Trials & Tribulations of BART

“Bart!” a video created by our friends over at Meow as Fluff! Check them out Meow as Fluff Site

Bart came to my house the late summer/early fall of 2017 from a local veterinary clinic where a friend worked who called me in a panic one afternoon alerting me to “two small sick kittens that were dumped off at the clinic” — a small, yet affectionate calico (we later named Taloola) and a terrified, mousey black kitten (who later became Bart) both were riddled with fleas and both had a RAGING upper respiratory infection that caused their eyes to be crusted shut with thick greenish yellow discharge as well as sneezing/audible breathing and the occasion booger bubble.

My friend informed me that the smaller black kitten seemed to have suffered the most damage — coming to them with a broken back leg (they suspect something attempted to eat him judging by the puncture wounds matching up with the now healing break), a hernia and his left eye had ruptured totally – no doubt due to the ongoing, untreated upper respiratory they both were suffering.

My friend prepared me for the worst when it came to the little black kitten – she informed me that he was not nice or affectionate and anyone that adopted him would have to understand and agree that he would just simply “live” out his days within the home and may never actually warm up to people. The veterinary clinic agreed to continue medical care/vaccinations and eventually “fixing” them both just as long as I agreed to foster them temporarily.

Reluctantly I agreed. Something in my gut was pulling me towards that sick, meek little black kitten that cowered beyond belief anytime anyone remotely came near him.

Luckily I went with my gut because it paid off in the end (mainly for Bart as he is now living his absolute best and happiest life!).

The veterinarian at this clinic did not believe Bart’s eye had ruptured yet (when indeed, it had) so they attempted to have me continue to place eye ointment on an eye that no longer was there (it was losing pressure quickly and seeped constantly) as well as a menagerie of antibiotics to help combat the gnarly URI he had (Taloola at this point had healed up nicely without any issue or chronic complications & now lives with her forever home not far from where we live!) all without any improvement or success.

When it came time to neuter Bart I brought him back to the veterinary clinic he had originally been dumped off at (the clinic that had agreed to assume all veterinary/medical care for BOTH Bart & Taloola) only to be informed that his bloodwork was showing his white blood cell count was well over 30,000 (a normal, healthy cats white blood cell count is roughly 4,900 to 20,00 depending on the cat’s age etc.) which indicated he had an infection “somewhere” and they were unable to neuter him.

Frustrated. I told them I could pinpoint where the infection was- his left ruptured eyeball. It needed to come out or that infection would continue to drain and he would never improve and his respiratory symptoms would continue without fail.

This particular veterinarian (who again, may I stress agreed upon me fostering these kittens to assume all veterinary/medical care for them) looked over the scared, miserable looking kitten only to reply to my infection discovery with, “we feel that since this kitten is simply a stray, it is financially irresponsible for us to remove that eyeball and with his bloodwork indicating an infection we also do not feel it best to neuter him either…”

Friends believe me when I tell you that as he was explaining that since this was “no one’s cat” and simply a “stray” that his clinic refused to care for the clearly obvious issue — something they had agreed they would do upon my acceptance to foster these two kittens — I saw RED.

At that point I had decided that this sad, sorry looking little black kitten was going to be MY KITTEN. It did not matter to me that he did not want to play or be affectionate. It did not matter to me that he hid most of the time and the only time I was able to corral him out from under the bed was when my husband and I played “defense” with a yard stick and a broom handle and gently coaxed him out from his hiding spot while the other prepared to grab him — all that mattered was that he was now SOMEONES’S CAT and would never have to worry again about where his next meal came from or if he would receive quality medical care or the fact he could no longer be written off as “simply a stray”. Bart was now MY cat and my newest addition to the ragtag band of misfits I had at home to love and care for.

