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Friday, October 11, 2013

Heroic Hermione Is Holding Her Own Despite Tragically Losing a Kidney in a Botched Sterilization Two Years Ago

Hermione with Dr. Adriana Odachowski

"She's amazing. Her surgery was Monday, and by the end of the day she was bouncing around like a maniac."
-- veterinarian Adriana Odachowski

When it comes to cats with kidney trouble, stories with anything even remotely resembling happy endings are about as rare as hens' teeth. In most cases, the very best that they can expect from members of the unconscionable, moneygrubbing veterinary medical profession are deadly jabs of sodium pentobarbital that are followed by unceremonial burnings of their mortal coils.

In spite of the predominance of that morally reprehensible practice, ever once in a while a lucky cat is able to defy all the odds and thus hold the Grim Reaper and his human stooges at bay. A two and one-half year old black cat named Hermione from Lutz, Florida, is one such survivor.

At the tender age of only four months, she was found outside a PetSmart store somewhere in the Tampa-St.Petersburg area in early July of 2011. Since the pet food supplier offers adoption services for cats, it is highly likely that Hermione was intentionally dumped on its doorstep.

She was discovered by an unidentified rescue group that in turn fobbed her off onto the East-West Animal Hospital in Lutz. It was there that a mass was detected in her abdomen.

Tests later revealed that her ureter had been tied off during a botched sterilization and as a result one of her kidneys was unable to properly drain. Tragically, the kidney was so badly damaged that it had to be surgically removed on July 25th at a cost in excess of $1,000.

To their eternal credit in both this and the next worlds, the enlightened and kindhearted staff at East-West apparently never even once considered killing her off. "We were already in (love with her)," veterinarian Linda Register told the Land O'Lakes Patch on August 1, 2011. (See "Rescue Kitten Surviving Fine with One Kidney.")

Named in honor of the only daughter of King Menelaus of Sparta and Helen of Troy, Hermione upheld her end of the bargain by coming through the surgery with flying colors. "She's amazing," veterinarian Adriana Odachowski, who performed the operation, told the Patch. "Her surgery was Monday, and by the end of the day she was bouncing around like a maniac."

Veterinarian technician Jade Sceusa likewise was equally impressed with Hermione's zest for life. "The minute you pick her up, she starts purring," she told the Patch. "She's very inquisitive."

Although cats are every bit as capable as humans of getting by on only one kidney, Hermione will require specialized care through the remainder of her life. That is due in no small part to the prevalence of kidney failure in all cats, even those with two good kidneys. It also is conceivable that the botched sterilization may have in some way compromised the normal functioning of her sole remaining kidney.

In addition to constant monitoring, Hermione requires special supplements and a diet rich in, among other things, omega three fatty acids. So far, no one associated with the veterinary hospital has been willing to publicly speculate as to her long-term prognosis.

Initially, it was even feared that she would be forced to spend the remainder of her days at East-West. "I wouldn't say one-hundred per cent we wouldn't adopt her out (but the odds of that happening are slim)," Register told the Patch in the article cited supra.

Maxi and Thomas Rätsch

It took a while but fortunately a suitable home was secured for Hermione about a year ago. Although it always is difficult to accurately gauge the health of a cat suffering from kidney problems, she nevertheless seems to be doing rather well under the circumstances.

Merely surviving the loss of a kidney is traumatic enough in its own right for any cat, but for Hermione finally to have made it out of the hospital and into a permanent home after such a lengthy convalescence is also a testament to her perseverance. Considering all that she has been put through, hopefully she has many more happy years ahead of her; she deserves at least that much out of life.

