Mewsings Blog - happy tails

January 21, 2007

Since the last update, China kitty has continued to make incredible progress in getting well and becoming more tame. She has not returned to eating canned food with her antibiotic mixed in, but she will gobble down as much dry food as I give her without ever seeming to get full. Without her teeth, she sort of inhales her dry food! As for her antibiotic (and a steroid she has to take for a while), she has become much more tolerant of my squirting it in her mouth, probably because it is mixed with salmon juice. She typically runs from me when I approach her at medication time (I guess she knows my body language) but is very compliant once I start to give it. She's also very forgiving and quickly resumes purring and talking after being medicated.

China, Jan 20th

Last night was another huge milestone in China's progress. Remember, this cat was feral only three weeks ago. At least she acted feral back then. Well, last night I thought I would see what would happen if I made a bed for myself on the floor of her room (there are no beds in there, and the tile floor is hard and cold!). I got a bunch of blankets and pillows, turned off the lights, lay down, and waited to see what would happen. It wasn't but a few minutes before she jumped down from her perch on top of the scratching post, burrowed into the blankets, and cuddled right up to me. Then, she rolled over on her side, braced herself against me with her legs, and started "making biscuits", all the while purring about as loud as a cat can purr. This went on for quite a while until I got to where I couldn't get comfortable in my makeshift bed on the floor. I went on to my own bed, and when I came to visit her first thing this morning, she was ready for more attention (but only after her food arrived and was eaten, of course).

China had a checkup this morning, and her vet was really pleased with how China's mouth has been healing. I told her how sweet China's disposition has become but China's feral nature came out during the exam. I told the vet I wish she could see China's new personality, but I would be surprised if China ever shows her friendly side at the vet. That's even rare for some kitties who have never been feral.

As you can see from today's photo of China, she is really filling out. I don't know how much weight she has gained, but I would estimate perhaps three pounds already.

Stay tuned for more China updates and photos!

fostering, happy tails

January 12, 2007

At Thundering Paws animal sanctuary, the opportunity to help improve the lives of our animals in big ways presents itself each and every day. You don't have to look for the opportunities; they almost come flying at you. Many sanctuary animals have been lost, abandoned, or given up for various reasons (sometimes not very good reasons). These animals often come to us hurt, or sick. This is where China the feral kitty comes in.

China Jan 1st
China on January 1st, 2007

China lived in a feral cat colony for the first six months or so of her life, and was trapped as part of the trap-neuter (or spay)-return program that has been so effective in helping to limit the explosion of newborn cats in the region. Anne Zabolio, Director of Thundering Paws, realized from previous observation that China seemed sickly and extremely thin, and the vet who spayed China confirmed that she was indeed unhealthy. She was diagnosed with lyphocytic plasmacytic stomatitis, a terrible disease that causes extremely painful inflammation in the mouths of affected cats. It is so painful for these kitties to eat that they can starve to death if not treated. Anne could not bear to place this ill kitty back in the wild, where she would not survive long, and where her last days would be full of suffering. So China took up residence at Thundering Paws, where she seemed to improve over time with medication but not to the extent we had hoped.

Recently, Anne and the Thundering Paws volunteers noticed that China was eating less than she should, and was looking poorer in spite of the medication she had been on for quite some time. We concluded that drastic measures were needed to keep China going. We have all loved this kitty from the first day she came to Thundering Paws, even though she has never been able to show affection toward us, due to her feral nature. I've always had a particular affection for feral kitties, and China won my heart the first day she arrived back in the spring.

I volunteered to take China to my vet (who seems to work miracles sometimes) to see if she could help. I also committed to letting China stay at my house for as long as she needs to during her recovery. The treatment for this condition often means having teeth removed, with a lot of followup medication.

On January 1st, 2007, China spent her first full day at my house. She settled into a comfy cage in a private room with her own cat bed, water, food, a toy mousie, and a litter box. She looked so thin and her fur was thin as well, but she still had the energy to give her usual hisses if she thought I was going to touch her. China has never been ferocious (unlike feral Roxie "the cobra"), but neither has she ever been what you might call friendly. I attempted to pet her the night she arrived at my house and she did tolerate it (sort of), although with a look on her face indicating "I'll let you do this just once!"

In spite of the painful condition in her mouth, she ate some canned food as well as some dry food. This was quite an improvement, to which I attributed the quietness of her private room away from a lot of people and other animals. Although most Thundering Paws kitties love having the other kitties and people around them, China never really did. The next day, China was eating even better, and seemed more tolerant of being petted. I found a very soft brush (the kind you can't seem to find in the stores any more), and while she was being brushed, I thought I heard a little bit of soft purring. I know I did. Yet shortly thereafter, China was hissing up a storm and cringing at the idea of being touched. I've seen the same thing with other feral kitties who really don't want to be feral. They can't seem to make up their minds sometimes.

