Category: cat health

RIP Elliot, The Stray Cat Found Frozen To The Ground

This feels like a real gut punch, especially after a South Carolina veterinarian’s heroic efforts to save Juliet, the cat who had 38 hair ties removed from her stomach and died after her health seemed to improve.

Elliot, you’ll recall, was the poor, sweet stray who was found literally frozen to the concrete on the day after Christmas, when the country was in a deep chill the likes of which we haven’t seen in decades, with temperatures plunging well into the negative. A Good Samaritan found the little guy in a bad way, with his eyes frozen shut and his organs shutting down, but she turned up her truck’s heat and rushed him to Big Lake Community Animal Clinic in Muskegon, Michigan, where the staff took good care of him and named him after the storm he was found in.

They wrapped little Elliot up in warm blankets, gave him fluids and began to slowly raise his body temperature, which was a dangerous 94 degrees. Things started to look up, too: Elliot had a habit of reaching his paw out to the vet techs who were monitoring him, began to regain his appetite, and eventually was able to stand and eat on his own.

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But Elliot’s health took a turn for the worse again, and veterinarians determined he developed a saddle thrombosis, which is described asa blood clot (called a “thrombus”) that lodges at the base of the aorta just as it branches into two distinct arteries, thereby obstructing blood flow to the hind limbs. It is so named because of the saddle-like shape it roughly resembles once it takes up residence in this location.

For cats who develop a saddle thrombosis, the outlook is not good, and drugs designed to dissolve blood clots are often ineffective.

“Sadly, there was nothing we could have done to prepare for that but we knew it was time to let him be free from the pain and struggle he’s known most of his life,” Big Lake’s staff wrote to supporters.

A staffer named Diane Neas, who took Elliot into her home after a few days when he’d stabilized, was particularly hard hit by the loss, and understandably so. Well-wishes and applications to adopt Elliot had come pouring in, and it seemed like the former stray’s suffering would lead to the best reward — a warm home of his own and people to love and care for him.

“We find peace in knowing the last two weeks of his life were spent with people who showed him kindness, care and love,” shelter staff wrote. “We can’t believe the following and support he has gained on this journey to healing; from the bottom of our hearts, thank you all for caring so deeply for him and sending such love and support his way.”

Images courtesy of Big Lake Community Animal Clinic

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South Carolina Cat Dies After Surgery To Remove 38 Hair Ties From Her Stomach

Juliet the cat and her two feline siblings were unceremoniously dumped outside their former home when their humans moved out of state a few weeks ago.

A Good Samaritan realized the trio had no one taking care of them and nowhere to go, and brought the cats to the Charleston Animal Society in South Carolina. After some time, Juliet stopped eating. A scan revealed why: The cream-and-white cat had an amorphous mass inside her stomach, a “seemingly endless bundle of strings” in the words of one veterinarian, which blocked Juliet’s stomach and prevented her from being able to eat or process food.

A vet performed emergency surgery on Juliet earlier this week and removed 38 hair ties.

“I’ve never seen anything like it,” said Leigh Jamison, the shelter’s associate director of veterinary care.

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Hair ties removed from the stomach of Juliet the cat.

Vet techs monitored Juliet closely and fed her carefully, making sure she got the nutrients she desperately needed without overwhelming her shocked system, which had suffered a buildup of fat in her liver.

They thought Juliet would pull through, but the ailing kitty took a turn for the worse on Friday and died a few hours later, the shelter announced.

“Our expert veterinarians and lifesaving team perform what we think are miracles every single day. Unfortunately, even with the best care, not every animal makes it,” staff wrote in an Instagram post. “Even though Juliet was loved and was not suffering during her last days, she did succumb to this tragic accident. We are all heartbroken.”

Pica, an eating disorder that affects humans, also occurs with cats. Defined as the consumption of items which are not food, pica can manifest in cats as a predilection for things like paper, plastic bags, rubber bands, small pieces of plastic and, as was the case with Juliette, items like hair ties that are made of fabric, wool or synthetic materials.

While there are medical reasons pica can present in felines, it’s also sometimes brought on by environmental stress, and it wouldn’t be a stretch to imagine the kind of people who would abandon their pet cats may not have been good caretakers. No one except her former caretakers know what Juliet’s been through, and they’re unlikely to come forward.

Likewise, adoption isn’t a part time, halfway or temporary thing. Adopting a cat means committing to taking care of the animal for his or her entire life. Despite the stubbornly persistent idea that cats are aloof, solitary animals who are indifferent to companionship, research studies show felines are just as sociable as dogs and form strong emotional attachments with their humans. They care deeply, but they express affection in different and less overt ways. That doesn’t mean they suffer less when they lose their homes and the people they’ve grown to love.

