VERNDALE, Minn. (WCCO) — Cats and dogs can get heart problems just like people and while it’s fairly easy to implant pacemakers in dogs, it’s very tricky and dangerous in cats.

Last month the University of Minnesota performed its first-ever pacemaker surgery on a cat — and it worked.

Inside Michele Buer’s home, it may look like a typical office — full of gadgets, there’s a computer, a fax, a mouse and then there’s Mousey.

“There’s my printer and then there’s Mousey’s printer,” Buer said.

His favorite perch is always plugged in, and in a way, so is he.

“Mousey’s printer used to be my main printer that I could print from, but then when it broke down, they couldn’t get that flat top on the printer, so we have my printer that works and Mousey’s printer that doesn’t work,” Buer said.

Originally a barn cat, Mousey got his name pretty easily.

“He was just a little tiny gray thing with little, tiny gray ears and looked like a mouse when he was born,” she said.

But the 6-year-old cat eventually made his way inside “Endeavor Place,” getting a full run of the house he shares with teen boys battling alcohol and drug addiction.

“You can have the worst of days and he’ll come in and just make you forget about your problems,” Buer said. “What our thought is, is never give up, we didn’t give up on Mousey, we don’t give up on the guys, don’t give up on yourselves.”

His family noticed Mousey not acting like his mellow self, last summer.

“First indication was, when he was on his printer and he fell off and fell flat on the ground and my thought was, he must have been sleeping really hard that he couldn’t catch himself and then he did it again,” Buer said.

That’s when she started recording his symptoms on home video. She could see his heart stopping and then re-starting.

“I didn’t know when I’d go home. I wouldn’t know if I came back the next morning, if he’d be alive or not,” Buer said.

At that point, her veterinarian recommended a trip to the University of Minnesota.

“We’re the only place in the state that offers these types of procedures,” says Christopher Stauthammer, a veterinary cardiologist for the University of Minnesota.

After a three-hour drive from their home in Verndale, veterinary cardiologists got to see how serious the situation was.

“His heart was, is beating here, contracting, contracting, contracting and then his heart is just stopping, all flat line,” said Maxi Kruger, a resident cardiologist for the University of Minnesota.

Meds weren’t going to work.

“I think my heart stopped when they told me he’d need a pacemaker,” Buer said.

Without it, Kruger didn’t think he’d live much longer.

“Putting pacemakers into dogs is almost a standard procedure but doing it in a cat, not a lot of owners want to do that, and most cats weren’t as symptomatic as Mousey was,” he said.

“It’s extremely rare, it’s the first time that it’s been done in Minnesota and it’s the first time that we’ve done it in this office,” added Stauthammer.

That’s because unlike a dog or even a human, where the pacemaker can be easily inserted, cats are much more tricky.

“The tip of the lead will be sutured to the heart and it will sit on top of the heart,” Kruger said.

It’s also very expensive, a point Buer didn’t want to discuss.

“I don’t tell anybody,” she said.

After a few hours of surgery, and his pacemaker programed to kick in.

Mousey was able to go back home the next day.

His family in recovery was now ready to take care of their cat who would also begin his.

“They had all kinds of questions about what the pacemaker looked like what it was how often it kicked in how long it would last in him,” Buer said.

Four months later, Mousey’s hair is growing back — his mere presence a topic in therapy.

“Don’t give up on yourself, if Mousey can do it, you can do it in your program and your recovery,” says Buer.

He’s also rediscovered his favorite spot, the printer.

He’s the latest electronic fixture. His owner just can’t live without.

Veterinarians believe Mousey could now live at least another 10 years.

The University of Minnesota says companies, including Medtronic, donate pacemakers to be used in dogs and cats. That keeps costs to around $4,000.

If they didn’t get the donated device, it would cost a pet owner tens of thousands of dollars, because this procedure is not covered by pet insurance.

Comments (45)
  1. Terry says:

    Thank you for saving Mouse’s life! Pets are definately part of a family and need medical care as do humans. I would have done the same thing whether it would have been my dog or cat. I’m so happy that there are people like you in this world! Bless you!

    1. Sunny says:

      Your gross. Paying for it is the only way you can probably get it.

      1. cat scratch fever says:

        You’re right, sorry. I’ll save the 4g and rub one out instead.

        1. Sunny says:

          And you fail miserably at attempted ‘flippant humor’. God be with you.

  2. Laurie Matson says:

    What a great story and such a good role model they are to those boys. the boys get to learn the importance of not giving up on yourself!!!

