Aby-a-Day – 13 August: Exploratory surgery (Medical Monday)

Today I had to do the second hardest thing a cat parent has to do. Today I took Jacoby to Jönköping…and left him at the djursjukhuset there.

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I think he knew something was going on. When I woke up, he was lying on top of me. His biopsies are tomorrow morning, but because of the train schedules, it was easier to bring him in this afternoon.

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After breakfast, he stayed close to me on the sofa. I’m sure he knew something was up…even though I tried to remain calm.

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But the truth is, Jake is having surgery tomorrow. He is having different areas of his digestive tract biopsied so we can finally know what has been bothering him since February or March. And while it’s a routine procedure and everything should be fine…it’s still surgery.

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And that’s a hard thing to think about when it’s your best friend, your feline soulmate of nine years.

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And while most of your brain knows it’s just surgery and he’ll come through it with no problems…there’s always this evil little bit in the back of cerebellum that can’t stop thinking that this train ride, this time in the waiting room, this moment where he’s in the transfer cage and going back into the depths of the hospital you almost never get to see…this might be the last time I pet that head, hear that purr, tell him I love him. The odds of that happening are low, to be sure…but we’ve all heard stories of routine surgeries going wrong. You don’t want to think that way, but you do.

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I took a couple of awkward selfies of us on the train…

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…until I remembered about Incredibooth. Selfies are much better when they look like photobooth strips.

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On our journey to Anicura, I of course let him out of his carrier whilst we were on the train.

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Jake was his usual Strollercat self, riding the rails the way he has a thousand times before.

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Before we left, I packed one of his favourite spring toys along with his beloved catnip Jackson Pollock fish. This is one of his all-time favourite toys and he was even licking it in his carrier. I hope it gives him some comfort tomorrow when he wakes up from his operation.

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I let him walk from the bus stop to the hospital.

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He’s actually starting to recognise where he’s going when we come her, which is a sign we’ve come here too many times. But there was no way he would make that trip in his carrier, and who was I not to indulge him?

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We had a bit of a wait before a nurse came to collect him, so we sat in the special cats-only waiting room.

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There are shelves on the wall for people to set the cat carriers…

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…and they have two Feliway plug-ins installed!

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There were other people in the cat waiting room when we first got there, so I kept Jake in his carrier. Once they left, however, I let him out to walk around. He seemed to like the waiting room, but of course he’s never been afraid of going to the vet.

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He was very affectionate while we waited.

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In fact, he felt so happy and comfortable in the waiting room, he flopped down and started grooming himself.

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It kind of made me sad, because I could see how much his hair had grown back from the ultrasound he’d had a month ago…and that’s going to get shaved off again tomorrow morning.

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Finally we we called back to an exam room. He was weighed (4.02 kg, better than the 3.9 kg he was on 6 August, the last time I got his weight), and we talked a little about the procedure to come and what will happen after the operation.

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I had to take off his collar, which made me a little sad, but they let him have his toys, so when he wakes up in his hospital cage he’ll have something from home to help make him feel better.

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Finally, they wheeled him off to his hospital cage, and I went along home with my empty cat carrier.

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I had an hour to kill before my train home came, so I went to O’Leary’s (a favourite quasi-Boston hangout) and played a little of my favourite slot machine game, Wild Pride, and I won 845kr (about $92 USD)! That surely must be a good omen, right?

Tomorrow is going to be a long day, waiting for the phone to ring. I will go back to pick Jake up either Wednesday or Thursday, depending on how quickly he recovers.

Aby-a-Day – 6 August: “It’s worse than a needle in a haystack. We don’t even know it’s a needle we’re looking for.” (Medical Monday)

We took Jacoby into the Anicura hospital in Jönköping almost two weeks ago to have more blood drawn for more tests to try to sort out what is going on with him. Whilst we waited for the nurses to come. we availed ourselves of the free treats.

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The first thing the nurses did was take Jake’s blood pressure. It’s a bit more involved than a human getting blood pressure tested.

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There’s a sort of doppler machine and they use headphones to listen to his blood whilst they press the button on the sphygmomanometer.

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Jake was less than impressed with the cuff on his arm (which was still bald from the last time he had blood drawn.

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After getting his BP, it was time to draw some vials of Jake’s blood. I hid his eyes because I don’t like to watch when they take my blood for a test!

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I have no problem watching someone else get their blood drawn, though.

