While Jasmine did not start out as a lap cat when she was adopted as part of a bonded pair 11 years ago, her owner Gael Huber says she cannot get enough of time on her people’s laps.

“These days, Jasmine is almost exclusively a lap cat, spending a good few hours on my lap each day while I work,” he says. “She has a tendency to conquer any new person she meets with unrelenting affection. She wants love and attention and will demand it, vocally if necessary. She’s really quite happy to be pet ad infinitum or to walk all over you literally and figuratively if you allow it.”

But it’s not just her loving nature that makes Jasmine special; this cat’s heart seems to have nine lives of its own.

Jasmine is a 12-year-old domestic shorthair cat with congestive heart failure, which typically has a life expectancy of 10 months, says Dr. Kristin MacDonald, a board-certified veterinary cardiologist at VCA Animal Care Center of Sonoma County Despite this poor prognosis, Jasmine has survived more than two years with heart failure thanks in part to the expert care she has received at VCA Animal Care Center.

When Dr. MacDonald first met Jasmine in 2020, she was in rough shape with fluid in her chest that needed to be tapped emergently to help her return to stability.

Since then, Jasmine has been to the emergency room at the VCA Animal Care Center more than four times over two years, with treatments from tapping her lungs to clear the fluid to sudden crisis when she needs to be put into an oxygen cage and given IV diuretics and get her stabilized with medication changes or additions for her to return home. Dr. MacDonald has worked with Gael to teach him how to recognize when Jasmine is under distress by monitoring her breathing.

For animals in need of cardiac care like Jasmine, Dr. MacDonald brings her considerable knowledge and research to their care. She’s active in clinical research for not only feline cardiology, but also canine congestive heart failure. This expertise, as well as the way she and the team at the VCA Animal Care Center work together, create a foundation of trust for pet owners like Gael.

“The teams talk to each other,” Gael says. “When Jasmine has stayed overnight, Dr. MacDonald would always talk to the night staff before going home and vice versa the next day. Any time Jasmine has been hospitalized and Dr. MacDonald was out of office, she would be briefed when she got back. All the doctors I've worked with have been aware of Jasmine's history in a way that suggests long term familiarity. Jasmine may be somewhat unique because she has been going there for so long, but it's clear that patients are more than just numbers on a clipboard.”

During each episode, Gael says he’s prepared to do what is best for Jasmine, whether it be more treatment, or letting her go peacefully. But Jasmine continues to make a comeback each time.

“After defying the odds so many times, we now know that as long as she’s happy and willing to keep trying, we are here to support her,” he says. “We are on borrowed time with her and we are grateful for every moment.”

Having a cat with these medical issues is a commitment, Dr. MacDonald says.

“It’s sort of this perfect alignment of a motivated owner, a kitty who is very compliant and responsive and me rechecking echocardiograms and making a lot of medication adjustments and reassessing her,” she says. “Once she goes home with adjustments to meds, she still feels good and she responds and it’s always the question mark of if she is going to respond this time.”

So far, she always responds, but Dr. MacDonald says she and Huber are always considering the impact of treatments on Jasmine’s quality of life and will do so until they reach the bottom of her bag of tricks or until Jasmine shows that she is done fighting.

“Dr. MacDonald is always frank about how Jasmine looks from her point of view, which is a great way to start an honest conversation about our options,” Gael says. “Jasmine frequently falls outside the norm, and Dr. MacDonald has been incredibly creative with her solutions. Through a combination of expert knowledge, consulting other doctors, and independent research she's always come up with a reasonable solution to try. Of course, one day there won't be anything left to try, but until then Dr. MacDonald just wants to ensure Jasmine has the best life she can at home.”

When Jasmine is in Dr. MacDonald’s care, she can see the cat’s sweetness as well.

When recently hospitalized for heart failure, “She totally headbutted me and started rubbing on me and purring in the oxygen cage,” Dr. MacDonald says. “She was demanding love and it was so wonderful to feel that and unplug for a moment and just see what a great, loving, happy kitty she is.”

As long as Jasmine continues to do well with her treatments, Gael and his partner Erin Mooney will continue to care for her. They have another cat. Shiki, whom she was bonded with when they adopted the pair. Shiki frequently shows his love of Jasmine by using her as a pillow, despite being twice her size. While Jasmine shows her love with purring and closeness, Huber shows his dedication to her treatments and her six different medications, some of which require an every-eight-hour schedule. Gael says he and his partner have no regrets in their continued care for Jasmine.

“She is still here. She is still delightful and that’s really the only yardstick by which we measure our decisions.” he says.

Detecting heart problems and other issues as pets age can create more opportunity for a longer, healthier life. VCA offers cardiology services ranging from heartworm prevention to a complete veterinary cardiology exam, which can help diagnose heart issues and get treatment sooner. Find your nearest VCA hospital here.