When Clara and her partner Conor went to their local animal shelter, the Dublin Society for Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (DSPCA) in Dublin, Ireland, they were looking to adopt a kitten, but the first feline they encountered was a senior cat named BamBam.
Through a notice taped to the outside of BamBam’s cat pod, the couple learned that the orange rescue kitty was approximately 15 years old and had been diagnosed with epilepsy. “I looked into the pod to see a haggard, matted-looking ginger cat with the sweetest face,” remembers Clara. “After a minute or two, he very slowly and unsteadily got up and went out to his enclosure.”
Clara assumed BamBam wanted some privacy, so she started looking at the other available cats, continuing her search for the kitten she and Conor had intended to adopt. However, the couple’s quest was interrupted by deafening meowing. “It was Bam Bam,” says Clara, “standing at the door of his cat run, shouting through the glass, looking out at us.”
Amused by the senior cat’s tenacity, Clara was eager to learn more about him, much to the surprise of the staff at the DSPCA who were used to people passing over older animals, especially those with special needs like BamBam.
“We learned he had spent the last several months in the Intensive Care Unit,” says Clara, “and that he only moved into the rehoming cattery that morning about an hour before we arrived!” BamBam allowed the couple to pick him up, and he purred nonstop while Clara and Conor took turns holding him in their arms.
“The vet came to meet us, as well to tell us about his conditions and the type of care he’d need,” says Clara. The couple learned that BamBam started having seizures shortly before he was surrendered to the DSCPA, and his former family gave him to the rescue when they decided they were unable to care for the special needs senior cat.
The vet explained that BamBam had epilepsy, and he experienced two types of seizures: generalized tonic-clonic, which are sudden, uncontrolled, and recurring physical attacks that last between 30 and 90 seconds, and myoclonic, which are characterized by brief, involuntary muscle jerks or spasms that last a fraction of a second.
Clara and Conor were smitten with BamBam, but in order to control his seizures, the senior cat had to be given medication multiple times a day and on a very strict schedule, and they weren’t certain if they would be able to give him the care he required. After two days of careful consideration, the couple decided to foster BamBam, and on December 23, 2016, Clara and Conor brought the senior cat to their house to stay with them.
“When we got him home, the first thing he did was lay down on the rug and start purring,” remembers Clara. “BamBam looked so happy to be getting all this attention and given a warm house to stay in. After 10 minutes of being at the house Conor turned to me and said, ‘We’re adopting this cat; this is his home now.’ “
It’s been more than a year since Clara and Conor opened their home to BamBam just two days before Christmas, and he has been seizure-free for over six months thanks to a combination of two anti-convulsants, phenobarbital and levetiracetam. Recently, the couple discovered that their beloved senior cat is affected by feline audiogenic reflex seizures (FARS), a type of epilepsy that is commonly referred to as “Tom and Jerry syndrome.”
Cats with FARS tend to respond to certain noises with involuntary jerks and strong startle reflexes, causing them to resemble Tom, the easily frightened cartoon cat. “BamBam’s seizures can sometimes be triggered by certain sounds, such as crinkling tin foil or sweet wrappers; typing on the keyboard; sharp tapping and clicking noises,” explains Clara. “We try to be as careful as possible around him when opening packets of food or other household noises.”
FARS was only recently discovered, so not a lot is known about the condition, although researchers believe it’s more common in senior cats like BamBam. While this handsome cat’s seizures are currently under control, BamBam — who also has gastroenteritis, a heart murmur, and osteoarthritis — has had a few health scares. “There were two occasions last year when we thought he might not make it or when the vet would call us to tell us he isn’t doing well,” says Clara. “Both times he pulled through and is currently in good health. His quality of life and welfare is something we take very seriously.”
Thankfully, BamBam has a wonderful life with his family, and he loves hanging out with Alastor, the couple’s other special needs cat who has one eye, was born with a large umbilical hernia, and is FIV positive. “Alastor is infatuated with BamBam,” says Clara, “and they spend a lot of time together cuddling and grooming.”
This adorable senior cat is also obsessed with food, and even though he’s on a special diet for gastroenteritis, BamBam gets very excited when it’s time to eat. Not surprisingly, this special needs kitty also enjoys snuggling with Clara and Conor, the people who selflessly decided to give him a safe and loving home to spend the rest of his life in. “He likes to sleep in the hallway beside the radiator,” says Clara, “but he always comes into our room to get cuddles first thing every morning.”
While Clara and Conor planned on getting a kitten when they visited DSPCA in December 2016, they are thrilled they decided to adopt BamBam, even though this senior cat needs extra care, including physical therapy for his osteoarthritis. Not only has BamBam inspired them to foster less adoptable cats for the DSPCA, both Clara and Conor have decided to raise money for the organization by participating in Hell & Back — a challenging obstacle course race — in June 2018.
While the couple will undoubtedly have moments during the race when they’ll want to give up, not only will they have each other to lean on for support, they’ll have BamBam to think of when they need inspiration to cross the finish line. “He is proof that you can overcome anything,” says Clara.
Undoubtedly, BamBam’s life has vastly improved since the day Clara and Conor brought him to their Dublin home shortly before Christmas 2016, and this beautiful senior cat is so fortunate to have found kind and loving parents who are happy, not just willing, to give him the care he needs to thrive. “BamBam is our everything,” says Clara. “Our world really revolves around him. To put it simply, he has changed our life for the better.”
To learn more about adorable cat, you can follow BamBam on Instagram.