Followers of my Vedder Mountain Veterinary clinic page will likely remember the story of Jackson; not meaning Michael, the chart-topping pop artist, but Jackson the cat, a long-haired grey Persian who was adopted, very, fortunately, by a compassionate Chilliwack couple about eight years ago.
To refresh on the details, he had shown up in their yard one day as a badly injured stray and was warmly welcomed into their home.
At the time he was suffering from a seriously injured right eye and was tolerating other bothersome problems as well, including, a heavily matted, greasy hair condition and a very empty stomach. However, even with these problems, his gentle and trusting personality had seemed evident. He was clearly the kind of cat used to toughing it out in tough times yet one who had a gentle, sensitive side and an innate trust of humans.
At the time, his eye was so badly damaged that it was pushed backwards into his head with pus in his eye socket obscuring a collapsed eyeball underneath. This eye injury had probably occurred during a very intense dispute with another cat over territorial rights. One can easily imagine that as a hardened road warrior he had probably bravely stood his ground but unfortunately the head-on conflict had resulted in the sacrifice of an eye.
Despite all medical measures and very conscientious and sustained efforts to salvage this eye, it became a source of increasing discomfort to Jackson and it soon became clearly apparent that the kindest approach would be to have it removed. We performed this procedure early in March 2007.
Jackson enjoyed about four years relatively problem-free before he started to show evidence that his remaining eye was not looking normal. Unusual chocolate-colored cloudy strands started to appear behind his shiny cornea. He also started to be experiencing loss of more vision. A visit to the eye specialists in the summer of 2012 confirmed a diagnosis of a persistent inflammation inside Jackson’s one remaining eye.
A variety of long-term eye medications were prescribed to be administered daily. Again, the risk factor was very high that in the foreseeable future Jackson would develop a cataract and eventually suffer from a totally blind, very painful eye.
The benefits of the medication, administered by very dedicated, conscientious owners held his problem at bay for close to two years before it became apparent that another enucleation (eye removal) was necessary to improve Jackson’s enjoyment of his life.
Routine blood tests to ensure that Jackson’s main body organs were functioning well prior to the operation revealed a good overall health status but for one complicating factor…he was determined to be carrying a virus very similar to the human H.I.V. virus!
This virus, called FIV, is most commonly acquired by cats during exchange of infected saliva during cat fight battles. Much less commonly, it can be passed from a mother cat to her kittens. Like the AIDS virus in humans, this virus causes a disease that lurks in the body and which eventually erodes a cat’s immune system to such an extent that he will succumb to secondary infections. Fortunately, an affected cat often can live many years totally unaffected by its effects. There is no evidence at all that this virus, as similar as it is to the human AIDS virus, can be transmitted to people.
After considering the odds, and because of their love of a once stray cat with a personality that sparkled, the owners elected to proceed with Jackson’s surgery to remove his remaining left eye on Dec 16/2014.
Since then, Jackson hasn’t looked back (no pun intended!).
Blind cats in general, are very perceptive and compensate extremely well to vision loss. After an initial period of adjustment they learn the lay of the land very capably by relying on their remaining tuned-up senses especially their senses of smell, hearing and “whisker-touch”. Stairs can bother them at first, possibly because of the rising air currents off the various stairs confusing them, but they soon adjust.
Jackson proved to be a very quick learner! Apparently, as reported by his owner, scarcely a week had passed before he went missing from her office. (She had been taking him with her after the surgery to her workplace each day so that she could keep her eyes on him and give him his medications). When she couldn’t find him anywhere in her office she expanded her search and found him sitting at the top of the stair stoop having climbed over the kid gate that had been his room barrier and gone exploring, totally blind and still recovering from his surgery.
Jackson’s owners have reported that they are very pleased with the outcome of their decision. They also have uncovered an element of humor to this event. Very playfully, they now can ask: “how can we know that he is sleeping?” And also comment that now there will be no red-eye to eliminate in family photos!
As for Jackson, he just keeps on keeping on! It seems that to him his latest surgical experience is just a tumble off the table. Never one to give up and roll over but rather, he just keeps on keeping on! A good example to us all don’t you think?