malassezia in cats
Ricky, My Soul Kitty
February 6, 2002 – May 8, 2017
Author, Dorinne Whynott, Owner of Professional Pet Sitting Etc
Have you ever had that one pet in your life you connected to so completely, you just knew what they wanted, how they felt and they knew all about you? You love all your animals but if you are lucky to have that special one, it is a profound experience.
I call them soul pets. Ricky was mine and this is his story.
April 10, 2002
One very cold April morning in 2002, I received a call from Joan, one of my pet sitters, who also was the Animal Control Officer for Hollis/Brookline. A woman was hospitalized and a neighbor/friend who was to feed her cats reported a hoarding situation. She had mentioned at least a dozen cats were in a mobile home with no heat, water or electricity. The ACO knew I had rescue experience and wanted me to go with her to assess the situation.
When we arrived at the mobile home in Brookline, we will call Hennessey House. The outside of the home and yard looked un-kept for a long time. The neighbor had told us, the door was unlocked. We had brought a 25 pound bag of dry cat food and a few gallons of water. As soon as we went to the front door, we could see all the cats running to the door. Afraid they would get out if we opened the door, Joan stayed there while I went to the side door to sneak in with the food. I, quietly and quickly entered the home. As I came in, the overwhelming smell of urine and feces overtook me. I tore open the bag of food and the cats just poured into the room. There were definitely more than 12 cats. As it turned out, there were 30 adult cats and kittens!
One tiny, black and white kitten, covered in a black substance all over his face and eyes, preventing him from seeing, came running to the sound of my voice calling the cats to eat. He was tiny but very hungry and got into the bag to eat as best he could through the wall of cats and kittens. Whatever was on this kitten, seemed to be on other cats as well. We thought that it was something from in the home.
This was my first meeting of Ricky, Spanky and Lulu (Spanky and Lulu were around 6 months old and will have their own stories but the beginning will be similar). While the cats were eating, Joan came through the front door and we further inspected the house. We found a litter of a few day old kittens on a mound of soiled clothes on the floor of a closet. Everything including walls, floors, counters, sinks, cabinets were covered in dirt, urine and feces. The back room had a couch, and behind the couch was a mound that was a few feet high of feces, just about level with the back of the couch. The cats tried to use that area for a bathroom as long as they could until it was over full.
We made arrangements to transport all the cats to The Animal Rescue League of NH in Bedford. A few litters were too young and went to foster homes, the nursing kittens went with their moms. I took in Ricky, Spanky, Lulu and fostered 3 orange tiger kittens (the 3 orange kittens were adopted through the shelter very quickly). These 3 kittens seemed to be from the same litter as Ricky, looking at size, age and the way they stayed close to one another.
I had planned on keeping Spanky because he was so afraid of people and I knew that he would not do well in the shelter. I had planned on keeping Lulu, since we thought she may be a littermate of Spanky and she was overly friendly. In my experience, pairing a frightened animal with a friendly, helped the frightened animal overcome immensely. I decided to foster the 4 kittens, including Ricky and then place them up for adoption. I knew that being kittens they would find homes quickly.
Once all of the cats and kittens had been removed, the mobile home was declared condemned and it was soon removed and destroyed.
Looking back after all these years, I wish that every cat we rescued from Hennessey House, was monitored throughout their lives. That all the adoptive owners were able to stay in contact with one another and learn from each other. Since these cats were all most likely related and in-bred, they probably had many of the same issues and ailments. What one owner may have found in one of these adopted cats/kittens may have helped other owners, instead of each starting from square one. My advice to animal welfare rescuers, is that families of a group of related adopted animals, should be kept in a group to chat and learn from one another. I, so wish that I was able to learn and know about the other 30 cats and kittens that were related to my Ricky, Lulu and Spanky.
Well, this is where Ricky’s life with me begins. Before Ricky and everyone, could come home with me, I brought them to the vet to be checked out. We estimated the four kittens were about 8 weeks old, so gave them a birth date of February 6, 2002. All (Lulu, Spanky & three orange kittens) were deemed healthy with no problems, Ricky was an unknown. No one was really sure what was all over him. The substance was black and thick, completely covering his eyes, ears, and all over his feet and chest. The vet had never seen anything like it. We ascertained that it was yeast but not really sure why he had so much of it or what was causing it. I was told he may have distemper, he may be blind, he may not live long, they did not know. The black yeast had blocked his tear ducts, so I went home with some eye ointment because he was suffering from dry eye and gave Ricky his first bath! After learning all of that about Ricky, I knew no one would want a kitten with so many uncertainties with health. So, I decided he would remain with me as well. I have NEVER regretted this decision once. We became close very fast.
