Wednesday, December 28, 2005


Sally is gone.

It happened so quickly, we are still a bit stunned. I'm still in the stage of self-blame.

Monday night, Denny noticed Sally was limping when she came out of her hiding spot for dinner. I didn't pay him too much mind because she's had a slight limp for some time. But now she was not putting any weight on her left front leg and once we got a good look at her, it was obvious her shoulder and leg were swollen. So, thinking dislocation or abcess, I called the vet clinic Tuesday morning to get an appointment.

A bit of background. Sally (aka "Fat Sally", aka "Ms. Tabby") showed up about a year ago, eating the food we keep on the porch for strays. Because of her girth,we were afraid she was pregnant and rather than face the prospect of trying to trap her and locate kittens in below-freezing weather, we trapped her as soon as we could.

We installed her in the big cat cage downstairs with a large nest box and waited. And waited. And waited. No kittens.

So, it turns out that Sally was spayed. At some point in her life she had belonged to someone. How she came to be fending for herself in sub-freezing temperatures and be so terrified of humans is a mystery we will never solve.

As it was, she was inside and safe. Once we realized there would be no kittens, we let her out into the house, where she kept mostly in her hidey-box until we went to bed. We would catch glimspes of her from time to time, scurrying for cover when we happened upon the scene, but she showed no interest in warming up to us.

I wish that getting her to the vet hadn't been such a traumatic experience for her. I hate to think that her last hour was stressful, but she needed to be examined. Ralph eventually had to sedate her in order to examine her and it wasn't good. Rather than a dislocation, what he felt around her shoulder joint was obviously a tumor. A tumor that because of its size and location was both inoperable and fast-growing. Most likely already metasticized.

So we did what we felt most humane and let Sally go.

I had thought we had time to work with her, time to gain her trust. But now there is no more.

Saturday, December 24, 2005

Making Progress

I woke up this morning to the sweetest thing. One of the cats was vigorously, estaticly rubbing against my feet. I looked down to the foot of the bed to see...Black Bart. Yes, the cat that I judged "hopelessly feral" two years ago. Over the past few days, he and I have been getting closer to an understanding. He has let me approach closer and even done "courting" gestures, like rubbing his face on something nearby when I talk to him. The signals seem to be that he wouldn't be adverse to being petted, though he retreated off the bed this morning when I reached toward him. He didn't seem to mind my feet rubbing him through the quilt, however.

Thursday, December 22, 2005

The New Cat

I woke up with a sinus headache and too much to do--as usual. I didn't sleep all that well. I woke up about two-thirty to see Dinky looking toward my closet and growling. I knew before I even looked--the newly-added stray cat that I am (for now) calling Rosalee was in my closet, looking scared. (I didn't check to see if Grendel was in her hidey-spot and refusing to share with a stranger or what...) I spoke calmly to Rosa, picked her up and carried her back downstairs. As I had feared, she had managed to wiggle out of the vestibule between the door frame and the temporary closet doors. I adjusted the closet doors to fit more snugly against the door frame and hoped that having satisfied her curiosity about what was on the other side of the door, she would be content to stay in "her" room. I worried she would try to get out and hang herself up against the doors. But after I put her back in the little room, she stayed in for the remainder of the night, so perhaps she found the rest of the house and the resident cats a bit more than she wanted to face so soon.

I had an 11:30 vet appointment for Rosalee, so after I made coffee and took a sinus pill, I decided to pack up my candy gift boxes before I got involved with cat chores. I don't know what I was thinking, making so much candy. Denny and I certainly can't eat it, and even after gifting the guys at work and packing the boxes for Arnie and Sam and the Harts, there is plenty left.

I got almost all the cat-boxes cleaned before I had to run to the vet clinic. Still have three more to do when I get home from work. Dots checked our new addition over pretty thoroughly, even shaved her tummy to find the spay scar--it was a relief to know her reproductive status but it begs the question--whose cat was she and why haven't they been looking for her? Anyway, Dots thinks she is only two or three years old. After we were done at the vet's, I took her down by the Shelter to show her to Mike and Sherry to see if they recognized her. There is something almost-familiar about her that I have been ascribing to her resemblance to our late Rosie but Mike seemed to think he remembered adopting out a cat like her to someone in our neighborhood. So--I wonder why she wasn't hanging out at her house instead of mine? Cats generally have a great sense of location and if she lived in our neighborhood, she should have known where her home was--not shown up starving and scared at our house....

After some consideration, I went ahead and put her and Twitch in the papers as found cats. If their families don't want them, they won't claim them. I suppose there *could* be an intelligent excuse for both of them to be bumming at my house. We shall see if anyone responds.

Another Houdini

Rosalee escaped her private room again last night, coming upstairs to hide in Denny's closet once again. Obviously, she doesn't like being shut away from the activity of the household--such as it is. She hasn't shown any aggressive tendencies and our other cats are so innurred to newcomers that they view them only with mild curiosity, so we'll just leave her out and see how she integrates herself into the clowder.

