Friday, April 7, 2017

The Possum Kitten Page

Update 4/10/2017. All of the lab reports for these kittens are not listed here and they are still with the veterinarian.

This post gathers together all of the info on the Possum kittens (so-called because of their skinny possum-like faces). Suggestions from professionals--or non-professionals who have experienced a strikingly similar case in a personal pet--can be emailed to . If you just have a guess or a comment(stab-in-the-dark) please include those in the comments below. Messages from professionals will be forwarded to my veterinarian.

The photos and videos below are in chronological order from when the kittens came to me, to present-day.

Tink (has more white, 3.5 lbs) and Tank (larger kitten with more orange, 3.7 lbs) are almost 8 months old.

Thin possum-like faces
Their limbs are in proportion to their body size
They have thin fur (just the undercoat) that started to look shabby at around 6-7 weeks of age
Alopecia along the back and rear sides (photo below)
They sometimes have eruptions of very small scabs on their back toward the tail. Antiseptic wipes seem to clear this up.
Thin fur on paws--digits are clearly visible (photo below)
Toenails split easily.
Eat and drink generously. They drank almost constantly up until about two weeks ago. Their intake seems normal now.
There is sometimes a grinding noise in their jaw/teeth when they chew
They sometimes gag on their food
Messy eaters. Dry food is often stuck to their chins and they get this food in their water when they drink and it falls off.
Dirty paws inside the leg from cleaning their faces.
They trot but seldom run. They play when encouraged, but don't often initiate play or play on their own.
They spend a great deal of their cage-free time hugging the electric heater
Thickened joints on Tank (photo below)
Cloudiness to eyes (veterinarian states cataracts), and eyes if unattended have periodic dark-brown crust. I do not yet have a good photo of their eyes.
Broken-off whiskers. I thought this was originally barbering (kittens chewing one another's whiskers off) but I have seen no sign of this behavior.
Soft barely formed stool. They have had diarrhea in the past, but after treating with fenbendazole this returned to their normal soft stool. (photo below)
They each have 4-6 bowel movements a day.
Recently (since 4/1/2017) Tink has become slightly incontinent. Very small amount of soft stool (not diarrhea) extrude from his rectum. He did not have this problem previously.

Tests run: CBC/Chem, fecals, Giardia, Toxoplasmosis, T4 free T4,T3 and TSH.

The kittens were vaccinated for FVRCP with Heska Ultranasal and have been vaccinated for rabies.
They have been neutered
They are receiving B12 injections
They are fed a dry low-grain super-premium diet

August 31, 2016, Tink and Tank arrived with a litter of kittens who were found scattered about as neonates in a lumber yard in Vestal, a few feet apart. While it's possible they came for different litters, is is not probable, as they were all in the same area at the same time, and were the same size. A calico cat meowing around the area later that day was subsequently captured, spay/neutered, and returned to the lumber store, were she is slowing taming up and has become their store cat.

Here is their mother on February 25, 2017. She is now the store cat at a lumber yard in the Southern Tier:

October 5, 2016. Tink and Tank as nice normal-appearing kittens, with their littermates who quickly outstripped them in size. The littermates were transferred to another organization, so I don't have access to their adopters, however they were all of normal growth, round and robust when they left here. Tink and Tank are the orange kittens.

October 10, 2016:

Tink and Tank both fell behind their brothers (the entire litter was male) at around 6-8 weeks. While their brothers were over 3lbs at 10 weeks and went off the be neutered, Tink and Tank were still just under 2 lbs.

November 29th, 2016:

Approximately November 29th, 2016. Tank, looking unthrifty, but still with some roundness to his face at that time:

Both kittens seem to have faint voices, but Tink is most "voiceless"

Here is another "meow-less" video with Tink on his back (the veterinarian would like various views of them):

March 29, 2017, Tank. You can see his greasy fur in the front, lack of fur in the rear, low-fur toes (no cute soft round paws), short broken-off whiskers (although not clearly seen) and thickened joint areas (front knees and elbows) as well as his thin "old man" face.

If they are not given regular baths their fur becomes greasy, however even after a bath, they do not have neat fluffy fur.

March 28, 2017. Here are Tank and Tink after being left without a bath for a week. Note the alopecia in the rear and sides, and the greasy fur in front.

March 28, 2017. A close-up of Tank's back. My veterinarian states this is alopecia not overgrooming. The hairs are not broken off:

March 28, 2017. Tank's toes. No soft fuzzy paws here. The crust on the far inside paw is from Tank cleaning his face. These kittens are also very messy eaters. They don't seem to lick their lips. Dry food is often stuck to their chins. (Note: These kittens were left without a bath so my veterinarian could see what their coat etc. looked like. They were given a bath after their vet appointment).

They hug the heaters whenever they can, and after baths, I put them in little sweaters until they are totally dry:

March 31, 2017 walking around:

April 6, 2017. Body is fairly in proportion (legs are not stubby). Tink seen here with 19-year-old Fluffy

A visitor mentioned they looked larger online than in person, so here is Tank with a soda can to compare:

The soft somewhat formed stool which is their norm:


Thyroid (3 images)


  1. this is so fascinating, and I hope you learn (and share) the reason behind this.

    My only suggestion would be a possible lack of digestive enzymes so the cats are not properly able to digest their food..

  2. Might be worth it to run a GI panel on them - TLI, PLI, folate, b-12. I suspect that there's more than malabsorption happening, but it's a place to start.

    1. Thanks for mentioning this! I forgot to add they are on injectible B12. I've included that above now.

    2. Have they been tested for deficiency, though? Because if you're giving it and they still test low (or normal - which is actually still low if they're getting it), that can be a clue, too.

      I may have missed it - have they had an ultrasound of their abdomens?

    3. I should also mention that my own veterinarian did all of the early testing (other that FeLV/FIV) out of her own pocket, and then also gave a generous discount for the thyroid testing. But if they go to a university, discounts may not be an option.

    4. They have not been tested. There is a specialist willing to review the case which is why I have put this post up. Then tests will be recommended as well as the best place to send them. My funds are limited so it's important that rather than do tests multiple times, the samples go to the best places first, so if they do see a specialist in person, the results will be accepted and not have to be done all over again. They have not had an ultrasound. I could probably drop about 5 grand on these kittens with all the tests that could be run. I have an emergency fund of 2K on a CareCredit card for my personal senior cats, and I really don't want to drain that unwisely (one cat is 19 and one 18--sooner or later there will be an expensive late-night emergency). I'm hoping for some advice on priorities of tests.

  3. You know... thinking about them reminds me of my readings of children born of alcoholics who have a defective ability to take up sulfur. They require supplemental sulfur (often in the form of MSM) to increase uptake.

    I wonder if the vet would consider MSM safe enough to try adding in just a small amount to their diet, just to see...

    There's clearly something very not right with these two and whether it's genetic, teratogenic, or something else entirely, I truly do not know. But I am so grateful that they are safe and loved in such a caring environment.

  4. The thickening of that rear leg is so very odd. here guys sure are a mystery.