Sweet soul cat story: Tabitha the miracle cat
By Rhiannon Hutchinson
Back in the 90’s, my soul mate kitty, Tabitha, was diagnosed at 10-years old with injection site sarcoma between her shoulder blades. It was caused by a rabies vaccine, and that kind of cancer is especially bad because it grows like an octopus: it puts out long tentacles in every direction, which makes it really hard to remove it surgically.
This was before they developed safer rabies vaccines and started giving the shots in the leg instead of between the shoulder blades (editor’s note: see tip below). I had been forced to get Tabitha vaccinated for rabies twice in one year due to emergency plane travel and state laws––my mother was dying, so I had to take Tabitha along to another state for several months.
My baby girl’s prognosis was maybe two years––IF I left her for weeks in a cage at a university vet school that was six hours away from me, where she would have radical surgery to remove the mass, then chemotherapy and radiation.
Tabitha was a timid and deeply bonded kitty, though, and that treatment would’ve been torture and would’ve killed her.
So, instead, I had my local vet remove the mass using laser surgery, which cauterizes the blood vessels and makes it harder for the cancer cells to spread during surgery.
Cat care tip: choosing safer vaccines
In the US, most states require rabies vaccinations for cats. To limit the risk of feline injection-site sarcoma, experts recommending finding a vet who uses a non-adjuvanted rabies vaccine (eg, Purevax) ––ideally the 3-year version so your cat needs fewer vaccines. Some vets and shelters still use the riskier adjuvant (“killed”) vaccines with cats, so be sure to ask! – Liz
More info about cat vaccine safety here.
After her surgery, I took my kitty home, determined to make her the happiest cat who ever lived for however long she had left.
I sang to her, fed her her favorite foods, kept the house warm for her, cuddled her, prayed for her… and I asked her to stay with me if she could.
She lived 10 more years, dying of old age at 20. Vets told me often they had never seen a cat survive feline sarcoma, so she was a miracle kitty. I like to think she lived because we loved each other so very, very much.
I miss all the kitties I’ve lost, but I especially miss Tabitha. Her a heart was as big as the cosmos, and she lent me her strength.
I have learned so much about vaccines in general for cats. Years ago my cat got those 4 in 1 shots plus rabies. Because we trusted our vets. My cat went into some sort of pain in her back leg when touched. Limping. I was livid when my current vet said those were not needed being an indoor cat. Her symptoms passed on thier own. Now, my current cat gets rabies every 3 years.
I so agree with everything you said, Marlene! You hit on something I loved about this story—how she was able to listen to inner wisdom and what Tabitha would want.
Yes! I think laws need to be changed around rabies vaccines, and I don’t think it’s healthy to force animals to get shots they may not need. You’re very wise to protect your cats as you do, Grace! Stand firm! 🙂
Thank you so much, Mary! I hope you have a most happy day and a good cuddle with your own fur baby. 🙂
I so appreciate your compassion, Sharon. It really is a loss that never leaves for long….and what I wouldn’t give for just five minutes with her again…! But then I don’t know how I’d ever let her go a second time. 🙂
They are “master teachers,” aren’t they? I try to love my present kitty as well as Tabitha loved me, but I’ll never match her standard. Thank you so much for your kind words, Lara…and I’m sending you comforting vibes for your own lost fur babies.
Thank you SO much for your kind and warm words, Marlene! That means the world to me. 🙂 I always felt like no matter how much I loved Tabitha, she was always able to love me back even more. I have a lot to learn about love, but she was a master of it, and a truly great teacher. And you’re so right: we really have to trust our own inner knowing when it comes to those ultra-important, life-and-death decisions we face for our fur babies. Sending you many blessings and wishes for health, peace, strength, and love. <3
Yes cats are incredibly loving and forgiving. Thank you for sharing! My heart goes out to you and I feel so sad at losing my beloved Sampo, Felix, Charlie, Grendel and many other beloved cats of my childhood.
Oh, my heart aches for you. Losing a beloved pet is one of life’s biggest and unbearable heartaches.
NJ forces every year rabies for cats and since my eight year old almost died from a combo vax last year, she and the three others are getting no vaxes. I do stop shots for them at a certain age and if they are health compromised. The cats I had in the past did get three year rabies decades ago but even that long ago they claimed the pharma company would no longer make that three year one. $$ I am sure pets and people especially now are overloaded with pharma that is not what they say it is let alone needed.
bless you, rhiannon, for being fearlessly, intuitively devoted to your soul mate tabitha (and your mum too)…. the feeling of boundless love runs through your story and into my heart…. thank you for sharing your story which affirms that when we stay open to our knowingness, we can give quality of life to our beloved felines without trauma and unnecessary pain…. you are an inspiration!