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But before they were done drawing all the blood they needed, Jake broke loose from my grasp and dislodged the needle.

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His pulling away like that caused a haematoma (bruise) on that arm, so they had to shave his other arm to get the rest of the blood.

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Again, I covered his eyes so he couldn’t watch the blood coming out of him.

I just got a call from Dr. Cecilia with the test results, and…I’m going to have to take him in next Monday afternoon. Tuesday the 14th he is going to get biopsies done on his intestinal tract.

We still need the parathyroid test confirmed, because Dr. Cecilia needs to call the lab again; the results don’t make sense to her and she wants to verify them. But he has increased antibodies and decreased albumin in his blood and he seems to be “leaking” protein in his digestive tract, but it’s not coming out in his urine, so we need to figure out why that’s happening. His calcium levels are fairly normal, though, so that helps rule out a few things.

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I will have to take him in Monday, and he’ll stay overnight. Then they’ll do the surgery Tuesday morning and keep him for observation. They may do an ultrasound Wednesday, and then I pick him up Wednesday afternoon or perhaps later depending on how they feel he’s doing. The biopsies do leave small holes in the tested organs which are sutured, and in 5%-10% of cats there can be complications due to these holes. Hopefully we won’t have any of that. The alternative to the surgical biopsies is to try giving him corticosteroids such as prednisone, but the problem with that (as anyone who’s ever watched House MD knows), is that because we don’t know what is causing his pain and weight loss, the steroids might just mask the problem, without helping to cure it. Or they could be contraindicated for whatever his condition actually is and make everything worse. Or, when we do get the diagnosis, having had cortisone treatments might mean we can’t go ahead with the new treatment because of drug interactions.

Luckily, it does not look like FIP, and the protein levels don’t indicate that it’s anything like FIP, which is good, but it could be lymphoma (which is what we thought Logan might have had before FIP was confirmed). It could also be a lot of other things: pancreatitis, chronic inflammatory bowel disease, intestinal ulcers…it’s really hard to say.

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The bill is going to be around 20,000kr…so glad we have insurance and that this is not a pre-existing condition!

Aby-a-Day – 16 July: “No guts, no glory” (Medical Monday)

(This post was written by Björn, as I was so busy helping the doctors I wasn’t as able to record what was going on.)

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Jacoby has been really grumpy for the past few months now. He’s been hissing and growling, lashing out at the kittens (but not hurting them, thankfully) as well as attacking Alfred and Angel. He’s been barfing more than usual, and on top of that, he’s lost a significant amount weight over the past seven months, going from 4.9 kilos in January to 4.1 kilos the first weekend in July (10.8 lbs vs 9.4, or a sixth of his weight). We’ve been mystified by this change, which is so unlike Jake. He used to be a sweet, stable cat, and his current grumpiness has to be an indication that something’s physically wrong with him. He’s been to our local vet a few times; a blood test done in April showed no abnormalities and we tried amitriptylin, Metacam, Feliway, calming collars…everything we and the vets could think of, but nothing helped. While at the cat show a couple of weeks ago, we were talking to our neighbor about cats (of course), and she mentioned a cat of hers that had had similar symptoms because of plastic he had eaten that had stuck in his digestive tract. That set off bells – Jake has always been a plastic eater, to the point where we have to tuck the plastic garbage can liner in carefully so he doesn’t eat the bits hanging out; we just had never made the connection between that and his sudden personality change. We had an ultrasound appointment with our regular vet, but as it’s vacation time right now, the ultrasound technician wouldn’t be back until 24 July. We didn’t want to wait that long now that we had the idea about plastic, so Koshka called the AniCura animal hospital in Jönköping, some 100 km (60 miles) away. They are the same people who took care of poor Logan in his final days, and we know that they are a professional outfit.

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We got up early on Friday 13 July, and took the local bus to the railway station. The train ride was one hour, passing through the fields and woods of a summery western Sweden. We arrived in Jönköping around 10am, and killed half an hour before getting on the bus to the animal hospital.

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Jake visited the local tourist office where he made an impression on the staff.

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Next to the bus stop, there was a pigeon with a death wish, as it strutted about without any regard for the predator in the stroller. Good thing for the feathered fool that Jake was tethered.

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Then we got on the bus, where Jake regaled the bus with the song of his people.

