Beano didn’t always look this way (read: like a normal, healthy cat). He suffered from severe allergies that made everyday living miserable.
Beano’s story begins in East Yorkshire, where a little over 2 years ago, Nicole and her husband, James, picked up 8-month old Beano from Cats Protection League where Nicole used to volunteer.
Beano was found on the street with his brother Dandy. The two were rehomed together with a lovely family with other pets and young children. At the time his allergies were just starting- itching, cuts and scabs around his face. The vet thought it was probably a flea allergy and gave him treatment for that. Unfortunately he just got worse and after a number of weeks and trying lots of different things (and being told by one of the vets to euthanize him) they brought him back to Cats Protection League to see if Sheila, the owner, might have more success.
The vet now felt he might have a food allergy so he was put on special low allergen food. Sheila asked if Nicole and her husband could look after him for a little while. When Nicole met him, he was in a pitiful state:
“The pictures really don’t show just how awful he looked. He was completely covered in scabs and cuts, he had very little fur around his face and patches with no fur at all especially on the back of his neck, he would scratch this area constantly. Stroking him was not very pleasant, poor beans. All his whiskers had snapped off and his skin was bright red and hot to touch, his eyelids were virtually swollen shut but the first thing he did was sit on my knee and purred. That was it for me, I just fell for him straight away,” said Nicole.
The initial plan was to give Beano a place for respite, love and affection, as the outlook seemed grim. He was on a high dose of steroids and he was on a special diet – no other food was allowed. Nicole tied all types of treatments including anti-histamines, omega 3 oils and they even covered him in emollient cream twice a day to soothe his skin. They even kept the house very clean and tried to keep dust to a minimum. “It was so hard to see him like that, the incessant scratching was probably the worst bit,” recalls Nicole.
The turning point was when his eyes opened properly. “One morning these big green eyes were looking back at us, it was so strange! His skin started to heal and the itching got less and after about a month his fur started to grow back. We were taking fairly regular trips to the vets and we really struggled to reduce his steroids and even the highest dose didn’t completely control his symptoms. Everytime we went they checked for fleas and parasites but never found any,” said Nicole.
Nicole and James conducted a lot of research, desperately trying to understand Beano’s condition. Atopica for cats was fairly recently available and it was being suggested as a treatment when other approaches had failed. The vet felt it was a good idea to try it as she felt Beano was “allergic to life” – everything in his environment seemed to be setting off his immune system and the vet said that Atopica can be good for situations like that.
“It was with some trepidation that we tried it, as Atopica can have terrible side effects and may increase Beano’s chance of getting cancer,” said Nicole.
However, Nicole and James
were also told that long term steroids can also cause health problems so Nicole and James felt like it was worth a try. Atopica has worked so well for him after a few weeks his symptoms disappeared. They had never seen him so comfortable in his skin.
It has taken a year and a half to reduce his dose but he remains virtually symptom free! Atopica does cause him some abdominal discomfort and he has a lump on his gum from gingival hyperplasia – another potential side effect. Nicole and James hope that one day they will be able to stop all of his medication. “He definitely appears to be growing out of his allergies. A year ago we hadn’t been able to reduce his Atopica at all whereas now he is on one fifth of the original dose!” exclaimed Nicole.
“Throughout all of this, Beano has been so loving and never gave up. He always wanted to play even if he had to stop every few seconds for a scratch, he has always loved his food, in fact he is food obsessed, probably because we are so restrictive with his diet. He always tolerated the treatments we subjected him to. His personality and spirit is so inspiring and for us he couldn’t be a more perfect companion.”
Beano is an indoor cat now. He eats all sorts of things. With the immunosuppression that he suffers from, it’s more likely for him to pick up infections – so he stays inside.
Nicole and James’ advice?
“Allergies in cats tend to present in the skin – itching, scabs, hair loss, in the gastrointestinal system – vomiting, diarrhea and also wheezing and sneezing. If your pet has any of these symptoms, take them to the vet. Also, be patient, it took months and several different treatments before we found what works for Beano. Finally, discipline and perseverance are important, ensuring he doesn’t eat anything he shouldn’t means we need eyes in the back of our heads. Some days were so hard and recovery was so slow but it did happen.”
Beano has seen lots of vets and many of them said his were the worst allergies they had ever seen and the most difficult to control.
The Catnip Times: Beano is a total inspiration! I am his biggest fan (next to Nicole and James!). When the tough got going, Beano toughed it out and never stopped going. People can learn so much from animals. Kudos to Nicole and James for sticking by Beano and helping him through this chronic condition! You guys are awesome.
Follow Beano on Instagram @Beano_cat or www.instagram.com/beano_cat
Does your cat suffer from allergies? Have you successfully treated a chronic/difficult condition in your cat? Feel free to share your stories!