Saturday, June 23, 2012

Why would you want to take my cat "in the back"?

It can be a little distressing when the veterinarian or technician announces that they are taking your pet back to the "treatment area" for a nail trim, blood draw, blood pressure exam or other procedure. What goes on behind closed doors? Why do they request that you remain in the exam room?

The treatment room at Exclusively Cats Veterinary Hospital is a large room with special spotlights, tall tables, anesthesia machines, and various equipment for anything from a nail trim to a small surgical procedure, such as abscess treatment. The boarding rooms are off this room, as is the ICU area. It is the center of the hospital.

Just like small children, pets will often act out in front of their "parents" either because they are feeding off the emotional state of their owners, or because they know what to expect as a reaction from their owners if they make certain sounds or motions. Once removed from the exam room, they usually calm down somewhat to evaluate the unknown environment and unknown people around them.

In some cases, with extremely stubborn or unruly patients (we call them "fractious"), it may be for your own safety that we take your cat "to the back". Ultimately, even though we are an animal health facility, our professional responsibility is also to make sure that no harm comes to the human caretakers in our office (i.e. YOU). Cats generally lash out at anyone nearby when they are upset, and don't care whether they are friend or foe. It is our wish that no client receive an injury from their cat - especially not while at our office! Cat bites can be extremely traumatic, both emotionally and health-wise. Some people are extremely sensitive to the bacteria that is found in many cats' mouths - it is possible that a cat bite could send a person to the hospital for IV antibiotics! While we don't want to frighten anyone, we do want clients to take cat bites seriously, and to allow us to remove a stressed-out or aggressive cat to a more controlled situation if it appears that someone might get injured.

Additionally, while we all love animals - that's why we chose to work with them, our job is to make sure that procedures are accomplished with minimal stress and maximum efficiency for the sake of the cat. Once the pet is in the treatment area, we still treat your cat with respect and care - we NEVER scruff them, and still speak reassuringly towards them, but we may work more quickly and with less conversation than we would if you were present.

Even if your cat is the best patient ever, and acts better in your presence than away from you, it is often preferable to use the treatment area because a wider variety of tools are available, along with better lighting, better tables, and additional staff close at hand in case they are needed - other doctors for a quick second opinion, or another technician for additional handling, calming or for running additional tests, etc. again, all in the interest of providing your pet with the care it needs in a professional and efficient manner.
Also, your pet is not the only cat in the treatment area. We often have multiple procedures occurring on different tables - a blood draw on an uncooperative patient, a wound treatment or anal gland expression - something that is not for the faint of heart to observe, or a family may be visiting one of our critical care patients, or there may be a very high-tension cat waiting for surgery (the kind that screams when someone walks by the cage). Having extra commotion in the treatment area could disturb these procedures or aggravate cats that are close to the end of their ropes. In addition, we use chemotherapeutic medications, radioactive iodine and x-ray equipment - these are things that our highly trained staff has been specially educated to use safely, but which could be risk factors for people visiting in the back. In fact, we are legally bound not to allow non-staff-members to be in the room when we take x-rays or to allow anyone into the Radioactive Iodine boarding room other than those registered with our Nuclear Physicist. For these reasons, we often discourage people from coming back into the treatment area when we take their cats "in the back".

There are definitely times that we welcome you "in the back" - to visit a critical patient that is hospitalized with us, to say goodbye to your cat if you are leaving them with us for the day, to see our boarding facilities, or to show you the result of an exam performed under anesthesia. However, most of the time, we hope you understand when we ask you to wait in the exam room, or tell you to go grab some lunch while we run diagnostics. It's not because we don't like you! It is for the safety and well-being of all involved. If you ever feel uncomfortable with a request or recommendation that we make, please do let us know - our goal is to make sure that you and your cat get the best care that we can provide!

Friday, June 15, 2012

Foxy Socksy needs some help!

