Smirnoff's Story

Call me crazy, but I don’t believe in coincidences. I solemnly believe that things happen for a reason and, if you pay close attention and trust on your instincts, that you will see the path that is meant for you.

My whole life I have loved and owned cats. Whet I moved in with my husband in 1983, it was only natural to adopt some cats: Tipsy, a small European shorthaired black tabby, Nicky, a half-breed red Persian and Ashley, a Silver Chinchilla lady. In 1998 we took in our first boy: Tommy, a silver spotted British Shorthair. In the summer of 2000, some time after Tipsy (in 1997) and Nicky (in 2000) has past away, we decided to expand our little family with a male half longhaired kitten, preferably a big and tough breed. At that time we were not familiar with the Maine Coon, but by “coincidence” this breed was brought under our attention.

After some browsing on the Internet, we quickly found the necessary information and we were very impressed by these beautiful big guy’s! After a swift phone call with Felikat (the Dutch cat association) we found out that (by coincidence???) there were no male kittens available. We decided to visit two catteries anyway, to see the Maine Coon in real life. At the first cattery Edwin fell in love with our little girl Jay and at the second cattery I lost my heart to my angel Fébé. So: instead of one male kitten, we ended up with two female kittens!  

Although we have had cats for many years, we never thought of starting a breeding programme of our own. But as time passed, the desire for a litter grew stronger… Strangely enough there were several coincidental occasions that strengthened our desire. One of those coincidental occasions brought us in contact with Joyce and Gregor Bekker of Cattery Oakenshield’s. After establishing that they were “good folks” and they doing the same with us, we started to examine the mutual cats. It happened so that Gregor liked our Fébé (he found her harmonious, with good boning and a beautiful warm coloured coat) and we? We were in awe over the 11 month’s old Pink Floyd. After a careful examination of the pedigrees, Gregor was convinced that tey would form a nice couple. The only thing left was to wait for Floyd to come into adulthood.

A view months later, Floyd had matured, Fébé came in heat ant all the necessary test had had good results. The arranged honeymoon was well accepted by both cats and nine weeks later it happened! Fébé gave birth to two beautiful, healthy kittens: a 131 grams heavy red tabby female that we named Chivaz and a 149 grams heavy black tabby with white male kitten by the name Smirnoff. We were so proud of our beautiful little litter!!!

The first week went by very prosperous: Fébé took good care of her babies and they were growing very well. But then, on the morning of the tenth day it went wrong: Smirnoff had not put on enough weight the previous two day’s and that morning he had even lost some weight! He also seemed to have some difficulties breathing. Because I had a very important appointment, Edwin staid home to take our baby to the veterinarian. In the afternoon he gave me a call: the vet had said that our little darling had a deformation of his chest and he had to be “put to sleep”. He called him a “flat chested kitten” and he told us that there was no cure and that we should not prolong his suffering. Meanwhile there was a urgent patient that needed immediate surgery and he sent Edwin home and told him to return later for the euthanasia. Coincidence?

All panicked we called  Joyce and fortunately she was at home! She told us not to return to that vet and to start calling all the vets in our region to find one with experience with flat chested kittens. So we did an we found one that hade experience with this deformation on puppies. He told us to come over so he could examine both kittens. After a very thorough investigation by him and a colleague, he reassured us that the kittens could be saved! They were most certainly not born with a deformation, but because the heavy weight of our little boy, in combination with the softness of baby bones and lying flat on the tummy (without having to fight with siblings for a nipple), his chest had sagged and became flat. With a regular therapy and some anabolic steroids shots to strengthen the chest muscles, it would all be ok!

The therapy orderd to hold him in our lap, between our hands and carefully press against the sides of his chest. This we had to do for 15 minutes, every three hours, day and night! Because of the strength I took him to breathe, he had no strength left to drink on his own. The routine we made was first to feed him and then when he got sleepy the 15 minute therapy. Usually we could keep him quiet until 10 minutes of therapy, but the last 5 minutes were always a struggle. Many times I would join his crying… But we kept going and with success: after two day’s the vet noticed a substantial improvement!

Joyce advised us to put socks and other lumps in the litter, so the kittens could not lay flat on their bellies and had to push themselves high up to reach their mother. We also trained them by letting them crawl over our waterbed. By doing so the kittens developed strong leg, shoulder and chest muscles. Both kittens were examined every three day’s by the vet. They got four more shots of anabolic steroids (we even gave them the nicknames Conan and Red Sonya!) and at the age of five weeks the vet pronounced them cured!!!

Nowadays Smirnoff matured in to a big, huggable bear, weighting over 8 kilo’s! Last march he was granted the title Premior. His chest is completely normal. Although the vet is convinced that his baby problems were not a genetic disorder, we had him neutered at the age of 11 months (better safe than sorry!).

What the remains are for Smirnoff?
- a very loving and affectionate character: he trusts and loves us unconditionally
- a strong dislike of being held tight and
- a even stronger passion for all sorts of hide and catch games on our waterbed!

What the remains are for us?
- the strongest attachment we ever had with any cat, but also:
- the realisation that having a litter isn’t always all fun and games…
- a huge financial draw-back; although money never was an issue when it came to taking the best possible care of our sweethearts, this episode made it once more clear that with taking in pets, your taking on a huge responsibility, both emotionally and financially!

Sometimes I am thinking of taking Smirnoff back to my old vet and to tell him “Well this is Smirnoff and he was incurable according to you!” , but then I look at my big teddy bear and I cuddle him and then in accurse to me that this is all the satisfaction I need!