The three of us arrived at the hospital some 20 minutes prior to our appointment. The animal hospital is a well-run operation, with separate waiting rooms for cats and dogs.

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Jake was called up, and it was time for his ultrasound. The ultrasound tech was a friendly Pole named Dr. Wojciech who had 20 years experience in examining animals with ultrasound. He shaved Jake’s belly (the fur would interfere with the readings otherwise),

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applied the gel,

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and began the examination.

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Jake struggled a bit, but he bravely endured the 25-30 minute examination. Dr. Wojciech pointed out the organs to us, like the intestines, kidneys, stomach and so on. It was really interesting to see Jake’s insides.

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He could tell us that there was no signs of any plastic or other foreign bodies, which blew our working theory out of the water. There were signs of some enteritis in the small intestine, but Dr. Wojciech didn’t think that was the reason for Jake’s problems.

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After the ultrasound, we were taken to another examination room while we waited to see the next vet. You may recall from when Koshka took Logan to this vet that they have excellent bird TV.

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Well, this time it was extra excellent.

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A magpie came to eat at the feeder! Jake wasn’t especially impressed, but Koshka got very excited.

Dr. Cecilia arrived, and, like Wojciech, she impressed us with her professionalism.

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She asked us about Jake’s symptoms and problems. As an optometrist, I know about how to do an anamnesis, and I thought she was very thorough.

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Dr. Cecilia ordered a full set of blood tests to be taken, and a veterinary nurse (whose name unfortunately evades me) brought syringes and the other paraphernalia needed.

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Jake got a mild sedative, was rolled into a towel, got his front leg shaved, and his blood drawn. He was very brave about it, not causing any trouble. The vet nurse bandaged his leg.

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Dr. Cecilia wanted a urine sample, which was to be drawn by Dr. Wojciech.

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Jake had to go back to the ultrasound room, where his bladder was located by ultrasound.

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By using a syringe and drawing the urine directly from the bladder, any contamination by proteins from the urinary tract was avoided. Dr. Cecilia returned, as she’d remembered one more thing she wanted to check. She palpitated the base of Jake’s neck, and confirmed a suspicion she had. She noticed that his thyroid was somewhat enlarged on the right side. Jake got a prescription of Royal Canin Sensitivity Control. This diet is to be followed until the vet calls back about the final diagnosis, but if we are lucky, there’s just a problem with his thyroid. That is easily medicated.

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The whole visit took about two hours with very little waiting time between the examinations. The vet bill was about 6000 SEK (about USD $680), but most of that should be covered by the pet insurance. We said our goodbyes to the hospital staff, and took the bus for a quick trip to IKEA.

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Even in his stroller, IKEA would not let Jake in, so we took turns shopping. And, since he had fasted from 21:00 the night before, Jake was ravenous. While I shopped, Koshka let Jake try his new food, and he polished off two packets of the wet version.

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After IKEA, we had a quick visit with my mom, brother and sister, and then, finally, dinner at a new Mexican restaurant in the center of town.

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A long day for all of us, but well worth it.

Aby-a-Day – 9 July: “Sometimes being a brother is even better than being a superhero” (Medical Monday)

The last time we all went to the vet, we encountered a gorgeous German Shepherd in the lobby. He was so huge compared to Lorelai!

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But Rory was her usual fearless self.

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In fact, she barely seemed to notice him at all. “Dog? What dog?”

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Alfred, on the other hand…

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…did not like the looks of that enormous predator at all.

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In fact, he put his body between the dog and Rory to protect her.

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The dog had the good sense to look appropriately intimidated.

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“Don’t worry, little sister. I won’t let this beast hurt you.” Not that Rory looks at all concerned.

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The Shepherd was actually a well-trained tracking and guard dog, and he and his human volunteer with the canine unit at their local Hemvärnet battalion. Hemvärnet dogs are very disciplined, and he wouldn’t have hurt a kitten.

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Freddy didn’t still didn’t trust him. The entire time we were there with that dog, he remained vigilant, protecting Rory from harm.

Aby-a-Day – 18 June: “Life is full of sniffles sobs and smiles. With sniffles predominating” (Medical Monday)

As I said yesterday, Lorelai has a small case of the sniffles. She had a goopy eye, but I gave her some Tobremycin drops, and it cleared right up, but she is still sneezing.

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So we went out to Skultorp to visit Min Vetrinär.

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It took a few moments, but Rory embraced the vet’s examination room.

