Last month I wrote Save Your Cat's Life with a Question, about how to work WITH your Vet, not just listen to what is told to you and follow orders accordingly. You have to do the research, push back, ASK QUESTIONS. YOU know your cat better than anyone else and it's up to YOU to take ownership of what's ailing your cat and make certain you understand both what your Vet is telling you and agree with any treatments or medications being handed out. It's easy to just let the Vet dictate, then find out later they were either way off base, want to use “off-label” medications on your cat, or don't tell you about the potential side effects.
I got a lot of comments about that post and one email I got from reader, Juli, really made me take notice. With her permission, I am able to share it with you.
Juli wrote (I edited very slightly):
I am a Rescuer, so I have a lot of experience with sick, under the weather and cats that hide that there is something wrong. Well, to try to make 5 long stories shorter, I 'll probably omit a lot of info (easier to tell the stories than type). #1~Greyson was 15 yrs old, the vet said to prepare myself (he was my favorite), he wouldnt last another month. He said he had cancer. He lived to be 17 1/2!!
#2~ Orange was a male who was diagnosed with FIV after he was tested 2 years before that (neg-that is another story). When he was about 4, he stopped eating (he ate and pooped every hour !!). I knew immediately something was wrong. He spent 4 nights in hospital, the last night he had ripped his IV out of his vein but not out of his arm so he had like 300 mls floating freely in his arm. It was very painful and no one was at the clinic overnight. When I came in at 9am to see him and try to coax him to eat, I saw his arm and he had urine all over him. I told them to clean him up, get my meds and I will take him home. They had 3 different vets come in separately to try to talk me out of taking him home and putting him to sleep right now. Well, needless to say, antibiotics and pain meds was the answer. He got better and was his usual self…for another 2 yrs !
#3~ Barkley was 19 yrs old and spit up blood. I rushed him to the vet who said he was too old for surgery so no matter what was wrong (teeth or tumor), he'd have to be put to sleep now. I refused and asked for antibiotics in case it was a tooth problem. They looked at me like I was crazy and gave it to me since I wasn't going to be spending any money on a surgery. Barkley got better and lived another 11 months !
©2010 Robin A.F. Olson. Princess FiFi. One of our rescues who was deathly ill from an upper respiratory infection. Princess is happy and healthy today and living in North Carolina.
#4~Cube, who was 14 yrs old in 2009, was drooling so I took him to the vet. They told me he needed $1200.00 surgery to save his life. I didn't have $1200.00 right then so I asked for antibiotics and pain meds and took him home. It is 2012 and Cube is sleeping on the bed upstairs.
And #5~Quills was rescued May 30, 1997 at 3 months old, in the pouring rain, snot closing both nostrils, eyes crusted shut and crying at the top of his little lungs, in the middle of a grassy field. We rushed him to the Vet. He had lifelong upper respiratory infections. Nothing ever took it away. He got antibiotics and prednisone for life (on & off). Every time he'd go to the vet, they'd take X-rays and always say "no he doesn't have asthma" I'd say; “Even though he has all the symptoms?”.
Long story short, vet gave him 2 puffs of inhaler, his breathing rate went from 60 to 30 breaths a minute !! They couldn't argue about it anymore, that was proof he had asthma! All this time, 15 years of wrong meds, stuffed up nose and hard breathing for 15 yrs. 2 years before he was finally diagnosed correctly, I had rushed him in to ER at like 4am. They tried to talk me into putting him to sleep right then and tried to make me feel guilty that I wasn't doing what they said to do. Quills lived 4 years after this incident. His best years were once he had his own inhaler and could breathe like everyone else. I hate when I hear about when a vet tells people theres no other hope and they are suffering…”
I'm telling you to take a breath when the Vets says; “there is no hope.” Ask questions. Be your cat's advocate and you'll never look back with regret over the choices you make regarding her health.
As this post was about to go live, I got a note from Juli. Her cat, Cory, who was spayed when she was 10 months old (because she was a PREGNANT stray at just 6 months of age), has been diagnosed with mammary gland cancer. This type of cancer can occur when cats are spayed after six months of age. The cancer can metastasizes into the lungs and is always fatal. Cory is just 10 years old and the cancer is in her a mammary gland and under one of her legs. My deepest wishes for peace and love go out to Juli & Cory during this very sad time.
Note: I felt the message in this post from 2011 was worth sharing again, along with some revisions and updates. I've included helpful reference information at the end of this article you'll want to take note of and hopefully, share.
Motherhood is a sacred institution, but not if you're a cat. Motherhood can mean an end, instead of a beginning. This year, with a warm winter behind us, cats around the country bred in record numbers. “Kitten Season” which usually starts in April, began earlier. More pregnant cats have been surrendered to shelters. More are struggling to survive on the streets. More will die.
©2010 Maria Sandoval. Tansy with daughter, Pattycake. Patty and her brother, Moonpie were adopted by a big family who spare no expense on their care. They are so lucky. Update: Tansy is not doing as well. Her adopter is facing allegations of animal hoarding and Tansy has been in a North Carolina shelter, as part of a seizure of the animals in the home, waiting for a judgment since September of 2011. 2013 Update: After 2 years in a cage, Tansy, renamed Mabel is living with me, safe and sound at last!
Motherhood is the worst thing I could wish on a cat that isn't a purebred show cat (and I won't get into what I think of THAT right now). Most shelters aren't equipped to deal with pregnant cats, especially because their offspring can so easily and quickly get sick, then spread that virus through the shelter since most don't have a quarantine room. They treat newborns like hot potatoes-MUST get them OUT of the shelter and into foster homes BEFORE it's too late! Many of my previous foster cats are a very good example of that. They were born in a shelter and by the time they were 3 weeks old, they were so sick, their care cost thousands of dollars and the end result is a lifetime of waxing and waning illness. To make matter worse, if we hadn't gotten them out the day we did, they all would have been euthanized.
©2009 Henry Co. Care & Control. Cupid with “Santa's Team.” Cupid, the creamsicle-colored mama, gained 5 pounds after rescue. She almost died she was so thin from nursing her kittens. She is adopted and with a family who loves her dearly. Her best buddy is her Nanny, yes she has a Nanny and she's pals with the family dog. If you look closely, the creamy fur-blob at her feet, is my boy, Blitzen.
