Similar to Tonks, Squeak came into my life through my previous Vet Tech job. He was found trailing further and further behind his siblings and mother in a parking lot, so a Good Samaritan brought him in where the mystery was quickly solved: a horrific flea infestation. An emergency blood transfusion was called for, and Firefly was the closest match. I had no plans to bring another cat into my household at that time, though, so Firefly and I considered it nothing more than a job well-done. As usual, I was foolish.
About a month later, the little tyke had rebounded and was on the lookout for a new home – and his foster mom was determined to make that home mine. To this day I swear she trained the little goober to follow me around the treatment room, calling out that he knew I was destined to be his Mommy. I cautioned her that I had an older cat that might not accept him, and she pushed me to take him home, just on trial.
Famous last agreement.
Of course Squeak came home to stay. He earned his name when tiny little bird chirps were all he produced – and he pretty much only makes little squeaking sounds to this day (when any sound emerges at all). Not too long after the little ball of white and black fur came in, I realized that he had a condition called Cerebellar Hypoplasia or CH (I’d had previous cats with the same condition). This happens when the cerebellum doesn’t fully develop, and it causes issues with balance and can lead to tremors, head-bobbing, and similar symptoms, depending on severity. Squeak’s case is mild, though he does wobble and have trouble jumping. There’s no cure, but it also doesn’t worsen, so as long as the animal (dogs can have the same condition) is able to function normally, there’s no reason for alarm.
A few months down the road, I got my next surprise: he had a heart murmur. A heart murmur in a kitten just six-months-old isn’t a good thing, so we checked him with an echocardiogram to be certain. He had a tiny hole between two of the chambers of his heart – nothing major – but some things weren’t looking right, so a repeat was recommended once he was a year old.
Working in the vet field and owning animals is a roll of the dice.
That recheck came around, and the news wasn’t good: he had a condition called hypertrophic cardiomyopathy (HCM). The chambers of his heart were thicker than normal. Cats can develop HCM, but when they do so at a young age, it tends to progress faster than when they develop the murmur at an advanced age. True to form, within four years, Squeak’s heart murmur grew louder, and he went from HCM to HOCM: hypertrophic obstructive cardiomyopathy. Now those cardiac changes were affecting the blood flow through the valves of his heart. This meant starting a medication called Atenolol in an attempt to better support his heart and hopefully slow further progression – it also meant more frequent checks (every six months instead of every year). Thus far, his condition has stabilized.
He wasn’t done yet, though.
Last year, Squeak ended up with a true emergency: a life-threatening condition called urethral obstruction (he wasn’t able to urinate). Actually, he did it twice, both requiring hospitalization with urinary catheters (and VERY CAREFUL sedation to protect his heart). Now he has to have a prescription diet (and NOTHING else) in order to prevent this from happening again. Luckily, he likes it and it’s safe for Tonks and Firefly (who also love it). Never a dull moment in our household, huh?
Squeak doesn’t hear 100% (we never know exactly what he’ll hear or not), and his memory only lasts about 5 minutes. We like to tell people he’s Dory. What’s funny is that he gets fixated on specific spots in the house, and no matter what, you can’t shift him until he decides he’s ready. Then he’ll wander to a new spot and stay there until he’s ready to mosey on. He does know where everything is, even if it’s been a while – kind of like the end of Finding Dory, I guess.
Where Firefly and Tonks are snugglers, he usually isn’t. He was the first one to accept Juniper in the house, and he puts up with her sniffing at him – though he will “meep” whenever she tries to swat him out of his seashell bed; a tenth her size he might be, but he isn’t afraid to tattle! His reset button makes him very easy-going and relaxed – nothing ever bothers him. However, he’s the messiest eater of the bunch and it constantly amazes us that he gets ANY food in his mouth (some of that’s his CH, some is just him).
Between his brain and his health concerns, he’s pretty special, but his little chirps and watching him decide where he wants to hang out each day keep our lives interesting. Besides, there’s nothing wrong with a touch of special!