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The Clementines. The Eyes Have It. Part 4

(Continued from Part 1, Part 2 and Part 3)


Shelter kittens get sick pretty much every time I bring them into foster care. There’s just no way to keep viruses out of shelters. I wish there was and I hope there are some shelters out there doing a great job of keeping their rescued cats healthy, but I expect that sooner or later (usually sooner) I’m going to see upper respiratory hit the kittens.

I had a nice break from sick kittens with Minnie’s family. They were born on a sidewalk and never saw the inside of a building until they entered foster care on their 4th day of life. They were treated for parasites, but I don’t think they had any. They had some loose stools, but that was about it.

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©2010 Robin A.F. Olson. Cara (left) and Polly (right) have a rough start to their lives-a nasty URI they still battle today.

I look back on some of our first foster cats—Polly Picklepuss, her sister Cara Melle and brother Chester Cheesetoes. Polly and Cara are STILL sick to this day (years later) from the wicked viral “thing” they got in a shelter. It’s a miracle they survived. Cara had about $5,000.00 of vetting to keep her alive, not to mention round-the-clock care for a few weeks that required I medicate her every 6 hours.

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©2013 Robin A.F. Olson. Brewing eye infections plague the foster kittens.

With the Clementine kittens, they got off transport with a few minor eye issues. I had been treating them with Neopolydex drops and thought that was the end of their care. A few days later, they had bad FVRCP vaccine reactions and one of them, almost overnight, broke out with very swollen conjunctiva (the tissue the lines the inside of the eyelid). The victim was Sherbert, one of the two male kittens. Bert looked terrible so I brought him back to the vet AGAIN. This was about the 7th Vet trip in the 3 weeks I’d had this litter of kittens.

At this rate, I was going to have to set up a cot and just live at my Vet's with the kittens if things didn’t improve.

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©2013 Robin A.F. Olson. Buttercup (center) flanked by Mandy (left) and Blossom (right).

Dr. Mary said she really wanted to treat him with Terramycin® ointment, but it’s no longer available. I asked why and she had no idea.

I found it absurd that you couldn’t get a medication and she told me that she’s hearing of more and more medications that are no longer available or in very short supply. I contacted Pfizer, whose rebranded “business unit” Zoetis, a Global Animal Health Company, had the following to say about the shortage:____________. Yes, that's a blank space. I got no reply to my query about the unavailability of this product and it's no longer listed on their web site. I checked the USFDA's web site where they list Resolved Drug Shortages and there's not even a mention of Oxytetracycline. After searching and searching for anything that would give me an answer, I found nothing and was left angrier at this injustice than I was before.

Dr. Mary gave me the option of trying a different eye drop to see if that would do the trick. I asked if there was any way at all to get the ointment and she said she had a connection that could get it compounded but it was very expensive and time consuming to get it.

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©2013 Robin A.F. Olson. My poor, sick babies.

I tried the new drops for a few days, but Bert’s eye got worse. I’ve never seen a cat’s eye look so monstrous. In fact, looking at it gave me the shivers it was so gross, but I HAD to overcome my squeamishness to help him. I was terrified he would lose his eye and I promised myself, arrogant or not, that there was no way in Hell he was going blind on my watch.

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©2013 Robin A.F. Olson. Signs of serious trouble ahead-Bert's eye is sealed shut and swollen.

I took Bert back to Dr. Mary for a re-check and we decided to order the Terramycin, but it would take a few days to get it. I heard you could buy it online for $12 for 3 tubes. It was imported from Turkey. Yes, I realized it could be counterfeit and do nothing but I’d rather blow $12 and hope it works. I put rush shipping on the order because Bert’s eye was so swollen I thought it was going to pop. We started him on another eye drop in the meantime, hoping it might do the trick.

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©2013 Robin A.F. Olson. [GRAPHIC IMAGE WARNING: CLICK TO VIEW] Where did Bert's eye go?

That night I went to check on the kittens and I saw something coming out between Bert’s swollen eyelids. I didn’t know WHAT it was but I was horrified at the sight. It looked like a piece of his third eyelid was protruding from between the eyelids. I carefully wiped at it with a gauze pad but it didn’t move. I didn’t want to pull at it because I feared it might be Bert’s eye, perhaps it had ruptured after all! I felt like I was going to be sick. It was almost 11 PM. I knew it meant taking Bert to the Emergency Vet, who would charge at least $125.00 to just examine Bert’s eye. I feared it was going to cost about $1000.00 when they were done with whatever they had to do, but I couldn’t wait until morning. The infection wasn’t responding to anything. I had to help this kitten.