As far as the botched sterilization is concerned, Register believes that Hermione was butchered at a low-cost sterilization mill. While that certainly is a distinct possibility, the track record of conventional surgeries that charge exorbitant fees for these procedures is not all that much better. (See Cat Defender posts of July 28, 2011, July 2, 2010, and February 26, 2008 entitled, respectively, "Tammy and Maddy Are Forced to Pay the Ultimate Price after Their Owner and an Incompetent Veterinarian Elect to Pay Russian Roulette with Their Lives," "Lexi Was by No Means the First Cat to Be Lost by Woosehill Vets Any More Than Angel Was Their Last Victim of a Botched Sterilization," and "The Dark Side of Spay and Neuter: Veterinarian Botched Surgeries and Back Alley Castrations Claim the Lives of Numerous Cats.")

In order to better ensure the safety and well-being of their cats, Register recommends that owners find out well beforehand which veterinarian actually is performing the procedure and if any preoperative laboratory work is included in the cost. She fails to mention it, but trumping all of those concerns is the availability of remedial veterinary care in case of post-operative problems.

Those concerns can range from botched surgeries on the one hand to hemorrhaging and broken stitches on the other hand. All of these complications can be potentially life-threatening and that makes prompt access to emergency care imperative.

That is especially the case for the impecunious who utilize the services of sterilization mills but do not have access to veterinarians of their own choosing. Sterilizing cats is important but what happened to Hermione is yet still another poignant reminder that these procedures are anything but minor and routine and that an awful lot can go terribly wrong if the surgeon is anything less than both competent and conscientious.

Kidney transplants are another option for cats that are dying from renal failure. They have been available in the United States since the mid-1980's, in England since 2003, and likely are offered elsewhere in the world today.

In 2010 for instance, thirty-five-year-old Thomas Rätsch of Hannover made headlines around the world when he announced that he was transporting his six-year-old cat, Maxi, to the United States for a kidney transplant. That was in spite of the daunting reality that the surgery was expected to have set him back €7000 plus another €7000 in travel-related expenses.

Since he is fortunate to have a good-paying position within the lucrative medical equipment supply field, money never was an object as far as he was concerned. "Das ist nebensächlich," he told Die Welt of Frankfurt am Main on October 27, 2010. (See "Katze soll neue Niere für siebentausend Euro bekommen.") "Dann fahre ich halt kleinere Autos."

He was not, however, oblivious to the consternation that his munificence toward Maxi evoked from some critics. "So viel Kohle (in this instance slang for geld) für 'ne Katze," he exclaimed to the Hannover Allgemeine Zeitung on October 27, 2010. (See "Kater aus Hannover bekommt Vereinigten Staaten-Niere für siebentausend Euro.") "Ich kann verstehen, dass die Leute das verwunderlich finden."

The hoi polloi are free to think whatever they please but on this occasion love won out over money. That is especially the case in that Rätsch and Maxi had grown particularly close following the latter's adoption from a shelter in 2007.


"Er ist ein vollwertiges Familienmitglied," Rätsch told Die Welt in the article cited supra. "Er spürt, wenn es einem nicht gut geht."

That certainly is true enough in that Maxi never once left Rätsch's side while he was recuperating from injuries sustained in a 2010 automobile accident. "Maxi spendete mir viel Kraft nach meinem Autounfall Anfang des Jahres," he affirmed to Die Welt.

Maxi's eleventh-hour trip to the United States was necessitated by the fact that feline kidney transplants are illegal in Deutschland. On top of that, his health was rapidly deteriorating.

"Das Tier wird quasi langsam von innen vergiftet," Rätsch confided to the Hannover Allgemeine Zeitung. His condition was so critical in fact that attending veterinarians in Deutschland wanted to kill him.

Regrettably, it has not been possible to determine either the outcome of Maxi's transplant operation or even if he is still alive today. Organ rejection and infections are always primary concerns and survival rates tend to vary somewhat depending upon which transplant facility performs the delicate operation. Generally speaking, however, only about fifty per cent of transplant recipients live three years or longer.

Feline kidney transplants also raise contentious ethical issues. "People can make a decision about being an organ donor but animals are unable to do so," Chris Laurence of the RSPCA, which so far has refused to sacrifice its homeless cats to kidney transplant centers, told the BBC on February 27, 2003. (See "Vets Approve Cat Kidney Transplants.") "Neither can the recipient, nor the donor, appreciate the long-term treatment that may follow."

