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Christmas 2016, Special Tails
- "Fluffer The Miracle Kitty"
The Baker’s Dozen Save of Christmas
Hi there! My name is FlufferNutter and I’m the luckiest kitty in the whole wide world! Why you ask? Cause I found my way to PPCR. I’ve always been a really joyful and happy kitten. I knew something wasn’t quite right ‘cause I got tired real easy and had a hard time catching my breath. I had this thing called a PDA…no not a personal digital assistant….a pat duct tosis..I mean …oh heck I’ll let my Mom tell you my story..it’s kind of long but I think it’s worth reading! I’m going to go play! I feel so great now I don’t want to sit still! Oh I almost forgot watch my video too! I’m a star! Hehehe! Now I am really going to go play! See ya!
So do you know what a FlufferNutter is? Made with Peanut Butter and Marshmallow Fluff on white bread, the FlufferNutter sandwich is a New England classic and is, as you can imagine, very sweet. So, take a little round ball of thick, fluffy, smoke colored fur, add some soft green eyes and the sweetest and happiest personality you could ask for, and you would have the irresistible FlufferNutter!
FlufferNutter came into rescue at about 4 weeks old with 3 other kittens. She seemed the calmest of the four kittens, almost too laid back, as I think back. Initially I thought nothing of it even though her breathing seemed to be a bit fast and somewhat labored. And Fluffer was a purr monster. You look at her, speak to her, hold her or pet her, and she purred. Not a soft gentle purr but a loud motor boat purr to show you how much she appreciated being close to you and having your attention. She would trill, chirp, and talk to you, about pretty much anything. She loved being on you or near you. She would lie on her back and make bread in the air while her purr was on full power. You could not help but laugh when she did that. She did play but not half as much as the other kittens and she seemed to tire out pretty quickly. She also slept more than the others.
When we took the four of them in for the standard vet check and testing, I mentioned to the vet Fluffer’s propensity for tiring out quickly and breathing harder than the others. Well, they were all great, except for Fluffer.
Our vet said Fluffer had a grade 5 heart murmur. In case you are not aware, there are only 6 grades of heart murmur. It explained so much of her laid back personality, lack of stamina and why she slept so much. The vet highly recommended seeing a feline cardiologist. Her life expectancy, if we did nothing, was 3 months to a max of 3 years, and there was a possibility that it could be corrected by surgery but with a very high risk. What was the bottom line? Without surgery, the outlook was extremely poor for this sweet little girl. Since the prognosis was grim regardless of the findings, there was no way we felt we could expect an adopter take her on, knowing her life span was probably short, so we decided to officially adopt her. We also decided we would do what we could to make her comfortable and at the very minimum, find out the cause for this very serious heart murmur.
We did question our sanity, but we were already in love with this little girl and we knew we were opening ourselves up to potential heartbreak. It made me remember my soulmate Taz, my gone-for-five-years Abyssinian, and the heartache we experienced when we lost him. We also knew that we would do it all over again in a heartbeat for Taz, how could we not do it for FlufferNutter? At the very least she would know love and we would do whatever we could for her to have as normal a life as possible. We really could make a difference for this fragile little girl, for however long she was on this earth. So we did not waste any more time. We took the leap of faith, and sprang into action with hope in our hearts, holding on tight. She at least deserved the chance.
First we found a highly recommended Cardiologist, located in the Sacramento area. We took a day trip with her to go to the appointment and have an echo cardiogram and consultation completed. Fluffer had a patent ductus arteriosus (also called PDA), a congenital defect in the heart. It is caused by incomplete changes in the heart’s circulation when a kitten is born. The ductus arteriosus is a blood vessel that ensures that blood does not go to the lungs unnecessarily while the fetus is developing in the uterus. During the first few hours after birth, after the kitten starts using their lungs to breathe, this blood vessel naturally closes off. This allows blood to travel normally through the lungs for oxygenation as the lungs begin to function. In some kittens, the ductus arteriosus remains open and results in serious, life-threatening changes in the way that the heart pumps blood through the heart and to the rest of the body. Because it does not close, much of the blood bypasses the lungs, causing difficulty breathing due to a lack of oxygen in the blood.
- The good news…It was possible to surgically correct the issue with a thoracotomy, open heart surgery. If the surgery went well there was a good chance she could live a normal life.
- The bad news….Fluffer weighed only 2 pounds with early signs of congestive heart failure and the murmur level had increased to a grade 6 in only 2 weeks since the initial diagnosis. The risk factors for the surgery were extremely high, but waiting until she was older actually decreased the chance of survival because of the strain and damage already being done to the heart and the other organs in the body due to a lack of oxygen.
The cardiologist put Fluffer on a diuretic to reduce the fluid accumulation and slow if not halt the congestion. We started investigating surgeons. We met with a surgeon in Reno, NV and talked to one in Loomis, CA and decided to go with one located in Loomis that the cardiologist had recommended. This vet had done PDA surgeries on tiny kittens before and was very direct and honest about all the risks. Doing nothing was not an option for us, once we knew she might be able to have a normal life. Despite the risks there was no question in our hearts, we scheduled the surgery.
