Vivo: I am Alive! by Cynthia Briscoe

                                                        Vivo:  I am Alive!
                                                           by Cynthia Briscoe

Many times, I am grateful for macrobiotic knowledge and the subsequent healing power waiting to be activated from a macrobiotic kitchen. Daily macrobiotic practice builds a strong foundation for health – and sometimes that same knowledge can prove vital in an emergency life-and-death situation. Such was the case beginning six days ago when an unexpected visitor surrendered himself on our front porch.

Flattened, looking not unlike a wet gray flannel shirt flung onto the cement. I took a second look, because the “shirt” had ears. I kneeled down for closer examination to discover the sickliest young cat I had ever seen. He appeared to have collapsed after expending an effort to make it up the three shallow steps onto the porch. I know he was weak and exhausted because he did not lift his head when I approached him. Only his eyes rolled in their sockets toward me. He was a frail skeleton draped in lint-textured cat fur. His nose and mouth were masked behind crusted layers of mattered discharge imbedded with leaves, twigs, dirt and other debris.

I carefully scooped him up, calling out to David to grab some old towels and a clean washcloth. Chunks of brittle debris gradually succumbed to the warm wet washcloth, patient soaking and slightly firm scrubbing. He breathed a little easier. Either he knew I was trying to help him or else he was simply too weak to protest. He presented himself as a compliant, grateful, and also desperate patient.

Once the debris was cleaned from his face, it became obvious that he had an abscess on the side of his face. I knew it needed to be opened and drained, and soon! I put in a call to our daughter, Ana, to see if she would be willing to lance the abscess. I figured she had more medical experience than I, as she works for a podiatrist and has performed similar duties on people’s feet with sharp tools.

We wrapped him securely in a towel and she attempted to lance the abscess. However, his hide was very tough and the abscess had hardened inside. The blade simply glanced off the abscess. It was painful for him, so I determined to take him to PAWS first thing in the morning to get professional veterinary treatment…if he lasted through the night.

He was thin as a rail and severely dehydrated. I scrambled to make a dashi broth for him. Dashi is a soup broth made from a base of kombu and dried shitake mushrooms, to which I added a handful of iriko (small dried anchovies). Often with a severely dehydrated animal, just giving plain water animal  is not effective because the water cannot be absorbed. The minerals in the kombu encourage the cells and tissue to accept water through osmosis. Also beneficial, is that seaweed has a softening effect on hard deposits in the body plus the shitake has a yin expanding quality that he needed in his highly contracted condition. Iriko are highly nutritious because they are whole tiny fish, including the tiny bones which are rich in calcium. Iriko contain protein and are one of the most reliable sources of B12.

The cat was unable to drink the broth on his own. All I had was an eyedropper as a means to give him the broth. So I would fill the eyedropper, tilt his head back with a firm grasp on the scruff of his neck, insert the eyedropper through his teeth and inject a few drops of broth at a time. The first two or three droppers-full of broth were necessary simply to moisten his mouth. He was so dry that his saliva had sealed his mouth closed. Gradually he began to swallow the broth a few drops at a time.

To the next dashi broth, I added a piece of white meat fish, some dried nettles and mullein leaf. Nettles are a very nutritious green plant. He needed all the concentrated nutrients I could squeeze into him. Also mullein is very helpful for bronchial dilation and sinus congestion. According to the Doctrine of Signatures, the tiny fuzzy hairs on the mullein leaf are comparable in form to the tiny hair-like structures in the respiratory tract. Mullein helps to break up mucous and clear the tiny cilia in the lungs. I gave him as much broth as possible and went to bed. Honestly, I prepared myself to the grave possibility that he likely would not make it through the night.

However, when morning came he was still alive. I readied the cat carrier and waited anxiously until PAWS opened at 8AM. When we got there, it was closed. We waited for 30 minutes, but no one showed up to open the facility. Already the temperature was moving toward triple digits, so I took the cat back home to be more comfortable with the plan to return later in hopes that an employee showed up.

I called PAWS every half hour to see if it had opened, but only got the recorded message. Maybe they were simply busy and could not answer the phone. So the cat and I went back at 10. This time there was a note on the door saying that they would be closed from June 29th until July 5. My heart dropped, as I knew the cat would not last that long without medical treatment.

The SPCA said I could bring the cat there and surrender it, but they offered no medical services and a cat in such condition would surely be euthanized. I called all animal services in the area as well as veterinarians. No vets offered services at a lower cost. Many did not even call back.  A $600-$1200 vet bill was unaffordable.

Poor kitty. What to do? So I returned to the kitchen and made an albi plaster to administer to the abscess in hopes it might open up on it’s own. An albi plaster is a macrobiotic home remedy used to draw out toxins, cysts or even small tumors through the skin. The albi, also known as taro potato, is grated and mixed with a little white flour to hold it together, a pinch of salt and a little grated ginger root. The mixture is applied directly on the skin and covered with a bandage to hold it in place. The plaster is changed every 4-6 hours.

In kitty’s case, I omitted the ginger as he had a high fever from fighting the infection, and ginger is warming. I also opted to wrap the plaster in a single layer of cheesecloth so it would not get imbedded in his fur as the plaster dried. He let me tie the plaster around his head and did not try to remove it! The albi plasters continued for the next 24 hours. The abscess did not burst as I had hoped, but it did get softer and the kitty made it through another night.

OK. It was essential that the abscess be drained. If it was going to happen, I would have to do it myself. I went to the hardware store and purchased brand new X-acto blades. I sterilized the new blade, wrapped the cat in a towel and this time, a single incision opened the wound. About a quarter cup of pus and foul smelling discharge came out. By massaging the area with a warm wet wash cloth, more came out until the discharge contained a small amount of blood. I was able to squeeze a little Betadine into the wound.

