Surviving against the odds: Spats’s story

Marion Urquhart nursed her cat Spats back to health after a near-fatal attack, only for him to be struck by a mystery illness. But after being diagnosed with, and treated for, cat diabetes, the 17-year-old is back to his old contented self.

Every cat owner’s worst nightmare is their pet suffering an attack – so Marion Urqhart still shudders when she recalls the events of one night in October 2019. Her cat, Spats, had gone out for his nightly prowl as usual. ‘We were totally unaware anything was wrong until our dog, Muck, ran to the cat flap barking at about 4am,’ says Marion. Her husband shone a torch outside and saw Spats lying on the grass, surrounded by clumps of his own fur, panting frantically. Clearly, something awful had happened. ‘I gathered him in my arms, thinking he was going to die there and then,’ she says.

Surviving an animal attack

Marion called an emergency vet and the couple raced off to meet her at the practice. There were few obvious signs of injury, apart from a little blood and a growing swelling on Spats’s neck. ‘We still had no idea what had happened,’ says Marion. ‘But he’d obviously been attacked – presumably by another animal.’

There was little the emergency vet could do for Spats. ‘I really think she thought he would die,’ Marion says. ‘We did, too, and thought he should be with us at home.’

Fortunately, Spats made it through the night with Marion and her husband at his side. At his follow-up appointment the next morning, their vet confirmed there were two puncture wounds on Spats’ neck, probably from a bite. It’s still not known what attacked Spats that night, but the vet theorised that it might be a badger. Whatever inflicted his injuries appeared to have grabbed Spats by the neck and shaken him with great force.

Saving Spats

A very poorly Spats was admitted for treatment, and Marion feared the worst – but again, he defied the odds. ‘Amazingly, the vet told us we could take him home, but he was a very different boy,’ she says. ‘He couldn’t hold his own weight or walk at first, and he needed a lot of help.’

Marion even had to carry Spats outside (day and night) to relieve himself, as he wouldn’t use the litter tray the vet had advised. With her round-the-clock care and attention, Spats slowly improved. But, by Christmas time, his recovery faltered, and Marion noticed that he was getting very thin.

Back at the vet’s, the initial diagnosis was suspected kidney failure, and it was recommended that Spats started a special cat food for a renal diet. But there was no real improvement in Spats’s health, and further tests confirmed that, in fact, Spats had cat diabetes.

Dealing with cat diabetes

A crash course in life with a diabetic cat followed, with Marion learning how to give Spats insulin injections twice a day. Thankfully, the brave animal has now reached a healthy weight and his cat diabetes is under control: ‘We’re now checking he doesn’t put on too much weight,’ smiles Marion. ‘He tolerates me jabbing him – it’s probably me who’s more nervous about it, it's never seemed to bother him.’

Marion is incredibly relieved that she took out pet insurance. ‘We are probably not Petplan’s best customer, as they’re paying out a lot of money for us,’ she says. ‘But if we hadn’t had cover, I’m not sure what we’d have done.’

At the ripe old age of 17, Spats is now enjoying life once again – even though the attack left him totally deaf. ‘I speak into his neck so he can feel the vibrations, and he responds with massive purrs,’ says Marion.

She’s also happy that the terrifying experience of the attack wasn’t to be Spats’s last memory. ‘He also has a new protector in Muck the dog, who follows Spats continually and stands guard if anything comes near him,’ she says. ‘If it wasn’t for Muck, we wouldn’t have found Spats until the morning after the attack. Muck probably saved his life.’

Has your pet overcome the odds to survive and thrive? Share your story on Facebook or Instagram with the hashtag #PethoodStories – we’d love to hear from you!

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