Behind the Scenes, Cat News, Product Reviews & More!
Behind the Scenes, Cat News, Product Reviews & More!
Here is the follow up post I promised, about what happened to Benny to get him thrown into quarantine.
Benny was doing great the day he went to the foster’s house. He was being fed a strict diet and every few days, a small dose of lactulose to keep the ammonia levels under control in his system. Benny was kept from getting too overstimulated, and if he got mean with any of the cats, he was put in his own room to cool down. We had him managed.
I understand fully now the questions you need to ask ANYONE, no matter their background, before you leave them in charge of your cat. The foster and I had gone through his history and treatment, and I felt comfortable in her caring for Benny. My mistake was not realizing she might have read my texts, but she had no understanding of his actual condition, or the importance of diet and isolation to keep him managed. The mistakes made in her home led Benny to become extremely stressed and sick, and as a result, he bit her daughter out of redirected aggression.
What is redirected aggression? It is a typical cat issue when something happens to get them so upset and stressed, that they lash out on something near them- another pet or even you. They don’t fully understand what they’re doing, they’re trying to protect themselves from this danger.
So what made Benny so stressed? Here’s what I believe happened. Benny wasn't given his own space, so that he could acclimate to the new household and all of its people and pets. Golden rule of ANY new pet is to put them in a separate room! They need to go through a slow introduction phase to ensure they’re not getting stressed. Stress in cats leads to them either becoming extremely scared and hiding, or lashing out and possibly biting someone.
Benny was also given access to the wrong food at some point. The foster denies this happening, but at the time of the incident, he was showing signs of being unwell- drooling for one. Unfortunately they did not realize what I had been saying for months about his condition is what was happening in front of them.
By dinnertime, Benny wasn’t feeling very well, and he was getting more and more stressed out at his new surroundings. He had a lot of cats following him around the house all day, and he had nowhere quiet to go to relax. To make things worse, they had a dog. A barking energetic dog. I had let them know that Benny was marked at the shelter for dog aggression, and warned he may have a problem with the dog.
The family arrives home for dinner, and the dog is let in. I’m not entirely sure what happened, my guess is the dog was wound up and super excited to see the family. Benny freaks out at the dog and jumps on a nearby chair, back arched and in obvious distress. The daughter runs over to comfort him. It wasn’t said, but I’m certain she bent down to his level, and he lashed out and bit her, the closest thing to bite was her head.
It is very unfortunate that this event had to happen. They did not recognize the standard signs of cat distress- arched back, growling, jumping up high to try and get out of the way of something (in this case the wild dog). They ignored the very important procedures in bringing a new cat into the household.
As a result, Benny became one of the misunderstood “aggressive” cats and was sent to the shelter to die after “mandatory” quarantine. Note- it is only an option to turn an animal in for a bite. Benny had been up to date on his shots and was given a clean bill of health. Rabies are very rare in the US, and especially in cats. Not understanding his health condition led to a misunderstanding of his aggression, and drooling from being ill that would otherwise mimic an animal with possible disease.
What complicated the quarantine, was the fact the shelter was not understanding of redirected aggression. They had googled cat aggression and labeled Benny’s condition as “Idiopathic Aggression”. This means that he’s always in a constant state of stress, and because this was his 2nd bite hold, he would continue to bite people without cause. Wrong. Very wrong. As with any cat, if you get them stressed enough or in abusive situations, bad things can and will happen. They will scratch and they will bite. They are only doing it to protect themselves as a natural instinct. Very few cats suffer from actual idiopathic aggression, where the trigger isn’t known. Sometimes it can be difficult to figure out the triggers, and you must deconstruct every piece of the situation until you find the root cause. In Benny’s case, it was the new house and especially that noisy dog!
The Benny I know is a very laid back cat, and he is seldom ever stressed about anything. He does get nippy sometimes when he’s not feeling well (he has hepatic encephalopathy and the excess ammonia in his system can make him more “aggressive”), but it has never been a danger. If a cat is showing signs of stress or illness, #1 rule- keep your face away from them! If you do need contact, let them sniff an outstretched finger or a hand with fingers down. Making the scent connection will help calm them, and keep you safe. #2 rule- give them space! Safely move them to a location where they can have quiet time, be it an unoccupied room, bathroom or kennel. #3 is a huge one- OBSERVATION. Cats can’t communicate to us very well when something’s wrong, so its up to us to keep watch for signs of illness and distress.
