Courageous Colonel

I write to you today with a  bitter-sweet post about our cheeky kitten, Colonel Percival Tenenbaum. Today would be Colonel’s third birthday. I’d like to share his story, in the hopes to help just one cat or dog out there, and make people aware of a serious disease, the warning signs, and to stress the importance of feline {and canine} leukemia vaccinations.  

Colonel was born to my parents’ cat, Gyspie. Fiance and I immediately fell in love with the runt of the pack, and affectionately named him Colonel, due to his unmistakable curled white ‘moustache’ marking, much like Colonel Sanders‘. 

Soon he was old enough to come home and boy, did he have sass. He was into everything, and would steal anything, with the hopes of eating it. You name it – entire chicken fillets, rubber gloves, paper, bags of crisps, clothes, tissues, Cheeto’s, anything.

When Colonel was 9 months old, we noticed a  change in him. The first warning sign for us was that he no longer ‘sat tall’ or upright. He crouched all the time. The second thing we noticed was a weird one – there was a tiny square of exposed concrete in our apartment, and began licking it, non stop. All day. The first two symptoms we didn’t think much of at the time, until he began to loose his appetite. For his character, that was not normal. The combination of those three, I immediately brought him to our local mobile vet clinic. They checked him, gave him pills for his immune system, and sent him home. Colonel only got worse. 

I snuck him treats of whatever meat I was cooking whenever I could. I snuggled hot water bottles around him in blankets, cuddled him on my lap, in hopes that would make him better {this was before knowing about the leukemia}. 

I brought him to the vet every week for four weeks. Sometimes twice a week. Finally, the week before Christmas in 2009, one particular vet finally realized something was very wrong, and advised we send him for tests. I researched his symptoms, and came to the horrid conclusion that he may have feline leukemia. I brought him to the specialist vet, and as I feared, the vet explained they would keep him for feline leukemia testing and for me to go home. Later that afternoon, I got the call to say Colonel was not going to make it, and would have to be put down. The leukemia was so advanced. An unhealthy blood platelette level they explained was 30%, and Colonel’s was 13%. His blood was like water. 

I asked that they wait for me to get there, and hoped Colonel would last long enough for us to arrive. Fiance and I wanted to be with Colonel. I didn’t want his last minutes to be with strangers, in a cold room. We were with him in the end. Like the crazy cat lady I am, I whispered in his ear how much we loved him, rubbing him, hoping he would know that we were with him in the end. He was so weak, I wasn’t sure he could hear us. Under my hand, his heart beats became softer. There was no final struggle that I was expecting. Everything quietly stopped.

The vet told us he had been in a lot of pain, and was for quite some time. I’ve never cried so hard or so much as I did the following days. My skull hurt and my face swelled. It was my fault. I felt I didn’t bring him to the vet enough, or on time. And on the other hand I feel I brought him sometimes twice a week to the vet – why didn’t they catch on? I still blame myself.
Colonel was always an indoor cat, which was our reasoning for not giving him the feline leukemia vaccine when he was a kitten. We thought – how would he catch it? Feline Leukemia isn’t actually leukemia, but a debilitating disease that is contagious between cats and cats, and dogs and dogs {not cats and dogs, if you get my meaning}.We knew our other cats {who were also strictly indoors} didn’t have it. It was only months later that we came to the conclusion that he may have picked up the disease when he went into get neutered, a month before his symptoms started to show. 
The symptoms we found with Colonel:
– loss of appetite and subsequent weight loss
– an unusual and new obsession to licking concrete or windows {this was due to a lack of minerals in his system}
– lack of energy
– change in attitude
– change in quality of fur {Colonel had lovely silky black fur, and in the last month, it went downy and brown}
– change or loss of awareness in hygiene
– inability to ‘sit tall’ or upright

The feline leukemia vaccination is one of the more expensive vaccinations at around €70. Getting this vaccination could prevent your pet from the pain and torture our little cat went through. Please get it for your pet if you can. The treatment for feline leukemia is incredibly expensive, not to mention the extreme case of having to put your pet down. Please, if you notice any of the above symptoms with your cat or dog {not sure if dogs would show the same symptoms?}, bring your pet to the vet as soon as possible.

All of the pictures above were taken when Colonel was healthy and at the height of his sass. I didn’t take any pictures of him when he was sick. He was a cuddle whore, and was very much in love with his girlfriend, Toshi. 

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  1. April 20, 2012 / 16:24

    I am so sorry for your loss. I live in the US and had a cat die of this when I was a little girl (before the vaccine was available). But in the US this is a standard vaccine that everyone is strongly urged/told to get because if your cat gets feline leukemia it is devastating. Indoor cats can accidentally escape outside and pick it up there. Thank you so much for bringing awareness to this!

  2. April 21, 2012 / 07:06

    I've got tears plopping down my cheeks, what a sad story of a gorgoes kitty. The pictures of him are beautiful, thank you for sharing this with us, I'm sure it wasn't easy reliving it, but it will definitely raise awareness of this horrible disease in cats. Bethan xxx

  3. April 21, 2012 / 08:06

    Alex, my heart went out to you as I read this. What a gorgeous boy he was.

  4. April 21, 2012 / 16:00

    And he was so adorable…Poor kitty. At least he had lots of love in his life:)

  5. April 25, 2012 / 05:33

    Aww, that was so sad. I couldn't help but cry. That little mustache is amazing. Thank you for the post!

  6. April 20, 2013 / 18:56

    Ah Alex… 🙁 I'm so sad for you. There's nothing more you could have done though, you did all you could. One of ours has feline leukaemia, we know its only a matter of time too. We said we'd give him the happiest (last) days of his life and he's been going strong for the last two years, with diabetes too. His fur is not normal fur either but other than that he seems to be ok at the moment…