Sam's Story continued
Sam and Scamper - Spring/Summer 09
Checkup time and a surprise
In February, Sam and Scamper came in for their annual exams. Sam was less than pleased – he knows he’s going to get a spot on his leg shaved and a needle stuck into it. I can’t say I blame him for having a bit of a negative attitude in that regard. I like to get the cats in twice a year, but lately it’s only been the one time and for him that means bloodwork. He grumbles about it, but he behaves reasonably well for it. I guess I’d better get them in during the summer months when getting stuck with a needle won’t be part of the party. His teeth looked good, thanks to his raw chicken necks, and his ears better but still gooey, with some bacteria. Dr. Kathy added a drying product in addition to the cleaner I’ve been using, and some different veggies in his diet to try to dry up the gooiness better. From the Traditional Chinese point of view, foods can be warming or cooling, drying or dampening. Sam’s at 12 pounds, which is a good weight for him. His bloodwork was all within normal limits, and he continues to be a pretty healthy boy.
Scamper was as good a little girl as I could have asked her to be. She’s a hefty 6.8 pounds, which means she’s grown some since she came to live with us – adding probably about a pound in the two years. Last year, Dr. Kathy did as much of an exam as she could without taking a terrified Scamper out of her carrier. This time, we got her out of the carrier and she stayed very still on the table, hoping maybe nobody would know she was there. Dr. Kathy was able to get a good look at her goopy eye and her teeth, listen to her heart and do an abdominal exam. We added some homeopathics for her eye – one that I had already started that helped quite a bit and another that addressed both her eye and her mouth. That has definitely helped with the worst of the goopiness, and the chronic conjunctivitis, while still pretty bad, is very slowly improving.
Her teeth were the bad news. She came back in April for a dental cleaning and had several teeth on the right side extracted. Next year we’ll do the same on the left side. She also had a mild stomatitis, which is an allergic reaction to plaque that is especially common in FIV+ cats with their compromised immune systems. As with humans, mouth infections can lead to systemic problems, so it will be better for Scamper to have the bad teeth removed before they lead to bigger issues. Cats can actually do quite well with few or even no teeth. I may eventually need to cut her food in smaller pieces, but cats’ teeth are designed for tearing, not for chewing, and their digestive systems are designed for digesting chunks of meat.
Scamper survived her dental quite well, scary as it was, especially leaving the house without breakfast and without Sam (who was not at all pleased about the situation). She stayed in a tight little black and white ball in her recovery cage all day, although she did accept a few ear rubs and gave me a few purrs. When we got home, she gave herself a good ear scratching, took a bath and rubbed all over Sam, who gave her a very thorough going over. She avoided me at first, but then I said the magic words: “Want breakfast?” She ate baby food with gusto and wanted to play.
While she was under anesthesia, Dr. Kathy and Stacey drew blood so we could run some tests on her for the first time. The big news is – SCAMPER DOES NOT HAVE FIV! Most likely she was younger than six months old when first tested, and showing antibodies from her mother. A recent Cat Fancy article (March 2009) advocates the adoption of FIV+ cats, keeping them indoors and, of course, separated from cats that are not FIV+ because of the possibility of spreading the disease. Since Scamper and Sam get along as well as they do and neither of them is aggressive or a biter, she should be okay continuing to live with him. At any rate, it would be unthinkable to rehome her at this point – terrible for us to part with her, hard for her to settle into a new home and terrible for her to be separated from her Sam. It seems the Universe really wanted Scamper to come live with us, and FIV was the way to get her there.
She still has more bad teeth and the Feline Herpes Virus (FHV) issue (which probably makes her more of a threat to Sam’s health than he is to hers). Stress is a major factor in FHV, and as a youngster she was very stressed by being captured, vaccinated and spayed in a short space of time, then living in a shelter-type situation and eventually relocated to our house where she was definitely stressed and frightened at first. In addition, she probably has lousy genetics. Although she occasionally coughs or sneezes a time or two, the FHV is definitely more of an ocular issue for her than a respiratory one.
Scamper’s ears looked okay at her annual exam, but deep cleaning while under anesthesia produced ear mites. She’s most likely had them all along, and they probably have been at least a part of Sam’s ear issues. Ear mites are pretty common. Seen under the microscope, however, they are really nasty looking critters, having lots of legs with pinchers on them, like something out of a very scary alien horror movie. It’s no wonder cats with ear mites are uncomfortable! Surprisingly, Scamper hadn’t done all that much scratching, just a lot of head shaking when she first got up from a nap. A couple weeks after her dental, both cats’ ears got treated and there’s no more scratching. Sam’s ears are clearing up nicely. Although he did have some yeast and bacteria issues, I’m sure the ear mites were causing him to scratch more, which was causing even more irritation and there’s the cycle.
Scamper continues to be “skittish”, but I see more and more of an adventurous personality trying to be let loose. She doesn’t push herself on Sam as much as she did, and she spends more time watching me on days that I’m at home, and demanding that someone play with her. She’s quite clearly put out with me on the days when I have to leave in the morning instead of playing with her. She definitely is braver after surviving something scary like a trip to the vet. She’s coming in to sleep on me earlier in the morning, even without Sam, and acting more like an active young cat, climbing to the top of her scratching post to bat at the plant hanging over it. Fortunately, it’s a very odd plant with long, swooping branches that turn into large thick flat leaves. From her perch she can’t get enough of a hold on it to chew it or pull it down – just enough to keep her (and Bill and me) entertained! Scamper has come such a long way in her two years with us – all those baby steps have definitely paid off. While her primary bond is still with Sam, she’s more and more interactive with Bill and me. I’ve gotten a couple of head butts, and she’ll present herself for ear rubs and even for a brushing or combing. When we were in the office for her exam and I picked her up off the table she snuggled right into my arms. Since she doesn’t do that at home, I was tempted to stay that way for the day!
What’s new with Sam? His health is good other than some minor spring allergies, his coat is soft and thick, and he thinks 5:00 p.m. every day is dinner time, even though he never gets his dinner before 6:00 p.m. He presents himself for some Reiki most evenings and soaks it up for 15 or 20 minutes at a time. I’ve finally determined that the mushroom products we’ve had him on to boost his immune system were causing digestive issues, so we’ve switched to a different herbal which he’s handling much better. The rainy summer we’ve had has put a damper – in more ways than one - on his sunny screened porch time, but he is more active and playful than when his ears and belly were uncomfortable, racing through the house and beating up toys and scatter rugs. Who knew that a $10 scatter rug would be a better cat toy than a $20+ contraption from the pet store? Sam did! Overall not much changes with Sam. Handsome, gentle Sam is our Zen master. Sam just is.
Sam and Scamper are looking forward to some SUN, please! There’s really nothing like those screened porch afternoons, for them and for me! They are also looking forward to the arrival of a new ess-shaped scratching post. I have scheduled them in for a semi-annual checkup in August, and hopefully next time I’ll be able to report some further improvement in Scamper’s eye issue. Until then, they wish everyone Happy Bird Watching!