Saturday, December 10, 2005

We had five inches or so of snow Sunday night/Monday morning, but by Tuesday, the weather had warmed up and the rain began falling Tuesday night. Now, all our deep snow is gone--just scattered patches of wet snow and smooth ice. I'd despair for our holidays if I didn't know that the weather is supposed to turn colder this weekend and into next week.

Bebe got out of his cage--found him wet and scared in the garage. It's nice to know that he won't go running across the road to his old home if left to his own devices, though I would rather have found this out some other way.

Friday, December 2, 2005

Feral Cats

Feral cats are so easy--I wish I had a houseful of them. (Oh, wait--I nearly do...)

After six years with us, Grendel has finally gotten enough confidence to move furitively around the house during the day but she still will vanish if we pay too much notice of her. Although, yesterday she was in the downstairs bedroom while I was cleaning the cat boxes and made to dash into her hiding spot until I spoke soothingly to her. She stopped and watched me warily while I went about my chores. I got both boxes clean before she retreated to what she considered safety. She is such a pretty cat, I would like to see more of her. She must understand by now that we aren't going to hurt her. On occasion, she will walk through the bedroom while we are watching television, then stop halfway down the hall to peer at us. Maybe I am just imagining the questions in her eyes.

Skinny (officially named "Star" but no one calls her that) has been known to sneak up and sleep on the foot of the bed at night but spends most of the daylight hours pretending to be afraid of us. I have touched her several times, getting close enough to stroke her paw when playing with her (and she is a great one for playing with the kitty-teases). She is quick to show me how sharp her claws are when I venture a finger too close, but I don't have the feeling she is scratching out of fear--just playfulness.

Fat Sally obviously belonged to *someone* at some time because she is spayed. She will creep out when the house is quiet--day or night--but retreats if we pay attention to of her. She likes to sleep in the basket by the computer upstairs at night. She is another one that I talk soothingly to when I pass by. She's been with us for nearly a year now.

Black Bart is a strange one. We trapped him two years ago when we brought Baby and her kittens inside. We had him neutered at the time but he was so hostile that I figured he was hopelessly feral and let him loose to live in the yard.

That seemed to suit everyone just fine until this August. He suddenly started showing up on the deck during the day, visiting the housecats through the screen door or the wire of the small cat run. Skinny and Clarence seemed particularly fond of him and I had to wonder if he remembered Skinny from the time she lived outside (up until September 2004.) That he might recognize/remember Clarence as his kitten seems a stretch but Clarence and Lola were allowed out in the cat run a few months after we brought them inside, so I suppose he could have seen them in there from that time on, before the memory and their scents changed too much.

Over the course of a month or so, Black Bart came to take his meals on the deck. Denny built him a little "bus stop"-like shelter that looked into the kitchen from the deck and as winter approached, he was often sitting there day or night, peering in at us. He would still hiss and move away when I went outside to feed him, but he retreated a shorter distance and his hiss seemed more rote than heart-felt. A few times, he even ventured inside the screen door, but if I made a move into the kitchen, he would hasten outside again.

It took catnip and leaving the cat run open to capture him. After he was prodded inside the house, he quickly found the feral havens both in the downstairs bedroom and up in the living room. There was a minimum of hissing as the ferals were all more afraid of us than of a new cat, and he was well-behaved from the start. I have to think that Skinny in particular was glad to see him, though they don't interact much while I can see them.

After a few days of lying low, Bart began coming out of hiding when I fed the cats, keeping to the shadows and out of reach, but understanding the procedure and fitting in. Last night he got up on the second shelf of the cat tree and stayed put while I walked through the room several times, so he is taking baby steps toward us. It would be nice to wake up some night and find him curled on the bed, but thus far, he spends his nights downstairs with Grendel and Skinny, probably taking air in the cat run.

Thursday, November 10, 2005

Cat Thoughts

Another beautifully clear, bitterly cold day. There is no mercy in the pale blue sky. The northeasterly winds are frigid, dry...

I am glad that we have brought the "stray" cats inside, that there are no paw prints in the snow outside, that I don't have to lie in bed at night and wonder whether the yard cats have found warm enough shelter. For now, at this moment, there is peace of mind in that regard.

First impressions can be a dicey thing with cats. The white cat ("White Cat #4" in the vet's records) has shown an unexpected aggressive side toward the other cats in the shop. Lola's Dad ("Black Cat #4") seems--surprisingly--social and docile for a supposed "feral" cat. He comes out from his day-time hiding spot when I feed the cats at night, murking in the shadows until I fill the plate nearest him, then eating with a quiet gratitude. He is wary but not terrified of me.

At this turning of the year, there are other cats populating my mind, ghost cats, those gone but still close in my heart. As I move around the shop, doing my cat chores, the absent ones press into my thoughts: Johnny and Boo Boo, the still-painful memories of Lucy Sue and Little Black Newt.

And underneath all, the missing of Kisa, who lives now and forever in my heart. She died before the house was finished, before there were even walls and ceilings--just the bare wooden frames and plywood floors. Somewhere, however, lodged in some cranny of the floor boards or tucked in a corner of the wall frames--some tuft of fur, the ghost-print of a paw--something of her remains, lives in this house.


