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Life Chez Dee Episode #52: Pablo "The Bionic Black Cat"

Those who are already reading my blogs and following me on social media, will already be aware that one of my kittens has been through the mill a bit recently.

I first discovered Pablo had hurt himself when I’d let both of them play in the garden outside. Claude had only just decided he liked going in the garden .. in fact they’d both only been going in the garden for a couple of weeks, and then only for a few minutes at a time. I’d been supervising … well not supervising as such, but I had accompanied them in the garden. I was hoping, as they were still little that they wouldn’t want to wander. I was nervous about letting them out at all as it was all rather horrid last summer when our beautiful Nico got knocked down in our road by the Post Van. The lady was rather distraught, it was unintentional, but I can’t help feeling that she was maybe not concentrating fully or was on her phone … I’ll never know, but in any event, it doesn’t bring my beautiful cat back. He was discovered by a neighbour, and it was Justin who had to pick him up from the road … the van had killed him outright.

I thought as these two kittens were brothers who were very close, that they may stick together in the garden, have a play, and then come in … maybe not wander, especially if I stayed with them. Well that was my theory. Anyway, this particular day they were outside playing … wildly … as they usually do. They’re only 8 months old, they’re little still, they’re silly, and they’re even sillier when they’re together. It was a cold day, and I thought as they were just running around in the garden and having a sniff in the borders in between playing hide and seek, that I’d just pop in to make myself a brew to take out there. I’d no sooner put the kettle on, than Claude had jumped in the kitchen window, and I could hear Pablo crying outside, under the window.

I thought initially he was crying for his brother to join him in the garden again. They always seemed eager for the other to be with them outside. But I soon discovered that the crying was because he’d hurt his leg somehow, and couldn’t really walk very well, let alone jump back inside the house through the kitchen window.

I brought him inside, and it was very apparent that he’d hurt himself quite badly, and he managed to crawl underneath a chair in the sitting room whilst I phoned our local vet.

It was a locum vet he saw that day … who straight away said that the leg was broken and that he’d be keeping him in overnight, and to do some xrays under general anaesthetic. He called me in the following day to tell me the results, and to discuss what needed to happen now. Our vets weren’t able to perform the surgery necessary to fix the leg, and after making phone calls to Manchester, Cheshire and Liverpool, it was only the University of Liverpool who came back to say that they were able to see Pablo and do the necessary surgery.

Liverpool University Small Animal Hospital, for those who don’t know, is on the Wirral, which is a bit of a trek to get to. I felt happy, and confident, though in their abilities and that Pablo was to be under their care and expertise. I drove over on the Monday … four days after Pablo’s accident, and met with one of the vets who gave a very thorough illustrated explanation of what she proposed for Pablo. She explained to me that many vets were only able to do femoral head excisions, which in layman’s terms means that they would have removed the top of the femur, which would leave the cat with a very severe limp for the rest of his life. The University, however, had the expertise to fix the broken bone and do a full hip replacement for Pablo. She explained that since many vets are unable to perform this surgery, and given that they don’t have many cats who require this surgery, there wasn’t any available data to give us any idea of the success statistics of this operation. We went through the usual risks of implant failure, infection, bone fracture, pelvic fracture and so on.

I knew I needed to give Pablo the chance of a new fully functioning leg … he was 8 months old … he needed the mobility which this surgery would provide for him. We knew the cost of the surgery wasn’t going to be cheap, but we did have insurance to cover these costs.

They needed to do further xrays, again under a general anaesthetic, since it had been four days since the last ones were taken, and they needed to check that the break and the injury was the same, and hadn’t changed since his last xrays. They kept Pablo in overnight, and rang me the following day to update me that all was the same, and they would plan to go ahead with the surgery, which was likely to be on the Thursday, but that they would keep him in the meantime, for monitoring, and for pain relief.