There's no bouquet of flowers or box of mouse-shaped treats for a mama cat within the concrete walls of animal control and the people that work there have their hands tied. I KNOW they want those cats (and dogs) out, but the numbers are rising so fast—especially this time of year, how can they keep up? Where's the town budget to add a quarantine room for newborns? Who would happily see their Property Tax go up to make this happen? Where are the guards at the doors that tell people with pregnant cats they shouldn't even step foot inside a shelter!
©2010 Henry Co. Care & Control. Our own Mazie with Chester, Polly and Cara. All were very sick for months after they got out of a shelter and all are in forever homes and doing well.
I go back to square one-we all know this: the mamas don't get to BE mama's if they're spayed. There's simply NO excuse not to spay your cat. There are low cost Spay and Neuter clinics all over the country. Many Humane Societies and Municipal Shelters will offer low cost vouchers. You're doing your cat (or dog) a HUGE disservice leaving it intact. Not only is the cat apt to get mammary cancer and tumors in the uterus and ovaries, but spaying avoids birth complications. Your cat will greatly reduce its chances of getting FIV+ or Feline Leukemia. But most importantly, you're preventing MORE cats from being born into a world that cannot handle them-there are TOO MANY CATS and NOT ENOUGH HOMES.
©2009 Robin A.F. Olson. Rose, Poppy and Daisy.
We've got to stop this nonsense. We've got to make sure our neighbors stop this nonsense and take care of their cats, females AND males. We have to tell our neighbor why they MUST do the right thing and make sure it gets done and not just wag a finger at them, help them. Offer to pay for their spay. Offer to drive the cat to the clinic and pick it up afterwards. Do whatever it takes. Just ONE LESS MAMA means potentially hundreds of less cats! It takes more than a village, but even if it's just a handful of people who do this, it's a great start.
Maybe someday, not in my lifetime, but someday, we won't have cat overpopulation and allowing cats to have kittens will be thoughtfully controlled. Until then, we need to truly revere Motherhood and respect it and respect the fact that some times NOT being a Mother is the smartest and most appropriate thing we can do.
©2009 Robin A.F. Olson. “Last Chance”-Angel with her son, Spyder.
Today, I sit here feeling sick. I already know there are thousands of Mama cats who have already given birth now that spring is here. Personally, my little rescue group can't even take ONE family in unless we get some foster homes. As for the other rescues, they are full up, overloaded, scrambling to help as many as they can, but with thirteen new mamas at ONE shelter in Georgia and half a dozen at another, WHERE are these cats going to go?
©2008 Robin A.F. Olson. CallaLily and her babies. Callie is doing great in her new home.
I can tell you. They are not going anywhere. They won't even live to see Mother's Day.
Where we're overjoyed if a woman is “expecting,” but if a cat, or dog becomes pregnant, odds are, if those animals aren't in a safe and loving home that will care for them, they'll be given up to a shelter and soon, we'll kill them.
©2009 Robin A.F. Olson. “Huggy Mama”, Dash & Snuggles. All got adopted TOGETHER! Yes, all three!
Let's make it a better world for our cats and show them how much we really DO respect and care for them by making certain they're ALL spayed and neutered.
No more Mothers, please.
If you'd like to find a Low Cost Spay/Neuter Clinic here are some resources. There are MANY MORE OUT THERE. Odds are, check with the biggest Humane Society in your area and they will also either have a program, or know where you can find one. A few minutes of research online will save you hundreds of dollars AND you'll be doing the right thing for your cat.
ASPCA & PetSmart Charities® Database for locations in the USA
North Shore Animal League's SpayUSA
Live in Georgia? Try Spay Georgia.
Leo survived the first night at Aslan's Cats, though Hilary told us he wasn't interested in eating after the long trip. She got him settled into a large pink cage in the spare bedroom. I thought he should be locked away from other cats since he has a bad upper respiratory infection, but at least they couldn't get to him or vice versa. There were two or three cats in the room sitting on a bed looking up at Leo. Leo wasn't too thrilled to see them, but he was too sick to make a fuss.
©2012 Hilary Harris. Leo's first night.
The next morning, Hilary took Leo to the Vet. They felt he no longer needed to be on an IV and sent him back to Aslan's to recover. There wasn't any news from Hilary the following day and many of us started to worry. In fact a few folks involved in getting the message out about Leo started to flip out and make all sorts of accusations about Hilary and that she was nuts, that cats at Aslan's die (well DUH, they have feline leukemia!) and that it's a terrible place.
I didn't know who these people were or why they were making such declarations after many other people online spoke lovingly about Hilary and how selfless she was, caring for so many terminally ill cats.
©2012 Hilary Harris. Leo visits the Vet.
That same morning the news broke that Animalkind, a cat rescue not 20 minutes from Aslan's in Hudson, New York had a fire and the resulting sprinkler damage destroyed the interior of the 4 story building, forcing the shelter workers to evacuate and find temporary homes for 150 cats. I thought that maybe Hilary was with them, offering to help with the cats. I wanted to think the best of her. She seemed very bright and friendly and most of the cats looked to be in good shape at Aslan's, but why weren't we getting updates?
Two days later there was word. Leo was eating on his own and doing a little bit better as each day passed! Leo has a long road ahead of him, but he's survived through what may have been the worst of it. It's far too soon to know if Leo will be strong and well again or if he'll relapse, but one thing's for sure. I'll be staying in touch with Hilary and will go visit him when I travel to Hudson to help out with the rebuiding at Animalkind in a week or so.
©2012 Hilary Harris. A bit step-eating on his own!
I wonder where Leo came from, if his family is looking for him or if they dumped him when they moved? I'm grateful he found compassion (and Vet care!) through Gina and her husband. It was enough good to tip the balance of how bad his life had become. It doesn't erase the cruelty for there will be scars and a shortened life from having Feline Leukemia, but now he has found love and a safe place to live. You can count on that.
There are times when something happens that stops you cold in your tracks. Whatever pressing engagements you had fall to the wayside without guilt or concern. You're driven by a mixture of shock and adrenaline. You must act immediately, even though you're not sure what to do.
On Saturday, April 28th, a couple noticed a cat wandering outside their apartment. The cat walked oddly and was very thin, but seemed to know they were there and didn't run away. When they got closer to the cat, they saw something so shocking they were stunned into silence.