I watch the noon sun gild the individual hairs of Slippers' tabby coat as she sleeps on the lowest shelf of the cat tree. She is happier here than she has ever been in her life. So much so that I doubt the memories of her first four or five years--in that other home--intrude on her daily thoughts. She bears the scars of those times, of being unloved or ignored. She is quick to seek a hiding place when voices are raised and even now is tentative when she approaches us for affection. Her honest delight in being treated with kindness can be sad to see. I doubt she was abused in the conventional sense of the word, but I sense she was ignored or discounted, occasionally allowed to fall from an insecure grasp or kicked out of the way and she came to us convinced that if she didn't beg for food, we would never remember to feed her.

Here, there is always food and warmth and room for one more in our hearts. Our house isn't much but I imagine to this little tabby cat--and others--it must seem a haven of peace and contentment.

Saturday, October 29, 2005

Black Cat #4

He's in the house.

I spent a very long night checking on him every two hours, standing on the snow-covered deck in my sleepshirt, holding the cat-flap open with a broom handle and trying to convince him to go inside. On the plus side--it was a clear night and the stars were magnificent. Mars burned down like a huge ember all night long and a few hours before dawn, the crescent moon rose in the east.

On the negative side, under clear skies, the temperatures dropped to the mid-teens and the black cat looked forlorn, huddled in weary shock in the cat condo. I know he has been living outside for years but he must have dens to retire to when the weather gets too bitter. When I went back up to bed, I dreamt all night about the black cat in various scenerios--escaping the pen, turning out to be friendly, etc.

I had a moment of hope this morning when I went down about eight and couldn't see him in the enclosure but as I leaned closer to look, I heard his hiss--he was sitting on top of the litter box on the lower level, not readily apparent to the casual eye.

I had *so* hoped he was inside, being comforted in a warm crush with Grendel and Skinny. That did it--he had been locked up for twenty-four hours and it was time to get him to move inside. I got dressed and collected a curtain rod and a roll of duct tape. From the inside, I taped the cat flap open, then went outside with the idea of prodding him into going through the door.

He surprised me. (Well, he had been surprising me for the last month-and-a-half, but this was sort of special...) When I reached the curtain rod in through the chicken wire to touch him, he rubbed his face against it! That inspired me to run the rod down his back, and he arched into the metallic caress. That de-railed my thought processes enough that I stood by the cage for several minutes, stroking him and speaking to him in a quiet voice. I wasn't going to prod him with sticks after a demonstration like that. Perhaps he isn't as totally feral as we had thought.

So, I went upstairs and talked with Denny and we formed a plan that he would open the cat condo and hopefully prompt the black cat to go through the cat door, and I would use the broom handle to try to keep him from retreating into the far corner. After a small amount of initial resistence, the black cat obliged us by dashing into the spare room. By the time I got inside to bar the cat door from the inside, he had vanished behind the plywood plank and was--indeed--huddled with Skinny and Grendel.

So--he's safe, he's warm and he is among friends, whether he appreciates that yet or not...

Wednesday, October 26, 2005


Went to Soldotna today for another doctor's visit for Denny. Stopped by GF's house in Kenai before heading back to Homer, where I met their new cats and checked up on Panda. She is a magnificent creature--years removed from the feisty little kitten I found that dark October morning nine years ago.

What a string of circumstances led our paths to cross: had I not been working that morning, had she not cried, had I not heard and recognized her cry. At first she sounded so much like a bird that it took a moment for it to penetrate the early-morning fog of my brain. It was too dark, too early for birds to be calling. I followed the sound to the parking lot across the street and called out. The tiny black-and-white kitten came out of the woods, frantic for attention, looking for someone to save her from the cold and the hunger.

I snatched her up and took her inside, where I found a can of tuna in my locker. She attacked it ferociously and growled when I touched the plate to replenish it. Who knows how long it had been since she had eaten? I went back out to search for more kittens but never found any (though I went back to look for several days.)

Later that morning, a blizzard hit. Denny had to come into town to pick up me (and the rescued kitten) at work. By that point, tummy full and safe at last, she was nestled under my coat and slept the whole way home. Seeing her now, I mumble a prayer of gratitude to whatever destiny caused our meeting.

Thursday, October 6, 2005

A cold morning...not only frost on the deck but *ice* on the puddles. Many of my potted plants are still blooming like champs but I definitely need to do some preparation for winter, like moving the perennials into the greenhouse, cutting back the herbs and harvesting the catnip.

Since Denny did the cat boxes for me last night while I worked on some paperwork for him, I had the morning free to do other things--like shower, do some vacuuming, and play a bit on the computer. When the thrill of all that paled, I took a bucket of hot, soapy water out on the deck and washed the bird feeders. The chickadees and nuthatches chafed at the delay but I'm sure they will appreciate the clean, fresh seeds. Lola's Dad hung out at the edge of the deck in the shadow of the alders watching.

