Well, it’s been a tough couple of days!
By Thursday evening, Purple-toes was 185g, which was a gain of 3g on the previous evening, but was down 4g on her weight from that morning. Blue-toes had started gaining again, and was up to 210g, which was a gain of 8g from Wednesday evening. Red-toes was up 10g to 230g, and orange-toes was up 12g to 232g.
By Friday morning, Purple-toes was really no better, and had gained nothing overnight, so when I phoned the vet to give them an update on her, they wanted to see her back in again. Once again, there was nothing that they could see that would indicate what was wrong with her. She was given another shot of antibiotics, and we were advised to start supplementary feeding to try and stop her falling any further behind her siblings. We were asked to phone with another update yesterday morning.
On Friday evening, blue-toes was up a much more healthy 18g to 228g, while red-toes was up 8g to 238g and orange-toes was up 15g to 247g. Although 8g isn’t a great gain, it didn’t worry me because I had been warned to expect a dip in gains, if not even a slight loss at around the time their eyes open. As long as she gained a better amount last night, there was nothing to worry about. Purple-toes, on the other hand, had unfortunately lost a disappointing 7g, taking her down to 178g – 50g behind her next-smallest sibling.
Purple-toes breathing problems had continued, and when I checked her over after giving a supplemental feed late on Friday, I was shocked to find that she had a slight anal prolapse. Our vets’ out-of-hours emergency service is provided by a local veterinary hospital, so I called them to ask their advice about whether there was anything I should be doing. They asked if I wanted to taker her in, but I said that if they didn’t consider it an emergency, then I would rather not put her through the trauma of being removed from her mum and siblings and taken an hour round trip for no benefit. They said that was sensible, and told me just to keep the protrusion lubricated and then take her up to the vet in the morning.
Yesterday morning I honestly thought that I might be getting up to a dead kitten, or one that would need to be put to sleep. Instead, the protrusion had gone back inside, her breathing had almost returned to normal, and she was suckling on her mum. She even fought one of her brothers off the favourite teat!
I phoned the vet and told them what had happened on Friday night, and then gave them an update on what she looked like this morning. They didn’t feel that there was any need to see her, and asked me just to keep an eye on her and then give them an update call on Monday morning.
I was stewarding for John Harrison at the Siamese Cat Society of Scotland show yesterday, so Richard was on kitten-watching duty, and had to give purple-toes top-up feeds every couple of hours throughout the day. The show went well, with some lovely cats to handle, and Richard had no issues with giving purple-toes her feeds. By the time I returned home, she had actually gained a little bit on the weight she had been yesterday morning.
Unfortunately, within a couple of hours her prolapse recurred, and over the next couple of hours got progressively worse. Whilst talking to Stacie (Kia’s breeder), it suddenly occurred to me that purple-toes wasn’t actually straining to breathe, she was pushing against some sort of digestive blockage! I phoned the veterinary hospital again, and told them what was happening, and they asked if I wanted to bring her in. This time, I said that I felt she was in pain, and that I felt something had to be done, so we arranged to take her through to Stirling.
I weighed all four kittens, and photocopied the record sheet, just in case that was helpful for the vets. Red-toes and blue-toes were up to 258g (gains of 20g and 30g!), and orange-toes was up to 263g (a gain of 16g), whereas purple-toes was down 8g to 170g. Definitely not good news. We packaged her up with a hot-water-bottle, and a lot of blankets again, and took her through to Stirling.
When we unwrapped purple-toes for the vet to see, she said that it was obviously an intussusception. She said that these are not uncommon in kittens of weaning age, at 5 to 6 weeks, but that she had never seen one in a kitten this small before. She mentioned that in a kitten of 6 weeks, the corrective operation is a piece of major surgery, and in a kitten this young, there is absolutely no way the surgery would be possible. The only option was to have purple-toes put to sleep.
I knew that I would be upset if that was the outcome, but I was surprised by the strength of my reaction. When she took purple-toes away to give her the injection, I found tears pouring down my face, and when I asked if she had any advice about what to do about helping Katie to understand what had happened, my voice kept catching in my throat. A couple of my friends have said since, that the day I no longer react like that is the day we should stop breeding, because a breeder who really cares will always react that way, no matter how many times you’ve seen one go.
The advice the vet gave about what to do about Katie was to play it by ear, and to show her the kitten only if she asked for it. The twice that we had taken purple-toes to the vet, Katie always watched her go fairly calmly, but was instantly looking for her the second we returned. Yesterday she had once again watched us take her kitten away, but when we returned she didn’t ask us for her kitten, and has never once looked for her. It is as if she has just accepted that we will have done whatever is required, and therefore feels no need to know what happened.
We knew when we got involved in breeding that it is impossible to avoid ever losing a kitten, but had hoped to have at least a few successful litters first. Unfortunately that wasn’t to be, and we’ve experienced the devastation of losing a kitten on our first litter. At least we still have three beautiful babies to keep us occupied, and the fact that it was an intussusception means we know it is nothing that can infect the other kittens, or affect future litters. We have to be thankful for such small mercies!
RIP little purple-toes. We will never forget you.