Taqui is a beautiful feral cat

Taqui is a beautiful feral cat

Many people will be heading overseas over the next couple of months, escaping the cool dampness of the Irish “summer” for sunshine in destinations like Spain, Portugal and Greece. Marina runs an apartment complex that’s typical of many Mediterranean holiday resorts. She didn’t plan to have a cat in her workplace. Taqui just turned up a year ago, and has since become a daily visitor. She’s a friendly cat, approaching visitors with a friendly meow and a purr, but she doesn’t like to be picked up or held. She’s a classic example of a feral cat: her parents or grandparents would have been pets, but she must have been born in the wild, and has never learned to fully trust humans. Marina is aware that not all visiting holidaymakers are cat lovers. Some visitors leave out food for Taqui, even encouraging her to come into the apartments. But when their two week trip is over, the visitors who follow them often don’t like the idea of having a strange cat sharing their living accommodation. Marina has to deal with the consequences: she tries to persuade cat loving guests not to feed Taqui indoors and she explains to the anti-cat guests that Taqui is a friendly but shy animal who isn’t going to cause them any harm. Most guests understand the situation, and Taqui is a quick learner: once she realises that she’s no longer going to be fed in an apartment, she soon stops visiting. Marina has had plenty of experience of dealing with feral cats: she has friends who have had to deal with serious cat problems. One...
Chico a 10 year old black cat with diabetes

Chico a 10 year old black cat with diabetes

Chico is a large, striking-looking black cat with yellow eyes. His owner Rhona knows him very well, and over a period of a few weeks recently, she had noticed that there was something not right about him. She could not put her finger on exactly what was wrong, but she just knew that he was not himself, so she brought him in to see me. An owner’s intuition is one of the most sensitive barometers of a pet’s health. If you live with an animal, you become tuned in to their daily routines and behaviour. When a pet is unwell, the first sign of illness is often so subtle that a casual observer would not notice anything amiss. But as a pet owner, it may be very obvious to you that something has changed, and that your pet is “not their normal self”. If you do feel this, it is best to go to the vet for a more detailed examination of what is going on. Early diagnosis and treatment of illnesses can make the difference between life and death in some cases. When Chico arrived at my surgery, he seemed very bright and cheerful. He purred, and pushed his head against my hand in a friendly way. Before examining him properly, I asked Rhona some questions. Rhona’s main concern was that Chico was just not behaving as he normally did. When I questioned her closer, she told me that he seemed to have less energy than before, and was lying around the house more than usual. She thought that he had lost weight, and when I put him on the electronic scales, this was confirmed. He was still a...
Tips the 15 year old cat has a problem

Tips the 15 year old cat has a problem

Lisa had been away from home travelling overseas. When she returned, she noticed that Tips’ breathing seemed different. He was struggling to catch his breath, he made a hoarse noise when he breathed, and he coughed occasionally. At first she presumed this was a cold or due to old age, but it gradually got worse and his breathing became rougher, as if he was constantly snoring. He had also become needier than his usual self. He’d always been prone to attention-seeking, but he’d become even more demanding, jumping onto people, or attempting to climb up their legs for a hug if they stood anywhere close to him. Lisa brought him to my clinic for a check up, and initially, he was given a course of antibiotics, to rule out the possibility that he’d just picked up a chest infection. He didn’t improve on this treatment, and further investigations were needed to look into his problem in more detail. Blood samples were taken and when they didn’t show up any abnormalities, he was booked in for x-rays. The x-ray pictures confirmed that Tips had an unusual problem known as “mega-oesophagus”. The oesophagus – or gullet – is the tube that carries food from the mouth down to the stomach, through the chest. It’s normally a narrow tube, with a strong muscular lining that pushes food along like a cylindrical conveyor belt.  In mega-oesophagus, the muscle loses its tone, becoming soft and floppy, and no longer contracting properly. The oesophagus becomes more like a floppy, relaxed shopping bag than a narrow, active living hosepipe. For Tips, this meant that when he...
Max the cat was shot by an air gun