What happened with the foster really scared me of Benny’s future. We are very observant owners, and we can manage him. I’m not saying this to be mean to anyone, but not all cat owners have the time, knowledge, or determination it took to understand what made Benny tick. He’s not the right cat for many people. I work from home and am around most of the time. I also have a background in medical and investigations. I don’t encourage just anyone to go out and adopt a special needs cat just to save their life. It really takes the right people and the right household to make the special needs cat thrive. Hats off to anyone in this situation, I know how hard it is some days, and some days you are sacrificing your life to get them better after a setback.
Please watch for another blog post to be released in the next couple of days!
Quick note: I am finally back to writing! We unexpectedly sold our house in mid-August, and I had to take some time off for the big move. I’m back now and am ready to continue my work to save cat lives! I’m going to start with a summary of September. Each major thought will have its own blog post in the coming days.
Once Benny was diagnosed with the liver shunt & hepatic encephalopathy, his health greatly improved. The vet had recommended special liver care diet food, which turned out to be the wrong food for him. My fiancé did some research and found a natural raw diet recipe for cats with health problems. Once we got him on the recipe, all of his symptoms disappeared and he became a regular cat within a couple of days. (I will cover his raw diet in a future post)
As he recovered from his mysterious illness (I am now convinced he has no serious liver issues), we became convinced that Benny needed a different environment in order to maintain his health. Every time he got overstimulated, he would go after the other cats. He would pull hair out of his buddy, Gracie, and he would corner the shy cats. We were having an impossible time some days keeping the peace, and he’d be spending hours in a room by himself. It broke my heart to separate him, but the other cats deserved peace. My oldest cat, Angie, was in a constant state of stress. She felt so tense, and she’d scream and growl constantly. She even slashed me a few times out of redirected aggression. She wasn’t seeing quite right because she was so fearful of her environment. Albeit, Benny wasn’t hurting them, but he was controlling their actions and environment. I decided that rehoming was unfortunately the best option for everyone. Because of his complex issues, I didn’t feel comfortable giving him to a regular person, and if he went to the shelter, they’d kill him immediately.
I reached out to a special rescue in Wyoming called Second Chance Cat Rescue. They take in special needs cat and other homeless cats. Their cats are either adopted out, or remain with the rescue if they aren’t adoptable. It sounded like the perfect place for Benny, and they agreed to take him. Unfortunately before they had an open space, I had to move from my house.
We decided to downsize our lifestyle and move into an RV permanently. My three cats- Angie, Gracie & Dee Dee, love the RV life. We spent 6 fun months in an RV in 2015 and always wanted to return to it. With Benny going off to the rescue, we felt the time was right to try it again. I didn’t think Benny would enjoy the life if he remained with us, and we would have further issues.
I had met a woman through the local humane society when I adopted Benny, and she agreed to foster him until Second Chance had a spot. We had been talking through Benny’s illness and recovery, and I felt comfortable with her. She had over four years experience fostering a variety of cats, including some with special needs. The local humane society raved about her, so I thought Benny would be great in her care.
I dropped Benny off the morning we moved out of our house. He was excited about his new surroundings, and quickly disappeared out of my view. He barely said goodbye to us, so I thought all was well until I’d pick him up for the rescue. I couldn’t be more WRONG.
I’ll go over what exactly happened in a later blog post, to make sure these mistakes doesn’t happen again (if I can help it!). There is a right and a very wrong way of introducing new cats into a household. Good intentions and love for animals won’t help them immediately adjust, and sometimes things happen when the cat gets overstressed and overstimulated.
So, I got a call about 5:30pm, about 9 hours after dropping Benny off. The foster let me know that Benny had bit her daughter, and it was bad. There was blood everywhere and her husband was really upset. Her daughter was doing ok and even tried cuddling with the now calm Benny just after it happened. She had gotten a couple of small bites to the head & neck area. Head wounds can bleed a lot, so it looked a lot worse than it ended up being. The foster and I chatted that evening on text message. She said that Benny would have to go to quarantine for the bite, and there was nothing I could do about it, it was a state law.
