Caring for a kitten with head injuries
24 March 2014
Well I picked up a new foster kitten from the vet last night. He is one poorly little chap:-( He was brought to the vet by a member of the public, and it looks as though his little face has met the back of a car. He has a split jaw, and his tongue and mouth are swollen and bruised. He can’t even lift his head up from the blanket. He’s had a little bit of attention to his mouth and teeth, and antibiotics and something to take away the pain, but he is still in shock so we are waiting for a couple of days before we decide what other treatment he might need. My job at the moment is to keep him warm and comfortable and to give him fluids (5ml warm water with some A/D dissolve in it) by syringe every hour. I hope I can do for him what he needs. I don’t know if he will survive.
Well, this morning I wasn’t sure if he would get through the day. He was barely conscious and panting very fast when I went in the first couple of times, but he had wriggled and moved the blanket aside so he was lying directly on the heat pad and I thought that might not being helping to keep him hydrated. He gurgled a bit when I tried to syringe the fluids into his mouth. I was a little bit worried about keeping his airways clear. I tried various techniques and decided the best option was to cup his head in my hand and try and syringe the water directly on to his tongue. He lapped and swallowed. After lunch when I went in… different cat! He was alert and could lift his head slightly to look at me and his breathing was normal. I managed to get about 7ml of the water and A/D solution into him – a bit messy but hey! I’ve called him Hero.
So far, so good… Hero raised his little head when he heard me come in. He is still very weak but at least he is alert now. I made the A/D solution in his syringe a bit stronger than yesterday and he took it quite well. His fur is still a bit matted and spiky from the accident and he had a bit of food around his face, so after he had eaten I decided to clean him gently with a tissue moistened in warm water. Just gentle little strokes like a mother cat cleaning its kitten. Immediately he responded with a soft purr which continued all the time I was cleaning him.
I have a slight suspicion that he may be finding it more difficult to use the right side of his body than the left but I may be seeing something that isn’t there. He is going to the vet for a re-assessment in about an hour. Fingers crossed he thinks his progress is good.
The vet's visit
OK, Hero has had some more antibiotics, and the vet is pleased that he is taking some food. He tried to get Hero to stand and it is clear that at the moment he can’t use his right front leg. There are two main possibilities for this. Either he has some brain damage, or a common injury in this type of accident is that the arm gets stretched and the nerves are torn. We are leaning more towards the latter at the moment but it is difficult to tell the extent of the damage in these early days. If it is the latter it can be fixed but it will take some time.
He has another appointment on Monday but in the meantime I need to get as much of the A/D into him as I can to build up his strength.
This is so hard – little man doesn’t want to eat his baby food And who can blame him?! I wouldn’t want to drink brown water either. He did try to stand up so I stood him in the litter tray in the hope that he might use it but no action.
The vet again
The vet is pleased with Hero’s progress. He isn’t de-hydrated, and he is starting to try and use the damaged arm a bit. He can stand up and turn around but not walk yet. I was worried that I wasn’t going to get enough food into him. He still isn’t eating from a saucer, but he is doing much better and taking more and a thicker solution than yesterday. And I even saw him lick himself clean where some of the food had dribbled on to his fur, although he still appreciates being bathed with a moistened cotton wool pad and purrs contentedly whilst I am doing that.
Aha! When I tried him earlier today with food on a saucer he turned away from it; tonight when I did the “before bed” feed he had his syringe and then staggered toward the saucer and ate from that too:-) I had to hold it to his mouth but at least he ate voluntarily. I wonder if the vet gave him some of his “magic potion” this morning? Often when I have had a kitten that is off its food he gives it an injection of something and miraculously they start to eat. Don’t know what’s in it though. Will have to find out.
Yes, this is better. Hero had his breakfast from a saucer – a spoonful of slightly diluted A/D and a spoonful of well-mashed Felix. He isn’t managing any lumps so I need to actually puree it next time.
Good effort, Hero! He has had about 3/4 of a pouch of liquidised Felix already today. We are down to 4 proper meals which is much easier to manage than hourly syringes. And he’s getting less messy and he can stand to eat which must make it more comfortable for him. He is also grooming himself and has had a small poo – ok it was on his bed but that is a start!
I’m starting to get a better insight into the extent of his head injury. The problem is with the right side of his body, so presumably trauma to the left side of his brain. Every time he stands, the messages to his right front leg are strengthening and he is slowly managing to teach himself to use it. It also seems that he currently has no vision on the right side, although the left is ok – he responds to a feather along the bars of the cage if it is to the left of him but stops as soon as it gets past the midline. Although he has his appetite back, I have to steer his head towards the saucer before he can start eating. It’ll be interesting to hear what the vet says tomorrow – hope it’s positive news.
Great news – the vet is absolutely delighted with Hero’s progress and doesn’t want to see him for another month:-) The bruising will take another week or two to subside. But as far as the brain trauma is concerned, given the great improvement in the use of his leg and the fact that he can now eat unassisted and poo and pee ok, we are anticipating steady progress over the next four weeks, although it is impossible to tell how far he will eventually get towards normality.
The main task now is to strengthen the neural pathways and help him re-learn to walk in a straight line, run and jump, and to use his eyes. Lots of play in fact.
Another week has gone by and Hero is finding his feet. He can find his food bowl unaided and eat pouches of Felix kitten food without it being mashed. He can find and use his litter tray properly and he is now free in the pen rather than confined to a cage so he can get lots of activity and play therapy. I started off making lots of straight runs along the pen for him with tunnels and boxes but I have cleared them away as I am fairly sure that the circle movement is largely a result of his vision rather than his brain telling him to do it. He can walk in a straight line around the sides of the pen but still tends to approach things by turning anti-clockwise and coming at them from sideways on.