Once or twice I heard a strange sound--almost like rattling springs on an old pickup truck--coming from the back of the lot. Finally, I saw the fluttering of wings and realized I was hearing spruce grouse. Denny took a walk out back earlier this morning and startled one--or more truthfully, it startled him. I haven't seen any ring-necked pheasants yet this fall but I heard one crowing before I left for work, so I know they are out there.

Saturday, September 3, 2005

Humane Aid

Not to take away from the people in need of support, keep in mind that many had to leave their beloved pets behind, not to mention the suffering of the stray and ownerless animals in the hurricane area. If you would like to make a donation to assist in the humane efforts, you might consider these:

The ASPCA has a Katrina Disater fund to help rebuild animal shelters impacted by the hurricane.

Noah's Wish is an all-volunteer group devoted exclusively to rescuing and sheltering animals during disasters.

And the ever-popular Alley Cat Allies is friend to friendless stray and feral cats.

In addition, I imagine the USHS (US Humane Society) and local SPCAs in Mississippi and Louisiana are responding to the need as well.

Friday, September 2, 2005

Autumn's coming

There was frost on the deck this morning. I guess that explains why Lola and Tiny joined us on the bed last night. I turned the house heat up to 65 this morning and the furnace immediately kicked on for the first time in weeks. As the sun rose and warmed the air, the birds were out in force around the back yard. A varied thrush explored the area around the wood pile and I even saw a spruce hen (spruce grouse) in a small tree in the back lot.

Monday, August 22, 2005

The Morning Update

I set the alarm for 4:30 this morning to allow time to care for Bung-Bung*, my hospice kitty, before heading to work.

I managed to rise from the dead get up and mostly dressed with the help of ready-made coffee. I decided to put BeBe outside in the small cage while I tended Bung-Bung because otherwise he would be raising a fuss trying to get into the room.

It was still dark and quite cool outside. It felt good.

I keep thinking Bung-Bung could go at any time but she persists and seems to be comfortable and pain-free. Her urine is colorless and nearly odorless, so I imagine her kidneys have failed. Her body is so stiff, I have to turn her from side to side. One of her eyes is clouded but I can see her in there through the other one and know she is aware and responsive. She seemed well-hydrated this morning but I wiped out her mouth with cotton swabs and gave her a couple of droppers-full of water just to clean her palate. Since I had fed her more than she wanted last night, I just rubbed her and combed her this morning, trying to stimulate her circulation. I'd like to see her get a bit more flexible but I suppose it is a moot point.

I got her settled into her carrier for the morning and will tend her again when I get home from work this afternoon. Poor old black kitty.

Saturday, August 20, 2005


I came home last night to several messages on the machine that I have to deal with today. The lady that has had our cat trap for the last four or five months was calling to complain about her inability to catch the cats in question. I don't know what she is expecting me to do--her roommate keeps feeding the cats in places other than the trap, so I suspect that for some reason the old woman doesn't want them to be caught. There's not much I can do in the face of that sort of sabotage. I wonder if I will ever get our trap back...

I also need to get a space cleared for the hospice-case cat I will be bringing home from the Shelter this evening. I would like to put her in the downstairs room but someone has been spraying things down there and a strange cat--even one in a semi-coma--might be the straw that makes the little shits start spraying on the new bed and I don't want to chance that, so I'll probably put Bung-Bung in the bathroom. I'm surprised the poor thing is still hanging on and I had been secretly hoping she would pass on before her owner had to leave today, so the gal could have some closure. But Bung was still with us last night when I checked on my way home from work, so I guess I'll be nursing her until her situation resolves one way or another.

Friday, August 12, 2005

Another hot, hazy day.

Bebe's ears looked much better today--virtually normal except for a faintly greenish cast where I had rubbed the aloe vera gel. Nonetheless, I took care to keep him in the shade this morning, moving him to the cage on the north side of the house once the sun began to shine into his usual cat run.

Tuesday, August 9, 2005

Boo Boo

Boo Boo died last night about 10:20 pm.

She has been failing slowly over the past two months, so it wasn't unexpected. I started giving her subcutaneous fluids about a month ago and it seemed to buoy her a bit but I knew in my heart that time was catching up to her. I will never know how old she was--I guessed her age to be around fifteen but it easily could have been more.

Saturday, July 16, 2005

I miss Sunny every time I go into the kitchen. It was so sudden. A few days ago she was chipper and bright and now she is gone. I suppose I should be glad it was so quick for her, not lingering through a long decline like so many of the others. It just happened so fast I didn't have time to prepare myself mentally, I guess.

Friday, July 15, 2005

It wasn't as smoky today when I got up, though the sky had a bright platinum sheen to it that obscured any clouds or sight of blue.

I made some coffee, medicated the cats then went out to the greenhouse. I ended up spending a large portion of the morning there, harvesting herbs and making sure all the plants were watered. I got copius amounts of basil--maybe I'll make some pesto tomorrow. Spraying with a mild soap solution took care of the spider-mites or whatever they were that were causing the basil leaves to curl up. I also got a nice amount of catnip that I will start drying for winter. there were some aphids on the catnip--just a few--some I will see if the soap solution works on those as well.

