My cat with Pectus

My little cat Cleopatra came to me during one of my summer externships in veterinary college.  On my last day at the clinic, they presented me with a tiny 6 week old kitten with a congenital defect.  She has pectus excavatum, which means that her sternum (breast bone) grew in instead of outward during development.  As a result, her heart is on one side of her body, and on a hot day she is winded quickly.  It is not as common in cats as it is in dogs, and it also occurs in people.  This is something that can be surgically fixed if it causes dyspnea (trouble breathing) and hypoxia (lack of oxygen).  Although when you look at her radiographs and you feel her “dent” in her chest it feels severe, Cleo is generally asymptomatic so we did not pursue surgery.

Idiopathic Cystitis

Cleo suffers from “Feline Lower Urinary Tract Disease” or “Idiopathic Cystitis.”  Some cats, when they are extremely stressed, will suffer from urinary symptoms (bloody urine, pain when urinating, making frequent trips to the litter box, urinating small amounts) without having an infection.  There has been no rhyme or reason to what triggers Cleo’s flare ups during her lifetime, but luckily with medication she recovers quickly.


To be thorough, I had her imaged by our traveling ultrasonography group MiVu.  Although her urinary tract system looked great, the astute veterinarian found a small cancerous mass in her stomach which has already spread to the lymph nodes. 


We are so lucky to live in an area with terrific specialists.  Cleo had a wonderful visit with Dr. Peckens, a cardiologist at CVCA, to clear her for surgery.  Because of her pectus, her heart muscle works a bit differently and the ProBNP (a heart enzyme) test we run is always quite high. 

Dr Connor McNeill


She then had a visit with Dr. McNeill through Hope Center Oncology.  He was very thorough and helped lay out many different plans to try to help determine the best course of action for her and our family. 

Reduce cat stress – Gabapentin

Both of these visits were aided by giving her gabapentin to reduce her anxiety.  Cleopatra does not like to leave the house and cries at the top of her lungs until she gets home.  Then she will hide and run from me for about a week.  As mentioned earlier, with having a disease that is enhanced by stress, we need to be careful with her ventures outside of the house and anything that causes stress, like giving her medication daily.

Home care

So at this point, we are still trying to determine the best course of action for her.  The good news is that she is asymptomatic at this juncture and does not know that she is sick.  Also, she has a team of caring professionals ready to help, if she would let them.