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It's not good...

If bad things happening to kittens upset you, don't read.

It turns out that things are really bad with Sheridan. She's lost weight in the 20 days inbetween visits to the vets from 1.3 pounds to 1.2 pounds. She's also dehydrated and malnourished even though I watched her eat and drink in the last 24 hours.

Long story short is that due to the distemper the kittens had about 3 weeks ago, Doc T thinks that Sheridan has Cerebellar Hypoplasia now.

Cerebellar Hypoplasia is a defect in the brain of young kittens that results in a loss of fine-motor coordination. Affected kittens have trouble walking and maintaining their balance. It is cause by infection of the kittens with feline distemper virus short after birth, or infection while the kittens are in the mother's uterus.

There is no known cure for cerebellar hypoplasia.

That's basically it. It's really unusual for a three month old kitten to get it but Doc T's best guess at this point is that this is what is wrong. They are keeping Sheridan at least overnight to watch her eat and drink. They want to see if she still has a survival instinct since the loss of balance often messes with a cat's appetite.

Doc T tells me that these 'herky-jerky' cats, while permanently disabled, still make good house pets. They are not in pain and are amusing if you like watching cats who look like they've just had a few highballs. However, it is up to Furry Friends Rescue to decide if Sheridan has any chance of being adopted and up to them if they will allow Sheridan to live. If she doesn't have a survival instinct or FFR decides that in this glut market many kittens, she won't be adopted due to her disability, there is a good chance that I will not see Sheridan again.

Sinclair, on the other hand, is two pounds now. I need to email the guy who wanted Sinclair and Sheridan and explain the situation and hope he will accept Delenn and Sinclair. I think he will. Both kittens are in fine health and have bonded to one another. Also, I don't think he's going to want a permanently disabled kitten.

My first instinct is to adopt Sheridan myself if she still has survival instinct, but I have to really think about it. Do I really want a 'herky-jerky' cat? I don't know. But I don't think I can condemn Sheridan if she is allowed to live. I can deal with the issues. After all, Alex and Johanna have Tigger.


Jul. 29th, 2002 05:51 pm (UTC)
I'm sorry to hear about her condition.

Michelle and I have had to deal with various feline medical problems (one with congestive heart failure, about 3 years, and now one with diabetes going on 1.5 years). In both cases, we have had to think long and hard about why we choose to own cats and how we will care for them if they have a chronic illness. This is a highly personal decision and there is no single right answer...

For me the foremost part of the decision has to be whether or not the cat is able to lead a happy life, as in not being in pain, being able to play and participate in enjoyable activities, etc. If there is chronic pain or a disability, that would be a huge determining factor in our decision. I certainly don't want to prolong a pet's painful existence for MY personal benefit. (But it sounds like that is not much of a factor in this case).

A second consideration for us has been our own ability to take care of the pet. This includes financially, emotionally, and lifestyle-activity factors.

Another factor influencing our decisions was our own beliefs about kitty afterlife or kitty reincarnation. I choose to believe in reincarnation, not based on any evidence, but because it makes a kind of intuitive sense, and it makes me not fear death as much. So, I tend to believe that if we get reincarnated, our kitties might do so as well. Perhaps they are "recycled" even more easily than people, due to their shorter lifespan over all. So perhaps I am rationalizing an irrational quantity, but that's my own personal thought process.

Caring for a chronically ill kitty is quite a bit more onerous a task than caring for a normal, healthy kitty, so depending on the level of involvement, this can be a very difficult decision. Most pet owners will choose to care for the kitty to the best of their abilities, and will bend over backwards for their beloved companions, as long as they are not in pain or suffering. However, we can only care for a fixed number of kitties in our household, and if we choose not to continue caring for one kitty for whatever reason, we are still quite likely to adopt again. There are a mind-numbing number of unwanted, homeless, but otherwise perfectly healthy kitties, and I can't help but think that by choosing to care for one kitty, I am condemning another who won't be adopted. As long as we have limited resources, there will always be kitties out there who will never be adopted, so the decision of which ones to care for is going to be dependent on whether WE are personally attached to them, and not necessarily on their individual merits.

In both cases, we decided to go ahead and care for the cats rather than having them put down, or adopting them away, because they were not in pain and we felt the care was within our ability.

I know this decision is even harder when you are fostering kittens. This is probably the main reason that Michelle stopped fostering kittens, because she gets attached very easily and there were just too many that had to be put down anyway. The reason one gets into the fostering business is probably different than getting into the long-term cat ownership business, because of the short exposure you have to them and the high mortality rate of very young kittens as compared to older cats. As a foster caregiver, you are essentially shielding others from the risks and pain by taking on that risk and pain yourself. Regardless of how it works out for Sheridan, hopefully you will decide to stay in the fostering business, and help even more kittens get placed in good homes. But, there's no one right answer here either... we decided to be long-term cat owners and not foster caregivers for the forseeable future, since we tend to get attached way too easily.

So anyway, that was a long-winded way of saying that I don't have any specific advice, but hopefully one or two things mentioned here will be helpful in a general way.