Predictably, in the United States few individuals care one way or the other where transplant facilities get their spare kidneys. Consequently, they are stolen from cats already unjustly incarcerated at research laboratories, shelters, and God only knows where else. Individuals also are permitted to supply their own organ donor felines.

Whereas the RSPCA's willingness to champion the right of cats not to be robbed of their kidneys is light years ahead of the mercenary policies of their morally depraved cousins on this side of the Atlantic, it nonetheless rings somewhat hollow coming as it does from an organization that does not think twice about slaughtering cats and dogs in droves. (See Cat Defender posts of June 5, 2007 and October 23, 2010 entitled, respectively, "RSPCA's Unlawful Seizure and Senseless Killing of Mork Leaves His Sister, Mindy, Brokenhearted and His Caretakers Devastated" and "RSPCA Steals and Executes Nightshift Who Was His Elderly Caretaker's Last Surviving Link to Her Dead Husband," as well as the Daily Mail, December 29, 2012, "Revealed: RSPCA Destroys Half of the Animals That It Rescues -- Yet Thousands Are Completely Healthy.")

The only humane concession that the operators of transplant facilities in America make is to require that the owners of transplant recipients also adopt the donor cat. Even under those circumstances the injustice of that arrangement has not been completely lost on Rätsch. "Es ist brutal, einer gesunden Katze eine Niere herauszureißen," he admitted to Die Welt in the article cited supra.

He was totally unwilling, however, to allow those considerations to stand in the way of his plans. Moreover, it certainly did not take him long to concoct a convenient rationale in order to excuse the blatant immorality inherent in his decision.

"Ich muss das Tier (the donor cat) adoptieren," he told the Hannover Allgemeine Zeitung in the article cited supra. "Ich fahre also mit einem kranken Kater hin und komme mit zwei gesunden Katzen züruck."


That is a debatable point. First of all, cats who wind up being sacrificed as organ donors already have been put through Hell. That is true regardless of whether they come from research laboratories, shelters, or are donated by unscrupulous individuals. They accordingly should be entitled to their freedom, rights, and compassion instead of being subjected to further exploitation and abuse.

Secondly, having a kidney removed is, as Hermione found out the hard way, a terrible ordeal to put any cat through even when the surgery is necessary as opposed to being elective. Even the ones lucky enough in order to survive these grueling procedures sometimes face not only long-term impairments to their health but shortened life-expectancies as well.

Worst of all, donor cats do not have any rights under the law. C'est-à-dire, there is absolutely nothing to prevent their new owners from either withholding life-saving veterinary care or having them killed outright.

It is, after all, axiomatic that if caring for one cat with kidney disease is an expensive and trying ordeal, caring for two of them would be prohibitive for just about all individuals. Consequently, whenever push comes to shove the donor cat is all but certain to be the first one discarded.

Even when the scientific community is not actually robbing cats of their vital organs, it is stealing their eggs and sperm and shanghaiing them into serving as surrogate mothers during diabolical cloning experiments. Although there are many of these Frankenstein institutions, the Audubon Center for Research in Endangered Species in New Orleans has proven itself to be one of the most egregious abusers and killers of domestic cats. (See Cat Defender posts of September 6, 2005 and November 17, 2008 entitled, respectively, "Clones of Endangered African Wildcats Give Birth to Eight Naturally-Bred Kittens in New Orleans" and "Mr. Green Genes' Coming Out Party Ushers In a New Era of Unspeakable Atrocities to Be Committed Against Cats by Cloners and Vivisectors.")

Countless thousands of cats likewise are currently being held hostage as blood donors at veterinary clinics. One such victim is Christopher at Nine Lives Foundation's Feline Well-Care Clinic in Redwood City, California. (See Cat Defender post of November 13, 2010 entitled "Christopher, Who Has Persevered Through Tragedy and Given Back So Much, Is Now Being Held Captive for His Valuable Blood.")

