Sunday, September 6, 2009

Patches: Sunday Stories

I've decided on Sundays for a few weeks to give the cats a day off from blogging to tell the story of each one of them.  I'll start in the order in which we got our wonderful kitties.


     It was early November, 1999.  Hubby and I were in a pet supply shop getting some things for our dog, Delila.  A cat rescue-adoption agency had some cages in the front of the store, with several perfectly adorable kittens.   They were all just sooooooo cuuuuute!  We knew our doggie was getting older, and we also knew that we could not picture life without a companion animal as we, too were growing older.  We love dogs, but they are much more high-maintenance than cats.  As we were now having some health issues of our own, we figured going forward, we'd be better off with a cat.

   I was still in a pretty deep grieving process over the sudden and unexpected death of my mother the previous September.  Hubby figured a new kitty would cheer me up a bit.   In one of the cages was a perfectly adorable little kitten, all different tones of gray.  (We later learned her coloration is known as "Muted Tortie.") She was climbing up the door of the cage, and when we asked to see her, she did not let go, and was still clinging to the door as it swung open.  That was a preview of her personality.  It took us about 2 minutes to decide that was the kitty for us.

   Her story, as we were given it, was that she and her siblings had been found, only a few days old, inside a paper sack tossed into a paint locker at one of the local school district maintenance yards.  One of her sisters was very sick, and did not make it, but the remainder of the litter was successfully fostered to adoptable age, Patches being one of them--she came to us already named. 

   From here, the story goes sadly downhill.  The gal who fostered the kittens saw them through to a healthy 8 weeks, and saw no problems with any of them.  Patches was a tiny girl, less than a pound, and fit in the palm of hubby's hand.  Unfortunately, the adopting agency would not release her to us, insisting she had to be spayed prior to being released to us.  At the time, we were disappointed, but did not know any better.

   We were set to pick her up 2 days from then, after her surgery.  When we went and collected our adorable new kitten, she was just as cute and mischeivous as when we had selected her.  After about a week at home, however, she began exhibiting some disturbing symptoms.  The first was, that she would suddenly go stiff in our arms for several seconds.  In another week or so, she began having outright seizures.

    We were quite alarmed, and immediately called the adoption agency, and asked what on earth..???  They claimed that she'd been fine...reiterated that the foster mom had not seen any problems, or she would not have been released for adoption.  At their expense, they took me with Patches to their vet, where the spay surgery had been done.  The vet disclaimed any responsibility, and tried to offer off-the-wall congenital explanations, such as "liver shunt," or other weird abnormalities, all of which would require extensive and expensive testing to determine, with an uncertain end result.

   Since we are both well educated, and good at research, we did some digging of our own.  It was at that point we learned that the spay/neuter recommendation is for a minimum of 6 months and/or 3 pounds!!!  Patches had been neither. (The adoption agency and their vet claimed, "we do it all the time with no problems." ... hence their refusal to admit culpabililty, and attempt to weasel out and claim a genetic problem.)  

    As it happens, one of hubby's uncles had been an epileptic, so he knew full well what a full-blown grand-mal seizure (I think they have now changed the terminology...)  looked like. This is exactly what was happening to our beautiful little Patchy-cat.  Based upon our research, we concluded that she must have been overdosed on anesthesia during the spay proceedure, and suffered brain damage as a result...directly causing the epilepsy.

    We already loved her, and had committed to giving her a home, and were not about to give her up.  She would not be considered adoptable at that point, and we were not about to have an otherwise healthy animal put down.  In her waking hours, she was still a happy playful kitty.

   Disgusted with the non-answers from the adoption agency, we went to our own vet.  Likewise, they would not accept epilepsy as the problem.  I took her back several times, and in the end, had to have hubby accompany me, and bascically chew out the vet and demand that Patches be put on appropriate medication for epilepsy.  At last...after over a year of not living through a single week without at least 2 seizures, she was provided with phenobarbitol.  The seizures lessened to not more than about 1 'breakthrough' per month.  Imagine that!