Benny was brought to the same humane society that I adopted him from in June. The medical director Googled aggression in cats, and decided Benny had idiopathic aggression. She told me he was a ticking time bomb and was dangerous to society. After the mandatory 10 day hold, they were going to give him a shot to make him go to sleep so he wouldn’t be in this constant state of “distress” (oh, thank you for trying to romanticize killing my cat!). I no longer had rights to my cat at that point, because someone had told the shelter I dumped the cat, I no longer wanted him. Yes, that was a very wrong statement!
The story got more interesting. When I adopted Benny, I was told he had been a stray and he had been in bite hold. I assumed he was wandering around, a kid got too close to him, and Benny nipped him out of fear. The parents called animal control and that was the story. The shelter called his previous owners the day after the bite, and were told the story of both the wife and child being bit by Benny, in the head. Because of his aggressive history, he was not allowed to be adopted out and the shelter stood by their idiopathic diagnosis. I will cover more of this part of the story in a later post, about cat aggression and cat abuse.
I really meant the best for Benny to go off to find his forever home with the Rescue, and now he was stuffed in quarantine for all the wrong reasons! I fought hard for Benny to be released back to me. I ended up getting the help of some wonderful strangers, one of which who ultimately paid Benny’s hefty release fee. Benny was released from kitty jail on September 24th.
After Benny's release, he came back home with us, to the RV. The plan was to bring him the next morning to Second Chance Cat Rescue, they had found him a last minute spot. What happened next completely blew me away- Benny was a different cat! He was SOOO happy to see us, ALL of us- Angie and Dee Dee especially! He flopped down on the couch next to Dee Dee, put his head on her stomach, and I swear he made lovey eyes at her. She hadn’t seen a loving Benny before, so her look of, “Oh my God! Mommy! What do I do?” was priceless. A day later, Benny and Angie were cool with each other. Angie was only upset and growling constantly for about a day, then she was fine. Gracie was at first mad at her buddy, then they were racing around like nothing ever happened. So, what is up? Why was everything fine in the RV, but was a big challenge zone in our house? I will be writing more about this too!
I can’t tell you what a horrible, awful experience all of this has been. During his 10 day quarantine, I don’t think there was a day I didn’t cry for my cat. I slowly came to realize on the day of his release and afterwards, what a huge mistake I had made, how I didn’t know my cat at all. Heck, I really didn’t know anything about cat behavior! It was a slap upside the head, a lesson in humility. I had to defend myself to some tough critics, but I’m glad they pushed me so hard. I don’t want my mistake to happen to anyone else. Now, I didn’t do the wrong thing at the foster’s house, nor did I have any reason to suspect she couldn’t handle him and this was going to happen. The one thing that would have saved Benny from this nightmare was simple- educating myself on cat matters. Cat education. What is really going on with your cat and why. I really want to help educate people on the simple cat matters, because it’ll help save so many lives.
Look for my follow up blog posts in the coming days!
In the days following Benny's diagnosis, so many things have crossed my mind. There really isn't a lot known about cats, and their health problems. For instance, how many people know that excessive drooling in a cat, or odd aggression, may mean liver issues?
The thought that scared me most was how many cats are probably quickly euthanized after suffering what the owners believed to be neurological "damage" following a seizure. Cat epilepsy and seizures aren't like those suffered in dogs and even humans. Seizures typically happen for a reason, it is fairly rare for a cat to just have a seizure for a random reason. They may have an illness leading to a chemical imbalance in their system, or they might have suffered head trauma.
What is a typical seizure like in a cat? Before a seizure happens, there can be a period called "Aura" or "Pre-Ictal" state. They may excessively meow, pace, circle or vomit. Seizures are normally a very short duration, around a minute or two, and involve the cat falling over and jerking/convulsing They may empty their bladder or bowels.
