pressure checks are often not a part of routine veterinary examinations (at least of cats), so I intend this to be partly a public service announcement for other cat owners.  But it's also a chance to write about caring for an animal with a chronic health problem.  The good news for all of us is that Stella does seem calmer and happier since starting on her blood pressure medicine.  The bad news is that this cat who loathes being loaded into the cat carrier and riding in the car has earned more frequent trips to the vet to monitor her.  Also, we get the pleasure of administering her medication.

We started out with pills, which were relatively cheap.  The vet recommended that I crush them into her food.  I did as she recommended.  The problem is that since Stella rarely eats all the food in her bowl, it was impossible to tell how much--if any--of her dose she was getting.  I told the vet what was happening, and we decided to try the medicine compounded into treats.

The blood pressure treats were significantly more expensive than the pills, but I thought they were at least worth a try.  However, by the time they arrived, Stella was due for a blood pressure check at the vet.  Her blood pressure was borderline low at that appointment, so they suggested we try a lower dose.  The expensive treats had to be put aside, at least temporarily.  Fortunately, they had some samples of transdermal blood pressure medicine at the lower dose that they gave us for free to try.  The way this works on cats is that you rub this on the inside of their ear (one of the few parts of cats that aren't covered in fur) and have to periodically clean their ears so that the residue doesn't prevent the medicine from being absorbed.

On the whole, I think transdermal medicine is way easier to administer than pills.  I have to wear a finger cot or disposable glove while administering it, so as not to absorb any medicine through my own skin (I'm usually successful at avoiding contact with it; if my blood pressure takes a sudden drop, we'll know why!).  Stella doesn't like having her ears handled, but if I can get her when she's drowsy and lying down, she's usually pretty cooperative.

Well, we had another vet visit the other day to check Stella's blood pressure.  Her blood pressure is now borderline high.  Apparently, there is no in-between dose of this medicine, so we have to alternate giving her the higher dose one day and the lower dose the next.  This has a real potential to be confusing.  I've ordered the transdermal version of both doses (which, like the treats, are significantly more expensive than the pills) and think I'll need to get a calendar and some way of marking the syringes to keep track.  In the meantime, I decided to try her on one of those expensive blood pressure treats.  I cut it up into pieces and put it in her breakfast yesterday.  She must have been able to smell a difference in her food, and spent the morning avoiding it and complaining bitterly about the ever-fragrant cat food being contaminated with potentially lifesaving medicine.  But after I left for work, she did eat most of her food, according to Scott, who got home before I did and fed her dinner.

Caring for an animal with a chronic health problem, as opposed to an acute and possible end-of-life health problem, is a new experience for me.  It will be a logistical issue we'll have to think about for as long as Stella is alive.  But I myself have a chronic health condition (Hashimoto's disease), so I've experienced firsthand how proper treatment is a complete game changer for quality of life.  It's been rewarding to see Stella appear calmer and more content, and I hope this medicine will bring her more and happier years.