THE TERRIBLE TALE OF TEDDY With a happy ending

By Elizabeth Wright

teddy posing

When Teddy, our big black and white cat with the mystical green eyes, didn’t appear for his dinner in his Eastbourne home, I knew something was wrong. He loved his food and usually would dash into the kitchen as the first nuggets of cat biscuit rattled into his food bowl. We finally found him laid out on the double bed, one of his favourite snoozing spots. He slowly raised his head when we cautiously asked, ‘Not hungry then? Don’t you want your dinner?’ and responded by struggling to the edge of the bed and falling on the floor. As he tried to get up and walk, we could see that his back legs were barely functioning. His long black tail was hanging at an odd angle and two front claws were missing, leaving a circle of blood on his left paw. Having recently lost his sister, Tango, in a road accident; it seemed that Teddy might have also been hit by a car, and, in spite of his injuries, had managed to crawl home, manoeuvred himself through the cat flap, struggled up the stairs and somehow got onto the bed.

Teddy sitting

My daughter was in tears; this was now into late evening; she frantically phoned her vet’s emergency line, and was re-directed to take Teddy to an out-of-hours clinic at Lewes, East Sussex,10 miles away. Not knowing what injuries he might have, we passed on trying to get him into his pet carrier; instead we carefully wrapped him in his favourite blanket and carried him in our arms to the car. Apparently reassured, he settled, and we arrived at the clinic around midnight, only to find there were 4 other feline road causalities there needing life saving attention. Teddy surprisingly, appeared to be the least damaged, so gently cuddling him, we sat and waited our turn.

Teddy feeding

It was 3am when the single on-call vet finally got to see Teddy. After a thorough examination he came to the conclusion that Teddy was most likely to have been hit by a car which had damaged his backbone, stretched his spinal cord and broken his tail. His skin was bruised and his bladder a mess.With his back half barely functioning, Teddy’s quality of life was hanging in the balance. He was going to need an X-ray and an ultra sound scan. After being given a couple of pain-killing injections he perked up a little, but as we were last in the queue, there was still going to be a lengthy wait. After another hour my daughter was prompted to say, “Our own vet will soon be open. We’re going to take him home. If he is going to die, then he will be with people who love him, rather than in a strange place in a cage on his own.” She gathered him up, and on returning home, tucked him in beside her in bed, where he spent a couple of hours in a seemingly deep sleep. Fortunately, Teddy was covered by Pet Plan Insurance, having fulfilled their conditions of Micro-chipping and annual vaccinations against cat ’flu and feline viruses.

Teddy dozing

By morning he appeared slightly better, jumped off the bed and his hind legs didn’t completely collapse. As soon as the local vet, Companion Care, Eastbourne, opened, their doors, Teddy was in the front of the queue. They had received the emergency vet’s report, and asked, ‘Why did you not leave him for an X-ray and scan?’ Jackie explained her reasons, and was told, ‘ Right, we’ll do that now.’ One of the vets pinched Teddy’s tail hard, the cat didn’t flinch. ‘’His tail is completely dead.’

Out came the vet’s carrying basket, in went a most reluctant Teddy, and we watched our pet being taken away, leaving us to go home clutching our empty carrier, and wondering if we would ever see him alive again.

Teddy and Trixie

Four hours later we had a phone call to say they had found out more about Teddy’s injuries. At the surgery they showed us an X-ray picture of his damaged back bone, stretched spinal cord and a useless wonky tail. His bladder was a mangled mess and his skin blackened with bruises. The prognosis looked bleak; his ability to walk was limited to an awkward shuffle, and he appeared incapable of controlling any bodily functions. On the plus side, after a non-steroidal anti-inflammatory injection plus a second with an antibiotic for his dodgy bladder, Teddy’s feline fighting spirit emerged. On getting back to his familiar Eastbourne home, he eagerly gobbled up a bowl of his favourite cat food, and, in spite of his disabilities, we noticed that his green eyes were bright, his ears pricked, good signs there. This was going to be a waiting game, closely monitored on a daily basis.

We were shown how to physically empty his bladder, but that process brought its own complications. We couldn’t find the right spot to squeeze, and by the evening he was obviously getting extremely uncomfortable. The vet said, ‘Bring him in and I’ll do it for you.’ Teddy, by then had little fight left in him and meekly accepted the confines of the cat carrier. As the vet lifted him out he was splattered with blood stained urine as the overfilled, damaged and dysfunctional bladder released its contents. Further injections and daily visits to the vet to check him out and empty his waterworks were going to be needed.

Teddy yawning

After only a few days, he began to use his hind legs more, the shuffling progressed into a wobbly walk. As he couldn’t go outside we left litter trays all around the house, and if he showed any interest or we heard him having a noisy scratch around in the grey granule litter, we rushed to check whether he had succeeded in having a wee. He went through all the actions, but no end result. The damaged bladder was still out of action, but by day four one of the children shouted, ‘Teddy’s done a poo in his tray!’ That, we felt, had to be a good sign, one half of his rear end workings was back in action.

