The war I may not win?

I wonder if this is a war we may not win. We have certainly lost a few battles and the things did not turn out as I expected.

I had to mix the first batch of medicine against TF with a protection mask on my face and put in the cats’ mouth. It took about 2 hours every day to medicate them all. They of course did not like that. Sometimes they drooled. It did not taste that well, perhaps. But maybe it was not THAT bad, since the most were not drooling or spitting it out. The medicine we got was ‘produced’ in Sweden, but actually it is just a cheap powder for birds, 10% Ronidazole that they imported from Germany, repacked it, and sold it to us about 70 times the commercial price in Germany. But what were our options? Ronidazole is obtained only via license in Sweden.

The powder made for birds was not the appropriate form to give to cats; it is the very formulation that scientist and one of the world’s most famous researcher on TF in cats, Jody Gookin is against, since you cannot guarantee the dose that cats get is exact every time. Some cats get cured from it, some don’t. I read about cases on German discussion boards where cats died. Ours did not have any side effects, and I am happy for that, although they did not get cured.

We tested the cats as a part of the study we are in 2 weeks after the finished treatment and only Claire and Miii were negative. All six kittens were still positive and also four of our big cats. So, only 2 out of 12 cats were negative after a 2200 EUR treatment (20 000 SEK) and a lot of time and effort from our side! That felt like a disaster.

I saw no pattern there. Claire and Jossan were isolated with the kittens, and Claire licked the small bottoms all the time, so she should have been positive. But, she was not. (It could have been a one-time thing, but she was tested a month later, and she was still negative.)

Also, Maven, who is not a Siamese, has her own toilet box (she likes Pee-Wee, Siamese hate it), got really bad and she was alone in one room, since poor thing had watery diarrhoea.

Two-three kittens got a bit better at start of the treatment, but after a week they started having soft smelly stool and blood in it. I tested them immediately after the finished treatment (that test was not a part of the study) and they were positive. 😦 Ronidazole just did not seem to work. I wondered if TF our cats had was resistant to the medication, but then, Claire and Miii got negative. They could have gotten TF-negative on their own, though, that is not impossible. They got it 5-6 months before the time they got retested, and sometimes cats can get rid of TF on their own during that time (9 months in average).

But no kittens could move to their new homes, since their owners-to-be already had other (TF-free) cats and I also wanted to cure the small and big ones.

To cut the story shorter, and omit many details – the new medicines were ordered, our veterinary found the new company that could get it for us, this time in capsules, from England, good form (100% Ronidazole). Surprisingly enough, they were cheaper, and although kittens got up in weight (the dose is proportional to the weight, the dose is 30mg/kg, so if your cats weigh more, you pay more), we paid about 75% of the price for the first batch. And the form of the medicine was good, and capsules are so much easier (and less risky for my health) to give.

Our veterinary suggested that the kittens should move to their new homes and be medicated there, to minimise the risk for re-infection at home, since we had so many cats. At the same time, it is not a good way to bond with your kitten you’ve just got with putting the pills every day for two weeks in its mouth. I proposed to the future owners of the kittens who had homes who waited for them to get them immediately after the treatment was done. There were risks, but also, it was better for many reasons – if someone else at home still had TF and its quantities grew again, the cured ones could get it back. The cats were isolated, but not one and one, we found that pretty much impossible.

One owner to be took her kitten 4 days before the medicating was done, and finished it at home. Another couple took their kitten home immediately when the treatment was done. One decided to wait. One was travelling abroad, and could not pick her kitten. One kitten’s future owner changed her mind (not because of TF, but because of a beauty fault that the kitten developed; she was supposed to go into her breeding program). Dexter we did not have heart to sell.

As I write this, I am still waiting for the results of the tests after the second Ronidazole treatment. The cats at home had an occasional diarrhoea after the treatment, but right now they seem fine. The two kittens that moved are well in their tummies, and no foul smell, and the cats that they live with are also well in their tummies. No matter what the results of the tests are, I would have made the same decision as the ones who took the kittens did, but I did not want to decide for others. There was not right or wrong here, only “risky in this way”, or “risky in that way”. My other option was to find new homes to the kittens where there were no other cats, but their future families opted against it. And that was not the option I would be happy about either. The homes that were waiting for the small ones were the perfect homes.