The ginger tabby's eyes were sealed shut by a crust of some sort. His nose must have been running for a long time which caused it to seal shut, as well.
One of the saddest things I've ever seen. This is what Leo looked like when he was discovered. Click to view the image and click again to hide the image, BUT BE WARNED IT'S GRAPHIC and may upset you.
It's easy for some people to come up with a reason to look away-to not help an animal in need. They may not have money or time or experience in knowing what to do. This couple didn't have a cat, nor could they have one in their apartment, but that didn't stop them from helping a cat they'd only just met. They carefully approached the cat, who turned out to be very friendly, even though he could not see them. It didn't take them long to realize they needed to get this cat to the Vet right away.
Leo after his face was cleaned for the first time. No one even knew if he could see or if he'd gone blind from the horrific upper respiratory infection he was battling.
They named him Leo.
Leo was in sorry shape. The Vet began to carefully clean away the crusts covering his eyes and nose. Leo was too weak to make a fuss. He had probably been unable to eat for long time. They put him on an IV and a combination of antibiotics. The protocol for vetting an unknown cat is to perform a combo test to test for FIV+ and Feline Leukemia, so they did that, too. The test came back positive for Feline Leukemia which is contagious to other cats and ultimately fatal. Leo was also neutered, which meant he had a home at some point, but where was his family now?
©2012 Robin A.F. Olson. Leo under the lights at Home Depot.
As with every positive test, Leo would need to be re-tested at a later date to prove his Leukemia positive status, but the problem was that there was no where for this cat to go-IF he survived treatment. Who would take a Feline Leukemia positive cat who was battling a horrific upper respiratory infection? Maybe Leo would be better off if they euthanized him?
Calls were made, emails sent out. All the rescue groups in Long Island alerted all the rescues in New York and Connecticut. They needed a foster home or an amazing adopter or an amazing rescue to take this cat on, knowing full well he would require expensive Vet care. They chose to try to save his life if they could find a place for him to go. When I saw the photos of Leo, my heart broke. I couldn't do much, but I contacted Gina, who rescued Leo and told her about Aslan's Cats Sanctuary in upstate New York. Their rescue takes only feline leukemia positive cats. Maybe they could help?
I also offered to help transport Leo to Aslan's should it come to pass.
Leo was on an IV for a few days. Gina and her husband got a bill for $1500.00. When I told them we'd do a fundraiser, they said to donate any money to Aslan's because Leo will need much more Vet care and they had secured a placement for him there…and oh, by the way, could I drive two hours north that very night? Leo was stable enough to be moved.
©2012 Robin A.F. Olson. Our first real look at this lovely “apple-head Tom.”
So barely twelve hours after I first heard about Leo, I was driving to the Home Depot in Brewster, New York (along with Sam) to meet Gina by 8:30pm. Gina bought a crate for Leo and a blanket that she wanted to donate to Aslan's. She gave me his paperwork and I peeked inside his carrier. His eyes were open just a bit, which was an improvement over the last photo I'd seen, but he looked like he was in rough shape. His right front leg was bandaged. I could see he still had a catheter in his leg. It reminded me of my cat, Bob, which immediately made me feel sad. I started to pray Leo would not die before I got him up to Catskill, New York where Aslan's is located, but I had a two hour drive ahead of me and plenty of time to worry.
I-84 and I-87 have seen better days. There were bumps and potholes aplenty. I kept saying “I'm sorry.” to Leo since I needed to drive “enthusiastically” if I was going to get to Catskill before 11pm, but driving at highway speeds made every bump even more obvious. Leo didn't make a fuss. I always consider that a bad sign when a cat is quiet in the car.
About 30 minutes into the drive I heard an odd sound, then I heard it again. I realized Leo was wheezing, but it was not the sort of wheeze I had ever heard before. Since I was driving I kept asking Sam to check on Leo. Is he sitting up? Is he looking fairly comfortable? Is his nose running? Is he ALIVE?
Leo was uncomfortable but did not appear to be in any danger. I made good time and we arrived at Asland's at a few minutes after 10 pm. Hilary Harris, the Director, met us with open arms. She's the kind of person you can warm up to right away. I brought up some of my Halo Spot's Stew canned food donation to offer her and we started talking about appropriate food for cats. We talked shop. She introduced us to many of the cats-and there are 60 of them. She knew every name and where every cat came from. It felt peaceful there, but I felt very sad, too. Here is a house full of cats who have a terminal illness. Many will never have a home to call their own, but being at Asland's is a very good option for them. [I'm going to go into more detail about Aslan's Sanctuary at another time because they deserve a blog post solely about what they do and about the tragedy that befell them last autumn.]
©2012 Robin A.F. Olson. Leo, severely underweight and weak, gets a lift from Sam.
I finally got a chance to see Leo for a moment as Sam lifted him out of the carrier and placed him into a nebulizer tank, which is basically a plastic tub with a tight fitting lid. There's a hole in one side for a tube to enter the tub, which is attached to a nebulizer. It's a way to deliver medicine to the sinuses and lungs that will help decongest Leo and ease his breathing. It's also very unnerving for a cat, but it had to be done.
As Leo got his treatment, we got to know each other. Hilary told us she could have lived offsite from Asland's but prefers to live with the cats. She has a small bedroom and tinier office space in Victorian home she shares with the cats. There are few human comforts. It's all about the cats and keeping them happy.
Everywhere we went the cats followed us, reaching out for attention. I was slow to touch them, thinking about how I was going to decontaminate myself and not bring anything into my own home later that night. After awhile I forgot about the URI's or the leukemia. They were all sweet kitties who needed the same love any cat did. I wished it wasn't so late so we could have stayed longer, but Leo needed to get settled and the next morning he was due to go to a new Vet for more supportive therapy and another checkup. We said our farewells and as the rain began to tickle our shoulders, Sam and I got back into my car as I set the GPS for HOME.
More on Leo and his struggle to survive tomorrow…
In this follow-up to my post, “Save Your Cat's Life with a Question”, I wanted to share with you some resources you can use to help guide you in making proper choices for your cat's care. Please note: there are certain situations where you do NOT have time to do research. Please use common sense to determine what is most appropriate. The information below is a partial list of what you can find on the internet. When in doubt, keep looking, the answers are out there.