The stage after the actual seizure is the most crucial, where I'm sure mistakes happen and healthy cats are euthanized. Cats go into a recovery period called "Post-Ictal". This state can be very scary for us owners to watch. Cats may suffer temporary deafness, blindness, paralysis, aggression, and other symptoms. You may be horrified and think your pet is damaged, and that's it. They're done for. Actually, no. Cats may stay in this particular state from anywhere from a minute to hours after a seizure. The majority will fully recover and be normal once its run its course. I say this understanding is extremely crucial, because I didn't know about this the first time Benny had a seizure. I really thought he was gone, he suffered irreversible damage. The vet suggested euthanizing him, because of how bad it looked. Benny was blind, aggressive, not moving properly, and drooling. Benny was caught in this recovery state for several hours. After it ran its course, he was 100% normal again.
We decided to wait and see with Benny, looking for signs of improvement over the hours. I am very grateful we gave him time to recover, because we would have lost our precious boy that night. Knowledge is key.
Unfortunately there is a small percentage that do suffer permanent damage and will eventually have to be euthanized. Brain tumors, cancers and other fatal conditions may lead to this. I cannot stress enough that YOU NEED TO FIND THE CAUSE of the seizure before you make any hasty decisions. Once the quality of life goes and they suffer, it is time to let go. Otherwise, be there for them, help them recover.
If your cat does suffer from a seizure, the best thing you can do is:
1) REMAIN CALM. Remember that the cat really isn't there, the body neurons are misfiring and they are not feeling anything.
2) Get the cat to a safe place where they can't hurt themselves if they are moving. KEEP THEM FLAT. BUT BE CAREFUL! Cats may unknowingly lash out and you run the risk of being bit or scratched. If you know your cat well enough, you'll understand the risks of having your hands near their face when this is going on. With Benny, I moved him behind the shoulder blades, so it would be difficult for him to bite me. Other methods include getting them on a blanket, and moving the blanket. I do NOT recommend putting them into anything with a side on it. We made the mistake with Benny in letting him have his head propped up against the side of a box. He nearly choked to death on the thick mucus, before we discovered the mistake.
3) Keep the cat cool. Sometimes their body temps can rise and they run the risk of having heat exhaustion or heat stroke if the room is warm. Cats keep cool by their paws (like for a human its the inside of their wrist). One method is to invest in a pet cooling mat with a gel insert, the other using a product like a Frog Togg blanket.
4) Take notes, and if this isn't usual for your cat, take video. Anything you can do to help the vet understand what happened will help get your cat a quicker diagnosis and treatment. If the cat is just epileptic, unless its something very unusual, you won't have to worry about this. Benny was able to get diagnosed quickly without the invasive tests because I had notes and videos.
5) Offer the cat a safe place following the seizure to recover. When Benny was at his worst and not able to see or move around, we placed him in a large kennel. Other options would be a room without any dangers, such as stairs or places the cat could potentially climb or get stuck and hurt themselves. Remember, they may not have the best coordination, eyesight or thought processes just after a seizure. We need to keep them safe while they recover.
6) BREATHE. It is really truly awful to see our pets struggle so badly, but we need to be there for them. Offer them comfort. Gently talk to them and if allowed, gently touch them or stroke them. They really appreciate your help, concern and support. If we lose it and freak out, it will only frighten them more.
My whole experience with Benny was a complete eye opener. I thought I was just adopting a random cat and it was going to be just that easy to add him to the household. It wasn't. About 1.5 weeks after we adopted him, we started dealing with seizures and erratic behavior. It caused us a lot of stress, both emotionally and physically. I put my business on hold to take care of him, and spent so many hours researching potential causes and treatment. It was really the worst time I went through. I didn't know at the time if I'd have him another hour, day or month. I didn't know if there was an end to those awful, scary seizures.
I'm telling you this because in the end, it is so worth it to help them and save a life. His lessons, even in the month and some days since we adopted him, are having an impact. My blog helped save another cat with similar symptoms. I am in the process of creating what I call the Benny Bulletin, to give to local shelters to alert them of missed and mis diagnosed cat health issues. The goal is to save as many lives as we can! This Bulletin will be available for everyone to read, and it'll be available to download as a PDF.
Benny would have easily died in the shelter, had they seen any of his later set symptoms. I saved Benny's life, and now I'm ready to save more. Please help me in this quest by passing along my blog to fellow cat lovers and shelter workers! Thanks so much, says Benny!
