My darling Chessie is going to be 18 years old next week. 18 years is miraculous for a Maine Coon cat who has suffered with heart disease for a decade, had bilateral hip surgeries and has thrown 2 blood clots in his rear legs.
Let’s start with the breed. Maine Coons, called gentle giants, are the largest breed of domestic cats. Chessie was upward of 24 pounds in his prime-all muscle and prowess. Coon cats are sweet, easy going, rarely riled. They have an affinity for heights and true to temper, my Ches loves to be perched atop his kitty condo. Coons, the Issac Newtons of cats, like to push things from heights (read cabinets, counter tops, shelves) and watch them fall.
I knew I had to have a Maine Coon early in my veterinary career. Waaayy back then, a client brought a pair into my clinic, and I thought that their elegant stature, tall hair-tufted ears and flamboyant, expressive tails make them prizes to behold. I didn’t know then about the jocular personality (or penchant for falling objects) Chessie once pushed a London broil earthward and followed it’s garlic-strewn way to the floor. That was an interesting bath.
I also didn’t know about Coon cat diseases. Like large breed dogs, Coons get hip dysplasia. When Ches became reluctant to jump up on furniture, I x-rayed him to discover incredibly arthritic hips.
Then there’s the heart disease. Severely debilitating, it can be congenital in Maine Coons. It certainly was in my cat.
Ches has been seeing a cardiologist for 10 years. Fortunately, there’s great group of doctors close by in Annapolis and Ches has travelled across the bridge often.
A consequence of feline heart disease is that blood clots can form at the aortic bifurcation-the place where the 2 main blood vessels go down into the rear legs. If a clot forms there, it cuts off blood flow to one or both rear legs, rendering them cold and useless. Because of the cost of treatment and very poor prognosis of the disease, most cats don’t survive clot episodes. Chessie, my little angel, threw not one, but two clots, right in front of my eyes. I literally saw him go down, felt no pulses in his rear legs. I sped him to the ER in Annapolis and both times, he recovered. Several hundred dollars worth of Plavix later, he’s doing fine.