[Needless to say Bart NEVER, EVER went back to the above mentioned veterinary clinic]

Eventually, EVENTUALLY Bart was able to get neutered (his hernia repaired while they neutered him) and his left eye removed (or the tattered remains of his left eye) and after a long, long road (with said veterinarian who removed his left eye “accidentally” leaving in his eye socket a piece of gauze and suture material so that eventually had to be corrected) he is now a happy, healthy, sweet, affectionate, ornery kitten who put his rough and rocky start to life behind him only to see better, loving and snack filled days ahead of him.

Bart was a “broken” black kitten with no type of personality or affection thus he was simply written off as just another stray, another hopeless and worthless cause but all he needed was for someone to be HIS advocate. For someone to not give up on him and to be soft spoken, compassionate, patient and kind with him. In time (and thousands of snackies later…) Bart realized that my husband and I were “OK people” and truly cared for his health and well-being. Bart then began to come up for cuddle time- with zero regards to personal space he would climb on top of your chest while you were in bed and sandwich his sweet little face against yours as he purred the most audible, soothing, sweet and satisfying purr one has ever heard before.

Bart has no idea that he is part of the “handicat” duo I affectionately rave about to anyone who will listen, in fact Bart is no different than my other cats living at home with us – he eats and drinks without issue, he runs and plays and has “question marks” (where his tail curls up into what looks like a question mark — this is how my husband and I know he is going to be the most playful/ornery) and I really believe he has NO clue that he should have two eyes instead of simply one (due to the severe URI he had suffered that caused his left eye to rupture but also left severe scar tissue covering his right eyeball. The veterinarian he see’s now and LOVES believes that Bart can see a little bit though how clearly he can see is up for debate).

Bart is part of the inspiration for “Bifford for President” because for as many adversities as Bifford has endured in his life Bart has battled just as many (if not more) and he is only four years old (Bifford is ten years old) and despite (at the time) not being “anyone’s cat” and “just a stray” he was still entitled to the SAME quality of care and standards of a cat who was not a stray and had a home. Bart is a living being worthy of good quality care and a good quality life. Between both of my “handicats” I had work to do as far as education & advocacy went (sadly enough most of my work focuses on veterinary clinics/staff that seem misinformed or upholding the stigma that surrounds these sweet babies).

Bart is the reason. Bart is MY reason why I stress to families to give that scared, sad kitten/cat a chance! If I would have looked at Bart that very first time and made a snap judgement then I would not have taken him home most likely. I had early on admitted to my husband that Bart was most likely going to be our “cellar dweller” – not wanting to be near us, not being affectionate or a “normal kitten” I had made it up in my mind that if he was okay not wanting our attention and spending his days hiding under furniture at least he was safe, indoors and getting regular meals and a nice warm bed in addition to regular, gold standard veterinary care.

Bart had proved me wrong and continued to inspire me to advocate and rally for these babies – the “broken” or the “scared”.

So I ask you to keep “fighting the good fight” when it comes to specially-abled animals! Be their voice! Speak up and speak out against any atrocities or ill informed stigma that envelope these sweet, special babies… you might be surprised to find your next animal “soulmate” waiting for you!

Meet Zif!

Meet Ziffel!

As a baby kitten he was hit by a car and suffered a broken pelvis and was dropped off at a local Veterinary Clinic to be euthanized 😢 until he fell in love with Linda (his mom)!

Ziff had suffered nerve damage in his one paw which caused him to chew at it! So for 13 years Linda religiously wrapped his paw to keep Zif from gnawing at it!

Zif had a normal, happy life all because Linda gave him the patience and empathy that he needed to thrive.

Special needs pets (and parents!) come in all special qualities but all require the same thing: love and patience!

