Well, it’s been 10 stressful days since my last update. I hope by the end of this post you will understand why there hasn’t been one for so long! Incidentally, ‘red-toes’ has now been booked, and her future owner has named her Lainni, which means ‘Sparkling’.
Blue-toes lost 36g on Wednesday last week, and a further 18g on Thursday, which made us rather nervous, although he was behaving normally. We started giving him supplementary bottle feeds on Thursday evening, which put him back to a slight gain from Thursday to Friday, but he did seem slightly quieter than his siblings that day.
Around lunchtime on Friday I had to rush into hospital to see my Grandpa. He has been in the hospital since the spring but had ‘taken a turn’ and was not expected to survive. There followed a tense few hours as family arrived from all over. Of particular concern was the fact that my parents and brother were on a boating holiday up the West coast when we got the call, and had no way to get back. We all heaved a huge sigh of relief when they finally managed to get to the bedside by means of a bus, a hire car, and what I suspect was probably a pretty hairy drive down!
As it happens, Grandpa decided he wasn’t ready to go yet, and by late Friday evening had settled down enough that the nurses sent us home, saying that nothing was likely to happen that night. When I got home at about midnight, the kittens were all squealing, which they shouldn’t be doing. When I weighed them, all three had lost weight, so I knew something was definitely wrong.
I put my hands under Katie to pick her up and was alarmed to feel hard pads there. Two of her mammary glands were quite swollen, which reminded me of something I had read about in one of my books on breeding. I had one of my books up in the kitten room, but couldn’t remember what I had done with the other one. Richard eventually found it, and sure enough, when I re-read the section on mastitis (mammary infection), I was convinced that’s what she had.
The babies were obviously hungry, which was why they were squealing, so we gave them a bottle-feed. I wasn’t sure what the effect would be on the kittens if they managed to get milk out of one of the infected teats. To prevent this, I cut up an old pair of tights to make a tube with leg holes, and put it on Katie while she cuddled her babies and got them cleaned up after their feed. I didn’t think we would be likely to be able to keep the stocking on her overnight, so we shut the babies in the pen and Katie outside it until we could get her to the vet.
Dad texted me just after 7am on Saturday to say that Grandpa had survived the night and was quite bright. That day was his 83rd birthday, so they opened some of his cards and presents with him. Before we could even think about going in to the hospital, we had to give the babies another bottle, then at 9am I phoned the vet and got an appointment to take Katie in at 10:20am.
The vet confirmed my suspicions that she had mastitis in two of her mammary glands, and gave her an injection of antibiotics and anti-inflammatory. He recommended continuing with the feeds of Cimicat (kitten milk formula), but trying to get the kittens weaned in the next few days. He gave the three kittens a check-up and identified that blue-toes was quieter than the others. We were told to pay particular attention to blue-toes and ensure that he got plenty of Cimicat, but the other two seemed fine. The kittens were to be kept apart from Katie until that evening and then put back in with her.
After getting back from the vets, Richard and I headed into the hospital where the whole family had gathered to cut a cake for Grandpa’s birthday. We headed home at about 9pm to get the kittens fed. Katie was looking a lot better, with a good amount of the swelling having gone down. She was thrilled to be let back in with her babies, and we were pretty glad to let her in, since they had trashed their pen while shut in alone! They had walked through their food dishes and smeared it all over the pen. There was food in the water dish, water in the food dishes, litter in both food and water dishes and litter and food all over their bedding!
On Sunday morning, Dad had texted me to say that Grandpa was still doing okay. I got up at about 9:30am, intending to have a leisurely breakfast and a shower and then head back into the hospital. When I looked into the kitten pen, the boys were both drinking from Katie, and Lainni was lying beside her. This is extremely unusual, because Lainni is normally the first to drink from Katie whenever she lies down.
I reached in to stroke Lainni, and as soon as I touched her, she jumped up and ran across her pen in a zig-zag manner before crashing into the side and falling to the floor. I wasn’t sure what I’d just seen, so I tried to turn her around, and she set off in the opposite direction, crashed into the water bowl, stood up again, fell into the litter tray and lay there unmoving. I picked her up, and she stretched out and started twitching as if she was having a fit. Her eyes were glazed and unseeing, as well.
