Shortly after getting her first apartment with her husband in Manchester, England, Sarah began searching for the perfect pet for their new home. “After having kitties all my life I couldn’t live without one,” says Sarah. While looking online, Sarah came across a six-month-old black and white cat who was being rehomed by his family, and she immediately arranged to pick the kitten up on her way home from work in September 2014.
While she knew very little about the young cat before meeting him in person, Sarah quickly realized the kitten had obviously been neglected. “He was very disheveled, with fleas, missing patches of fur from where he’d been nipped by other animals in the house, and he was dirty, skinny, and had a hernia on his stomach from a trauma,” remembers Sarah. Even though she was curious to learned more about the black and white cat, Sarah was even more eager to take him to a safe and happy home, so she and her husband quickly placed him in the carrier and left.
Back at their apartment, the couple expected the six-month-old cat to be nervous and uncertain about his surroundings. In fact, Sarah and her husband assumed the bedraggled feline would refuse to come out or would run and hide as soon as they opened the carrier. “He didn’t,” says Sarah. “It was like he knew he was suddenly safe; he came out purring to us and just wanted fuss and cuddles. He was the sweetest cat in the world.”
Smitten with the new addition to their little family, Sarah and her husband named him Georgie, an ode to George Weasley, one of their favorite characters from Harry Potter, as well as a reference to his suspected date of birth, St. George’s Day. “We also thought he was a girl when we got him which is why his name is Georgie and not just George,” explains Sarah.
Georgie settled into his new home and bonded with his parents, and the couple made arrangements for him to have treatment for the hernia on his stomach three weeks later, intending for him to have the surgery at the same time he was scheduled to be neutered.
However, an examination revealed Georgie’s hernia had strangulated, meaning it was cutting off blood flow to his stomach, and he needed to have the operation immediately. “He had to have life-saving surgery,” remembers Sarah. “It was touch and go. We were told after the surgery the next 24 hours were critical but he pulled through like the brave strong boy he is.”
Five years later, Georgie was doing well, and his parents had even adopted a friend to keep him company, a fluffy black cat named Sirius who had a broken tail that made it difficult for him to balance and jump. However, in February 2020, Georgie was playing on the bed with Sarah and her husband when he suddenly collapsed and remained unresponsive for a few minutes.
Concerned, the couple rushed Georgie to an animal hospital where he was given a thorough examination by one of the veterinarians. “She could hear a higher grade heart murmur, and his breathing rate was very high,” says Sarah. “She suspected he had heart disease.”
Georgie was immediately taken to a see a cardiologist, and the examination revealed he had fluid in his lungs, indicating the six-year-old feline not only had heart disease, he was most likely in heart failure. “James our cardiologist carried out an ECG and full blood count, and the echocardiogram and x-rays and confirmed it was the case,” explains Sarah. Georgie was admitted to the hospital for treatment, which included frusemide, a powerful diuretic, to reduce the fluid in his lungs.
While he was hospitalized, Sarah and her husband visited him twice a day, not only to spend time with their beloved boy, but also to feed Georgie because he was refusing to eat for the hospital’s staff. After a few days, Georgie’s health improved, and while doctors were concerned he might develop a blood clot — a known complication for heart disease — he wasn’t displaying any of the symptoms, so he was discharged.
“When he was released we were told his life expectancy would be 6-9 months,” remembers Sarah. “As you can imagine, we were distraught but pleased to have him home. We vowed to make it the best year of his life and he returned home to lots more new toys, houses, and scratching posts.”
Georgie appeared to be doing very well, but a week after he was sent home from the hospital, Sarah and her husband awoke to the sound of him crying in pain, and they discovered him at the bottom of the stairs. “Although he was unable to move his hind legs or tail, he’d tried to drag himself to us,” remembers Sarah, and they immediately rushed him straight to the cardiologist where he was diagnosed with feline aortic thromboembolism (FATE).
Despite not showing any symptoms, Georgie had developed a blood clot in his heart, which had dislodged and traveled to his pelvis, paralyzing his hind legs and tail. The prognosis for cats with FATE is generally poor, but because Georgie was in the earliest phase of the condition the cardiologist had ever seen, there was reason to be optimistic.
“However, there was still an 80% chance he wasn’t going to make it,” says Sarah. “At this point we were getting really scared and were wondering what to do.” Sarah’s husband bent down to talk to Georgie when he leapt out of his carrier, bumping his nose against his dad’s, and the couple began to cry, believing this was a sign the five-year-old feline wanted to fight.
Georgie spent several days at the vet’s office, and there were many times when James, the cardiologist, didn’t think he would survive. Sarah and her husband were also extremely worried, and they questioned whether they were making the right decision, even asking themselves if euthanizing Georgie would be more humane.
“The cardiologist thought it would be a good idea to see how he did over the weekend,” says Sarah, and by Monday morning, he was amazed at the progress the resilient black and white cat had made with the help of medication and physical therapy. “He showed off to him about gaining one of his legs back by jumping out of his box, something that was met with a big cheer from everyone.”
A few days later, Georgie regained the use of one of his hind legs, indicating the clot had been dissolved, and he was sent home from the hospital with additional medication, including aspirin and clopidogrel, to prevent him from developing future clots. Sarah and her husband also began doing physical therapy with Georgie at home, and after just a few months, his hind limbs were completely back to normal.
“It’s been 10 months now and he’s not showing any signs of slowing down, and his latest scans revealed little to no change which means it is not as progressive as they first originally thought,” says Sarah, but since he was released from the hospital, Georgie has had one small blood clot, which his parents were able to manage at home.
However, it’s possible Georgie may not live as long as a typical cat, a thought that brings his parents to tears, so Sarah and her husband are doing their best to make sure his days are filled with happiness and fun. When he’s not racing around with his brother Sirius, Georgie enjoys bird watching from the windows of his home, playing with toys — especially the laser pointer — and just spending time with his parents.
“He loves it when one of us is in the bath,” says Sarah. “He always comes in and wants us to pour water on him. He’ll sit there and meow until we soak him, and then purrs whilst the water is being poured on him.”
By sharing Georgie’s story, Sarah hopes to make more people aware of feline heart disease, a condition that can often be managed when it’s diagnosed and treated early, but one that can also be very deadly if it goes undetected and untreated.
“Many cats have it, but they hide their symptoms well and the first thing someone knows about it can be when it’s too late,” explains Sarah. She also hopes more people will consider getting their pets insured, because she didn’t have to pay out of pocket for Georgie’s treatment, allowing this remarkable cat to get the prompt care and attention he needed to save his life.
While it’s impossible to know how much longer Georgie will live, Sarah believes the time and effort to save his life has been more than worth it, because this wonderful cat fills her home with lots of love and fun. “He’s our strong brave boy, our wonder cat, our hope, and our hero,” says Sarah. “He and his brother bring joy and laughter to us every day, and a life without them would be quite simply crap.”
To learn more about this handsome cat, you can follow Georgie on Instagram.