Black cat doesn't let his special needs get in the way of life

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09 September 2020
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We speak to owner Karen Mercer about her pawsome black kitty, Jimmy Miew, who doesn't let his health problems get in the way of living his life.

Q) How did you meet Jimmy Miew, and where did the name come from?   

Jimmy Miew was abandoned with his young Mum and siblings in a box at our special place in Shropshire. Our friends own Hoo Farm and they found the box in a barn on a cold and snowy night in December 2017. The Mum disappeared with one of her babies but left Jimmy Miew with his brother.

Our friends took them in and contacted me to say what had happened and if we fancied adopting one of them. Of course, we said yes, adopting a kitten that had been abandoned at our special place was very, very meaningful and we loved black cats too. We were sent pictures and videos of them both over the next couple of weeks and I just knew the cute longhaired fluffy black kitten was the one to fit into our feline family dynamic.

For Christmas that year my husband, Dave, bought me a beautiful pair of shoes by my favourite designer, Jimmy Choo, so the name Jimmy Miew came to mind very quickly and it suits him so well.  We made the two-and-a-half-hour journey on December 22, 2017 to pick him up and bring him to his forever home with us.

Q) When did you first find out that Jimmy Miew has epilepsy?

In May 2018 at just six months of age he had his first seizure and it was frightening. I got him to the vets and because he is a house cat, they knew it wasn’t from an accident outside or that he’d been poisoned. 

All tests were clear, and the hope was that it was a one off and may have been due to the hot weather we were having at the time. If it happened again our vets told us they would refer him immediately to a Neuro Specialist. Sadly, it did happen again, and the referral to one of the best Neuro Specialists was made.

Jimmy Miew underwent various tests to rule things out, and then he had to have an MRI scan done. There was nothing sinister (thank goodness) that showed up as to what had caused it, and the hope was that it was a juvenile form of epilepsy and he would grow out of it and not need medicating.

In the October of 2018 he had four seizures in a week and he was admitted to the care of the Neuro team at the referral hospital. He was seen as an emergency and they needed to stabilise him. If he’d had seizure number five, they were really worried his brain and body wouldn’t survive it. We were heartbroken and devastated. The Neuro Specialist who was on that day recognised the form of epilepsy Jimmy Miew had because he had written a paper on it. He diagnosed Temporal Limbic Epilepsy, and Jiimmy Miew was put onto the Keppra medication which is also used to treat children and adults with epilepsy. The hope was still that it was juvenile and he may grow out of it, but for now he needed the medication.

He stabilised very quickly on the Keppra and had to have it three times a day at eight hourly intervals, and only once we had gone a full year seizure-free did his Neuro Specialist start reducing the frequency of his Keppra. He is now down to just once a day, and the hope is to have a review in November with the aim of stopping it altogether to see if he has grown out of the epilepsy as initially thought.

Q) Jimmy Miew has also been diagnosed with Peripheral Neuropathy. How does this affect his everyday life?

We noticed that Jimmy Miew was very different from the beginning. He had a little stompy walk and didn’t grow as big as our other cats. He was a very ill kitten when young, and some people refer to kittens like this as the “runt” of the litter. We think that is a horrible term, so to us he is the “unique” or “special” one.

The epilepsy gave Jimmy Miew anxiety and we also had to deal with the side effects of his epilepsy medication. He became sensitive to certain sounds and he really didn’t like change. He would struggle to jump up onto things like the windowsills and our bed, and he hated any change in routine. He was easily spooked and started to squirt wee around the house when he was anxious, and would race around having strange zoomies. This is why he was referred to Dr Sarah Heath, the amazing Veterinary Behaviourist, and she diagnosed the Peripheral Neuropathy immediately.

The brain signals to his legs were very weak at best, so that explained why he doesn’t jump up much and why he walks with a defined stomp. Dr Sarah Heath was able to explain to us, after being with Jimmy Miew for over four hours, that he would wake and feel these strange sensations in his legs due to the Neuropathy and be spooked by this, and also the fact if he heard a strange sound he would want to run away from it but his legs were delayed in responding.

