A Tale of Two Obese Foster Cats and the Lengths We Went to Save Them
Blue and his sister Bella were surrendered on Oct. 24 to the Kansas City Animal Shelter. Transported in a duffel bag, the shelter staff was shocked to discover that Blue weighed 32 pounds. Bella, at 22 pounds, was big, yet significant smaller compared with her brother. When they entered the shelter, a health and behavior assessment showed that Blue was mouth-breathing and immobile, and the stress from being in a scary new environment caused him to refuse food. The shelter did bloodwork on Blue to determine whether there was any underlying cause for his extreme obesity.
These two beautiful ragdolls needed a devoted foster home that would help them lose weight. I encouraged my friend Meagan, who has a soft spot for ragdolls, to take them on, and I was relieved and thrilled that she accepted. With monitored feeding, laser pointers, and a flight of stairs, Meagan was optimistic that they’d lose weight.
With Meagan's experience, knowledge, and genuine love for animals, it seemed certain that Blue and Bella would get healthy and happy. Meagan was also optimistic that they’d have a quick adoption turnover. The next day, pickup was coordinated and the two chunky balls of fluff found their way to safety in Meagan’s home.
The bloodwork results came back. Blue’s creatine phosphokinase (or CPK) and sodium were high, but his sodium/potassium ratio was just above normal. Meagan said it could be from dehydration or stress on the heart or skeletal muscles. Blue’s thyroid hormone, meanwhile was slightly low.
Blue developed a severe upper respiratory infection, which made his breathing problems worse. Meagan took him to the vet; he had already lost two pounds from not eating. She worried that he might have aspiration pneumonia and said Blue looked awful and significantly worse every few hours. X-rays noted slight changes in chest and bronchial inflammation, which could have been either from the URI or his physical size. Blue was prescribed antibiotics. For his size, he would need almost half a bottle a day (which was $30 per bottle) so Meagan opted for a pill that is for a 40-pound dog.
Two days passed without improvement, and Blue had developed a retching cough. I suggested a nebulizer treatment because it worked wonders on a past foster of mine who had a severe URI. However, because of Blue’s size, it could cause adverse cardiac effects. With Blue still uninterested in food, Meagan had to syringe-feed him. Being morbidly obese, if Blue did not eat, he risked hepatic lipidosis, which could lead to liver failure. He also did not urinate or defecate. Regardless of whether this was from his sickness or inability to walk to the litter box, Meagan knew that Blue needed immediate medical treatment. He would either die from not eating or because he was unable to breathe. Meagan took Blue back to the vet, who decided that Blue would have a feeding tube and antibiotic/fluid IVs inserted the next morning.
Meagan picked him up in the afternoon. It would be easier for Blue to be at home where Meagan could monitor him and do the feedings herself. She was only home for a short five minutes before Blue started having respiratory problems and began foaming from the mouth. Meagan immediately drove him to a different vet -- it was Saturday, and the one she'd just been to had closed.
The final moments of Blue’s life were the ones with the most injustice. The veterinarian did not take emergency action and instead argued with Meagan about Blue’s condition. Meagan asked for the mucus to be suctioned from Blue’s airway and to provide oxygen but was denied and told that Blue would survive a trip to another vet’s office. Moments later, Blue took his final breath of life. Without sympathy or an apology, the vet handed Meagan a bill.
It is unfair that so many cats like Blue are dumped at shelters. While their previous “owners” selfishly decide their pets are meaningless and disposable, I see animals who are valuable, beautiful, and deserving of life. According to shelter workers, Bella and Blue's former owner dropped off the two overweight cats but kept two who are normal size. We might never know what life Blue lived before he was brought to the shelter, but we know his final week was filled with compassion, hope, comfort, and most importantly, love.
Bella, meanwhile, is doing great.
According to foster mom Meagan, "She runs around the house from hiding place to hiding place. She's still too chunky to jump up on the bed without claws, but she's getting there. It's sad but true that her personality has really come out since Blue passed."