Agatha was part of a litter that we pulled from BARC. When little Agatha and her siblings arrived at FFL, this tiny little creature made it clear that she was a super-sized personality. Curious, wide-eyed, certain of what she liked and vocal about what she didn’t, Agatha won our hearts in a hurry.
Bottle-fed and fostered, her siblings thrived and were all adopted at 8 weeks of age. But Agatha struggled. She was not able to keep any food down and syringe feeding risked aspiration into her tiny lungs.
To monitor the situation, we weighed Agatha multiple times a day on a gram scale. She was losing weight quickly. We had to find a safe way to get calories into her system to keep her stable – until we could diagnose her properly. Tube feeding was her only option.
If you’ve never tube-fed an animal, here’s how it works: Little Agatha had to be wrapped tightly in a towel, burrito-style, and a thin tube was inserted through her mouth into her esophagus to slowly pump kitten formula directly into her stomach. This had to be done every few hours and adoptions manager/hero foster Pam Newton calendared the feedings and worked them into her workday – every. single. day. and night.
Though it was stressful for both of them, it worked! Agatha started gaining weight and acting more like a normal happy kitten.
It was time to find out what was wrong.
X-raying a very teeny being is tricky – but it got us a diagnosis
Agatha was x-rayed at less than 500 grams, which makes seeing what’s going on inside a challenge. But even at that size, the vet could see that her esophagus was much larger than it should be. Dr. Kennedy suspected there was a stricture, possibly caused by a rare developmental defect, cutting off most of the space for food to pass. This caused Agatha to regurgitate her food every time. What to do? Corrective surgery is expensive. More importantly, it would be extremely dangerous for little Agatha.
So the specialist thought of another way to save her.
The idea: Agatha would eat on her own, but, just like a person with a gastric bypass, she could only eat very small amounts at a time. And the consistency had to be right to pass the stricture. It would require precisely measuring her food and her feedings. It would take tremendous focus. It would take #FFLARMY kind of commitment.
We had our homework! We researched, experimented, and worked until we found just the right diet for Agatha. We tried over thirty foods to get the right mix and consistency. Finally, the right food was found and the tube feeding was over. Though Agatha has to be fed small liquid portions multiple times per day to avoid regurgitation, she began eating on her own, growing every day and getting healthier!Below: A page from the “Agatha Workbook” during that time.
Foster Mom Kirsten to the rescue
Volunteer manager/foster mom extraordinaire Kirsten was very careful to follow her feeding schedule. With the help of an auto-feeder she refined the process further! We always focused on a process that would work for Agatha. But we also tried to make the procedures streamlined – to make it doable for a potential adopter.
In the end, it took 4 mini meals a day. Agatha loved to play with other cats and even lived quite happily with a dog at her foster mom’s house.
From Long Shot to Adopted
Agatha fought hard to thrive despite her rare condition. With the #fflarmy rallied around her, she found the most wonderful home. Here’s an update we recently received:
“I wanted to give you an update on Agatha, and Ivy too. They are both doing great!
Agatha took a few weeks to really settle in and get comfortable, but she gradually became the sweet, loving, and playful girl she truly is. Now she is happy and snuggly and funny. At mealtimes she can get hyper, but we have a good routine that works for everyone. Agatha is good friends with Ivy. They follow each other around, play together, sleep near (but not next to) each other, and wrestle together. They are a good match in age, energy, and size. Ivy is a doll. She is more mature in personality, very tolerant, extremely loving, but also so playful. My family loves both girls! Agatha and Ivy are such a joy to watch and play with and snuggle with. We are so glad they are part of our family.”
Extraordinary homes and amazing adopters like Agatha’s are out there! Shelters must have faith in that and do our job:
Start with this basic premise: We owe life to every animal in our program. What comes after that is details of the best individual path for each one. Every Animal Matters even when it takes losing sleep and out of the box solutions to weird problems.
Someday I’ll fly, someday I’ll soar
Someday I’ll be so damn much more
Cause I’m bigger than my body gives me credit for