Atlanta

How Does This Happen to Cats?

We’ll probably never know how MickJagger sustained such a horrendous injury. I have theories; we all have ideas. But here’s the story, as best as I know it.
One quick note: I have chosen not to include photos of her actual injury; those pictures are too sad to see!

Just another holiday

July 4th this promised to be anything but exceptional. I had some coursework to finish up, and my favorite people were scattered about across four states. Needless to say, I didn’t plan on doing anything more than getting my stuff done throughout the day then enjoying fireworks later in the evening.

My son’s phone call at 3:00 changed the course of my entire week. …and beyond.

A little backstory

I adopted my cat five years ago, when she was 3 years old. She has always been a happy, albeit “introverted” part of our family. Like many other cats, she loves you when SHE loves you and not a second before or after. She and I became fast friends; we have a lot in common!

She has the sweetest personality quirk: she hates other cats. We were told this at the adoption center from the moment I met her.

And it was obvious! …from the moment I met her. Let me explain. When I perused the center for a new feline friend in the cat room, I walked through one huge empty room to get to a much smaller, much more populated one. I didn’t find a cat that loved me there, so I resolved to come back another day and try again. As I made my exit through the larger room, I noticed two glowing eyes staring at me from underneath the climbing tree. I had to ask, “is there a cat under there?” “Yes, a very unique one,” was the response. I had to know more.

Long story short, I found my furry friend that day. I left with her, and MickJagger has been my favorite companion since. (Longer story about her name later)

She hates other cats

Cat lying on a dog bed
She’s the QUEEN of the house!

A few months ago, my (adult) son adopted a kitten. He loved MickJagger and wanted to find a kitten to raise. He did. He loved her. Life was great. Until he took a job out of town and needed a cat sitter: me.

I attempted to keep both cats, but I remembered the warning I received all those years ago when I adopted her, “she’ll need to be the only cat because she hates other cats.” I agreed then, not realizing how true that statement was. I tested it for a weekend. It did not go well. I kept the kitten secured in a room while MickJagger (MJ) spent the entire three days literally hunting her! She refused to eat in lieu of lying at the door growling at the kitty. Did you know cats growl?

Without much more ado, I knew I had to separate the cats, for the benefit of them both!

I took MJ to my ex-husband’s house since she lived there for a few years anyway. She would be comfortable there during the temporary kitten sitting operation. She is not afraid of the dogs, and the dogs don’t mess with her. Easy, peasy!

What the hell happened?

Back to July 4. Thursday.

My son called to tell me he was worried about the cat. He awoke to her crying unusually more often than her typical “breakfast time” singing. He couldn’t find her because she was hiding from him, not incredibly out of her norm, so he wasn’t alarmed. Later in the day, she approached him, and he saw her. He told me it was bad and to prepare myself. I drove over immediately, calling emergency vet clinics the entire way.

I got to the house; she was sitting atop the refrigerator by now, crying. I knew she was hurt. I could see her jaw sagging and off-center. Something bad happened to her. There was no blood, but her fur was a mess! She likes to be clean and neat, so that told me she hadn’t been grooming that day either. Isn’t it funny how your mind works when you’re stressed? I could see her face was badly injured, but I kept thinking about how messy her fur looked! WTF?

And so begins my nightmare.

Time to play “musical clinics”

If you didn’t already know this life hack, National Holidays are NOT the best times to have an emergency. I found very few clinics open; some were appointment-only; some were preparing to close early because of holiday hours. I mean, I can’t blame them, of course. But finding an open clinic was my only option!

Luckily I took her to Blue Pearl West Atlanta at Howell Mill. They were wonderful! They took her in immediately and assessed her damage. It wasn’t good! Her jaw was not just dislocated as I suspected but also broken. This realization initiated a sense of fear I hadn’t anticipated! What the hell happened that caused such an injury? Even as the doctor was speaking to me, my mind was reeling, going through so many scenarios. I couldn’t imagine what would cause this in such a young, active, strong cat.

Eventually, I had to decide how to proceed. The surgeon was unavailable until the next day (remember it’s a holiday), so my options were to leave her there overnight or bring her home and take her to our vet the next day. With her comfort in mind, I chose to bring her home with me. She was given medication to help her rest comfortably, and I brought home additional doses in case I couldn’t get her in as planned.

July 5. Friday.
I called Treehouse Animal Clinic as soon as they opened, and they gave me encouraging advice and made time for her that morning. They took her in, gave her an initial look over, and told me some things to expect after a more thorough exam. I gave permission for her sedation and wearily left her there to be examined and hopefully easily repaired.

It was much worse than I expected. MJ’s jaw was broken on both sides. There would be no easy fix for my sweet friend. And the work couldn’t be done today (holiday week, remember?).

Cat is wearing her cone and tape muzzle
She wore this over the weekend.

So at this point, Dr. Kuik made an effort to temporarily secure her jaw until the dental specialist was available (NEXT WEEK). She created a tape muzzle to hold it in place while MJ wore a cone to keep it on. Thankfully she was willing to do this for me because I didn’t want anything evasive until it was necessary and would be a permanent fix. I was so grateful for this flexibility!

