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Feline intussusceptions occur when there is a partial or total blockage in a cat’s intestine (also known as the gut), the part of the digestive system that goes from the stomach through to the excretory organs. It is caused by a telescoping effect within the intestine itself, when the tissue swells and dies following a reduction in blood supply. Although it most commonly occurs in the small intestine, it can also occasionally be seen in the bowel area. Although intussusceptions are not a life-threatening condition in humans, they are extremely dangerous in the case of cats. The first symptom that an owner will probably notice is the cat vomiting, with what is produced sometimes smelling similar to fecal matter. Faeces consisting of small stools possibly containing blood will then often follow this. The cat will be listless and lethargic, probably hunching up with pain and crying loudly. It is absolutely essential that this condition is treated immediately as a matter of extreme urgency, otherwise the cat will probably die. Vets are quite used to dealing with this sort of emergency, and no matter what time of day or night it occurs, or if it is a weekend or holiday period, you should telephone your Vet straight away to give your cat the best chance of survival. Your vet will probably be able to feel straight away if it is an intussusception, and if so, he will need to carry out an emergency operation under general anaesthetic to save the cat’s life. Depending on the size and complexity of the intussusception the Vet may be able to slide a telescoped portion of the bowel to another position, but it is more likely that he will completely remove the blocked intussusception altogether, which could amount to a number of inches of intestine being removed. So long as this operation is carried out promptly, the cat has a very good chance of survival and of leading a normal healthy life afterwards. The Vet will probably wish to keep your cat or kitten as an in-patient at the surgery for a couple of days (or at least overnight) to make sure that everything is functioning normally again, and that the cat is eating and producing normal bowel movements. Once your Vet has said that you can take the patient home again, you will need to stick very rigidly to what you have been advised to feed, probably keeping the invalid separate from other pets so that he does not try to eat their food. It will probably be a very bland diet that you have to feed him, but these days the pouches of special diet food that you will be able to obtain from your Vet seem to be very palatable to cats and they will probably agree to eat them quite readily. You will also be advised to restrict the movements of the feline patient, and may need to borrow or buy a folding kitten pen, so that he does not strain or break any stitches by rushing around – cats recover so quickly from major operations that this is quite possible! Although feline intussusceptions are not all that common, they do occur from time to time, mainly in young kittens, and, more occasionally, in younger adult cats. It seems to be most prevalent amongst Siamese and Oriental breeds, though not exclusively so, and Vets report instances of intussusceptions in all breeds of cat as well as in non-pedigree varieties. It can be caused by not worming kittens effectively, but this is not always the case as many breeders will testify, having treated their kittens for worms as early as possible. It seems that certain breeding lines have a tendency to intestinal weaknesses and intussusceptions, and it can also be caused by excessive diarrhoea maybe brought on by an unsuitable diet, perhaps feeding kittens on food that is too rich for them. It is also thought to be brought on sometimes by stress, such as going to a new home or a long journey, or even to a cat show for the first time, although the latter is rare. Although the prognosis is very good for recovery after an intussusception so long as the cat or kitten is treated promptly, it can mean a very expensive veterinary bill. It is very important that you arrange to insure you cat or kitten as soon as you get them home, as young kittens in particular sometimes suffer from stomach and intestinal disorders as well as other mishaps soon after arriving at their new home. If you have purchased a pedigree kitten from a reputable breeder, they will probably have arranged for your kitten to be covered by insurance for their first four weeks with you. It is crucial during the excitement of the arrival of the new member of the family not to overlook either extending the insurance cover you have been provided with, or adding the new arrival to your exiting pet policy so that there is no break in cover. If you are not covered you could face a Vet’s bill of several hundreds of pounds, and whereas you will want to do the best for your new pet this cost can be avoided, with the exception of a small excess payment, usually around £50. If your cat is not insured and you pay the bill yourself, you may not be covered in the unlikely case of a reoccurrence, as pet insurance policies do not include the treatment of pre-existing medical conditions.
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