But it was two steps forward and one back. The damaged bladder was still causing problems with blood loss, so the vet took him in for an intensive course of treatment; in spite of expert professional care Teddy seemed to fade. By evening it looked like the end of the line, he appeared to be so far gone we were convinced we would be bringing his body home to be buried in the garden next to his sister’s grave.

But cats don’t give up that easily; the following day, after a good long night’s sleep, he bounced back and was allowed home. He went straight to his empty food bowl and stood by it, looked at us as if to say, ‘I’m hungry, who’s going to feed me?’ He got excited when the tin of cat food appeared and could hardly wait for the meaty contents to hit the bowl. A few noisy slurps and he gobbled the lot, and then licked the sides just in case he’d missed a bit. Not content with that, he rubbed up against our legs, signalling that he wasn’t yet finished, a few tasty cat treats would be appreciated. The noisy scrunching as he chewed the tasty biscuits never sounded so good. He followed that by a lively attempt at giving himself a good all over clean, although on trying to lick an extended back leg, he lost his balance and toppled over. backwards. We couldn’t help laughing as he got up and glared at us, which clearly said, ‘How dare you laugh at me,’ and, as much as his wobbly legs would allow, did a dignified walk out of the room.

On New Year’s Eve Teddy was considered strong enough to have his useless tail removed. He came through the operation with no problems and the same evening we fetched him home; his now stumpy rear end was shaved and stitched and his head encased in a plastic cone to prevent him from trying to lick the wound.

But it was soon another step back; he began to look an unhappy cat as his bladder was still not working and oozing a few drops of blood. Back at the vets it was decided he should stay in at least overnight. In his front leg he had a needle filtering a saline solution into his system to encourage his waterworks to kick-start again; he had to be anaesthetised so a catheter could be inserted in his bladder and the plastic cone tied firmly around his neck. But in the morning the veterinary nurses found that he had pulled out the needle and catheter, wriggled out of the cone and was sitting in his cage looking very angry at such treatment.

‘Take him home this afternoon,’ said the vet. Teddy was delighted to be back, turned on the charm to an admiring audience, rolled over to have his tummy tickled, rubbed around any available legs, purring with pleasure, and saw off a pouch of cat food. This was our Teddy finding his feet again, we began to hope that maybe he would be all right. But, four days later he was back at the vets, the damaged bladder was not healing. Stronger treatment was needed. Teddy was again subjected to the indignity of injections, catheter, and needle in his leg dispensing drugs to try to achieve muscle tone in his bladder. And he was heavily sedated, so some positive healing could take place. If it didn’t, well we tried not to think of the alternative. After all he’d been through we couldn’t lose him now.

“Teddy’s not going to die, is he?” enquired a tearful five year old Jack. Still fresh in his mind was the sudden death of Teddy’s sister, Tango, killed by a driver who didn’t bother to stop. She’d crawled home and died on the doorstep. She was buried in the garden, the three children had made a shrine on her grave, decorated it with flowers, pictures, a toy furry mouse, and a ring of solar lights. Around it were three little canvas chairs where the tearful children had sat, ‘so we can talk to her and keep her company.’

But Teddy was a fighter and bounced back yet again; after 2 days of sedation his bladder had healed well enough that he could come home. He still had to wear the firmly fixed plastic cone, although we removed it at feeding time when we noticed it was catching on the sides of his bowl and making it difficult for him to reach all of his his food.

We watched his every move whilst he was being kept indoors, so there were litter trays laid invitingly everywhere. We followed him around looking for any positive signs of the production of a wee. He went through all the feline behaviour patterns, sniff, scratch, squat but no results. By the end of the day, just when we thought he would have to go to the vets for his regular bladder emptying, he emerged from the dining-room with a self-satisfied smirk on his face. On the bare floorboards that were ready to be covered with a new carpet, there was a triumphant puddle. Teddy had finally managed to do a wee. Never mind that it wasn’t done in one of the numerous litter trays, there was the liquid evidence of a satisfying end result.

Next day, on vet’s advice, we bought Teddy a cat harness and took him out into the garden. He had a good sniff around the lawn and, to our delight familiar smells stimulated his brain and body into gear again; this outing finally brought success times two – a wee and a poo. He objected to the restraints of the harness, wriggled out of it, scuttled into next door’s garden, nipped through their cat flap and hauled himself up onto on a window shelf in their conservatory, where he sat smugly looking out at us with the ‘Ha, ha, you can’t catch me,’ look on his face.

For a while his bladder function was a bit hit and miss; and as he chose to sleep on our beds, we had to use protective covers for the times when he was ‘caught short.’ But each day brought improvement; he still walks with a slight wobble, and there’s the occasional ‘accident,’ but he’s just about back to the lovely cat he was, and living life to the full.

Pet Plan Insurance picked up most of the costs, which ran into four figures, and for this we are so grateful and so glad he was insured. Otherwise we would have raided our savings to pay for our beloved Teddy’s brilliant veterinary care.


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