What do you call a litter of kittens named Montel, Ricki, Sally Jessy, Jenny and Oprah? The Talking Heads of course!
They were rescued from outside as wee orphans. Our Cat Care Manager, Genesis Reyes-Martin, brought them home to foster simply for the joy of having kittens.
Montel and his sisters were always the first ones out of the foster area, ready to take on the world. Genesis’s children grew up learning to care for others in need. They excel at gently giving kittens the confidence to adapt to a busy household.
Oprah and Jenny Jones were the first to be adopted. The other three constantly cuddled and groomed each other. But then Genesis noticed Montel’s too-plump belly and lack of interest in playing and eating.
Our hearts sunk with our partner veterinarian’s diagnosis of Feline Infectious Peritonitis (FIP), the feline version of Covid-19. This disease has been a death sentence for decades, confounding veterinary science as much as Covid has confounded human doctors.
But in 2016, researchers successfully treated cats for FIP with an antiviral human medication, Remdesivir. Unfortunately, the pharmaceutical company that owns the patent chose not to pursue its application for cats.
That meant no FDA approval, no official veterinary oversight and up to 3% of all cat guardians left knowing there was a cure for their dying cats and kittens they were not allowed to use.
However, a very similar compound known as GS-441524 sprung up from unlicensed sources. With the help of social media groups, cat guardians around the world banded together to create a supply chain to distribute, mentor and monitor this unlicensed medication.
A study in April confirmed an amazing 96.7% of cats being treated with this compound were surviving. We knew Montel would die without it, so we decided to try.
At around $1,500 for the medication, this was a huge chunk of our annual medical budget. We asked our friends at St. Paws Thrift Store to sponsor it for us and they agreed!
Genesis was matched with a volunteer mentor through a Facebook group. She was instructed to inject the medication twice a day for 6 weeks, then once a day for 6 more. She was warned that it might sting.
Genesis has administered thousands of vaccinations to thousands of Happy Cats felines. Trusting her as his foster mom, Montel was relaxed and curious as she placed him on the couch, unbothered by the initial poke.
Once it hit his bloodstream, though, he started screaming. He didn’t stop for several minutes. Genesisâ€”and her familyâ€”knew that to save this baby’s life, she had to keep making him scream.
Her children have grown up learning what it takes to care for others in need, both feline and human. They were there to support her care of Montel, even at its most difficult. His feline sisters did their best to comfort him too.
The screaming stopped after four days. Within a day, he was eating normally. The next day he was trying to jump on the couch to play with his sisters. The fluid in his belly disappeared by day 6.
The pandemic has brought chaos to everyone, especially those who face the daily heartbreaks of animal rescue. A recent study showed that 67% of all animal rescues surveyed were having staffing problems.
We are so blessed to have staff members like Genesis–and their families–who treasure and celebrate every single victory that helps ensure each cat has a chance for a happy life. Even a plain little black kitten with a heart as big as Montel’s.
Watching Montel go from being unable to play or eat, to zooming and cuddling and running when she calls for her Big Fat Booty Boy, is what helps Genesis, her family and everyone at Happy Cats Haven do what we do.