Gray and white kitten

Foxy Socksy started vomiting when she started eating solid food. Until that time, she appeared to be a normal, healthy kitten. She and her brother were separated from their mother 10 days after birth, and were being bottle raised by a caring family. After visiting two other veterinary hospitals and being treated with oral medications for vomiting, she was showing no improvement and was significantly falling behind her brother in weight.

Radiograph of esophageal stricture
Barium highlights the stricture
When she came to Exclusively Cats Veterinary Hospital, we took x-rays and discovered that she either has a stricture (narrowing) of the tube that connects the mouth to the stomach – the esophagus – or she has a developmental problem called a vascular ring anomaly (where an abnormal blood vessel grows around the esophagus and pinches it). We gave her some barium, which helps highlight anatomy, and it shows that the part of the esophagus between the 5th and 6th rib is definitely narrowed.
Gray and white kitten being hugged by a technician
Snuggles and pets after anesthesia

Since she is so small, we want her to gain weight before we perform surgery on her. Also, we want to better know what to expect in surgery, so first, we want to take a special kind of x-ray called an angiogram that highlights the blood vessels for us.

In the meantime, to help her grow, we have been stretching the esophagus by dilating it while she is under anesthesia with larger and larger tubes. This allows her to take in some solid food, even though she still needs to stand up on her hind legs to eat.

Each night, she goes home with one of our staff members so that she can be monitored and cleaned up, if needed. She becomes very distressed when she vomits, so she gets lots of snuggles and reassurance when that happens.
Gray and white kitten standing on hind legs to eat
Eating like this allows food to trickle down her throat

So far, she has had two dilations performed – one on 6/6 and one on 6/14, and she has gained a quarter of a pound. After the first dilation, she was quite improved for about 2-3 days, then the stricture narrowed again. We are being cautiously optimistic about her progress, but she has a long road ahead of her.

Friday, June 8, 2012

Samson's Story: Rags to Riches

White persian stray cat
Samson, day 1, September 2012
White persian cat with hair loss and wounds
Samson's wounds and hair loss (see his rat tail?)
Do you think you would ever say that becoming a stray was the best thing that ever happened to a cat? We didn’t think so, either, but in Samson’s case, it may be true!

Samson was a stray Persian-mix cat, approximately 2-3 years old, that was found by one of our clients in September 2011. He was un-neutered, loaded with fleas, missing half of his haircoat, and covered in wounds. He had 4 torn toenails and was terribly thin – only 5.25 pounds. He also had significant dental disease. After a negative Feline Leukemia Virus test and a negative Feline Immunodeficiency Virus test, the people that found him decided to keep him. We treated his wounds, his fleas and his intestinal parasites and neutered him. Due to his fragile condition, we did not vaccinate him at that time.

Ringworm glowing green under black light
Spots of ringworm glowing under black light
White Persian cat with trimmed coat
Samson in January 2012, still fighting ringworm...
Once his wounds had healed, he broke out with ringworm – a skin fungus that he likely picked up while he was outdoors, but may also have had prior to becoming a stray. Samson turned out to have one of the worst and most persistent cases of ringworm that we have ever seen – he was covered with lesions and had to be medicated with oral medications and medicated baths for almost 7 months! We use a black light to look for fluorescence on the hairs when they are infected with ringworm. Poor Samson looked like a glowing leopard!

Feline mouth with gingivitis and dental calculus
Samson's uncomfortable mouth, filled with gingivitis and calculus
Now that he has finally fought off the ringworm, he has more than doubled his weight (10.6 pounds!) is healthy enough that we have been able to vaccinate him, and he is staying with us Tuesday for a dental cleaning and oral surgery to fix his mouth. Unfortunately, after looking at his dental x-rays and probing his teeth with a special probe, it is clear that all of his teeth are diseased except his canines. Perhaps it is genetic, as it is in many cats, or perhaps his time as a severely malnourished stray had some effect on his oral health, but either way, after talking with his owner about options, we will be extracting all the diseased teeth, today. Fortunately, cats are still able to enjoy their food with only a few teeth left, and Samson will be much healthier without all the bacteria festering in his mouth.
A white Persian cat with full coat
Samson, May 2012, ringworm free!

