Every now and then, cat lovers come across a truly rare find. A kitten or cat, that stands head and shoulders above the rest. Now that cat or kitten may not be the healthiest, cleanest, or even the friendliest, but there is something extra special about them, something that tugs at your heart strings, something that, well, just melts your heart. For me, the kitten was Moki.
I first met Moki while volunteering at my local feline shelter. I had been volunteering for a few months when Moki and his sister Java where admitted to the shelter. It was kitten season and we had an influx of kittens in the shelter, many of whom where feral. I like to think that someone must have been watching out for Moki and his sister, since we found them on the doorstep of the shelter one night, cold, scared and hungry.
Over the next few days as I went about my business as usual at the shelter, but as each day passed, Moki caught my attention more and more. Perhaps at first it was because, we didn’t normally house kittens at the shelter, but then it became something more. Moki and his sister Java were two of six kittens that we could not place immediately into foster homes. Most of our foster homes wanted cute cuddly kittens, not untamed wild ones. Looking back on it, I have to admit Moki was probably the worse one of all. Whenever one of the shelter staff would try to take him out of his cage, he would pitch a fit something awful. His ears would go back and he would hiss as loud as he could. When that didn’t work, he would try hiding under his bedding, in his litter box, behind his food and water bowls, whatever would make it most difficult for you to get him out of his cage. His attitude however, did not fool me. As days passed and I grew more attached to his fitful ways, I began speaking with my boyfriend about bringing Moki home to foster. We already had six cats so the decision to bring Moki home to live with us, was one we had to give much consideration. After a few days, and some long hard thought, we agreed that this extra special guy deserved an equally special home, if only on a temporary basis…
The minute Moki meet my boyfriend was amazing. I will never forget it. Moki and my boyfriend instantly bonded. It was as if Moki had never been feral. The next few days and weeks went well. We had given Moki his very own bedroom filled with toys, a scratching post, a queen-sized bed to sleep on and all the food he could eat. He ran, jumped, played, purred and delighted in all the attention. Unfortunately, little did we know, that was about to all change.
Moki had suffered from what at first appear to be a mild upper repository infection ever since I had brought him home from the shelter. We didn’t believe it to be anything major. Over the years I have had a number of cats with URI’s and the shelter had treated hundreds of cases that appeared just like Moki’s at the time. Neither of us had any reason to suspect that this would turn out to be unlike anything either of us had every battled before.
We started Moki on a regular course of antibiotics all the while believing his symptoms would clear up in a few days. When his symptoms got worse, instead of better, we took him to the vet. By now Moki had gone from a little sneezing, slight runny nose and watery eyes, to being lethargic, and refusing to eat or drink. Along with the antibiotics, we began force-feeding Moki. We also started him on a daily routine of sub-q-fluids, which I administered myself at home. When Moki’s health continued to decline, and his head started shaking like a diabetic when their insulin level gets to low, we took Moki back to the vet. This time he stayed over night. I will never forget what happened next, the month was July, the exact date was 7/27/2007. Blood was drawn from Moki upon his arrival at the hospital and the result of his blood test came back on the morning of 7/28. The news wasn’t good. Moki’s had a temperature of 104.3 and a white blood cell count of 0.7. The normal reference range for kitties given the test was 3.5 – 16.0. The doctor told us at that time that Moki wasn’t going to make it. “His white blood cell count was lower than a cat suffering from leukemia in their final stage.”
Despite all the odds being against Moki, I couldn’t give up hope, I wouldn’t give up hope, so since the office where he was currently being held at, closed on Sundays, I picked up Moki that afternoon and moved him to an emergency vet. After taking a look at Moki and the medical records I bought with us, the emergency doctor on call confirmed what the first doctor had said. Before leaving Moki in her care, she thought it was best that I say “good bye” to the sweet little guy, since it was unlikely he would make it through the night. It was not without much crying, telling Moki to hang in there and that I would be back to see him again tomorrow, that I let the doctor take Moki to the back office for the night. If Moki made it through the night and didn’t have a drastic turn around by morning, the doctor said she would have to recommend putting Moki to sleep the following day. That night I just couldn’t sleep. I cried and prayed and cried and prayed some more. Moki just had to pull through this, despite the odds…
The next morning I received a call from a new doctor, who had taken over Moki’s case. The new doctor asked if I could come in right away to see Moki. She informed me that Moki’s health status looked nothing like what was described in his medical records from the night before, and since she was not the doctor on call when Moki was admitted, she asked that I come take a look at Moki to verify that her findings where correct and that there hadn’t been some kind of mistake made.
When I got to the hospital, I to was surprised. Moki, who had been standing at death’s door only a matter of hours ago, was now alert and aware of his surroundings. I made the 40 min trek to visit Moki everyday, over the next few days. While alive and obviously alert, Moki had suffered some neurological damage. At first we where not sure if he would ever be able to sit up or eat on his own, was our little guy doomed to a bed ridden life?
By the end of the third day, Moki managed to sit up on his own, although it was only for short periods of time, before he would end up falling over on his side. His head still shook uncontrollably and he was still unable to stand. Here stood a shadow, of the proud fierce kitten I had brought home just weeks before. The little guy, who was ready to take on the world, now couldn’t even manage to crawl inside his own litter box.
On the upside, the vet techs discovered that Moki could indeed eat on his own, but only when a plate was held up to his face, and only wet food. Of course Moki still needed help to sit up for extended periods of time while trying to eat, but the fact remained that Moki was making progress!
