Cooper's Story

Back in 2005, a stray fluffy cat came up to us in the backyard and hung out for two hours.  She seemed content to just move around as we worked in the garden.  Later, when it was time for her to leave, she said goodbye and went under the gate.  She would return a couple times a week and hang out in our yard, with or without us.  One night she came to the door and wanted in. We let her in and fed her.  She did a tour of the downstairs and then after 15 minutes, wanted out.  She began to return every evening.  She eventually stayed the night.  Then she eventually stayed indoors and adopted us.  That was Baby our first cat.

In 2007, my husband Ben thought she needed a companion (although she would spend years disagreeing.) He fell for a 13 yr old male cat whose owner had recently died.  I was concerned about a cat mistreating Baby and was hesitant for a month.  Then we decided to adopt him but had to wait a month while I finished painting and making over a room.  Finally, he came home.  We had him for two months before he got sick from Pancreatic cancer.  He died in July.  His name was Whisper.

In October, 2007, Ben found another cat, a very large male kitten named Cooper.  I decided not to waste time hesitating and decided if Ben wanted another cat, this one would come home immediately.  He was home within a week.  And since we had kept Whisper and Baby apart for a month, trying to let them acclimate (which never worked because Baby hated him and then hated all the attention he received when he was ill) I decided to throw these two together.  We kept him in the study his first night and Ben stayed with him.  Then the next night, we let him explore the house while Baby was shut away in a room. It was later that evening that I opened the door to let them meet. Baby sprang out, ran into him in the hall, did her best to spit, swipe, claw, and hiss at him to scare him away.  Turned out, Cooper was very good at playing dumb and sweet and cute.  He also proved to be as tall, as long at six months as Baby was at two years.  (They are both part Maine Coon and has the common trait of size.) And he weighed more at 13lbs than her 9 lbs.  He thought this was a new game and swiped back which seemed to surprise Baby.  Then the game of tag began.  He ran off, she followed, and he then rolled over onto his back, rolling over playing cute, while Baby stood there hissing and swiping.  His legs turned out to also be long and be able to keep her out of reach.  Then more chasing began.  After a few minutes, Baby seemed to quit the game and became resigned to the fact that Cooper had moved in.

The next two years contained more of the same: she biting, swiping, hissing; he pushing her away and standing over her which she found to be the right height to be able to reach and bite his ears.  Cooper had a goofy personality: inquisitive about water, he would watch ice cubes melt, check out any spills, play with his water, and watch water fall from the faucet.  When the storm drain in the basement backed up one year, he spent the next few weeks sitting by the drain in case it happened again.  He also had a happy, goofy, naive expression on his face.  The world seemed interesting to him.  When a stray gave birth in our home, and seven squeaky kittens were produced, he looked at them as if to say "toys!"  (Their mother was not amused.)

He also proved to be a nervous Nelly, scared of any noise, any shadow, any clink, and any change in the environment.  He hated car rides to the vet.  At the vet's, his heart raced so badly that a murmur could be heard.  We had an echo done in 2007 which appeared clear.  In 2010 he developed hypercalcemia.  By 2012, after many tests to prove the cause, that was shown to be idiopathic. But we had another echo done to make sure there was no heart damage.  That too, proved clear.

But by then, he had also begun to lose weight.  Starting at 13 lbs at six months, by 2012 he was down to 12.8lbs.  The summer of 2013, his eating decreased and his weight fell another two ounces.  Nothing could encourage him to eat.  He also needed his teeth cleaned.  He underwent the procedure and anesthesia well.  By December, 2013, he was losing a tooth to resorption and needed an extraction.  In February 2014 we scheduled the procedure.

But this time, it did not go as well.  He came home that Monday wired from anesthesia, his eyes dilated until late Wednesday night.  He wouldn't eat.  An appetite stimulant backfired and wired him even more and he wouldn't eat until Wednesday.  His entire demeanor began to change. He wasn't eating well; he was lethargic.  We gave him water and liquids by mouth to hydrate him.  That seemed to work.  But a month later, he hadn't improved enough.