Want to ask Linda a question about Zif and how she cared for him? Feel free to comment below or email us at PresidentBifford@gmail.com

#BiffordsBros

Meow As Fluff

Meow As Fluff

A HUGE thanks to Caitlin McAuliffe at Meow as Fluff for this beautiful write up and video for Bifford’s cause! You can visit them (also be sure to “like” them on Instagram and Facebook, too!) At http://meow.af/ or more Bifford specifically at: http://www.meow.af/bifford

Meet The Handsome Wobbly Cat Who Was Adopted And Returned Three Times Before Finding The Perfect Forever Home!

bifford feature
fluffy black rescue cat with cerebellar hypoplasia
fluffy black rescue cat with cerebellar hypoplasia

When Suzi Langer was asked to foster Bifford, a cat with cerebellar hypoplasia (CH), for the animal shelter near her home in Youngstown, Ohio, she didn’t have any experience caring for animals with special needs. However, when Suzi learned the fluffy black feline wasn’t thriving at the shelter, she reluctantly agreed to foster him.

“He was getting bullied and beat up on by the other cats, and he was depressed, lethargic, and not really eating,” remembers Suzi, so she picked him from the shelter in early 2014. “I opened the top of the worn green carrier to see two warm golden eyes staring back at me. Bifford sat there, quietly in the ‘turkey stance,’ and he seemed to almost be overwhelmed by his changing situation.”

However, when Suzi learned Bifford’s history, she quickly understood why he appeared uneasy. On October 9, 2011, Bifford and his litter mates were born with cerebellar hypoplasia, a non-progressive neurological condition that affects balance and coordination. “This may occur if a pregnant queen is vaccinated for feline distemper (FVRCP) using a ‘modified live virus’ vaccine,” explains Suzi, “or if the mother suffers trauma, malnutrition, or panleukopenia [a highly contagious viral disease].”

Sadly, when Bifford was just nine days old, he was rejected by his biological mother, so he was bottle fed by a good Samaritan. Due to his lack of coordination, the good Samaritan also assisted the wobbly kitten by helping him use the litter box and cleaning him, but she eventually surrendered Bifford to the shelter because she was unable to provide him with the extra care and attention she believed he required. “She claimed that he needed 24 hour around-the-clock care in order to survive,” says Suzi.The note that was attached to Bifford’s carrier when he was surrendered

While Bifford was eventually adopted, he was returned to the shelter by his first family because they were going on vacation. His second family was unhappy because although he was able to use the litter box on his own, he didn’t cover up the mess, so they also returned Bifford to the shelter. He was adopted by yet another family and was returned to the shelter for a third time, but not before he was subjected to profound cruelty.

“The ‘owners’ had attempted to lock Bifford in an empty hot tub because they wanted him to ‘die with dignity’ and ‘contain the mess,’ ” explains Suzi. “It breaks my heart to think about Bifford patiently waiting for his ‘family’ to return and with each passing minute he slowly loses hope that they were coming back for him.”

Fortunately, within moments of bringing Bifford home on May 9, 2014, Suzi fell in love with the adorable special needs cat, and she and her husband decided to adopt him! “Bifford was a clumsy, affectionate, verbal little dude and had no reservations with enjoying the ‘clingy’ life attached to his mama’s hip!” says Suzi. Plus, Suzi knew being an adult black cat with special needs would make it harder for Bifford to find a forever home, and she was confident she and her husband would be able to provide him with the care, time, and attention he needed to thrive.

Initially, it was difficult for Suzi to resist the urge to coddle Bifford, especially because cats with cerebellar hypoplasia have issues with balance and coordination that frequently cause them to stumble and fall. However, as it became apparent Bifford was unlikely to actually injure himself, Suzi eventually realized she didn’t need to be quite so protective. “Just like toddlers, sometimes it is OK to let them stumble and fall,” says Suzi. “Of course, be there for them always, but it is OK to give positive reinforcement that it is OK to stumble and sometimes fall just as long as they always get back up and keep on truckin’!”

Nearly seven years later, Bifford is doing better than ever, and while he still wobbles when he walks, he’s incredibly happy and active. He’s also surprisingly self-reliant, which Suzi believes is a product of the more laid-back approach she’s taken towards Bifford’s cerebellar hypoplasia. “Today Bifford is more independent, able to climb into bed at night with us, and overall be a more self-reliant little dude,” explains Suzi, “and I believe that’s partly due to the fact that I am not a ‘helicopter’ mother and constantly swarming over him.”

