I should have known not to doubt Katy the cat.
My adopted long-haired tabby was pretty sick for much of last summer. Her ongoing tummy issues morphed into five-day periods where Katy didn’t eat. That happened twice.
The second time, in September, the staff at Phillips Animal Hospital checked to see if her organs were shutting down.
I could have lost Katy only three years after bringing her home.
She had other ideas. A combination of a different food, a steroid, and an anti-sickness medication has resulted in only four vomiting incidents in more than 14 weeks.
Katy is doing so much better, though she needs to gain weight. During our last appointment in September, she had gone from 12 to 8.7 pounds.
Despite a healthy appetite, I don’t think she has gained much of it back.
Considering what Katy has been through, that’s a relatively minor flaw.
Feline health crisis: Katy the cat suffers first health scare
For those not familiar with Katy’s origin story, I’m going to let other people help tell her tale.
From what I’ve been able to piece together, Katy was living as an indoor/outdoor cat at an apartment complex on the south side of Mansfield.
Around the Fourth of July in 2018, someone put a firework in Katy’s rectum and set it off. She suffered catastrophic injuries.
Injuries left Katy’s life hanging in the balance
It was unclear if Katy could even have a bowel movement. If not, she would not have survived. There also was concern Katy might be incontinent, which would have prevented her from being an indoor cat.
Dr. Andrew Scherrer performed the surgery.
“Katy was such a unique case right from the start,” he said. “I remember when Missy (Houghton) first called us about her saying that there was a cat who’d had a firecracker detonated inside her. When I first heard about the situation, I honestly thought that it was going to result in euthanasia. I couldn’t imagine how an animal could survive something like that, but from the start, Katy was a survivor.”
Katy’s catastrophic injuries made for challenging decisions.
“The tissue surrounding the anus was — well — gone, as was most of the bottom of her tail. The first step in fixing such a complex problem was to determine a course of action,” Scherrer said. “The problem that presented itself was that she needed to continue to have bowel movements and urinations, and these would greatly contaminate her wound area.
“Infection was a constant threat to Katy initially, and the idea of her fecal matter or urine contaminating her wound every time she had a bowel movement or urination prompted me to take her to surgery.”
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Scherrer described the procedure.
“The surgery was pretty routine. We cleaned the area as best we could with antiseptics, then removed any tissue that was too damaged to be salvaged and sutured the tissue that was healthy back together,” he said. “Initially, this included the skin at the base of her tail, but after a few days, the tissue began to undergo what is called necrosis.
“The tissue was dying. My guess is that the thermal blast of the explosive device just obliterated the underlying vascular supply to the tail, and without blood, the tissue died. So unfortunately, I made the decision to take her back to surgery to do a tail amputation. After that, she began to heal pretty routinely.”
Complications followed surgery
Even after surgery, Katy was not out of the woods.
“From the start, I was concerned about whether or not the blast had punched a hole in her colon. It was evident pretty early on that she was forming stool, but it was moving very slowly through her colon, and I became worried that she was leaking stool into her abdominal cavity,” Scherrer said. “Those animals are typically incredibly ill, and Katy was not, so I was hopeful that we were just dealing with constipation and a slow GI tract secondary to all of the drugs she was on and the stress she’d been through.
“Finally, about a week after her initial presentation, Katy had a small bowel movement, and at that point, I think I breathed a sigh of relief for her for the first time.”
People from all over, including someone from Afghanistan, called to check on Katy. Her story made people.com.
In Betty’s name: Donations in honor of Betty White coming in to Humane Society of Richland County
“The outpouring of community support that I saw for her over the next few days and weeks was, without a doubt, one of the most memorable things of my career,” Scherrer said. “I look back on Katy and the management of that case fondly. There were so many opportunities for things to go south with her treatment, but every time she needed a miracle, one happened to come through.
“I enjoy seeing her when she comes in and am thankful that I was able to be a part of her treatment. There are very few times in my day-to-day life as a veterinarian where I say, ‘I saved a life,’ or ‘I made a difference.”’ he continued. “There are so many times in this line of work where we go home defeated and just feeling completely drained of any and all feeling — but it’s memories of patients like Katy that keep me going on and all the lives that her story has touched. That I had a tiny part in that, in and of itself, is enough.”
On the comeback trail
For her recovery, Katy went to the Humane Society of Richland County, where Missy Houghton was the director at the time.
“I remember every day was poop watch. She was incredibly withdrawn when we first got her back to the shelter,” Houghton said. “After a little time and catnip, she started to come out of her shell.
“I remember we got a toy that hung off the door frame, and she loved that toy! She wasn’t super fond of being held, but she loved to watch everything. I always just felt that she was a tough enough girl that she could pull through, and I just wanted to give her every chance I could.”
For the most part, Katy still doesn’t care to be held, but she has become more loving in the last few months. Whenever I lie down and fall asleep — which is all the time — she joins me. Sometimes she extends one of her feet to touch my leg.
When I get home from work, Katy jumps on the bed for me to pet her. She never did that before.
Katy has even come around with the groomer. The first two times I took her to see Allegra Anderson at Ashland Pet Store, Katy squirmed and complained about being restrained.
Allegra had to have a second person to help hold Katy.
Recently, when we returned for the first time in 10 months, Allegra didn’t need backup, though I did help hold Katy upright for underside grooming. I nuzzled her with my nose.
She has come so far.
“I’m so proud of how well she recovered, and I know how loved she is now. It was everything I hoped for her,” Houghton said.
This article originally appeared on Mansfield News Journal: Mansfield News Journal reporter looks back at Katy the cat’s early days