One of our friends wrote a comment yesterday about her cat who was mis-diagnosed with liver failure: “On day 7 I heard my cat screaming in my bedroom & ran in to see him in the cat box. He pooped out a poop that was rock solid about 8 or 9 inches long AND it contained a blue wal-mart bag. MY CAT ATE A PLASTIC BAG! OMG!!! I scooped it up into a plastc baggie & Monday morning I took it to the vet office & gave it to the vet & said - here is your liver failure!
The vet did not do any blookwork on my cat, even though his belly was rock hard & solid, they never offered an xray or ultrasound. Had they done an xray or an ultrasound they would have seen the obstruction. I did not know enough to ask for it or even question the hard belly. The Vet did not offer an opinion on it after the physical exam so I assumed it was caused by his being jaundiced. My opinion, the vet never looked past the jaundice & just assumed cuz he was a big cat, he was in liver failure even though he had never had any issues like this ever before. ”
This is why you must exercise due diligence and do the research: ask questions, make phone calls, email friends and colleagues. This poor person thought her cat was going to die of liver failure at any moment, but the symptoms didn't add up. Now she knows better to ASK more questions and be a better cat-vocate!
©2010 Bobby Stanford. MacGruber getting checked out. (He was adopted with non-sibling kitten, Polly Picklepuss)
There are support groups online available for just about any disease or disorder you can think of where you can dig deeper and get even more information. Your Vet can't sit with you for hours and go over every detail. It's up to you to do the leg work so you can understand what your Vet believes is going on and so you can compare those findings with other cats who suffer from the same issues and/or test results. MANY of these groups have a presence on Facebook, so look there, too.
©2011 Robin A.F. Olson. the DOOD waiting for Dr. Larry (he can't fit into that cat carrier he got from his Aunt Elke any more!)
(This is NOT a complete list, but it will get you started):
FELINE CHRONIC RENAL FAILURE (also heart problems included)
FURTHER KIDNEY DISEASE & RENAL FAILURE LINKS
MORE LINKS FOR FELINE ASTHMA
Cornell University Feline Health Center
Dr. Louis J. Camuti Memorial Consulation Service via Cornell University. This is a fee-based phone consultation service that can provide you with a second opinion. I've used the service and found it to be very helpful and the Vets on staff are very caring and compassionate.
WINN FELINE FOUNDATION-currently working on Anti-immune evasive therapy for FIP, as well as decontamination of textiles exposed to ringworm (man, do I need that info!).
Doctors Foster & Smith Information Center. This is not a shameless plug for a retail operation, but I include them because their reference area is very good. I've used it specifically to get information on how to read my cat's blood work. I found the information very easy to understand and well written. Just try not to buy something while you're doing research because you'll certainly be tempted.
A key factor in getting your cat the care she needs is to make sure your Vet is on top of the latest information regarding your cat's issues. All major Universities have research programs, as well as many take on cats as clients just as a “regular” Vet would do. Spending some time looking up what the Universities are researching may lead you to being able to have your cat be part of a study or you may get valuable information that will make a difference in your cat's future.
Here's a short list of Universities with research programs. If you want to see a longer list, you can visit the Ranking of the Top Vet Schools of 2011
UC Davis Veterinary Medicine Research -they are currently researching FIP.
Tufts University, Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine
Penn Veterinary Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania (they have been doing kidney transplants here for over 10 years)
Colorado State University College of Veterinary Medicine
North Carolina State University College of Veterinary Medicine
University of Minnesota College of Veterinary Medicine
University of Georgia, College of Veterinary Medicine
I will say this until I'm blue in the face-avoid MANY of your cat's health issues by feeding a species appropriate diet!
Feline Nutrition Education Society (MUST READ! Great reference material and insightful articles on many different health issues that are effected by diet)
Cat Info by Dr Lisa Pierson, DVM (she was my inspiration for changing my cat's diet and FNES helped refine my understanding.)
©2011 Bobby Stanford. Vet with Phil (who was later adopted & nicknamed, Poppy).
Pardon my use of the word “alternative,” because here in the USA we are so very “western-medicine-centric,” but I'm not sure what would describe these therapies better. There are certain medical issues that benefit greatly from these additional therapies and I encourage you to look into it. I've had great results with homeopathy and kittens with upper respiratory, as well as with reducing anxiety in my cats and I know a few people who swear that acupuncture helps ease their pet's discomfort with joint issues.
That said, as with anything else, do the research, understand the limitations of the type of medicine you're investigating. The thing that's really great about many of these therapies is that they work with the natural order of how the body works. They don't utilize antibiotics, do surgery and, in theory, make your cat feel worse. It doesn't treat all maladies and often times you still need to work with your “Western Vet” depending on the issue. These types of Vets include: Homeopathic Veterinarians, Holistic Veterinarians, Acupuncturists, Vets who specialize in Traditional Chinese & Western Herbal Medicine & Chiropractors. I believe most of these Vets have a “traditional” Veterinary background before they specialize.
Homeopathic Vets can be found via the Academy of Veterinary Homeopathy
or by looking up Homeopathic Vets in you area.
American Holistic Veterinary Medical Association has a search form that includes the following modalities: Acupuncture, Chiropractic, Homeopathy, Chinese herbs and Western herbs.
Additional LINKS for finding Holistic Vets
Jackson Galaxy said something to me when we were at dinner a few weeks ago. He spoke passionately about the importance of sharing information, whether it be how to give SubQ fluids to a fractious cat or how to medicate a kitten. He has a great deal of respect for people who have been “in the trenches” for years. What they've learned about working with cats needs to be shared. To paraphrase what he meant; “It hurts everyone if there's only one person who really knows every single way to trap a feral cat. We have to share our knowledge. No one should be a gate-keeper.”
So with that in mind, I hope this information helps you and your kitty have a much better, safer, happier and healthier life together.
Yesterday I got a heartbreaking comment on a post I wrote two years ago about the dangers of giving your cat Metacam®. The cat guardian found my post after he had given Metacam to his 13 year old cat because she had hip dysplasia and he wanted her to be comfortable. He noticed his cat became constipated and called the Vet to ask if the Metacam was the culprit and they said it was unlikely. He backed off giving his cat the medication and she got better, but she was still having pain in her hips so he felt obliged to give her the Metacam again.
