Well! It's been a while since I last blogged. Seems that, since starting a new blog after so long of not blogging, I kinda forgot about the new one. A Friday Cat Blogging post is an excellent post with which to recommence.
The last (and only time) I blogged about Pinchita was on my old blog, not long after returning from Aruba with her. In that post, she had just been visited by our vet and was being treated for a mess of worms and a few fleas. She might have gotten some shots, too; I forget. Our vet also said she was not as young as she looked; she was a young adult and she probably was pregnant.
Well. She went through quite a lot after that point. The vet returned to see Dolly the following week and she also examined Pinchi to see if she could better feel for kittens. She started bleeding vaginally so Kevin (who was home for this visit) took her to a vet with whom our vet is associated. They determined that Pinchi had three fetuses, two of them dead. They did an emergency spay, aborting the third fetus and removing the two dead ones. Poor thing. They gave us the option of hoping her body would reabsorb the two dead fetuses and that she would carry the live one to term, but we opted to spay her and abort the one living fetus. She would very likely not have carried the third one to term, what with her own health condition and issues (some of which we were to learn about later). She may well have been in process of losing the third one when the vet happened to come examine her.
She seemed to flourish for a couple of weeks after the spay, then started to lose ground. She went back in for tests. At first they thought it was some kind of intestinal blockage that would pass in a day or so. She continued to decline so back she went. They ran some more blood tests and took x-rays and ultrasounds. The blood tests showed that she's feline leukemia positive. Some tidbits about FeLV from the link:
- Feline leukemia virus (FeLV), a retrovirus, so named because of the way it behaves within infected cells. All retroviruses, including feline immunodeficiency virus (FIV) and human immunodeficiency virus (HIV), produce an enzyme, reverse transcriptase, which permits them to insert copies of their own genetic material into that of the cells they have infected.
- Cats persistently infected with FeLV serve as sources of infection. Virus is shed in very high quantities in saliva and nasal secretions, but also in urine, feces, and milk from infected cats. Cat-to-cat transfer of virus may occur from a bite wound, during mutual grooming, and (though rarely) through the shared use of litter boxes and feeding dishes. Transmission can also take place from an infected mother cat to her kittens, either before they are born or while they are nursing. FeLV doesn't survive long outside a cat's body—probably less than a few hours under normal household conditions.
- Feline leukemia virus adversely affects the cat's body in many ways. It is the most common cause of cancer in cats, it may cause various blood disorders, and it may lead to a state of immune deficiency that hinders the cat's ability to protect itself against other infections. The same bacteria, viruses, protozoa, and fungi that may be found in the everyday environment—where they usually do not affect healthy animals—can cause severe illness in those with weakened immune systems. These secondary infections are responsible for many of the diseases associated with FeLV.
FeLV became much rarer in the U.S. after the introduction of a vaccine. IIRC, one vet told me that the vaccine manufacturer claims 85% efficacy, although he personally thinks it's lower in practice. Fortunately, we always isolate cats for a while before introducing them to the resident cats. A cat like Pinchi would have been isolated for about 6 months. Since learning of her FeLV positive status, she's remained in Kevin's man's room with no plans for integration. Our cats are vaccinated against the virus, but bco the <100% efficacy of the vaccine, they're not allowed to mingle w/the Pinchmeister. They see her under the door and they play with her there bc there's a big gap. The playing is a small risk. I tried to block up the gap, but she just pulled it off. We live with that risk until I can figure out a better way to block it up. They don't play much together and it's not aggressive play so I'm not too worried about it.
The others do see her a lot bc we're often toting her around the house or letting her explore w/o sharing food, water, litter, etc. She went on her first stroll in the kitty stroller the other day and did very well. She's the only cat we've had who has a normal heartbeat when the doctor examines her. She's very relaxed...maybe it's the island cat in her.
I imagine it's also her island cat background that helps explain her FeLV status. Attitudes toward cats, and pets in general, are very different in Aruba compared to the U.S. so many pets do not, as a rule, get the kind of vaccinations, spay/neuter, etc. they do here.
The FeLV diagnosis was not the last bad news. The ultrasounds indicate feline lymphoma. FeLV is an immunodeficiency disease which, unfortunately, allows for other, opportunistic illnesses to take hold. Lymphoma commonly occurs in FeLV positive cats. The vet who did the ultrasounds gave Pinchi a month or so to live, in the likeliest scenario; perhaps a few more months.
And yet she persists in living, nay, flourishing. She's been on prednisone since diagnosis and she has done amazingly well. We weigh her pretty much every week to make sure she's not losing weight and it wasn't until this past week, when she weighed 8.5 lbs. for the second week in a row, that she stopped gaining weight (she was 4.75 lbs. when she got here). Looking at and interacting with her, you'd never know she was sick. Her appetite, appearance, energy level, output and attitude are all excellent. We'll continue w/pred for a few more months and then reassess.
A definitive lymphoma diagnosis would require a biopsy which, in this case, would require an endoscopy. At the time of the ultrasounds, Pinchi was not in any condition to undergo that, as far as I was concerned. So diagnosis by ultrasound is not definitive. We're hoping that, in this case, the lymphoma-looking symptoms seen on ultrasound reflect something else. Not sure what; perhaps extreme inflammatory bowel disease (IBD).
Right now we rely on assessing her appetite, weight, output, energy and attitude to determine how she's doing. When we reassess her lymphoma diagnosis in a few months, we'll probably retest her for FeLV. Those tests are not 100% accurate, although I do think her result is probably correct.
This is a picture of her shortly after her spay:
Here she is looking out her window ("cat TV"):
Here she is, all stretched out like she likes to arrange herself and her belly, on Kevin's comfy chair:
I am so glad she's with us. I've been asked why did we bring home a cat from Aruba when there are so many here who need homes. It's a valid question and one I asked myself (after bringing her home; at the time, it seemed like the thing to do, i.e., I didn't think it over much). True, there are many cats locally who need homes. In Aruba, I wouldn't have gone out of my way to bring home one of the cats we met there. This needy cat jumped in my lap. In order to not bring her home, I would have had to actively do something, e.g., put her back down and walk away from her. I had the opportunity, it literally landed in my lap, to do something to help this one and chose to do it. There are some philosophical issues that might apply here, e.g., I could have helped the other two friendly cats we met there, the ones who didn't jump into my lap, by going to get them and arranging for safe homes. What's the moral status of such inaction? I certainly don't think I did wrong by Pinchi in bringing her home; she would surely have died not long after we left if someone hadn't intervened. She was basically fading away from the combination of lack of food, worms, fleas, intestinal inflammation, demands of pregnancy, dead fetuses remaining inside her, etc. Honestly, I try not to think about the other cats there, the ones I met plus all the other ones of whom I became aware after learning of the stray cat problem there. In a smaller way, every time I'm at the shelter for some reason or other, after I leave I try not to think about those cats. It's in a smaller way in that case bc those cats have shelter, food, medical care, regular interaction with volunteers, etc., i.e., their basic needs are met.
I haven't thought the issue all the way through and I'm kind of afraid that, if I did, i might end up concluding something that goes against my love for and enjoyment of cats. So I tend to just leave that issue alone.