In addition to transplants, diuresis, dialysis, continual renal replacement therapy, and chemotherapy are now available to cats suffering from kidney failure. Not surprisingly, the cost of all of these procedures is well beyond the means of most cat owners.

As grim as that picture may be, there nonetheless exists a glimmer of hope for cats suffering from kidney failure and, best of all, it does not cost an arm and a leg. In fact, in many cases all that is required is for owners to be willing to give their ailing cats daily injections of subcutaneous fluids and to put them on a special diet.

"I've seen even very sick cats, cats who needed hospitalization in the beginning, do really well on home care with an owner who was willing to give it a try," Miami veterinarian Patty Khuly told the San Francisco Chronicle on August 18, 2009. (See "Caring for a Cat Whose Kidneys Have Failed.") "What makes the difference in how well a cat with kidney failure does is not how sick they (sic) are, or how bad their (sic) kidney values are on a blood test. It's the attitude of the owner."

Best of all, the rewards to be reaped from home care extend far beyond simply making a cat's last days less difficult. Such an effort can in fact add quantity as well as quality to its life.

"Many of these cats who were on the brink of death can be brought back with supportive care at home," Khuly added. "Not only brought back for days or week or months, but years."


Veterinarian Alice Wolf of Texas A&M is in complete agreement. Progressive kidney failure in cats "can be successfully managed for years if it is detected early and managed appropriately," she is quoted in the Chronicle as stating earlier in 2006.

That also is the considered opinion of Modesto, California, veterinarian Jeff Kahler. (See The Seattle Times, February 3, 2011, "Renal Disease Common in Older Cats.")

As Khuly understands only too well, the difficulty lies in convincing owners to go the extra mile for their sick felines. "You just don't know unless you try," she concluded to the San Francisco Chronicle.

One dedicated cat owner who made such an effort was Dottie Zammetti of parts unknown and as a result she was able to extend the life of her beloved companion, Munchkin, for another two and one-half years. Munchkin's downward spiral first began when she contracted an unspecified form of cancer.
Chemotherapy was tried but that in turn caused her kidneys to fail.

Once her veterinarian was able to stabilize Munchkin, Zammetti began to inject her on a daily basis with subcutaneous fluids and that made all the difference. "It took a while for us to adjust to that process, but after around a week and a half, she just accepted it as part of our routine," she told the San Francisco Chronicle in the article cited supra.

Zammetti also profited handsomely from the invaluable assistance that she received from online support groups. In particular, she learned from them not only where she could purchase better needles but less expensive fluids as well.

Every bit as important as the practical advise so liberally dispensed by these groups was their moral support. "The people in the groups helped keep me going, because when I felt like I didn't see an end to it (Munchkin's illness), they would give me the helpful advise to get me through that rough period," she added to the Chronicle.

Unfortunately, Zammetti is the exception rather than the rule in that there are not too many owners who are willing to do for their cats what she did for Munchkin. For instance, the directors of the Burwood Spinal Unit in Christchurch, New Zealand, killed off their longtime resident feline, Alfie, on July 5th after he was diagnosed to be suffering with renal failure.

No other details of either his illness or of any efforts undertaken on his behalf in order to prolong his stay on this earth have been divulged and that makes it difficult to speculate if he could have benefited from the type of care that Zammetti gave Munchkin. Regardless of his condition, the dashing brown and black tom had an unqualified right to live out his last days to the very end and as a consequence what the directors did to him can only be labeled as murder.

During the nineteen years that he spent at Burwood, Alfie dispensed loving care to both patients and staffers alike. "He was just a constant presence. He'd pick the sickest and just sit with them," former nurse Ngaire Hunt told the Marlborough Express of Blenheim on July 6th. (See "Spinal Unit's Alfie Was a Healer.") "I remember one man was in the ward dying of cancer and Alfie stayed on his bed for days, only leaving to pee and poo and eat. He was an amazing cat just the way he picked the ones who needed him most."

