E-collar Alternative for Outdoor Semi-Feral? (and Skin Cancer Advice)

TreehouseCat

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I've been caring for an outdoor semi-feral cat who's just been diagnosed with squamous cell carcinoma in the left (white) ear and per the vet it will need amputation. My concern is the vet wants the cat to be able to wear an e-collar for 10 days post-surgery so the cat won't scratch at the site and it won't get infected. Being an outdoor cat I'm worried about the logistics of this and wanted to know if anyone has experience with something like this and possible alternatives? When I've TNR'd another cat she was able to be released after 24hrs after spay surgery and an ear-tip, is this all that different?

For a bit more context: This cat "Brother" (who I now have found out is a girl, so needs a new name) has had some redness in the ear in the past especially during summer and we've chalked it up to being sun-burned and resulting blisters, usually clearing up in the winter. But this year it got so much worse and by late October a large chunk of the ear was blistered over and I knew I needed to get her help. I started pushing our boundaries more with petting her to get her more acclimated to me. Then last week a chuck of her ear was gone and my heart sank. I called my local vets to see who had the soonest opening, got the carrier outside to get use to it's presence, began petting with two hands, and even managed to pick her up from the ground to the coffee table we feed on. Today was the appointment and I know I severed some trust when I put her in that carrier. The vet gave me some Gabapentin to mix in the food the night before and in the morning, but not sure how much she ate (also how much the other outdoor cat "Momma" ate of it). I also gave Zylkene Monday and Tuesday morning. I was told she did really well with the exam, much better than expected, and other than expected dental issues appears in good health. The vet gave her an antibiotic in case there is an infection going on too, but the ultimate decision is for amputation to prevent it spreading to the face. The surgery will be on 12/06 and I'm hoping to regain enough trust by then that I can get her in the carrier again (she avoided a traditional humane trap a couple of years ago when I was trapping a different cat).

I would love to keep her indoors if I could, but I'm currently with my parents and while they don't mind feeding the outdoor cats they balk at the idea of bringing them indoors. Their reasoning being it's unfair to the cat whose only home has been outdoors, and worried about interactions with our pet dog and cat while indoors (outside "Brother" and our small dog get along well, but in a new environment and for prolonged periods may be different). My ultimate goal is to be able to take her with me when I move and be an indoor cat.

** To add to this I'm concerned "Momma" has skin cancer as well, only on her nose... which in talking to the vet is a much more involved process needing skin grafts, etc. But she is feral, still hisses at me and won't come close after 5 yrs of feeding her, I don't have much hope of being able to treat her in the same manner. Anyone dealt with skin cancer in feral cats? Anything I should be watching for to tell me things have gotten truly bad for her?
 

Furballsmom

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I'm currently with my parents and while they don't mind feeding the outdoor cats they balk at the idea of bringing them indoors.
Would they be willing to let you have this cat in a big cage temporarily in a room separate from the rest of the house til the ear surgery site is better healed? It'll be more than an ear tipping, it sounds like.

I don't know about mama cat and her nose situation. Hang in there!
 
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TreehouseCat

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Thank you for the encouragement!
I guess I assumed spay/neuter would also fall under major surgery and have similar risks vs benefits of release afterwards. At least I’m currently of the mindset that the benefit of having the surgery out weighs the risk of having a sub-optimal recovery course.
Either way it sounds like I need to have a serious heart to heart with them and hope for the best.
 

fionasmom

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One of my pet cats, Daddy Cat, had ear surgery years ago. As I read your post, I also got the feeling that this is well beyond ear tipping, as was Daddy Cat's. The cancer was well into the ear canal and he lost the ear and part of the scalp He recovered to live several more years and healed successfully. However, he had a huge incision on his scalp, definitely needed a cone as the stitches got very itchy and he would have begun to scratch incessantly. Once the stitches were out, he calmed down greatly.

I have released cats with ear tips, as we all have, and even amputated tails after a day or two at the vet's. But this will be a bigger incision, possibly even more when they get in there.

I agree that you might need to devise some kind of enclosure for this cat. There will be repeat trips to the vet, so you can't be chasing a cat outside who now does not want to go to you as it means another vet visit. I also assume that painkillers will be involved, both administering them and then avoiding having a sedated cat outside.

Since you want to adopt this cat, I recommend starting now if possible. You are very kind to have taken such an interest in these two cat.

The nose skin cancer is a very hard decision. If, after 5 years, the cat still hisses and won't come close (and I have two of those outside at my house), you options are limited for any follow-up management. Yes, you could probably get the cat to the vet for the initial procedure, but the rest may be hard unless you can confine this cat as well in some way.
 

Astragal14

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Do you have a room where she can be isolated from your cat and dog? Like a bathroom, or even a bedroom, and you can keep your cat and dog away from those rooms for 10 days?

