Cleo's Progress

One Cat's Struggle with Feline Hepatic Lipidosis

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Another cat with liver failure

When Cleo first got sick with fatty liver, or feline hepatic lipidosis, in November 2005, all of the stuff I learned about the disease made me think about another cat I once knew with liver failure. Although at the time I never looked into what type of liver failure it was or whether she could have been saved, I've often wondered since learning about feline hepatic lipidosis if I could have done something differently.

This is Sahara's story.

Sahara: A cat with liver failure

My ex-boyfriend and I adopted Sahara in 2003. We found her in a cage at Petco, one of the cats that they were adopting via a contract with a local shelter. She was a petite, frightened marmelade cat, and we fell in love with her instantly.

She was skinny and shedding like crazy at the Petco, but we didn't think much of it at the time. We took her home, and she went under the bed almost first thing. We thought she was probably just upset by the change and that she'd warm up to our other cats eventually.

She didn't.

We had her for about a week, and during that time she went from hardly eating to eating nothing at all. My old vet offered us a free new pet exam; one look at her yellow skin, and he told us she had liver failure.

My old vet wasn't exactly a kindred spirit when it came to animals (which makes me wonder why he was a vet). He basically told us she didn't have much chance, and that it wouldn't be worth it to us since we had just adopted her. (Basically, what he was saying is that it's only worth it to keep a cat alive if you have a sentimental attachment to it.) He didn't say anything about feline hepatic lipidosis or fatty liver disease, which is too bad — if I had the same information about Sahara's condition as I had about Cleo's, I probably would have tried to save Sahara.

On the vet's advice, we returned Sahara to the shelter. They were going to have their vet take a look at her. I called back several days later to ask after her, and they claimed that she died over the weekend, before they could get the vet in.

I actually rather think they put her to sleep, since — according to what I know now about feline hepatic lipidosis (fatty liver disease), I don't think Sahara was that close to not making it at the time.

The rest of our ordeal with that shelter is what makes me think they probably euthanized the cat and lied to us about it. Because they didn't refund pet adoption fees, the shelter allowed us to pick out another cat. We picked out a kitten who wasn't yet old enough to be adopted, they said, since he had to be neutered first. The technician told us it would several weeks before he was old enough, yet a few days later someone else called us and said they had neutered him and he'd be ready for pickup soon. When we arrived to pick him up, someone completely different told us he hadn't survived the surgery (since, of course, he had been too young).

I was really upset, and started making a scene about how both of the cats we tried to adopt from them had died. (Another woman who had adopted from them through Petco found out her cat had cancer, so after our experience Petco ended their contract with the shelter.) The shelter refunded our money on the spot, I'm guessing to shut me up (because there was someone there interested in adopting, who was beginning to look rather concerned).

With a shelter like this, that has no compunctions about adopting out sick animals and putting 7-week-old kittens under the knife, I just wouldn't be surprised if they also euthanized Sahara and told us she had died on her own.

I think about Sahara sometimes, because I now know how easily reversible feline hepatic lipidosis, or fatty liver disease, is. I'm sure that's what she had, probably from the stress of being in a cage in a pet store. If I had known then what I know now, would I have been able to save her?

Maybe, or maybe not — but regardless I think it's better to try your best to save a cat with fatty liver disease, rather than to suffer the feelings of regret and second-guessing later on.


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