I was terrified, and immediately phoned the vet hospital in Stirling (they provide ‘999 emergency’ out-of-hours cover for our vets). They asked me to bring Lainni through, but leave her mum and brothers behind. When we got to the vet hospital, they worried that it might be meningitis, and started her on antibiotics. They asked me to phone at 2pm to see how she was responding, and I headed off to return to the hospital to see Grandpa.
Grandpa was doing really quite well, and was bright and talking to us all. I phoned the vet hospital at 2pm and they said that they were optimistic, because Lainni was now able to focus on them, and her episodes of random running seemed to be abating. They suggested that I might be able to collect her around 9pm, so I said I would call back about 7pm.
At 4pm my mobile rang, and the vet hospital’s number showed up. I dashed out of Grandpa’s room to answer the call, expecting the worst. Instead, the nurse was saying that Lainni had responded really well. They had been able to get 4ml of water and 2ml of Cimicat into her, and she was now playing on the nurse’s desk! They said that I would definitely be able to collect her that evening, and suggested going in between 6:30 and 7pm.
When we got her home, she was really hyper and running around, obviously fed up having been shut in a small cage most of the day.
Katie was really glad to see her back, and spent the first few minutes chasing around virtually attached to Lainni’s tail, and not letting her out of sight for a minute. Eventually she calmed down a bit, and sat off to one side, but she was still entirely focussed on Lainni’s every move.
We were to take Lainni to our own vets on Monday to get her a repeat antibiotic injection. Blue-toes was still too quiet, so I asked to be able to bring him as well, and they agreed, and gave me an appointment at 11am. I spent a couple of hours at work, and then took the babies to the vet. Blue-toes temperature was over 40°C, which is far too hot, so he was also given an antibiotic injection. I then spent the rest of the day at the hospital again, only popping back to the house briefly to give the kittens a solid food meal as a start to the weaning process.
Katie was to return to the vets on Tuesday to have her mastitis checked, and the vet had asked to see all three kittens at that point. Lainni was doing really well, and her temperature was completely normal, as was Orange-toes. Blue-toes had brightened up on Monday after having his antibiotics, but had quietened again on Tuesday and by the time of the vet appointment his temperature was back to 40°C again.
This time I was sent away with a liquid antibiotic preparation that needs to be dropped into their mouths. Since even orange-toes was still having erratic weight results, the vet and I felt that all three should be given the antibiotics to be on the safe side. In theory, the antibiotics are ‘palatable’ (and Katie does appear to want them), but the kittens obviously haven’t read the label and clearly don’t think so!
On Wednesday morning, we let the kittens out for a run around, and all three were clearly brighter than before. After giving them another solid feed (unbelievably messy process, by the way!), I collected my aunt and we went back into the hospital to see Grandpa again. Grandpa fought bravely throughout the day, and said his goodbyes to all of us before finally passing away at about 5:30pm.
When we returned from the hospital, blue-toes was running around the kitten room, having jumped out of the pen. When we lifted his siblings out, the three of them all ran around the room, pouncing on eachother, so they all appeared to be back to normal. When we brought up their solid food to give them their evening meal, both orange-toes and Lainni lapped the food from the dish without us having to force the food into them. Blue-toes is quite determined that Mum’s milk is better!
I had the Devons in the vet today for their annual vaccinations, so I took the kittens back in at the same time. This time, all three kittens were bright and their temperatures were normal, including blue-toes. The vet feels that since their recovery has been so quick, their illness is unlikely to have been caused by any of the nasty possibilities that we had been considering. In reality, it has probably just been a bad case of bacterial infection, most likely set off by the kittens’ immune systems being reduced due to the lower milk quality as a result of the mastitis. Even Lainni’s ‘neurological symptoms’ were probably nothing more than the result of a high fever!
It’s been a pretty horrendous few days, but at least the babies have come through it safe and well. Surely it can only get better from here?!