Samson has been so lucky to find such a patient and loving home where he is well-fed and well-cared-for and his new owners are willing to deal with his multiple health issues.

Thursday, June 7, 2012

Saying goodbye to Samantha

In early May, we said goodbye to a special kitty named Samantha. We had been seeing Samantha as a patient here since her family moved to Michigan in 2006. Her loving family had been dealing with the multiple issues of an aging cat - kidney disease, joint disease, dental disease, but in May, they brought her to us knowing that something just wasn't right. We took an x-ray and found that she had developed a tumor in her lung. Shortly thereafter, everyone knew that to say goodbye was the best choice. Yesterday, we received a lovely letter from her family and a heartfelt memorial that brought tears to our eyes. We would like to share this family's love for their dear Samantha with you...


Dear Steve and friends –

Marilyn and I will always be grateful for the extraordinary care you’ve given our dear Samantha since bringing her home to Michigan from New York in 2006.  The devotion you all demonstrate to these wondrous little creatures in your care is a blessing not only to them, but to their “parents” whom, I’m sure, often need as much or more reassuring, consoling, calming, and maybe even medicating (!) than your furry patients. 

I’ve always considered Samantha to be among the most beautiful cats on earth, but the truth is they all seem to engender innocence, wonder, and compassion which further enhance their natural beauty.  That said, still, she was gorgeous.  But your calendar and your website remind me that she was not alone.  I love the fact that Buddy is prominently featured on your site’s masthead and elsewhere.  He and Samantha would make a stunning couple!  I will be submitting hundreds (okay, maybe a dozen) pictures for you to consider for your 2013 calendar. 

Putting this little memorial and video (see below) together has been painful, joyful, exhausting, and restorative.   You should see this home after I tore it apart looking for her kitten pictures.  They were in the last box in the last closet, taking me on a journey through almost every photograph in my significant collection.  I hope you find it to be an uplifting tail, er, uh, tale… of an awesome pussycat and her extended visit to a strange little planet. 

With much gratitude and respect,

Jeffrey B----

Many of my family and friends know the story of how we found that tiny furball nearly 18 years ago.  It was a dark, chilly evening  in early December, on our way to the grocery store near our apartment in Queens.  Marilyn jumped and said there was a cat in the middle of the road.  I swerved to stop the oncoming traffic, got out of the car, and looked down to find a very small kitten with hair as black as the night sky.  She looked up at me, frozen in terror, as I reached to pick her up off the street.  This little creature fit perfectly in the palm of my hand.  I held her close to my chest as I drove to the store with new items on our list – cat food and litter.  Marilyn was genuinely afraid of cats and I had already resolved that the next morning I would have to take the kitten to a shelter on Long Island where they don’t euthanize.  But after a little supper and a nap on my chest, bundled in one of my red t-shirts, the little critter didn’t appear as threatening as expected.  It didn’t take long before Marilyn pulled out the porcelain dishes for this little princess.  By morning, Samantha was here to stay. 

It has been a blessing and my privilege to have cared for three wonderful cats for a total of 45 years, but never have I seen (and been a willing accomplice to) the off-the-charts pampering of which this dear feline has been the lucky recipient.  I knew I was a pushover but Samantha really had her new “mom” wrapped around her paw.  Sammy was talented, too – perched on a chair, she was able to bat rolled up balls of aluminum foil out of mid-air with an average that would rival Ty Cobb’s.  Then she would proceed to pick them up in her mouth and bring them back to me (I kid you not).  I have dozens of stories about her many talents, but suffice it to say that she proved to be an extraordinarily smart cat. 