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Credit: beytlik/Pexels

 

Is Your Cat In Pain? The Feline Grimace Scale Can Tell You

Although there’s been lots of talk claiming cats don’t have facial expressions humans can parse — or even the muscles to noticeably change expressions — that’s not actually true.

It’s more accurate to say feline facial expressions are far more subtle than their human or even canine equivalents, and it takes an expert — a veterinarian or behaviorist with specialized training — to accurately read them.

This is a brand new frontier for veterinary science, and it’s all thanks to the feline grimace scale, a system developed by researchers at the University of Montreal in 2019. Using video clips of cats in various moods and stages of pain or pain-free expression, the researchers built a system that could reliably determine how a cat is feeling. (You can read more about how they did that here.)

“I call it the Rosetta Stone for interpreting how a cat is feeling,” veterinarian Liz Bales says in a new video at dvm360. “It turns out that very subtle changes in cat’s facial expressions can tell us whether or not they’re in pain. It includes the position of the ears, the opening of the eyes, the expression on the mouth, how the cat is holding its whiskers, and how they’re holding their head.”

Each of the five elements of feline facial expression are scored on a three-point scale, then added up. The result provides an accurate assessment of how a cat feels.

“It’s amazing, and it allows us to interpret feline pain in a way we never could before,” Bales says. “The hard part is, it can be a little bit tricky to learn. It is learnable, but I specialize in this and I’m still struggling to get it right every single time.”

Despite the challenge, she says, it’s well worth learning.

“The applications of this are so far and wide, and I think as the technology grows and it becomes easier and easier to use the grimace scale, the more exciting it’s going to be.”

Thanks to an app named Tably, cat servants don’t have to know how to read the most subtle feline facial expressions anymore. By running a photo of your cat through the app’s algorithm, Tably can read your cat’s expression for you.

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Tably gauges cats’ moods in addition to their pain levels. We used the web app to evaluate Buddy last year. Thankfully he was happy!

Bales says she envisions a near future in which pet parents monitor their cats’ health and mood daily, and the scale becomes the standard for end-of-life care. With a “validated, consistent way to measure pain, we can look into more pain drugs for cats, what’s working, what isn’t.”

“A cat in pain looks like a resting cat to most people, but now we have this tool,” Bales says. “And I think as the tool evolves and we give cats a way to really speak for themselves through this Rosetta Stone of the grimace scale, then the more we understand that we can do for them, the more we’re going to do for them.”

We wrote about the feline grimace scale and Tably last year, and noted it had a lot of promise for veterinarians and us cat servants. At the time Tably was in beta and had a web app that allowed anyone to use the technology.

Unfortunately the web app seems to have disappeared, and the app is now available only to iOS users. Since we switched from an iPhone to Android, we can’t access Tably for the time being. (Let’s hope an Android version is forthcoming.) But if you have an Apple device, the app is definitely worth checking out.

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“You go, girlfriend!”

Thanks To A New Treatment, These Cats Have A Second Chance At Life

After almost three months in treatment, little Parsnip is back to her old self.

The tabby cat with expressive sky blue eyes had been diagnosed with Feline infectious peritonitis, a variation of feline coronavirus that attacks the body’s white blood cells and can render even the most playful kittens lethargic, eventually robbing them of their ability to walk and ultimately, their lives.

Parsnip was an affectionate whirlwind of energy when 21-year-old Californian Anae Evangelista adopted her. When she lost her kitten exuberance six weeks later, Evangelista knew something was wrong. When the little cat stopped eating and drinking, Evangelista realized the problem was much more serious than an initial veterinary examination suggested.

After more tests, she received grim confirmation that Parsnip had FIPV, a virus that is almost always fatal.

But a veterinarian connected her with an online group for people whose cats have FIPV and Evangelista was able to get her kitty accepted for experimental treatment with GS-441524, a nucleoside analogue antiviral drug that has proven effective at treating all types of FIP in several trials in recent years.

After a regimen of almost three months of GS-441524 treatment, Parsnip has her energy back, she’s gained a pound and a half, and “looks perfectly healthy,” Evangelista said. Equally important, her blood work and other health indicators are all positive.

She’s overjoyed at the result. Parsnip came into her life at a difficult time, when Evangelista was grieving the loss of two friends. Losing the kitten she’d bonded with — an animal who had become such a comfort to her over the months — would have been too much.

