When Lucille reached out to us on Instagram to see if we’d be willing to share the story of her special needs foster cat, Journey, we’d never even heard of cryptococcosis, the fungal infection he was suffering from when he ended up at a shelter in late 2022. Realizing we probably weren’t alone in our ignorance, we readily agreed to feature Journey in hopes of raising awareness about this rare medical condition.
We really enjoyed working with Lucille, and we hope you find our interview with her both interesting and educational!
Meow As Fluff: How did you end up meeting Journey?
Lucille: I saw Journey on Facebook being networked as a cat in a kill shelter with possible cancer on his face. He was trapped and sent to this shelter to be killed.
Life for him in the condition he was in from cryptococcosis was painful with death approaching. He came to me on November 3, 2022, after we stepped up and rescued him. I cried the day I saw him.
MAF: Can you tell us more about cryptococcosis and how it affects Journey?
L: Cryptococcosis is a rare fungus disease that grows in mold, decayed vegetation, and dried pigeon poop. When a cat inhales the spores, they enter the sinus cavities and grow, spreading into the brain and causing death if not treated. The fungus distorts the outer face with large growths eating away at the facial structure.
MAF: What are some of the biggest misconceptions you think people have about special needs cats and Journey specifically?
L: Special Needs cats are in several categories of various diseases. For the average cat owner, if they have a cat who is diagnosed with one of the three most common diseases, the owner will either have the cat euthanized, take them to a kill shelter, or not do anything at all to help. The average person doesn’t see the animal as one who can experience all the emotions a human can.
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I have been harassed by some people to get him euthanized and [asking], “WTF am I doing with that cat?” They are the people who are misinformed. I have background experience with this disease. Almost 20 years worth when most vets had no idea what it was. Many vets still don’t. Journey was rescued on the edge of falling over. We are going into five months of treatment. His recovery will be long, [but] he does have quality of life. As sick as he is on some days, his biggest happiness is to be on my lap as I rub under his chin.
MAF: What are some of the challenges you’ve faced as a result of Journey having cryptococcosis?
L: Every day is a challenge caring for Journey. His medication is daily. Appetite enhancers must be given daily to entice him to eat. He has difficulty with [his] sense of smell. If a cat can’t smell their food, they won’t eat. Immune boosters must be mixed and syringe fed to him; he hates that. Keeping him warm is a must with winter drafts in the house. The medication causes heavy thirst. Lots of clean water needs to be available at all times. Keeping the growth on the bridge of his nose from becoming infected when he gets the splits in it requires antibiotic ointments twice daily.
MAF: What do you wish more people knew about special needs cats, particularly cats with cryptococcosis?
L: Cats with cryptococcosis will mainly be those who live outdoors. There are documented cases of a handful who have been indoor cats contracting this disease. My thoughts on that would be that group must have been in an indoor environment [that was] maybe not too sanitary. The largest majority are those cats whose owners allow kitty to roam free or our nation’s unwanted cats who are left to fend on their own, living on the streets across the US.
MAF: What are some of Journey’s favorite activities?
L: Journey’s favorite activity is being with me on my lap. As I text this, he is curled up on my lap. Breathing is labored. He comes to me for comfort. Journey is learning to play. His illness has kept him pretty low-key in all activities. He rests more than anything else.
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MAF: Can you tell us the story behind his name?
L: The rescue I am associated with is Pawsitive Tails to Remember, and Terri McCabe, the CEO, and I came up with the name Journey as we knew it would be a long journey with obstacles along the way. It was the only fitting name for the challenge of this journey.
MAF: What does Journey mean to you?
L: I have nurtured many sick cats in my life. I have held them while they looked into my eyes while taking their last breath. Each day with a special needs cat is a gift for me. Journey is this gift. His health issues — I forgot to add he has a heart murmur — do cause anxiety for me with his well-being. Every day he is with me is a gift. I want him to get well. I want Journey to be able to breathe freely.
To learn more about this special cat, you can follow Journey on Instagram.