As time went on Ricky ate, grew and seemed healthy except for the yeast. We went to a new doctor, who also had no idea what was going on with him. At this appointment, Ricky was found to have an umbilical hernia and a mild heart murmur. Ricky seemed to be doing well otherwise, so he was given his first set of vaccines. He was also tested for feline leukemia and FIV and was found negative.
This black yeast was horrible for Ricky and I. It collected around his nose, mouth, eyes and in his ears. As he washed himself, it would stain his two front legs, chest and under his chin. I had to bathe him every few weeks just to keep up with it. Ricky was ALWAYS so good. He hated it as much as I did, but he stood in the sink and let me wash and scrub. That black yeast was nasty. It even stained the wash cloths I used. It gave him a perpetual look of dirtiness, even after a bath. Almost every picture I have he looks dirty (but I love him to the moon and back anyway). Oh, and the feel of his fur was like a wire haired fox terrier, very coarse. Another thing that no one knew why it was. Over the years, his fur did become softer but no one ever was able to tell me what caused the coarseness.
One thing I was asked a lot was if he scratched a lot, because yeast skin infections are generally itchy. I really never saw him scratch, either with his feet or really gnawing on his skin, like I had had seen some cats do. If he was bothered, he would pull at his fur with his mouth, plucking out tufts. He did not do this often but when he did, I assumed it was a bit uncomfortable and would give him a bath, which seemed to stop his pulling.
As Ricky settled into his new life, he and I spent almost every minute together. Ricky and I grew inseparable. He followed me everywhere, was in my lap while I was in the office working, with me watching TV, sleeping with me at night. He was never very far from me. Ricky taught me about the I love you eyes. He would look at me straight in the eye and then half close them, then slowly close them all the way and slowly open. I would do the same back to him. This was our greeting every time we looked at each other. It became automatic. When he purred, it was very, very low. You really had to listen to hear it. No matter what I had to do with him, giving a bath, pilling, nail clips, anything, he was always patient with me, let me do whatever and would purr and knead while I was doing it. And he was that way with all of his medical treatments at the animal hospital as well. He was a dream.
If I was sitting, he would settle on me so it was just right. If I was laying down in bed, he curled up next to me just right. I have many pets and they sit or curl up and you end up being a bit uncomfortable. Ricky had a knack to always find the right way so it was always comfortable for both of us. He was also a dream to carry, I would put him over my left shoulder and he would hold on just right. He was my harness kitty. We would put his harness on and go for a ride in the car. He would sit in my lap looking out the window at everything going by. Wherever we went, he was very comfortable, nothing ever scared, startled or made him stressed. Ricky was just okay with everything. He was such a good boy.
My daughter Rachelle named Ricky after Ricky Ricardo. She was a Lucille Ball fan. Later, he ended up with the nickname Ricola (pronounce rih-k-O-la, just like the cough drops!!). No matter where Ricky was or what he was doing, if I called his name, he came running to me.
What was very interesting to me was that he was protective of me. When we went to the animal hospital and he would be on my lap with his harness on. He was always very calm. If a dog came into the office and even looked towards me, he would just sit up, making sure he was always between me and that dog. He would not do anything else, but stair down that dog. He would not get upset, no crying, no fluffing up. He was as calm as could be. Just stared. No dog challenged him Ever, they would just look away and never approached.
Over the next few months, we went to three other veterinarians who really had no answers for me. I then started to see Dr. Anne Johnson, who owned the Classic Cat in Milford. My Friend was working for her and thought she was amazing (I agree). Dr. Anne was intrigued with Ricky. She messaged a lot of veterinarians, trying to learn whatever she could about Ricky’s symptoms, but there was not much out there.