Evangelista will graduate from college in about a week’s time, “so I’m honestly so excited to have her ‘graduate’ from her treatment too,” she told PITB.

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Parsnip being a little trooper during one of her many veterinarian visits.

Londoner Billie’s cat, Jupiter, also suffers from FIPV. When she went to adopt him, Billie knew the British shorthair had Feline herpes virus (FHV) and that it would require careful monitoring. But the infection wasn’t life-threatening and Billie had already fallen in love with the golden-eyed chonkster.

When Jupiter’s appetite waned and his behavior changed earlier this year, Billie thought the little guy was just suffering from a FHV flare-up.

“He is very loving, he is like my shadow and he loves to play,” Billie told PITB, “but he wasn’t doing any of these things.”

As was the case with Parsnip, the veterinarians didn’t think Jupiter was seriously ill. They sent Billie and Jupiter home with antibiotics and anti-inflammatory medication, but after a week Jupiter still hadn’t improved. He was subject to a battery of tests — bloodwork, ultrasounds, x-rays — and kept overnight for observation.

“FIP is notoriously hard to diagnose, and there are so many symptoms that you could mistake for other things,” Billie said, noting veterinarians often have to “work backwards” and eliminate other potential ailments before diagnosing a cat with FIPV. “Jupiter’s symptoms were so minor initially, he just seemed a bit off and hadn’t eaten much and felt hot. I think because I know him and his behavior so well, we were able to catch it early.”

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Jupiter proudly displaying the Union Jack in celebration of Queen Elizabeth’s Platinum Jubilee.

Because the tests didn’t confirm FIPV, a third visit with more tests followed before Jupiter was placed on his meds. While the FDA has yet to approve GS-441524 treatment in the US, the UK had approved the drug in fall 2021, so Jupiter was able to begin treatment right away. Like Evangelista, who paid $5,000 for the FIPV drugs, not including the initial veterinary examinations, Billie was faced with hefty bills: The three initial veterinary visits, tests and five nights of observation added up to £5,500 (about $6,930 in USD), and the medication set her back £7,500 (about $9,400).

Her family helped her pay the initial veterinary bills, her sister started a GoFundMe campaign, and her nieces began making “FIP Warrior crystal healing bracelets,” with the proceeds from sales going to Jupiter’s treatment. (A GoFundMe for Parsnip also exists, and has raised $2,060 of its $2,500 goal so far.)

So far, Jupiter is responding well to the treatment and the signs are encouraging.

Both cats will enter an 84-day observation period after their regimens. They’ll have their bloodwork monitored and will be examined several times over that stretch to make sure they’ve recovered. They’ll also be closely watched at home for any symptoms.

Evangelista and Billie said they’re heartened by the 85 percent success rate.

Despite the cost, Billie said she didn’t balk at taking care of her cat.

“Jupiter is my whole world,” Billie said. “It is just the two of us, he is my one constant and he means everything to me. He is so loving, and so sassy. He has such a little personality and I would be so lost without him.”

Follow Jupiter on Instagram @_jupitersfipfight and Parsnip at @lilmissparsnip

Maryland Joins New York In Banning Barbaric Declawing Procedures

Two U.S. states have now banned declawing as ‘Merica inches closer to joining the rest of the civilized world in prohibiting the brutal practice.

With a stroke of Gov. Larry Hogan’s pen, Maryland became only the second state to ban declawing, joining New York, which outlawed the practice in 2019. Like New York’s version, the new Maryland law prohibits declawing unless it’s deemed medically necessary.

As most cat lovers know, declawing isn’t the manicure-like operation it sounds like. It’s the totally unnecessary, horrific amputation of a cat’s toes up to the first knuckle.

Declawing inflicts a lifetime of pain on cats, changes feline gait and posture, leads to early arthritis and causes a long list of secondary problems. For example, declawed cats are much more likely to bite because they have no other form of defense when they feel threatened, and they’re also much more likely to stop using litter boxes because it hurts to walk on the sand-like and granule texture of the litter with half-amputated toes.

The fact that so much misery is inflicted on innocent animals to protect furniture is indefensible.

The law goes into effect on Oct. 1, and veterinarians who perform the procedure after that time face fines of $1,000 and disciplinary action by the state veterinary board. We’d have preferred immediate implementation and stiffer penalties to prevent a last-minute rush on declawing appointments and discourage anyone considering breaking the law, but a win is a win, and all the major animal advocacy groups are celebrating, as they should.

Now we’ve only got 48 states to go.

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Buddy and his Claws of Cosmic Doom.