By the end of the third day, the doctor sent Moki home. At that time she informed us that she believed Moki had a condition known as cerebellar hypoplasia. Although Moki tested negative for feline distemper, the doctor said it was possible that Moki’s mother may have suffered from the disease at the time Moki was conceived. The severity of the condition the doctor informed us varies widely among cats. She could not tell us to which extent Moki may recover, but she did inform us, that Moki would never get any worse as a result of the disease.
To be honest, I could have cared less about whatever accommodations we would have to make on account of Moki’s new found disability. I was just happy the little guy was alive and home at last, for I had promised Moki on that dreadful day when I first brought him to the emergency vet, that if he where to pull through this, he would have a forever home with me.
Moki’s first week at home was pretty eventful. When the doctor called to check in on Moki a week and a half after his release from the emergency hospital we where proud to report that after much work and lots of struggle, Moki was taking his first few steps on his own, since recovering from the illness. He was now also able to eat on his own from a dish placed on the ground.
As days turned into weeks and weeks turned into months, Moki continued to improve. Before we knew it, four months had passed and we where able to take Moki completely, off the medicine prescribed by the emergency vet. Within a very short period of time, after having stopped the medication prescribed by the emergency vet, Moki had developed a urinary tract infection. It was now mid Nov. to be more exact.
Our regular vet started Moki on a series of antibiotics to treat the UTI. When the UTI didn’t clear up we brought Moki back to the vet. This time Moki’s doctor decided to take an x-ray of Moki’s bladder and to run another blood test. While waiting for the results of Moki’s blood work to come back, Moki’s doctor obtained all of his medical history from the other doctors who had treated Moki in the past. In the meantime, I brought in some video footage of Moki walking around at home, that I had recorded in the past, to show the doctor. When the results of the new blood test came back, Moki’s doctor found a startling surprise. Moki’s blood work showed that Moki was FIP positive. After examining Moki’s prior blood test, the doctor also discovered that Moki had been testing FIP positive all along. The good news was that with each new blood test, Moki’s FIP titers where going down. The bad news came when the doctor examined the videos of Moki I brought in.
After examining the video of Moki, the doctor concluded that Moki did not have cerebellar hypoplasia. Cats suffering from CH all have the same tale-tale sign and that is a flagpole tag. Moki’s tail instead of standing straight up in the air when he walked, fell limply behind him. Moki was no CH kitty after all. So what was Moki suffering from?
The new unconfirmed diagnosis was neurological FIP. Since our regular vet could not confirm his suspected diagnosis, he thought it best, if I wanted to pursue the issue, to refer me to a specialist at UC Davis. The Veterinarian Teaching Hospital at UC Davis, he informed me could do a liver biopsy to confirm the diagnosis of FIP. The doctor went on to tell me that a FIP positive result on a blood test only indicates that cat has been exposed to one of many coronavirsus. Most cats will actually be exposed to a strand of a coronavirsus in their lifetime, but few will ever come into contact with the strand that actually mutates into FIP. Given Moki’s neurological problems, the age at which his symptoms appeared and the positive FIP results on his blood work, the doctor felt it best to have Moki examined further. So off to UC Davis we went. If Moki was willing to continue to fight the battle, who was I to stop him…?
Moki’s his first appointment at U.C. Davis was back in Dec. There they did an ultrasound, and ruled out obvious liver disease as a cause of Moki’s neurological symptoms. They also confirmed that Moki’s bladder was ok, and that he was responding to the antibiotics being used to treat his UTI. Fortunately, while they couldn’t rule in or out FIP, they felt that Moki was not displaying all the normal signs and symptoms, which often accompany the disease. So now we where back to square one. UC Davis informed us that Moki was a rare case. The doctors there had not seen many cases quite like Moki’s so they where uncertain what was causing Moki’s symptoms. Since Moki had even the neurologist at UC Davis puzzled, they recommended two separate courses of action. Their first recommendation was to have an MRI and CSF tap preformed. The problem they informed us in doing the MRI and the CSF tap lied in the fact that since they had no idea of what they where dealing with, both of these test might turn up no results. The two tests where also very expensive and there was no guarantee that either test would give us a positive answer. Both of the tests would be used as a way of ruling out possibilities. The underline hope would be that one of the two tests turned up an answer. The second course of action would be to meet regularly with one of the two neurologists that had seen Moki to record his progress. By recording Moki’s progress and or regression over a period of time, the two neurologists who saw Moki, might have a better idea of what they are dealing with.
It is now Feb 6. Moki’s UTI has cleared up. He is doing well. He still suffers from neurological damage, but it doesn’t seem to get him down. In fact he has recently started running a little, about four or five steps before he falls over, and taking small jumps while he is playing. We decided not to put Moki through all the additional testing recommended by UC Davis and instead to meet with a neurologist on a regular basis, that is until such a time that we can raise the additional money to cover Moki’s tests. In the meantime, Moki has an appointment set up with the neurologist at UC Davis on March 6 to continue to record his progress.
Moki’s love for life goes beyond anything words can describe. He has thought us that there is nothing we cant over come, with the help of a friend, a little support and lots of love. It is with this in mind that I have become Moki’s voice, to share with all of you, what he cannot, the story of his life…
If you enjoyed reading Moki’s story and would like to help, we ask that you please make a small donation to a fund I have set up through Paypal. (You can make a donation by clicking on the donation button located on the left hand side of the page.) All donations will be used to cover the on going costs of medical care and testing needed for Moki. Together we can make a difference.