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©2013 Robin A.F. Olson. [GRAPHIC IMAGE WARNING: CLICK TO VIEW] The conjunctiva is so irritated and swollen that we can no longer FIND Bert's eye.

I called the Emergency Vet and told them what was going on. The woman who answered the phone said they could get the Vet Ophthalmologist to come in if needed (and I’m guessing it would be out-of-this-world expensive to get someone out of their home late at night to tend to a sick kitten). There was a General Practitioner on duty in the meantime.

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©2013 Robin A.F. Olson. [GRAPHIC IMAGE WARNING: CLICK TO VIEW] At its worst-Bert's eye with mysterious tissue coming out of it. Did his eye RUPTURE?

Sam and I rushed Bert to the Vet. They weren’t busy when we got there, but shortly after we arrived a woman came in with a dog. He must have been in more serious shape than Bert so they took the dog first. Sam and I were put into a waiting room. A tech came in and looked at Bert. She was pretty cold to us and didn’t say much about what she thought was going on and she didn’t tell us not to worry. She said to wait.

So we waited-for two hours.

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©2013 Robin A.F. Olson. A moment of levity-something we all needed.

While we waited, Bert was fussing. I could tell he needed to go to the bathroom because he almost did it in the cat carrier. I asked the lady at the front desk to get me a litter pan and the second she brought it in Bert used it and took a big pee. Sam and I laughed. These kittens seem to constantly need a litter pan during their Vet visit. Our laughter was cut short when Bert returned to the tiny tray and took a very watery, smelly poop. There was NO air in the tiny waiting room and it quickly turned into a noxious death trap. I asked the receptionist to please take the tray away while I opened the door to the room a little to get some air flow.

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©2013 Robin A.F. Olson. Bert trying to crack the computer password while waiting for the ER Vet to arrive.

Bert wanted to get OUT of the room, so we had to take turns either holding him or playing with him to keep him from taking off. The open door didn’t do much to help the stench so we sat there with our eyes watering, while Bert played with some toys I found in my bag.

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©2013 Robin A.F. Olson. Trying to keep the little guy entertained while we continue to wait.

The Vet finally came into the room and examined Bert’s eye. He explained that what I thought was tissue was a chunk of PUS. Pus? Oh man, I felt faint. The Vet had to pry Bert’s swollen eye open and rinse out the infection. It was a rather large plug of pus and once it was removed, there was a bloody, red hole where Bert’s eye might be lurking. It was very tough to look at, but I had to force myself.

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©2013 Robin A.F. Olson. [GRAPHIC IMAGE WARNING: CLICK TO VIEW] Clean out completed, Bert doesn't look much better.

The Vet examined Bert’s eye socket, searching for his eye under all the swollen tissue. He could barely see a tiny bit of Bert’s pupil. The swelling was so severe it was impossible to tell if Bert would ever see again.

Although there was nothing more we could do, at least I knew what I was looking at. I had to work on being able to get over being nauseated while treating Bert going forward. I was so angry that he could go blind that it made me get over my own fear and decide then and there that I was going to kick this infection in the ass if it was the last thing I ever did.

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©2013 Robin A.F. Olson. Dr. Mary searches again for a sign of Bert's eye.

The next day the Terramycin arrived. I started it on Bert and hoped that the convincing little box from Turkey was going to make a difference. I made an appointment to bring Bert back to Dr. Mary in two days, which was when the compounded version of the ointment would be ready.

I’m not sure if the Turkish terramycin worked or not. Bert didn’t seem to improve after two days. I couldn’t risk it being Vasaline in a tube, so as soon as the compounded version of the medication was ready, I loaded Bert up with it.

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©2013 Robin A.F. Olson. [GRAPHIC IMAGE WARNING: CLICK TO VIEW] Not easy to see, but after a few days, a sign that Bert's eye is still in place.

Dr. Mary showed me how to rinse out his eye and clean out the gobs of pus. She wasn’t sure if his vision would be saved and my heart sank at her words. I took Bert home and gave him a kiss. I told him we’d fight it as hard as we could and that if he had to go blind in that eye, so be it. We’d still find him a great home when he was feeling well again.

