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Vet Gazette

Oregon State University College of Veterinary Medicine eNewsletter

Cat With Nine Lives Opens Doors For Mom

February 20th, 2018

Mickey Cat is fourteen years old and on his seventh or eighth life.  His most recent life came courtesy of the Oncology Service at the OSU Veterinary Teaching Hospital.

Nancy Hildebrandt rescued Mickey from a shelter in California when he was six months old. “It was a wonderful place where cats roamed around in a converted house,” she recalls. “He kept sitting on my lap and pushing his nose up into my chin as if he were saying, “Take me!” At one point he climbed onto the back of another cat sitting on my lap so he could get at my chin.” How could she not take him home?

At the time, Hildebrandt lived in a remote area where she let Mickey roam free. “It could be a dangerous place, but I thought freedom was more important than keeping him indoors.” One day, Mickey did not come home so Hildebrandt went looking for him. “I found him up a tree. He had a bite on his belly from a fox or coyote.” The bite got infected and he was very sick, but Hildebrandt’s veterinarian saved him. That was life number three.

When Mickey was five, his nose started looking funny. “It would swell up and get scabs on it,” says Hildebrandt. “The vet thought it was squamous cell carcinoma. I was already saying goodbye to him.” But it turned out to be a rare case of nasal herpes. The virus will always be with him, but with treatment he has lived a normal, happy life.

Then, last year, Mickey went to Rivers Edge Veterinary Hospital for a routine dental exam. Unexpectedly, they found elevated levels of Alanine Transaminase in his liver test. “They aborted the dental and sent me to OSU,” says Hildebrandt. “A biopsy revealed lymphoma of the alimentary tract. The prognosis was a year without treatment, and two to three with.”

The OSU oncology service began treating Mickey with oral chemotherapy. “He has zero side effects. My understanding is that he’ll stay on the chemo as long as he is able to tolerate it, then that will be the end for him,” says Hildebrandt. “But we’re already past one year and he’s doing great.”

The other good news: Hildebrandt is now a volunteer on the client advocate team at the hospital. “This is such a warm and friendly place, from reception, to the students, to the vets,” she says. “I’m an introvert, so it’s sometimes hard for me to talk to other people. On the other hand, I am a really good listener and that gives me some skills in being empathetic.”

Many clients of the OSU hospital have very sick pets, so they spend a lot of hours in the waiting room. One of the goals of the client advocate team is to provide company and support for those pet owners. Because she is a client herself, Hildebrandt knows how important that is, and is able to connect with fellow clients. “A lot of them really want to talk about their pets, which makes it easy; and I spent hours sitting out in the waiting room, and had a lot of conversations before I became a client advocate, so I thought ‘This won’t be too hard’.”

Hildebrandt spends most of her week working with technology so she really looks forward to her Friday afternoons at the hospital. “The clients here are a cut above because they are willing to go the extra mile to save their pet. Many of them are also very interesting people. Volunteering gives me the opportunity to change focus and meet some great new people.”


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