The full story: Tux, stray cat from Holland Village area with mast cell tumour

What is a mast cell tumour? It is a nodular growth that is sometimes cancerous: 1 in 3 of such tumours are malignant, and either way, the treatment to stem the growth of such tumours is through steroids. If possible, such tumours should be excised, along with the surrounding tissue. The growth itself doesn’t cause pain to the cat, unless internal organs are affected. The skin around the MCT may develop ulcers.

For Tux’s case, surgical removal is not possible because it cannot be fully excised without removing half his face, and MCTs when not removed completely, will cause the cancer to spread even more. Hence, the best treatment is to manage the growth, any ulcers that develop on the surface, make sure he maintains a good standard of welfare.

Further tests not needed because the treatment for whether tumour is malignant or not is the same

Initially, after diagnosed by the vet the rescuer brought Tux to (he was called Batman by another feeder), he returned to the street. However, the growth started to increase in size, perhaps because it was difficult to get him or the feeder to adhere to the medication. He started to become less confident in his social circle, and his younger best friend started to dominate him with some aggression, signs that a cat is starting to fade in his position in the hierarchy due to illness. He also became more lethargic, not moving about much, even when it rained, and he started to get drenched in rain a lot. All in all, indoor intensive foster care seemed more and more necessary.

Tux when he first went back on the streets after diagnosis

On November 27, we brought Tux to our vet, Dr Dawn Chong, as she will now onwards be his primary care vet. He was so agreeable at the vet, even when Dr Chong inspected his tumour and the ulcer/abscess that persists on its surface. We got him a course of prednisolone, the steroid that is used to treat MCT, and instead of the initially recommended gastric medication to be fed alongside, he is now on famotidine, cheaper and just as effective considering he does not present with any gastric discomfort to begin with.

We then got some tests done for Tux to establish a baseline of his health. This cat is not unwilling to show his disapproval when in pain, and he struggled when the vet tried to draw his blood. This boy still has lots of energy! The tests were good, his blood count, organ functions are healthy.

Tux getting blood drawn, not happy!

Knowing he doesn’t hide his pain which more feral cats are prone to do, is a good sign, because then we will know when he is suffering and when he is happy. It will help with end of life decisions later on for him. And so far, he is really enjoying his stay at our foster space it seems!

Tux enjoying a belly rub from Foster Care Volunteer Riley

Tux however was very picky with his food and didn’t want to eat Addiction Brushtail, which is our standard canned food fed here. He was used to the diet of tuna and such seafood when on the streets. So we tried all kinds of menus for him: panseared fish, boiled chicken, brushtail mixed with some tuna (not too much, tuna is high in mercury, and addictive), and he didn’t want to have much to do with any of these. He ate more if his food was sprinkled with crumbed freezedried salmon, but even then, not completely. So we ordered all the healthy fishy foods and tested them on him. Taste tests still on going, and partial results are: he approves of Nutripe Terakihi and Natural Balance Ocean Fish, Nutripe being the cheaper option. We know what to reorder for him now! We don’t feed him dry food at the moment because he needs to eat his supplements and medication in his canned food. He is on a variety of supplements suitable for cancer cats, including arginine, and anti-inflammatories such as curcumin, colloidal silver, ashwagandha.

His persistent abscess on his tumour needs medication, and to prevent even further inflammation of it, we are putting him on antibiotics starting today, also because he is having a runny nose (he is not penned together with a flu’ cat but he is in the same room as sickies with flu’ because we do not have a separate quarantine room. Next time when we expand, we will!) so he would do well with a course of meds that will treat both infections. He will also receive topical medication on his open abscess, primarily irrigating it with saline, and instilling Bactroban antimicrobial ointment. Which is not difficult for us or him, for even bathing him is a treat for the volunteers, he is so calm and okay with everything.

Tux getting groomed by Foster Care Volunteer Diana

The abscess today, after removing some pus

Runny nose (that’s not blood by the way, just redness)

How do we know when it is time for Tux to go in a dignified manner? We evaluate his quality of life. His daily functions of eating, drinking, peeing, pooping and walking should be present, and if not, there must be possibility of recovering them. Lack of appetite, or anorexia in cats, is linked to apathy: lack of energy, depressed mood, often as a result of pain. So if emotionally these signs are present and we cannot alleviate them, the lack of emotional welfare is an indicator of poor quality of life. Only when all these indicators of quality of life are gone and unable to return will we enact the euthanasia protocol. (Many times, the cat knows too, and leaves without us having to make this decision.)

For now, he is happy, laidback, enjoying everything we can give him. We hope to be the best stray cat retirement home for him!

We will constantly update on Tux as we do the other foster cats, through our social media channels (Instagram, Twitter, Facebook) so go ahead and follow us there to see his progress.

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