Ten days ago when I began to foster Freya, a tiny kitten who has a birth defect called a RectoVaginal Fistula, I knew I’d be in for a challenge. I also knew it would possibly be incredibly painful to spend time with her because this past weekend might be her last.
Freya’s birth defect means that although her bladder is properly connected to her urethra, there’s a fistula (an abnormal connection) that goes from her rectum to her vagina. In crude terms, she poops from where she pees. This is not good. It’s life-threatening and it’s RARE. It’s so rare most Vets never see a case like this and IF they do, due to costs, the risky surgery and the high chance of post-operative complications, they often humanely euthanize the animal.
©2014 Robin A.F. Olson. Hello Freya.
It was discussed that due to the 10% chance of surviving the surgery the only kind thing to do for Freya was to let her go. I was mortified and horrified. With all the technology and medical achievements surely they could so something for her. Because she’s so sweet and cute, the kind-hearted Vets decided to chance it and give her a few more days to gain some strength. Being 5 weeks old and weighing 1 pound, 2 ounces, meant she wouldn’t do well under anesthesia. Her little body would have a tough time keeping her temperature up and her other organs, not fully developed, would be under great strain, too. The stress on her would be so great that it wouldn’t take much for her to expire during the procedure. In a last-ditch change-of-heart, we all agreed that Freya should get those extra days.
This also meant that I needed to give her the best few days I could. I needed to drop everything else to focus on her. I’d still provide the basics for the other fosters and try to put off my ever-growing “To Do” list. I had to feed her every 5 hours, repeatedly bathe her very sore behind and do continuous loads of laundry to sanitize her bedding. It also drove me to finally buy an inflatable twin mattress so I had a place to rest during the late and early feedings. It barely fits in front of my washer/dryer which shares a space with my now infamous blue bathroom where so many other foster kittens have lived. With all that’s required it’s not a surprise that I sleep when I can. Some times it’s at 6 PM and other times it’s 5 AM. I’m very drained but I can’t complain. This is Freya’s time. She needs me. She needs loving care, not to be shut in a cage at the Vet until surgery day.
©2014 Robin A.F. Olson. Freya with her luminous eyes.
I managed to arrange for Freya’s brother, Pascal to visit. The hope was that Pascal could stay with us until Freya’s surgery. She was so happy when she saw him. She perked up and ran over to him. He chased her and she chased him, but it didn’t last long.
He didn’t show any signs of backing off no matter how many times we took him off her and distracted him with a toy. It was clear this reunion was to be short lived and Pascal left with his family, leaving me to give Freya the comfort she so needed.
I’ve never had to care for an incontinent kitten. Certainly my senior cats as their life comes to an end needed special care, but this is different. Freya pees in the litter pan perfectly, but her rear end always has a smear of stool on it. Sometimes her legs get dirty. I describe how she behaves as if she’s a rubber stamp. When she sits she leaves a little print of poo on the floor. It’s good to see this because it means she’s passing something. It’s NOT enough. You can feel her intestines and her belly is badly swollen. Some of her intestines are HARD. Dr. Andrews called it an Obstipation, which is more severe than constipation-it’s basically a chunk of very hard stool that’s stuck in her intestines. This buildup is due to her inability to pass stool as nature intended AND due to her diet.
©2014 Robin A.F. Olson. Someone is ready for another quick bath.
And that’s the problem.
We can’t give her laxatives because she has a tiny opening for stool. We can’t give her a stool softener because it won’t help the obstipation she has.
Over the weekend Freya ate well. She did her thing. She played. She was much more vivacious than I expected. She gained 2.5 oz. She was a kitten in every way but one. I had an idea that I ran past our Vets. We discussed it last week when Freya returned to NVS. We decided to NOT do the surgery yet and that it was worth giving her a little more time in the hopes that she will grow a bit and better handle what is to come.
©2014 Robin A.F. Olson. Another morning getting a bit of rest next while Freya sees her reflection in the washing machine door.
We agreed to give it another week—a week I will be on pins and needles. A week where I will continue to work hard to give Freya the best I can. I’ll give her morning and evening cuddles. She’ll sleep under my chin with her head on my face. She’ll purr her loud purr and I’ll fight off the knot in my back from seizing up from sitting awkwardly for long periods of time.
©2014 Robin A.F. Olson. Freya comes to life when she gets her ribbon to play with. Of course she's always carefully supervised since ribbons can be an ingestion hazard for cats.
Freya is a darling creature. With her wide back end and wobbly back legs she looks a lot like a hamster when she runs. She “talks” to me when she’s hungry or when she needs me to give her a bath (if I haven’t already figured that out). She has periwinkle blue eyes and tiniest little paws. I want to give her the world. I want to KNOW that we’re making the right choices for her, but we won’t know until after it’s all said and done and we can look back on this choice with pride or regret.
©2014 Robin A.F. Olson.
As I sit here late at night wondering about what is yet to come, I have to remember to say how grateful I am to the staff at NVS for cheering Freya on. Some of the staff came out to see her when they heard she was in the building. That wasn't enough. One of the ladies took her around the entire facility to say hello to everyone after our appointment was over.
I’m grateful to all of YOU for your donations and caring messages. I’m grateful to my friends at Animals in Distress who were able to take responsibility of Freya so she wouldn’t be euthanized when her family couldn’t afford her care. It really takes a village and in this case it couldn’t be more true.
End of Part 1. Part 2-where we meet “The Guy” who could change everything for Freya.
©2014 Robin A.F. Olson. Peace fills my heart when I watch Freya sleep.