At the Still Point of the Turning World
Residency is over, NOW what? (While I'm waiting for the answer, I'll get some spinning done....)

Wednesday, February 11, 2004


If my posts seem to be running a bit thin these days, it's because I've been struggling with some new challenges.

First of all, my cats went to the vet last week. Now, the old truism says that doctors' wives never get a pill, so I suppose the modern revision might read: Doctors' cats never get their annual exams. The last time either of the girls were checked out was 2001, before I started residency, and (thank goodness) they've been in good health since then. But Shroom is over eight years old and has bad teeth, so it was time to take her in. The Big News from her evaluation is that she has hyperthyroidism, or an overactive thyroid gland, and is currently on twice-daily medication until she can undergo a treatment with radioactive iodine to eradicate the overly-active thyroid cells that are causing all the trouble. After the treatment, she'll have to stay at the radiation oncology facility until she stops secreting radioactive isotopes into her urine--probably two weeks.

Of course, I was thrown into a funk at this news. I like to think I'm calm under pressure, and I usually am, but I was in a state of panic last Thursday after talking to the vet. This is Shroom we're talking about here! Since then, we've managed to start the medications without incident, and we're going to the specialty vet for consultation on Feb. 24th. Shroom seems absolutely fine--thankfully she does not appear to have any complications from long-standing hyperthyroidism, and the vet thinks the radioactive iodine treatment will correct the thyroid abnormality and restore her to a normal life expectancy. So hope and levelheadedness have been restored to our little family.

However, there is one more wrinkle to this story:

After discovering Shroom's thyroid problem, I took Zafu in for a checkup. The thought was if she just happened to have hyperthyroidism as well, I could have both cats treated at the same time and avoid the stress of separation. Now, I knew Zafu was chubby, but I was not quite ready for her to weigh in at just over TWENTY-TWO AND A HALF POUNDS. Yes, you read that correctly. She's a whopper. Shroom is no small matter, either--she tipped the scales at 16.3 pounds, so between the two of them, I have 39 pounds of cat--enough for four cats, if you think about it.

Of course I've been racked with guilt. How did this happen? How did they get to be such Fat Cats? Part of the reason is due to their "senior" status--they're less active now than they were when they were young, and even though I have been feeding them weight management formulas, it wasn't enough to compensate for their sedentary lifestyle. Furthermore, they used to be indoor-outdoor cats, and since moving in with me over a year ago, they have been indoor-only. With fewer opportunities to move around in an open environment, I suppose it was inevitable they would pack on weight. Finally, thanks to my weird schedule, I was letting them free-feed on dry food during the day, and occasionally leaving extra portions in a timed feeder when I was on call. Whoops.

So, what are we doing about all of this? In addition to Shroom's twice-daily pills, Zafu is now eating a carefully-measured quantity of kitty Atkins diet--a prescription high-protein diet. (Shroom, although chubby, is continuing with her usual diet to avoid undue stress before her thyroid condition is fully treated.) I have also instituted an exercise program, 5-10 minutes of play twice a day for each cat. My mother suggested I start my own exercise program while I was at it, since the cats are not the only ones who have gotten, er, robust over the past few years, but I feel I've got enough to deal with right now.

Anyway, if you think getting an almost-23 pound cat to move around is EASY....