"The saddest face in the world."
This was one of the saddest cats we'd ever seen. A woman called to tell us a stray had found its way to her home and it needed medical attention. We arranged to meet the Good Samaritan and the cat at the vet.
We have an important process we go through with each new cat. We're not a "drop-off" facility: we don't let folks bring cats or kittens at the shelter, and there are good reasons for that. First, we have no idea if they have a contagious condition that could infect the whole shelter. That would spell disaster!
Also, we're limited in space and resources. We have to manage inflow so our volunteers aren't overwhelmed - we value giving each cat the time and attention it deserves. It's also not fair to the cats to be crowded. Too many cats spells physical and emotional stress.
So we meet each new cat at the vet, where we get a history from the person bringing them to us, and then they're examined. The cat is weighed, scanned for a microchip (sadly we hardly ever find one), and given what's called a SNAP test.
A SNAP test screens cats for feline immunodeficiency virus (FIV) antibody, feline leukemia virus (FeLV) antigen, and feline heartworm (FHW) antigen. The cat is also given a general evaluation for diseases or injuries.
This kitty passed the SNAP test - no heartworms and she wasn't positive for FIV or FeLV. Yay! But she wasn't in good shape. She was underweight. Her fur was so matted large sections needed shaving off. Her nose was irritated to the point of rawness. She suffered from horrible ear mites, a condition she'd undoubtedly lived with for a long time because her ears were deformed from scratching them so much.
Much like a professional boxer's "cauliflower ears", a cat with persistent ear issues can scratch so much they break the blood vessels and end up with hematomas and scar tissue. This kitty's ears were grossly engorged and mishapen.
The vet noted her general appearance as "abnormal". Ditto for respiratory function. She had a cough, some nasal discharge, and was having problems breathing. She had an upper respiratory infection plus tested positive for lungworms.
Cats get lungworm from the environment, so outdoor or stray cats are at increased risk. The parasite infects insects, reptiles, birds, and rodents, and cats get infected when they drink contaminated water or eat an infected animal.
We left the vet with a sick but sweet cat. We also left with multiple medicines: dewormers, pills for her lungworms (she also had whipworms), an antibiotic, a steroid, and flea medicine (she was covered). She was also given her rabies shot.
Even though she was quite ill, she was cooperative. She managed a low growl once in awhile, but let us handle and help her. She was exhausted and also seemed to know we were trustworthy. Poor baby had a full first day!
What would we name this cat? Lesley, our shelter manager, always has great ideas for names. She dubbed our new arrival "Lulu": something outstanding or remarkable. The name fit perfectly!
Since Lulu could spread infection to other cats, we had to place her in our isolation room. This is an area separated from the rest of the shelter, with its own air supply so germs don't spread through ductwork. We hate containing a cat in isolation but it's necessary. We try to offset the negatives with extra time, attention, and affection. We maintain strict contagion protocol, like never returning to the general cat population after handling a cat in isolation.
Lulu was an excellent patient,
even when she gave us the stink eye.
And in isolation, Lulu's energy and appetite began to return.
Her expression even started to improve.
Before you know it, she was moved to our regular intake room!
...But then she started sneezing...
Sneezing in a shelter is like an air-raid siren. We take it seriously and immediately examine the achoo-er. Are their eyes glassy or watery? Do they have a fever? Is their nose wet or running? Are they coughing? Are they lethargic? Could this be a dreaded URI (upper respiratory infection)?
...Back into isolation poor Lulu went...
Lulu wasn't happy, and neither were we.
Lulu's URI was worse. Her nose was dripping more. She was coughing. She lost her appetite again, even though we sat with her at mealtime (which often helps). We warmed her food so it had a stronger smell. But she still wasn't eating.
In a shelter, usually all the cats are fed the same food - same brand and same amount at the same time. It's the only practical way to do it. And that food needs to be an economical brand, nothing fancy.
But we had to get Lulu to eat. We tried a few other brands and we hit the jackpot! She loved a brand called Weruva, especially its Polynesian B-Que. We had used this food with Dwight (see a previous blog for his recovery story) and once again, it was working miracles.
And then a second miracle happened. We're active on twitter and have lovely, generous followers who really care about our cats. We tweeted that Lulu would only eat Weruva. Within minutes, cans were being ordered! One of our followers reached out to the company that makes Weruva, and they too sent a generous shipment of food! Cat lovers are the best!
Lulu started to eat. She put some much-needed weight on. But her nose was still dripping and she sometimes had a deep, troubling cough. Back to the vet she went, this time for a more specialized lung test. It cost more than our usual medical "allowance" but we approved it. It came back showing Lulu still had a lingering URI but thankfully, nothing else showed up. She didn't have pneumonia and her lung parasites remained gone. But the vet told us that with a cat as physically and emotionally stressed as Lulu was when she came to us, infections take extra long to resolve, and lung worms, though gone, can leave residual scarring even in fully recovered cats.
And then, poor Lulu had another challenge. She went into heat! Her hormones were raging, nature took its course, and she was busy doing the mating dance. We're sure Lulu's paid her dues as far as having babies go & will spay her as soon as she's medically stable enough for surgery. It would be too much to put her through right now.
As I finish writing this blog, it's Sunday, July 9th and Lulu has been with us 48 days. She's been through a lot and she's an inspiration. She doesn't complain. She welcomes our attention. She decided to trust us early on and she's always cooperative, even when we have to give her yucky tasting medicine. Lesley, our shelter manager, had to give her an IV drip early on to keep her hydrated, and Lulu quietly sat in Lesley's lap the whole time.
Lulu isn't a cat who'd win a beauty contest. She's a cat lots of folks might overlook or even rule out for adoption. But Lulu is - no question about it - a winner. She deserves a gold medal for her resiliency and sweetness. Whoever adopts Lulu will get a very special cat. If Lulu continues her current course of improvement, she'll graduate soon from isolation into our regular intake room, where she'll have contact with other cats.
We can't wait!
As always, thanks for reading my blog and many thanks to all of your who support our work. We could not do it without you!
If you'd like to help Lulu or our other cats with medical expenses,
we're grateful for donations of any size!
Meow for now! Kitty kisses!
RappCats relies entirely on private donations
from animal lovers like you. If you'd like to contribute to Docket's or our other cats' shelter, medical, and care expenses, please consider a donation. We can't do what we do without your support.
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We thank you from the bottom of our hearts!
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RappCats P.O. Box 307 Washington, VA 22747
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