Case Study #6: Skye - pregnant, nearly blind, feral
Skye is one of our most incredible feral rescues yet. She has become a striking symbol that every life has value, and is changing perceptions about feral cats every day.

Skye came in pregnant and nearly blind, needed an emergency c-section, and later was diagnosed with congestive heart failure. ER vets recommended euthanasia because they had never heard of a cat as sick as Skye being adopted out. We refused to give up on her, because she deserved a chance.

Miraculously, a wonderful woman named Kari was following Skye's story and fell in love with her. Kari adopted Skye, who is now a pampered princess surrounded by love, comfort and the very best medical care for as many days as she has left.

Skye was worth saving.

No words. ❤️More about this experiment: http://tinykittens.com/ferals/fostering



The only way to solve the root cause of cat overpopulation is to change perceptions about feral and free-living cats. Skye has introduced thousands of people to feral cats, proving they are worthy of compassion and that they have value. The more we show that these invisible, unwanted cats have value, the closer we get to a society where spaying and neutering is the rule, rather than the exception.

Trapping Skye

We trapped Skye on March 23, 2016. She had shown up a few times at the feeding station and when we saw she was pregnant and going blind, we knew we had to bring her in. We trapped her using the drop trap.

RISKS


  • Skye's personality was unknown, and she didn't know me.
  • She was quite skittish at the feeding station.
  • Treatment would require multiple visits per day, which would result in significantly more stress than our previous feral moms.
  • I would need to give meds in her eyes, which would be very threatening to her.
  • The stress from so much interaction could put babies at risk during or after birth, if Skye was too stressed to care for them.
  • Skye may not allow me to medicate her when her kittens arrive. I likely won't be able to give meds on the day she gives birth either.

PREP

I was running out of space at TK HQ, so I converted the small bathroom off my office into Skye's room. Because I knew I would need to catch and medicate her several times a day, I didn't want her sharing a room with Savina. I also wanted her to be in a small room since her vision was so poor.

I designed a prototype hiding bin for her that would allow me to access her very easily and with minimal stress. I knew my chances of success would be much lower and stress would be much higher if I had to chase her around the room three times a day to catch her for meds.

On intake, she was very quiet and shut down, and I was able to vaccinate, apply revolution, clean her ears (which were in fairly good shape), trim her nails, listen to her heart and apply her first antibiotic ointment to both eyes.

I was giving eye ointment three times a day, and the hiding bin worked incredibly well as I was able to unhook the blanket flap, detach the top of the blanket from the upside-down bin, and lift the bin off of her with her nicely purritoed inside. She was very easy to manage this way, and seemed to tolerate me very well all things considered.

ULTRASOUND AND EXAM

On March 25th, Dr. Ferguson from Mountain View Veterinary Hospital came out to do an exam and ultrasound. She also drew some blood to make autologuos serum as an additional treatment to accelerate healing of her damaged corneal tissues.

The ultrasound revealed she had at least 4 babies around 45-50 days along.

Although corneal ulcers are known to be very painful, Skye was not exhibiting signs of obvious pain, which would include: rubbing her eyes, sensitivity to light, or discharge. The exam revealed very little uptake of the fluorescein stain, which showed that most of the damage had already been done and that the scarring and opacity were her biggest challenge at that time. Because she didn't seem to be in pain, we were comfortable continuing treatment until after the babies were born and then continuing to monitor her closely for any changes.

I started giving the serum on the 26th of March, 3 times a day with a minimum of 20 minutes in between serum drops and antibiotic ointment. I also created a larger nest prototype that would accommodate kittens but would still make it easy and low stress for me to handle her for treatment.

By the 27th, Skye was becoming pretty comfortable in her room, and actually seemed to enjoy petting at times. She was eating/drinking/using the litterbox regularly, and was getting deep sleeps regularly also. I could tell she was starting to feel more confident because she started to give me tiny hisses and very gentle smacks with her paw if I reached inside her nesting crate rather than enclosing her in the blanket first.

On the 30th, I decided that Skye would not be returning to the forest due to the remarkable progress she was making and the poor long term prognosis for her vision.

By April 1st, Skye was regularly taking treats and kibble from my hand, purring when I pet her, and allowing me to stick my hand into her nest to pet and feed her. She ate in front of me and put her tail up for the first time in response to being petted after she exited my lap and was standing next to me. She was still too nervous to be picked up or held in my lap without a blanket covering her face (at least initially).

Apr 2 - Since things were going so well, I decided to introduce another caretaker (Gwen) for a few reasons - for one, I didn't think it would add stress for Skye, and I thought it would benefit her to bond with two different humans. And there was a LOT going on with three pregnant ferals, one challenging feral mom with babies and Cassidy's physical therapy, so a second set of hands would help me make sure everyone was getting the best possible care.