Friday, March 21, we took him to the vet, expecting that the problem would be tooth related although the gums where the extraction was made seemed to heal well.  At the vet's he sounded congested.  Xrays showed an enlarged heart.  I called Myrna Loy's (our HCM cat) cardiologist and she was able to see him in her office that evening.  Meanwhile, I drove him to the ER that is in her building and they kept him overnight on oxygen and gave him lasix.  He came home Saturday.  We learned that he had heart disease but she would know more when she saw him a week later, after the congestion was gone.  At home, for the next few days, Cooper perked up and began eating better than ever.  But by Wednesday, his breathing rate was up again.  More lasix helped but didn't solve the problem. He saw the cardio on Thursday and was back in the ER that day.  After another stay, and another echo, we found that he had Moderator Band Cardiomyopathy-bands of tissue in the left ventricle that attach themselves across the channels and create havoc.  They act as if thickening the walls, making contractions difficult.  This makes for an inefficient heart and leads to congestion because the heart is unable to open up the valve and fully accept all the body's fluid. He's at danger for creating clots because as the heart is weak and the walls seem thick, not all of the fluid can be pushed out, leaving behind blood to pool and coagulate and create clots.

He has been on an ever increasing amount of lasix and was in the ER in May with sudden congestion. Fluid was pouring out of his nose and mouth. It was so bad, they tipped him upside down to physically drain fluid from him.  We have also injected lasix.  As of May, 2014, he is now on Torsemide, a new diuretic. (See Medication tab.)

The most the vet can do is to treat his symptoms as one would an HCM (or other heart disease) cat.  Lasix to prevent or get rid of fluid; Plavix to prevent clots; spironolactone to help with fibroids in the heart, retention of potassium, and as a diuretic; and Pimobendan/Vetmedin to help the contractility of the heart.  He might also be put on enalapril and atenolol but hasn't because while the heart rate is too high, the contractility is not strong.

*Update: unfortunately, Cooper died in August, 2014 of major heart and kidney disease.  He had developed severe and sudden CHF, recovered well at the ER, was pronounced good to go home by the cardio, then crashed in the car.  I took him to the ER near our home where they tried for two days to keep him clear of fluid. But he was unable to get over CHF despite meds and oxygen. We regrettably had to put him to sleep.  His kidney values had skyrocketed in June and yet had slightly improved a month later. We had been giving him for just a month, supplements. Given more time, we could have improved his kidney function which would have allowed the kidneys to process the meds which would have processed the fluid to get rid of CHF.   We gave him potassium supplements by Sundown and Tumil-k.  We used vitamin E, COq10, vitamin C powder, and krill oil mixed with Gerber baby sweet potato that we gave by mouth with the 3ml syringe for kidney support.

His weight-which is crucial to stabilize-had stabilized in July because I had created a chart and determined how much food/calories, which was about 270 or so a day, and water he needed to take in each day. I gave him food and water every two hours and tracked his intake. We used tuna fish, cat treats, dry cat food, sweetened condensed milk (glucose/energy and he wasn't diabetic), peanut butter (protein).  I would give him water by mouth with a 3ml syringe and he did drink on his own.  I gave him sugar water to give his body energy, and glucose (sugar) is a needed electrolyte. We gave him Gerber baby food sweet potato by mouth with the 3ml syringe. It's a good source of fiber, calories, and another potassium source. When he died, he was still weighing 11lbs, the same as in late June. Many cats, as they become very sick, stop eating. This lowers electrolytes, needed protein, energy sources for body function/cell growth, decreases bodily function, adds to the complications of the illness, making recovery difficult.  This is why hydration and weight and caloric intake were crucial to maintain.

And yet, we had not done enough and soon enough to support the kidneys in order to fight the disease.  This is why in July, before any issues developed, we began Myrna on the same regime of kidney supplements and support so that she may have a better chance of fighting congestion.  (Please read the blog posts at the blog "Cat Living with HCM".)

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