Our Story

DSC_0006-3Snow. That’s just one of the nicknames we used to call Snowbear. We also used to call him Little Man…because he was always such a gentleman.

Snowbear was our second Tonkinese cat. Big brother Hershey took him in the day we brought him home, and they were fast friends. He was such a kind and gentle soul, and even though he was a boy, he had mothering tendencies. let me explain. He used to give baths to not only himself (he was fastidious and obsessed with cleanliness) but to all the other cats, too. He also made it a habit early on to clean up everybody else’s mess in the litter box if it hadn’t been covered properly.  His mamma taught him well…after all, he was an only child–or kitten, rather.  One of the things we usually doDSC_0001-2 every year is attend the Houston cat show.  In 2006 we went in hopes of finding a new little Tonk to bring home.  After making the rounds we were on our way out when my eye caught sight of a sign “kittens available” at a vendor booth outside the main hall. There were two little white Tonkinese kittens inside a kennel, and after speaking to the kind couple in the booth (who happened to be there showing their cats) we settled on a cute little female. After introducing Lili to the family Snowbear immediately thought of himself as her keeper; he didn’t let her out of his sight.  Perhaps it was love at first sight, but he seemed smitten with her! They were always together…and Hershey, too.

Like all Tonks, Snowbear was always following us around, forever curious to know what we were up to, and always up for a hug, squeeze, and kisses.  And when he wanted attention, well, he let us know…with ear-piercing squeals from a part of the house that always amplified his little voice…”MEEE-YOw!”

At night he made his spot first on my chest, facing me.  The loud purring motor would start as I began to pet and massage his head and back, especially scratching him around his mouth.  And once he had his fill he would walk over to my husband, sit on his chest, and the routine would start over again.  When he finally felt satisfied he would snuggle into the space between my arm and my side and fall asleep.  Countless nights and mornings I would wake to find him snuggled in between my arms and my chest as I slept on my side. He was such a lover.

That’s not a Hairball Cough…

Snowbear

When Snowbear was eight years old he began to develop a cough…not a hairball cough, but a throaty, wet cough.  On one of the vet visits I mentioned it to the doctor and she downplayed it as furball issues.  I insisted it was different. Fast forward a few months later…I took him to a different vet and we took an x-ray of his lungs.  Diagnosis: kitty bronchitis.  What causes this? I asked.  How can we treat this and make it go away?  After all, we are conditioned in the scope of allopathic medicine to expect some type of treatment for something like bronchitis, right?  Not so fast. Kitty bronchitis cannot be cured, I was told.  Oh, and they’re not sure how or why cats get it!  It seemed incredulous to me that I would be unable to help Snowbear get rid of this condition.  After all, I had been awakened to holistic health and alternative medicine several years prior, and learned that there are so many remedies and treatments that conventional medicine either doesn’t know about or won’t tell you about.

The vet at the time suggested a steroid medicine to help control the coughing, but there was a downside: steroids are not ideal to give long term, and they tend to make the animal gain weight.  Not feeling like I had a choice I tried one dose.  Poor Snow ballooned up in weight it seemed like immediately, and I never gave him another dose.  I felt so guilty!  He just wasn’t himself.  So I sought out a vet who practiced both conventional and holistic medicine. Unfortunately she was stumped herself and couldn’t offer me a solution.

Time passed and his coughing fits just got worse, lasting what seemed like minutes at a time.  He also developed runny eyes and sneezed quite a bit.  Poor thing…I knew his immune system was compromised but I just couldn’t find a solution for him.

I began hearing and reading about raw diets for pets and how important a species appropriate diet is.  “Just like they would eat in the wild” the articles would say.  Made a lot of sense to me!  My precious babies were all eating dry kibble–granted it was “organic, top quality dry kibble so I thought I was being a good mom.  After all, I would read the labels and look at the ingredients, making sure they didn’t include things like “meat by-products”, grains, starches, etc.

A Turning Point

Grant

Grant

One day my dear friend Mary adopted a new kitten named Grant and had a holistic vet come to her house for a check up.  Dr. Babish is a huge proponent of raw diets for cats, and she started educating Mary, who educated me, on the importance of incorporating this type of food into our cats’ diets. So I began mixing small amounts into all my cats’ food, along with the dry kibble.  That was December 2013.

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Kiwi

The next month our oldest kitty, Kiwi, almost 15 years old, died of kidney disease.  What is the number one cause of kidney disease in cats?  Eating a dry kibble diet!  That same night I threw out the rest of the kibble in the pantry and never looked back.   From then on it was raw and the highest quality, human grade canned food I could find for my babies! And low and behold, within just a few weeks, Snowbear’s coughing fits virtually ceased!  If I had to guess I would say his condition improved by 95%!  I never had new x-rays taken again, but I just know his lungs were clearer.  Excited, I contacted the holistic vet and told her what was happening.  She believed it was the dust and dryness of the kibble itself that promoted the conditions that he suffered from.

Take a lesson from Snowbear: do not feed your cat dry kibble if you truly want him to be healthy!

The long term effect of the kitty bronchitis however, did leave its mark. Snowbear still had a compromised immune system, and I believe it put a lot of burden on his heart.  That and the twins….