Max the cat was shot by an air gun

Max is a free-ranging cat, coming and going as he likes through  a cat flap. He lives in typical suburbia, with rows of semi-detached houses each having their own enclosed back gardens. Max enjoys spending time in Barbara’s garden. He jumps up onto the back wall, visiting a few of the neighbours, but he doesn’t go far, and will always come back if Barbara goes out and calls his name. Like many cats, Max is a hunter, bringing back small rats as “gifts” for Barbara. She would rather that he didn’t bring these home with him, although she is relieved that he helps to control the rodent population in the area. He occasionally catches garden birds too, which Barbara finds difficult: she enjoys watching the birds in her garden and it’s upsetting when Max kills them. Barbara has always felt that Max lives a safe lifestyle: he stays in the local patchwork of back gardens, never venturing near the danger of busy roads. Many of her neighbours keep cats, so Max enjoys a busy social life, and up till now, he’s never got into trouble of any kind. A couple of weeks ago, Barbara was watching television in the evening. Max came in through the cat flap soon after 11pm, looking for attention as he often does. Barbara petted him absent mindedly; he seemed OK at first. Then she noticed that there was something strange sticking out of his cheek. She tried to examine him close up, but he was wriggling, and it was difficult to see. It looked like some sort of rivet or metal stud. She didn’t...
Cosmo is a ginger cat who ate some poison

Cosmo is a ginger cat who ate some poison

Cosmo lives an active life, enjoying the outdoor world: he’s a keen hunter of rats and mice. He doesn’t have a cat flap, so he comes and goes through windows and the same doors as the humans in the house. As part of the daily routine, the last person to bed in John’s home always ensures that Cosmo has come back from his evening wanderings. One evening last week, it was 1.30am when John was finishing some desk work. As he prepared for bed, he opened the back door, and called Cosmo. As the cat came in, John put out a small bowlful of food for him, and at first all seemed well: Cosmo tucked into it hungrily. But when he’d finished eating, and was walking away from the dish, John noticed that there was something amiss. Cosmo staggered unsteadily, instead of walking normally, and he seemed to be looking into the distance, as if he was hallucinating. If he’d been a human, he would have been accused of being drunk. There was something very wrong with him. John phoned the after-hours veterinary service, and he was advised to bring Cosmo in to the clinic at once. Even though it was the middle of the night, it sounded as if Cosmo could be suffering from some type of poisoning. Urgent treatment could be lifesaving. There was no time to waste: John put Cosmo into his pet carrier and set off in the car on the twenty minute drive to the emergency centre. Cosmo has never been a good traveller, and it probably didn’t help that he’d managed to scoff...
Tom turned up after being missing for 3 months

Tom turned up after being missing for 3 months

Maura took on Tom as an adult rescue cat when she was living in Cabinteely fifteen years ago. He became a much-loved pet, and had been with the family ever since, including a three-year stretch living in France. Tom had settled comfortably with Maura and her family in Enniskerry for his retirement. As an elderly cat, he didn’t do any more than strolling around the front of the house, then back inside to his favourite sleeping place. He ate well, but had begun to lose weight, and Maura suspected that he might be nearing the end of his days. Just after Christmas one year, on Wednesday 28th December, Tom went missing. Maura and her family searched in all his usual haunts, but there was no sign of him. He had vanished. Maura was told that cats sometimes wander away to die, and she presumed that this is what Tom had decided to do. Her family quietly grieved for their pet, and time moved on. Meanwhile, on Thursday 29th December, a kindly lady from Enniskerry had arrived at our vet clinic holding the motionless body of a cat in her arms. She had found the animal outside, lying on his side. He could barely lift his head. She had never seen the cat before, but she knew at once that he needed help. When I examined him, I could see that he had three immediate problems: starvation, hypothermia and some other, as yet undiagnosed, underlying disease. The only way that the cat could be properly helped would be by carrying out a complex work up including blood tests. But this...
Maggie had something in her paw

Maggie had something in her paw

Eva’s family rescued Maggie from the Wicklow SPCA Sharpes Hill animal sanctuary when she was just a kitten. Eva was only two at the time, so as far as she’s concerned, Maggie has been around for ever. Maggie is a gentle, tolerant animal, and she’s the perfect children’s pet. Eva loves playing with her, and even Eva’s younger sister, Robyn, who’s just 15 months old, enjoys petting the cat (obviously under close supervision). The little girl and her cat are the best of buddies, but like all friendships, there are a couple of challenging areas. For Eva, the most annoying thing about Maggie is that she keeps stealing Eva’s toys. In particular, Eva enjoys making pompom pets – small colourful fluffy toys, made from bits of wool. They resemble the pompom on top of a woollen hat. Eva keeps these in her bedroom, but Maggie sneaks in, picks them up in her mouth, and runs off with them. Perhaps she sees them as small mouse-like prey: a cat has strong chasing and hunting instincts. As a result of this behaviour, Eva keeps finding half-chewed pompom pets scattered around the house. For a five year old girl, this is very irritating, but she still loves Maggie, and the two of them spend a lot of time snuggled up together, enjoying each other’s company. Last Saturday afternoon, Maggie came indoors after an excursion into the back garden. She jumped up onto Eva’s lap, and as Eva petted her, she noticed that something odd was sticking out of Maggie’s foot. She called her Dad, and he took a closer look. At first...
Bonnie is a two year old Persian cat

