Paws and Effect

Dear Most Esteemed and Knowledgeable Kitties:

My 5-month-old kitten, Sofie, was attacked by a big dog. It happened yesterday afternoon. She’s breathing and is alive, but she’s not moving. It’s like she’s in a coma. She’s just a little farm kitten but I love her. What should I do?

~Mitchell

Siouxsie: We sent this reader an e-mail as soon as we got this, because the only answer is to get that cat to a veterinarian right away. But this letter does give us an opportunity for us to make some important points about what we can and cannot offer our readers.

Thomas: First of all, we’re not veterinarians and neither is Mama, so we’re not qualified to give diagnoses or recommend treatment options.

Dahlia: If we were veterinarians, we couldn’t ethically or legally diagnose your cat, sight unseen. Even well-known online veterinarians like Cat Fancy magazine and catchannel.com contributor Dr. Arnold Plotnik, DVM, wouldn’t give a diagnosis under those circumstances — although they may suggest possibilities to discuss with your vet.

Siouxsie: Although we might have some ideas about what could be wrong with your cat, based solely on our own personal experience and the reading we’ve done, your vet needs to be the one to make the final call.

Thomas: We can give you suggestions for first aid if necessary.

Dahlia: We can’t tell you what might be wrong with your cat if you disagree with your vet’s diagnosis. We won’t second-guess or discredit your vet’s opinion. We might suggest that you seek a second opinion if you don’t feel comfortable with what you’ve been told by your vet.

Siouxsie: Once your cat has been diagnosed with a problem by your vet, we can help you understand the treatment options he or she has recommended.

Thomas: We can help you find ways to accommodate the needs of an older cat or a cat with a disability.

Dahlia: We can offer you emotional support while you’re grieving the loss of a beloved cat companion.

Siouxsie: We can certainly give you advice about how to deal with behavior problems and social issues such as introducing a new cat, moving house, having a baby, and the like. Behavior questions comprise the vast majority of letters we answer here. You’ll probably notice, though, that when we give advice about behavior problems, we recommend a visit to the vet to rule out any underlying health issues.

Thomas: We firmly believe in the importance of regular veterinary care. It helps you to establish a relationship of trust with a veterinarian, and it provides the vet with an ongoing record of your cat’s normal vital signs and behavior. That way, when and if things do go wrong, your vet will be better equipped to understand your cat and your relationship with the vet will help you through a time of crisis as well.

Dahlia: It’s absolutely heartbreaking when people write to us with questions about how to care for sick or injured cats and tell us they can’t afford veterinary care. We know times are very hard for a lot of people right now, and it can only be even more heart-wrenching for the caretaker, knowing that their cat needs medical care and they can’t access it.

Siouxsie: And again, the only thing we can tell these readers is that they have to find some way to get their cat to a vet.

Thomas: We can offer information about financial assistance for cat caretakers and suggest that a local SPCA or animal rescue group may be able to help.

Dahlia: Along those lines, we strongly suggest that all cat caretakers, no matter your level of financial security, give some very serious thought to how much you can afford to spend on your cat’s medical treatment. Even someone like Mama, who has a full-time job and could be considered a middle-class person, has limits on the amount of money she could spend if one of us got really sick or severely injured.

Siouxsie: If you recently lost your job or you have other financial limitations like a fixed income or a large burden of debt, we suggest you find out what options are available to you before an emergency happens. It’s really hard to try and figure this stuff out when you’re in the middle of a crisis.

Thomas: For example, if you were interested in a program like Care Credit, you might want to find out if your vet (or any vet in your area) accepts Care Credit. You may also want to apply in advance and get yourself pre-approved — or at least, know if you’re not eligible for care credit so that you don’t waste precious time in an emergency situation.

Dahlia: Ultimately, our advice to all of you is as follows: Make sure you find a veterinarian and that your cat gets regular health checkups and vaccinations. When your cat shows obvious signs of illness or injury, call your vet before you do anything else. Take some time now to consider your finances and find resources to help you pay for your cat’s care.

Siouxsie: We have great respect for all of you who care enough to ask for help in giving your cat have the best life possible. We continue to be humbled that you seek out our advice and grateful that we’ve been able to help so many of you over the years. We hope to be here for you for many more years to come.

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