April 19th - Skye had been doing incredibly well with her meds and socialization, and on the 19th she went into labor. After almost three hours of contractions without producing a kitten, it was clear she needed help. We only put mom and babies through the stress of an emergency c-section if it is absolutely necessary to save mom and/or kittens, but I had waited as long as I could and we rushed her into Mountain View. During the c-section, they discovered she had a very small pelvis and very large kittens. Her first kitten was stuck in the birth canal, and there was no way she would have been able to push him out. She and her kittens would certainly have died if we hadn't intervened. Fortunately, all four kittens and mom survived, and Skye began nursing and caring for them within an hour of waking up from surgery.

April 28th - Skye and kittens are thriving. She has been allowing us to give meds and handle kittens to weigh and monitor them, which is pretty incredible for a newly formerly feral cat. As a sidenote, her kittens are on average 42 grams bigger than all of our previous litters (not including the other three litters currently in residence, which are also huge, but slightly less huge!).

Skye seems to prefer a more open nest than our other feral moms, and on the first day relocated her kittens to the side of the toilet where there is no roof over her head and she can see us coming. A week later, she relocated them again, to another spot with no roof and wide visibility in the front of the nest.

Skye was an exceptional mom, and when Savina and Neelix were spayed, Skye accepted their weaned kittens.

Congestive Heart Failure

Seven weeks after her c-section, Gwen found Skye lethargic, dehydrated and covered in vomit and diarrhea. I rushed her to Mountain View, where they were able to stabilize her. She had an x-ray and an abdominal ultrasound to rule out obstructions, and everything looked normal at that point. Her heart and lungs sounded normal.

At 5am the following morning, I went in to check on her and found her unresponsive in a pool of vomit. Her respiration was fast and shallow, her tongue was out, and rushed her to the emergency vet.

The ER vet recommended euthanasia, but I told them to do everything the could for her as long as she was not suffering. He performed an ultrasound and saw that the left atrium of her heart was enlarged and at the time looked like it had a blood clot. Subsequent ultrasounds did not show any evidence of a blood clot.

The radiologist was coming in at 9am, so Skye was put on the list for an echocardiogram. Because of the fluid accumulating in her lungs, she was not stable enough to be placed on her back for an echocardiogram until later that afternoon. The radiologists findings were consistent with congestive heart failure.

A taurine test was sent out (came back low a week later), and many of her numbers didn't make sense - blood glucose was very high, thyroid was high, WBC were high, eosinophils were high. It looked like there infection was a factor, although we didn't know where the infection was or what was causing it.

When Skye was somewhat stable, she was discharged and I brought her back to TK HQ. She was on a strict regimen of meds. Dr. F came out to check on her and did a Q&A on the livestream.

Two days later, I took her in for a chest x-ray and we saw there was still some fluid (or possibly infection?) in her lungs. Her respiration rate was ok, and everything else looked stable, so we returned home. I noticed her respiration rate increasing over the next few hours and gave additional Furosemide, but ended up taking her to the ER again.

Her respiration was up to 92 bpm while we were waiting to be seen. They put her on IV Furosemide (lasix) for the fluid in her lungs and kept her overnight for observation. Her pulse ox was 98%, so she was oxygenating her blood very well despite her elevated respiration.

A diarrhea panel came back negative for parasites and viruses.

In the morning, Skye was stable and discharged. We were able to get a cardiologist to see her a few days later. He confirmed the congestive heart failure diagnosis and made minor changes to her meds. He said if she was stable for 14 days it would be safe for her to be adopted out. He also said her short term prognosis was guarded and her medium term prognosis was poor. He did not give a long term prognosis.

After Skye was stable for a week, we saw an internal medicine specialist who recommended repeat bloodwork to check thyroid, kidney and WBC levels. Thyroid and kidney were normal, WBC had come down, but eosinophils were still high indicating inflammation and/or infection.

We sent a serum sample to the lab to test for toxoplasmosis, which had come back negative on the diarrhea panel. The antibody titers suggested Skye was very positive for toxo, and we learned that the negative PCR just meant she was not currently shedding it in her poop.

We tested one of her biological kittens and one of the kittens who had nursed from her, and both came back negative.

Skye gets her Furry Tail Ending

During all of this, we had two wonderful potential adopters step up for her. One was closer and had more time off, so we matched Skye with the most amazing home ever. Skye went to her forever home on June 30, 2016. She has a cardiologist and an ophthalmologist, and will receive the very best medical care for as many days as she has left.

See how she's doing today on her facebook page - Skye the Sink Cat.

See more of her story in Skye's video archives on livestream.






Skye drop
Trapping Skye, March 23 2016


Skye 2
Skye in the trap, March 23 2016


Bin of Safety Prototype at 1:27:00


Video of Skye's eye exam and ultrasound


Video of Skye's first purrs, on day 5










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