Cat Tale Therapy

Lancelot

Stories About Cats

Information About Feline Hyperthyroidism

Forrest D. Poston

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Lancelot, HyperT, and Me

The Cat Who Learned to Purr

Lancelot on laundry

Lancelot earned his name the moment that I saw him, which was shortly after I heard the mewling. That was also when I remembered the box I had built in case the feral cat we'd seen needed a spot during what turned out to be a tough winter. The box was up near the patio door, which was also where the mewling came from. Mewling in Spring means kittens, and I remembered that I had meant to put the box away since weather no longer required it. Well, that idea was as moot as it could get.

I walked up toward the box, but mama was no where in sight. I leaned over for a good look at found a bundle of eyes-closed kittens in the back. In the entrance was the runt of the litter, also eyes still closed, now trying to hiss and tell this giant he couldn't see that he would protect his siblings. Lancelot the Bold.

At that point, I spotted mama down in the yard watching me, so I went inside. Her children spotted, she began moving the litter. Over the next few weeks she moved the litter to and from the box several times, and Lance as runt of the litter was always last, sometimes alone in the box for an hour or more. When we finally had a chance to try connecting with the kittens, Lance was the only taker, partly because he adored Sergeant Major, often rubbing against the door when “The Mister Cat” sat just inside.

After we took Lancelot in, we began to learn just how life in that cold, damp spring had affected him. What passed for purring was just rapid breathing, and a meow was usually a soundless movement of the mouth with the occasional slight, “eh.” Ever earning his name, Lance wasn't daunted. The rapid breathing began to take on a heavier quality, and after a few years, you could hear a bit of “purr” if you put your ear close enough. By the time he was ten, he had a real purr that you could hear from several feet away, but his voice was still, “eh.”

Lancelot on keyboard

Lance was about 15 when his weight loss moved past the “just getting old” point to the “we have to do something” point, and we discovered that he had both feline hyperthyroidism and stage two chronic kidney disease. He also had some digestive issues that just didn't want to respond to treatment, and even though we had the thyroid and kidneys controlled, his weight continued to slip from a high of about 14 pounds to the critical point around 7 pounds. With help from multiple vets, a few medicines, and a long assortment of herbs, vitamins, and related approaches, after two years, we had him back over 12 pounds.

We gained almost 6 extra years beyond the diagnosis, and Lance made it to about 21 years old with a lot of crises and changes along the way as he calmly accepted subcutaneous fluids, transdermal methimazole on his ears, and eventually learned to accept having multiple pills shoved down his throat several times a day.

Lance needed a snack around 3AM to control stomach acid, and I usually gave him a few bites on one of my “getting older” nighttime bathroom trips. If the hunger hit first, Lance would jump from the back of the loveseat to a counter a few feet away. If that didn't wake me, he would start jingling the keys hanging on the wall. All in all, it was a good system, and we were mostly happy.

However, there were still times when Lance would take a bad turn, needing syringe-feeding, steam treatments in his tent, or other aids. Once again, I would fear the worst was coming, Lancelot, onwardbut a night would come again when I heard those jingling keys, and I was delighted to be awakened. On we went with Lance still purring and trying to meow. When he was about 20, he finally managed a two-syllable squeak, and I was wondering if someday his first word would be his swansong.

The time came when he took another bad turn, and none of the old tricks worked. Neither did any of the new ones, and a trip to the vet confirmed that the fight was done. His kidneys were completely gone. There would be no meow, and there would be no keys jingling in the night signaling a return to health. The bold runt of a feral mama had lived a life worthy of a place at Arthur's roundtable, a life questing to be better, to overcome. What comes when spirit and body go their separate ways? I don't know, but I hope that somewhere Lancelot is telling his stories in full voice with a jingle and a purr.

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We currently have quite a few fur-kin that we care for or help care for. All were strays at one time, and some have extra issues with one asthmatic, one FIV positive, one FeLV positive, and one hyperthyroid. The information and stories are free to all, and that especially applies to the medical material since I don't want to be accused of practicing without a license, but donations are certainly appreciated.

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Semi-Requisite Disclaimer

No, I'm not a vet. I'm a guy who has lived most of his life with cats and who has watched too many die sooner than they should simply because there was something that I didn't know. The information and opinions here are not intended to replace working with a vet, and if you have a hyperthyroid cat (or think you might), I strongly suggest that you join one of the groups listed below. I will sometimes disagree with your vet, but I cannot guarantee that anything here will work for you. What I ask is that you do some real thinking. I'll give references and reasons, but those aren't enough. Check what I say. The vet has a degree, but that isn't enough, either. Check what the vet says. Cats are quirky, something you've probably noticed, and that can make diagnosing and treating them a combination of science, empathy, experimentation, and luck.

For More Help

The two groups listed below are almost certainly the largest accumulations of experience on the subject of feline hyperthyroidism and related problems. Some of the members have been working in the groups for many years, gathering information from many sources in addition to the results seen in the groups themselves. In addition, the people in the groups are largely those who will understand what you're going through, not the type to say, "just a cat". Even if things are going well on your hyperT adventure, I really suggest joining one of the groups. For what it's worth, I spend more time on the Facebook group but try to stay involved with both.

Facebook Hyperthyroid Cats Group Yahoo Feline Hyperthyroid Group