Caring for a Cat After Life-Changing Surgery: The Story of Oreo

Date: 28 Feb 2018

Caring for a Cat After Life-Changing Surgery: The Story of Oreo

Oscar Franchisee Rosemary Bottoms from Oscar Pet Foods Bedford, shares the heart felt story about the story of her cat Oreo.

It was July 2017 when we first noticed Oreo limping and despite several visits to the Vet and numerous prescriptions for pain relief, no-one could find out what was wrong. Despite the pain treatment, there was no real improvement for a good couple of months and so the next step was X-rays. The vets, who looked at the images, couldn’t see any reason for the limp but suggested we arrange for Oreo to see an Orthopaedic Specialist, which was arranged for early October. The vet took one look at Oreo, when we took him out of his carrier, and remarked on what a big cat he was, “he probably has Forest Cat genes as part of his make-up” (Oreo weighs 6.5 Kg). Straight away she identified the problem and explained exactly what was wrong, which came as a massive a shock. Our ‘boy’ was suffering from a condition called Avascular Necrosis (Legg Perthes Disease) – which meant that the bone tissue was dying. She showed, on the X-ray, where this was occurring - the ball part at the top of the femur, on both sides. No wonder he was limping and in a lot of pain. It turned out that this was an incurable disease, although treatment options were available. The three choices outlined were: total hip replacement, removal of both heads of femur or, the final option, to leave him behind…

The final choice was not even a consideration, he was only 2 years old and had so much to live for. After further discussion, the second option appeared to be the best one and the procedure was fully explained - with the operation scheduled for the following Monday.

Between the diagnosis and the operation, we read all that we could about the condition and treatment, learning that it is quite common in very large cats and small dogs. Amazingly, the recovery is usually very good. The muscle tissue grows over the remaining bone, and scar tissue forms within the socket - whereby a new ‘joint’ is formed. I am amazed at how animals can do this.

The operation took place and, after an initial couple of ‘very grumpy’ days, Oreo settled in the hospital with daily visiting rights, which encouraged him to start eating again. 4 days post-op he was allowed home provided we stuck to a very strict regime of care to enable his rehabilitation.

For the first 6 weeks he was confined to a cage – this is him on his first day home:

He was so very excited to be home at last (and we were excited to have him back home too) although his brothers and sister were not overly pleased. Matzo, his brother, kept hissing and spitting at him, which clearly upset the patient. However, we soon learned how to get over this by using calming plug-in devices, which are now installed throughout the house and all of the family (five cats in total) are calm and friendly now!

The next major hurdle was dealing with Oreo’s hatred of cat litter and refusal to use the litter box. Its unused contents were very quickly scattered everywhere. After much discussion and experimentation, we managed to find a solution, which was to build him his own ‘en suite’ at the side of the cage and fill the litter box with good quality dry compost. It was just like digging outside, but in the warmth of the house. Success and relief all round!!

As you can see from the picture - a much happier cat!!!

Oreo had to wear a big collar for the first week, which he hated, although we were allowed to take it off if we were in the room to keep an eye on him and it did stop him from licking at his wounds, which healed beautifully. As a result, we spent a lot of time with him, moving the cage between the kitchen, dining room and lounge, when we were eating meals or relaxing in front of the TV!!

We also discovered the value of ‘pill putty’ at the outset, which was so helpful given the number of pills he had to take. He had to take both pain relief and anti-inflammatory tablets and, with each one wrapped in the putty, he devoured them like treats!

After 6 weeks, the vet recommended that we give Oreo a taste of freedom by letting him out of his cage but staying in a room of his own. More shuffling of furniture allowed Oreo to have the use of our dining room (where we had to remove anything he would be tempted to try and climb) and put carpet and other coverings down on the floor to stop him slipping over. He was very tentative with his walking, but so loved the freedom to stretch out – especially in his new bed!!!!!

The routine of allowing him to take a little exercise in the dining room was a great step forward, but we were very aware of his need to gain strength (and confidence) in walking again. It was at this point that we realised it was going to take a long time before he would fully enjoy being outdoors again. In December, we were able to allow him the freedom of the house; at first for just ten minutes, and then for an hour and then longer - the vet was a little concerned that Oreo was getting lazy!!!!!

Just before Christmas, an early present arrived, he was allowed outdoors!!!! Delaying this by a few days to allow the snow and ice to thaw - there was no point in making it more difficult than it needed to be - Christmas Eve saw him taking his first walk outside since 9th October. It was such an exciting time for all of us. Oreo was walking so tall and looked so happy, sniffing the air although he completely wore himself out very quickly, but the fresh air was good for him and he clearly loved it.

Since that day, Oreo has not looked back – no more use of the litter box – and very quickly he found a way of letting us know when he needed to be outside. Using the cat flap was still a step too far. His pleasure and love of being outside again was very apparent and he quickly did what all our cats do and proudly caught a mouse in the first week of freedom!

Our final visit to the vet at the beginning of February was quite an emotional time. The vet was so very pleased with Oreo’s progress and felt that really there was nothing more to be done to help him in his recovery. He is pain free and both new ‘joints’ move well for him. He can stretch, run, and climb onto chairs ... there is no stopping him! We were advised that he would have regressed in his development – and to treat him as if he were a premature baby – to allow him time to catch up with his brothers and sister. This we have witnessed first-hand and can now report that we have a 2-year-old, 6.5kg, kitten who is catching up on the time he missed charging around the house and garden at high speed and, of course, everything in his reach is a toy. He is just loving it, and, unashamedly, so are we!

He still loves his boxes and can finally fit into his favourite (very small) box again, without any pain. He is now the happiest cat, happier than he has been for a very long time, as are we. Our massive thanks go to all those involved in his care, especially Julia, our vet for more than 30 years and the incredible team she has assembled and trained.

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