Please allow me to introduce you to…
Age: 10 years old
Favorite food: Venison and Peas (D/D Hills)
Favorite activity/toy/game: Ribbons – oh, and my human’s hair!
Special Feature: Food allergies and weakened immune system due to Feline Influenza
I was 4 weeks old, cold, miserable and found on the verge of death by a nice lady in her yard, along with my two brothers. My face was covered in mucus, my nostrils were glued shut and one of my eyes had what looked like a mini ping-pong ball of white goo coming out of it. The simple act of breathing was becoming harder with every passing hour. The Feline Influenza that had infected us was raging through my system, unchecked. The nice lady took us to an animal hospital where she handed us to the veterinarian, who gave us the medication we needed. After that, she made a deal with the veterinary assistant. She herself had a new baby and a cat she just had adopted who was not vaccinated yet, and Feline Influenza is very contagious. The veterinary assistant agreed with her that if the lady paid for our treatment, she would take us home and look after us. The veterinary handed us to the assistant while saying: “Good luck, it will be a miracle if they make it.” And the rest is history. She took us home, cleaned us up, administered more medication and continued to do so until we were once again presentable, some 6 weeks later. My two brothers were adopted by friends of the assistant, but since I needed more intensive care still, I was to stay with her a little while longer. My immune system was completely crippled, so I relapsed often the first year of my life. Unfortunately, Feline influenza is often caused by viruses (Herpes and Calici) which stay with you the rest of your life. Meanwhile, my eye infection – courtesy of the herpes virus – has been so severe that it had caused my eye to actually grow shut. It had to be reopened surgically three times and in the end they used anti-cancer medication, which causes necrosis on healthy tissue, to eventually keep it from growing shut.
As time went on and I slowly started to stabilise, our bond became stronger. Finally, it became crystal clear that I had already found my forever home with her.
Wow, what a journey you had so early in life! Thank goodness you had someone to take care of you and give you lots of love. I have to say that I had never heard of the Feline Influenza. Can you tell us a little bit more about how it affects your every day life?
Most days, I’m a pretty happy kitty. My eye, however, never fully recovered. The lens of my eye is kind of marbled and the effect is like looking through goggles underwater that are no longer watertight. This affects my depth perception and makes it hard to judge distances and jump accurately. There is a reason I’m known as the clumsy kitty at home. But I manage just fine. Secondly, I need a special diet. My immune system doesn’t tolerate normal cat food anymore as it makes me all itchy and leads to chronic nr 2 problems long-term. So, these days I eat venison and peas – like a real diva.
Occasionally, I’ll shed the virus through waterlines from my eyes, and if I’m stressed, I might get a secondary bacterial infection. That is when Ilse has to get me some anti-biotics from the clinic, which I have to take for about a week. Now that I’m getting older, my immune system is a little bit more fragile again so it happens about four times a year – each time there is a holiday or a big change in the house that I’m a little uncomfortable with. Recently, the doctor diagnosed me with neurological symptoms and a heart murmur. Though these problems are very mild at the moment, they may have been caused by the virus. Since most cats are vaccinated before Feline Influenza has a chance to affect them as much as it did me, they haven’t really seen a severe case in a senior like me in forever. So, they’re unsure just how much the herpes virus is to blame for this latest development. Mostly, it means that I will jerk my head and tremble a little when I’m stressed. I’m also a little bit more wobbly than I used to be and sleep a little more to compensate for the heart murmur. Other than that, I’m my happy, cuddly, purry and enthusiastic self. Arwen – I can say from experience, and I’m sure you will agree – being able to jump accurately or keep your head still is totally overrated! Am I right? Though that may be true, not being able to do them can make doing other things more difficult. Is there anything that Mom Ilse does to make things easier or more comfortable for you?
Buys me exclusive food and provides me with my own feeding station (so the other cats won’t steal my food), keeps eye medication on hand just in case, cuddles and play sessions when I’m stressed so the virus doesn’t get a chance to take advantage of the situation, and cleans out my damaged eye occasionally, as it no longer has tear ducts and collects dirt that way. She also took classes to become a cat behaviourist, though I think she did that to understand all of us better and make our lives a little bit more comfortable.
Not really. I’m pretty much capable of everything as long as I’m not feeling sick, just a little uncoordinated at times.