Bonnie is a two year old Persian cat

One of the reasons that Bonnie is an indoor-only cat is that it’s a safer place to be. The outdoor world can be dangerous. Studies have shown that cats that are kept indoors all the time live longer, healthier lives. Cats that venture outside are at risk of road accidents, fights with other animals, and viral infections carried by other cats.  Bonnie has lived indoors since she was a kitten, and so far, she’s been healthy and contented. THE ACCIDENT The accident happened just after New Year. Natalie was drinking coffee with friends in the sitting room, watching Bonnie play. The young cat had taken a small decoration off the Christmas tree, and she was chasing it around the room, batting it in front of her,  then pouncing on it. Bonnie often plays enthusiastically like this: it’s her way of burning up energy indoors, and it’s entertaining to watch her. Bonnie was getting increasingly energetic with the Christmas decoration, throwing it into the air, then jumping after the toy to grab it with her paws, twisting and gyrating as she leapt. After one particularly dramatic jump, she let out a yelp  as she landed awkwardly, and she immediately stopped playing. She fell over on her side, curling her leg up beneath her. Natalie rushed over and picked her up to comfort her, but she continued to cry, and when she tried to walk, she couldn’t put any weight on her right back leg. Natalie rushed her in to the emergency vet, who reassured her that it seemed to be a nasty sprained joint: at least nothing had been broken....
Pumpkin was badly injured after going missing

Pumpkin was badly injured after going missing

Pumpkin came into in Ciaran’s life as a kitten two years ago: it was the day before Halloween, which explains her seasonal name. She’s been a healthy cat up until now, enjoying the freedom of living in the Wicklow countryside. She has a set routine: breakfast with Ciaran first thing in the morning before heading off for the day on her own, then returning for supper in the evening. She is a gentle, friendly cat, enjoying attention from humans and purring almost continually. PUMPKIN WENT MISSING On the Sunday before Halloween, she had her breakfast as normal, but this time, she didn’t come back in the evening. When she still hadn’t returned the following morning, Ciaran was seriously worried: he spent the whole day searching the local area, looking for her. He knocked on neighbours’ doors, asking if anyone had seen her, but she seemed to have completely vanished. As darkness fell in the evening, Ciaran had just come home when he heard a noise at the back door: Pumpkin had returned. Ciaran could see straight away that she had been injured: she was dragging her back legs behind her rather than walking on them normally. She wasn’t crying as if in pain and she seemed comfortable, so Ciaran got her settled in a warm bed. She slept deeply that night, as if she had been utterly exhausted after her adventure. PUMPKIN WAS TAKEN TO SEE THE VET The next morning, she was still unable to get up on her back legs, and she had refused to eat or drink anything, so Ciaran brought her in to see me....
Bluebell is a ten year old cat

Bluebell is a ten year old cat

As an older cat, Bluebell lives a calm, quiet life. She spends her day snoozing in the sunshine or strolling around the garden, never venturing far from the house. She usually stays in at night too, although she is free to come and go as she pleases through the cat flap. A CAT FIGHT The family live in a bungalow, and last Monday night, Marguerite was woken at three in the morning by  the sound of a fearsome cat fight immediately outside her bedroom window. The caterwauling of the two animals was astonishingly loud, with screeches, wails and screams. Marguerite opened the window, and Bluebell jumped straight in, as if she had been waiting for an escape route. The security light outside had been activated by the cats, and Marguerite could clearly see a large, well-fed, grey tabby cat skulking off into the night. He looked like a pampered pet cat rather than a lean hungry feral animal, but he was obviously no less aggressive for his posh background. At first, Bluebell seemed completely unfazed by the incident: she was in good form, behaving normally, with a good appetite. It was as if nothing had happened. But thirty-six hours later – the morning after the morning after – she developed a dramatic lameness. She was unable to put any weight on her left foreleg, and she was limping around the house, holding it in the air. Marguerite brought her in to see me. A DIAGNOSIS WAS MADE The story of the cat fight gave me a useful clue about the cause of Bluebell’s lameness: cat bites are the most...