It was in the summer when Lion showed up. I had recently moved to a rural area and having lived there before, I knew that unwanted cats were often dumped in the area. My home was located on a high filled-in area at the base of which was a pond and swamp. Lion apparently climbed the rocks up from the swampy area to my yard.
He seemed slow, sad, not too hungry but definitely wary. It almost looked like someone brushed him. I fed him and talked to him without touching him and was content to get to know him slowly. After a few days I changed my mind about that when I noticed blood on a back foot. So I trapped him, which wasn’t hard and dropped him off at the vet clinic. I attended a meeting after that and was unavailable by phone.
When I finished the meeting and phoned the clinic back, I was stunned to learn they had euthanized him and they were very upset about his condition. At first they thought, as I did, that he wasn’t in too bad shape. But when he was sedated and they could examine him, they found that he hadn’t been brushed, instead his hair was matted right down to his skin. They found he had pillow foot, scientifically known as plasma cell pododermatitis on three paws and it was beginning on the fourth. Because they were unable to reach me while he was under anesthetic, they made the decision to euthanize him before he woke up.
Pillow foot, similar to bumblefoot in some other animals, makes the pads of the paws squishy and then they begin to ulcerate. Then they get infected. It is thought that this is due to an overreaction of the immune system. The vet assistant advised that if treated, the usual treatment is steroids. Some studies have suggested the condition is linked to FIV.
Certainly constant treatment with steroids or anything else would be challenging with a stray or feral cat. So I couldn’t really blame the clinic for their decision. Yet, had there been time, I would have researched alternative possible treatment. One holistic clinic noted improvement in cats with this condition when dental issues were addressed and diet was changed.
In almost 30 years of rescue work, I had never come across this condition before. So in remembering Lion, I just want to alert other rescuers to the possibility that a slow but wary stray that seems in reasonable shape may actually have this condition. And I would definitely like to hear from anyone who has observed successful treatment.