On August 30, my husband and I wandered into the Pet Emporium not really intending to buy anything, just to look around and visit with the critters. Behind the fiberglass enclosure at eye level I saw the soulful, friendly eyes of a little 13-week old male Abyssinian Blue kitten looking back at me. Even as I stared apprehensively at his $1500 price tag, the little guy had that certain something that money couldn't buy: a rare personality, and lots of it.
I looked over our potential purchase and took note of his extremely lean body, which is also a trait of his breed, but I couldn't help wonder to what extent was such thinness normal? His back end also revealed traces of loose stool in his recent past, which I mentioned to employee "Vicki", who was a little too quick to assure me that the kitten had been evaluated and approved by a vet and had all his current shots. The kitten's appetite seemed healthy as he chowed on some unusual pale yellowish/brown chunks of dry food in his little dish. We went home to think about it...and decided to come back for the little one, since diarrhea should simple and treatable in kittens.
On August 31, we signed our lives away to take the little guy home, and the pet store included a bag of his "usual diet" to help ease him into his new home. Okay, fine. He really seemed to like that chunky light brown stuff. As they presented the kitten to us with a little ribbon around his neck, I hardly took heed to the tiny patch of chalky fur on his left shoulder, which really looked like something had dripped onto his coat like kaopectate.
It was soon clear as I unpacked his take-home chow that this food was nothing like what he had been eating at the pet store. Small, hard, dark brown, windmill-shaped pieces tipped out of the oil-stained lunchbag into the bowl...apparently also to the kitten's dismay as his nosed around the pieces with less than enthusiasm. Oh well, I thought, and just began him on his future cat food diet instead, which he devoured happily. As husband and I filmed the kitten's first day home while he played with his new toys, the chalky patch on his left shoulder seemed to be more noticeable.
The diarrhea, however, became the bane of our existence as the days passed with no sign of improvement. As per the contract with the pet store, we took the kitten to THEIR vet first, who sent the kitten home with two packets of FortiFlora to restore the enzymes in his gut. They did not put this treatment on his record, which may or may not have been suspect. The FortiFlora, which the kitten LOVED, had no impact on his problem, and in fact it began to escalate.
SEVEN days after we brought the kitten home, he began bleeding considerably into his runny stool, even though his appetite was voracious as ever. I called the Pet Emporium and "Vicki" placed the blame for the kitten's problem on his food change. When I pointed out that the kitten was NOT sent home with the same food I knew he had been eating at the pet store, Vicki adamantly responded that nothing had been changed and that the kitten WAS sent home with his usual food and that I was at fault for changing the kitten's diet against instructions, hence the diarrhea problem. The fact that the kitten was bleeding into his stool seemed to be of no additional consequence to this woman. She repeated that the kitten was stressed and that his diet had been changed and that I was to place him BACK on the food he was sent home with, (which he clearly detested). In my gut I felt this employee was counting on my ignorance and was making up anything that sounded official to get me off the phone.
The next morning, the kitten was less vigorous, pale, and "floppy". The amount of blood coming out of this tiny creature was alarming and I recognized the signs of anemia as I watched him. I felt obligated to phone the pet store again not for advice (which was patently unreliable) but to inform them of the situation. Vicki said the kitten was pale because it was dehydrated (?!?) and suggested feeding the kitten human baby food mixed with human baby rice cereal. If the situation wasn't so dire, I would have laughed. This woman's advice, in the face of all the facts, was ignorance beyond measure and a potential death sentence to the kitten if followed. Within an hour I whisked the kitten to our OWN vet a street away.
It was immediately clear that the kitten was underweight for his age (barely over 2 lbs. at 14 weeks), and had a longstanding inflammation of his intestines. The chalky patch on the kitten's shoulder was becoming a bald patch with flaky skin, which when put under a black light glowed like a light bulb: a certain sign of some kind of fungus. The kitten was placed immediately on a regime of Metronidazole (anti-infective) and a topical medication for the fungus.
I took the paperwork showing these findings to the Frisky Pet Emporium personally, and was subsequently witness to some of the worst B.S.-ing I've ever heard in one sitting. Returning to the subject of the discrepancy in the appearance of the kitten's food from store to house I was told that the small, dark brown pieces had been SOAKED IN WATER to make them look like those large HARD yellow-brown pieces I had seen in his cage. ( A kitchen test at home proved this was a bogus claim...one of many). They claimed his prescribed medication was actually indicated for de-worming, not as an anti-infective, and that it was not an appropriate treatment for the kitten's diarrhea (though in truth it killed the diarrhea after the FIRST DOSE) . They swore by pet kaopectate as an instant and permanent cure for all diarrhea and spewed stories of its miracles to me, even proffering a free sample for me to take home and try on the kitten IN PLACE of its prescribed meds. (!!!)
The ruthlessness of the employees at Frisky Pet Emporium to keep their clients misinformed and their sales final was (and IS) the most lethal example of criminal disregard for the welfare of their clients and animals we've had the misfortune to be mixed up in.
OCTOBER 7, 2008: Six weeks of treatment, which have so far cost over $714.00, have slowly begun to bring the kitten back into the level of health he should have been in when we saw him at the pet store August 30. It may have been easier to have returned him to his fate at the pet store when the level of his ill health was realized, but he was fighting for his life harder than the pet store ever would have, and no animal should be left to die just to prove a point.