Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Oh, Lenore.

Lenore, a 7-8 week old brown tabby was found as a lone kitten in a feral colony. She was collected by a local concerned neighbor and turned in to St Francis. When she arrived in the transport box, she had made herself about as small as she could manage. Since she was going to be paired with Annabel Lee as a roomie, I picked another Poe name for her: Lenore. When I picked her up and held her against me, the purring began.

Once the lady who delivered Lenore left, I started a general exam to get an overview of her condition.First, she was really, really dirty and gritty and second, she had the single worst ear mite infestation I have ever seen in my life. When I gently lifted her ears, there was a solid mass of black. Ear mite frass, wax, debris... in short, a mess. I could not see any of her ear canal on either ear. She was probably just about deaf from the blockage. And, we were off to the sink.

I spend the next hour cleaning her ears. Using swabs, tweezers, warm water and an irrigation bulb I worked away at layer after layer of black muck. I am certain this was uncomfortable. I gave Lenore lots of breaks and allowed her to shake her head between sections of the cleaning. This allows the cat to get some of the liquid out of their ears but has the secondary helpful yet gross effect of helping to eject ear funk. I worked to the point that the major plugs had been cleared from her ear canals. Half a box of cotton swabs and an hour and a half later, I was pretty sure she needed to be done with bathing for the night. 
What I discovered under all the grit and dirt was a rather pretty brown tabby. After the shockingly long bath session, I burrito rolled her in a towel and held her for the next hour and a half as she dried off and warmed up. She purred the entire time. 

When she had finally reached a state of dry-ish, it was off to the Kittenarium for the evening. During the bath I had noticed that her tail was at an odd angle and when she was finally clean and dry I could get a better look. Now that Lenore had decided I was not going to murder her or drown her in the sink, she seemed to think I was pretty ok and let me get some decent pictures.

So, yeah, tails aren't supposed to have right angles. That was a problem. I handled the tail carefully but she didn't seem to be in any pain. I concluded that her caudal vertebra were completely dis-articulated, meaning parts of her tail were no longer internally attached to her spine. That's a problem. When a piece of a body receives that level of trauma, not only are bones broken, buy often nerves and blood supply are affected too. A tail without a blood supply can become necrotic, which is not only fascinatingly stinky, but also super dangerous.

After careful inspection, I found that the tail had no open wounds but appeared to be damaged in three places. Two obvious breaks at the end of the tail, covered in scabs, and above that another section of scabbing with matted fur. Lenore carefully kept her tail underneath her while walking.

On the next morning, Friday, I contacted the charity that for which I foster and received approval to make a vet visit for Lenore. I called the vet and explained the situation and got us an appointment for 3pm on Sunday. Hooray, right?

Then I got home from work and went to check on my charges. Annabel and Lenore both wanted attention so I picked up Lenore and held her against my chest as Annabel curled up in my lap. Yay, happiness and purring. Then I felt a warm and moist feeling seeping through my shirt. I figured I had been peed on and lifted Lenore off of me. Nope, not pee. Urine would have been less alarming. One of Lenore's scabs had cracked open. I could see inside her tail.

Still holding Lenore I called the vet and had our appointment moved up to the next morning. After the call I took a close look at the tail wound and found that, yes, the caudal vertebra was internally severed. Everything below the wound was no longer connected to the spine or musculature. Basically, the tail was attached with skin, scabs and fur. Awesome...

After consulting with the Vet we decided that I should bandage our gal up for the night so she wouldn't get any new particulates into the wound (like cat litter) especially because she was nearly dragging her tail behind her, unable to hold it out of the way because it was broken. My friend Troy dropped by to lend me a hand. In short, don't ever try to bandage a wound on an animal without a second pair of hands. It can go sideways pretty quickly. Troy was a champ, and perhaps because he is 6'5" and a big man, Lenore mostly just stared and him and didn't try to take off.

I trimmed off some fur, applied a non-stick pad, wrapped the tail in gauze and then surgical taped the whole thing in place. All during this, Lenore didn't seem to exhibit signs of pain, meaning her nerves to the area are likely damaged and she wasn't feeling any discomfort.

I set Miss Pathetic back in the Kittenasium and we all settled in for the night. She ate, drank and played with Annabel like nothing was wrong. In the morning, we were off to Westchase Veterinary Center & Emergency. This Vet center is a partner for the foster charity. The techs and vet staff are amazing and kind.

We hung out in a room for a bit. Lenore was a champ, purring so much that Dr. Barr could even listen for heart sounds because the kitten was purring too loudly. Dr Barr wanted to take a closer look at the tail and have her ears cleaned some more and we headed to the back. The vet and techs shaved down Lenore's tail and discovered that the end was indeed held in place with scab and matter fur. As they cleaned the area, more of the tail began to detach. By the time they had finished the cleaning, Lenore was about 4 inches shorter.


You have been warned... so, here's Lenore's slightly shorter tail.

The end of Lenore's tail had become necrotic and likely would have fallen off in the next day or two. With the washing and cleaning, we just hastened the process along. The dead tail end stunk to high heaven and I think were all relieved when it fell away.

It was pretty gross, but I knew we were in good hands when all the vet techs were entirely fascinated by the broken off tail end and tail stump. Through the process, Lenore purred. The above picture shows her with ears still up, sporting her new sassy shorty tail stump.

Dr Barr gave Lenore a shot of antibiotic and anti-inflammatory medication and decided to let that work and knock down the infection before more was done. Another portion of Lenore's tail will be amputated up to a point where there is healthy skin that can be sutured shut over the tail. Right now, she has a stump that is slowly scabbing over. I clean the stump a couple of times daily and Lenore doesn't notice more than that I am keeping her from playing, napping or eating. She's a pretty fly little cat.

She plays, she eats, she naps and she purrs. And she's tough as hell. Someone is going to be a very lucky human when Lenore is done with being broken and heads off to a new home. Someone is going to be very, very lucky indeed. For now, she's clearly doing hard time...

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