Over the next few days, China's personality began changing dramatically. Each day, she allowed more petting and brushing, although she didn't purr again for a while. But several times, she rolled on her side and got a tummy rub! Each time I thought "this can't be happening." But it was. China also continued eating better and better, and she seemed to be looking not quite as thin. Her energy level increased so that she was not sleeping as much, and she began making eye contact with me. To top it off, she started giving me "love eyes." Every cat lover on the planet knows what that look is--when a kitty looks you in the eye, then slowly closes her eyes and, just as slowly, opens them again.

On Tuesday, January 2, China went to my vet, who concluded that she would need to be anesthetized so that they could do a thorough exam. My vet also indicated that China might need to have her teeth extracted; otherwise, she would probably not recover from the stomatitis. An appointment was scheduled for later in the week.

January 5th was China's big surgery. They did remove her teeth, except for her front four teeth. My vet told me that her mouth was in terrible condition--very inflamed and infected. She couldn't understand how China could have been eating anything at all.

The next day, China was doing fine. One would never know that one day earlier she had major surgery. She was eating even better, not only canned food, but also dry kibbles. She just swallowed her food without chewing. Another big milestone for China was that I opened the door to her cage, left it open for good, and started feeding her on the floor of her private room. Without hesitation, she began jumping down out of the cage to enjoy her "savory salmon." It didn't bother her for me to be in the room when she was out of the cage, either! Previously, she would only let me pet her if she was in the cage, but that changed quickly.

Later that same day it was clear that China had her best day ever. She was eating anything I put in front of her, rolling over for her tummy rubs, and, get this... she started purring very loudly when being petted. If humans could purr, well, you can imagine how I felt. I've told my friends at Thundering Paws that these are the kinds of things that make being born a great thing.

By January 8th I could really see China's weight gain. She even had a little belly on her. Her fur looked much better too, and I saw her grooming herself for the first time when I came in from the office in the evening. She hardly resembled the kitty from only a week ago!

But along with this great progress has come some bad news. My vet called me with a report on China. She said that China's blood test results came back indicating an "overwhelming" infection in her body, likely from the stomatitis. The blood sample was taken right before her surgery. The question in my mind is "why was China eating so well, even before she had her teeth extracted?" Fortunately, when China had the surgery last week, she received a powerful antibiotic, and has been on a daily round of antibiotic (Zithromax, to be specific). So I'm still optimistic that she will make a full comeback. For a fleeting moment at the vet's office I wasn't so sure, though. When I thanked the head vet for "saving another Thundering Paws kitty," he said "well, I don't know if we can, but we're trying." I think he may have been surprised that she had eaten well and had gained weight, considering the extent of the effects of the stomatitis.

By January 10th or so, China started raising her tail slightly for the first time to greet me. That's always a good sign, and a pretty amazing one for a feral cat! I found out, though, that she isn't ready to be picked up. I tried that same day and she had a hissy fit. But right after that she was being her sweet self again.

As of January 11th, China continues to improve and become more tame. She still needs to gain weight but I would bet she's put on a pound or maybe two in only one week. She reached a new milestone tonight when she played with streamers on the end of a rod. It was the first time I had ever seen her play! It wasn't just a little bit of play; she was having a great time (and so was I).

Since last week, China has decided that she much prefers dry food over canned food, so getting the antibiotic in her is a challenge now. But I was able to squirt it in her mouth this morning (much to her displeasure) so she'll still be getting her medication.

She's right here with me, sitting on a little table, directing me to edit this and that. She looks really, really happy. So does her foster Dad.

China Jan 11th
China on January 11th

Please be sure to watch for updates on her progress here on this blog.

fostering, happy tails

September 20, 2006

Jennifer Pospisil, a Thundering Paws donor, called us to ask me to trap a cat in downtown Austin. "Anne, this cat is skin and bones," she said. I know that Jennifer prefers her cats "full-bodied," so I wasn't too worried about the kitty. However, I grabbed a trap and headed for 5th and San Antonio Streets.

There I was met by another woman who works in the area and feeds the two kitties she had seen scurrying around a neighboring office building. "One of them looks fine but the other cat is skin and bones," she said. Yeah, yeah, I thought, these people are "catdependent." Nevertheless, I set up the trap and asked her to check it in an hour or so.

She called me to say she had trapped the cat, so I headed back to pick her up for a vet visit. I had never seen anything like this cat! The poor cat was emaciated! She was whisked to the vet who spayed her. We all assumed she couldn't get enough food and now that she was under our protection, she would soon be in top shape.

July before

Since two cats had been spotted, I reset the trap and got a gorgeous, fat male who was neutered, vaccinated and released to a managed feral colony out of town.