Over the next few days the swelling in Bert’s eye went down a bit. I kept taking him to see Dr. Mary for re-checks because I wanted her to witness his progress in case it wasn’t going as well as it should. I was being very protective over my little ward and it was worth the extra vet costs to make sure we didn’t miss anything.

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©2013 Robin A.F. Olson. At last-after 10 days of eye drops that didn't work and 11 days of medicating with the Terramycin and cleaning out Bert's eye-a sign that maybe we're finally beating this infection.

Bert’s siblings were contracting the conjunctivitis, too. Blossom, who’d been so sick the week before, got the infection in her left eye so we began treating her. Then little Mandarin got it. She hated being medicated and struggled and cried every time I treated her, but ANY sign of redness around the eye meant that kitten was getting medicated.

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©2013 Robin A.F. Olson. Big boy, (right) Mango's eye is the next target of the infection.

Every day, a few times a day, Sam and I went through the routine of cleaning the eyes, medicating the eyes, dolling out antibiotics and hoping to see some sign of improvement.

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©2013 Robin A.F. Olson. Poor baby Marigold! When would this cycle end?

I kept thinking the swelling was going down on Bert’s eye, but I wasn’t certain. One morning as I entered the room to give the kittens their meds, I couldn’t figure out which kitten was Bert. Bert’s inflammation had improved to the point where his eye was open and I could SEE Bert’s eye!

We were due for another visit with Dr. Mary, but this time felt more like show and tell. I was so proud of myself. I was fairly sure Bert was going to be all right.

When Dr. Mary did her exam, sweetly cooing at little Bert, she said that he DID have vision and that she didn’t feel he would lose his eye. Before I could even consider crying, she added that the tissue surrounding his eye had been so swollen that it was possible it would have adhered to his eye and caused him to become blind. She added that the careful rinsing of the socket and cleaning out the pus had made all the difference in his future.

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©2013 Robin A.F. Olson. Believe it or not-this is a recent photo of Bert looking oh so much better.

Now I could cry, but it would only be tears of relief and joy.

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©2013 Robin A.F. Olson. Oh no! My poor cat, Blitzen's at the Vet!

Next up…as Bert recovers the 5 remaining kittens get the infection. Will it EVER go away? What will it take? Will another kitten be at risk of losing her vision, too, or worse, will this horrible disease hit one of my own cats…hard.


OMG this is so terrible, Robin!  I see these kinds of things almost daily in my online advocacy for shelter/ACC cats, especially in kittens.  Truly it is a scourge, and terramycin seems to be very effective in clearing it up.  *PRAYERS* for all of these sweet kittens to recuperate quickly!  One of my beloveds has had a lifelong URI that thankfully does not affect her eyes; she's now 13, I believe, and going strong.  Nothing has ever budged the URI; she's normal in every respect except that she sounds somewhat like an oncoming freight train ;(


I am a foster parent with Forever Home Cat Rescue near Toronto, Ontario, Canada.  I have exactly the same thing going through my foster kittens.  I currently have 8 kittens that are sick.  They have severe congestion and all but one has that same terrible eye problem.  One guy's eye was swollen the size of a grape and it finally popped.  Thankfully each one only has one bad eye.  I was also worried about them losing their vision (particularly that one guy).  We finally found an antibiotic that is kicking this, though it's slow progress (doxycyclin).  I am also using Tobrex or Tobradex eye ointment (depending on whether they have ulcers or not).  All of them are finally starting to clear up.  It is definitely a relief when the swelling goes down and you can see their eyeball again.  


I love following your stories :)



omg they're sooo cute! the pictures are beautiful 

Oh Robin, what a nightmare with those little Clementine eyes. Poor Bert-his eye was truly shocking but when you described him still wanting to play while waiting at the vets, I thought what a tough little guy. I was so angry on your behalf that you and Sam had to wait alone with Bert for two hours with only the attendance of an unsympathetic tech for a short while. I guess there was only one vet on duty though.

I hope this nasty virus is soon done with all your cats and you can relax for a while. How you cope I do not know but thank goodness you do!

All the best

Barbara UK

Thank you for this post, and thank you to the people that commented. I saved my cat's eye, who had the same problem as the kitty in the post, by having this information. Truly thanks!

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