Meet Mike the Liver Shunt Cat

How old are you?

I am just about 2 years old.  We are not sure of my age as I was found in the garden 4 days after Christmas.  I had a bad wound on my back and the vet thought I was about 5 months old.  I could have been older though because liver shunts can stunt your growth

Where did your name come from?

When I was found my mum thought I looked like a cat she had as a child that was called Minnie.  When my grandparents got Minnie they had asked for a boy cat and named him Mickey after Mickey mouse and when he gave birth to 4 kittens they renamed him Minnie.  My mum said we should call him Mickey but my dad said that Mike sounded cooler.  I get called Michael when I am in trouble.
Mike the liver shunt cat looking adorable

How did your human find out you had liver shunt?

I was quiet and unlike a kitten from the word go.  The vet thought I had an infection and gave me antibiotics and I came round a little bit.  I would be very aggressive after eating and would drool to the point of dehydration.  The vet had to put me on a drip at one point.  The vet said he thought I had cat aids and that I should be put to sleep but mum had looked up the symptoms and they didn’t fit.  I have beautiful copper eyes so she googled copper eyes and drooling in cats and found Newt’s liver shunt site.  Newt and the other fur baby mums on the site helped mum out she went to the vets armed with her findings.  The vet then tested me and rang us to say that I did have a liver shunt and that if they brought me back to the clinic that evening he would euthanize me.  Mum and dad decided that they would try to medically manage my condition with diet. The vet now is really proud of me and my parents and is glad that we decided to give it a go

What is liver shunt?

Also known as liver or hepatic shunt, a portosystemic shunt (PSS) is caused by an abnormal connection between the portal vein (a blood vessel which carries blood from the gastrointestinal tract to the liver)  and the systemic circulation.  Blood vessels usually go from the intestines to the liver where toxins are removed from the blood, but in the case of a portosystemic shunt, the liver is bypassed. Due to the lack of normal detoxification of blood performed by the liver, toxins build up within the body.

Portosystemic shunts may be congenital (present at birth) or acquired (occurring as a result of secondary liver conditions), almost all shunts in cats are congenital and cats demonstrate clinical signs within 12 months of age. Persians, Himalayans and Siamese are over-represented and it is seen more commonly in males. Shunts may be intrahepatic or extrahepatic. Intrahepatic shunts are located within the liver, extrahepatic shunts are located on the outside of the liver.

Symptoms of portosystemic shunts in cats:

Central nervous system disorders are commonly seen in cats with a portosystemic shunt. Common clinical signs include:

  • Poor/stunted growth.
  • Drooling.
  • Lack of appetite.
  • Seizures.
  • Vomiting.
  • Diarrhea.
  • Tremors.
  • Intermittent blindness.
  • Mental and neurological abnormalities such as sudden aggression, mental dullness, pressing head against objects
  • Straining to urinate due to ammonium biurate bladder stone formation.
  • Blood in urine due to ammonium biurate bladder stones.
  • Copper coloured irises.

How is it managed?

Mine is managed by a low protein diet ( home cooked I don’t like prescription diet).  I have lactulose and sylunox (antibiotics) on my food twice a day.  If I have an hepatic episode – this is where I drool become withdrawn and can even have fits, I get given lactulose directly and am hydrated with diuralyte which is an over the counter hydration medicine given to babies who have had gastric conditions.
Mike the Liver Shunt Cat and his orange eyes

Is there a cure for it?

There is surgery, it is very expensive and risky as we do not react well to anaesthetics.

Are you on a special diet? If so, what is that diet?

I have plain chicken twice a day and tuna, salmon or white fish for lunch.  I like cheese for a treat

How are you doing now?

I am very well and healthy at the moment.  I am on holiday.  Because I cannot go out on my own my family taught me how to walk with a leash so they take me on holiday with them.  I really enjoy the new experiences as I am very inquisitive

What are your favorite things to do?

Mike the livershunt cat playing with his toy

Mike the livershunt cat playing with his toy

I like snuggles I love my cat nip toys.  I love to play out in the garden and love to eat things that are not food

Do you have any fursiblings?


What advice would your human give to other humans who have cats that may have liver shunt?

Don’t give up, your vet may not have experience of the condition as it is very rare in cats.  If your vet won’t help you then find another one.  Buy your lactulose over the counter as it is cheaper and ask your vet for a 6 month prescription for your meds and buy them online as they work out cheaper.  Join this group they are great and they saved Mike’s life.
Mike the Liver Shunt Cat

Anything else you and your human would like to add?

It can be quite upsetting when Mike is ill and it is not cheap to look after him but it is worth every tear and every penny

Author’s Note: Many many thanks to Mike & his mom for letting me interview him and answering the questions, you can visit him on his Facebook page, Mike the Liver Shunt Cat . Photos for this article were used with permission. This article is a part of the extra love needed theme. Please click the below image for more extra love needed articles.

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