Cat Update

Last week was fairly traumatic around here. We learned two scary things–the first was that we might be living on a Superfund clean-up site, and the second was that something was seriously wrong with our kitten, Phoebe.

As Erik just posted, the lead issue remains up in the air, and will be for quite some time. But we did find answers regarding Phoebe, and while it is bad news, it is not as bad as our worst imaginings, and it’s good just to have answers and a course of action. We’re finding our feet again and will get back to a regular blogging schedule this week.

Turns out little Phoebe, found on the street when she was only 4 weeks old and bottle raised by us, was born with a heart defect. The kitty cardiologist (the excellent Dr. Zimmerman at AVCC for you Angelenos) identifies it as a complete AV canal defect. This is a rare and serious heart deformity.  Dr. Zimmerman drew us a picture of a normal cat heart and then one of Phoebe’s heart, and all we could think was that it was a miracle this kitten lived a minute outside the womb.

As I understand it (and please forgive the very loose terminology) there are four chambers to the heart, the left and right atria and the left and right ventricles, and each pair is divided by a septum, a wall. In Phoebe’s heart, the septa are breached in both pairs, so her blood is flowing around her heart all willy-nilly. (In precise terms she has atrial septal defect and a ventricular septal defect).

We really don’t know how she’s functioning at all. It’s also a miracle that she survived her spaying. We will no longer be using the services of the vet who somehow overlooked her loud heart murmur when prepping her for anesthesia.

There is little we can do for her. There is medication which will ease her heart action some. Dr. Zimmerman would not give us a prognosis because, as she says, “kitties always surprise us.” So Phoebe might have weeks, she might last years. She’s not in pain–she is just not as active as she used to be before the symptoms of this defect became more pronounced. Basically she’s acting like an elderly cat, happy to nap a lot and watch our other kitten, Trout, play. If she does start to roughhouse with Trout she’ll run out of air and have to stop. But it seems like she’s figured that out already, and even simple Trout seems to understand that he has to leave her alone.

So yes, we’re sad, but we’re also relieved we don’t have to make any big decisions regarding surgery (there is none) or her quality of life. We’ll just enjoy her each day and be thankful we have that day together–which is, after all, how we should enjoy all the people and critters that we love.

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  1. I see Phoebe lasting a good while in such a loving home. Happy, well-fed, well-rested, and so loved. I’m so glad Trout’s part of the family, too. Believe me when I say cats who are older in demeanor, or chronologically, are amused by crazed youngsters.

  2. Our Sweet Bippie kitty also has serious heart valve defects. For her, it means a lot of liquid build up in the lungs. Cats do not normally cough, but with a lot of work we taught Bippie to cough! Now she comes to us and coughs up flem several times a day. She sleeps quite a bit but LOVES to be a crazy nut and run around, play with the other cats…we had her on steroids for awhile and they made her mean and insane to cats so we weened her off of them. Now she is happy, and I’d rather have a happy kitty with a short, sweet life. Bippie, suprisingly survived not only spaying but aborting her two kittens late term (well, it was more C-section and spay, kittens were dead on delivery, probably not enough oxygen). Her ears and tongue are usually a bluish pink, but she’s just fine and a really sweetie! Good luck with Pheobe!! There is hope!

  3. I am very interested in hearing the results of the third round of soil testing. Why such a difference in the first two?? I hope you are able to find some answers…very perplexing.

  4. hmm- i wonder if hawthorn berry tincture would be a good supplement to try for your kitty? it is certainly the go to for people heart problems- particularly issues of arrhythmia.

  5. Sorry you had such a sucky week last week. She is lucky indeed to have landed with you guys in such a loving home. Kitties do indeed surprise you quite often. So your attitude of treasuring each day as it comes is right on the money.

  6. Aaaaawwwww…..

    My baby is a Black cat too. He has an enlarged heart with a raging (as the vet puts it) heart murmur. I have to make sure he doesn’t get fat. Because apparently that affects his heart. My Pookie Monster is 8 years old and VERY active even with his condition. He’s also really tall and long. So it doesn’t surprise me he has an enlarged heart since he is enlarged. But the murmur has me concerned.

    All you can do is love them and be prepared.

  7. You have my deepest sympathy for Phoebe’s condition. I’m so glad she’s got good people to love her and give her a good home, for as long as she is around. She really is Little Miss Sweetface.

  8. “We’ll just enjoy her each day and be thankful we have that day together–which is, after all, how we should enjoy all the people and critters that we love.”
    – Hear, hear! I am so glad she has such caring humans to love her! That last photo is sooooo sweet.

  9. Actually, you are lucky that if she does have to have a serious problem, that it’s something that can’t be fixed. No spending ridiculous amounts of money, and you get to focus on every day being a gift.

    We spent $3600 trying to keep a dog with a heart defect alive just to lose her anyway. So $3600 poorer and still heartbroken.

  10. I’m sorry to hear that it’s such a serious defect, and nothing that you can really do anything about—But–the important thing is that even with it she is happy, and pain free. As a parent to my own pair of furry babies, and having lost one earlier this year I understand too well when you have to make those very hard, very painful decisions–and I’m glad that you haven’t had to get to that stage. It sounds to me like Phoebe managed to find you against all the odds, survived and (looks to me) thrived on your love.
    Keep it up, keep giving her the love (even without a heart defect no one ever knows how long they have)

    *big hugs to your family*
    (I’ve been a lurker on your blog for a while now)

  11. I’m so sorry about your kitty. I think you have the right attitude about it, and cats usually seem to take illness in stride. I imagine she’s very lucky to have landed in a happy home where she can lounge and rest as needed.

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