The constipation returned to the point of her crying and straining when she attempted to defecate. She began vomiting so her guardian took her to the Vet. They determined she was in renal failure (based on blood work). They offered treatment but gave the cat about nine months to live. The guardian, feeling like he wanted to do what was best for his cat, chose to have her humanely euthanized. After she died, he did some research online and found out he could have treated her and she probably would have lived much longer- and clearly, too, it was possible that the Metcam caused her renal failure!
He wrote me, broken hearted. His cat was gone. Here he was trying to do the best he could for her and felt he had failed her.
What went wrong?
This brings up a few points I'd like to share about how to work with your Vet during your cat's health crisis. Notice I didn't write; “How to listen to your Vet and do what they tell you and not ask questions.”
If you're NOT someone like me, who has a lot of cats and is always at the Vet or learning about cat health, then it's very easy to put the decisions into your Vet's hands and not take an active roll in your cat's health decisions. The second you do this almost guarantees that later on you'll have a lot of regret. If your cat isn't in an emergency situation, like she was injured in an accident or ate something poisonous, then use common sense. Take the time to find out what the Vet is talking about. Even if it means, as I have done in the past, sitting down with a report in one hand and looking up terms online so you can decipher an ultrasound report, then do it. Here are other things to ask:
• If your vet says to change your cat's diet to a “prescription diet” or give them an antibiotic ask him or her WHY are they making this recommendation? What side effects or other issues can this medication cause? Is there something you can do to help offset the side effects (like give probiotics at a timed interval after giving an antibiotic). What's in this food that's so good for my cat? Is it species appropriate or full of grain that will sicken my cat further? • How will your cat benefit from this treatment or is the Vet simply not sure what is going on and wants to try something to see if it works? You'd be surprised at how often that happens. • Is this medication specifically ok to use in cats or is this an “off label” use? • Would my cat benefit from seeing a homeopathic, holistic or eastern medicine Vet? What about acupuncture? If the cat had bad hips, she may have done well with that therapy, alone.
©2007 Robin A.F. Olson. My cat, Bob was given Metacam after he'd fallen almost 17 feet off of our deck. Bob had an ALT of 700 (normal is around 100), yet he was prescribed this medication. Had I known about the issues surrounding Metacam I would NEVER have allowed my Vet to give it to him. I don't know if it caused him to have a hepatic cancer or not. I will never know. Bob passed away last September from a variety of complications. Today I have a “NO METACAM” warning on ALL MY CAT'S FILES.
Unknowingly, the cat guardian thought it was safe to use Meatcam on his cat because his Vet prescribed it…but Metacam is NOT DESIGNED FOR USE IN CATS. It's used “off-label” because there are no effective NSAIDs (Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs) for cats that wouldn't also cause them more problems or kill them. I wrote about it in more detail in my original post on Metacam that you can read HERE Even back then I wrote: “If you read the insert it clearly says " Do not give in cats" and it has caused renal failure in a number of cats after just one dose.”
To make matters even MORE confusing, lately Metacam is being touted SAFE for cats who are undergoing orthopedic surgery or even a spay/neuter if injected one-time before surgery is done to prevent swelling. In fact, Bobette's surgeon gave her Metacam, which flipped me out because I didn't know it until he had already given it to her. He said it was safe if used along with an IV which would keep the kidneys flushed out. So I did some reading about it and see he was correct, but it's still comes with MANY WARNINGS: “Pets should be evaluated for pre-existing conditions and currently prescribed medications prior to treatment with METACAM. Anesthetic drugs may affect renal perfusion; approach concomitant use of anesthetics and NSAIDs cautiously. Use of parenteral fluids during surgery is recommended. Concurrent use of nephrotoxic medications should be carefully approached. Multiple injections or concurrent or follow up use with an NSAID (including METACAM) or corticosteroid should be avoided.”
This is from the Boehringer Ingelheim Vetmedica, Inc. Metacam data sheet. It states: “Death has been reported as an outcome of the adverse events listed above. Acute renal failure and death have been associated with use of meloxicam in cats.”
Guess again. There can be more than one way to treat a health issue. Surprisingly, diet alone can help with a number of factors. If you DON'T get involved with understanding what your cat is being prescribed, then you can find yourself in a very sad situation, as our friend was a few days ago. It's not his fault that he trusted his Vet, but there's a point at which you MUST take an ACTIVE ROLL in your cat's health. Partner with your Vet. Don't let them simply dictate to you. Yes, they have more experience and they went to college, but you can read and you can ask questions. What your Vet is telling you may be spot on, perfect, appropriate and safe-and I hope that's always the case, but for the sake of helping your cat live a long and lovely life, please…ASK QUESTIONS!…breathe!…give yourself some time to consider what is going on and take a step back if you have to. I never want to read another comment or get another email from someone who felt like they were backed into a corner and put their cat down far too soon.
Take a moment do some research, ask questions, ask your friends, see another Vet. There's a tremendous amount of information out there. Even simply going to a pharmaceutical company's web site and looking up the information they provide on their drugs may be all you have to do so save your cat's life.
On Sept. 3rd of last year, my beloved cat Bob Dole passed away. I needed to do something positive with the energy I felt from the pain of heartbreak. I decided to rescue some orange cats in Bob's honor. A few days after Bob died, as fate would have it, I was contacted about a family in need at a Kill Shelter-all orange tabbies. I took one look and knew that this was my rescue.
©2009 Robin A.F. Olson. Bob J. Dole.
The mama, barely 9 months old and her six newborns were all struggling. Mama was underweight at only 4 pounds. The kittens were not getting enough nutrition because the mama wouldn't eat for the four long days she was in the shelter. As a result, within a week of rescue, we lost 3 precious souls. It was my rescue's first loss times three, all passing over the course of 12 hours. You can read more about the early days HERE and HERE.
©2011 Betsy Merchant. The little family before rescue.
Though we worried we would lose them all, 3 kittens, all boys, did survive so we named them, Jake O'Lantern (Jakey), Teddy Boo (Teddy) and Mikey D. Cider (Mikey). Their mama, was named after Bob. I called her, Bobette.
Bobette limped. She must have been injured at a very young age, because her leg had grown into a twisted position. We arranged for Bobette to have corrective surgery once the family was ready to come to Connecticut and Dr Mixon did a great job on the difficult repair.
©2011 Maria S. Teddy, Jakey & Mikey.
