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Lisa, 35, has been an animal lover her whole life: “I adore animals, especially cats. I’ve had cats and birds since I was a little girl.” So when her kidneys failed at 24 due to type 1 diabetes, Lisa wasn’t about to give up her pet “Boo-Boo Kitty,” whom she’d had since she was 15.
Lisa was introduced to peritoneal dialysis (PD) right away. “My nephrologist didn’t think in-center dialysis would be good for me, since I was young and active,” she explains. “The center staff told me about PD, and I cried my eyes out at first, but 11 years later, I can say that PD isn’t so bad!”
The staff didn’t talk too much about pet issues during her PD training, but did say to keep pets out of the exchange room and away from her supplies.
In a one bedroom apartment, Lisa did her best to separate her pet and her PD. “I used to have the litter box in the closet,” explains Lisa, “then the closets became crammed with PD supplies, and the litter box had to move into my bedroom.” Lisa kept the covered box in a far corner of the room, with the opening facing the wall.
“I kept the cat out of the room with the door shut when I did my exchanges, so it was never a big issue,” recalls Lisa. “Boo-Boo shed a lot, so I vacuumed the floor and dusted every day, and washed the bedspread often since she slept on a towel on the bed.” Using this setup, Lisa never had a pet-related infection in 10 years. “I had peritonitis for a short time,” says Lisa, “but the infection wasn’t from Boo-Boo. The staff were concerned, though, since they had another patient whose cat bit through her tubing.”
Sadly, in November of 2004, Lisa had to put her 19-year-old cat to sleep. “Boo-Boo had arthritis in her knee and couldn’t get into her litter box,” explains Lisa. “She started having accidents and she was miserable from the pain. My mom said to me, ‘you have germs floating around your room, you can’t have that!’ so I had to get over the emotions of losing a friend, and think about my health.” It was a hard decision to make, but Lisa feels better knowing that putting Boo-Boo to sleep was as much for the cat’s well-being as it was for her own.
For Lisa, having a pet is one key to her quality of life. “Pets are good buddies and a source of security aside from family and friends,” says Lisa. “Even though I have a great husband and family, my cat was always there for me when I was home alone and feeling down.”
Right now, Lisa is holding off on getting another cat. “I always said I could never live without a cat, but I won’t get one for a while since I’d feel like I was replacing Boo-Boo,” she notes.
Lisa suggests that people on PD who are interested in owning a pet get all the information they can about the animal they want, as not all animals make good pets. She also suggests: “If the animal needs a lot of care, consider the choice carefully. Some days you don’t have a lot of energy and aren’t up to the cleaning, walking, and so on.”
Despite sadness about Boo-Boo and many health problems, Lisa has kept her sense of humor, determined not to let anything keep her down. “I’ve experienced a bad heart attack, a triple bypass, skin problems, baldness, acquired cystic kidney disease, and lost a toe and the tips of two fingers to diabetes,” shares Lisa. “Some days I’m afraid to get out of bed for fear that something else will be wrong with me!” Still, Lisa keeps busy with church volunteer work and moves on with her life, adding, “You need to keep active, adapt, and go forward.”
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