September 13, 2002
Dr. Anne suspected the yeast may have been due to allergies. So, we drew some blood and sent it off for testing. We also tried Keratolux shampoo to help curb the yeast when bathing. It really did not do much. I did try just about every animal shampoo I could. None were very good. Over time, the best thing to wash Ricky was just Dawn Dish soap and nail brushes to scrub his fur.
Well, the results for allergy testing were enlightening. It was found that Ricky was allergic to –
Black Ants, Dust mites, Cockroach, mold, maple and sycamore tree, grass (all kinds), yellow dock and cocklebur.
We started Ricky on allergy injections. It seemed to help a little but was not the panacea I was hoping would eradicate the black yeast.
September 18, 2002
Ricky was neutered September 2002 and his umbilical hernia was also repaired.
One day, not long after he was neutered, Ricky was with my daughter, Rachelle and I in her room. Ricky was laying on Rachelle’s bed and she was rubbing his belly as he lay on his back. All of a sudden he just peed while he was on his back straight in the air! If we did not see what we saw, it would have been hilarious. Poor thing, it was just blood. So, off to the vet we went. The vet was just astounded as she looked under the microscope. She came in to tell me that she had never seen so many crystals in a cat’s urine. Home with medications, and only canned food and lots of water. Ricky never had crystals again.
November 30, 2004
My friend at Dr. Anne’s, had been seeing Dr. Holub in Chelmsford, MA, for her greyhound (Dr. Anne only saw cats)and suggested I take Ricky there to see if he had any answers, since he was also a consulting veterinarian for Tufts University, studying and researching animal medicine. We decided that maybe, Dr. Holub may have some answers, so off we went. Dr. Holub was a wealth of information.
He told me that Ricky had Malassezia Pachydermatitis –
Malassezia Dermatitis in Cats. Malassezia pachydermatis is a yeast commonly found on the skin and ears of cats. However, an abnormal overgrowth of the yeast can cause dermatitis, or inflammation of the skin.
There is more information on this disease now.
There was very little back when Ricky was diagnosed.
Here is what I found today on it –
Dr. Holub wanted to start Ricky on Ketoconizole and Atopica. This would bring the yeast under control. However, in just a few days on these medications, Ricky was not doing well and stopped eating all together. So, I stopped the medication. (Today, it is known that the above medications do not do well in most cats for this condition and the results I got with Ricky are common).
I, spoke with my regular veterinarian, Dr. Anne. We decided to stay with the allergy direction and treat him symptomatically. For the next few years, we Just gave him allergy injections and bathes. Ricky was never 100% free of the black yeast but seemed healthy otherwise. He was eating, happy, playing and he and I were totally in love.
October 17, 2008
When it was time to re-test his allergies, we added food allergies to the test. The results were very interesting. Most of the allergies he had before were improved, however, he now had a whole bunch of new allergies. What this additionally revealed was that Ricky was allergic to beef and pork. We continued allergy injections for the environmental stuff and I removed all beef and pork from his diet. This is the time I had to do alot of research on diet and nutrition for felines.
Here is my research for you –
We tried a frozen raw diet, which seemed to be the best for allergies. Ricky ate it at first and then really did not like it. It was hard finding a food he would eat and was from a company that made sure each food was not contaminated with pork or beef. I finally settled on Weruva Cats in the Kitchen Chicken Frickazee. Ricky loved it and it seemed to be good for him.
After a while, Ricky did not seem to be doing any different, with his new allergy injections, so, I chose to stop. We wanted to see if Ricky got worse without the injections. He did not. He was the same on or off the injections, so we decided to discontinue altogether.
February, 20, 2009
Ricky and I were at, yet another vet appointment. This time for a routine check. Ricky was walking around the exam room, exploring. I was watching him walk and noticed that his back legs would kick out as he walked. I mentioned this to the doctor and we took him out to the hall to watch him really walk down the corridor. The vet saw what I was talking about and then examined his back legs more. The diagnosis was Luxating Patellas.
The patella, or “kneecap,” is normally located in a groove called the trochlear groove, found at the end of the femur. The term luxating means “out of place” or “dislocated”. Therefore, a luxating patella is a kneecap that ‘pops out’ or moves out of its normal location.
This was just another thing that vets had never seen in a cat. It seems to be more known now.
Here are a few links on the subject –
Ricky had both back legs with this. Fortunately, it never got worse and never caused him any problems. I did keep his weight pretty trim. If he became overweight, he probably would have had a problem.
