Written by Madeli Endrich – founder MD of Raise ‘n Rescue
Photography by Kym Clayton
The tiny tabby kitten was starving, emaciated and so dehydrated that he cried when touched, no matter how gently. He was so weak he could not stand or walk; he was also suffering from hypoproteinaemia (low protein/protein deficiency), was extremely anaemic and had a heavy worm burden. But, where there’s life there’s hope – and we were determined to give him the best chance at life we could…
On 10 July 2017, Raise ‘n Rescue took the little guy, who’d fortunately tested negative for FIV and FeLV*, over from AACL. We immediately started nursing him around the clock. Although we had no background information on him, it was clear that he hadn’t had access to food or water for quite some time.
We called him Rae, a Scottish name meaning “grace”.
Rehydration was critical
The most critical factor was to get him rehydrated as soon as possible. Unfortunately, sick and dehydrated cats are unlikely to drink water. “Subcutting” was the answer. A subcutaneous injection of lukewarm saline solution is given into the fat layer between the skin and muscle; this is the quickest way of hydrating and a lukewarm solution will not shock the cat’s already compromised system.
Rae was so badly dehydrated, though, that there was no fat and almost no muscle; his skin was “sticking” to his bones, which made the procedure extremely challenging. Despite these challenges, he was given subcut fluids every hour around the clock. The poor little mite
slept in a carrier next to my bed every night so that he could be continuously subcut until he was able to maintain his own hydration.
Every two hours, Rae was fed a small meal (starved animals can’t eat large meals as this can make them ill). Initially we were pleased to see that he had a good appetite and ate well… our hearts sank when he went into a shut-down state because of rescue stress and he stopped eating. But we weren’t giving up on him and started syringe feeding him.
Although Rae became depressed, we made sure he was hydrated, fed, nursed and constantly given attention. He had worms and diarrhoea, and urinated in his bed because it was too difficult for him to get to the litter tray. Because of all the fluids he was getting, he urinated a lot and developed some urine burns on his skin. He also lost hair due to his poor condition.
Being so weak, Rae’s whole body was tender, especially his back legs, which were very sensitive. The solution? A soft heating pad, which he lived on 24 hours a day until he started improving – this gave him relief and comfort; he loved it.
He began purring
Rae was checked regularly by the very caring vets at Tygerberg Animal Hospital Kenridge. He began to hold his own hydration and, although he still had bad diarrhoea, tests showed that he didn’t have any parasites. As his condition improved, he got a little stronger and began using the litter tray. This was definite progress.
He had good days and bad days but we didn’t lose hope, even when some days left us feeling quite despondent. Rae had the very best of care and everything going for him, he just had to fight his way through. And Rae is a fighter!
After ten days of constant nursing, he had recovered enough to stand up. He was a bit wobbly but that small improvement was a tremendous triumph. Another highlight of his recovery was when he made a slight attempt at kneading! He was clearly starting to feel happier and less depressed, and even began purring; his diarrhoea subsided, and his bony little body started to fill out. Most importantly: the sparkle came back into his eyes.
Wobbly cat syndrome
During one of Rae’s visits to the vet, the possibility of him having cerebellar hypoplasia was discussed. This is a non-progressive, non-contagious neurological condition resulting in different degrees of balance and walking problems. The cerebellum controls motor skills and coordination, so a kitten born with CH means that part of the cerebellum is underdeveloped. CH is also known as “wobbly cat syndrome”.
Rae possibly has a very mild form of CH but only a very expensive MRI procedure can confirm this diagnosis, a procedure for which we do not have funds and which would only serve to confirm our speculation. Confirmation will not change Rae’s journey in any way as there is no “cure” for CH. Rae is a fully functional kitten in every way except for his wobbly walk.
In mid-July, we attended a workshop hosted by We Feed Raw at Panorama Animal Hospital. Various speakers gave talks and presentations on their specialities, but the one that really caught our attention was on pet rehabilitation, given by Dani of Pet Wellness Worx in Monte Vista.
We contacted them to arrange an assessment for Rae. These amazing people responded by giving us a free consultation with Dani on 26 July. Dani Cowing is a qualified (human) physiotherapist and she also has hydrotherapy, underwater treadmill and animal physiotherapy certification. She recommended a course of six therapy sessions and some exercises that we could do with him at home.
Twenty-two days after we took Rae in, on the 1st of August, Rae began his weekly rehab sessions. His therapy consisted of massage, manipulation of joints, Photizo light therapy and hydrotherapy. Over the course of his hydrotherapy sessions, he got to walk on the underwater treadmill, swim in the hydrotherapy tank and even swim in the big enclosed, heated swimming pool. Although not too keen on the hydrotherapy, being the relaxed and patient little soul that he is, he took it all in his stride under the gentle guidance of Dani’s hands.
Rae was very popular amongst the staff at Pet Wellness Worx and he happily soaked up all the attention and adoration. And he absolutely loved being towelled dry, wrapped in fluffy blankets with a warm beanbag for the trip home, and served a plate of kitten mousse as a treat for a session well done.
A ray of light
Rae has overcome many challenges in his short life to become a happy, playful, social and confident kitten. He may move a little slower than his peers but he loves to play and climb just like any other kitten. The changes that Rae has undergone between his arrival at Raise ‘n Rescue and now is nothing short of remarkable, breathtaking and incredible.
This tiny, desperately ill little kitten that couldn’t move is now a handsome, chubby, active, and extremely affectionate little guy. Every single kitten at Raise ‘n Rescue is special but Rae is exceptional. His success story is proof that with hard work, dedication and lots of TLC, it is possible to achieve success, no matter how bleak the outlook.
Rae will soon be going to a wonderful forever home.
*FIV: Feline Immunodeficiency Virus (“cat AIDS”) and FeLV: Feline Leukopaenia Virus