However, this doesn’t mean Suzi and Bifford don’t have an extremely close relationship. In fact, there’s nothing this affectionate boy enjoys more than cuddling with his mom and dad, but he also adores spending supervised time outside during the spring and summer. “He never goes outside unattended and always wears a brightly colored harness with a leash on it,” says Suzi. “He loves to try and catch lightning bugs, ‘catching’ flowers blowing in the breeze, and all around running and gallivanting in our large open field next to our home.”

Even though it’s very obvious Bifford has an excellent quality of life, Suzi has encountered people, including a vet tech at a local clinic, who mistakenly believe cats with cerebellar hypoplasia are suffering and should be euthanized. She’s also found other common misconceptions are that cerebellar hypoplasia is contagious and that it gets worse over time, neither of which is true.

“These amazing babies are just as capable of living a long, happy, healthy life with minimal ‘special requirements,’ ” says Suzi. “Cerebellar hypoplasia animals — and many other specially-abled animals — are affectionate, strong-willed, resilient, amazing beings and we as humans can gain a thing or two by adopting these special babies and watching them go!”

After all, Suzi speaks from experience, because since adopting Bifford in 2014, she and her husband Michael have opened their home to a variety of special needs pets, including Bart, a one-eyed, partially blind cat; Roscoe, a Rat Terrier with epilepsy; and Maggie Mae, a deaf Pug who recently passed away from transitional cell carcinoma. “They are well-loved and well-cared for and do not require any extra care at home — just a little patience and understanding!” says Suzi.

Video/images courtesy of “President” Bifford, video and text/editing overall courtesy of Meow as Fluff

Dear Maggie,

Saturday. 02/27/2021 10:46am

It’s a grey, dreary, rainy, bleak day. The fluorescent lights of the local laundromat sit harsh and heavy on my hazel eyes as I watch the dryer tumble my bedspread over & over, I became entranced by the light hum the dryer was making and the monotony of its assignment at hand.

And for a moment I feel “normal” again, whole if you will but in the blink of an eye that moments gone and passed and my mind brutally taunts me…that for the first time in 14 years I am all alone, you are gone and now I am trying to remember my life before you blessed it, how I functioned, how I made it through my days but honestly — I can’t.

As much as I sift and comb through the complexities and anxieties of my mind, I cannot even pretend to remember a time before you because honestly that time never mattered.

Fourteen years seems like such a long time until you’re living without your “shadow” , your best friend, — your soul mate… then it starts to feel like a tiny drop in the ocean if you blink you miss it. And it’s true fourteen years was not at all long enough and here I am craving and yearning for more seconds, more minutes — as if trying to barter with the cruel universe that stole you from my life.

They say losing your “heart” pet changes you and that you are not the same after that. You convince yourself that won’t be you, but it will be. This is a pain that everyone takes on when they fall in love with their “soul” pet that amplifies every minute you further fall in love with them by the time you are at that horrible fateful goodbye the pain is so ungodly unfathomable it teeters on physical pain.

I teeter in and out of denial that you are actually gone and are resting comfortably among the stars (I would say quietly also but given your sweet, adorable, lumberjack snores I retract the “quiet” statement!) because some days my mind plays tricks on me – eagerly anticipating you to come bouncing from around the doorway with your ears flopping up and down like tiny velvet pig-tails and your little curly tail tightly curled resting on top of you like a bun.

Maggie Mae there will never be enough words, enough ways to explain or describe how much I miss you. WE miss you. The house feels like a vacuum with you absent from it, a repair not easily fixed. I miss you sorely but know that as long as I continue to talk about you, educate & advocate AGAINST horrible places and practices of “businesses” such as “harbor pets”, “petLand” and the “backyard breeders” they do business with…then I know you are never too far from my heart and soul. Love you my sweet girl.

