IT is a sad fact that a significant number of young cats meet their premature demise as a result of a mad dash across a highway, writes Dominic Plumley.
Leaving unsuspecting drivers little or no time to react, there is inevitably only one party that is likely to come out unscathed when a ton of metal collides with about 3kg of young bone and muscle.
Last weekend’s most memorable inpatient was a most delightful nine-month-old kitten, called Jasper.
On Friday evening, he had had his supper at about 6pm as usual and then popped out of the cat-flap to enjoy the unseasonal early spring sunshine.
Though Jasper has had ‘the op’ he is still inclined to stay out after dark and his owner wasn’t unduly concerned when he hadn’t returned by nine.
Then disaster struck. As his owner was making a last cup of cocoa before bed, Jasper dragged himself back into the kitchen trailing his back legs and in obvious distress. Within 45 minutes he was in our care.
On examination it was immediately apparent that Jasper had been involved in an RTA, the common medical acronym for road traffic accident. His nails were shredded, the consequence of the sudden fear at the point of impact when the unfortunate cat impulsively extends its nails and is then shunted across the hard surface of the road.
He was also still in shock, his membranes very pale and most significantly he had no movement in his left hind leg.
Very gentle manipulation and checks for nervous feeling suggested that his right hind leg was most likely ok, where as his left hind and pelvis had been damaged. On the plus side, he still had good movement in his tail suggesting his spine was intact.
We immediately placed Jasper on intravenous fluids to treat for the shock and gave him some powerful painkillers; before settling him into a very comfortable bed to stabilize our patient before further investigation.
Having been closely monitored through the night, the following morning Jasper was much brighter but still unable to stand on his hind legs. Sedation and x-rays confirmed our suspicions from the initial examination.
He had indeed fractured the left side of his pelvis and the femoral head (the ball of the ball and socket hip joint) had also fractured from the thighbone.
Cats, especially young cats, have a phenomenal capacity to heel. Fortunately, Jasper’s pelvis was still nicely in line and the large amount of muscle surrounding the bones should provide enough support for heeling to occur without the need for surgical intervention.
His hip may present more of a problem; the fragment of the femoral head was not large enough to facilitate a normal repair. In these cases, we sometimes have to remove the femoral head (a procedure known as an arthroplasty) effectively leaving the hip as a muscular joint more like the shoulder. In Jasper’s case this is a bridge that may have to be crossed at some point down the line.
As the weekend progressed Jasper made huge strides – quite literally – and by Monday he was on his feet and able to walk.
Supporting most of his weight on his right hind, the left leg was now moving and he was able to use it pretty well in the circumstances.
Having satisfied us that he is able to perform is ablutions, he has now gone home for several weeks of strict cage rest with a good prospect of a full recovery, though doubtless at least one life down.