He also is credited with giving Fleur Hansby, a Blenheim woman who was left paralyzed as the result of a cycling accident, the strength and courage to face life in a wheelchair. He doubtless provided inspiration and encouragement to countless others during his lengthy tenure at the spinal unit.

Sammy Is Comforted by a Deer

It is conceivable that there could have been a connection between the empathy that he showed to others and his own experiences in that he, too, suffered from a lower spinal cord injury. In particular, he not only injured his lower back but lost his tail when it got caught in an automatic door.

It is unclear, however, whether he suffered that injury at Burwood or sometime before his arrival. According to Hunt, no one knows anything about his past other than that he showed up at the hospital one day when he was about two years old and never left.

There can be little denying, however, that Alfie has left an indelible mark on Burwood that will not soon be erased. It is just a shame that his tenure there could not have ended on a more positive note.

"People loved him -- well not everyone, some people hate cats -- but he brought comfort," Hunt added to the Marlborough Express. "Alfie changed us from a hospital into a home rehab unit and while we still have to be a hospital, home is exactly what people who come here need."

It likewise is not known what measures, if any, that Margie Scott of Bellingham, Washington, took in order to save the life of her nine-year-old, longhaired gray and white cat, Sammy, before he died of kidney failure on June 16, 2006. Moreover, his demise only came to the attention of the public thanks to an extraordinary act of kindness that preceded his death.

Having been cruelly declawed when he was only six months old, Sammy had been forced to spend his entire life cooped up indoors. During his final days, however, Scott relented and allowed him to spend some time outside her apartment.

One day he was befriended by a deer. The deer strolled up, touched noses with him, and began licking him around the face and neck.

"I truly believe the deer was able to sense that there was something wrong with Sammy and that was why he started licking him, like he was trying to nurture him," Scott later theorized. It nevertheless is sad that he apparently received more compassion during his final days from a total stranger than he did from his owner. (See Cat Defender post of January 16, 2007 entitled "Dying of Kidney Failure, Nine-Year-Old Cat Named Sammy Is Shown Compassion from an Unexpected Friend.")

Only recently on September 8th, Tuxedo Stan of Halifax in Nova Scotia was killed off by his owner after he came down with renal lymphoma. In his case, he was in all likelihood well beyond all mortal assistance but that in no way excuses his owner's decision to end his life. (See Cat Defender post of September 26, 2013 entitled "Former Halifax Mayoral Hopeful Tuxedo Stan is Killed Off by His Owner after Chemotherapy Fails to Halt the Onslaught of Renal Lymphoma.")

The good news out of Halifax these days is that the Tuxedo party, founded by Stan in order to call attention to the plight of homeless cats, is not only still active but is now headed by his brother, Earl Grey. Currently, the party is advocating for changes in Nova Scotia's Animal Protection Act that would both outlaw kitty mills as well as criminalize the abandonment of cats. (See the News Herald of Halifax, September 22, 2013, "Earl Grey Takes Up Stan's Case.")

There is considerable debate as to what causes kidney failure to be so prevalent in cats. Traditionally, the usual suspects have included, inter alia, the Feline Leukemia Virus (FeLV), the Feline Immunosuppression Virus (FIV), abdominal trauma, genetic abnormalities, urinary tract obstructions, hypertension, Hyperthyroidism, diabetes, inbreeding, and toxins in the environment.

In that light it is interesting to note that purebreds, such as Maine Coons, Abyssinians, Persians, Siamese, Russian Blues, and Burmese, tend to be more predisposed to developing the disease and that petit fait alone would tend to suggest that inbreeding could be at least part of the problem. If so, that constitutes another good reason for affording additional legal protections to these beautiful breeds.

Earl Grey

More recent research has shifted the blame onto the shoulders of the veterinary medical profession. For example, researchers at Colorado State University believe that they have uncovered a link between feline kidney disease and  the vaccinations for Feline Viral Rhinotracheitis (herpes), Feline Calicivirus (pneumonia), and Panleukopenia (distemper). Collectively, this battery of vaccines is known as FVRCP.

