I wanted to write about something that terrified me in October 2020 in a period of 72 hours. It resulted in an unexpected euthanasia chat with the vet, lots of tests, emotions of nightmare proportions, sitting by the phone, feeling numb and knowing I have one frightened, poorly elderly cat in hospital. And when your vet mentions euthanasia three times, as a last resort, well, it dawns on you that your 14-year cat, with you since a kitten, may not be by your side by the weekend is surreal.
Different scenarios went through my head, including making myself accept the worse should it happen. Well, I tried—the feeling of pending loss was horrid. I was at a village veterinary appointment one minute and then suddenly travelling across a city to take Tabitha to the veterinary hospital. For starters, she needed fluids and would be placed on a drip. Euthanasia kept going through my head. That word instils a severe kick and fear deep in the pit of your stomach. My head felt like fog. I pleaded with God to let her be okay.
Any devoted animal owner will understand.
I bought Tabitha from a breeder aged 6-months. Yes, I can hear the tutting. But you know what? Sometimes a pedigree needs rescuing. The lady bred cats for showing. Tabitha is a La Perm. She is brown with curly fur, although now, her curls are limited from the constant stroking and brushing. She is, and was back then, so extremely timid. Therefore unsuitable as a show cat and sold for £25.
But I discovered she was a very ill cat.
What is the LaPerm cat breed?
The LaPerm originated in America. This gorgeous, unusual, posh-looking breed were farm cats. Freedom, inter-breeding, mice and rat control. You name it.
In Oregon 1982, a rex called Curly was born. Breeding with a colony of other outdoor cats, Curly gave birth to litters of rex type breeds with ringlets and are believed to be caused by a dominant rex gene. The ringlets gave a name to the breed: LaPerm …because they do look as if they have had a perm. A tip – use a toothed comb rather than a brush when grooming your LaPerm. Trust me, a regular brush straightens the curls!
According to the La Perm Club, they are a breed without too many problems. I can’t entirely agree because Tabitha developed health issues.
Tabitha, like other LaPerms, has lioness type facial features. Shoulder structure differs from a moggy, a massive ‘fox-like tail’, and Tabitha has lots of fur three-quarters down her rear hind legs. I call them her pantaloons!
- Purrs loudly when fussed
- You make you understand when being ignored
- Attention and cuddles
- Gives you gifts
In 2001 / 2002, Anthony Nichols imported the first LaPerm into the UK. I sometimes wonder if Tabitha is related to this first cat.
Are LaPerms known for issues with their ‘ladies bits’?
By chance, I bumped into a LaPerm owner around 2007 whose own cat had the same constant diarrhoea. Her friend’s LaPerm was the same. ‘They have problems with their lady bits.’ she told me and suggested I get Tabitha spayed.
In 2007, Tabitha lost weight quickly, and her stools were water consistency. My home floor was covered in polythene, and she was given a sensitive food diet and then booked for a biopsy because the diet wasn’t stopping the diarrhoea. Having spoken to the LaPerm owner, I also booked Tabitha in for spaying. Luckily her weight was at an acceptable level deemed safe for anaesthetic. She was spayed in April 2007, and that evening she came home, she acted like a born-again kitten. She raced around the flat. She ate … and more importantly, I binned the polythene because the diarrhoea had stopped. And I cancelled the biopsy.
Was it an infection with her lady bits in the end? I will never know.
How can you help a cat with stress?
By summer 2019, Tabitha’s stress levels became worse, and I think mainly because my Molly passed away aged 20. Stress appeared with an increase of overgrooming – she physically pulled chunks of fur out. In February 2020, Tabitha had lost weight and, by March, pulled out half her fur. She frequented the vets, but during Covid-19 lockdown #1, I bought Rescue Remedy spray. The valerian scent etc. helped calm her. Combined with being on furlough, I was home throughout the spring and summer.
I noticed she dragged her bum along the floor after a poo. Tabitha developed diarrhoea and vomiting, as well as making noises during toileting attempts. Veterinary practices were on limited staff, so it wasn’t easy getting her an appointment. The veterinary practice cancelled her August Pet Health Care check-up. In September, Tabitha had a paid consultation. I kept a record of her wellbeing in a notebook to update her vet without forgetting any points.
A urine test can diagnose cystitis
On 18th September, Tabitha had an appointment. At this time, owners were not allowed in the consultation room but could sit in the waiting room if wearing a facemask. Tabitha had a geriatric screening and a urine sample taken. As she refused to urinate when the vet tried to express her bladder, the vet used a needle to collect the urine. I believe the needle passes through the abdominal wall and into the bladder. I could hear Tabitha cry, which in turn upset me.
The appointment charge was, including a £45 consultation charge, £220. (the geriatric screening was £74.16). As I waited to pay, Tabitha vomited from stress in her carrier.
Before the urine was sent to the lab for testing, she explained blood traces appeared in the urine. As Tabitha suffers from stress, it was likely she had cystitis. Her vet explained that Tabitha must eat two cans of wet food per day for moisture, drink lots of water and eat less dry food for the time being.
The test results were:
- Liver, thyroid and kidney in the normal ranges
- Possible cystitis
- No infection in the urine
Eventually, I gave Tabitha a calming supplement called Zylkene. It is a powder you mix in with food or cat/dog sauce. It contains a natural ingredient that helps an animal to relax. The above link takes you to an article of other calming products I have used at home.
If thinking about doing a home urine collection, please watch my video Katkor. This product is ideal for stressed cats as you can avoid taking them to the vet. I took Tabitha’s urine to her vet, who tested it. The urine results were clear – no cystitis. However, Tabitha was given a further dose of Milbemax for possible tapeworm (a precaution).