Surprise: she escaped. Twice! Before I got out of the parking lot! But they were so gentle and helpful; the doctor cautiously replaced it each time. The last time, they assured me it would stay on awhile.

I was horrified at the thought of me trying to take care of her for several days with her jaw so precariously bound. Cats are persistent little creatures, and I just knew that cone and muzzle would be dislodged before I could get her to the dentist Monday.

She’s HOW OLD?

Her blood work indicated she’s a lot older than I thought.
She’s 14! I thought she was 8. In cat life, that’s a big difference. Because of that, I had a whole new set of concerns. …and decisions that might have to be considered.

We spent the weekend lying around together. I felt this might be my last opportunity to care for her. I still didn’t know what was wrong, what happened, why it happened, what is the treatment plan. What I knew at this point was:

  1. MickJagger is A LOT older than I thought; she’s a senior, living her last years!
  2. She has been home with two dogs who have been her cohabitants for years.
  3. She has a broken, dislocated jaw with no other signs of injury or trauma.
  4. They discovered many occurrences of tooth resorption, which doesn’t seem to be a viable cause of this injury but is a condition that I need to address next.
  5. I was not ready to let her go, and my heart was heavy with fear, guilt, and dread.

I gave her doses of her pain medication regularly and on time. I couldn’t stand the thought of her hurting. She continued to eat on schedule but a softer diet. If love alone could heal her, she would be running around on the mend; she had so many people calling, texting, and DMing me checking on her and asking for updates. She has won the hearts of so many people with her ornery and selectively loving disposition!

Me lying next to the cat who is wearing a cone
Sleepless nights because she couldn’t get comfortable.

Together we waited until Monday, at which time I could call the dentist to schedule an appointment.

The vet collaboration continues

July 8. Monday.
No time was wasted! Treehouse had already called the dentist and things were in motion. I called them to confirm MJ’s appointment and put her in the carrier one last time. We drove to the north ends of Atlanta with hopes of finally finding her repair.

Again, I had to agree to the sedation. This time I dolefully signed the DNR. Leaving her was difficult, but I felt like she was in good hands. The next time I see her, she might have her jaw wired shut with a feeding tube. I was actively preparing myself mentally for the worst.

Atlanta Veterinary Dental Services called after they had examined her and viewed her x-rays and blood work. They reported that her tape muzzle had held her jaw in place very well, and it would be an easier surgery than anticipated! They decided to use wire to hold a splint in place on her lower jaw instead of wiring it shut and using a feeding tube! This was the best news I could’ve received (aside from a simple dislocation being snapped back in place)! They began her surgery soon after, and I picked her up later that night.

Her recovery so far

I was warned that she might not eat regularly for a few days. I laughed at that. MJ will eat. She won’t miss a meal; even when her jaw was hanging loose she tried to eat!

The night I brought her home, I was told to give her just a little bit of food in case in makes her sick. I gave the recommended amount, and she swallowed it whole almost before I could put the bowl down for her. Then began her crying for more; she likes to “sing for her supper,” if you know what I mean. I gave her a little more. Again, gone before I left the kitchen. I couldn’t give her more. I was afraid it would upset her stomach.

Cat sitting in kitchen staring out
More please!!

Her response? She sat there, over an empty food bowl, staring at me up the hallway. FOR HOURS!

I finally turned off the kitchen light to signal to her that it’s time to give up and lie down, but she didn’t budge. She sat there for much of the night staring at me. Keep in mind, she was also medicated, so she was processing things a little differently too, but nonetheless, she wanted more dinner!

As I write this, we are on day 3 of her recovery. I believe she is the only cat in history to gain weight after surgery! She is on a softer diet now, eating a recovery formula twice a day and an additional shredded meal snack midday. She is not displaying her usual personality yet, but she is not miserable like before either. She lets me brush her for short periods of time. And she is giving me and my daughter plenty of purry snuggles as she still sleeps most of the day. But she appears to be doing great! She’s even begun grooming herself again, which is a little thing, but I have never been happier to see the process in my life!

Photo of cat brush
We tried a couple brushes. This is her favorite. I ordered it from Amazon.

She will continue to take pain medication if she needs it. That will be a process I monitor closely because I tend to err on the side of “less is more” in that situation.

Her wires and splint should be removed in four weeks, much sooner than the expected eight weeks it would have taken if it needed to be wired shut. We’ll begin the tooth extraction phase then to address the absorption issue she’s having.

The MVP in this story

MickJagger’s story is speeding toward a happy ending thanks to the advice and care of several empathetic professionals along the way. Even through an unusually limited schedule and availability, not once did I feel like my furry child would not receive the best care possible. If you ever find yourself in need of veterinary services, I highly recommend those who so willingly and carefully cared for MJ (and me) during this mysterious nightmare.

Blue Pearl Specialty + Emergency Pet Hospital
1071 Howell Mill Rd
Atlanta, GA 30318

Treehouse Animal Clinic
2000 Moores Mill Rd.
Atlanta, GA 30318

Atlanta Veterinary Dental Services
900 Mansell Road, Suite 19
Roswell, GA 30076

I’ll post progress updates on Instagram, so follow me there to see how her story continues!

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