Sick widdle puddy tat.
December 8, 2006 12:52 PM   Subscribe

What the heck was wrong with my mom’s cat?

It’s been a very strange couple of weeks for my mom’s cat, LeeLee. A week ago Sunday, he began “acting sick” (my mom’s words). He was lethargic; one of his eyes was dilated, with no appetite, and didn’t seem to be drinking water. His stool was normal looking, and his nose was cold; other than his lethargy, the one dilated pupil, lack of appetite or desire to drink water, he had no physical symptoms of illness.

When he hadn’t improved by the next day, Mom took LeeLee to the vet. They did a full exam (with blood work) and found nothing physically wrong with him, and nothing out of the ordinary about his blood. His lethargy was much worse; at this point he was basically a limp dishrag vaguely in the shape of a cat. Also, both pupils were dilated.

The vet said that it was probably a neurological problem, and that there was nothing else they could do other than a CT scan (I almost typed “cat scan”…) to look inside his noggin. The cost for this would be around $2,000. Mom lives on a fixed income, and we aren’t what one might call “wealthy”, or “well-off”, or “comfortable”…more like “two or three paychecks away from food stamps”. The vet bill was already at $300, which is what my mom spends on groceries in two months. We prepared to say goodbye to LeeLee. He’s basically her only company; as she’s in Texas, and I’m in Chicago, and she has few friends.

We had a tearful discussion of how to handle things if he did not improve within a period of time, and I even started looking at adoption websites to try and find her another cat, as that’s often the best way to deal with the grief of losing a beloved pet.

After I hung up the phone, I started doing research on feline neurology, which led me to research on coma recoveries, which led me to research on stroke recovery. His symptoms seemed to match that of a stroke-induced coma. One of the treatment methods that researchers have studied for helping coma victims recover involves yelling at the patient, as if you are in danger and are in need of assistance, or even in a threatening manner. The theory is that if you can wake up the “primal brain”, you can speed the recovery/re-routing of the broken neural pathways.

I called my mom, and told her about the theories; and we figured, what could it hurt? So she started yelling at LeeLee in the same voice she might use if she was scolding him for being naughty.

For the first time in days, he picked up his head and looked at her.

She continued the “scolding” for several hours. During this time, he got up, walked around, and ate yogurt off of her finger. She was also able to get him to drink using an eyedropper.

By the next morning, one of his pupils was no longer dilated. By that afternoon, both pupils were normal. By the next day, he was eating and drinking on his own. As of last night, he is completely recovered.

My theories:

- He was in a stroke-induced coma, and was brought out of it via “scream therapy” to awaken his primal brain, which healed the damaged neural pathways.

- He hit his head and was suffering from a major concussion which the vet did not detect.

- He ate something he shouldn’t have (mom doesn’t have plants or flowers indoors, and he can’t get to them on her deck, or at least shouldn’t be able to; she does take acetaminophen for pain, but is pretty careful not to drop the pills), and was suffering through poisoning symptoms; which the vet did not detect.

- He had a virus which the vet did not detect.

Does anyone have any thoughts? Possibilities I haven’t considered? Also, is there any way I can use this information to help others who might have similarly sick kitties in the future, maybe some sort of research program that could document his illness and recovery? Thanks!
posted by weirdoactor to Pets & Animals (7 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
it sounds like the cat had a stroke, my cat behaved in some similar ways after he had one but it was very serious and we had to put him to sleep. I'm glad LeeLee is getting better
posted by estronaut at 1:49 PM on December 8, 2006

i don't know what was wrong with your moms cat, but i think what you did was pretty awesome and i'm very happy the kitty is better.
posted by jessica at 2:40 PM on December 8, 2006

Sorry, not an answer but for some reason this story made me cry. I am glad the kitty is ok. Way to do your research!
posted by stormygrey at 3:16 PM on December 8, 2006

The pupils dilating sequentially like that is often a sign of brain herniation from swelling of the brain; if the brain swells enough it can squeeze the oculomotor nerve where it crosses the tentorium cerebelli. At least that's how it works in people; I don't know if cats' brains are that different.

A stroke big enough to cause that much swelling would be tough to make a full recovery from; my guess is a virus causing meningitis and/or encephalitis. My guess is that by the time kitty started to recover, the brain swelling had started to go down. Cats can certainly get meningitis; I know a lovely cat who had meningitis as a kitten and is charmingly deaf and spastic as a result.

I'm skeptical about the screaming, but not completely unconvinced.
posted by ikkyu2 at 4:00 PM on December 8, 2006

I've had a cat do the whole pupil-dilation, limp-dishrag kind of thing. In this instance, it was narrowed down to a possible spider (or, less probably a snake) bite. It can take that long to the venom to pass out of its system. Being furry little people, it's awful hard to locate a bite spot even if you get a friend and go over every damn inch of cat.

After a week, the moggy was back to its usual spazzo self and lived for another 6 years - finally passing away at the age of about 19.

I've also heard of cats receiving electric shocks from chewing on power cords (lamps and such) which can affect them in strange and interesting ways. Perhaps another thing to consider?

In any case, I'm glad you Mum's cat has pulled through. They're strange buggers but there's nothing like being owned by a cat!
posted by ninazer0 at 4:37 PM on December 8, 2006

I have no idea what was happening, but reading this makes my day. Thanks for posting.
posted by RussHy at 3:50 AM on December 9, 2006

I thought "stroke" by the end of your second paragraph before finishing the whole post. What ikkyu2 suggests also sounds plausible.

In any case, I'm glad LeeLee is doing better!
posted by deborah at 1:07 AM on December 10, 2006

« Older How can you have any meat if you haven't had your...   |   I was,were,will be confused! Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.