The Return of the Crumb

They say that it takes 3 months to adjust to any significant life change and this week has taught us that this is true for cats too.

Because the only thing that makes a box better is added wrapping paper
Because the only thing that makes a box better is added wrapping paper


Shortly after my last posting, Crumble had a significant change in personality.  Our sweet-natured quiet little kitty started to develop a number of defensive behaviours.  Attempts to pet her were met with hissing and growling, something she had almost never done before (except in one quite hilarious kittenhood argument with her sister).  She would swipe out with her remaining left front paw only to immediately lose her balance and face plant in frustration. She stopped sleeping next to her sister on the foot of the bed and would not go upstairs at all except to find the litter tray, and if house guests came by they were met with angry stares and warning growls. Worst of all when Andy tried to feed her one of her last pills (and she normally swallows these so easily) she bit straight through his thumb nail with an audible crack. He it turns out, is not as good at taking antibiotics as she is.

Concerned that defensive behaviours can be a sign of pain and injury we took her back to the vet where Bebe took another look to rule out any new nastiness.  The conclusion after watching her hop about the surgery room, was that she was moving and adapting very well, so what we were watching her experience was either phantom limb pain or frustration, or perhaps a little of both.

On advice we reintroduced painkillers for a few more days and purchased a Pet Rescue room plug-in to install next to her now favoured beanbag. Some careful observation revealed that if she was experiencing pain it wasn’t the main issue.  The other frustrating discovery was that she had returned from her brief sojourn at the vets with fleas.  Being bitten cannot be fun or comfortable. Clearly she wanted to be left alone but there was I dropping stinky flea killer on the back of her neck and trying to comb out her fur daily.  Plus washing all of the fabrics around the house every 2 or 3 days to destroy eggs and grubs … and thereby of course, also changing the smells of cat-warmed sleeping patches in the process. The fleas really were the final insult.

Crumble was right paw dominant.  Using the litter tray, batting a toy, testing the water in her bowl, climbing – all of these were approached with the right paw first.  We watched as the ghost leg would reach out the stump wave back and forth, before confused, she would switch legs to use her left struggling to hold her balance and visibly aggravated by the lack of expected outcome from the missing leg.  The first steps were for us to take; we needed to learn how to read her better and not panic when she fell or run toward her when she growled to find out what was happening. We learnt slowly to approach her with caution, always announcing our presence before reaching out to touch her.  We discovered that head petting only was acceptable, anything beyond her neck resulted in bared teeth and flattened dragon ears (but her shaved skin was so incredibly soft I found it hard not to stroke it!).  Watching her jumps it was apparent that she would tilt upon landing and frequently bump on to the stump where she thought a foot would still be. We rewarded good behaviour and ignored defensive swipes and growls so as not to reinforce them. Desperate to get happy Crumble back we started to work out some small modifications to ease her recovery.

The cardboard box content of the sitting room has been increased (hooray for Christmas!), and one now lives on the sofa to give her a higher position from which to view the world (the cat tree being too impossible an object to climb just now). Another box lives behind the sofa, filled with brown paper to give her a softer landing spot than the tiled floor. Noticeably, us leaving the house at all has caused upset, and fortunately my husband is around most days which has definitely helped her to feel more safe and secure.

Box sleeps

Happily, once the collar of shame came off her sister Apple rapidly returned to trying to give her sister licks and nose rubs.  It was a heart-breaking first few weeks witnessing Crumble rejecting Apple’s affectionate advances and hiss her away.  Apple has also needed a lot of love and cuddles to understand the changes that have occurred.

Being tall on the sofa

The good news is that this is all now starting to change.  We have hit that magical 3-month transition mark and this last week has seen the return of the Crumble we know and love.  For the last 6 nights she has returned to her old night time sleeping spot on my husband’s feet, nestled close to Apple.  The routines of old are returning one by one.  Crumble now once again wakes us up first thing to demand the creation of a duvet cave for her to climb into.  She stands over our heads at 6am and gives the breakfast miaow.  She shouts if the litter tray is not laid out as she likes and has recommenced house-patrols, checking the perimeter and leading me in to each room one by one before demanding a long set of *full body* strokes.  This morning Apple and Crumble chased each other playing hide and seek throughout the house, thundering paws up and down the stairs.  Such a happy noise.

Morning dozing kittens

I’ve seen just one set of bared teeth this week, and no hisses in a fortnight.  She is noticeably stronger, rarely bashing the stump at all. There was a rather lovely 5 minutes yesterday where she sat behind my husband on the sofa, the stump waggling as though tapping him on the shoulder.  She didn’t seem to notice that the paw is missing as he responded as though he had felt it too.


