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¡Ay Caramba! Life with a stray cat

A cat found from a cowshed in Kouvola ended up in the care of HESY, when facilities of the local operator did not have enough space for the whole cat family. The active teenager grew up to be a thick-coated lady, who found a loving home for the rest of her life and got her own human and cat friends. As Caramba the cat has grown older, she has experienced a lot of housecat life: joy, sorrow, and even illness.

Caramba, nicknamed Cara, was found in a cowshed in Kouvola with her mother and two siblings back in November 2009. The kittens were getting old enough for adoption, and the facilities of the Kouvola region  animal welfare association (Kouvolan Seudun Eläinsuojeluyhdistys) were only able to house the siblings and the mother, so therefore Cara traveled into the capital city region, into the care of Helsinki Humane Society (HESY).


Beginning brawls

At HESY, the nurses had to handle Cara with leather gloves at first, because she was quite irritated – and no wonder, when she was separated from her family and brought to an unfamiliar place! Cara was seven months old when she moved to our place. Cara had been at HESY for four months, and during that time she had already gotten used to being handled by people, but was still shy and fearful. In my eyes she was such a lovely little furball.

Feline friends

Cara moved into a new home, where two cats already lived, 10-year-old Alma and 12-year-old Nelli. Poor little Cara spent her first night in a litter box for cats, and at first was really scared of the new cat friends. Gradually the trio got to know each other and became best friends.

Senior cats Alma and Nelli taught Cara to hunt houseflies on the balcony. It was fun to watch the trio’s coexistence. In the evenings the trio entertained themselves and us people by running all over the place in the apartment.

Life changes

When Cara was three years old, Alma passed away due to kidney failure. The loss of a furry friend is a tough spot for people, but also for Cara and Nelli. At first the cats were depressed and clearly missed Alma, who never came back to them again.

Cara and Nelli were left together, but after one year since Alma’s death, a new feline friend named Vili moved into the home. Vili was a bit over one year old when he arrived into the life of Cara & Nelli. In the beginning there was brawl and hissing between them, because you don’t simply march into the home and take Alma’s spot. However, as time passed, the trio began to get along quite nicely.

Once again we had three cats hunting down houseflies on the balcony, watching birds through the balcony windows, and running their evening rally. Nelli was like a mother for the younger cats Cara and Vili, and licked them clean in the evenings.

Kissapuu cat tree when cat gets sick

From trio to duo

Cara was seven years old when Nelli died at 19 years old. Her osteoarthritis got so bad that Nelli left into cat heaven to be with Alma. It was a very tough spot for Cara and Vili. Even today when a cat is heard meowing in the staircase, they go to the door to wait and see if Nelli is coming home.

Now it has been five years since Nelli passed away. Cara and Vili are best friends who play together. Both of them are already seniors, Vili is 9 years old and Cara is 12.

Senior life

As every senior cat should, Cara and Vili go to a health checkup yearly. On the last checkup Vili was quite healthy, but two sore teeth had to be removed from him, which is a quite common operation for senior cats.

Cara’s bloodwork indicated that she is suffering from hypothyroidism, and she was prescribed a medication for it. The medicine used to be only available in pill form, but luckily nowadays it is also available in liquid form. Liquid medication is significantly easier to give to Cara.

Cara will firstly receive the medication twice a day, and the effectiveness of the medication is observed on a check up appointment. After the check up appointment the medication may possibly be cut down in half, so that Cara would only receive it once a day. After the medication is in balance, next up is daily dental care, which consists of calculus removal and dental X-ray, which shows the condition of the teeth better, down to the roots.

Kissapuu cat tree cat hyoerthyroidism


Every pet owner must prepare for the pet eventually getting sick.

Some pets already get sick in their youth, but usually senior age at the latest brings forth different kinds of hardship. Illnesses can be symptomless at first, and therefore pet owners do not necessarily even consider that their pet could be sick. Most disorders are however revealed at the latest when the pet is brought to the vet for inspection. Because of this, regular checkups at the vet are important.

Especially more serious illnesses sometimes surprise the pet owner, who may wonder why their pet is sick, and what the treatment options are. At this point it is recommended to have a discussion with the vet about the pet’s lifespan and quality of life. Many illnesses can be controlled with medication, keeping the quality of life good. A healthy diet can also slow down the progress of illnesses, and even bring years of more lifespan. Surgery is also one treatment option.


Daily life with a sick pet can be difficult. If the illness is treated with medicine, medication may turn out to be difficult. Giving pills to a cat is classical example! Fortunately nowadays a lot of medicine is also available in liquid form.

It is also important to remember that medication must be given to pets at the same time every day, and sometimes even twice a day. You must adapt your own schedule to fit the care of the sick pet. You may not skip on medication.

The pet’s well-being must be observed. It must be ensured that the animal eats, drinks, defecates and urinates, which means that basic needs have be in order. For example if a cat stops eating even for just one day, it’s liver begins to get damaged. Drinking is also important in order to keep the pet’s body from dehydrating. It is also recommended to observe the pet’s bowel movement, and it to document both runny and hard excrement, in addition to constipation. The pet’s weight and the condition of fur should also be observed.


Hyperthyroidism is a common disease for senior cats. The underlying cause for hyperthyroidism is still mostly unknown.

A cat’s thyroid produces thyroxine, which regulates the cat’s metabolism. Hyperthyroidism leads into a hormonal inbalance, which causes the cat’s bodily functions to accelerate. If not taken care of, cases of hyperthyroidism may lead to a cat’s cardiomyopathy, which in turn leads to heart failure.


Weight loss

Increased thirstI

Increased appetite

Bad condition of skin and fur


Diarrhea and/or vomiting



Special diet

Daily medication

Radioactive iodine treatment



Text & photos by Heidi Dahlman


The story was originally published in Helsinki Humane Society (HESY) membership maganize 1/2022


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