Tabatha is a Tonkinese cat

Tabatha is a Tonkinese cat

Maia and Tasiana live close to one another, often visiting each others’ houses. Maia’s cat, Tabitha, enjoys the company of the two girls, often joining in with them for games. She allows herself to be picked up and cuddled, and she even comes back for more. She’s been put in a toy pram, carried in a sling like a baby and she’s always being hugged. A few weeks ago, when Tasiana called around to Maia’s house with her mum, there was no-one home: the front door was locked. They were about to leave when Tasiana spotted some movement through the main living room window. When she looked closer, she couldn’t believe what she was looking at: a crisp bag was moving from side to side, all on its own. She peered through the window, trying to see what was going on: was there some strange air current? Could it be a haunted crisp bag? Then she realised what was going on: Tabitha was dashing around the room with a crisp bag stuck on her head, unable to get it off. Tasiana’s mum had a key to the house, so they quickly let themselves in and rescued the poor animal. Tabitha must have had her head stuck for some considerable time: she was all sweaty and bedraggled. It was fortunate that they had come past: if Tabitha had been stuck like that for several more hours, she could have got herself into serious trouble. Animals have been known to die of suffocation after getting their heads stuck in plastic bags. It was easy to work out what had happened: Maia...
Tom is a 20 year old cat who went missing

Tom is a 20 year old cat who went missing

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 stuck in her paw

Maggie had something stuck 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...
Max was shot by an airgun in the garden

Max was shot by an airgun in the garden

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...
Tips the cat developed an unusual problem

Tips the cat developed an unusual 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...
Jasper broke a bone in her foot

Jasper broke a bone in her foot

Jasper is a home-loving cat.  She doesn’t like spending too much time in the cold world outside. Like many cats, she has an ability to seek out the warmest, coziest spots to sleep. Her favourite snoozing place is in a corner in the kitchen, where she has a soft cat bed, but later in the day, when everyone’s gone out to work and school, the kitchen cools down, and it becomes less appealing. Jasper has discovered that if she goes looking, she can find other comfortably heated spots to sleep. This tendency to seek out warmth can sometimes get cats into trouble. During the winter months, vets regularly have to deal with accidents that are caused by this heat-seeking habit. One of the warmest places to sleep – and one of the most dangerous – is underneath the bonnet of a car, curled up close to an engine that’s cooling down. Cats that live outside often discover that if they climb up under a car, they can wriggle into the engine compartment, where there’s usually a pleasantly warm flattened area to sleep. The problem is that cats often go into a deep sleep, only waking when the car owner is heading off to work in the morning. Suddenly the peaceful, warm sleeping area becomes a danger zone, with moving metal parts and no easy way out. Sadly, some cats don’t survive, and others are rushed to the vet, badly injured after the car driver has belatedly heard the yowls of a distraught cat coming from beneath their bonnet. Even around the home, there are cozy sleeping spots that can...
Edward the cat had a seriously damaged eye

Edward the cat had a seriously damaged eye

Michael and his family are animal lovers, sharing their home with a scattering of dogs and cats. The ginger kitten is the latest to join their menagerie. Michael’s 20 year old daughter saw the kitten with its mother at a friend’s house. She liked the look of him, and ended up bringing him home. She called him “Edward Cullen” after one of the heroes in the Twilight movie, but of course, his name was soon shortened to Edward, and as he has become part of the family, it looks like Eddie’s may soon be his day-to-day name. The kitten was bright and healthy at first, but a couple of weeks after his arrival, he developed a painful left eye. He started to keep the eye closed, and a yellow discharge dripped from the eye down his cheek. Edward was brought to the vets as soon as the Murphys noticed that there was something wrong, and when I saw him, it was obvious that he had a serious problem affecting his left eye. Edward had a deep ulcer in the centre of his left eye: something had damaged the front of the eye, creating a crater-like dent in its surface. It could have been caused by trauma (such as a fight with another kitten) or it could have been a virus, but the result was the same: his eyeball was seriously injured. The eyeball is a complex structure, but it’s very resilient and it’s well-protected by the body. The boney eye socket is the most important part of the eye defences. If there’s any physical blow to the head, the...
Striker the cat was suffering from ear mites