The cat rested and I went to Petco to purchase a larger feeding syringe to deliver a larger volume of liquid into him. He desperately needed hydration and antibiotics. I asked the clerk at Petco if she knew of anyone or any service that could help with medical attention. She handed me a flyer for a woman named Julie here in Oroville who has a cat ranch and sanctuary. She takes in abandoned cats, sick cats, injured cats and feral cats. She cares for them, gives them rehabilitation, medical attention and socialization, spaying and neutering and readies them for adoption.

I called her as soon as I got in the car. She said to bring the cat to her place at 4:30. What a miracle! Julie hooked him up to a hydration drip bag and gave him an injection of antibiotics.

Having worked caring for cats the past 25 years, Julie assessed that the cat was near death and in the process of dying. He smelled deathly foul. Greenish discharge issued not only from his nose and mouth, but also from his ears. He was a bony bag of infection. She said from her experience, that a cat in such poor condition typically was in the final stages of feline leukemia and feline HIV. Her recommendation was that the most humane thing was to put him down. She comforted me a bit by saying that at least the cat knew he was loved and cared for.

She tried to draw blood to test him for the leukemia/HIV, but the poor little guy was so dehydrated she could not find a vein open enough to draw blood. She sent us home with a small baby food jar of antibiotics. I was deeply saddened, but felt that under the circumstances, euthanizing would be the most humane action. I made him comfortable that night, gave him his broth and administered the antibiotics.

The next morning was Saturday and the SPCA did not open until eleven. I got at face level with the cat and had “The Big Talk” with him, telling him he was a good kitty, a brave kitty, but so very sick. I told him what was going to happen and that he would “go home” and not suffer any more.

This time when I tried to put him in the cat carrier, he resisted by bracing his 4 bony legs spread-eagle on the outside of the carrier opening. I managed to get him inside and then the tears began to flow. The cat began to meow for the first time. I don’t know if cats cry, but I swear his eyes watered up the same time as mine did.

This broke my steely determined trip to “The Pound” and the thought popped into my head, “I wonder if he will eat. If he will eat, maybe there is still a glimmer of hope. If he will eat, I will put this off.”

I got some wet cat food and put a smidgen on my finger and tucked the food into his cheek pocket. It took a moment, but then he swallowed. I did this twice more. It must have been like priming a pump, because then he began to eat on his own!

Somehow, the little cat understood perfectly our heart-to-heart conversation. He suddenly jumped from the floor onto the back of the sofa, then ran to the door and tried his best to pass through the lower windows on the door. This cat was telling me he wanted to live.

And then there was this nagging, unsettled question mark floating in my brain. He had not tested positive for the Feline Leukemia/HIV because we were unable to draw blood. I needed to exhaust that possibility.

I put away the cat carrier and called Julie, the cat lady. She was astonished that he was eating on his own. I asked her if she would test him for the feline leukemia and HIV virus. She agreed to test him the following day. Now that he was more hydrated, perhaps she could draw enough blood to perform the test.

On Sunday, the cat was crated up once again. This time he did not resist going into the carrier. Julie was able to draw enough blood this time to test him.

We waited for the blue dots to show… and there were none. To our amazement, he tested NEGATIVE!  We were both ecstatic!

I gave David the good news when we got home. I hadn’t realized how much the little cat’s struggles had emotionally impacted him. He was quite emotional and said he had come up with a name for him: Vivo. Vivo means, I am alive. What a perfect name! Already he is responding to his new moniker.

He continues to improve. This morning he had his first normal kitty poop. His appetite is ravenous and he is beginning to explore. He is talking quite a bit and walking his bony little body between my feet as I move about the house. He loves to lay across David’s legs and be vigorously scratched and massaged. David is very skilled at palm healing and Vivo greedily accepts.

I am so grateful for the macrobiotic knowledge and home remedies that kept him alive. I am equally grateful to Julie for her love, care and dedication to the feline race. I know Vivo would not have recovered without her intervention.

If there are any animal lovers out there amongst our macro friends, especially cat lovers, please help support Julie’s work by sending a donation to P.O.U.N.C.E., an acronym for Pet Organization Urging Neutering Care and Education. Her service is paid for by donation, which always falls short of needed funds. The estimated expenses for one year are:

$4500 – FOOD
$2000 – LITTER

She gives amazing care for the 100+ cats at her sanctuary, which is also her personal home. Abandoned, sick and injured cats are given medical treatment, spayed or neutered. The cats are rehabilitated physically and socially to prepare them for adoption into a loving home.

I’m writing this story to remind friends that there is quite a bit one can offer with macrobiotic understanding and commonsense home remedies to affect healing. The caveat is that food takes time to create healing. In emergency situations where time is of essence, seek necessary immediate medical intervention. Also, weave all this together with trust and respect for your own intuitive guidance.

As I finish writing this article. Vivo jumped up beside me and began washing himself – another good sign.

Me-you,” he says,
“My name is Vivo and I am alive!”

If you would like to support this grassroots, effective cat rescue ranch,
please send a check to the following:
P.O.U.N.C.E Cat Rescue and Sanctuary
P.O. Box 641
Oroville, CA  95965
Online credit card and PayPal donations accepted at
Tax ID#77-398505
Phone 530-589-2843 ask for Julie Olsen, Founder…/about/?ref=page_internal

POUNCE also compassionately cares for the many feral cats who call the Oroville riverbanks home. The cats are caught, neutered and returned to their feline colonies. Pounce provides feeding stations for these wild “river cats”.

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