Purrrsonality Conflict

Gunner and Rocket at 8 weeks of age

Gunner and Rocket at 8 weeks of age

We adopted an adorable pair of chocolate point Tonkinese twins in 2008 that we named Rocket and Gunner.  (They will be the subjects of many photos and videos on this website!)  However, when Kiwi died, there was a hierarchy shift in our household. For the first time in my life of owning cats we were dealing with territorial issues, bullying, and vying for the top cat spot in our household.  This was new to both my husband and I but Kiwi’s death changed everything.  Snowbear became a target for the twins, and being the “middle child”, he got picked on.  What was once a loving family where everybody got along had become something extremely different.  My husband and I became Snow’s guardians and protectors.  Reining in the twins proved challenging but with discipline and consistency in enforcing new boundaries and losing privileges, things slowly settled down.

It was August of 2014 and we were planning a trip to Montana.  Not just any trip, but a road trip with all the kitties! Realizing that two full days in a car with all the cats in close proximity would probably put Snowbear over the edge, we explored options to board him and Hershey together so he wouldn’t feel alone and left out.  The place we settled on required updated vaccinations for boarding.  I was sick about it, but felt I really didn’t have a choice.

You have to understand something else.  I stopped vaccinating my INDOOR cats years ago.  I just felt that they really posed no real threat to contract rabies, feline distemper or feline aids since they NEVER came into contact with any other animals!  There are holistic vets out there who do not endorse re-vaccination year after year because immunity is created after the first round.  Think about it: humans don’t get re-vaccinated year after year because our bodies have developed antibodies and immunity.  Plus, I’m needle phobic and freak out at the very sight of s-h-o-t-’s.  When I used to give the cats their annual vaccinations the cats would get so sick and puny for at least a day, I just couldn’t put them through that anymore.

Therefore, the thought of having to vaccinate Hershey and Snowbear just so we can go on vacation didn’t feel right. In fact, I put it off for two months.  The deadline to turn in their paperwork was slowly creeping up on me, and finally I couldn’t put it off any longer.  Reluctantly I loaded them up in the car with the help of my husband, and off we went to a nearby clinic that offered low cost vaccinations.

While we were in the room with the doctor asked if Snowbear’s deep breaths were normal I mentioned that he had kitty bronchitis and allergies that made his eyes water.  The doctor didn’t mention if he noticed anything else unusual about his heart while he listened to it.  Sure, our little guy was a little nervous, but nothing else jumped out to the doctor and he never said anything about skipping the vaccinations due to the health issues we discussed.

The Reality of Vaccinosis

Fast forward twenty four hours later.  Hershey went through the usual loss of appetite and sleep a lot mode, but Snowbear was having lots of trouble.  The poor guy was all stopped up and couldn’t breathe through his nose, his nose and eyes were running horribly, and he didn’t have much of an appetite.  After researching online for anything that would help counter the side effects of vaccines I started giving him some homeopathy called Thuja Occidentalis. Since it was in pellet form I had to mix it with baby food, the only thing he would really eat.  After another twenty four hours all those previous symptoms started to calm down.  The next day I started to notice that he was starting to retain fluid around his throat and front leg armpits.  Trying not to panic I started giving him another homeopathy called Ipis, which helps alleviate edema.  It seemed to be helping some and his appetite was slowly improving.  He still slept a lot and didn’t move around a whole lot, and overall he seemed calmer.  He did show signs of deep sighing breaths, but it didn’t seem like he was struggling or stressed.  I hoped the worst was behind him.  Unfortunately it was not.  He would only eat little bites of baby food with the homeopathy mixed in.  Wednesday night we all went to bed, and he snuggled up in his usual place next to me.

A few minutes before 4am he started squirming around, as if he were trying to get comfortable.  He had moved down between my feet so I reached down and tried to put him on my chest.  He wouldn’t sit still.  I felt a wet spot on the comforter and thought maybe he’d had an accident.  Perhaps he needed to use the litterbox? So I got up and carried him into the bathroom and put him on the floor next to the box.  He then turned around, took 2 steps and jolted, took 2 more steps and collapsed on the floor, tongue hanging out of his mouth and struggling to breath.  I screamed for my husband to wake up, that something was wrong with Snow!  I laid down next to him, cuddling him, and crying over him, knowing there was nothing I could do.  Rich rushed in, picked him up, and sat down with him in his lap for about twenty minutes.  We were both in shock, crying, and saddened beyond words as to the turn of events that led to the death of our precious Snowbear.

Snowbear

Needless to say we canceled the boarding reservations and took Hershey with us on our trip.  The whole family needed to be together to grieve and heal. We took Snow’s ashes with us and set them on the table next to the window in the family room overlooking a beautiful scene of a snow covered mountain.  Today, his ashes still sit in a beautiful wooden box on the kitchen bar counter close to his favorite chair, a reminder of the gentle, quiet spirit that blessed our lives for twelve years.

His memory lives on and has inspired me to help cat owners learn about the options and benefits of natural, holistic health in order to not just live but to thrive.  After all, our cats aren’t just pets…they’re family.

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