Crunching the Numbers

The Humane Society of the United States has statistics pertaining to animals surrendered or in shelters and they are alarming and concerning:

  • Estimated number of brick-and-mortar animal shelters in the US: 3,500
  • Estimated number of rescue groups and animal sanctuaries in North America: 10,000
  • Number of cats and dogs entering shelters each year: 6-8 million (down from 13 million in 1973)
  • Of the 3 million cats and dogs euthanized in shelters each year, approximately 2.4 million (80%) are healthy and treatable and could have been adopted into new homes
  • Percentage of purebred dogs in shelters: 25%
  • Number cats and dogs adopted from shelters each year: 4 million
  • Percentage of cats euthanized in shelters: 70%
  • Percentage of total shelter intake comprised of cats: Approximately 50% (but in some regions 2/3 of shelter population is cats)

Currently there are no statistics that reflect specifically to specially-abled animals in a shelter environment and do you know why? Because most specially-abled animals are comprised of the “euthanized” statistics you are seeing above.

What is even more alarming is the statistic reflecting, “of the three million cats & dogs euthanized in shelters each year, approximately 2.4 million (80%) are healthy & treatable and could have been adopted into new homes…” this means that these animals are being euthanized in shelters and rescues annually due to the fact that the shelter ran out of housing space (over crowding/over population) or maybe the animal had a treatment plan that was not “fiscally responsible” (such as Bart’s eye enucleation, which is a tale for another day) or they were surrendered back to the shelter and were simply “given up on”.

The Maxwell Chronicle

Maxwell; a collage of photos ranging from the moment I took him home in early March 2021 to now (May 2021)

The number #1 motto that I live by when speaking about a specially-abled animal and how I “handle it all” (think about it I have a neurologic cat who wobbles/falls into things, an epileptic rat terrier, a cat with one eye and limited vision in the other, a semi-feral cat in the basement and then a puppy who needs his bladder expressed and cannot use his back legs) is “FAKE IT TILL YA MAKE IT”.

I knew NOTHING about cerebellar hypoplasia, I knew NOTHING about a blind kitten with herpesvirus, I knew NOTHING about puppies with mobility issues…I did know about epilepsy only because I myself have grand mal seizures but for the most part I knew nothing about specially-abled pets of any kind and how to care for them or their “diagnoses”. But guess what? It didn’t matter! It did not matter that I did not research each disorder or disability to exhaustion. It did not matter that I did not spend thousands of dollars on specialists, supplies etc.,

All that mattered was that I was willing to learn, I was patient with each specially-abled pet and continued each day with empathy and love. That I provided them with the Veterinary care they needed … That ALL animals are entitled to!

Everything that I learned from CH was “on-the-job” experience and training and that is alright! Bifford just needed someone that would be patient with him and love him! The same with Maxwell — he just needs someone that loves him and is patient with him and his progress.

Every day with Maxwell is an adventure to say the least! I wake him up in the morning for breakfast by going into his bedroom and picking him up from his portable crib as he coos and carries on then we go outside so I can express his bladder for his morning pee (I am still holding hope he will be able to eventually go potty on his own like a big boy!). Then we come in for a little breakfast while I get everyone else’s breakfast (and medications!) Ready and give those.

From there Max and I pack up to go to work where Max has his own “office” that he enjoys to “bark” out demand to those passing by while various coworkers pick him up, cuddle him, take him outside etc.

While at work Max gets acupuncture therapy as well as laser therapy. Upon arriving home we do physical therapy and then hydro therapy before playing a little bit and then placing Max back in his crib for a good night sleep surrounded by his menagerie of toys so he can dream happy dreams and prepare for a new day.

Am I holding out hope he will still walk? Absolutely! But am I realistic (and will love him regardless!) He will need a wheelchair? Of course.

The fact of the matter is that when most hear a pet is special needs or needs a little more “special care” they’re turned off or discouraged completely from adopting that special baby as if the term imprisons those babies for life of solitude and disappointment 😔

The bottom line is that for as many “misfit toys” as I’ve adopted and loved (or even my dear friends who’ve done the same) the common denominator is all the same: love and patience.