Back in the house, I gave BooBoo her fluids. I wanted to give her a good amount--maybe 150ml--but had to re-stick her with the needle when it came out after only a few minutes. The second poke took better and I managed to get her well-hydrated, despite her fidgeting and Tommy trying to come visit me. I had to hold him off with one hand while keeping the needle in place with the other. When I was finished, I decided to put a screw up in the joists so I could hang the saline bag a bit higher next time. As is typical around here, I spent a good fifteen or twenty minutes looking for a screw and a screw-gun and the proper bit. *Sigh*

I had wanted to get all the cats' fountains cleaned today but ended up rushed for time, so only got three of the five done. I did get the big water-cooler type drinking bowls cleaned--both the one in the shop and the one in the back rooms--so I only have two of the fountains to do later. I didn't get the cat boxes done but will try to do some of them tonight if I'm not too tired.
It wasn't as smoky today when I got up, though the sky had a bright platinum sheen to it that obscured any clouds or sight of blue.

I made some coffee, medicated the cats then went out to the greenhouse. I ended up spending a large portion of the morning there, harvesting herbs and making sure all the plants were watered. I got copius amounts of basil--maybe I'll make some pesto tomorrow. Spraying with a mild soap solution took care of the spider-mites or whatever they were that were causing the basil leaves to curl up. I also got a nice amount of catnip that I will start drying for winter. there were some aphids on the catnip--just a few--some I will see if the soap solution works on those as well.

Back in the house, I gave BooBoo her fluids. I wanted to give her a good amount--maybe 150ml--but had to re-stick her with the needle when it came out after only a few minutes. The second poke took better and I managed to get her well-hydrated, despite her fidgeting and Tommy trying to come visit me. I had to hold him off with one hand while keeping the needle in place with the other. When I was finished, I decided to put a screw up in the joists so I could hang the saline bag a bit higher next time. As is typical around here, I spent a good fifteen or twenty minutes looking for a screw and a screw-gun and the proper bit. *Sigh*

I had wanted to get all the cats' fountains cleaned today but ended up rushed for time, so only got three of the five done. I did get the big water-cooler type drinking bowls cleaned--both the one in the shop and the one in the back rooms--so I only have two of the fountains to do later. I didn't get the cat boxes done but will try to do some of them tonight if I'm not too tired.

Wednesday, July 13, 2005


Sunspot was gone when I went downstairs at eight-thirty this morning.

She was semi-stretched out under the telephone table--virtually in the same spot where we had lain together Monday night whle she was going through her ordeal with the blood clot. She was already cool to the touch and stiffening.

I can't say this was unexpected. Monday night had put a tremendous strain on her. Still, I had hoped that after coming so close to death and survivng, she would be with us for some months to come.

I hope she didn't suffer. I hope she hadn't sought out that spot where I had comforted her on Monday seeking comfort this morning. I had gone downstairs to get a cold drink about four-thirty this morning and she had been sleeping curled on the floor. I had petted her had said something to her. She hadn't been in any distress then. I have to wonder why she went to that particular spot--maybe she sensed that was where her death had begun...

She had seemed so well, so content, yesterday. In the car, coming home from the vet's office, she was purring, sitting beside me on the armrest and looking at the world going by with interest. When we got home, I fed her some baby food chicken and then she spent most of yesterday afternoon and evening sleeping. She got up while I was cooking supper about ten pm. She wasn't interested in eating but did go over to the water fountain. Afterwards, she went and lay on the carpet between the woodstove and the sofa, before moving over near the telephone table later. If she seemed restless, it wasn't enough to do more than raise subconscious concerns in my mind.

Dots thinks that she may have thrown another clot that went straight to her brain. I hope so--I hope it was quick for her.

I have to take comfort that she had a nice last day and that she went quickly, without a long, painful decline. She kept her faculties and was very much her own cat right until the end. She was never demonstrative nor did she actively seek out attention, but she was appreciative. She was with us for only two years, and our relationship didn't always go smoothly, but I came to appreciate her quiet strength and dignity and her understated affection. Someone else had named her and raised her from a kitten; someone else had enjoyed her youth and maturity--only to abandon her to the animal shelter when she was sixteen years old. I regret that I didn't go downstairs last night and spend time with her, but I was so tired and sore. She knew--in the end--that this was her home. She knew she was loved.

Inseparable from the fire
its light
takes precedence over it ..
In the huge gap
between the flash
and the thunderstroke
spring has come in
or a deep snow fallen...
in an eternity
the heat will not overtake the light.

from Asphodel, That Greeny Flower
by William Carlos Williams

Tuesday, July 12, 2005


I have never seen an animal come so close to death and then come back.

Last night, about ten-twenty, I was in the kitchen fixing dinner for myself after a long day of cleaning house. Sunspot was sitting on the counter near the telephone, having turned her nose up at a small piece of hamburger I had offered her. Her appetite had been slack all day but most of the cats weren't eating very hearty due to the hot weather.

