Friday, February 1, 2013

Nine Little Butts and One Sick Mom

It’s been almost three weeks since my last blog, when I wrote about the demands of raising a litter of nine kittens. Since then, the kittens have gotten easier, but their mother gave us a run for our money (literally).

The Reindeer Litter of Dasher, Dancer, Prancer, Vixen, Comet, Cupid, Donner, Blitzen and Rudolph are now comfortably self-sufficient at the food bar and the potty. The kittens require two cans of food on two separate paper plates, three to four times daily. The two separate plates are necessary so everyone has room at the table. They have received their first vaccinations and have started the process of venturing out of their room to get acquainted with the other animal inhabitants of the household. It’ll take a week or so, then I expect to chase them off the counter like little cockroaches.

I mentioned their mother, Sunday, has had problems recently. She had stopped eating, something immediately noticeable with Sunday because she has a ravenous appetite. She was hunched up and didn’t want to move. I had her into my regular vet who wasn’t sure what to make of all the fluid in her stomach that showed up on the X-ray. She guessed it could be a ruptured intestine, a pyometra (uterine infection) or FIP (Feline Infectious Peritonitis). My vet referred me to Ocean State Veterinary Specialists in Rhode Island as they had the equipment and staff to diagnose and treat my cat.

I waited in the exam room at OSVS while Sunday was getting her ultrasound done. I was there a while, long enough to play with the motion sensor in the corner of the room to make the little red light blink and analyze how neatly the electrical cord from the X-ray light was tied. I also thought about all the “what if’s” of Sunday’s situation. If she had FIP, she’d have to be euthanized as FIP is a horrific and fatal disease. If her intestine had ruptured, her chances of surviving a surgical repair were slim. I was hoping for pyometra as at least that could be fixed by spaying her.

Then I started thinking about her colors, and although I have one of Sunday’s daughters from a previous litter, the daughter is a red tabby. Sunday is a black smoke tortie, which means she carries black, red and silver. If I lost Sunday, I lost my one silver gene. Should I approach the couple who have reserved Blitzen, the one smoke tortie from the current litter, about letting me keep her?

However, Sunday’s diagnosis was none of the above. She had an intussuseption, where the intestine basically telescopes onto itself, causing a blockage. The cure is to surgically remove the defective part of the intestine and reconnect it. I’d heard of it and knew the condition was something that could be repaired. Whereas Ocean State is wonderful with all their specialists and 24-hour care, the cost escalates exponentially. I was given a low and high end estimate after the initial diagnosis was confirmed. Although I was relieved with the diagnosis, I had a hard time swallowing the idea of spending upwards of $3000. I eventually rationalized it as this was a fixable condition if she was treated. After consulting with my primary vet, I agreed with her that Sunday needed surgery that evening because her condition had become very fragile and her temperature had fallen to 98 degrees (101 is normal for a cat). It was too dangerous for me to bring her back home and have my own vet do the surgery the next day. I signed a bunch of forms, gave them a deposit and kissed Sunday good-bye where she was already in a cage attached to an IV.

The surgeon called me at 9 pm after Sunday’s surgery to tell me everything went as expected and he’d removed a section of her intestine. The other veterinarian called me at 10 pm to tell me that the surgeon had not told me one important thing; Sunday had vomited up the fluid in her stomach during surgery and there was a possibility that she could develop aspiration pneumonia if any of the fluid had gotten into her lungs. I needed to watch her closely for the next week. Okay, fine, when can I bring her home?

The morning after her surgery, Sunday was eating like a pig and I joyfully drove the 45 minutes each way to bring her home. My euphoria was short-lived however when I noticed the same evening I brought her home, she also seemed to be breathing too rapidly. Yep, she had pneumonia, her left lung was severely compromised. Sunday ended up back at Ocean State where I felt obligated to continue my investment, but cut back on some of the a la carte expenses estimated for her second visit. No additional ultrasounds, x-rays and don’t dare expect me to put an Elizabethan collar on her (I said I already had one at home). The Cone of Shame is something I’ve never used on an animal as it just seems too cruel. I figured if Sunday felt well enough to pull on her 22 staples, maybe it was time for them to come out. Sunday stayed on oxygen in the hospital for the next two nights. She was allowed to come home after she could breathe normally for at least six hours without the benefit of extra oxygen.

Sunday has been spending the nights in our bed, snuggled up between Jay and me. Never one for dry food, she has been demanding three to four cans of cat food to herself daily. Her condition is steadily improving since she’s been home. She looks ridiculous with her shaved limbs where the IV was attached and the sight of the staples holding her stomach together still make one gasp.

I’m thankful that my emotional week seems to be ending happily, excluding the shock to my wallet. I am reminded that in the 12 years I’ve been doing this, I’ve never had to rush a cat in for an emergency C-section or spay. Most breeders can’t say that. Sunday goes into my primary vet on Monday to have her staples removed (she hasn’t touched them). In a way, it’s too bad that her fur will eventually cover over her scar because it’ll be a pretty impressive reminder of all she’s been through.