Envy the Mountain Lion has always been an amazing cat. She came to us at 8 months of age, confiscated from an illegal owner living in Los Angeles. In her youth, Envy participated in hundreds of wildlife educational programs as an ambassador for her species - traveling to schools and park sites to educate the public about the plight of mountain lions in nature and to provide for people the rare and special experience of seeing an elusive wild cat at close view.
Now at age 13, Envy no longer travels to shows but is still an invaluable part of our on-site programs. Over the years, she has experienced more than her share of physical issues. But we thought her most recent issue might be the end.
An Emergency in May
"I can't believe this is happening again!" I said to myself as I looked at Envy, our little female mountain lion, lying on the floor of her enclosure. The cat hadn't eaten for 3 days and she'd been vomiting, as well. Now she wasn't even jumping up to her shelf to catch the sun. It was time to make the call to Dr. Latos.
They know me by now at Veterinary Medical Center in Woodland Hills. Dr Stan Kunin, who owns the clinic, has opened his doors for all the injured, sick, and orphaned wild animals that have, over the years, come into our care at Wildworks. This wouldn't be the first time that Envy had visited the clinic.
Next morning early, Greg and I coerced the weakened Envy into her airline kennel. Normally, she would walk willingly inside for a food reward but without an appetite that picture changed. At the vet's, it took several tries to successfully sedate Envy. Sometimes wild animals will fight the anesthesia when their survival instincts kick in and it was hard to tell (with Envy hissing and objecting) if the needle on the pole syringe actually got to her.
Finally she was groggy enough for me to risk opening the crate. Then with the help of vet tech, Erik, I put the anesthesia mask over her nose and they turned on the gas. Finally she was out.
The x-rays showed nothing. "Oh no," I thought. "That means another exploratory surgery." How many times can one little mountain lion go through this?
Not the First Time
Originally someone's illegal pet, Envy had a tumor removed from her forehead as a kitten. Next she was spayed and all four paws declawed. Soon declaw repair surgery was invented by Dr Jennifer Conrad and Envy's sore paws were repaired-another intense surgery.
Then one hot summer day, a few years later, she stopped eating and through exploratory surgery an intestinal blockage was discovered. Due to the heat she had to be anesthetized again 2 weeks later to be treated for dehydration. A few healthy years went by then one day we noticed that she had been licking her stomach a lot. It was puffy and hard to the touch. Dr Latos discovered an extremely infected mammary gland - the first he had ever seen in a spayed cat! So you can see why now, only 2 years later, I could hardly believe that Envy was in surgery again.
Waiting and Hoping
I just knew this was going to be a long day and because I couldn't bear to watch the initial incision, I headed to the waiting room.
There were people and patients everywhere and the doctors seemed to be helping everyone at once. "Sheri, so how are you?" (Sheri was a human.) "This morning when we checked the glucose on Ralph (a cocker spaniel) it was ok but I want to see him again in a week. So make an appointment, please."
"Erik (vet tech) is bringing the pitbull back right now. Come here Fluffy (a pitbull named Fluffy?) Should we clean the teeth today? And we can do the rattlesnake vaccine at the same time."
And there were housecats, too. About a dozen. I listened in.
"Spitz is going to need 2 drops in his eyes twice a day. Do you think you can do that?" And they were loud - "Rooow." "Hi Nancy. You can bring Big Foot into this room at the end. Just vaccinations today?" "Rooow."
Nancy attempted to console her feline "Oh-it's ok Mr B. Good kitty. He just doesn't like going in his crate and coming to the vet." As Big Foot's owner looked up at me I was thinking - they don't know the half of it!
"And where's your pet today?" she innocently asked. "Oh, my cat's in surgery...uh, I'd better go check on her." I opted for the word cat-instead of mountain lion!
When I entered the room I saw poor little Envy with her insides out on the table. I started crying. I couldn't help it. At this point they'd been exploring for awhile. The vet said "I don't see anything remarkable. Well, look - here's some grass and hair lodged in one area but I would doubt that's causing such a problem."
The search continued for an hour and nothing more. "I just can't find anything obvious that might cause her to be so sick. Oh my gosh! Look I see it now. Her bowel is ruptured. Let's see what caused this. It's just a sharp piece of bone sticking through. The body's response is to wall off the perforation resulting in adhesions. So to fix it I'll have to remove a foot of small intestine and sew it back together. If I can, that is....All these pieces are adhered to each other. I'm not sure that we can do this, Mollie."
The always optimistic Dr Kunin walked in at this point, "I know you can be creative. You'll find a way to save her life."
Dr. Latos (Gary by this time) looked at me and said "I keep forgetting right now that I'm in a lion. It could just be a big dog. Sorry this is taking so long, Envy. We wanted to have you up and home long ago. I think we can actually do this, now. I've figured out a way."
He kept at it as he talked. "She's been through the wringer today, hasn't she? This perforation must've just happened yesterday. If I'd closed after the first thing we'd found she would've been dead in 2 days."
"You mean if I hadn't brought her in today?"
"That's right. Let me get some medications for you. She'll need some antibiotics and you can give her these orally for pain."
"How am I going to feed the meds to her? Well, I guess she ate it last time. It tastes like meat, right? But what if she's not eating?" I was worried.
Dr Latos looked at me and asked "Well, can you give her a shot?" I could see her canine teeth from where I was standing just outside the room. "I guess I could try. Let's just hope she starts eating again."
Finally, he said "Close!"
Relieved, I pointed out "You know this is the third time you've saved Envy's life." "Well, this will be one I won't forget. Trust me!"
A Happy Ending for This Cat's Tale
Agreeing with Dr Latos' final words I took Envy home and we watched her recover slowly over the next 2 weeks. Today she's romping around her enclosure like a kitten. It's like a miracle. It really is.
They say cats have 9 lives and I think that must include mountain lions. So far, her health challenges have included:
1. Tumor removed
4. Declaw repair
5. Intestinal blockage
6. Fluid therapy
7. Mammary gland infection
8. Perforated intestine
And through it all, she has fought to live!
Now in her 9th life, Envy will need special care and a special diet. She's 13 and she can live to be 20, but there will be restrictions. Envy can no longer eat the bones she loves chewing on. It's simply not worth the risk. She will need to be watched carefully and her health monitored closely.
We all love Envy and with your help we can continue to provide her with the special care that she may need to ensure she will live a long and comfortable life.
To help support Envy or any of our wild animal ambassador, please visit the Friendship page by clicking here.
To read more about Mountain Lions click here.