Wednesday, April 28, 2004

Bad Kitties

They stayed up late
They trashed the house
They were BAD KITTIES...
and they acted as though they didn't even care...
--T Shirt motto

Well, this morning was Nash and Tiny's vet appointment for dental cleanings, so just before midnight last night, I picked up all the cat food in the house. When one cat has to fast for the doctor, they *all* have to fast for the doctor.

Now, I had done this last week only to have our appointment cancelled due to illness. All during the night, the cats had come up on the bed to check on me, as if to remind me that they didn't have any food out. This week they left us alone.

But when I went into the spare room to get the cat carriers, I found out why. The pantry was a mess. *Someone* had chewed open two bags of dried beans and some dried cherries and strewn them all over the floor. For good measure, several packages of zip-loc bags had many tiny holes all over them, and a roll of paper towels had had the stuffing kicked out of it. I kept waiting to see if anyone is going to swell up and get sick from ingesting dried beans but it looks as if the appeal was more the mischief/entertainment value.

Denny and I were laughing so much as we cleaned up, we were almost late for the vet appointment.

We had a good discussion with Dots concerning Lucy when we went to pick the cats up. She agreed that pallative care is the kindest way to go with her.

Damn, if an operation could save Lucy--or even give her six more months--I'd go for it. But what I suspect would happen would be that they would open her up and see there was no hope and "not let her wake up", as they put it. So she would lose the three weeks or the month of good time she might have left.

Sunday, April 25, 2004

Yesterday was a better day for Lucy, I think.

She was sitting on the lowest shelf of the cat tree when I got home from work Friday evening, so I didn't have to crawl behind the coal stove to pry her out. I gave her the pain medication and was glad to see she was interested in food when I was dishing it out. I gave her the last of Newt's shrimp as a treat and then dug out one of the cans of Precise I had on hand to see if she might like to try it. She did--a change of pace from the usual Friskies. (So I stopped off on the way to work yesterday and bought some more.)

She was still out and about when I went out into shop yesterday morning, so I gave her attention and more food. She hasn't been back behind the stove since Friday so I don't know if she is feeling better (the Metacam is helping?) or is responding to the attention, but checking on her condition is much easier. It eases me as well to be able to pet her and talk with her.

Her stomach seemed a bit bloated compared to her prominent spine and Dot's remark about FIP lodged in my mind. Were the other cats at risk if Lucy has in fact developed FIP? So I did some quick research yesterday to try to find out the latest thoughts on that confusing disease. I didn't want to put the other cats needlessly at risk but if there was any exposure problem, it had undoubtedly already occurred.

Well, there is still a great deal of confusion--and old information--on line about FIP. The best link I found came from the Cat Fanciers' Association. I figured that the breeders would be the ones to have a vested interest in knowing the latest, so I followed their link to this site.

"Transmission of FIP from cat to cat is considered to be rare. This fact has caused leading FIP researchers to state that cats who are ill with FIP are unlikely to be a risk to other cats and thus do not need to be isolated.

When I read those words, a frisson of relief passed through me. This was what I had suspected but to see the thought in print was very calming.

Friday, April 23, 2004

Spring Fever

Lucy was behind the coal stove this morning and although I went out to the shop at least a dozen times during the course of the morning, she ignored my gentle pleading to come out and see me. So her dose of Metacam went undelivered. If she doesn't come out at supper time this evening, I will have to find a way to extricate her so I can offer at least some relief for her discomfort.

The medication is a blessing. For so long there just weren't any effective pain medications for cats and this seems to be both fast-acting and effective. Within minutes of her dose last night, Lucy was out and about the shop and even nibbled some food. We shared a sweet moment when I checked on her before going to bed--she let me rub her head whle she purred and pushed against me.

On a lighter note, the other cats have had serious spring fever. They must sense that the first fresh shoots of grass are not far away. Punkin has been insistent on trying to get outside and Frieda meets me at the door, asking if I have any grass for her.

When I was at the Shelter on Wednesday, Tony mentioned spreading hay in their home dog run to combat the mud and how much their cats enjoyed playing in the hay. So I got the idea of pulling up the old, smelly indoor/outdoor carpet in the cat pen and replacing it with a couple of inches of hay. I have had a gift certificate from The Wagon Wheel just sitting here since Christmas--I had thought to get some starter plants once the greenhouse was moved and refurbished--but buying the cats some hay seemed like a better use of it.

So I went downtown in my little pickup and checked out the hay options. I was able to get two compressed bales of Washington-grown hay for about $30 and it only took about 2/3rds of a bale to carpet the cat run. So I put some hay in BeBe's cage and in the cat porch the house cats use also, and still have some of the first bale left over.

We'll see how it works out. The lovely smell of fresh hay certainly beats what the cat run smelled like before. The cats seemed excited by the novelty of having the grass to play in. I like the idea of just changing out the hay when it gets wet or muddy rather than dealing with that old carpet. There are litterboxes in all the pens so I don't think there will be any problem with inappropriate use of the hay. Perhaps come fall, we can cut our own blue-joint rye and use that over the winter.

I wondered if there might be any potential problems in using hay but cats and barns have gone together for centuries and I can't recall ever seeing anything in the literature about health issues arising from hay. I worry that my grass-fiends like Cissy and might make themselves sick with eating the stuff--or worse yet, plug themselves up with it--but I will just keep my eyes open for any problems.