It is a very hard situation, emotionally, and in many other ways, both for us and the owners to be; they waited for their kittens for so long, and then I did not have good news for them after the first treatment, and we had to wait for a long time for the medicines to arrive, just to go through all of it again. Our veterinary was fast to obtain all the licences, and to help us, but that is the procedure – it takes time. So bad. I did not think this will be such a nightmare. I thought we were prepared.

The kittens who moved are very loved and happy in their new homes, Tsuki and Ender (called Ozzy now) moved. The kittens that stayed are also loved here, but they will need to move to their new forever homes soon. Our big cats are okay with the small ones still being here (they are six months now!), except for Jossan that occasionally hisses at them, saying that it is time they move, and Claire that became angry recently and thinks they should move. It is normal reaction, they are moms, and in the nature they should push out their small ones out of the nest at some point. Albert and Leroy think that it is good that they are here, we should have 200 cats, they love cats! Maven and Miii are okay with them, they play and run around gladly with the small ones.

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All the kittens on the cat tree

The kittens are big and beautiful, you would never think that they had (and maybe still have) that parasite. We love them so much, and we hope that this nightmare will be over soon.

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Dexter, Elric, Eleonora and Electra

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Electra

 

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More about TF and what might help a bit (besides medicines)

After I wrote my blog post yesterday I kissed the kittens good night and cleaned the litter boxes. And there it was, a cow-pie like poo in one of the ones that the kittens use. So it starts. 😦 And this morning there was an another one. Good that we will start with the medications tomorrow.

TF (tritrichomonas foetus) lives in large intestines, where all the nutrients are already absorbed when the food remains come there. What happens there is that the part of water is taken back to the body and if a cat has TF which causes diarrhea, the water that would otherwise go to the body comes out and the cat can gets dehydrated. So, if a small kitten has diarrhea from TF (or anything else) – hydrate, hydrate! Give the kitten a lot of liquids!

If it is a bigger kitten it may be enough to drink milk, water or or water with electrolytes, but a smaller ones will need extra liquids under their skin. I read about that and that is why we had two veterinary clinics informed about the possibility that our kittens may need re-hydration if they get Tf and we could come there with them urgently without waiting to help them. But no one got it until now. And it is not a diarrhea, but it is more watery that the normal stool. That is exactly how our bigger cats had it at start when they just got TF. It normalized with time. Leroy had the most of problems, but that I solved at the end with help of coconut virgin oil supplement and low fat food.

The thing is that TF ‘eats’ fat. All kind of fat except dodecanoic acid is promoting TF growth. And that is very interesting; dodecanoic acid (“laurinsyra in Swedish”) is as effective as Axilur (Panacur) against Giardia, another protosoe that is similar to TF, but lives in small intestine (our cats are tested negative to Giardia, and we never suspected it, but since we tested against many things, we checked that, too. They had ‘only’ TF, nothing else).

Here is a link to the study: http://cat.inist.fr/?aModele=afficheN&cpsidt=17146659 : “Dodecanoic acid appeared to induce trophozoite death by accumulating within the parasite cytoplasm resulting in rupture of the cell membrane.”

The dose of cold pressed coconut oil for the cats is 1/4 teaspoon (or 1ml) 2 times per day. Also, low fat diet is beneficial when fighting TF. That is what stabilized Leroy’s tummy at the end! I found that Royal Canin Light and Brit Care Light were good for that. But any dry food with under 10% fat should be good. I got a tips from Denmark also that Royal Canin hairball dry food also works in stabilizing TF caused diarrhea.

Good we will start our treatment soon!

P.S. I am in no way associated with Royal Canin or any other cat food manufacturer. I do not write about any cat products in order to advertise them. I only write about what I believe and see works for my cats, in order to help other cat owners out there, if possible.

The kittens are getting bigger

The kittens are getting bigger. They got their second vaccine, and chip recently. They also passed the big health check.