The boys did very well. Without the extra competition for food, they great fat and sassy and began their wobbly walks which turned into refined graceful dances. They were energetic, affectionate and confident warriors in the world. I thought they'd all be adopted in a heartbeat, but once they arrived in Connecticut, I was surprised we didn't get many applications on them. The ones we got weren't up to snuff for one reason or another. I'm fiercely overprotective of my foster cats. I work on being open minded about adopters, but I have to balance that with the fact that Maria, our super foster mama in GA and myself put a lot of time into these cats-with careful attention to their socialization and behavior. I wouldn't work so hard to have stable, sweet kittens, then put them into a home where they would be stressed, fearful and not given the love they deserve.
©2011 Maria S. Jakey, Teddy, Mikey and Mama (far right).
It took many months but finally Teddy was adopted by a young couple with a big Great Dane. We spent a lot of time talking about separating the two until Teddy and their dog would be acclimated to each other. I warned them that although their dog was trained that she could revert to her basic instincts and that Teddy should NEVER be left alone with the dog.
©2012 Robin A.F. Olson. Jakey (left) & Mikey (right).
I checked in with the couple periodically and things didn't sound like they were going too well. After two weeks, I wrote them to see how Teddy was. Apparently, they wanted to return him. Their dog "forgot" her training and went after the poor kitten! Without pause we took Teddy back home and out of danger.
The timing was perfect because Mikey had been adopted by a lovely couple from Massachusetts the night before and Jakey was miserable being alone.
©2012 Robin A.F. Olson. Chillin' on the cat tree.
Teddy was reunited with Jakey. You can see the video of their meeting HERE. After a few minutes, it was clear the boys not only knew each other but missed each other. After all that had happened to Teddy, I decided that the boys would HAVE to stay together, no matter what. It would mean saying a lot more "no's" to adopters. If they couldn't say yes to both, then the deal was off.
©2012 Robin A.F. Olson. Silly T.
The boys were BIG and no longer cute kittens. Each day that passed I began to worry a bit more. Soon it would be "kitten season" and there would be plenty of competition, making getting the boys a home would be even harder, but every day I'd see how bonded they were, walking side by side, pressed up against each other as if they were siamese twins. I couldn't break that bond.
©2012 Robin A.F. Olson. Teddy.
An older couple offered to adopt the boys. At last! A good home! But the adoption fell through 10 days after the contract was signed. I was still holding the cats here because one of the adopters had had some surgery and wanted to get the kittens after her recovery. She decided it would be too much…too much nuttiness and she worried her 14 yr old cat and golden retriever would be bothered by the new arrivals (which I had challenged her about from the get go-so I suppose she realized that I had a point).
©2012 Robin A.F. Olson. Eat that cat tree!
So the boys stayed with me and as they grew, they stressed out my own cats and drove me crazy. Don't get me wrong, I love those boys, but they wanted more play time and attention and had no patience for meal time. They'd get into everything with a smile on their face, while I was constantly policing them and getting irritated that I couldn't have a few quiet moments to concentrate on work.
I wouldn't give up on them. I just waited for "the application" to arrive.
©2012 Robin A.F. Olson. I beat you up, so there!
I got a promising application last week. It was from a very sweet lady who loves her cats. She met all my criteria and had a great vet reference. Sam and I did a home visit and the family went out of their way to show me they were going to do whatever they could to make the cats welcome, keep them safe and provide appropriate care for them. I couldn't ask for more-okay they have no doors on any rooms because they're remodeling their home, so introducing the kittens to their 12 year old cat was going to be "interesting" to say the least.
©2012 Robin A.F. Olson. The final squeeze for Teddy.
©2012 Robin A.F Olson. Before you get sad that Bobette's boys are gone, watch this video of Jakey's farewell to his mom. Listen carefully!
Yesterday morning, after taking my "goodbye photos" of the boys, the family arrived. They barely walked into the house before both boys ran over to them, sniffing their legs and rubbing up against them. They bent down to pet the cats and they were loving every second. I had them sit down on the floor in a circle. We had some toys and their son played with the cats. He started to smile after awhile and clearly was coming out of his shell. The young boy began to giggle as he got the kittens to jump and chase the toys. The sound lit up the feeling in the house. His mother said she hadn't heard him laugh like that in a very long time. He was very careful touching the cats and somewhat shy about it. His parents watched him, making sure he wouldn't harm the cats. I felt like this was a good fit and it was clear that they did, too.
©2012 Robin A.F. Olson. The boys with their new family.
I usually have reservations about adoptions and I worry that I'm missing something that would tell me not to move forward, but this was so simple and natural. Of course the boys should go with this family. These are the people who should have had them all along. After Teddy was adopted two other times, this third time was the charm. Now he and his brother were guaranteed to stay together always. I couldn't be any happier.
©2012 Robin A.F. Olson. Learning how to hold a cat. Fortunately Jakey didn't mind that he was almost bigger than his new friend.
The family packed up the boys and I said my farewell. I thought I wouldn't cry, but instead be happy for them. As the family got into the car, it hit me. I had to turn around and wave goodbye. I hustled into the house and broke into tears. I loved those cats as if they were my own and they were just about the last of my homage to Bob, too. In a way it was like losing him again, but this was a great adoption. After my tears dry I know I'll smile again.
©2012 Robin A.F. Olson. Goodbye Boys. Happy life my little pumpkins!
And not only that, I'll rescue more kittens again, too and we'll begin another story of rescue and finding a forever home. I can't wait.
King continues to amaze us. He was once just another hungry stray cat, but with a startling difference. He has no back feet, but somehow this cat survived for the past year on his own. He was dirty, scared and thin. Life at the Palette Factory meant dodging forklifts, trucks and fighting for scraps from the employee's lunch pails. But somehow, through all of that, King made a life for himself.
©2012 Maria. S. Enjoying the good life by his new cat tree.
When our friend, Bobby told me about King, I knew we had to do something. There were plenty of risks taking on a cat like this. Would there be bank-breaking surgeries needed? Would he be nasty? Fractious? Did he suffer from other issues we were yet to discover? Who would adopt him if we DID rescue him?
©2012 Maria. S. King gives us that “come hither and rub my belly” stare.