Thursday, April 22, 2004

Lucy




All of our phone conversations this week have been about what we should do for Lucy. I don't know if there is a right answer. There are just answers and we may never know if one was right or not.

I don't want to keep cutting out parts of her in a vain attempt to keep her alive until there's nothing left. But I don't want the experience with Rosie to make me give up on her too soon. The thing is, if the cancer has spread to one organ, it has more than likely spread to others as well. But what if the cancer is contained and can be easily removed? (What are the chances of lucking out like that?)

I told Denny that this is the only life Lucy will have and I don't want to make a decision based on what is easiest for us. As if any of this is easy.

And yes, I know she will live again but this is the only life she will share with us--our sweet orange-and-white girl. I believe that there will be a reunion, somewhere out of time. I believe the bonds of love are not severed by death. We will meet again but this time now is what we have to share in this life.

It rends my heart to see her so sad and depressed, crawling behind the coal stove as if to hide from the pain. I miss the firm bump of her head against my hand when I pet her, her conversational meow, her unfailing good spirits. She has always been such a sweet-natured creature.

I have started her on a daily dose of Metacam, and it seems to help. Dots said fluids might be helpful, too. The blood work didn't come back decisive one way or the other but there were disturbing indications, including an elevation in kidney levels and active corona virus.

Both Denny and I are leaning toward the "lets just make her as comfortable as we can until we can't any more, then let her go" option. I want to do the best we can for Lucy, but there is only so much we can do. If it was just a matter of money or effort or time--or love--we could save her. But it is a matter of illness and inevitability.
It is hard to believe that age is nibbling away at our kittens...

I know that much is said about the connection that human twins have, so I wonder if a similar bond holds true in littermates. Do kittens or puppies feel a special affinity toward those they shared the womb with? How will Frieda and Cissy react when their sister is no longer here?

There is no doubt they will miss her. The three have been a sort of mini-pride in our cat family--socializing, sleeping and grooming together. If one is threatened and raises a call, her siblings are quick to respond. Even now, Frieda and Ciss seem to be looking for Lucy when she has put herself away in some quiet spot. I don't think I am anthropomorphizing to say they seem concerned about her.

She will leave a hole in more than two hearts.

Tuesday, April 20, 2004

Three Sisters

The Three Sisters will soon be two.

We noticed last week that Lucy Sue has been losing weight. Once I started watching her, I saw that she isn't one of the first in line at suppertime any more. Her normally melodious meow has a tone of stress in it now.
So, I took her in to see Ralph yesterday afternoon. I had a strong feeling that the news would be bad. The X-ray revealed a mass in her abdomen in the vicinity of her kidneys. Ralph suggested doing some blood work to see how her organs are functioning, so we will have the result of that tomorrow.
But just the fact that the mass is there...

Lucy--as you may or may not recall--had a growth removed from her cheek last September. She healed quickly and seemed to be doing great all winter, but it is apparent that the malignancy has spread. She has weakened so fast in the past week that we may only have time to say goodbye to her--a couple weeks or so.
But we will know more tomorrow, I hope. I just have a bad feeling, a forboding that set in once it dawned on me that she has lost some weight.

Lucy was one of the kittens born here, in this house, September 28, 1991. They were like a blessing, though we didn't think so at the time. Lucy, Frieda and Cissy...I was the first human being to ever touch them.

In the flush of kittenish energy, Lucy took her name from another crazy redhead, though as she matured, she developed a quiet dignity befitting her size. Her most distinguishing trait was her fondness for going off somewhere to fall asleep and then ignoring any and all calls. I have given her up for lost so many times because she was off somewhere sleeping and couldn't be disturbed for human concerns.

I don't want to think about her final sleep.

Damn it.

Saturday, April 3, 2004

Black Jack

I can't believe this...

I went by the Shelter office on my way to work today to pick up my eggs from Sherry. A woman was there, signing in her cat. It wasn't until she spoke to me that I recognized her. She had taken one of the stray cats I had trapped in our neighborhood--about ten years ago.

Allergies were forcing her to give up Black Jack, but he had obviously been well-loved and well-cared-for this past decade. I had occasionally wondered how he was doing over the years, so to see that he had had such a loving home was heart-warming. I'm just sorry she has to give him up.

I would take him home if I thought he would be happy with us--though Denny was a bit downcast this weekend when he learned I wouldn't give Lola and Clarence up, so I can't push for more cats right now. I have a vague sense of responsibility toward Black Jack but on the other hand, he has had-- thanks to my efforts on his behalf a decade ago--ten good years with people that loved him; though not (apparently) enough to find him a new home when allergies made it impossible to keep him any longer.

Bottom line--he has had a good life but there are more outstanding cats at the Shelter. Ones that deserve the chance that he had to find humans to love them. I certainly wish him well but if he had been meant to be our cat, we would have kept him for ourselves those many years ago. He didn't fit in then and there's even less reason for him to fit in with our cats now.

I wish things were otherwise but there just aren't enough homes for them all.

Thursday, April 1, 2004

I said a prayer for the burnt-out kitties, hoping they were finding places out of the wind where they could gather some warmth. Their people had been working on getting heat in the husk of the house on Wednesday. That they could devote so much time and energy in the face of their personal disaster toward comforting and collecting their cats tells me their priorities are right and that the cats are in good hands. They won't be given up on.

It was about twenty degrees at home, but even with the brisk wind, Cissy was out in the cat run when I arrived.

My hardy Alaskan cats think that 20 degrees is fine spring weather.