The fur babies have been growing nicely and there were no problems with them, except for an urgent trip to the veterinary last week when Elric threw up a lot and went down in weight fast (I weigh them often, every day during the first few weeks, then every second day or so). It turned out that he managed to swallow 5-6 cm semi-elastic straw that belonged to the brush used to clean the fireplace. We are not sure how he managed to chew it and swallow it, but he apparently did. He threw it up in one of his throw up attacks, so we saw it. That was shocking. So many questions in our heads when we saw it. But we did not say much, I took the phone and called the veterinary to announce that we are coming urgently and what the problem was.

Elric got help fast when came there. He got a lot of fluids under the skin, medicine and he recovered fast. Still, it was a sleepless night, watching over him. If he continued to throw up, we were to drive to the hospital for an operation. Luckily, he had already thrown up all that irritated him, and it did not damage his stomach and intestines. The brush is now locked in the cellar where kittens never go. We are not 100% certain that the thick hair straw he ate came from the brush; it could have been the new kitten furniture, but we threw away the straw in our hurry to get ready to drive to the hospital, and we do not know. We removed that furniture as well, just in case.  Elric is completely fine now, and the biggest kitten in Jossan’s litter. He likes to eat, apparently. 🙂

Elric, Leroy's grandchild, he likes to eat. :)

Elric, Leroy’s grandchild, he likes to eat. 🙂

So, now all are checked, no defects or health problems. Dexter/LillMupp suffered a minor injury on his tail during the birth, which looks like a little knot, but he has no pain and I do not want to operate it (since that would cause him pain). He is charming with his little ‘knöl’ close to the tip of the tail. He is special. ♥

Here is a video with little Dexter:

And a video with a few of the other kittens and big cats:

There are more pictures here.

And what about TF (tritrichomonas foetus)? Our big cats had it for some time now (almost 5 months I think), but stopped showing the majority of the symptoms; only sometimes their stool smells foul, acidic in a way, but they had no diarrhea and did not go down in condition. The small ones had no problems except from when they turned about 10-11 weeks. Or it was not a problem, really, but my nose detected TF smell, how I call it, in their stool. But I did not feel it for all of them. Then we sent the samples for analysis with PCR method that looks for the parasite DNA and we got an answer that all of them had it. They are symptom-free carriers (or – symptom-free… for the most of time, yes, besides that smell).

The good things about the kittens is that they are well; they did not have diarrhea and are growing as they should. I understand that many breeders and owners can miss the signs of TF and mistake it for a slight tummy disturbance. But not all cats have it that easy and are symptom-free. Some have chronic diarrhea and can with time develop anal incontinence. They can get various inflammatory conditions and get depressed. Some go down in condition as well, depending on their overall health status.

And about having TF mistaken for a sensitive tummy; well, there are not so many sensitive tummies around as one may believe! We had a few litters during these years before we got TF in our cattery and NEVER had bad tummies, and those kittens ate many different kinds of food, changing often, eating various stuff at the same time, licking whatever they saw etc (we cleaned and steamed, but you cannot sterilize the whole house, they will always find something to chew on). And we never had an upset tummy, except once when Claire ate some sand, but that went over in a few hours. We did take her to the veterinary to get some extra fluids under the skin though. When they are small, kittens can go down in condition fast, it can be a matter of hours, so one has to react immediately.

So, I am  a bit skeptical when people talk about bad tummies when they get their kitten home. It could be stress and food change (hopefully you did not change food totally at the same time when the kitten moved to the new home?), or it could be something else, like TF or giardia. The causes vary.

We will start to treat TF on Saturday, in two days, with Ronidazole that we waited for a very long time (7-8 weeks, and we still haven’t received all the doses). Or veterinary ordered it promptly, when we got the kittens and they turned 4 weeks, but since it is a medicine that is obtained on license in Sweden, for some reason it takes weeks and months to get it. I will be updating the blog about how the treatment is going and with more facts about TF and the view on it. Now the kittens are old enough to get the treatment and we will finally treat both them and our big cats. All are in good health, and have good weight (some more than just “good” weight; yes Leroy, I am talking about you!) and that is positive.

In the shadows

What I will write about today is something that a few of other cat owners experience as well, but not all are open about it. Some rather go through that in silence and I understand why. But I want to tell about what we are going through and if possible help others with our story.