Stay Tuned for more Maxwell Chronicles! 🐾💕

Specially-Abled Animal Awareness Day– Fleur

Meet Fleur! I am a gorgeous 8 year old dilute calico who was a stray in Virginia and lost my eyes to severe infection (similar to Bart!) as well as have no teeth (which only adds to my adorable, unique ability so “slurp” up wet food!) and I live with my mom (Maddie), and my three siblings — “Bun” (7 year old rabbit), “Nala” (2 year old dog) & Rihanna (12 year old human!). I found my forever home when my mom was looking for another addition to the family and found me via Facebook from a shelter around 90 minutes away from me — but the trip was worth it for both me and my mom & siblings!

My typical day begins around 5:30am when mom and Nala take me for a five mile walk! I love to go in my sling where I can smell the fresh air and feel the sun warm my face! Upon arriving back home we have a yummy breakfast and on the days mom has to work I keep the house in order and make sure my siblings are behaving! During the day I like to occupy my time by scratching on my scratch mat, making biscuits in my fluffy bed and jumping on (and lounging!) on the couch! Of course on the days mom does not work we spend the day together just quality time her and I (and my siblings!) and last weekend I got to go enjoy some pampering at the “salon”! I LOVE baths & grooming (who does not loved to get pampered!).

One of the many important points I try to make to other pet parents is that having “special needs” does NOT make me a “special needs cat”! Sure, I need my food wet and easily accessible but that is about it! I enjoy going outside but only under the close & direct supervision of my mom (which we would strongly suggest this for *ANY* animal!) but I do not require any special requirements or accommodations.

My mom has always loved specially-abled animals! Mom (Maddie) interned at an equine rescue and see’s the absolute beauty in *ALL* creatures! Mom has learned to let me figure things out (and sometimes this means even having an “oops” moment from time to time) but she does not feel sorry for me and treats me like one of the kids (with love, compassion & patience!). Every so often I may need a little assistance from my mom but that is rare! I can successfully find my litter box without issue and can easily find my way out of a corner without help! My mom said that I special & unique not because I am specially-abled but simply because I am ME!

My mom tells us always that A pet with different abilities is no different than a fully abled pet. You must make “reasonable” accommodations for them: i.e. dietary and environmental changes. My dog has the best temperament so I feel safe keeping them together! Since Fleur has no teeth, I make sure her food is suitable for her needs. Never treat an animal differently!!!!!! Giving them the most spoiled and exciting life is so important!

Bifford’s “Dental” Adventure!

Many of you have asked about Bifford’s dental procedure journey and echoed that many of you share the same questions and concerns for your own special babies that I had with Bifford! Let me assure you that by asking the right questions, having a veterinarian/veterinary staff that you know and trust as well as an understanding of what exactly is involved in these types of procedures (this could be a mass removal, spay/neuter or in Bifford’s case a dental procedure!).

Here I wanted to outline his dental procedure endeavor as well as post Bifford’s ACTUAL dental chart as well as anesthesia chart that was custom tailored specifically to Bifford, his age/special ability as well as what his most recent bloodwork results rendered.

ABOVE: The radiographs charting Bifford’s dental disease/issues thus resulting in the removal of all of his teeth.

Did YOU know that feline dental disease is the most common, affecting an estimated 85% of cats over the age of six!

Layers of plaque collect and harden on the tooth surface and bacterial poisons and enzymes from the plaque eventually prompt an inflammatory response in the gums (or gingiva) that if left untreated, leads to SEVERE gum inflammation (gingivitis). In cats, advanced periodontal disease can quickly progress to an end-stage condition for which extraction is the ONLY reasonable treatment option.