July 23, 2009
Ricky had his first full dentistry. His teeth seemed to always be just fine but were now starting to build a little tartar. They were cleaned and polished.
2009 – 2012
For the next few years, we did routine blood work, check-ups, dentals, and his baths. Ricky played with all the other kitties and he and I just grew closer.
Nothing really changed until Ricky turned 10.
June 25, 2012
We started to see Dr. Lisa Anderson of Milford Animal Hospital. I had worked with Dr. Lisa many years ago at Hudson Animal Hospital. It was great to see her.
Ricky started to look thin to me, even though he was eating well. His blood work revealed he now had hyperthyroidism. We treated him with felimazole for the next few years.
We also checked Lulu and Spanky since they were all related and found that Lulu was hyperthyroid and Spanky was normal.
2012 – 2015
Ricky did well on the felimazole for his thyroid. We were on a normal routine, just enjoying one another. He is such a good boy.
Did I mention how much I love him?
One day, Ricky and I were on our way home from the animal hospital for yet another appointment, nothing new, just routine. Ricky seemed a little anxious and would not settle down. As I am driving he just looked up at me, while on my lap, positioned his butt so it was pointing to the floor of the truck and peed!!! Poor guy, he did the best he could to not get it on me! I have to say, I have never had a cat do that. Oh, the Ricky memories!
In spite of his very dirty start in life, Ricky was always really good about going in the litter box. His only thing was he never, ever covered anything up. He tried, but always scraped the side of the litterbox with his foot to cover, instead of the litter. He never figured out that scraping the side of the litterbox did not cover anything up. Maybe he did not like the feel of the litter and preferred the smooth side of the litterbox, we will never know.
October 29, 2015
I knew that everything Ricky had been through may shorten his life and having hyperthyroidism would shorten it more. I wanted him to have the opportunity to live as long as possible, so I did some research. My friend had been through Radiocat with one of her cats and was happy with the results. I decided to go to Radiocat (in Massachusetts), with Ricky, to give him radiation to cure his hyperthyroidism. Ricky went through with flying colors. The hardest part was leaving him at the hospital for 3 days, since he and I had never been separated for more then a few hours.
In his follow up blood work, after radiation, he was in all the normal ranges for everything, except one thing. Since, hyperthyroidism can mask kidney disease, we were concerned about that. His tests did show he was just over the line, out of the normal range, which meant that Ricky now had the beginning stage of kidney disease.
September 16, 2016
Ricky seemed to be unusually itchy, so we had a visit with Dr. Lisa, who suggested, we try him on Apoquel. Dr. Lisa said she had seen some great results in cats. However, it did not seem to do anything for Ricky.
At this visit, we also did blood work. The results came back that his kidney disease had gotten worse. She wanted us to give him 100 ml Sub-Q fluids once a week. The extra fluids will help the kidneys flush out toxins from the body, most cats do not drink enough to be able to do this. If the toxins build up, cats will become nauseous and stop eating. I had been down this road before with other cats. Kidney disease is not fun, seeing them go downhill. I am feeling like I am losing my Ricky. It seems that once we cure one thing, something else goes wrong.
Sub-Q fluids are generally easy, given just under the skin. Warmed up, most cats do not seem bothered by them. However, Ricky refused this treatment. My Ricky who let anyone do anything to him, became very agitated, uncooperative and impatient. It was when he tried to bite us as we were trying to give him fluids, that I said enough. I am not going to do this if it upset him that much. So, I increased the water in his food. However, this became a fine line. If I gave him too much water with his food, he ate less. If he ate less, he did not gain weight. If I gave less water, it would create nausea and he would eat less. Ugggh….
January 9, 2017
Everything seemed good for a while. His appetite was great at 6 ounces with 1/2 cup of water in am and then again in pm. Twice what my other cats were eating. Hoping he would add a few pounds. For the next few months Ricky seemed to be doing well, he gained a little more weight. He was running and playing. Then he started looking thin to me again and I was noticing some loose stool. I added some pumpkin and that seemed to work for a week or so. Then back to loose stool. A trip to the vet and we started on Prednisalone and B12. Dr. Lisa was suspecting IBD. We know that Prednisalone in cats can work miracles (maybe it will help with that nasty yeast, too).