When a cat’s weight plummets, what could it mean?
Tabitha had toileting issues again in October. Tabitha ‘told’ me she was in pain by weeing on the bedroom floor and bed. The amount of blood in the urine frightened me. She would keep going back and forth to her litter tray but was unable to wee. And would do the same outside by visiting different areas in the garden. I believe she was associating her litter tray and various areas in the garden with pain, so she kept moving to a different place. Please don’t be alarmed if you notice your cat doing this. The reason could be totally different. If you are worried, please consult a vet.
At a veterinary appointment, this vet told me that she was dehydrated and underweight – her weight had declined too much since her last appointment. Tabitha now weighed 2.88kg, so she had lost 120g. I felt like someone was hitting me with a sledgehammer.
Fifteen minutes later, I was driving across Hull to a veterinary hospital, feeling numb and scared like any animal owner facing an emergency. Tabitha would have tests and remain overnight – it was time for a veterinary surgeon to delve deeper. Otherwise, it will be euthanasia because of the weight loss.
I would like to say thank you to both vets for keeping in touch with me that evening and several times the next day.
Tabitha was sedated and given an ultrasound; her blood was tested for different possibilities, and further urine samples were taken. She hydrated intravenously with fluids to hydrate her, and with this, her weight increased to 3kg. Unfortunately, Tabitha refused to eat or drink or go to the toilet. We all know that it is normally a sign of the end of life if an animal refuses food or water. I preserved by explaining to her vet she will not eat because she is in a strange place and scared. She was not ready to be put to sleep.
So, the outcome of the initial tests.
The walls of her intestines had thickened. The small intestine is for digestion, and the large get rid of waste. They considered gastro problems. Her spleen, liver, pancreas and kidney were okay. No stones or masses in the bladder either.
There were more tests recommended:
- Blood test for the pancreas
- Then a biopsy
- Lymph samples from the gut
- The anti-biotic injection that lasts 2 weeks
- Cytology, so the urine goes under the microscope to assess the floaters
- Metacam for the inflammation but stop at any sign of diarrhoea
- Hypoallergenic food
I selected the blood test for the pancreas, cytology, anti-biotics. I was worried about putting Tabitha through further stress of being jabbed and prodded and sedated further. So I decided to make further decisions after these test results.
The pancreas was normal. The cytology showed she did not have cancer cells in the bladder. Urine was abnormal with blood clots but could be concentrated because of the fluids taken at the hospital. No infections. The inflammation could be stress-related, and the urine in the blood could be cystitis. The thickening of the intestine walls could be an allergy or cancer. It was also possible she was dragging her bum because it was inflamed. It was suggested we try hypoallergenic and anallergenic food first.
The bill came to £1,312.
Why is a vet suggesting euthanasia?
I have read lots of posts about vets telling an owner that their pets must, or might, have to be put to sleep. Then I have read how the owner has worked with their pet, and it worked, and their pet is alive today.
A vet is morally bound to mention euthanasia to prevent animal suffering. I thank both my vets for recommending specialised food first, but I understood were morally bound to say that it would be unfair to keep Tabitha alive if she lost more weight. Each time it was voiced, it filled me with fear. That first whole day Tabitha was at the hospital, all I did was sit by the phone. I had to tell myself that she may be home for a night or two, and then I would have to say goodbye. Then the coin would flip, and I would be in denial. Then I would question myself how can this suddenly happen. I cried so much.
Many of you have been there, I am sure.
Can a hypoallergenic diet help an animal?
When Tabitha arrived home from the veterinary hospital, the first thing she did was go to her food station and eat. I knew she would.
I followed instructions and made a gradual change over from her normal food to hypoallergenic food. At this point, I would like to mention that sensitive food is, according to my vet, different from hypoallergenic and anallergenic food.
Tabitha’s diet today, consists of:
- Royal Canin hypoallerngenic dry biscuits which she started eating then refused
- Royal Canin anallergenic dry biscuits – Tabitha loves this one
- Purina Veterinary Diet Feline HA Hypoallergenic *** Tabitha wasn’t keen on this brand
*** Because Tabitha is enrolled on the Pet Health Care scheme, so I was given a discount.
Tabitha weighed 3.15kg on 1st December 2020. I use baby scales, you see. The vet asked me to weigh Tabitha as soon as I got home from the hospital to see the difference between my scales and the practice scales. The difference is zero.
Tabitha drank continued to drink a lot of water. I gave one dose of the Metacam. The vet explained I had to stop the dosage if she had diarrhoea. When the diarrhoea occurred, I stopped the medication. Today her diet consists of only Royal Canin and Purina, and she thoroughly enjoys the biscuits.
How you can help your cat’s cystitis at home
The YouTube video below shows you how to use Feliway Cystease – it is easy. Please support my channel and like the mini-film and subscribe to Poppy’s Pets.
I began giving Tabitha Feliway Cystease in December, and from then on, when I notice her getting frantic around the house, she has another dose. The results are fantastic. The product calms Tabitha, and her cystitis stops.
My girl is 15 in the summer (2021). When her vet said the bladder floaters might be cancer, I decided to let the illness run its course because of her age and stress levels. But the intestine wall thickening could, after all, result from food allergies. Changing her diet has increased her weight and reduced soft, runny stools. Her weight in March 2021 is 3.26kg.
Poppy’s Pets does not give medical advice. I advise that if you have concerns about your pet, you must visit a qualified veterinary surgeon for a pet assessment, discussion and medical advice.