Mostly though she now plays again.  Plays with us and her sister, purrs like a drill, chases the little red laser dot around the room and up walls unfazed by the missing forelimb.  It’s only been a week of good behaviour, but we really do believe we have our Crumblybumkit back. 🙂 xx

Catnip wriggles


The diagnosis, the shock, the first steps into recovery

Crumble and her litter twin Apple, are our two tuxedo moggies. They are 7 years old and rulers of our household. We adopted the pair very young, 5-weeks old from their mother Dolly, who has about to move house and was not blessed with the warmest of maternal instincts.  By the time we came to retrieve them she was already hissing and chasing them off, so small as they were, it was decided it was time to move them on.


Being as they live almost entirely indoors (we live on a main road), we’ve been fairly blessed with almost no causes to visit a vet in the past few years bar the annual check-ups, one cystitis event and a very scary 48 hours with Apple and a stray ribbon she coaxed out of a sewing box.  When Crumble’s foot became noticeably a bit stinky, we were fairly quickly alerted to the fact that something was up, but we never for a moment imagined it would lead to a cancer diagnosis.


On first phoning the vet we were told that ripped claws were commonplace and if she was still bothering it in a few more days then we should bring her in.  We hadn’t popped her claw out so when a week later the vet did just that, revealing a nasty looking abscess, we were pretty shocked.  Crumble endured a week of antibiotics and the ‘lampshade of shame’ and the infection began to clear. What was left was a small half-pea sized lump between her toes.


“It could be a granuloma”, the vet explained “caused by her licking the wound.  Keep her on the antibiotics for 5 more days and bathe the toe in salt water and let’s see if it starts to go down.” 5 more days, no more foot-stink, but no disappearing lump either.  This was the point where we consented to the general anaesthetic and an excision of what at this point, was starting to look sinister, but maybe was just a large polyp, attached as it was on a stalk beside her claw.

“We’ll have the lab results in a week and will give you a call”.


Less than 48 hours later and the call came.  Osteosarcoma.  My heart stopped. The vet Benedette (Bebe), carefully and calmly explained what this means for cats – not the terminal sentence it is for a human, not as aggressive as in a dog, but nasty, and in need of rapid action if there was to be hope of a cure.

“How soon can I bring her in?”

“Can you make tomorrow at 9:45?  We would like to x-ray her to look for metastatic spread to her lungs, and if the x-rays are clear, we would advise you to consider amputation.  Radical surgery gives her the best chance of a cure. Go home and discuss it with your husband…” But I consented there and then, no more permissions needed; please don’t ask me to consent more than once to do this.  I drove home to my husband and we cried and held her and fussed her and cuddled that soon to be no more right limb, and probably freaked the poor independent mini-lion out with all the weird extra attention.


Thursday 29th October. Risk day.

The general anaesthetic. The x-ray. Praying that the phone would not ring before late afternoon.  If the x-ray is clear, we said, please go straight to surgery, don’t phone us, don’t keep her under any longer than she needs to be, just do what you can.

At 12 the phone rang, startling us – my father asking how she was and if there was news.

At 3pm the word came through, she was awake, alert, and tripping on methadone.  More importantly the x-rays showed no mets, not even locally to the toe. Visitors were permitted. We went to see the films and the puss for ourselves.  More tears, relief, and now the long wait for the histology report on the missing forelimb. She may have been very lucky indeed. It might be that the tumour started in her nail bed and grew out rather than inwards.  We are keeping everything crossed.


So what we now have is a grumpy, tripawd pussycat living in a dog crate for safety until the stitches come out.  She is already balancing well, but I am a little disconcerted when I see the ghost foot being waved in a litter-burying manoeuvre that she does not yet quite realise isn’t achieving much.


She will be fine, of that I have no doubt, she will just need a little adjustment time. Her sister Apple though, is not fine with this at all.  Crumble smells of vet and drugs and the great unwashed (I’ve tried dealing with this last part but she gets *really* annoyed).  There has been hissing and growling and short, fast, low crouch sprints from the cage.  Bedding is being swapped about, Dreamies are being handed out like the sweets they are. More than rehabilitating Crumble walking, we have a sisterly relationship to support repair of.


So where are we now? 5 more days and hopefully the stitches can come out, and then Crumble herself, and maybe we will also know the lab verdict by then too.

Paws crossed.


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