A pregnant cat was dropped off at St. Francis Animal rescue last week by an older couple who said she was feral and that they had been feeding her. As Mama’s abdomen was huge and stretched to capacity, the couple assumed that she was overdue and the fetuses were dead. This lovely, small golden tabby was extremely friendly, purred and allowed us to rub her enormous tummy. An X-Ray revealed 9 kittens at full term and alive per our Veterinarian, Dr. Nicole Kushmaul of Veterinary Care of Venice. It appeared as if she would deliver within 24 hours so with a great deal of coaching from Dr. Nicole, I took her home. We named her Gemma and by 11:00 p.m. that night she began labor. I stayed to keep a watchful eye since she was high risk and occupied myself in between kitten births with ironing clothes. By 4:00 a.m. there were 9 tiny kittens; 7 dark tabbies and 2 orange little ones. One tabby was not viable and only survived about 30 minutes. Gemma was malnourished and I was told not to expect much milk production, which was the case. She did have four nipples that had a watery, milky fluid that was likely colostrum. I helped alternate the remaining 8 kittens on the nipples so that they could get some of the nourishment and immunity from Mama. I had kitten replacement milk ready and these tiny ones immediately began nursing from a bottle within a few hour. Only one did not take to the bottle but did accept milk in small amounts from a syringe. Gemma was tired but ate a big bowl of wet food and settled in with her kittens. I set my alarm for two hours later to check on the kittens and give them a feeding. It was early Friday morning and I knew it would be a weekend without much sleep.
As I life long cat guardian, I have had a few felines who preferred to eat only dry food. One, my beloved Siamese Bubba, developed stones and a urinary obstruction that required emergency surgery. Here at St. Francis Animal Rescue, we have several cats who are dry food addicts. There are concerns over this diet as the water content is low and the carbohydrate load is too high. The dry food protein is often from more plant based grains than animal based source. We all know cats are obligate carnivores and not the best water drinkers. They will drink some water from their bowl but can get considerable moisture from eating wet, canned food. Again, the danger of too little water is urinary tract infection or the formation of stones and possible fatal obstruction of the urinary tract. If at all possible, a dry food addict should be slowly to eat small amounts of wet food daily.
This is cold and flu season for humans for sure but our feline friends can suffer from respiratory viruses all year long. There are two main culprits that affect our kitties: Feline Calici Virus (FCV) and Rhinotracheitis, which is a feline herpes virus infection. Both can present with lethargy, sneezing, runny eyes and loss of appetite. Calici virus is the more serious of the two syndromes and presents with mouth sores and aching joints. The care is largely supportive for both viruses but antibiotics may be needed if there is a secondary bacterial infection of the eyes or lungs. These two viruses are highly contagious and present serious problems in a shelter environment. At St. Francis, we isolate the cat at the first sign of symptoms in our infirmary and maintain strict contact and sanitation protocols. In a home with other cats it is more difficult but hand washing and isolation should help protect your other pets. The good news is that these viruses are not transmitted to humans and are easily preventable with immunizations.
At my job at St. St. Francis Animal Rescue in Venice, FL, I collaborate closely with our wonderful veterinarian and shelter manager to care for the health needs of our many felines. My greatest challenge has been learning how to “pill” or give oral medications to these feisty, acrobatic creatures. Hiding tablets in food or the tasty little pill pockets sold commercially seems to work only temporarily with our population. I believe that at night, when there are no humans around, the older cats educate the newcomers about how to avoid meds. The general directions on the internet of swaddling and gently opening the cat’s mouth to insert a pill are OK with my own cats but a high risk method for acquiring scratches and bites from our shelter population.
We also have a standard pill ejector apparatus and I have failed miserably to master its use. Most of the time I drop the tablet or the cat ends up spitting it out onto my lap. Some medications dissolve easily and can be given with gravy in a syringe. Most of the kitties like the gravy taste and actually cooperate. A few refuse to swallow my tasty concoction and simply drool it out. However, not all pills can be dissolved so it is better to check first with your veterinarian. Many antibiotics are in liquid form and are flavored with chicken or tuna. Absolutely my favorite medications!