I couldn’t fault the care, compassion, efficiency, ability or communication I received from the University. I was called every morning, and every evening with updates on Pablo’s wellbeing, and then any updates on his treatment. Students tended to ring me in the morning, with the teacher or Professor ringing in the evenings.

The surgery went very well indeed. I was convinced that the students would be fighting to be allowed in to watch this operation, given that it was so unusual for a cat to undergo … but to minimize the risk of infection they kept numbers in the operating theatre to a minimum, but filmed the operation for teaching purposes.

Every day I had reports as to what a lovely cat he was. I knew they’d love him. Such a friendly, playful, affectionate cat. You only needed to stroke him, or even say his name and he’d be purring, wanting to be with you, sitting on you, cuddling you. Anyway, he clearly won the affections of all the nursing staff there.

Pablo was doing so well after surgery, but they kept him in an extra day just to make sure that all was well, after all it was a rather major operation he’d had done. We went to collect him on the Saturday evening, and brought him home with painkillers and antibiotics to administer.

Getting tablets down these kittens had never been an issue for me. I’d “raid” a couple of the Fridge Raiders which I had in for the boys packed lunches. Squish a tablet inside them and they were eaten no problems … straight down, barely touching the sides. It was late when we picked Pablo up, and I knew that I didn’t have any fridge raiders at home. We stopped on the way home to pick up a MacDonalds takeaway for Oliver who was wanting something to eat, and I saw a Spar shop next door. I asked Justin to call in there to see if there were any fridge raiders for sale, or failing that get some mini sausages. Sausages is what he came back with, but clearly these weren’t so great … I don’t think any mini sausages are great personally; there’s something about them … I won’t touch them! And neither would Pablo! So he’s either a sausage connoisseur and Spar sausages were just not up to scratch, or he was still feeling pretty off colour from the painkillers and surgery and was just off his food … although, I would add, that Claude wouldn’t eat them either. I figured that if the cats weren’t eating them, then neither should the kids, so the sausages went in the bin! Although I was worried about having to open his mouth and pop the tablets straight down, this is what I had to resort to. I was worried too about needing to get a firm hold on him … I didn’t want to apply any pressure which would make him sit in a position which wasn’t comfortable given what he’d been through.

It’s now two weeks since his surgery, and he’s doing really well. Unfortunately for him he’ll be in a cage for a good few weeks more … he’s not allowed to jump … and the only way of stopping a cat from jumping is to cage them. What I find quite incredible is how much of the play fighting they can both do through the bars .. both of them not being able to resist a quick swipe at the other … which is yet another reason that Pablo needs to stay in the cage … I can’t risk any of the play scrapping they get up to. It’s nice to see them interacting though. When we first brought him home Claude was not a happy kitten … Pablo clearly smelled a bit funny … he gave him a wide berth and there was plenty of growling and hissing going on. Worried that they wouldn’t get along I moved Claude’s food bowls next to the cage, so that they were eating next to each other. I also let Claude go into the cage … under supervision … so they could interact a little. All seems as normal as it can be now … well as normal as it can be with one of them in a cage which is taking over my lounge. It’s huge. Thanks to a friend for the loan of this cage … large enough for two big dogs … I felt happier that it was of a size where Pablo could walk around somewhat. I thought if he was confined to a cage for at least 8 weeks then he should have a bit of room to move around. I’ve linked another smaller cage to it, so he has a different room for his litter.

It’s a long haul … for me too, as it’s not doing my back any great favours crawling in and out of the cage I can tell you … but one I’m sure will be worth it in the long run for him. He may have lost one of his nine lives, but Pablo is definitely one lucky black cat. Hopefully his other 8 lives will see him through to a ripe old age, and he continues to be under the watchful eye of Liverpool University as he’s now taking part in a study being organised by the Professor who performed the surgery. She is wanting him to be on the hip register, and they will monitor his health and capability for the next 20 or so years.

He’ll probably be forever known as “the bionic cat” … “We can rebuild him; we have the technology”!

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