Signs/Symptoms of dental disease/pain in felines:

  • Bad Breath (Halitosis)
  • Red/Swollen Gums
  • Pawing Mouth (or rubbing their faces excessively on strange surfaces)
  • Refusal to eat hard food (kibble) or loss of appetite — if you notice your cat avoiding their dry food, chewing on only one side of their mouths, dropping food from their mouths while eating, or vomiting unchewed food you may be seeing signs of a cat in dental discomfort. *
  • Drooling
  • Chattering — this occurs when the jaw shakes or quivers. It is most commonly seen in cats who have resorptive lesions on their teeth (this extremely painful condition causes cavity-like holes in the teeth, eats teeth away or turns tooth roots into bone — all EXTREMELY painful conditions!) Feline chattering is NEVER normal and always indicates that something hurts in your cats mouth!
  • Excessive Yawning or Teeth Grinding (Bruxism)
  • Head Shaking/Head Tilt *
  • Decrease in Self Grooming *
  • Pulling Away or Meowing When Touched Near The Mouth
  • Changes in Normal Behavior *
  • * Though these behaviors can be signs/symptoms of dental pain it can also be indicative of other health issues/complications so it is strongly recommended upon discovering your cat doing these signs to contact your veterinarian immediately for a diagnostic work-up to help determine the problem. Also note that “CH” pets can also normally exhibit head shaking/tilting, dropping food from their mouths etc., simply due to their cerebellar hypoplasia so we suggest having a yearly dental exam/cleaning performed by your veterinarian! Just like the ol’ saying goes “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure!”

By the time I had adopted Bifford in May 2014 he had already had significant dental disease (no doubt from the lack of veterinary care he received as he was bounced back and forth from a few families and just overall lack of having a family or person that had a vested interest in him and his general health) thus resulting in the removal of the teeth he had remaining.

Like many of you I was apprehensive and to be frank, terrified, for him to go under for a dental procedure not because he is a cerebellar hypoplasia cat but because he was my baby! I would equally worry (and ugly cry) over ANY of my animals, special needs or not! Despite working at the veterinary clinic that would be handling his dental procedure, being good friends with the doctor(s) responsible for his dental procedure/care (one of them which has a cerebellar hypoplasia cat herself!) as well as having one of the finest veterinary technicians one whom specialized in veterinary dentistry there was simply nothing that would soothe the irrational part of my brain about him having the procedure done. Despite my own anxieties I knew that I HAD to do this for him!

I loved him enough to be able to provide him with this care and alleviate the pain he was feeling in his mouth (I was only tipped off there was an issue in his mouth when one day he began to slobber as if he was a Saint Bernard!) so, just like any adrenaline filled, terrifying milestone I scheduled his dental procedure on a day I would be at work (and then be off work the next day to properly are for and babysit him).

I brought Bifford to see the veterinarian prior to his dental procedure so he could have a formal physical examination as well as have his blood drawn for the pre-surgical bloodwork (my thoughts were that by having his blood drawn prior to the procedure instead of the morning of the procedure this gave his veterinarian ample amount of time BEFORE the procedure to review his major organs and tailor a plan best suited to how his diagnostics looked! It was not necessary to do it like this but it made me feel better!)

I have stressed in the past the utmost importance to having pre-surgical bloodwork completed prior to any procedure (you can find that information here, here & here) and cannot reiterate enough to ASK your veterinarian if they offer this imperative diagnostic prior to any procedure (and if they do not offer it, could one request this service?). As bloodwork will better assist your doctor on how to proceed with the procedure, what medications are best suited (or best to avoid) and even in creating an “emergency plan” just in the off chance it may be necessary (according to the American Animal Hospital Association [www.aaha.org] , anesthetic related complications/deaths in cats and dogs occur less than 0.05% and 0.11% respectively but I would rather be safe than sorry and take ALL the necessary precautions or recommendations suggested by my veterinarian!).

ABOVE: Bifford’s dental procedure anesthesia monitoring sheet.
Please note that EVERYTHING listed on this form is accurate and taken DIRECTLY from Bifford’s medical chart, the only things that were “blocked out” were done so for privacy concerns.