Claire was mated just a little bit before our story begins and we  were not sure yet if she stayed pregnant.  Jossan had a date that we drove back to his Mom the previous day. The day the story starts, I came home from work and went to the litter boxes to clean them. Claire followed me, and she went on one of the litter boxes in front of me and did #2. Her stool did not look as usual; it was softer, shinier, and there was a little red streak in it. It smelled bad. I felt dizzy and my heart started racing when I saw that particular streak, and I got so scared. What I saw was blood, I understood that.

Joakim had just entered the house, and I showed him what I saw. Claire stared at us with her beautiful blue eyes, wondering why we look so upset and then she happilly ran away hunting for a toy.

I followed her to the upper floor, got to my computer and started googling for the symptoms while calling a veterinary. Our vet had already closed for the day so I called another clinic that is also pretty good. While waiting to talk to the veterinary, I managed to google that the blood in the stool that looked as Claire’s did, light and almost transparent, was just an irritation in the large intestine, and usually not a sign off something serious. OK, that was not bad.

The veterinary was not too worried, cat diarrhea is the most common cause for a veterinary visit, and often there is not a serious cause behind it (in 80% of cases). I said that Claire was pregnant and, sure, if she gets fine by tomorrow, I can accept it as a one time thing, but if it continues, I want to book a time for a checkup. And so we booked the first available time they had, two days later, and I would call and cancel it if Claire got well.

She did not get better. We ran to another clinic the same night and bought special food for cats with diarrhea, gave her probiotics and extra nutrients in a concentrated paste.

Then Leroy got bad. He ate a lot of grass the previous day, so I thought that that is why, but his stool smelled so bad and now we had two cats that were bad in tummy and I started feeling very anxious. Our cats are almost never sick. They can eat whatever, their tummies are fine. And that smell, you just know that something is wrong.

The next day we took both Leroy and Claire to the veterinary to a booked visit. Our furry babies were very cute and cuddly, a picture perfect clinically healthy cats. No fever, happy, good appetite, clear eyes and all. She took a smear from their bottoms (not appreciated!) and looked under the microscope (we knew before and she mentioned that it is not a 100% certain she will find something that way, even if it is there). No, nothing.

But I knew something was wrong.  Although our cats behaved as always, did not go down at all in weight and ate well, that smell and feeling something is wrong was enough. We agreed to collect samples of their stool for some time and send it to SVA (Swedish Veterinary Institute).

I googled and read studies and other sites and discussion boards frenetically. I was certain what it was. Tritrichomonas Foetus, the odd parasite that came to the cat population around 1999, and no one knows how; before it was something that mostly plagued cows. I mailed Casper’s mom Désirée that is a veterinary and researcher also at SVA, but works with birds, and she gave me advice and support and told me for which tests to ask for TF; it was a so called PCR test. We also would test for Giardia and other parasites.And so we sent the collected samples.

As the days went by, all of our cats occasionally got bad stool. The veterinary said that it was too late to separate them anyway, they already were all probably infected with whatever they might have had. What we should focus on was to keep them happy and healthy and not stress them. I called and informed the owner of the guys our girls dated what I worried about and the tests I sent for. She was very worried as well. Her cats were symptom free, but there are symptom-free carriers of TF.

A week later, even before the results came back, I was completely certain that our cats had TF. I read many many things about it, and exchanged plenty of mails with Des, Casper’s Mom, and Jossan’s breeder, my friend Monica. The cats felt absolutely fine, except that it smelled awful in their litter boxes and they sometimes had bad consistency of their poo. Not all the time, maybe 50% in average, it was all good. But not all the same cats all the time had bad stool; it varied. But they played, Claire went up in weight (we weighed the cats every day) and started eating more and more. They slept and ate as before and all was as before. Except for the litter box thing. I checked their bottoms every day to see if they got irritated or swollen, but they were fine.

And then the results came. The veterinary called and said that she was sorry, but it was TF, as I thought. I felt terrible and at the same time relieved. The thing is that Joakim and I were very worried, we did not not sleep or eat well all that time. I could have been wrong about TF, and something else could have been the culprit of the foul smell and the bad tummies. A virus or a bacteria that could kill the unborn kittens and make our cats really sick. Or not kill the kittens, but give them all kind of deformities. Or something that could kill the moms to be, give them inflammation of the uterus etc… I am a breeder and know other breeders, I heard all kind of things that other experienced during their years as breeders. You see pictures of fluffy cute kittens in all these catteries, including ours, and that is true, breeding is an amazing experience, but then, there is that other side of the coin; cats can get sick and bad things can happen. And we must do our best to help them stay healthy and recover fast when sick!