Here's the article on Pet MD that I used as a source: http://www.petmd.com/cat/emergency/common-emergencies/e_ct_seizures_and_convulsions.
After a bad weekend, I called Benny's vet first thing on Monday morning. I was surprised, they had a diagnosis! It completely stumped me, but it totally made sense.
Benny has a liver shunt.
I never suspected liver issues. Benny's blood work had come back normal during this ordeal. He wasn't showing any signs of struggling to use the litterbox, or having other digestive complaints. He wasn't throwing up.
There are two types of symptoms that liver shunt cats suffer from- neurological and digestive. Neurological? Yes! It makes complete sense why he was suffering his odd symptoms- altered mental states, behavioral issues, drooling, shaking, seizing, blindness, deafness, and paralysis.
The liver controls bringing in blood from the system, cleansing it, and pumping it back out. When they have a shunt, it acts like a bypass, letting toxins escape back into the system. Its not uncommon for many of these toxins to enter into the brain, thus affecting their functions. Benny was very lucky that he was only affected neurologically, and the vet told me this happens when the system reacts negatively to the excess ammonia, that comes with unbroken down proteins.
So, cats with liver & kidney disorders don't properly break down proteins found in regular cat food. Cat food is typically high in proteins, between 30-40% is most common. Cats suffering from these issues should have as few proteins as possible, along with a drug that acts as a laxative, basically it bonds to the proteins, making it easier for them to digest and pass.
There are two types of treatments for liver shunts.
1) First is to run a series of tests and then operate on the shunt. Depending on the cat's condition, it can be extremely risky, and not all survive. You have to stabilize them before surgery, and they can suffer from complications post-surgery.
2) The other option is controlling the condition with a low protein diet and drugs. If the cat is seriously ill and suffer from digestive problems, they will need to be on antibiotics to help take the toxins out of the blood. Others may be milder (like Benny's) and only need a laxative with their low protein food.
We are going with the latter, and will be controlling his diet. Benny will need to eat smaller meals of the Hill's Prescription Diet l/d Liver Care Chicken Flavor Dry Cat Food. I also bought special wet food to give with the dry food- Royal Canin Veterinary Diet Renal Support D Morsels in Gravy Canned Cat Food. I will give an update on how the food and laxative is working for him in the coming days.
Its been two days now since he's had any issues, and he has only been getting a little bit of wet food at a time, and this morning I was able to start him on Lactulose, the laxative the vet prescribed. I really had absolutely no clue that his food was causing him so many troubles. I should have been able to put two and two together, and it was the only part I ignored. It wasn't too long after he had a hearty meal, did he start showing symptoms of a problem. It would start with drooling, and if he ate a lot, would move into that strange altered state, and it might progress to shaking and possibly a seizure.
The last seizure was really scary, I saw signs that he was starting to press his head against objects. I thought at first he was blind and just running into things, but it didn't seem right. If you ever see your cat press its head against anything for more than a moment, VET ASAP.
Here are some links to very helpful liver shunt articles-
The other tell tale sign of potential liver problems in cats, is the presence of copper colored eyes. It means they have an excess of copper in their system, and they're more prone to liver problems. I never knew this either, and I really appreciate my observant vet!
The prognosis of cats diagnosed with liver shunts vary. Some are mild enough to recover from with a simple change of diet, while others need life saving surgery. Liver shunt cats can lead a full life, and its really hard to say if their life will be short or long. Some survive months after diagnosis, some live a very long time with proper care.
I definitely wouldn't discourage anyone from adopting a copper eyed cat, or one with known liver issues. Educate yourself, and learn the alternatives (if there are any) to expensive treatments and surgeries. Had I listened to a lot of the articles out there, I'd be getting ready to put him down because I didn't have the $3-7,000+ needed for the surgery. Instead, we found out through forums and actual owners of liver shunt cats, that many cases can be managed with diet and drugs. Its not a death sentence.
If your cat has any weird symptoms or has seizures, the vet may push you to consider putting them down, instead of figuring out the problem. If their quality of life hasn't been affected too greatly, or there is severe damage done, definitely stabilize them and start researching! Talk with people, post to cat health forums, ask for a 2nd opinion. I nearly put Benny down after his first seizure because at that very moment, we thought he had suffered permanent damage.