When I got July back, as she was named at the vet clinic, she was petrified, frail looking and newly spayed, which always gives a kitty a sort of "caved-in" look. The thought of releasing this animal to a feral colony was more than I could entertain, so I told Jennifer that we would keep her until she was in better shape. Jennifer said she would sponsor this kitty, which means she pays all of July's expenses. Like all donations to Thundering Paws, sponsorship is tax deductible.

Enter the Cat Whisperers. Dave Harper could barely keep his hands off July and soon was petting her. Brittany LaMantia's heart also went out to the poor kitty and she talked to her every day when she came over, and ever so slowly began touching her. Annie Stuhr talked to July, began petting her, and fed her canned food every day. The next sentence here should read: "Within a month, she was a butterball." That, however, did not happen. By September, she looked as bad as ever, if not worse.

By this time, Dave could pick July up and hold her on his lap. He eased her into a carrier and took her to the vet. July trusts Dave a lot and she allowed him to hold her while the vet examined her. The vet found an infestation of worms and she was started on a systematic worming, which went on for a few months.

By December, when her medication was finished, she was still no heavier. We all agreed that another vet trip was necessary. Of course, the holidays postponed it until Martin Luther King Jr. Day, which Dave used part of his day off to take July back to the vet.

Dr. Buell and Dr. Kelly at Northwest Hills Pet Clinic examined July and Dr. Kelly found a mass under her rib cage. "We're pretty sure it's cancer," he regretfully told Dave, but he performed a needle biopsy to be positive. He said that the mass felt "woody" and "crackled" when he inserted the needle: both characteristics he felt were odd. That was a sad day at Thundering Paws.

On Tuesday, the results of the needle biopsy came back with no cancerous cells. "This is not to say that there are no cancerous cells," Dr. Kelly cautioned us, "but it just could be a foreign body." We all agreed that surgery was a must and she was scheduled for Thursday.

Dave told me not to get my hopes up, but we hadn't had any good news about this kitty at all and so I decided, what the heck! I'd just go ahead and get my hopes up. I've had hopes dashed before and lived. I popped out of bed at 5 a.m. on Thursday to get my chores done and get her to the vet at the right time. I was so happy that finally something definitive was going to be done for July! She let me pick her up and put her in a carrier and I got to the clinic just after they opened. I dropped her off, telling the patient receptionist the entire tale. She told me that I could call around 2:30 p.m.

I went to Starbucks. I ran some errands. I went to another coffee shop (okay, I'm an addict) and worked on this newsletter on the laptop. I went and ate lunch. By 2 o'clock, I simply couldn't stand it another second, and I called. I was told that July had tolerated the surgery very well and was waking up but the vet was unavailable to talk to me just then.

That was because he was talking to Dave, who called me moments later. Dave said, "You're not going to believe this. There was an encapsulated mass of plastic and grass in July's stomach that was interfering with her absorption of food." She also had one non-functioning kidney but the other one is just fine. Of course, the mass and the unhealthy kidney were removed.

I called Jennifer, who was delighted. I called Annie and Brittany and Calene and Kay and Scott and anyone else I could think to call. I was soooooooooooo excited!

Dave and I reasoned it out. Before the kind woman began feeding July and her friend, the cats had no doubt survived by dumpster diving and at one time July had eaten something encased in plastic wrap. Or, as volunteer Toli Lerios pointed out when I called and told him (I called everybody!), she might have a "jones" for plastic, just like my precious kitty, Fleur Marie, who is absolutely powerless over plastic bags. (You don't want to know how I discovered Fleur Marie's passion.)

At any rate, there it was, and it had been there for months before we trapped her. It must have hurt so much! Poor kitty!

The main thing that I love about Thundering Paws is that all these people can get involved in the life of one tiny, emaciated, petrified, unadoptable, feral kitty. She had never gotten any care before, except of course, the wonderful woman who fed her and called Jennifer about July's plight. But just because Thundering Paws exists, July, who never looked like she was ready to give up, gets a chance. And, because of our Cat Whisperers, she will probably be tame.

She is a beautiful, long-haired, light gray tabby.

The dreadful first photo is a "before" picture. July gained three quarters of a pound in the first 11 days after her surgery. Believe it or not, that "after" picture is the same animal. Look at the white on her face; it matches. When I saw her after she had been released on the "cat run" for a few weeks, the only way I knew it was July was that it wasn't anyone else. Now, a year after she came here and six months after surgery, she is positively... well... zaftig! (That was Webster's word of the day a few weeks ago. It fits her.) We'll keep you updated on her progress, of course.

July after

Thank all of you wonderful people - Jennifer, Dave, Brittany, Annie, and all the other volunteers who stopped by July's cage and talked to her, touched her gently, gave her hope. Thanks to the veterinarians who didn't give up on her. Thank all of you people who support Thundering Paws! Without all of you, July would surely have died a painful death in downtown Austin. Because of you, she gets to recover.

happy tails, rescue