Striker the cat was suffering from ear mites

Tanya had been looking for a cat for some time, and as soon as she saw Striker in the animal rescue centre, she knew that he was the one. He had a certain presence about him, and it was obvious that he loved people. He purred, pressing his head against her hand. He was a young adult, and although she’d been looking for a kitten, she brought him home with her that day. Like many rescue cats, he had a few health problems in the beginning, and Tanya brought him in to see me soon after she’d taken him in. His runny eyes and occasional sneeze told me that he had cat flu. This is a viral infection that can be fatal in young, unvaccinated cats. In other cases, like Striker, cats have some immunity, and they end up with a milder version of the disease that can be difficult to shake off. The initial signs of cat flu soon resolved, but it’s likely that Striker is carrying the virus, in the same way as a human can carry the Herpes virus. If he gets stressed in the future, he may show mild signs of cat flu again, just as humans with Herpes can develop cold sores on their lips when they are under stress. As well as the respiratory signs, Striker was shaking his head and scratching his ears. When I used a scope to look into his ear canals, I could see dozens of tiny insect-like creatures milling around, almost as if I was looking into an anthill. Striker had a classic case of ear mites, another...
Taz the cat developed a limp

Taz the cat developed a limp

Taz is an independent creature, choosing to live in his own cat house outside Hilary’s back door. It’s a cosy place, lined with newspaper, blankets and a comfortable cushion. He comes into Hilary’s home from time to time, but the cat house has always been his favourite sleeping place. Hilary recently noticed that Taz had developed a limp. He was still as active and mobile as ever, but he was favouring his right foreleg, his head bobbing as he walked. She decided that a visit to the vet was in order, so she fetched the cat carrier in preparation for the trip. Taz must have had some distant memory of the significance of the blue plastic cage: when Hilary went looking for him, he’d vanished. He didn’t come back for the next four days. She looked everywhere, but there was no sign of him. Then one evening last week, she heard a miaow: Taz was at the back door. The lameness was now much worse, and he was holding his right foreleg up, unable to put any weight on it at all. It was as if he’d come back, looking for help. Hilary kept him indoors overnight, worried that if she let him sleep in his normal cat house, he’d disappear again. She brought him up to see me first thing the following morning. When I examined Taz, it was obvious that the focus of the lameness was in his right shoulder, which was swollen and painful. The poor cat was not at all happy as I gently felt the sore area. I admitted him for a short anaesthetic,...
Snowy the cat was drenched with oil

Snowy the cat was drenched with oil

Snowy, like most Irish cats, is allowed to come and go from his own home as he pleases. A few weeks ago, Snowy was unlucky enough to encounter a danger that took everyone by surprise – she was attacked by human beings. Snowy is a friendly creature who likes attention. He likes to be petted behind her ears, and he purrs loudly. Nobody saw exactly what happened that day, but the consequences were very serious. One morning, Ciara’s mother heard a commotion of some kind, with the sound of raised voices. She went out into the street, and she saw a group of three youths running away from her, which immediately raised her suspicion that they might have been up to something. At the same time, Snowy rushed into the house from the same direction. He was obviously distressed, and he looked soaking wet. At first, the O’Connells thought that the youths had thrown a bucket of water at their cat. They coaxed Snowy out of the corner where he had hidden, and it was only then that they realised that something much more sinister had happened. Snowy had been drenched not in water, but in diesel fuel. It seemed that something horrific had almost happened that morning: the youths had thrown fuel onto him, then had tried to set him alight. Snowy had been very lucky. Diesel fuel is not as inflammable as many people believe, and he had not suffered the awful fate of being burnt alive. Instead, he had simply been terrified, and he was now coated with dark brown, greasy, foul-smelling diesel. The O’Connells tried...