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A virus causing pain and suffering

Mekhala shows remorse after lashing out while her infected paw is being bathed

My home echoes with the screams of an angry cat, as in: "If you don't release me, I will rip you apart!"

My lovely white lady Mekhala is upset about the treatment I'm giving her. I don't blame her. No cat is happy about anyone touching its paws, but Mekhala's left front paw has a yeast infection. One part of the treatment is to wash it in a special shampoo, carefully rinse off the shampoo with water, and then even more carefully, wipe the paw completely dry.

Both cats and dogs can get this infection, which usually indicates another, more serious illness.

With Mekhala, we already know what's happening. Mekhala has Fiv.

The virus causing feline Aids might seem completely different from the virus in human Aids.

Passing the virus from one cat to another, for example, is different. A cat usually acquires Fiv mainly from being bitten by an infected cat. Researchers believe that the virus isn't transferred during sexual activity, and kittens born to an infected mother are generally free of the virus.

Yet the Fiv virus itself is so similar to the Hiv virus that studying the cat's virus has contributed a lot to our understanding of the way the human virus works.

I try to remember how cats have helped humans as I watch Mekhala. She's remained fairly healthy, with just one problem: any infection on or inside her body takes much more time to heal than with healthy cats.

Now, it seems as if her body has taken another worrying step. Just recently, small wounds have begun to appear on her face and ears. Some are bleeding and obviously painful.

We check her blood, and it shows that her white blood cell count is half what it should be. Her immune system is very weak. She has no way to fight infection.

The vet prescribes antibiotics and a special cream to treat the wounds, but that cream makes them worse. Mekhala is sensitive to it. She scratches in pain and discomfort, opening up the wounds just when they start to heal.

We test her for fungus infections, and when her paw swells up, we test that area too. Her body is free of fungus, but her poor paw, now open and bleeding too, has this yeast infection.

I'm sure the rest of us have yeast on our bodies, but our immune systems are all healthy, unlike Mekhala's.

The poor cat is uncomfortable, feverish and not very happy, especially as I wash that paw.

During the shampooing and the bad language, she accidentally catches a claw on the top of my hand. The puncture wound is small, but there's so much blood!

As I try to dry her off, the blood splatters all over her white fur. Her golden eyes flash. With a powerful push, she leaps away, still cursing me.

Her anger doesn’t last. That night, she curls up beside me near my pillow. She's cleaned up the blood, and now she tries to lick my tiny injury, which heals within a day or so.

The shampooing is effective. The next day, the swelling starts to reduce, and she begins to look brighter.

It's now a matter of time.


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