I would like to tell Charlie's story not to point fingers, or place blame, but to let both pet seekers and breeders alike, to be aware of this disease & to help to be apart of eliminating it.
We lost, Charlotte's Web, who we called, "Charlie" & "Cha-Che" at the age of 9 months. She was a great cat, both physically & socially. In her first two shows at the age of 8 & 9 months, she earned 182 Grand Points. She was the perfect addition to our breeding program. Holding her, was like holding a teddy bear. Her coat was plush & perfect, she had bowling ball body, thick strong bones, no neck, broad short cobby body, sweet expression and a sweet personality to match it. When people would come to our home to pick out a kitten, they all asked to adopt Charlie. We loved her like a child & miss her dearly. She loved to climb up on our chest, or sit next to us. She was raised with a kitten her age from my breeding "Coraline", & they were like sisters. They played together, slept together & chased each other around the house. Charlie loved to eat & every time I feed the cats, I will think of Charlie running to be at my feet, when she heard the fork on the plate.
Charlie had one episode at the age of 5 months where we almost lost her. She was unable to breathe & had rapid, deep breathing. We ran bloodwork, x-rays, upper respiratory PCR testing & the vet believed it was bronchitis and a viral infection. After several weeks, she was back to normal. Her only continuing symptom was that I could notice her breathing on her sides after running around. Neither us, or the vet had any idea she was ill. After a day of playing, sitting with us, and a meal of raw chicken (her favorite), I found her dead, 10 minutes later. No signs, no indication, and thankfully, no struggle. She died of Congestive Heart Failure, and sudden death from HCM. Click here to read more on HCM in this article by Jeanne O'Donnell about "Broken Hearts".
Through her death, we have learned about this condition that can affect all breeds, but is fairly prevalent in Persians & Exotics. Apparently, no one talks about it. I didn't know that it was something to watch for, a possibility for my baby. I don't want Charlie's death to be in vain, so I am speaking out about HCM. We now have our cats scanned at the recommended age of 2 years old, by a Cardiology Specialist at Oregon State University Vet Hospital (OSU). If there is any indication that a cat has HCM, they will be retired from our breeding program. We would never put another person through this if it could be prevented. We also donate a portion of our kitten sales to the WFF's HCM research. While the scans are not a definite that a cat will never develop HCM, it does show that the cat does not currently have HCM. This is the best resource that we have right now.
We do not have any kittens/cats from Charlie's lines & do not have any cats that have scanned positive in our breeding program. Though this is sad that we do not bring forward her legacy, we are glad that she never had the chance to pass on this disease.
The Winn Foundation is conducting research on HCM & hopes to find a DNA test for it, so it can be eliminated from our breeding programs. I would love to see a DNA test available in my lifetime. To learn about the work of Donegal Himalayans in fighting HCM in our breed, & the how to donate click here. Donations are tax deductible.
Our Heatbreaking Experience With HCM - Charlie's Story
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