In an instant, as if hit by lightening, Sunny was sprawled on the floor, eyes wide and staring, claws dug into the carpet. She was breathing shallowly and fast.

I ran into the laundry room and got a soft blanket to place under her and moved her near the telephone stand, positioning her on her side. She mouth was open, gasping for air as her sides worked rapidly. Her back legs were limp and cooling. I didn't know what happened but I knew it was some sort of cardiac/circulatory accident. Cats don't have heart attacks as such but she was showing symptoms very similar to those Rosie did as she went into heart failure during her last moments.

I lay down beside her, trying to speak comfortingly to her, stroking her and telling her it was alright--she could leave if she wanted to, that she was a good kitty. Every now and then, Sunny would give a deep gasp and I would think, "That's it--it's over," but she kept breathing, struggling for air. After about a half-hour, I called the emergency vet number and talked with Dots. She agreed that it sounded like heart failure. She was going to be at the clinic in a half-hour to handle an emergency case from Ninilchik and said that Sunny would probably pass before then but that she would be there if I wanted to bring her in.

Okay--I had that option. Did I want to stress Sunny with that final car trip? Would she linger on for hours, struggling for breath, until she was too exhausted? I hate these decisions. I hate having to say to a veterinarian--make my cat dead, please. Was she suffering? I looked into her eyes. So far, she hadn't made a sound, but I noticed her pupils were less dilated, her eyes moving, following the motions of the other cats as they passed through her field of view. She looked at me with awareness. Her mind was still there--still intact. Are you ready to go? I wondered. Do you need to be released?

We had been lying on the floor together for an hour. The rapid breathing had passed and Sunny no longer had to gasp open-mouthed for air. Her back feet were less cold than they had been and she even raised her head a bit and looked around. The phone rang--it was Dots, checking to see what was going on while she waiting for her emergency case to arrive. As I spoke with her, Sunny stood up and moved a few steps away before lying down again. She looked almost normal--just weak. Whatever it was had passed for now. Dots agreed and suggested that I dose Sunny with a children's aspirin, if it didn't stress her too much. I told her I would check in with her in the morning and went to tend Sunny.

She took the aspirin fairly easily. I washed it down with a spritz of water from a syringe.

She was too weak to jump up to her usual resting place, so I settled her underneath a chair in a quiet location and watched her for a while. She seemed settled, so I took my long-delayed supper and went upstairs for a bit. When I came back down, she had moved to the foot of the cat tree, ignoring the fresh sheepskin and clean woolen blanket I had made available to her. Strong-willed as always. So, she was apparently moving around alright under her own power. I went back upstairs for a while. When I checked her again, she was on the second shelf of the cat tree. By morning, she was up in her favorite spot in the window.

So, I took her in to see Dots this morning. Her blood pressure was good and there didn't appear to be any enlargement of the heart. Dots couldn't hear her heart very well as she wouldn't quit purring. Dots thinks that she "threw a clot" that blocked the femoral arteries and caused a drop in blood pressure and all the symptoms that I observed. Such events are usually fatal but somehow the clot dislodged or dissolved and Sunny bounced back. I have never seen an animal so obviously dying turn around so dramatically, but Sunny seems to be feeling pretty chipper today. She is tired and a little weak from the ordeal but she was alert and interested during our car trip and when we got home, she jumped up on a chair and then onto the desk to eat.

This is the first salvo of her last battle. She will be nineteen if she lives until October and she won't survive for more than another year or so. She is very lucky and very strong--I hope her recovery means she will be with us for some time yet to come.

Friday, July 8, 2005

New Cat

She's about six years old with a shaggy white coat and blue eyes. She's deaf. And her name is Frannie...

Oh, wait--that's my *old* cat named Frannie. But that old Frannie was anxious and aggressive and so stressed-out that she pulled her fur out. Even after four years with us, she would flinch when we made a motion to pet her. The new Frannie lies peacefully at the foot of the bed and looks at me with such affection and tranquility in her eyes--it can't be the same cat.

But it is. At our wits'-end in trying to treat her aggression with Clarence, the vet suggested that we try putting her on Prozac. It has been just a week and already it is like having a whole new cat. Well, not entirely new. The old Frannie is still there personality-wise but it feels like the fear that must have been a part of her life since her youngest days has receded.

We are her fourth or fifth home--she passed through a lot of fear and neglect before she was even a year old. The world can be a confusing, frightening place for a deaf cat, especially one who is growing up on the street, and Frannie came to us with a whole complex of psychological baggage. She was destructive, aggressive (stalking poor shy Clarence to distraction,) and self-mutilating. But we could also see that she loved us and was very devoted to us. Even when she was being corrected by a well-aimed squirt of the water bottle (from chasing Clarence,) her response was not to run away from us but toward us. (As long as it got her away from Clarence, that was fine with us. When she was sitting beside us, she wasn't stalking him.) I told Denny one night that I had the feeling that if we were living out in the woods in a tent with all our cats, Frannie is one that wouldn't wander off. We are probably the only love she has ever known.