Jimmy Miew was put onto a supplement called Yucalm to help him deal with his anxiety in a positive way and he was put onto the liquid medicine called Gabapentin to treat the Neuropathy pain/discomfort/strange feelings etc. and also because it can help with anxiety too. Recently, due to the Covid-19 pandemic, myself and Dave have been home so much more and Jimmy Miew has really struggled coping with this big change.

He did a couple of wee squirts when zooming anxiously after sleeping and waking up spooked. He now also has a supplement called Aktivait and the Gabapentin was increased from twice a day to three times a day. We have regular reviews with Dr Sarah Heath too, and she has truly helped us and enabled us to give Jimmy Miew the best care now that we know what we are dealing with long term. The extent of any brain damage he has will be difficult to determine, but from the footage seen, and from what Dr Sarah Heath has seen visually herself, it is clear that Jimmy Miew really doesn’t know what is going on around him. He just doesn’t do things that a normal cat would do. He has his own unique way of sitting on his bum with all four legs in front of him. He does this all the time and maybe it hurts to sit like a normal cat, so he has found a way to sit that is comfortably for him. He makes us laugh every day with his antics and sitting positions.

Q) Do you have any advice for anyone who has a special needs cat?

I think the first thing to do as an owner is to ensure that you are getting the best advice and help from your vet, and that you also seek further help and support from Veterinary Specialists and Veterinary Behaviourists where necessary via your vet doing a referral. Getting the support from experts is vital for any owner because there was a point that we felt overwhelmed and were struggling, especially when Jimmy Miew would squirt wee randomly and we didn’t know why.

We have cat cameras in our home that were able to catch so much more than his Neuro Specialist and Veterinary Behaviourist were able to view, so they could see exactly what was happening with him at home. These can be bought quite cheaply now and really were a good thing for us to do so we could see what was happening in Jimmy Miew’s mind a little more.

From my own professional background as a specialist cat sitter, and personally as an owner, I can’t stress enough how important it is to have your pet insured from the day you adopt, because you never know what you may have to face, we had no idea when we adopted Jimmy Miew what was going to happen.  Veterinary medicine has really come on in leaps and bounds over recent years but it is not cheap, and we are glad we had that peace of mind throughout all this, knowing that we were insured and could just focus on Jimmy Miew.

In his first year his vet bills were over £4,000 and knowing we have a lifetime policy for him just takes that pressure off us. A special needs cat requires a lot more time and care but that doesn’t have to impact on your life totally. We have been able to take Jimmy Miew on days out, and away on holiday with us to ensure he gets his epilepsy meds at the right times. It’s about understanding the issues your cat has, and even though Jimmy Miew doesn’t like change within the home, going away does not bother him because we are there with him. As an owner of a cat with special needs you can easily adapt your lifestyle to make it work, but I stress again to anyone in this situation to ensure you have all that support in place from experts who can and will help you.

Q) Does Jimmy Miew get on well with your other cats?

Yes he absolutely does, and even Dr Sarah Heath has commented on how well our cats are so compatible with each other. We have put a lot of love and effort into ensuring our multi-cat household is a happy one. 

Jimmy Miew can get away with all sorts with the other cats, as they seem to know he is different. He loves Errol, our big ginger and white kitty. During one of his seizures, Jimmy Miew ended up falling onto Errol as he slept in his bed. We witnessed Errol remain calm and he gently washed and licked Jimmy Miew as he started to come round from the seizure. From that moment on Jimmy Miew is like Errol’s shadow and they are very tightly bonded together.

One of the side effects of the Keppra medication is that it can make him a bit more cocky and cheeky, and if that happens the other cats will put him in his place, but that hasn’t happened often. He will sleep with all three of our other cats, and they are all happy to groom and wash him, because that is another thing Jimmy Miew can’t really do, but that's OK, as he has the other cats for that!

Q) Describe Jimmy Miew in just three words…

Precious, funny, unique.

Fact File

  • @jimmymiew
  • Followers: Over two thousand.
  • Name: Jimmy Miew (as in Jimmy Choo).
  • Age: Almost 3 years old in November.
  • Favourite treat: Meaty sticks, especially the ones by Webbox.
  • Favourite thing to do: Enjoy cuddles and tummy rubs and sneaking what is left in a cup of tea at the bottom of the cup.
  • Favourite toy: Difficult to say because he doesn’t have a good attention span to play with one thing for long enough so having a variety of toys is vital for him.