Cats go into what is called a postictyl state, and they will have altered and compromised function while they recover. It can be anywhere from 10 minutes, 2 hours, a half a day, 2 days. It depends on the cat and severity. It makes me sick how many cats were probably improperly put down because the vet didn't understand how cat seizures work. I really hope Benny's story can help owners understand what goes on, and to be able to get them correctly diagnosed and treated.
I know I threw a lot of knowledge out there today, and in the coming days I'll be breaking it down in more pieces.
Please let me know if you have any questions about anything, in the meantime! I'll do my best to answer them, or point you somewhere, where you can get answers. My email is firstname.lastname@example.org, or you can leave a comment. Thanks so much!
I had another awful evening with Benny last night. I really thought he was going to be ok, because I didn't allow him to play with his sister, Gracie, in a couple of days. I thought his issues were caused by over stimulation. Yesterday proved my theory wrong.
Benny spent most of day following us around, playing with an occasional toy, and curling up in cozy spots. I had been using some cat aromatherapy herbal sprays called Hydrosols. They are basically herbs diffused in water, which are safe for cats, unlike their cousin, essential oils, which can be highly toxic to their sensitive systems. Benny was by all means normal at this point.
Just after 4pm, he wandered into my study. He was walking a little stiff, and his gaze was a little fixed. He walked around, batting at a few toys, but as it went on, his gaze got more fixed and he started going after my legs. I followed him out of the room with my video recorder on, and he made aggressive looks at my other two cats, which he never does. He went after Angie's tail while she ate, and she was so surprised that she had an asthma attack. She's fine, but she has a hard time with being startled. After that, I put him in the bedroom for a little cool down time of his own. He normally recovers from these odd episodes on his own.
My fiance got back just after 5pm, and I let Benny out of the bedroom. He came out a minute later, staggering and he was drooling. I knew what that meant- seizure. We got him isolated in the bathroom and watched him closely. This episode was different from the last. There was a few small jerks but no actual convulsion or marked fainting. He was breathing hard, drooling a lot, and he was having a hard time standing. He was tilted a little and he would occasionally press his head against something. By this time, I really believe he was blind and possibly even deaf. We put him into a carrier and continued to monitor him carefully. His drool turned into a lot of heavy clear mucus. He was trying so hard to stand but gave up. I assume he was paralyzed for a time, this happens with every seizure to date. He laid down and was comforted by my fiance gently stroking his head.
The only good news is that although his episodes/seizures have become more frequent, they are less severe and he's recovering quicker. He was down from about 5:15-7pm, which is still too long. For a typical cat seizure, they are seizing less than 5 minutes total. The actual recovery time can vary, from moments, to hours and even days in rare cases.
I was very happy, but definitely puzzled, when we let him out of the cage at 9pm, he was completely normal again. He tried wrestling with Gracie soon after, and yeah, right! Wrong! The only odd behavior he had was searching around the house excitedly for something. I have no idea what it could have been. He has piles of "buried" toys, including many cat toy prototypes he's stolen from me. (this is why I haven't been able to get any new toys listed in awhile!)
This afternoon he was playing with his puzzle box and it really got me thinking. Its a wooden box with 9 small holes where you can stuff a variety of toys for them to bat around and take out. Benny's really good at it. He has very precise movements and can grab a toy out like nothing. He does this today, after another seizure. I really feel this revelation is key, because his ability to navigate this box would mean normal neurological function and motor skills. Right? He has no damage to speak of from any of the seizures or episodes. He has no decline in his health, that I can tell. He eats, drinks and plays like a normal cat, before and after seizures.
I did a lot of research and talking to different people online about his story. People suggested heart problems, liver problems, poisoning by my houseplants, parasites, bacteria and fungus. I can narrow the list down this way:
- Heart problems possibly, but his gums and tongue are very normal, his skin has level temperature (meaning no hot and cold zones, which could be a sign of clotting or improper blood flow), no vomiting and no fever. I have no way of measuring his heart rate currently, which may be the only way of diagnosing this
- Liver problems, probably not because he is not jaundiced, no fever, vomiting, eating and eliminating normally (that I'm aware of), and his blood tests came back normal. Its possible there may be a spike going on when this happens, but I would assume there would be something abnormal in the tests presently. We'll see.
