Fury’s Journey (Fall-Winter 2018)

Continued from our last post about Fury the cat

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If you’re working on a task with an open lap (like in your arm-chair filing bills), Fury often sees this as a prime opportunity for a snuggle. I’ll take her cone off for these moments and let her snooze.

During the fall and winter months, we continued to follow veterinary guidance to explore the realm of diets that can hopefully either point to an allergen or exclude food-related allergies as one of our culprits. (Fury has come to love her diet food of rabbit and pea Royal Canin even better than what we were buying in the pet stores, so that’s a bonus since it was a must-eat prescription food for many months.) The end result we came to was that the occasional itching/scratching below and behind Fury’s ears were not due to a food-related allergy.

We learned though as pet owners that allergies are a long test to understand. While some cats need 2 months or so to determine if an allergy is present in food, with the risks related to Fury and being sure of an outcome, we took 4 months to be certain.

Our goal continues to be to have her not having to wear a cone at all, but so far, we do have to rely on it most of the time to ensure the risk for self-injury is prevented.

The white scar on her back is from a prior injury and is unrelated to the November injury on her neck.

We started to taper her off some of her steroid medication, but on doing this, we had a self-injury occur that we think was related to this change, but we can’t be 100% certain. It also could have been a normal moment of itch that any cat would scratch, but it still resulted in injury simply because of how fragile her skin is. It’s a very gray area we’re in sometimes, trying to determine if she scratches and injures because of one of her conditions or its just bad luck from normal scratching any cat would do.

Unfortunately, after that minor injury occurred (a scratch on the back of her neck that became a nickel-sized open laceration), she re-injured herself. We have no idea what occurred as we were away on an errand, but on returning home we found her with no cone on and a more significant injury in the same place (and thus the white bandaging photo here). This second injury could have been an accident, but we can’t know as we didn’t observe it. It appears she re-opened the original injury much more gravely and without the protection of the cone, required an immediate trip to the vet to glue things back together. It really takes effort to get the cone off on her own (it’s loose enough to be comfortable but snug enough she’d have to really struggle to pull it off), so we can’t imagine she’d do that to herself, especially with an injury already present. But there’s a lot about these conditions we couldn’t have grasped without being there.

And yet, as awful as it is to sit with her in the vet’s office each time this happens, and know she hurts in the moment of the injury, it’s the next day that makes knowing what to do long-term hard. She’s basically fine.

My husband, who previously was a night-shift law enforcement officer at the end of 2018, often finds his lap invaded for a quick cuddle after he gets home in the mornings.

Of all these injuries and struggles I’ve described in this blog so far, she tends to bounce right back the next day chasing toys, chattering at birds and cuddling like the affectionate cat she is. It’s very conflicting to know your furry family member is in pain and hurting for those infrequent moments, but is quite resilient and for the other 95% of the time, lives a terrific cat life.

The winter held for better times, fortunately. As we prepared for the holidays, Fury did really well. Days became weeks and as the Christmas time approached, we were grateful that Fury was as healthy and injury-free as she ever has been.

We still see her back twitch. It seems to be the only thing that really remains that requires we keep the cone on. I’ve added video here as it’s really difficult for most cat owners to find accurate depictions of this when searching the internet:

This video was from fall 2018. Fortunately, we don’t often see twitching with this strong of a reaction much anymore. Sometimes after twitches this strong, she’d sprint off to wherever and then be back to normal. But sometimes the twitching would persist like you see here. We still do occasionally see much more minor back twitches day-to-day that are just enough to cause Fury to want to groom and focus on her back such that we aren’t comfortable enough to leave the cone off. So we’ve made progress from this video to more tolerable and lighter twitches. In a perfect world, though, we’d like to have no twitches at all.

It’s these muscular twitches that our vet team tells us are neurologic, caused by Feline Hyperesthesia. There are countless reasons why this could be happening in a cat. And the only way to really allow a neurology team to explore and determine the cause means putting Fury under for several scans and imaging procedures of her brain. It is very expensive (many thousands of dollars) and highly invasive to the cat as far as being put under. That said, our neurology vet advisors cautioned that for all the money and impact to the cat, it could show us nothing at all. At the time we had that conversation, Fury had been through so much in 2018. Injuries, procedures, exams and skin/blood samples for testing; we elected to hold on something so dramatic when there wasn’t an indicator yet it would give us answers we needed. It’s always out there as an option, but we’d like for Fury to have a few good months first before we venture there (if we ever do).

People often ask us, why don’t you just remove her claws? Surgically removing a cat’s claws used to be a common procedure done more for the consideration of furniture than for a medical need of the cat. In deference though to the best interest of the cat though, nowadays this is a procedure left as a last resort by most vets, from what we can tell. It’s an option on our radar in the future to avoid having to keep capping her claws with plastic protectors with the risk we miss one and that one claw nicks her. But we do not want to put our cat through that pain and discomfort of that procedure until we’re certain that it, coupled with a better medicinal option, will be best for her long-term quality of life. Right now it’s less intrusive to her to hold her in a towel and glue on claw caps regularly.

Currently, as we start 2018, we’re looking as possibly increasing/changing some of her medications to hopefully reduce the twitches without making Fury lethargic more than normal. Fury is on an experimental mix of Dexamethasone, Topiramate and Phenobarbital (keep in mind the phenobarbital was related to random seizures observed in summer 2018). We are being guided by an extremely top-notch team of Dermatology, Neurology and General Practice Veterinary experts as there is no documentation out there of treating cats with both Feline Ehlers Danlos and Feline Hyperesthesia. They are always cautious to only prescribe medication that is tolerable and not anything to leave her feeling fatigued or out of sorts. In fact, Fury doesn’t even know she takes medication. We are able to crush the pills into her food every day and hide them.

I would add that we’ve arrived at this medication combination after a year’s worth of trying other medications and allergy / steroid medications that were best tried before starting with prescriptions like these. It was hard to work through other medications first, but this careful mix of medications was arrived at based on observations and experiences personally managed in other cats by these vets. Our team of vets have been working together to manage a strategy of trying the most logical and well-documented solutions first, learning as we go what works best for Fury’s unique needs.

As Fury seems to have been a bit unlucky in the feline genetic lottery it seems, our Vet team as Colorado State University’s Veterinary Teaching Hospital is working with an international veterinary geneticist to review a small sample of Fury’s blood. Hopefully, we may find something there that explains why this odd mix of conditions happened to her and perhaps some other solution may come to our attention in the near future.

As I finish typing this most recent update, our little girl is curled in a comfortable puddle of fur at my feet, purring away and snoozing after a morning of snuggles and play. Our lead vet continues to guide us that we are OK to continue to investigate as Fury does not fight or scratch at her cone to indicate a dislike of it. She wears it every day as if it’s just an oddly shaped, but regular, collar. (Our vet explained that if an animal is fighting the cone, showing obvious dislike of it every day, things would be different). We make an effort to take the cone off and let her groom as often as we can, while supervised. So I suppose you could say, we’ve found a good balance with the cone as a protective measure for now. But we continue to work with our team of vets to search for answers and hopefully some day, find a solution that allows her to return to cone-free life.

2019-01-31 Tree Cat

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