  3. mwallek says:

    This is absolutely disgusting. With medical dollars being eaten up by the admistrations of “health” oriented companies, somebody’s attachment to a pet, no mater how inflated it’s importance cannot justify the waste of money. The waste on animal medicine in general is appalling. A hip for a dog, tens of thousands in medical expense, and even insurance all speak of skewed values and priviledge that is fundamentally unhealthy.

    1. James says:

      You are ignorant of the facts. Why don’t you learn a few things before you open your mouth. The company I work for donates these devices to the pet owners mostly at no charge at all. The information learned with non human implants are priceless. The facility I work at has an animal lab with over 200 dogs, pigs and sheep with implants. The research we do might save your life someday and then you will be singing a different tune.

      1. mwallek says:

        don’t need my life saved by mechanical devices. It’s still a rediculous waste.

        1. @ crabby old person says:

          So was your education, you can’t even spell. I hope you have a DNR filled out, so when you go to the hospital they just let you go.

    2. @ mwallek says:

      What are you disgusted by exactly? The fact that a private company would donate the device? Without the innovation of these private companies, the products would not even exist. The Guberment sure is not going to invent them for the good of humanity. Are you the type of person that would be angry at Apple for earning a profit selling iPods, or only healthcare companies? Or, are you mad at the veterinarians for operating on a cat? I’m pretty sure that’s what they do for a living. Should they using their time to care for indigent people? You’re anger is completely misplaced. You make no sense.

    3. NelsMN says:

      mwallek: why do you care? it’s not your pet, your money, or your concern.

    4. Ace says:

      You are a pathetic, misguided mean person. If you want to talk about wasting money on medical procedures, the biggest waste is people getting their lips and boobs enlarged.. The pacemaker for the cat saved the cat’s life and made a lot of people happy because of it.

      1. anti bachmann says:

        big boobs sure make alot of people happy to

    5. Boo says:

      Guess noone will ever accuse you of empathy and compassion. Some people believe their pets are family members. I see nothing wrong with this at all. If people can afford it why do you care? You didn’t have to pay for it.

  4. ^ rebuttal to the 25 year old ^ says:

    It’s their money, not yours, Mr. Selfish. You are just another example of the 20 & 30 somethings believing that the world OWES you something. Well Sonny, here’s the deal – get off your keister, and actually do something good for your fellow man, otherwise we’ll just continue laughing at your numb-nut, “but the world owes me”, behavior. Enjoy your soup, tonight…

    1. Ha Ha Ha says:

      It’s funny because it’s true. So true.

  5. mouseylover says:

    Comment to mwallek.

    Wow. Someone has never given nor received love from a pet. Pet insurance should not be compared to regular insurance. It’s not even close to the same since the government isn’t paying one penny for pet insurance. Insurance for a pet is a choice, not a government mandate.

    Why is pet care a “waste” of money? It employs thousands of people and makes people’s lives so much better. You obviously have never had a real pet. Why does it matter to you if someone pays $4000 to keep a loved one alive? Would it be better if they spent $4000 on a flat screen tv instead? Are your values so great that you are giving all your money away to make the world a better place? Do you really think that if there was no health care for pets that people would spend it the way you think they should? I don’t think so.

    Sounds like you need some unconditional love from a fluffy, loving, four legged animal.

    This is a fantastic story on so many levels! I wish Mousey many long lived years enjoying his perch on his printer!

    1. mwallek says:

      mouseylover, I have had a bird for over 20 years. When I got him I knew it was a life long commitment. Still, he is a bird, and unlike we humans, he does not fear death with such neurotic abandon as we humans do. Would I go to extra ordinary means to save him? No. As a young child, the old dog Ace was taken into the woods and never came back. That was hard, but facing death is. Still, the idea of a pacemaker and over the top treatment for him still seems absurd.

      1. Sunny says:

        You are entitled to your opinion. I am glad that you will never have anymore animals (I am assuming you don’t have any now because of your lack of compassion and holier than thou attitude about others rights to do as they please without your permission or consent). Maybe you should give seminars about how you learned so much about life when Ace never came back. Nothing like a gunshot in the distance to make everything ‘clear’ about the meaning of life.

    2. anti bachmann says:

      hell ya i would buy 2 or 3 flat screens instead of saving a cat

      1. Anti Anti Bachmann says:

        Considering it’s none of your business what anyone does with their money – your opinion is a moot point. Sure hope the government doesn’t limit the number of flat screens you want to possess.