Since weight loss is a big indicator of something going on with Ricky and I needed to monitor his weight, I decided to buy a good scale to keep track of his weight.
I found a perfect one on Amazon –
February 6, 2017
Ricky celebrated his 15th birthday
February 24, 2017
Ricky did not seem to be gaining weight and his stools were very loose. We took Ricky in for an ultrasound. Findings were the intestinal walls were thick, indicating possible IBD but could not rule out cancer (cancer!!! Absolutely not, I could not even think of that). Prednisolone was increased. Stools went back to normal. He did go down to 6 pounds 13 ounces, so we started feeding him 3 times per day. He was eating a total of 15 ounces of food with added water a day! He still had a great appetite and the prednisalone was helping with that. We got him back up to 8 pounds 4 ounces!! This was promising.
On our way home from the ultrasound, my daughter was driving and Ricky was in my lap. He all of a sudden became antsy again. He quickly went from my lap to Rachelle to mine and then Rachelle again. I said he must have to go to the bathroom, so I grabbed a towel and told Ricky come here as I patted the towel, He looked at me, came to my lap, squatted on the towel and peed! Poor guy, he was always sooo good and yes, he and I just knew what the other was thinking!!
As time went on, Everything seemed good. Ricky was eating, stools were normal, he was playing and being my lovable Ricky.
April 21, 2017
While we were cuddling, I noticed Ricky was breathing more rapidly than the other kitties while resting. We went into the vet that morning, I was worried he may have fluid around his heart or building up in his lungs. We took an x-ray and my heart sank. The possibility of cancer was now confirmed. It was most likely Lymphoma Cancer and had spread from his intestines, to liver to lungs. His liver was twice the normal size and his lungs looked like a white speckled mess throughout. I was devastated. We started him on a compounded cytoxin drug, that slows down cancer cell growth.
As long as he looked comfortable, was eating and drinking, I will let him tell me how long we will go. Ricky was a huge part of my life. He was the first thing I saw every morning, he was with me almost every minute of the day and the last thing I saw before falling asleep. This was very hard to see my precious boy going downhill. I was having a hard time just imagining my life without him.
May 3, 2017
We scheduled a photography session, however, I do not think Ricky enjoyed it. He kept his eyes closed like he really did not want his picture taken. Maybe he was not feeling well.
May 5, 2017
Then Ricky stopped eating on his own. I did syringe feed him. He seemed to be okay with that and ate everything I slowly squirted in his mouth. He seemed to be more comfortable eating with his head up, rather than down to eat out of his dish.
May 8, 2017
Ricky did not come to lay with me this morning while I drank my coffee. I searched for him to be with me that morning after I awoke. When I found him, He told me with his eyes, that he was tired, uncomfortable and ready to go. My heart shattered in a million pieces.
I said good bye to my beautiful boy on May 8, 2017 in the late afternoon. As I stroked his lifeless body, I realized that his fur was the softest it had ever been. I am so very grateful to have had this most amazing cat in my life. To have experienced such a profound love with this special boy. I have never been so unbelievably connected to another living soul. My life will never be the same and will be very empty without him.
Heaven for me will be reuniting with my precious Ricky again.
May 29, 2017 – Memorial Day
I woke up with the memory of a very special visit in my dream.
Some may not believe that loved ones send messages after they are gone, but having had many messages from lost loved ones over the years, I am a true believer.
Ricky appeared in my dream, there was nothing in the surroundings, It was just me and him. He was looking up at me and I looked down at him. It was very brief. His fur was glistening, the white was pure snow white and the black was silky black. He looked incredible, no stains. He was youthful looking, his eyes were bright, his face was smiling and so full of love. He was the most beautiful thing, I had ever seen. He had a light surrounding him, very angelic. He let me know that he was safe, happy and healthy. He had no pain, no disease. Then he gave me his “I love you” eyes, I gave them back and I woke up.
Thank you my precious boy for the best gift of my life. I love you.
Thank You John Rassmussin for your amazing Drawing ❤️
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Dorinne Whynott, is a long time animal professional. She is a successful business owner establishing one of the largest pet sitting companies in New Hampshire since 1990. Click to Read her complete History.
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