It was heart-breaking that she was socially crippled with her fear-driven behavior. I couldn't give her up--not after all she has been through--but she was just too disruptive to our household. After Clarence's second vet visit in a month to treat Frannie-inflicted wounds, we knew we had to do something.

So it filled my heart with warmth when I woke up the other morning to find Frannie looking peacefully out at the world that has so often in the past been a source of fear for her. I am going to keep her away from Clarence for a while longer--hoping to break her habit of chasing him--but I am optimistic that we have found some relief for her from her inner demons.

Like I said, it's like having a whole new cat. Or re-discovering the better side of an old one.

Thursday, June 30, 2005


Several of my cats have come down with the "itchy-awfuls" over the past month or so. Pickle Boy was the worst--scabs and a few bald patches that seem due to him pulling his own fur own in an attempt to stop itching. He never goes outside and we have no fleas. I spent hours flea-combing him and the others just to make sure there are no insects on him. I gave him a bath which made him soft and silky but didn't stop his scratching. Three of the four boys in the back have this and a couple of the house cats are showing signs of a milder form of the same thing.

I am leaning now toward an allergic reaction of some sort. I started feeding Felidae dry food about two months ago, and I also started using scented fabric softener about the same time. I think I will re-wash the cat bedding without any extras in the wash and see if that helps.

I suspect I will need to haul Pickle's poor scabby ass into the vet to get a reliable diagnosis. I feel guilty doing that because the vet clinic is short-staffed and some folks in town are waiting a week or more for an appointment but for some reason they always try to get me in the day I call. I guess I should be flattered. I wonder if it is because they 1) know we have deep pockets, 2) know I don't usually bother them about trivial stuff or 3) know we are very steady customers. I just don't like jumping ahead of others who are waiting with what may be more serious problems.


Monday, June 27, 2005

Chicken-Flavored Prozac

That's our next weapon in our efforts to integrate Frannie into the household.

I ran Clarence into the vet clinic today to have his latest wounds examined. He is healing without infection so far but I told the doctor that we have to find some solution to the problem of Frannie's stalking of Clarence or we will have to get rid of Frannie. I am just not going to spend the next fifteen years running Clarence to the vet every few weeks. I got several Valium to mellow Frannie out while they look for a more permanent solution to her aggression. In the mean time, I am keeping her totally out of any area that Clarence has access to. She tolerates being in the back room with the boys, so that's where she's been spending her days.

Saturday, June 11, 2005


I felt a bit better after talking to Denny last night, though my thoughts were still distracted by Lena's absence. I trusted to her unfailing equinimity to see her through a night in strange surroundings and hoped that I wasn't forced to leave her at the clinic until Monday.

Despite my usual lofty plans to get something done after work, I ended up going to bed about a quarter to eleven. I shut Frannie in with BeBe and left Pickle in with his bros, hoping that if he felt the need for comfort in Frannie's absence, Clarence would feel free to crawl in with us on the bed. He came by briefly to visit but spent the night with his sisters in the kitty condo.

When I woke at six-ish, I could hear Frannie crying downstairs. Deciding to have pity on her, I went down and let her out. Clarence chose that time to make a dash for upstairs so Frannie was sort of de facto chasing him, though I don't think that had been her intention. I shouted and waved my arms, successfully distracting her. She ran into the boy's room to wait for me to regain my senses, so I closed the bedroom door to shut her in with us ("us" being the usual bedroom crowd of me, Punkin, Bunny and Dinky) so I could sleep in a bit more without having to break up any skirmishes.

I figured the vet clinic wouldn't call until after nine at the earliest, so I slept in until 8:30 then got up, put BeBe outside in his cage (we really need to build him a cat run this summer) and made coffee. There is always more to do than time to do it. I ended up reading email out on the mezzanine and up-dating my Family History files. Then, about ten-o-clock I decided to call the vet clinic and leave a message--if only to remind them that they had Lena and we missed her. Also, I didn't want to wait until it was too late for me to pick her up if she was to be released today.

I started to leave my message when Ralph picked up the phone. He said he was just about ready to call me so I threw on some clothes and headed down to town to pick up my kitty-girl.

No one answered when I rang the bell, so I tried the front door and found it unlocked. I went in, calling Hello? but got no reply, so wandered back into the work area. Lena was in her carrier sitting on a stainless table. I opened the door and began rubbing her head. She seemed happy to see me, rubbing her face against my hands and purring. I kept rubbing her while Ralph came in and gave me some take-home instructions. On the way home, I opened the carrier and Lena came out and stretched out against me on the seat. I could feel her quiet little purr all the way home.

Friday, June 10, 2005


Newt was very much on my mind today. With thought of her came the sadness and regrets. In the year-and-a-half since she has gone, I have convinced myself that she wasn't ready to go--that she would have preferred to die at home. I berate myself for my decision, wishing I could un-do the past. I worry the heartache like a painful tooth, second- and third-guessing myself and wishing I could have one more chance to live her last day again. Knowing she is forever beyond my reach.

