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How Mia Got Her Groove Back

By: Stephen Sawicki

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Veterinary care and a pet owner's love and devotion give the gift of life to an adopted cat.

Jim Gargani is the perfect pet owner. He's attentive to the animals that share his life - even to the point of setting up a Web site devoted to his dog Helga - and he takes responsibility for their health. It was Gargani's devotion, in fact, that made the difference between life and death for his cat, Mia.

In the spring of 1997, Gargani, a Boston-based software engineer, was recovering from the loss of two of his cats within a couple weeks of each other. It was then that he decided to adopt Mia. "She was a somewhat chubby cat," he remembers. "Her fur was in great shape. She appeared to be calm. She had been declawed and I wanted that. I just decided to adopt her."

Mia's Problems Developed Quickly

But problems started almost right away – and quickly became life threatening. To begin with, Mia had a respiratory ailment, which seemed to have affected her sense of smell. Scent is one of the ways an animal recognizes its food - that problem may have contributed to her refusal to eat.

As Mia continued to ignore her food, Gargani became concerned and took the cat to Angell Memorial Animal Hospital, where veterinary internist Dr. Bari Spielman diagnosed fatty-liver syndrome (feline hepatic lipidosis).

When cats stop eating, they find their energy in body fat, just as humans do. The problem is that a cat's liver can't break down fat quickly enough, causing it to accumulate in the liver. If the fat continues to back up, the organ will, eventually, shut down completely.

Mia Gets a Feeding Tube

To remedy the situation, surgeons placed a feeding tube in Mia's stomach in July. For the next few months she would have to be fed a liquid diet through a syringe.

Day after day, Jim fed the ailing cat, occasionally bringing Mia back to Angell for rechecks, hoping that her interest in food would come back and that she'd start eating again. "It's a very labor-intensive sort of thing," Gargani says, "and you're not at all clear if the cat will pull through."

Finally, after more than two months, Mia began to eat, a moment Gargani describes as "magic." In September, Spielman removed the feeding tube - and pronounced Mia good as new.

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