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She was very happy to explore the exam room.

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Even when the vet and her assistant were checking her over and taking samples from both her eyes, her nose and the back of her throat, she was still her usual happy self.

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This visit was a bit bittersweet as we were in a room we haven’t been in since I took Logan there September last year.

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When this happened.

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Not gonna lie, it was hard watching Rory move around the room I had last been in with Logan.

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I miss him so much…

Aby-a-Day – 4 June: Kamikaze kitten (Almost Medical Monday)

Lorelai had a very busy Saturday. First thing in the morning, I called her and she didn’t come. She always comes when I call her. So we looked all over for her, and finally I wondered…did she discover the gap in the balcony windows…and actually jump down?

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The balcony’s 2½ metres up from the ground (about 8 feet). It took Jacoby a couple of months to work up the nerve to try it when we first moved here. And, sure enough…I went outside and stood under the balcony and called her…and Rory came running. She jumped. Off. The balcony! And there was a guy with an off-leash bulldog across the lawn. Not good.

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So after we brought her back inside, she attempted her next death-defying act.

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I was doing some laundry, putting clothes in the dryer. But we don’t have the usual tumble dryer like we had in the States. We have a drying closet. Clothes hang in there and dry. I didn’t even know Rory was in the laundry room with me, let alone that she’d gotten into the drying closet.

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I realised she was missing fairly quickly, and got her out of there. But I don’t know how long she was in the dryer, which was set to 60° C. Not too long, thank goodness…but I don’t even want to think about what could have happened. As it was, I instantly doused her with cold water, just in case.

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Alfred was first to check on how she was after her dunking.

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Freddy is such a good big brother.

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Rory didn’t enjoy her cold shower. Hopefully she’ll remember it and avoid the drying closet.

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It was a harrowing Saturday morning. But it goes to show you: No matter how much experience you have with cats and kittens, they can still surprise you. I would never have thought Rory would try to jump off the balcony, and I had no idea she’d gotten into the dryer. Without eternal vigilance, the unspeakable can happen.

Aby-a-Day – 28 May: Nothing butt the truth (Medical Monday)

Today’s post is…I’m not going to lie. Today’s post is kind of nasty.

Today’s post is about cats’ anal glands. Now, 99.9% of cat owners don’t even know their cats have anal glands. But if you completely ignore them, it’s (pardon the expression) a complete pain in the ass.

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It started with Jacoby, who has had a history of soft poops, which means that his anal glands don’t get expressed natually when he poops. When he started smelling “whiffy,” I would have my vet express them…but it was happening too often to make that a regular thing. He was young and trusting, and I used to have to do this with my old Siamese Harri, so I started expressing Jake’s anal glands the same way I used to do Harri’s. He let me…and now it’s routine. But almost every other week, I’m justified.

I know this is a completely disgusting topic. The stuff in your cat’s anal glands is related to the stuff that skunks spray when they feel threatened. There are two methods used to empty the anal gland sacs; I use the “squeezing a zit” method as opposed to the more invasive, “grab the rubber gloves and the lube” method. It works, and I can sleep at night.

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If you haven’t had the pleasure of dealing with cats’ anal glands.…well, it’s about as pleasant as the words “anal” and “glands” in the same sentence might lead you to believe. Tessie had a problem with hers that ultimately required an anaesthetised procedure, and when I helped my vet to hold her while she looked at the problem, Tessie nearly ripped my throat out. So it pays to get your kittens used to having their bums squoze before it becomes a problem.

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Because Jake needed his glands expressed on a regular basis, when we added Alfred and Logan, and later Lorelai, to our family I added “checking the bum” to the bi-weekly grooming routine of weighing, clipping claws, cleaning ears, scraping and brushing teeth (except Angel) and combing and rubbing with Bay Rum and a chamois cloth. I think it helps; at least, it should prevent any horrific issues.

The reason for this post is due to the fact that, this past weekend for the first time ever, I was able to express Angel’s glands. And believe me, she needed it done. It’s a not-so-nice aspect of cat parenting…but it’s an important one. As our friends at Cats Herd You say, why don’t we cat owners talk about these sorts of things more?

Edit: Our friend Summer suggested I post a tutorial on how to do this. Turns out there’s a Japanese YouTube video featuring an Abyssinian that shows pretty much how I do it (but not exactly). For more information on how I express the cats’ glands, read my reply to Summer in comments.