- Houseplants, no. I have two small lilies, which are known to be poisonous to cats. I know this, and I keep them where the cats normally are not. I tend to them all the time, so I would be aware of any damage to the leaves. They aren't able to lick any water from the plant, because the water is housed within the pot and not in a saucer. They have always ignored my plants, in part because I keep grass & catnip plants for them on the floor, and I monitor my pets. If there was a danger, I would have removed them immediately. But still, if something like this was going on, there would always be symptoms, and he would be vomiting.
- Parasites, Bacteria & Fungus. Still a possibility, but many can be ruled out if they're contagious because my other cats are fine. He has no lesions that I can see, meaning the chance of a fungus problem is low. Fungal infections can occur with exposure to birds, rodents and rotting garbage. Benny was a stray the shelter picked up, so its a possibility. Any of the three might have a long incubation period, so he would have more than likely been fine for the month he was at the shelter. Its odd that it started just shy of two weeks into his new home, it hopefully is just an unfortunate coincidence.
I researched Ataxia, which is sensory dysfunction, and he has many of its symptoms. I also read about Staggering Disease, which is a non treatable progressive disease. The latter I'm not so sure about, since he has no decline in his health, fortunately.
I will be calling the vet first thing in the morning and see if they have any more ideas to help Benny. Until then, I will be thinking and researching hard! If you have any ideas or suggestions, please feel free to comment or send me a note at email@example.com.
We all cannot wait to get a diagnosis and treatment going. His poor buddy, Gracie, misses wrestling with her cool brother!
Meet BENNY, the newest Oddball Cat Toys family member!
On June 22nd, I fell in love with Ronaldo, now Benny, at the Rapid City Humane Society. They were having a sale on kitties, and I couldn't resist stopping to at least go play with them! With so many precious souls needing home, its impossible to leave empty handed. So, we took Benny home with us.
The first week was great. By Day 2, he was integrated with my 3 cats and allowed to roam the house at his leisure. He was very good with them, and minus a little grumbling, his presence was accepted. Benny got his name after Benny Hill, because he's a total clown, he loves doing goofy things to make people laugh. We noticed he was a bit clumsy and had a few odd traits, like shaking his paw right before he took a drink. He loved to cuddle with you... so long as he could sit still! He got the nickname "Wiggy", short for wiggles. Benny is also very curious and just has to be into everything you're into. He got a second nickname- "Snoopy". I really thought I had gotten lucky with the coolest cat in the world!
Little did I know what was coming...
The troubles began shortly before the first week was over. My fiance had been away for the first several days following the adoption. Benny didn't come downstairs to greet us immediately when we returned from dinner that night. I thought that was odd because he was very social. When I went upstairs to check on him, I noticed a trail of drool from his mouth and he was walking just a little odd. I have cats with PTSD before, so I figured he had been nervous about being left alone while we went for dinner. I wanted to check his mouth for injury, just to be safe, and when I did, he got a little nippy with me. I left him with my fiance to calm down.
All was well for another week and a half. He had become really good buddies with my black cat, Gracie. The two loved to tear around the house and wear each other out. On Thursday, July 7, I thought it was odd that Benny had been sleeping most of the day. In fact, he was sleeping so hard that the only way he stirred to get his beloved canned food dinner, was to put it under his nose. He got so excited, that he fell out of the tree trying to go after the bowl in my hand! He wasn't hurt at all. He ate well too, he polished everyone's bowl off after he scarfed his down. I had forgotten about the bowls on the floor and accidentally kicked the cheap glass bowl, which split in half and wound up just inches away from Benny. Benny had a very shocked face, and I tried my best to chase him around the house like a crazy cat lady, bawling, "I'm so sorry, Benny! I didn't mean to scare you! Oh, poor baby, its ok!" (now I'm joking about most of that, but I did try to calm him thinking he may have PTSD)
Benny went upstairs for about a half hour, and when he came down, he had a lot of drool around his mouth. He was walking very funny. He staggered under the bed and threw everything he had just eaten up. I got him out from underneath the bed, but one of my cats spooked him back upstairs. I got him into a carrier and brought him into the bathroom. I set him in the middle of the floor and monitored him. At that point, he was breathing hard and looking really bad. I got my cooling blanket out and put it around him, and also dribbled some water in his mouth. I still thought it was heat related. He suddenly let out a horrible howl and curled up into a seizure. I panicked. He looked like he had been poisoned! I had absolutely no clue what was going on with my poor cat! He was indoors only, we have a very safe house with no toxins, and everyone else was fine. My first aid training kicked in and I made sure he kept calm and couldn't hurt himself. I continued cooling him down. The closest vet is at least an hour away, so I was forced to take care of him by myself. He took almost two hours to come out of the post-seizure state and get on his feet. I had a local vet watch him for the night, thinking if the worst happened, he might be able to help him out.