  6. Dwight Buer says:

    to the person that made the negative comment. I happen to be the father of Michele and I was there the night she decided to give Mousey the pacemaker.
    It was not an easy for Michele go ahead with the operation. After weighing the benefits that this cat provides for her clients and her strong bond with him,she decided to make it a GO. Even with the expense I fully supported her decision. Michele is quite frugal ,this was not easy for her.There are those who would would think that this was foolish but would not hesitate to spend that money on alcohol, gambling or other excessivness

  7. Michele Buer says:

    In the story I had mentioned that I didn’t want to disclose the cost of the surgery. This story is NOT about money. Please do not about money. It is about LOVE. Mousey is a therapy cat. He is not only my cat but belongs to the residents and staff of Endeavor Place. He has given great comfort to many past residents and current residents. He has the ability to calm an angry resident, comfort them when they are homesick and lonely. You can not put a price tag on that.

    I would like to express my gratitude to everyone for all the support that I have received. You have been awesome.

    1. +1 says:

      Michele we understand how important Mousey is. Your act of compassion is what strengthens us all. Mousey has been blessed to have you

  8. amy says:

    May Mousey live for 30 more years!

    1. ditto says:

      I agree, and if for no other reason but to torment mwallek.

  9. Animal Lover says:

    For many of us, our pets are part of our families. They give us so much joy and unconditional love…if the owner wants to save her beloved cat, that’s her business, and she shouldn’t be criticized for it. I wish all pet owners were as committed to their pets as she is.

  10. Peggy says:

    Michele, I was happy to see your story on the news. I also have a cat named Mouse whom I consider my therapy cat. He is the happiest little cat and cheers me up (I suffer from chronic depression and dysthymia). He has some medical problems that aren’t really treatable and will probably decrease his lifespan significantly. If there were a treatment available that could help him for a few thousand dollars, I would scrimp and save to make it possible. I applaud you for your love and dedication to Mousey and to the residents of the house. Good luck!

  11. ed says:

    I can’t believe that Mwallek would have a bird for 20 years and not care or do something extra to save it. If he didn’t care he wouldn’t have had it for 20 years. As for humans having fear of death with neurotic abandon, If you know the lord death is nothing to fear!!!!!

  12. Sherrie says:

    Mousey’s story is wonderful. Our pets are family members. A long & happy life for Mousey!,

  13. Denise says:

    This story of young mens’ lives being touched by this special cat – while they work to create a more positive future for themselves, is a bright spot within our current culture of anger…

  14. john says:

    The damn cat used up its nine lives…come on juist let the poor thing go

    1. Michele Buer says:

      @ John. Prior to making the decision for Mousey’s surgery. I prayerfully ask God to make the decision for Mouseys destination. It is obvious what Gods plan is and his will for Mousey. Kind looks like he didn’t us all his nine lives doesn’t it 🙂

  15. Kat says:

    This is not a story about money, it is a story about saving a life. In this case, saving the life of a beloved pet and family member. For all you know, he may very well have helped save a few lives himself. The people living in this home struggle with things many of you cannot imagine and it sounds like Mousey provides them with the unconditional love they need.

  16. john says:

    While not a veterinarian, I’ve worked in the industry for years (some time ago) and I can tell you one thing for sure – the only service people in Canada held in lower regard than veterinarians are used car salesmen.

  17. Patrick says:

    It is so nice to see people treating their pets as members of the family cause they are! And the loser here talking about how this was a waste of money, You are a waste of space on Earth.

    1. mwallek says:

      I suppose, pat, that not knowing you from the idiot down the street, I could say the same thing about you. I would hope that in the future, should you need a pacemaker, you donate it to a needy cat instead.

      1. Michele Buer says:

        FYI mwallek. From what I have been told, the pacemakers have reached their shelf life for human beings therefor, rather than throwing them away they have been donated for further use. A human life is not being place before a pet for these pacemakers.

        1. mwallek says:

          by all means. if the pacemakers have an expired shelf life, use them. Perhaps some can even make their way to the thrid world, just to help keep those profits up.

  18. pepper says:

    comment to mwallek.
    you obviously will never need a pacemaker since you have NO heart.

    1. mwallek says:

      sticks and stones… I also think that feral cats and dogs and pigs should be totally eliminated. I am for kill shelters and all you idiots who think that is heartless should look instead to your idiot bretheren who so mindlessly by and sell these animals. Don’t want to kill neglected and feral pets? How about idiot owners then? No? Then shut your piehole and own your pet responsibly.

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