There are times when although you're aware of all those questions, you have to do something no matter what and that's what we did. Bobby got King over to the Vet and had him spayed, got his shots and tests and went on to Mama-Maria's house to be fostered. Shortly thereafter he was taken to another vet to be x-rayed so we could determine what happened to his legs. We needed to do more tests so a final diagnosis would have to wait.
©2012 Maria. S. Ready for rubbin'!
We had some trying times. King urinated quite a few times on his bedding. When his Palette Factory friend, Miss FP arrived to share the same space with him, he urinated even more outside of the litter pan. Maria thought he might be incontinent, but he was using the pan some times. Over a few weeks, King settled down and he hasn't urinated outside the litter pan after we got him a big cat tree that allows Miss FP to be up high and feel safe and King can stay on the floor on his pillows and feel safe, too.
©2012 Maria S. & Robin Olson. King makes a friend and learns to play.
Bobby took King to see an orthopedic specialist named Dr. Alan Cross. Dr. Cross examined King and reviewed his x-rays. He felt that it was likely that King's issue is due to a deformity and not an accident because if it had been an accident, King would have bled to death. There is either a callus or a bit of a paw pad at the end of each back leg. The legs are almost the same length, but the right one is a bit shorter. King is not a good candidate for a cart or prosthetics. They could do more harm, than good. King might benefit from some soft booties or leggings so we'll look into that. Bottom line-King needs to live in a home with rugs or carpeting because without it only his front legs reach the ground and the others swing freely in the air. On carpet he can plant his back legs and walk somewhat normally.
©2012 Maria. S. What IS that thing?
While all these tests and vet trips were going on, something amazing happened. King began to blossom.
His filthy coat began to shine. The white patches of fur glowed. King's eyes had a sparkle that wasn't there before. He gained some weight so now he has a fullness that was missing before. King made best friends with Maria's cat, Kahlua. The two of them “head butt” each other and even hold paws. Part of me wishes Maria would keep King so he could stay with Kahlua, but it also means that King cold be happy in a forever home that has another kitty already waiting to be his friend.
Sadly, Miss FP has not been interested in forming a friendship, but keeps to herself or enjoys pets when Maria's friends come over to visit.
©2012 Maria. S. Ooo! Cardboard scratchy thing!
The best thing about King is his love for everyone. He's an easy going, sweet natured cat. Considering what his life has been like, he has no reason to be affectionate towards humans, yet he loves people. He's a very special cat and I admit to having a crush on him from afar. I can't wait for him to join us here and I can't wait for the day to arrive when he finds his forever home.
©2012 Maria. S. The day we rescued King. What a wreck, but still regal under all that dirt.
This cat has been through so much, but his future is looking bright. I enjoy the privilege to witness his glorious transformation. It gives me great joy. In fact, I'm walking on air, too.
©2012 Maria. S. A few weeks later, with a belly full of high protein canned food, a few vet visits, a clean, safe place to live and lots of love, King bears little resemblance to his former self.
I was very disappointed when King and Miss Fluffy Pants's (is this her name? It was just a code name, but I think it might stick) reunion was not a happy one. It was clear they were never friends at the Palette factory, where they were both rescued from. Perhaps they even competed for the same scraps of food?
King was nonplused at the first meeting, but Miss FP was pissed. She hissed and growled when Maria let her out of the cat carrier, into the small bathroom that would be her new home. We didn't realize it at the time, but Miss FP had just had a terrible 48 hours. She was sedated, then the Vet realized she'd already been SPAYED! She had her blood drawn and we found out she may be FIV+. She was nose to nose with a big dog at the clinic and she was so distressed when she tried to attack him through the door of the carrier, the momentum of all that energy almost flipped her cat carrier over and onto the floor! With her life turned upside down, from the routine of living on scraps at the Palette factory, to a clinic full of scary smells and a big dog encounter, needless to say, Miss FP was not a happy camper to be yet at another strange place full of different smells.
If Maria had space in her home, she would not have put Miss FP with King, but we had no choice. We had to make it work until we could figure out what to do.
After Maria let Miss into the room, she let it be known that she did not want to be touched or be anyone's friend. She was so fractious that Maria was scared to go near her. Fearing for King's safety and with no other options we decided to put Miss into a crate so at least she couldn't bite King. With a disability to contend with, I didn't want King to be exposed to FIV+, too.
©2012 Maria. S. Miss FP in her little crate.
We were all very unhappy with the situation and I started to scramble, thinking of what I could do to make it better. Maria had to be at work. She couldn't stay home and monitor the cats so Miss was stuck in a tiny cage, probably getting angrier by the minute, while poor King started to cry and urinate all over his bedding.
A day passed and Maria let Miss out of her cage to stretch. She hissed at King, but didn't growl. It was progress, but not much. King was still urinating around the room to the point where we worried he had a urinary tract infection. Maria was very stressed and tired-and who wouldn't be from having to do a mountain of laundry and deal with her own cats and work, then come home to a big mess! I was getting stressed out because I couldn't figure out what to do and living 1000 miles away, I couldn't just come over and help-which I desperately wanted to do.
I realized I had to take it in small steps.
Number one: Western Blot test for Miss-ASAP. If she truly IS FIV+ then maybe she has to go to another rescue? I have two rooms in my home for fostering, that's it, and kitten season is almost here and it will be early this year since the weather is so warm. I can't bring an FIV+ cat who is nasty into my house and hope I will ever find her a home. I'll just end up not being able to help countless other cats if that happens. It was a terrible predicament. We even discussed returning her to the Palette factory now that she was vetted. At least we could donate some food for her and a new cat bed, but I knew in my heart that I'd never sleep again if I did that to her.
I had to find out how to reach this supposedly friendly cat. Bobby had told me she was very affectionate, but all Maria had seen was a cat who would swat at her hand or growl at her.
Maria sent me a photo so I could see some progress in the situation. All of a sudden, alarm bells went off in my head. I realized we had completely misunderstood Miss FP from the start.
©2012 Maria. S. The photo that changed everything for me.
The photo seems innocent enough. King sits near Miss's small cage. Neither cat is looking at the other. Maria interpreted it as King wanting to be close to Miss to be friends, but because he was ignoring her, I looked at it differently. Was King letting Miss FP know HE was in charge of the room-after all he's free to walk about and that HE could sit right up next to her crate and at any given moment, if he wanted to, he could pounce on top of the cage and get her, attack head on or get at her from any side of the crate. She was completely trapped and completely exposed. No wonder she was freaking out!