Let me tell you a little about TF.

Tritrichomonas Foetus is a small parasite, it is a single-celled protozoa, flagellate. It looks pretty nasty when enlarged, but it is very small.

The fact is that TF does not actually make cats go down in condition. The parasite lives in the large intestine and causes diarrhea or actually soft poo at times. It smells really bad. At some cats it gives no symptoms at all! All the nutrition from food is already taken and absorbed in the small intestine before it gets to the region where TF resides. That is why cats do not get sick or lose weight. TF does not affect unborn kittens or cats’ condition. Our cats do not go to the toilet more often either. It is the consistency that is sometimes different. And that smell. It is awful.

TF is not contagious for humans.

There are studies in Britain and Norway that were done on taking samples from all the cats on cat shows and it turns out that between 20% and 31% of all the cats had TF! Some had other parasites as well, as for example Giardia.

I think that it is a responsible behavior to treat it, sell only TF -free cats and stop spreading of TF. We could sell a seemingly healthy kittens with TF, but it could give it to other cats and occasional (or in some cases – everyday) diarrhea is not fun to deal with. Our cats have very mild symptoms, but some cats get worse; it depends on their overall health, I guess.

I think that it is not acceptable to sell the cats that are sick or even symptom-free carriers of parasites. Not only  that by selling kittens with problems you would give a lot of emotional and economical stress to the new owners, it is also that we love our cats and kittens with all of our hearts, and we would never give them such a bad start in life that would lead into continued illness and possible misery. TF usually heals on its own on 90% of cats even without medications in average of 9 months. In two years the most of them are fine; about 60% are parasite-free. About 40% are suspected to stay symptom free carriers for longer.

There is a bit of hysteria about TF (when we do not know much about something, we get scared, and sometimes even worse than scared). I read that some claim that TF kills cats, kittens etc. TF does not kill kittens. To quote one of the experts on TF, professor Danielle Gunn-Moore, it is unlikely that kittens with TF die from TF or the diarrhea caused by it. It is much more likely that Giardia or another bacterial, viral or parasitic condition was also present in the kittens if they died, and that it was one of those that were as yet undetected that kills the kittens.

This was confirmed by one of our  veterinaries, Katharina (she works with Buba and she is also an excellent veterinary). I talked today with her, and told her what we have and that we will have kittens soon. We will be able to run to them immediately if the kittens get dehydrated and need some extra liquid under their skin or vitamins, if it comes to that. Although, we tested for other things, and we do not have anything but TF, so the kittens will most likely be fine even if they get TF from the big cats. But it feels good to have  veterinary support even before the kittens turn 12 weeks and all the cats can be medicated and cured. We will try to prevent the kittens from getting TF by separating their litter box from moms’ litter boxes.

We are also in contact with other veterinaries (the cats will be treated when the kittens are big enough at the first clinic we went to, Linnea is also very good veterinary and they will help us get the medicine from abroad, on a licence) and the SVA’s parasitic laboratory and I am mailing some more of the world experts on TF, since abroad  (especially in the US) people have more experience with TF than we in Sweden. Plenty of knowledgable people are involved!

Our cats and kittens to come will be taken care of and treated and move to their new homes when they are tested and given a clean bill of health.

This may be a hard few months ahead of us, but we will do our best.

Informative links about TF:

http://www.icatcare.org/advice-centre/cat-health/tritrichomonas-foetus-infection-cats
http://www.catplanet.co.uk/index.php/magazine/articles/303-tritrichomonas-foetus-tritrix
http://www.cvm.ncsu.edu/docs/documents/ownersguide_tfoetus_revised_122009_final.pdf
http://www.marvistavet.com/html/body_tritrichomonas_foetus.html
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC427826/
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19653162

In Swedish, about both Giardia and TF:

http://www.sogrupp.se/2012/06/tritrichomonas-foetus-giardia/