Hot cats and slow-burn boarders
So I’ve got this radioactive cat I’m boarding for two weeks at the hospital. She’s an I-131 kitty just chilling out until all the hot blood she’s got cools down to non-toxic limits.
In case this sounds strange—let me explain. The ideal treatment for feline hyperthyroidism (an overactive thyroid) is a shot of some pretty heavy stuff the thyroid specialist comes to town to deliver once a month. Its job is to kill all the excess thyroid cells that colonize this gland, thereby bringing the affected cat’s altered metabolism back down to standard, slow-old kitty status.
Cats tend to age into this common disease where weight loss, increased activity, heat seeking and overeating are the hallmark signs. The most common approach to treating hyperthyroidism uses pills, liquid or patches to chemically kill off extra thyroid hormone producing cells. The next mort common finds vets slicing the gland into surgical submission. But vets are increasingly turning to more targeted, less stressful means of achieving a normal thyroid.
And here’s where the traveling thyroid guy comes in. (Dr. Erick Mears, in our case. He’s a board-certified internal medicine specialist who runs an outfit called I-CAT.)
This guy sets up shop in the specialty hospital across the street in this Spartan room outfitted just for this activity. After receiving a fresh batch of well-loved cats, checking their bloodwork and ultrasounding the heck out of them to make sure they’re otherwise healthy, he places IV catheters, lines up the kitties in their neat little row of cages and administers the “hot shot” that’ll usually cure ‘em.
It’s quite a sight—an array of multicolored, skinny geriatrics hanging out, waiting their turn to undergo the needle. Loud meows all around. Where’s the food, buddy?
If it sounds a little too science fiction, don’t worry—this is old technology. It’s just that cats have been slow to get the I-131 protocol streamlined just for them. But it’s pretty simple…except that while the I refers to iodine, the 131 refers to its unstable radioactive state. That means these kitties are literally HOT for about two weeks after their date with the good doctor.
Yet only two days after their thyroid cell-killing dose, these cats are allowed to go home to their families. Problem is, lots of hand-washing, careful litter handling and kid-watching is necessary so that the radioactive urine and stool is properly dealt with. That means that families with children aren’t usually too excited to take on the I-131 treatment for their cat—even when they know it’s best for them.
So we’ve taken to making things a little easier for Fluffy to get the right care. We keep ‘em. Skinny kitty spends two weeks hanging out with us in a stainless steel cage with lots of individual attention designed primarily to keep her from spreading her radioactivity beyond the confines of her litterbox.
It’s pretty easy care, really. I mean, how hard is it to throw out her litter in hermetically sealed containers? How hard is it to wash your hands after touching her? (We do that anyway, right?)
Still, everyone’s sort of scared of her. Which is kind of sad. She’s so sweet and solicitous of our attention that it’s hard to resist her plaintive meowls. So I don’t. After all, what’s a little radioactivity among friends?