Through the years, Sammy experienced more than her share of illnesses.  From age 2 through 10, she suffered from frequent seizures.  Pancreatitis, hyperthyroidism, and more followed.  With this in mind, it wasn’t long before I gave Samantha her middle name – Pedikaras.  This was borrowed from a 1975 movie titled The Wind and the Lion with Sean Connery as an early 20th century Berber sheik in Morocco who kidnaps an American woman (Candice Bergen) named Eden Pedikaras.  While a “guest” of Sean Connery’s character, he would often become frustrated by her independent, outspoken nature (mostly because her opinions were sensible and usually correct) and her assertion that she – a woman – was an equal to this desert leader.  Throughout the movie he would say to her, in his irrepressible Scottish accent (rolling every ‘R’), “You’re a lot of  trouble, Mrs. Pedikaras.”  

But Sammy never really was any trouble.  A dear friend, a gentle companion, with a loving, expressive nature.  It was always crystal clear to me that Samantha appreciated everything that was ever done for her – from a scratch behind her ears to a fresh rotisserie chicken brought home hot from the store (mostly for her), and from the steps she needed to climb up to the bed to the countless cat beds, dog beds, paper bags, pillows (including mine), and t-shirts on which she could lay her precious head.  And I am equally convinced that she knew, beyond any measure of doubt, that she was dearly loved every moment of her life. 

A few weeks ago, Samantha and I spent yet another truly magnificent day looking though the great screen doors onto my deck and the lake just beyond, where she loved to lay and watch the swans, the geese, the heron, the ducks, and all their cousins.  Later that same evening, Samantha’s time here on earth came to an end pretty much where it began – nestled in my arms, in yet another one of my red t-shirts.  I know she is strong and healthy again, being cared for by those we love who have gone before us, patiently waiting for the day when we will be together again.  I have to remember to bring a rotisserie chicken…

Below is the video I’ve prepared as a loving remembrance of Samantha. 


*If the link above doesn’t work for you, go to and search for PEDIKARAS.

Friday, June 1, 2012

Meet Mr. June!

Orange cat in wiegelia bush with pink flowers
Age: 16 (ish)
Weight: A gentlecat never tells his weight (okay so maybe mom's nickname for
me "chunky monkey" fits in some way). (Note: Dr. Bailey says Perry looks good for his age!)
Gender: neutered male
Demeanor at the vet's office: Scared, I start shedding like CRAZY.

How I found my furr-ever home:  Mom found me at Michigan Animal Rescue
League (MARL) in November 1997.  I had been rescued by them when they
received a phone call that a cat had been set on fire.  My tail was so badly
damaged they had to amputate - so now I look like an orange tabby Manx!
When mom came in just to "look" at the cats she found me in the first room,
petted me and looked in the other rooms.  She came back to me because I was
the only one that wanted attention on that particular day.  When she started
scratching my head I was in heaven.  She came back about a week later and
took me home!  I've been spoiled rotten ever since.

How I got my name: Well, that's what they named me at MARL and mom decided
to keep that name, not realizing the confusion in future years when someone
calls out a name from the other end of the home and she has to ask was that
with an "M" for Mary or a "P" for Perry? 

Favorite food:  I get both wet (so I can get lots of moisture to help keep
the urinary tract free of blockages) and dry food.  But my most favorite
thing in the world to get is freeze dried chicken bits.  Mom thinks it's
funny when I start to drool if she takes too long to get me the treat.  I
also like to grab her hand and pull it close if she's slow with the treats.

I love to nap, especially since I became a senior kittizen.  Laps are good,
beds under blankies are good, boxes too. Just about anywhere really - I've
been known to nap on top of shoes.  But I do like to be by a window in case
I wake up and want to watch for birds (or other cats) out in the yard.

Occasionally one of my aunties or my mom will take me outside, but only on
harness and leash.  I like to eat grass, roll in the catnip patch, and take
a nap (my calendar photo was when I was caught napping under the Weigela
bush).  I don't do much playing now that I'm in my distinguished elder
years, but I'll make the occasional sprint through the house or suddenly
grab a toy I haven't playing with in ages and go to town.  There's still a
bit of kitten left in me!