Health on My Mind The Worries of All Cat People

Chapter 25, In Which Ripley Appears Healthy but Others Are Not

April 17, 2001

Ripley continues to do well despite the recurrent challenges to her throne by all these new animals. She has ballooned to a Rubinesque 17+ pounds, certainly not good for her diabetes although she continues to appear the picture of health other than her obesity. We are trying to cut back on her food but she manages to maintain her weight by eating dog food and neighbor's food. The other gatos and the dog are perfect weights. I think Ripley just wants to make sure everyone knows that she is the BIG QUEEN!


Ten days ago I did CPR on an animal for the first time. Unfortunately, it didn't save the cat's life but I was very glad that I made the effort. Ripley Gets Pudgey

One of my neighbor's in Kingwood brought his cat to me late in the afternoon. The cat was barely responsive and panting heavily, obviously critically ill. Apparently the cat had peed some blood, then had trouble passing urine, progressing to no urine over about a 48 hour period. That morning when my neighbor went to work, the cat was extremely lethargic and hadn't been eating for about 24 hours. When he came home, he took the cat to the local vet who was closed. In desperation he came to me. I knew the cat was about to die and I knew from the history my neighbor gave me that the cat had a urinary blockage and thus most likely had a dangerously high potassium level in his blood. There was nothing for me to do but offer to rush the cat to my vet in Morgantown, about 40 minutes away. Ten minutes from arrival at the vet, the cat stopped breathing. I pulled over and started CPR. I quickly discovered that cupping my hands around the cat's mouth wasn't going to work, so I just covered the cat's mouth and nose with my mouth and delivered the breaths. I got a good response of the chest expanding. The lower tip of the breastbone was easy to find, so I did compressions intermittently, just as I would on a human baby, with the tips of my fingers. I did this for a few minutes, got no pulse back, so headed back on the road, driving and doing CPR at the same time. It's a miracle I didn't wreck.

I decided to go ahead and take the cat to the vet. I rushed in and told them the cat wasn't breathing, the tech grabbed a vet, who immediately examined the animal and got the history from me. The cat had been down for at least 10 minutes by then. The vet confirmed a urinary blockage and said the high potassium had caused a cardiac arrest and we couldn't get the cat back.

I was so devastated. I had never even seen this cat before since it was an indoor cat but I felt that I had failed this gorgeous animal. It made me feel terrible.

I called the owner to tell him the cat hadn't made it. It turns out that my cat, Homer, was a big pal of this cat and went over everyday to visit him.

Most of all, this incident reminded me that although cats are extremely resilient, once they do get sick, care should not be delayed. If your cat is lethargic, if he has urinary problems, and especially if he stops eating, don't wait to see if he will get better. Get him to the vet. Immediately.

Lest you think I am criticizing my neighbor for his delay in seeking vet care, let me tell you the latest about Homer. Homer is the old (10-12 years) homeless, tough Tom that I adopted about 1 1/2 years ago. He is FIV (Feline Immunodeficiency Virus) positive but has been very healthy. A friend noted about a month ago that Homer had lost a lot of weight. Several days ago another neighbor who is quite fond of Homer came over to tell me he was concerned about Homer losing weight. Embarrassment won out over denial and I took Homer to the vet yesterday. It turns out that Homer is no longer just FIV-positive but has the full-blown AIDS syndrome now.

Homer has a horrendous stomatitis, a terrible mouth infection so bad his gums in the back are bleeding and swollen. Yes, I had noted that his breath was much worse than usual. Did I look in his mouth? No. Homer is the sweetest cat in the world until I try to do any physical examination and then he lets you know in no uncertain terms that you are to back off. Also, Homer has uveitis, an eye infection. I had noticed about THREE MONTHS ago that Homer's right iris was very red. Did I go to the vet? No. Uveitis can be painful and sometimes lead to glaucoma and blindness. Homer has also lost about 20% of his body weight. He weighed only 10 pounds yesterday. Fortunately, the vet says he still has plenty of reserves.

Fortunately the uveitis and the stomatitis can be treated with antibiotics and will probably respond. Homer will have to be treated for two weeks and then go on "pulse" antibiotics, taking one week of antibiotics every three weeks. I am to soften his dry food with a little milk or water but try to avoid wet food. The vet said the timeline for survival is quite variable but I need to pay close attention to him.

I swore after letting poor Eugene get so sick without noticing his decline that I would never do that again to a cat. And I knew Homer was FIV-positive so I should have been doubly aware. Bad mom again.

Homer stayed in Morgantown with me last night. He has to be isolated in the attic to keep him away from Ripley to avoid infecting her since she is immunosuppressed with the diabetes. I slept up there with Homer. We snuggled and I had the most wonderful dreams about all the animals. And best of all, I dreamed of Austin and Eugene for the first time in a long while. In the dream, I said I thought they were dead, and Paul laughed and said, "So? They will always be with us!" How true.

Give all your kitties a big hug. And worry about their health.

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