It's common to find vet techs and office staff who provide pet sitting, maybe they could help with ideas once you explain the situation. Maybe they'll know someone who could take her in for 10 days or they may have ideas for you at home.

Keep in mind that she won't be able to eat for a certain number of hours before her surgery (depending on the time of day). You will need to bring her in before that window and it may need to be the night of 12/5.
 
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TreehouseCat

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Thank you everyone for the support! I was able to setup an enclosed play pen in a spare bedroom for her, with a camera, and she had her surgery today. They definitely went closer to the head than I originally assumed they would!

My problem now is her cone seemed too big and she couldn’t really eat, and she managed to get it off. Once she got it off I trimmed it, but having a really difficult time getting it back on. She at least eaten a bit now, but hasn’t used the litter box. I know it’s only the first night but it is discouraging and I don’t want her to hurt herself. Any advice on how to proceed from here?
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Furballsmom

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Hi
Can you sort of "test the theory" as to whether she might actually not need the cone? Since you have the camera you'll be able to see if she tries to scratch at it.
Also, check with your vet, it's possible a little miralax might help avoid her getting constipated.
 

Astragal14

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She looks like she's doing so well, what a great area you set up for her!

I've never had a cat keep a cone in place! We ended up using a baby onesie to cover an incision on our cat's stomach, but that won't work in your case. We've also unsuccessfully tried a donut neck pillow, but the ones we found weren't adjustable. I just saw this on Chewy that could work, it has a soft and stretchy neck that is adjustable. It's easier to see in the photo with the kitty.
TOUCHCAT Ringlet Licking & Scratching Adjustable Pillow Cat Neck Protector, Pink, Medium - Chewy.com

A raised food bowl will help her eat while she's wearing a cone or donut. We just use Tupperware to raise our food bowls. You ideally want her cone (if she'll wear it) to be wider than the object raising her bowl, that way she'll be able to lean over as much as she needs.

Has she used her little box yet? It can take a little while because she went without food and water, but I would expect her to have used it by now.
 

fionasmom

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This looks almost exactly like the surgery that was performed on the cat that I described earlier in this thread. You are at day one so continue to monitor. Does the cat have any kind of a fentanyl patch? Those can impede urination if that were to become an issue. Depending upon how much you are available to be with her, you might give her some breaks from the cone as long as she does not start to go after the incision. As I mentioned in the case of my cat the stitches became incredibly itchy and he did want to get to them but that subsided once they were removed. As was suggested there are lots of styles of cones on the market and you might find one that you think would work better.

When my cat healed, his head looked a tiny bit flatter on one side but fur did grow back and he went on to live for several more years. He recovered completely from that surgery and never had a recurrence
 
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TreehouseCat

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Thank you for the replies!

I ended up taking the carrier out of the pen, I’d thought it’d be a nice place to rest and hide but she was having trouble navigating in and out with the cone. And with it gone I was able to unzip the top enough to let me get in with her and get the e collar back on. I got it on well enough that she kept it on for about 30hrs before getting it off again. I’ll trim it even shorter as when she goes to eat she sometimes scoops her food with the cone and has to chase it. I raised the food bowls a bit more too. The water dish is for long-eared dogs so raised off the ground. I’ll see if I can find a cone that’s softer and protects the ear.

She’s urinated so I’m relieved there! If no bowel movement by this evening I’ll mix some miralax in her food. I didn’t see fentanyl on the itemized bill they gave me. The notes say they gave a pain med that should last 4-5 days. They gave buprenorphine and sent home some liquid gabapentin.
Overall she’s been doing surprisingly well and has been extremely affectionate. I was worried she’d be fearful and wouldn’t let me close. Instead she’s wanting me to give her chin and behind the ear scratches (I’ve never been able to pet her above the shoulders before), and gets excited to see me. Hopefully as the drugs ware off she remains this affectionate, it makes caring for her so much easier.

fionasmom fionasmom
Did Daddy Cat ever have issues with protecting his ear from water and such? Maybe it’s because the ear hairs are gone right now but it seems so exposed. At first I thought her face looked so sunken on that side, but the hair being shaved there makes it look that way. I also never realized how far back the ear covers on the head. Glad to hear Daddy Cat had recovered so well! Definitely gives me hope my friend here will go on to live a happy healthy life too.
 

fionasmom

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This is really great news about how affectionate she wants to be with you. It sounds like everything else is slowly moving along as well. Duragesic is the name under which my animals were given the pain killing patch, but it does not sound like you have one which is for the best. As my cat healed we had no problem with water or any other substance complicating the wound. He stayed inside permanently, although he had been an indoor outdoor cat before this. When he was completely healed he did go back outside and did not have any complications from that. I am looking for the pictures of him that were taken at that time and if I find them I will post them, but this goes back into a world of prints!
 
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TreehouseCat

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Thank you so much! I’m glad to hear there we no further issues with his ear after surgery!
 
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