Thursday, May 19, 2011


20 points to whoever can name that movie.

Okay, so I did something the other night, and I thought I was doing the right thing, but now I'm not so sure, so I'd like to ask your opinion.

As those of you who have been reading along know, my cat, The Runt, died suddenly of heart failure on April 21. He had a mild congenital heart murmur, which I didn't think was a major concern; obviously, I was as wrong as you can get.

The vet suggested I have his sister, Little Girl, tested for heart disease, as it tends to be hereditary. Sure enough, although Little Girl does not have a murmur, she does have heart disease and is currently under treatment.

Here's the thing: This condition is both congenital, meaning they were born with it, and hereditary, meaning it runs in their family.

There were two other kittens in their litter.

From left: Fluffy, Tuffy, The Runt, and Little Girl.

On Tuesday night, knowing it was a long shot because local shelters tend not to keep long-term records, I called the shelter from which I had fostered and then adopted The Runt and Little Girl. I called during shelter hours but my call went to voice mail, so I left a message explaining that I had adopted two kittens in the summer of 2008 who had developed heart disease; I knew that they had two littermates, who might benefit from testing and treatment.

When I got home from work last night, there was a message on my voicemail. It was a woman from the shelter; she thanked me for my information and said that they did, indeed, keep records; she would try to find out who adopted Fluffy and Tuffy and let them know that the cats should be tested for heart disease.

And at first I was, like, Yay! Maybe those cats' lives can be prolonged! It's a good thing!

But now I'm, like, how would I feel if the situation were reversed? What if the past month had never happened, and The Runt and Little Girl were perfectly fine, and all of a sudden I got a call from the shelter informing me that they both could have a deadly disease that would kill them if they didn't get testing and treatment right away? I'd be devastated.

So know I don't know if I did a good thing, or a really shitty thing. What do you think?


Anonymous said...

Right thing: It is always good to have information-yes, it may cause some distress for the owners at first, but if they follow through and prolong the lives of the cats then it's worth it. If one of the cats already succombed to the disease it may help relieve the owner's mind. Worst case: the other cats are negative and the owners out $ but at least they know.

Badass Nature Girl said...

I think you did the right thing. You can't go back, the month with The Runt and Little Girl DID happen, and you even said a few times that maybe things were caught in time for Little Girl. By contacting the shelter, and them hopefully finding the others, those families can be spared the trauma of a sudden death over some thing they didn't see coming and maybe a cats life can be prolonged and made more manageable.

rockygrace said...

You know, I just feel like with The Runt, I didn't have enough information. The local vet was telling me that even WITH the meds, it might not make a difference. The cardiologist, on the other hand, while examining Little Girl, told me that while, yes, there is a chance of dropping dead while on the meds, they ABSOLUTELY make a difference, by making it easier for the heart to pump. I also learned from the cardiologist that there are all kinds of DIFFERENT heart defects, with varying prognoses, which the local vet did not explain. The local vet also, by not coming right out and SAYING what the heart meds would cost, led me to think the cost would be outrageous, when actually, it's gonna be about as much as my monthly phone bill.

I'm not trying to justify the decision I made with The Runt; I just wish I had more info at the time. I'm hoping that the owners of the other two cats can take the news and use it to their and their cats' benefit, and that their vet is more straightforward with them than my local vet was.

Oh, and Little Girl goes back to the local vet next Tuesday for a checkup, and I am ABSOLUTELY going to have a (polite, of course) conversation with her (the vet, not Little Girl) about how she might better educate other people in my position. If she thinks I'm a jerk, I don't give a shit. I'm on a MISSION now. Heh.

~~Silk said...

I am conflicted, so I'll just play Devil's Advocate. I'd be afraid that if the owners are informed, they might be the type who will say, "Don't want to put up with this crap", and drop the kitty off somewhere - let's hope at least it would be a shelter - where they probably would get neither the necessary medical care nor the love of a family.

I did have this situation once, when I adopted a loving little very pregnant Russian Blue, Susie, who delivered five kittens. I kept two, Tigger and Peggy, and found homes for the other three among the parents of my daughter's nursery school class.

Several months later, Tigger died of feline leukemia, and Susie soon followed. The kittens had the congenital rather than the infectious form (?? Well, that's what the vet said.) Peggy was diagnosed with it, but lived in apparent health for six or seven more years. I didn't inform the adopting families. I figured they'd find out when they took the kitties to the vet for neutering, and, frankly, I didn't have the courage.

the queen said...

I say the only thing worse than having a heart defect is having an undiagnosed heart defect. Right thing, especially since the other family can be fatalistic, or in denial, or they can deal.

rockygrace said...

I know it's a total cop-out, but I feel like, well, I told the shelter. What they do with the info is up to them.

I know, I know, pass the buck, but I just couldn't not say ANYTHING.