Bifford’s veterinarian and I discussed in great length the goals and tasks that needed accomplished once we brought him home post-procedure, here are some of the main points we agreed upon for a “CH” cats care post-operatively:

  • Keep them restricted completely! This can be housing them in a spare room/bathroom or a large crate/kennel.
  • Attempt to remove/conceal anything that they could attempt to climb (or could potentially face plant from)
  • Ensure you are giving the medications your veterinarian provided for your cat EXACTLY how they are listed on the bottle as well as have a solid understanding of what each medication does and the purpose it serves as your special baby recovers.
  • For dental patients (like in Bifford’s case) he as to be on canned food SOLELY for at LEAST 14 days (he was scheduled for a two week post dental procedure recheck to ensure his mouth was healing nicely/the sutures in his mouth looked alright)
  • And most important of all — shower them in LOTS of love & praise for being so brave and strong!

Now I am often asked by pet parents (both special needs pet parents and non alike) after his dental was all said and done what was the hardest part? Personally it was the first 24 hours after his dental procedure when he was settled at home. Among the medications Bifford was discharged with one of them was Buprenorphine which is used to manage severe pain and is a controlled narcotic. Animals (and even humans that are prescribed this particular medication) can suffer from a reaction that causes them to have an “excited” phase or behave abnormally to which unfortunately Bifford was one of those patients! That entire night after his dental procedure he raged in his room like a college frat guy on spring break! Needless to say that night neither he nor his momma got any type of sleep (note: Bifford had a negative reaction to the buprenorphine but that had NOTHING to do with his age, or his CH it was just simply a medication that reacted differently with him just as some medications react with humans and others are fine!) and his room looked as if a drunken, sugar hyper, poo-covered toddler had made it their life goal to touch every square inch of that room — luckily I think he is beyond adorable and love him to pieces!

Upon speaking to his veterinarian about the concerns we had while weathering the first night post-dental we tweaked his medications a bit to better suit his needs (as well as potential reactions/sensitivities) and he was sent home with Gabapentin and Valium which though it made him extremely sleepy (this is normal with both gabapentin and valium) he was able to rest much more comfortably the next night around. In addition to these two medications Bifford also had a Fentanyl patch applied a day prior to his dental procedure. This is a transdermal patch that is applied by your veterinarian that will release a narcotic pain medication via his skin regularly for several days (YES, they had to shave a small window on his side to properly fit and secure the patch!) and is removed after about 3-5 days post procedure. Bifford had this patch applied for a host of reasons mainly because upon his dental examination the veterinarian agreed that the remaining teeth he did have would need to be extracted due to the severity of the dental disease. This patch also best helped manage any pain he may have felt post procedure without further irrigating his mouth with more oral medications.

After a few days of supervised care at home and steady medications I felt Bifford was chipper enough and ready to be reintroduced back with his “siblings” (remember up until this point I had him resting comfortably in his “big boy room”) though he was still on soft food until further notice (which proved difficult come feeding time as his siblings all felt they too deserved canned food!) he was completely and totally back to his normal affectionate, sweet self!

Bifford’s two week recheck appointment went off without a hitch! The doctor agreed that his gums looked great, his sutures still looked beautiful and everything was healing nicely just as the doctor had hoped! My main concern was that now that Bifford has no teeth left how would he eat? Would I have to adjust his daily diet routine? Initially after he was released from “strict canned food” I took his regular kibble and watered it down with warm water to make almost a mushy paste and then slowly made it less and less soggy until he was back to his normal kibble! At his annual examination the veterinarian agreed that his mouth/gums still look amazing and that his gums simply hardened thus adapting to eating cat kibble without issue (they adapt better than we give them credit for!) and to this day Bifford is a happy, healthy little boy without a care in the world … or without a broken, infected tooth in his mouth!

ABOVE: Other examples of vital organs effected by periodontal disease.

By clicking the above link you can find all of the approved “at-home” dental products/supplements for cats provided by the Veterinary Oral Health Council (VOHC). For additional information check them out at www.VOHC.org