Local nonprofit cat shelter Furry Friends is receiving some international attention after a stray cat named Milkshake garnered nearly 3,000 followers on her Facebook page titled “Milkshakes Yard.”
The page started as a way to follow the cat through her pregnancy and quickly gained traction as people on the internet tuned in for the arrival of Milkshake’s “beans,” or kittens.
Furry Friends President Jaimie Garver said Milkshake showed all the normal symptoms of a pregnant cat. She started nesting, looked for birthing spots and “knead(ed) everything in sight.” As the long-awaited day neared, Milkshake’s foster parent Danielle Webster decided to take the cat to a veterinarian one last time before the big day.
“We take our foster parents’ intuition very serious(ly),” Garver said in a press release. “(We) made an appointment for Milkshake right away.”
After an ultrasound was completed, Webster and Furry Friends were surprised to learn Milkshake was not pregnant with “beans,” after all. Instead, she had a bacterial infection of the uterus called pyometra.
Furry Friends Medical Director Kensie Broom said pyometra causes the uterus to expand much like it would during pregnancy. The condition is hard to detect unless a vet technician conducts an ultrasound.
Broom said pyometra only occurs in female animals that haven’t been spayed, a process that removes its ovaries. The condition, according to Broom, is more common in dogs than cats. Broom said the infection can appear “closed,” which means the infection is contained in a cyst-like bulge, or it can appear “open,” which causes the infection to leak.
“Luckily for Milkshake’s survival, she had an open pyometra,” Broom said. “Essentially, that’s what kept her alive.”
Garver said she was nervous to tell the large Facebook group that Milkshake wasn’t going to have kittens, but she used the opportunity to raise awareness of pyometra, while emphasizing the importance of spaying animals.
Once the group was informed about the situation, Garver said donations started to pour in threefold.
A full hysterectomy is the only way to treat pyometra and the operation is expensive.
“Once you know it’s a pyometra, you have to take care of it right away because it’s a death sentence,” Broom said.
According to Webster, Milkshake’s surgery cost nearly $4,000 after taxes. Funds came from both Furry Friends and donations from the Facebook page.
Milkshake has begun to recover from her surgery. Her foster parent, Webster, decided to adopt the cat who will join her two other cats.
“Milkshake’s the peanut butter to my jelly I didn’t realize I needed and after all we’ve been through I can’t give her up,” Webster wrote on Facebook.
Broom said the only way to prevent pyometra from harming an animal is to get the animal spayed before the condition starts. Because the infection can happen anywhere between the first and last heat cycle of the animal, Broom and Furry Friends encourage pet owners to get their animals spayed as soon as possible. Cats can be spayed at about six months of age and dogs can be fixed not much longer after that, depending on their size.
Spaying can do more than prevent pyometra, Broom said. Removing a cat’s reproductive organs significantly lowers its risk of mammary cancer, which has a 20 percent chance to occur in a non-spayed cat.
Broom also said female animals aren’t the only beneficiaries as neutered male animals have an extremely low risk of prostate cancer and other testicle-related diseases.
Updates can be found on the Facebook page at facebook.com/groups/1630737837118020.
T-shirts of Milkshake can be bought online at teepublic.com/user/furryfriends. The funds will go to Furry Friends.
Donations can also be made online at furryfriendswa.org and through paypal at information@furryfriend swa.org.