Veterinarian Jean Hofve, for instance, believes that cats over sixteen weeks of age and with healthy immune systems need to be vaccinated only once for FVRCP. (See www.Truth4pets. org, May 25, 2012, "Don't Vaccinate Your Adult Cat for Distemper" and www.catinfo.org,  April 2011, Lisa A. Pierson, "Vaccines for Cats: We Need to Stop Overvaccinating.")

In that regard it never must be forgotten that the practice of veterinary medicine, like health care as well, is first and last a business. Under such perverted circumstances, what matters most to practitioners is not saving lives but enhancing their bottom lines.

This most readily can be seen in the marked increase of vaccine related sarcomas and cancers caused by implanted microchips. (See Cat Defender posts of September 21, 2007 and November 6, 2010 entitled, respectively, "FDA Is Suppressing Research That Shows Implanted Microchips Cause Cancer in Mice, Rats, and Dogs" and "Bulkin Contracts Cancer from an Implanted Microchip and Now It Is Time for Digital Angel and Merck to Answer for Their Crimes in a Court of Law.")

Most revealing of all is the veterinary medical profession's love affair with killing off cats and dogs. Such conduct constitutes a blatant conflict of interest and should be immediately outlawed.

In addition to veterinary malpractice, Chicago-area practitioner Karen Becker points an accusatory finger at dry food as being a likely cause of kidney failure in cats. That is not anything new in that it has been known for a long time that cats need meat, not cheap cereal, in their diets.

Besides, some research has shown that the meal which constitutes the bulk of kibble comes from slaughterhouse dregs, roadkill, and even other cats and dogs that have been liquidated at shelters. The meal is then fortified with vitamins, additives, and dyes in order to make it palatable but garbage is still garbage no matter how wholesome it may look and taste.

In addition to a high quality protein diet, Becker recommends that cats be given good quality water to drink and that their intake of phosphorus and sodium be curtailed. They also should be monitored for the onset of both hypertension and anemia.

She further advises that they be kept in stress-free environments and that the kidneys of cats over seven years old be examined either once or, preferably, twice a year by a competent veterinarian. (See www.healthypets.mercola.com, August 6, 2012, "Why Do So Many Domestic Cats Have Chronic Kidney Failure?")

Since kidney disease and Hyperthyroidism so often go hand in hand, cat owners additionally would be well advised to remove toxins, such as PBDEs, from all indoor environments. (See Cat Defender post of August 22, 2007 entitled "Indoor Cats Are Dying from Diabetes, Hypertension, and Various Toxins in the Home.")

In the future new treatments may one day magically transform feline kidney disease into something altogether different from the death sentence that it is today in most cases but for the time being there are not any silver bullets. Anecdotal evidence would tend to suggest, however, that maintaining them in environments that are free of toxins, feeding them meat as opposed to kibble, and eliminating all but the most essential vaccinations can go a long way toward warding off the onset of this dastardly disease.

Furthermore, as Zammetti has demonstrated by her loving and conscientious care of Munchkin, even a diagnosis of renal failure does not necessarily mean that all is necessarily lost. Home care does work but only if owners can be persuaded to forgo the expedient of sodium pentobarbital and give it a serious try.

The goal always should be to provide better lives for Hermione and Maxi and longer ones for Munchkin, Alfie, Sammy, and Tuxedo Stan. None of that ever will be possible unless both individuals and professionals alike can somehow be prevailed upon  to trade in their moribund thinking in favor of an abiding respect for the sanctity of all feline life. Scientific progress without corresponding moral enlightenment is not only worthless but dangerous to boot.

Photos: Sherri Lonon of the Land O'Lakes Patch (Hermione and Odachowksi), Hannover Allgemeine Zeitung (Maxi and Rätsch), Dottie Zammetti (Munchkin), Dean Kozanic of the Marlborough Express (Alfie), Margie Scott (Sammy by himself and with the deer), and Ted Pritchard of the News Herald (Earl Grey).