   Sadly, the medicine, in addition to controlling the epilepsy, also had the effect of  making her stoned and sleepy all the time.... even more so than most cats,  who tend to do a lot of sleeping anyway.  Poor Patches was awake a few times a day to eat and use the litter box.  While young, she would still play some, and had the funny habit of climbing my husband as if he was a tree, and sitting on top of his head.  Her personality was still evident.

    In an attempt to coax Patches to play, and offer a kitty companion, we adopted Tigger in May of 2001.  But, the rest of that tale will appear in Tigger's story.

   All of this transpired while we were living in San Francisco.  In early 2003, being tired of freezing to death all summer, we relocated to the far eastern end of Contra Costa County.  Almost immediately, we found a new and wonderful vet, who was very helpful and understanding, and not so willing to make hard and fast 'out of the textbook' statements without doing research of her own.  She will be the vet providing care to all our animals for the rest of their lives!
   I am happy to report that as of this writing, we still have our beautiful Patches--it is her photo in the header of this blog.  She is now 10 years old, and seemingly still going strong.  Over the years, she has had to have some adjustments made to her medication, and is now also on Valium to supplement the phenobaritol.  As her meds wear off each day, just before it is time for her next dose, we see her old personality shine through for a little while.  She was our first kitty together, and will always be our "baby."  (But since there is another kit on these blogs with the official name of "Baby Patches," our girl is 'just plain" Patches--or 'Patchy-Cat, as we often call her.)   ;-) 


   (Sadly, just a year after our move, we lost our doggie, Delila. She was about 12 years old. She'd been a house dog all her life, but in the last year, had to be put outside to live in the yard, as she'd become incontinent. Even though she had a lovely insulated dog house, unless it was raining or extremely cold, she preferred to lay in the dirt under the truck, earning her the nickname "dirt dog." A few days after loosing Dee-Dee, we adopted 2 more kittens, that we had already committed to take. But that is yet another kitty story.)


  Now, I am going to name-names: 

 ....  the adoption agency from which we got Patches had their display in Daly City, CA, and their name was "Safe Haven for Cats."  After our experience, and learning what we did about the spay-neuter guidelines, and 'Safe Haven's' insistence to the contrary, we did not find them to be very 'safe.' 

   Just because something is "standard practice" does not necessarily make it correct or safe.  Just because you get away with it most of the time, does not mean that at some point, there will not be serious consequences!  If this agency is still in business, I would not recommend them to anyone!


In sharp contrast, however, if you live anywhere in the Brentwood/Oakley/Antioch area of California, I cannot think of a better veterinary recommendation than the Oakley Veterinary Medical Center, operated by Dr. Sandra Lafferty, DVM.  She is compassionate and thorough, and a very special lady.






Noir in Texas said...

Thank you sharing the story of your Patch Baby. Tommy just went 'ahhh...' and says all your babies have a loving home.

Now for ME--let me at those Hummans who took no responsibility..I still have my CLAWS--

Anonymous said...

We are glad you gotcha'd Patches or her story would have ended quite differently. Rather than ending, her story continues now, thanks to you!

Mom has had her share of problems with Vets over the years, but it doesn't take her long to find out, and luckily, with no serious consequences.

Jan's Funny Farm said...

We totally disagree with this new rules about spaying cats and dogs so young and not waiting for them to develop properly. We are sorry Patches has had such a rough life because that group forced her to be spayed when she was way too young/small. We're glad you've given her as good a life as is possible with the results of that group's stupidity.

Lizzy said...

Thank you all for your kind comments. Yes, Patches has had a bit of a rough go, but she is loved; she just eats up chin rubs and all kinds of pets. Whenever it becomes her time to cross the bridge, I do hope she will go knowing she was well loved and treasured.

Inigo Flufflebum and d'Artangan Rumblepurr said...

What a good ending to the story of a very special kitty :)

Karen Jo said...

I think it's terrible to risk the future health of a cat or dog by spaying or neutering them so young. We have a shelter here that handles the situation by charging a hefty adoption fee and gives a coupon for a low-cost neutering operation. Once the operation is done, most of the adoption fee is returned. I am glad that you are the people who adopted Patches and are giving her a good and full life.

Lizzy said...

Thanks, Karen Jo. ...

The irony of all this is, that we WERE charged $50 for the adoption/spay fee, and NONE of it was refunded! Grrrrr