At the moment there is no sight in his right eye (and he may also be deaf on the right side) and the field vision in his left eye is very narrow, but if you manage to propel a little ball or a fishing rod toy across his field of vision he runs in a straight line after it, but quickly loses it if it moves out of his eye line.
I was in the living room watching TV this evening and could hear a bit of clattering going on in the pen. On investigation where did I find Hero but on the worktop inching his way along the two inch wide ledge in front of the cage!! He must have climbed up the wire mesh. Little monkey!
I’m a little bit on the low side today. I suppose I had hoped we would start to see a bit of an improvement in the little boy’s vision but no sign of anything yet. I want to be able to spend more time with him and play with him more. Also he loves to be stroked and cuddled and purrs if you make a fuss of him but yesterday and today he has grizzled at me if have picked him up – ok it was probably because I was stopping him from doing something he wanted to do and maybe his feral side is starting to recover. Is that a good thing? It might be…
Was trying to think what best to do for the little ticks that Hero still has. The vet removed a big one last time we went but I have since found several smaller ones. Have given him Frontline as that says it will kill ticks (Advocate, which we usually use for parasites, doesn’t mention ticks).
Today Hero’s achievement was to climb up and down the mesh door on to the worktop. He hasn’t been on to the worktop since his first attempt a couple of weeks ago, but there was a lot of clutter up there, difficult for him to negotiate. Today I removed the cage as he obviously doesn’t need that any more, and cleared away some other bits and pieces, and had the litter tray on the worktop to clean it.
Hero had been following me round as I did chores and he had his head tilted towards the worktop to try and see what I was doing. Finally his curiosity got the better of him and he scrambled up the mesh door in front of the washing machine and strutted around on the counter purring away. I was curious to see if he would manage to get back down by himself (2 weeks ago I had to lift him down), so I walked back towards the kitchen and stood back and watched. He put one foot tentatively over the edge and then proceeded to walk down the mesh head first, jumping the last foot or so. Way to go Hero! After that there was no stopping him and he was up and down like a yo-yo! I’ve put his bed up there now.
This is much better for him as he can sit on the worktop and watch things out the window. He can definitely see birds and fluttering leaves.
Now might be a good time to re-cap what he can do:
- Go straight to his food and water bowls
- Drink and eat normally, including un-mashed Felix kitten food and dry kibble
- Go straight to his litter tray
- Poo and pee normally
- Walk around a room negotiating furniture and obstructions
- Follow a little ball rolling in his field of vision
- Use a scratching post for claw maintenance
- Play spontaneously
- Enjoy a cuddle and a fuss
His vision is still quite limited. It doesn’t seem to stop him doing anything! My main difficulty with him at the moment is that he pounces on my hand if it suddenly comes into his line of vision thinking it is a toy.
Uh oh… I’ve discovered why he was objecting to being picked up (and is a bit off his food)… he has round worms and probably tummy ache. I knew, like most kittens, he probably arrived with worms but was putting off treating him until the Frontline I gave him for his ticks had worked through his system. Anyway have now dispatched the offending creatures so he’ll feel a lot better tomorrow.
We were very nervous this morning, Hero and I. We were going to the vet to for a review of progress. Have we done enough that he is ready to go to a new home? I think he can have a good quality of life and would make a lovely companion if we can find a special home for him, but would the vet agree?
And it’s great news! The vet says yes.
We will have to find a special home for this special kitten. I’ll give some more thought as to what kind of home would be wonderful for him…
The little man had his first vaccinations today
A new home?
Someone was coming to visit Hero today, but they cancelled their appointment. I’m glad the person did that rather than continue with the visit even if they had second thoughts or concerns. Although in lots of ways he is a normal playful kitten, he does require a bit of patience and understanding of his requirements, and that isn’t everyone’s cup of tea.
Anyway before they cancelled I took Hero to the vet to iron out a couple of small concerns of my own – I don’t want new owners to have any extra issues to worry about. The first was that he drinks a lot more than I would expect so we did a urine sample last night – I replaced the cat litter in his tray with Katkor. Katkor is a non-absorbent litter substitute made of small beads (ceramic, glass?) – the cat uses it like any other litter but the urine drains to the bottom and can be syringed up with the supplied pipette and transferred to a test tube which can easily be transported
Thankfully although the urine was a bit dilute, there were no problems with the pathology so the vet thinks there is nothing to be concerned about.
I also asked the vet to give him a thorough examination to rule out pain as a possible cause of his feistiness when he is picked up. Again no signs of anything obviously wrong. He is just a spirited little boy – which is just fine, Hero. I’ll keep on trying to increase his familiarity with being handled and cuddled.
Well, I have had Hero for two months now and he had his second vaccinations today. Only thing left to do is neutering, which I think we’ll leave for a few more weeks (although he is just about old enough now if we wanted to do it).
There’s been a noticeable improvement this week in the length of time he is willing to be picked up an cuddled – he purrs and snuggles under my chin which is delightful. He still tells me when he has had enough!
A new home for Hero
Well, this is what it is all for. Hero went to his new home last night:-) His new family were specifically looking for a cat that needed a bit of extra care and attention. They were so excited to meet him and will be able to give him lots of time and company. He has everything a little kitten could desire and was already playing with his new toys last night and had a good night’s sleep in his new fluffy bed. Job done, I’d say
Article by Jackie Glew, Cats Protection fosterer
Taken from my fostering blog at http://jackies-cats.jtglew.com