‘Ozwald always loved kisses and cuddles, and would even let me blow raspberries on his belly,’ Stu says. ‘He was just a cuddly teddy bear of a cat who loved people.’ But when a friend visited in early 2017 and tried to stroke Ozwald, to everyone’s surprise, he hissed and tried to bite her.
Initially, they thought he was grumpy due to a busy Christmas period. But, sadly, things got worse: ‘He went from being a ray of sunshine to “no-one is touching me”,’ Stu recalls. Knowing that this wasn’t usual, and suspecting an underlying issue, Stu and his partner Grant took Ozzie to the vet. At first, the vet could find nothing obvious wrong, although they were concerned that Ozwald’s weight had gone up from his usual 6-6.5kg to 7.8kg, and that he’d also become more lethargic than usual.
‘He had tests for everything,’ Stu says. ‘They ruled out the usual problems – diabetes, cancer, thyroid problems, urine and toilet issues – and they couldn’t get to the bottom of it.’
The Campbell-Carrans decided to opt for a full-body scan, after which they were shocked to discover that Ozwald had luxating patellas (slipping knee caps) in both of his hind legs. Michael Hamilton, a veterinary surgeon and owner of Hamilton Specialist Referrals a new pet hospital in High Wycombe, made the diagnosis and said that Ozwald had probably had the condition since birth.
‘Ozzie had always been for his annual check ups, so we were devastated to think we’d missed a condition that could have been causing him pain,’ Stu says. ‘But Michael reassured us that the chances were good that he hadn’t suffered, as he’d grown up with the condition. It was only when he got older, and started to get arthritis that he began to feel the discomfort.’
Michael operated and did a double knee repair on Ozwald. After cage rest and hydrotherapy (laps of a pool on a lead!), Ozzie is now back to his old soppy self. ‘His weight has also dropped back down, as he’s actually been more active than he ever was, too,’ says Stu.
And, although he’d never been a cat to jump far, venturing only on to a low table or bed, Ozzie is now climbing and running with the couple’s other cat, Lulu. ‘Because he’s a moggy – an exotic cocktail of breeds – with a stocky body and short legs, we always thought he didn’t jump very far because he didn’t have long legs,’ says Stu. ‘It turns out there was another reason, and now he’s climbing and running like a 10-year-old kitten. Getting him that check-up made all the difference.’
Clare Hamilton, a vet at Hamilton Specialist Referrals, agrees: ‘We always recommend early check-ups and, if you suspect something is wrong with your pet, it’s important to make an appointment as soon as possible. After all, your pet can’t tell you if there’s something wrong, and cats are particularly good at hiding pain or disease.’ Clare adds that, nowadays, many conditions are treatable, or in some cases curable: ‘especially if they’re found early’.