Leon, a Cat with Hypertrophic Cardiomyopathy, Who Defied the Odds

Ken Pope

Leon is sitting in a window, with the porch and a rocking chair in the background. He is looking at the camera with his blue eyes, smiling.Leon defied the odds from the day he was born, the smallest cat in the litter with an aorta too small to support his body. By 3 he was diagnosed with advanced hypertrophic cardiomyopathy. Some heart chambers were over 2 and half times larger than they should be, making it hard for his heart, always growing weaker and pushing against a small aorta, to do its work. Actuarially and medically, he was down to his last months. At 4, part of a large clot that had formed in his heart broke off, blocking blood flow to his right front leg, which he was unable to move. In less than 24 hours the clot resolved, he regained full use of his leg, and was back home playing.

He lived 7 wonderful years as part of a family of special-needs cats and dogs in our home.

Leon loved playing and hanging out with all the other cats and dogs, but particularly liked snuggling with Snow, a cat who passed away 3 years ago; with Dharma, a dog who is still with us; and with Gracie, a cat with a history of severe abuse whom I discovered in a shelter in Los Angeles in 1995 the day she was scheduled to be put down.

Leon helped welcome new dogs and cats into the family, and made it easier for them, whether chronically ill, disabled, or abused, to feel at home in their new family. Here he is with Pumpkin when Pumpkin was little, a year or so later when Pumpkin had gotten larger, and years later when Pumpkin had grown larger than Leon.

Whenever I needed help on the computer, Leon was always there.

Leon had a sister Lucy, also a part of our family. She'd had repeated near-misses with death, starting at two months old due to a different kind of life-threatening illness, but always pulled through. They loved spending time together.

Relentlessly happy, several times a day Leon would flip over on his back and improvise a creative dance of joy. Each was different, but here are links to 5 of his moves: one, two, three, four, five.

During the last years of his life, we'd take Leon to a clinic every day for an injection which, because of its special nature, we couldn't give at home like we did with Annie's insulin. Everyone at the clinic showered Leon with love and caring. As one of them said, "Everyone should have a Leon." It was during one of these visits that Leon lost the use of his back legs because a clot had broken out of his heart and blocked all blood from his back half. Nothing helped. Trying hard to push against the blocked vessels, his heart gave out. He died in our arms less than 2 hours after the attack.

All of us owe him so much for all the joy, love, and warmth he brought into our lives.

Here's looking at you, Leon.


Please follow this link to the family of special needs dogs and cats who live in our home.


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