Well, as everyone knows, I’m not very coordinated either. I have learned to compensate for that by learning to climb instead of jump! Are there any ways that you have had to compensate for your condition?
I charm my human to help me out. My nick name is ‘The Cute And Fluffy One’ for a reason. I tend to be quite focused on her and vice versa, so we’re always communicating. I’m honestly not much of a jumper or climber due to the depth perception issue, but that doesn’t stop me from having fun. So, when she sees me having trouble, she’ll help me up or down. Otherwise, I’ll shortly meow at her, to get her attention to help me out. I can manage things like jumping on the table that holds my food station and the bed to join her, but other places can be a little bit more challenging. I’m also not much of a hunter because my mom never got the chance to teach me really, but I still do love to chase leaves and ribbons – I just forget to use my claws in the moment. In many ways, I’m still a kitten at heart.
Chasing leaves and ribbons?! Now THAT sounds fun. You truly seem like a happy kitty, Arwen. Do you ever seem to know that you are “different,” or are you ever emotionally affected by your condition?
Nope, not really. I do have problems with the big tom cat that lives with us at times. He is like my big brother and he can be a bit of a bully. I never really know what to do when he is annoying me as he is so much stronger than me. Mostly, I make a lot of noise and hope he goes away or my human notices – he is a coward with her. He is getting better though – my human is helping him deal with what is making him act like this and training him to channel it more productively.
Most of the other cats, I get along with just fine. I tend to avoid conflict and am pretty easy going.
I know all about bully big brothers! I have one of those too. It must be a brother thing… Anyway, tell us more about your personality – what else makes you special?
As said before, I really do still feel like a kitten at heart. My human herself says that with the clumsiness, my long fluffy coat and my desire to enthusiastically engage anything and everyone in life, I really do look like a happy-go-lucky overgrown kitten that still wants its mommy.
Seriously Arwen, I think we may be sisters from another mister! We have so much in common!
Now a question for Ilse: My mom says that I have been a huge blessing in her life, and I’m sure you feel the same way about Arwen. Can you share with us about the impact that Arwen has had on your life?
Saving Arwen and watching her grow up into the gorgeous cat she turned out to be has been one of the most satisfying experiences in my life. To see this miserable, shivering bundle patiently and full of trust look up to me as I cleaned out her eyes and medicated her, to then see her fight for her life like a true warrior and never lose her zeal for life…I was filled with awe and absolutely humbled by it. And so grateful that I was there to witness it. Life can deal you a pretty shitty hand occasionally and it certainly did with Arwen, but that never phased her for just one instant. She bounces right back, whatever she gets thrown at her. I myself am honestly not that strong and she is a constant reminder of what that kind of strength looks like.
Beautifully said, Ilse. I think it’s safe to say that Arwen is an inspiration to us all.
What words of wisdom would you pass on to anyone who is considering adopting a special needs pet?
Look beyond the appearance and be honest with yourself on whether or not this is the cat for you. Know what you’re getting into, so you don’t get disappointed and disheartened by focusing on the things that aren’t going the way you had expected them to go. Realise that the lessons they have to teach you are infinitely more valuable than any care you could ever provide them with and be grateful for their gifts.
My mom is nodding in agreement. She couldn’t have said it better! Anything else that you would like to add?
There is no shame in wanting the perfect kitty for you. In fact, it is something you should never have to apologise for. But think about what that means. Does that truly mean they have to be a specific age, colour or breed? Or does that mean finding a cat who touches your heart, who needs you as much as you need her and who has a compatible personality and lifestyle to yours? After all, you’ll be spending your lives together. At the very least, they’ll be your roommate. In many ways though, it is more akin to being married – in sickness and in health, till death do you part. Think, before you adopt, then love them as unconditionally as they will love you. Similarly, do not adopt a cat out of pity because it makes you feel good. They honestly do not need your pity – just your love. You owe it to them and yourself to make the right decision and consider the needs of both parties involved.
Arwen and Ilse, thank you so much for taking the time to be with us today. I think everyone can learn from the things you two have said. You are both amazing, and I am so happy to be able to call you my furiends! Thanks again, and Happy #WobblyWednesday!
Raising awareness for animals with special needs of all varieties is one of our biggest passions, and we would love to do that by showcasing your pet. If you have a special needs animal or know of one that we should feature, please contact us.