Story of Raja: Love at First Sight and Survivor Spirit - Part 1
By Kristi VanBenschoten
Kristi has been the Leader of Top Tropicals Team for many years now, since 2013. All customers know her and appreciate her extensive knowledge of plants, readiness to always help and make it right no matter what it takes.
Kristi's passion is tropical flowers and... of course, CATS! Besides PeopleCats of TopTropicals, she takes care of some 7+ indoor cats (we never know the exact number... which is going up). Her cats are part of the Family and rule the house (no doubt about it). Kristi can not pass by a beautiful flower or a kitty, without offering them to share her Home Sweet Home.
The story below about Little Raja is heart breaking and yet teaches us many lessons of life. Since the first columns about Raja and her brother Abu were published in our Blog, we have been getting many letters from gardeners-slash-cat-lovers asking questions about those heroic kitties... what have they been through and what happened after?.. So we asked Kristi to tell us the whole story in full. Here it is, the Raja's lessons of Life.
This Cat story starts with and age-old question. Do you believe in love at first sight? Now, I’m not talking about love between two humans however, but love between a person and an animal. This is one of those stories.
Raja found me in the back of an old tire shop. I was actually trying to catch her mother after seeing she was very sick and needed some help. Her mother led me to the back of the run-down shop, filled with forgotten about cars and tires that have seen better days. While hunting where her mom had scurried, my eyes met the smallest striped kitten sitting on top of a large tire 1000 times her size. With a gasp I quietly shouted "kitten"! Now I was even more determined to save this cat and her kitten. A friend accompanied me, and we decided to speak to the shop owner. He told us there was actually another kitten as well. A little white and gray one, although he hadn’t seen it in a while. Now we had a rescue mission for three.
The next morning, we set out a humane animal trap. With a little wet cat food, our first catch was the little white and gray kitten. This little guy would be named Abu, but more about him later. We tried for a week to trap the mother cat and Raja...
Unfortunately, we were not in time to save the mother. We did catch one cute little raccoon who we carefully let go hoping he wouldn’t be too mad at us for the mis-capture.
Finally, one morning we went to the trap and there was the other kitten, mad as heck and covered in fleas. We briefly looked her over and noticed she had a bad bite on her wrist. We were very worried that she was going into shock from the number of fleas she had on her. So, we rushed her to the vet. The three of us, Jamie, Raja and I arrived at the vets and there was a considerable wait. At one point we thought she wasn't going to make it. When we finally were able to see the vet, Raja came-to a little, and the vet looked her over. The bite was infected and the doctor put her on an antibiotic.
Once we got her home, she relaxed a little we were able to see her nose was infected as well. It was swollen upwards as if she belonged in the Whoville village from Dr. Seuss. While it was very cute, we knew there was something wrong. An appointment was scheduled for her in two days, but that night she started to lose movement in her back legs, and by morning they were paralyzed. We quickly called a local vet who was able to take both Raja and her brother in, as he was showing signs of infections in his paws and joints. Once we got them to the vets, there were some pretty scary possibilities ranging from rabies to infections. We were told they would need to stay in quarantine for 10 days while we tried to figure out what was wrong, and rule out rabies. The word rabies at this point was making my head spin since Raja had bit me. Now not only was I worried about the kittens but also if I could possibly have rabies as well!. Five days later we were able to pick them up. There was good news - Raja was walking again and they seemed to be responding to the antibiotics. No rabies, thank God!
We got the kittens home expecting improvement and happier times. As the days progressed, they were not getting better - however, they were not getting worse. We took them back to the vet for their check up and were greeted by another doctor who took one look at them and said they will never get better without further necessary treatment. They had to drain all the abscesses and then start them on antibiotics. Another blow to these kittens who already started out with the odds stacked against them. Consent was given for the procedures and they were picked up a few hours later.
A week later there was still no improvement. The infections were still ravaging their bodies. A further checkup-visit revealed they still had infections. The vet explained that we may want to think of another method of treatment for these kittens, because what ever the infection was, it is very bad. I drove away overwhelmed with emotions. This couldn’t be their fate; this was not how the story was to end for these two. I could see the fight in Raja’s eyes when she looked at me. She was not yet done! As I drove home, I racked my brain thinking about anything I could that might help these cats. The next morning, I pulled out every piece of documentation from the vets on what had been given to these cats. I just kept thinking there has to be some missing piece. Examining the bills, I noticed every antibiotic that was prescribed was penicillin-based. I began wondering about the possibility of the infection being resistant to penicillin?
Googling everything possible on infections that are resistant to penicillin, I was sure this was the missing link. I frantically called the vets asking if they had cultured the infection to see what we were trying to fight - the answer was an abrupt "we don't do that here". At this point it was time from a second opinion.
I set up an appointment with another vet about 45 mins from home. Pulling into the parking lot I could already feel the tears in my eyes, praying he too would not tell me there is no hope. The nurse came out to talk to me about what was going on and through giant tears I told her the story. I explained to her my uneducated theory on what I thought was the answer to all their problems.
About 15 minutes later the doctor came out to speak to me. He explained that yes, what they had was some kind of very bad infections which he may not be able to cure. We decided to try a different antibiotic - one that was not penicillin based. He warned me that he may be able to get answers concerning what exactly the infection is, and may be able to cure the infections. However she may never walk normally. The vet gave her brother a 30% chance of walking again and warned that Raja may have to have a leg removed. The infections had eaten away the joints in the bones. The doctor said you will know in three days whether this antibiotic was going to work, if not we would have to bring them back in. In my best yet very broken Africaans, I told the So. African Dr., baie dankie, which means thank you. I'm sure I said it wrong because he just laughed.
I left the parking lot hopeful but not sure what was next for Raja. All I knew was that she was a fighter. She was not ready to give up yet - she said so with her eyes...