On Thanksgiving afternoon I drove to Loomis with Fluffer. We stayed overnight in Loomis so we could get to the vets office the next morning and not have to worry about inclement weather over Donner Pass. Fluffer explored every nook and cranny in the studio suite and then turned into a cuddle bunny. She slept sprawled on my chest the entire night. We went to the surgical center the following morning. The surgeon reviewed all the risks of the surgery, which at this point were very clear. The surgery was scheduled for 2PM that afternoon. I started the drive back home at 11:30AM. I can’t even explain what I was feeling as I drove home. I was a jumble of emotions. The drive went by quickly because I was so distracted with thoughts of what was to come for her.
When I got home I wandered aimlessly around the house with her in the forefront of my thoughts. We finally received a phone call from the cardiac surgeon at about 5PM. The operation was successful! She had made it through the first hurdle with no complications from the anesthesia, which had been one of the major concerns. There was still concern about fluid in the lungs, heart congestion and the beginnings of heart failure but she was in recovery and all things considered, doing okay. The next 24- 48 hours would tell. The prognosis was cautiously optimistic. We slowly felt the hope start to build and our faith grew that she was going to make it. We got daily updates while she was in the hospital after surgery. Every day she improved and got stronger – on Saturday evening the murmur was barely audible.
On Sunday the after-care vet called and was curious about Fluffer. She cautiously asked “Is it normal for her to lie on her back and make muffins in the air and purr?” I was half laughing and trying to keep from crying, “Yes that is perfectly normal.” The vet and others thought the pain meds were affecting her. Nope that is our “normal” girl. On Sunday evening they removed the catheter and the IV and started oral pain meds. They also made a little sweater for her to cover the incision.
Monday found Fluffer even better. Still making bread in the air and completely endearing herself to the vet technicians at the office by jumping in their arms when they open her cage to attend to her needs. It wasn’t a surprise that someone (actually more than one) wanted to adopt her. But she’s ours and we like it that way. We were anxious to see her and bring her home. I thought back over the last 5 years since we had been fostering, all the kittens we had rescued, the ones we nursed back to health and the few that we could not save. In rescuing and fostering kittens I sometimes feel I have lost my mind but there is no doubt that I found my soul. Many have asked me how we can give up our foster kitties and the answer for us is very simple. Giving them up is easier than knowing that the cat or kitten died alone and unloved with no hope. That’s why we do it, again and again.
Tuesday I picked up Fluffer and brought her home. I realized it was less than 4 weeks since we jumped on this crazy roller coaster ride. She had to wear the cone of shame and the little bandage sweater to help protect the incision. She did not mind the little sweater and we actually bought her some little XXS shirts made for dogs. She seems to like wearing them so we switch them out every few days so she can stay warm as her fur grows back and it covers the incision area. The cone she tolerated and was very good-natured about it, although she did manage to get both her front legs out the top of it once and then complained to high heaven because she couldn’t move much, while making a complete mess of her pen.
We also had to keep her quiet. You ever tried to keep a kitten, who was feeling better than she had since the day she was born, calm? Really? Yup really. She needed to stay calm and have time to heal – even if she thought she was fine! We put her in a “large” pen so she would not overdo it and damage anything while she healed. She looked forward to our visits and talked to us continually with chirps, trills and loud purrs when we came in to play, cuddle and gently amuse her. The funny thing, she also let us know, with very loud meows, when she was bored and wanted someone to be with her. No way could you not know! The best thing – she still has her goofy, happy-go-lucky, loving little personality fully intact, even after everything she has gone through.
At 14 days after the surgery we started leaving the cone off during the day. The wound was almost completely healed and with the sweater still on, we soon stopped using the cone all together. Fluffer was so thrilled and ran around the small bedroom like Speedy Gonzales! Freedom!
What did we find when we went to our local vet on December 13th for her re-check? She only exhibited a level 1 murmur – audible and intermittent! Such a dramatic change from the sickly, but sweet, kitten that came into our lives! She now wants to play and play and play. I think she’s making up for lost time!
At this time of year what would you call it? A miracle? A blessing? Call it what you want but someone was watching over this little girl. What is her long term prognosis? She still has to have a follow-up echo-cardiogram to evaluate any residual heart damage that might have happened. But no matter what comes Fluffer’s way, we all have hope, yes, even Fluffer. You know what hope is? Hope is that little voice you hear whispering “maybe” when it seems the entire world is shouting “NO”. We are now whispering “yes” and ignoring the naysayers.
Miracles don’t just happen in remote villages, or on holy sites, but here in our own lives almost daily. When you really decide and not just wish. When you really commit and not just try. When you really take responsibility and don’t just depend on hope. When you give more energy to your dreams than to your fears. That’s when miracles happen. Are you missing them? I know I was, but not anymore. If you can’t seem to find any miracles, stop by and talk to FlufferNutter. She’ll be happy to tell you all about miracles and that they really do happen. Of course you’ll have to slow her down first.