Maria also mentioned not being able to go near Miss FP. Then, I noticed the food dishes in the crate. They were full. Another alarm went off in my head-the food had to GO. Miss needed to be fed BY Maria, twice a day and that was it. No free feeding her. Miss needed to bond with Maria and see Maria as something good, not bad. Maria was the food provider, not the Dungeon Master!
Miss needed OUT of the cage ASAP. She needed a place in the bathroom to call her own. The problem is-where would that be in a such a small space? Of course…we needed a cat tree!
A cat tree would add a lot of vertical space to the room. Odds are, King would not be able to climb it, but Miss could. She could have the upper area to herself and feel safe. Perhaps that was what she needed?
In the middle of all this craziness, Maria and I are trying to help a pregnant Tortishell cat who was found by an elderly couple in the area! Maria was running around trying to get the cat some help, run Miss FP to the Vet to get her Western Blot test done AND she had to get to the pet store and find a cat tree ASAP!
I'm very lucky Maria is so devoted to helping cats or this would have been a complete nightmare.
Then, another puzzle piece fell into place. Maria warned the Vet Tech at East Lake Vet Hospital, to be very careful handling Miss FP. That she was nasty and might bite. The Tech said she would do her best and took Miss FP into the back of the building to do the blood draw. Awhile later, the Tech came out. Maria was worried something bad had happened and asked how it went. The answer surprised her and gave me a rush of hopeful excitement:
What was the difference? Was there a magic pill that she gave Miss FP? No. First, Miss FP was NOT in a room with another cat. Second, Miss FP didn't have to worry about territory. Third, the Tech probably approached her gently-not that Maria didn't do that, but Maria had grown fearful of the cat. All this adds up to-this cat is NOT fractious-she's ANGRY and SCARED!
Maria got a great cat tree and thanks to the donations we got for King's care, we could afford to get one right away instead of have to shop for one on discount, then wait a week for it to arrive. Maria set up the cat tree. I told her to take the cage out of the room. No more cage for Miss. We had to trust that she would not hurt King. She might take a swipe and him and claw him, but she'd calmed down enough for us to believe she'd not be a risk to give him FIV+. It was a very tough call, but for the sanity of Miss, we had to do it. Unfortunately, King cried with her out of the crate, then urinated on his bed. Was his sick or scared?
I can't explain how I knew what to do, but I can say that within moments of letting Miss investigate the cat tree, it was VERY CLEAR it was what she needed all along.
©2012 Maria. S. There's no footage of Miss FP being fractious because it was too dangerous for Maria to shoot video. She needed to protect herself and King. This video shows what happened after we put the cat tree into their room.
Maria didn't hesitate. She reached out to give Miss FP a pet. Her bravery was rewarded with a head butt into her hand. Maria overcame her reluctance to get close to Miss FP and had the simple joy of getting to know her as she really was all along.
©2012 Maria. S. Safe in her new space, Miss FP enjoys some sunshine.
Miss FP relaxed. Her eyes were soft. Her movements were slow and easy. Her tail did not whip around or even move. She was HAPPY and with her happiness came more surprises.
©2012 Maria. S. The posture and “soft eyes” of a happy cat.
King is still lonely and still loves Maria's cat, Kahlua, who comes in to visit for a few minutes once in awhile. King has also perked up now that he has some toys and the cat tree base to play with!
Although Miss and King are not best friends, they both have safe spaces to live in and places they can call their own. I'm sad that King wants a friend, but can't find one in Miss FP, but with all the surprises we've had, perhaps there are more to come?
©2012 Maria. S. We may make changes for King after this but we'll see how it goes. What do you think?
For now we wait for Miss's blood test results and we hope she is not FIV+.Tomorrow, King goes to meet Dr. Alan Cross, an orthopedic surgeon, who may help us understand what happened to King's back feet and what we can do to help him live a more comfortable life.
I have to admit I didn't feel very hopeful about Bobette's future. In fact I had a lot of doubt that she'd end up being able to keep her leg. Although the sutures are gone, there are no more antibiotics to take, and her fur has started to grow back; she walks with a pronounced limp.
©2012 Robin A.F. Olson. Ho-hum. Bobette doesn't know I'm about to put her in a cat carrier. Hee hee!
I finally got brave enough to touch Bobette's leg. I carefully ran my fingers along the velvety surface where I thought her kneecap should be and I felt a small, sharp object under the skin. I flashed back to the surgery, watching Dr. Mixon digging into her leg. He used some sort of uber-nail-clippers to clip back some of Bobette's bones and I think he said he was making her a new knee cap. Was this what I was feeling, under the surface? Considering her limp, it made sense.
I began to doubt my judgement and curse myself for not spending the $2500.00 to have Bobette's surgery done by an Orthopedic surgeon. What was I thinking trying to save money and hope I could get away with it. Dr. Mixon is a General Practitioner, not a specialist.
©2012 Robin A.F. Olson. Watch this lady zip around and…oops…rip into my HAND! Hilarity ensues…
Today I brought Bobette in for her re-check. Dr. Mixon asked me how she was doing and I glumly replied; “Well, not so good, her kneecap popped out and she is limping a lot.” Bobette was nervous and I had her under a towel as I updated the Vet. Dr. Mixon uncovered Bobette and looked at her leg, then a curious look crossed his face.
He had me hold her on her side so he could manipulate her leg. I told him about the thing I felt when I checked her leg and he shook his head.
“It's not her kneecap, it's the PIN I put into her leg to hold things in place. Her knee is just fine. In fact it's exactly where it should be.”
Dr. Mixon showed me how Bobette's leg is straight. It flexes normally, instead of being crooked. The knee is in place. As he admired the result, he added; “I'm a better surgeon than I thought!”
I just stood there in awe.
©2012 Robin A.F. Olson. Pondering her future.
Dr. Mixon removed the few remaining staples from her incision and I made an appointment for a month from now to have the pin removed from her leg. Until then the game plan is to get her moving more and playing. I'll be taking down the big dog crate that was once her home, throwing away the e-collar she wore for what seemed like an eternity, and getting a few new toys for her to chase.
The next thing we have to work on is to find out why Bobette doesn't seem to like her boys or any other cats, for that matter. After all this-to find out she has to be an only cat, is going to make her adoption very difficult, indeed.