The next morning, Benny was back to normal. We took him to the vet and all his blood work came back very normal, he was a very healthy 2 year old. We were stumped, but assumed it then meant he had idiopathic epilepsy. I did a lot of research and found out they normally don't medicate cats for occasional epileptic seizures, so all we could do was watch and hope for the best. If he had another one within the month, he would need to go back for medicine to help control it.
All was well for another 6 days. That following Thursday, Benny and Gracie started playing really rough around 3pm, and by 4pm I had to break it up. It wasn't too long after that, Benny got weird. I noticed he was walking weird and his gaze was very focused. He got nippy with me when I stretched out my hand to direct him, and he started going after my legs because I was walking in front of him. I tried putting him in timeout in his room upstairs. While I was trying to get the a/c unit to work, he jumped up on the desk to "help" me. He went after my cell phone, which is completely unlike him. When I took that away, my arm became a target. He got down on the floor and it was then my legs again. I pushed him into the kennel next to me and brought him downstairs. A kennel timeout didn't do anything, he was still in that weird state. I then placed him in the bathroom for an hour, and he finally returned back to normal.
A few days later on Sunday, Benny had a particularly bad episode that morning, right after wrestling with Gracie. His mouth was open a little, he was breathing hard, and he was walking very staggered and slow. His gaze was very fixed and he just wasn't there. I really had no idea what was going on, so when he went upstairs to his room, I closed him in there. I took video of all the events. My videos later became very valuable clues to what was going on with him. Benny didn't have a seizure, but after this particular event, I was able to safely conclude that anytime he was overstimulated, like heavy play, he had what I called an episode. No seizure, but just a weird altered mental state, in which he became unpredictable and unstable.
It happened again this past Tuesday, he had another seizure. He was playing with Gracie, and we broke it up before it got too rough. So I thought. Benny wandered into my study not too long after, walking funny and I swore his head was slightly tilted to the side. His tail was really swishing around. I figured he was just having another episode. I kept a close eye on him. He went and hid under the bed. While we were calming him down, he let out a really bad yowl, and I knew that sign- seizure. We quickly got him isolated in the bathroom and placed him in a shallow box with a comfy blanket. The seizure was different from the last, there was no curling, no shaking that intensified over time. He started having a lot of mucus production after the shaking subsided. His breathing got shallower and shallower, and we didn't know what was going on. Every once in awhile, he'd give out a loud deathly cough. It dawned on us suddenly- he was slightly upright on the box, as we assumed that would help the saliva drain out of his mouth. Actually, cats need to either be laid flat or downwards for their bodies to properly flow. After realizing our mistake, we quickly got him flat. I've never been so terrified and horrified in my life. I had a little animal first aid training, but never in my years did I expect to have to use my knowledge on my own cat! I didn't know enough either, I've only had healthy cats.
Benny was back to normal a lot quicker this time with no lasting effects. We took him back to the vet and again, nothing found. The vet concluded his symptoms weren't consistent with feline epilepsy, that there was something else going on, something neurological. They forwarded all my carefully written notes, photographs and a series of videos, to a well known neurologist.
I'm going to end this post here since its so long, but please look for the follow up post tomorrow! I want to talk more in depth about Benny, his problem, and how I've been able to help him during these tough times.