I have a feral colony, well two colonies actually. One location has 3 kitties and the other has 6 kitties.
Valentine is the kitty I consider the matriach of the East Side Gang. She is the one who appears to rule the other five kitties with a firm but loving paw. I started to notice that she was not eating with her usual gusto. Valentine is always there for food when I arrive. Always. Over the past 9.5 years she has become a more loving and trusting cat where humans are concerned. I can kiss the top of her sweet head and I can groom her. She is always rubbing against my legs. She started off suspicious of me back in 2003 when we first met a couple days before Valentine's Day and now she is one of the sweeter more trusting kitties in the colony.
I noticed that there was a problem about 6 weeks ago. She seemed to not be eating quite as well as before. Valentine was not one to miss a meal. She and her friend Jag are known as the Plumpkin Sisters. They both had a little more girth to them than one would expect of a "feral" cat.
Initially I wondered about a dental issue. Maybe she was having problems with her teeth which was the reason she seemed to be eating less. Then about 4 weeks ago she seemed to be ok but that didn't last long. I began to wonder if she had some kind of infection because her eyes were really runny but that can also indicate a dental issue. Over the next 5 or 6 days I was able to get an antibiotic into her by placing it in a wee bit of food. Then she stopped eating much of what I was giving her, including the pill.
Last Saturday I petted her, the full length of her body - usually I give her lots of head scritches behind the ears. O M G. She had lost an incredible amount of weight. I could feel every bone in her spine and her hip bones. Looking at her I couldn't really tell but touching her left no doubt. She had lost weight.
Today I planned to get her into a cat carrier and into the vet. I spoke with the vet a few days ago about bringing her in for a check up. The thing about feral cats is that if an appointment is made one cannot guarantee to keep that appointment. I have cancelled many appointments in the past. Thankfully any vet I have dealt with has been very understanding about last minute cancellations.
I arrived this morning with food and water and a cat carrier, along with my husband's motorcycle gloves which go up my arms half way to my elbows. Those gloves have come in handy over the years when dealing with feral cats and kittens. The East Side Gang is very trusting of me and the fact I had a large cat carrier didn't seem to phase them in the least. Within minutes of arriving to feed the six kitties, I was able to pick up Valentine and plunk her into the up ended cat carrier and close the door. She didn't even make a fuss.
On the drive to the vet clinic, which was about 20 minutes away, Valentine managed to get her front right claw caught on the door of the carrier. Every red light I tried to unhook it without success. I finally found a spot to pull over so I could help her get unhooked. Once that was taken care of she was very quiet in the carrier. The entire drive I was concerned about what we would find out. Did Valentine have FIV. Would I have to make a decision on my own about her future or lack of a future. I was prepared for the worst.
Valentine and I sat in the waiting room for an hour. Valentine was very calm and for the first time in the 9.5 years I have known this beautiful tabby I heard her meow. She didn't meow very much, just 5 or 6 words and she was quiet again. The vet said he suspected two possibilities, FIV or hyperthyroid and he didn't see anything wrong with her teeth. A blood test revealed she is not FIV positive. What a relief. It also revealed she does not have a thyroid issue. However, the vet said he wants to keep her overnight and would send the blood test off for further analysis because he still suspects a thyroid problem. I am to phone the clinic in the morning by which time they should have an answer.
If Valentine is hyperthyroid, well, we will just have to medicate her daily. I did it for over 12 years with my dear little CiCi and I will do it for sweet Valentine. At least I will give it the old college try. In the mean time Valentine is overnighting at the vet's office in air conditioned comfort. How fortunate for her on this recording breaking heat wave day.
I love my Valentine and all my feral kitties. We are thinking positive thoughts.