SPUNKY (adjective): courageous and determined: spirited

Spunky lived up to his name. That’s for certain. He was a spunky cat who lived a full life, even though he left us too soon after battling a skin cancer people also get called squamous cell carcinoma.

Spunky’s cancer diagnosis impacted the whole family. My oldest son Adam was particularly close with Spunky, as he was the primary caregiver.

Spunky was scratching a lot and visited Mizzou for an ear exam in late August 2019. That’s when the cancer diagnosis came, along with a bit of swelling of a local lymph node. Prognosis for squamous cell carcinoma is poor in cats, but we remained optimistic.

Spunky underwent a total ear canal ablation and bulla osteotomy (TECA-BO) two weeks later, which means the veterinarian removed his ear canal and associated structures. This got the cancer (mostly) out of him.

We had originally attributed Spunky’s drastic behavior changes like hiding and sleeping under the aquarium to old age.

We are lucky that after Spunky healed and recovered from surgery, he became his crazy self again. We got our old Spunky back for another year of pretty normal life. We had many extra months with him being playful while in the house and running around in the yard when outside thanks to treatments and techniques made possible from decades of research with laboratory animals.

I had great comfort in knowing the surgery techniques done on Spunky’s ear were worked out and mastered through animal testing and research.I had great comfort in knowing the surgery techniques done on Spunky’s ear were worked out and mastered through animal testing and research. (Photos: Gary Borkowski)During the height of the beginning phases of the COVID-19 pandemic, we had Spunky by our side. He was much comfort to my family during unprecedented circumstances and that time at home with him was invaluable.

On top of cancer, veterinarians previously diagnosed Spunky with hyperthyroidism (when the thyroid gland produces too much of a certain hormone), which we managed with medication. This condition and treatment regimen turned into a blessing in disguise as Spunky’s appetite quickly returned after his very major surgery, surprising the doctors and making us elated.

FBR REAL PET STORIES™ FUN FACTS ABOUT SPUNKY
  • We moved my son Adam into an apartment about five miles away from home a decade ago. We started unpacking and to our shock found Spunky stowed away in between boxes in our pickup. Luckily, he didn’t jump out during the drive.
  • Spunky always understood how people were feeling. He would even lick Adam’s head to comfort him.
  • During a birthday celebration, Spunky got himself tangled up in balloons and was running around the house caught in them. He was always true to his name. He had spunk.
  • After Spunky recovered from TECA-BO surgery, he loved to watch his favorite show, birds on TV. He would actually chase the birds on the screen!

After Spunky recovered from TECA-BO surgery, he loved to watch his favorite show, birds on TV. (Photo: Gary Borkowski)

Hyperthyroidism similarly manifests in people. Research and treatment for it have benefited both humans and pets.

Thanks to medical research, we didn’t have to try to give Spunky a pill or shot. He received a transdermal medication rubbed into the ear for easy administration twice daily because of animal research.

But he was having some additional symptoms, so we began chemotherapy (in Spunky’s case Palladia) about a year after surgery in September 2020. We deliberately chose not to do chemo right after his surgery, because he had already been through so much and we were worried the chemo might just be too much!

Palladia, manufactured and tested for use in dogs, has shown effectiveness for cats as well. It’s very gratifying to see extended and improved quality of life in pets because of medications like this tested with animals. (ALSO READ: My Dog Elmer Had Nasal Cancer. Here’s Our Story)

After a secondary bacterial infection that started in late 2020, Spunky stayed strong. We were able to keep Spunky’s quality of life high with steroids, antibiotics and fluids.

Unfortunately, Spunky passed in December 2020 at age 16. It was hard to let him go, but we knew it was time. This memorial tribute is for him.

Spunky is a special friend and will always be remembered for his antics and companionship. (Photo: Gary Borkowski)
Our Spunky (2004-2020)
S is for Special – Spunky is a special friend and will always be remembered for his antics and companionship.

P is for Purrific – Spunky would purr to let you know how happy he was and how much he enjoyed being petted and held.

U is for Unique – Spunky had so many great characteristics and his personality was indeed one of a kind. He made everyone laugh with his funny tricks and behaviors.

N is for Nice – Spunky started off as a very sickly kitten and with Adam’s care and love, grew into a super nice cat.

K is for Kind – Spunky was always very caring and kind. Even when he had his claws out, he was very careful to not hurt you.

Y is for Youthful – Spunky’s playful behavior kept us all young at heart.

Dr. Gary Borkowski, DVM, MS, DACLAM, is the global director at AAALAC International. He kindly recounted the story of Spunky’s medical conditions and shared his memorial tribute and photos for this blog post.

Sponsored by:
Animal Research Consulting President and animal research program consultant Michele Cunneen sponsored Spunky's story.
Animal Research Consulting President Michele Cunneen
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