Friday, April 13, 2012

Felix the Cat

I adopted Felix at the end of March 2010 after he had been shot and wounded by one of my neighbors.  At the time, he was part of the colony of homeless cats that Johanna, an animal-loving Dutch woman, was feeding and taking care of.  She doesn’t just feed the cats.  When a new cat shows up, Johanna carts it off to Marcel the vet to get it neutered.  She pays for their food and she pays the vet bills, albeit, Marcel gives her a discount.

Felix had been with us (Minnie and me) a few months when late one night I was woken up by something crashing and banging in the house.  I thought someone had broken in and was petrified.  Minnie was with me in the bedroom and she was also petrified.   Once the noise had stopped, I hesitantly made my way downstairs to find Felix lying on his side in a small pool of pee and looking dazed. 

About three or four months later there was the same banging and crashing, but this time I realized immediately that no one was breaking into the house.  By the time I got downstairs, Felix was lying on the floor and there was pee around him.  I looked up seizures in cats and found the description for feline epilepsy.  It seemed to fit.  I took him to the vet who diagnosed epilepsy.  Felix’s seizures continued, but occurred only once every few months and so didn’t warrant medication.

Epilepsy is more common in dogs than in cats, so Felix is one of the chosen few unfortunates.  It can be caused by any number of physical problems.  If the physical cause is remedied, the seizures will stop.  If no cause is found, they just call it epilepsy.  If the seizures are severe enough or if they happen frequently, then medication is called for.  Medication is Phenobarbital.

Felix’s seizures were infrequent enough not to warrant medication.  But since autumn, they increased in frequency to the point where the vet said it was unhealthy for him to suffer them so often as each seizure causes physical damage to the brain. 

We only did two tests: a blood test that would indicate problems with any of the organs (pancreas, liver, etc.), and an x-ray that would show if there was a brain tumor.  These would be the most likely culprits and the least intrusive tests to perform.

Everything showed negative except the very high sugar content of his blood.  Felix is diabetic and this was likely to be the cause of the seizures.  So Felix now eats special vet prescribed food for cats with diabetes.  Since Minnie always prefers to eat whatever is in Felix’s bowl to her own (I’ve always given them the same food), she now eats it too.  The vet says it won’t hurt her and the little butterball may even lose a bit of weight.

But only three weeks on and Felix had another seizure.  I was so disappointed and worried that I might have to put him down.  I believe in giving my cats a good life and helping them to stay as healthy as possible.  But I don’t believe in going too far and making the animal suffer because I want to keep it alive.  Felix is a very joyful cat who loves to run and to play.  I was worried that the Phenobarbital would turn him into a zombie.  Would that be helping him? Or just keeping him alive for my own pleasure?

The vet assured me that Felix wouldn’t necessarily turn into a zombie and that we would begin with the minimum dosage and see how it went.  Felix began taking Phenobarbital less than two weeks ago and perhaps he plays a little less, but overall he seems normal.  The medication has to be administered very regularly at twelve hour intervals.  Changing the schedule or stopping the medicine would be dangerous.  It is likely that I will have to give him these pills for the rest of his life.  Thankfully he is such a sweet and cooperative cat that it isn’t difficult.  When I don’t get the pill in just right, he does his best to swallow it anyway.  Not like Minnie who will always do her best to spit a pill out.  It’s too early to tell if this dosage will control the seizures, but so far, so good.  I’ve got my fingers crossed for the little guy.