The thing is--I *know* I did the best I could at the time. It's just that I find my thoughts get so muddled by emotion when the end approaches. I know Newt was getting too weak to walk. I know she was collapsing getting in and out of the litterbox. I also know she would have hated being dirty or making messes--she was such a fastidious and competent little cat.


Maybe most of all, I just miss her. We had a special relationship--not as intense as Kisa and not as flamboyant as Punkin, but there was a bond of love and devotion and respect between us. Ah, yes--the love, the thousands of kisses with her hot, busy little tongue on my hands--her fierce purr. She had that quiet intensity--not showy or demanding--just there, solid as the earth beneath my feet.

I guess it surprises me that after all these months, the pain is still so fresh, the grief so keen. I haven't stopped missing her and I can feel my love for her well up from inside, a deep wave of longing and sorrow. I moped around depressed most of the morning and shortly before I left for work, I went out to the greenhouse and picked some violas, then braved the wet horsetails and grasses to visit her grave for a moment. So much love buried in the back lot, all those sad reminders of the ones who have gone on. I dropped a flower on Kisa's grave--forever first in my heart--then put the rest on the stone that marks Newt's resting place.

I know I should be grateful that I had them for how-ever-long, that I shared life and love with them. But this part hurts like hell...


Just as I was about to pick up my keys and walk out the door, the vet clinic called, wondering if I could drop Lena off. I had called about getting an appointment for her--her troubles at "the south pole" have been going on too long and have not responded to our best efforts. I had started to wonder if she had ruptured or abcessed anal glands or some kind of nasty bladder infection. Whatever it is was beyond my skill at diagnosing or treating. The clinic is so busy, I thought I had best get in line for an appointment before too much more time passed. To be allowed to bring her in and drop her off was more than I hoped for. Poor Lena got crammed in a carrier and was out the door before she had time to really react to what was going on. I had about six minutes at the clinic to discuss her situation with the receptionist and then the doctor, then I had to head to work. The question of when I could get her back was left up in the air.

I managed to make it into work on time despite discovering yet another hazard to road navigation--getting behind a student driver. Just when I had thought I had braved everything...

I half-expected to hear from the clinic in the afternoon. I kept calling home and checking to see if they had left a message. I was worried about all the possible bad things that her symptoms might betray. I beat myself up for not taking her in to see the vet sooner--then told myself she hadn't been acting sick--she had been eating good and not vomiting or anything like that. I fretted and worried as the hours stretched into evening, trying to draw comfort from the thought that if she was truly in a bad way, Ralph would have undoubtedly called me by now. Still, I had to resign myself to the idea of leaving her at the clinic overnight.

The prospect of going home without Lena gave me a pang. With so many, you wouldn't think that I would notice one missing but the mother hen in me wants all my babies in one safe place at the end of day. Seperation is physically painful. My longing for Lena that made me call home one more time from my cell in the car, just in case they had left a message, then I drove slowly through the parking lot of the veterinary clinic--just in case--but no one was stirring. Good night, sweet Lena, I thought as I turned the car toward home. I'll come to get you as soon as I can...

I hate going home without one of our kitties...


If anyone had noticed Lena missing at home, they gave no indication. You'd think that as popular as she is with all the youngsters, someone would be craning their necks around corners looking for her. That's okay, I'm missing her enough for everyone.

I went upstairs to change my clothes and saw a brown-gray bulk out back. A moose was stripping the leaves off the young alders growing along the edge of the deck. I walked up to the patio door for a better look and there was a little brown moose calf off to one side, attempting to mimic its mother's action. Barely had this registered than I saw a second baby moose off to the other side of the group, toward the path down to the back yard.

We always seem to have baby moose in the summer, though it seemed early this year. Well, the swallows came back three weeks early--I guess the moose can get a jump on the season as well. I was surprised to see the moose calves munching down on the alder leaves and other greenry; I would have thought they subsisted on milk for the first few months of their lives. But I don't know that much about hooved mammals--at least not as much as I know about felines. I guess it would be in their best interest to learn to eat vegetation as soon as they can.

I used this happy sight as an excuse to call Denny. As I shared the news with him, I suddenly gasped: "The baby moose are eating my flowers!"

One of the little guys had wandered over to the greenhouse area where I had set out some flowers to harden off. As he nuzzled the asters, his twin ambled up to partake as well. Not my flowers! I opened the bedroom window and yelled at them--got their mother's attention but didn't seem to faze the babies.

"You're going to have to move the flowers up on the deck," Denny laughed. Yeah--he can laugh--he doesn't know how much money I sank into flowers this

"That's probably the same moose that had you treed last year," he teased.

"Well, it's not like I'd recognize her," I said.

It's always good to see the first calves of the year, to know our yard is still a safe place for them. I chatted with Denny, watching the moose until their mom rounded them up and started up the hill, probably to bed down for the night up in the trees behind the Harvey's place. Then I said good night to him and went outside to move my poor flowers onto the deck.

There hadn't been as much damage to the flowers as I had feared--perhaps seven or so blossoms gone. Just a vigorous pruning. As I gazed around (have to make sure the moose was really gone) I noticed a rainbow in the clouds off to the east, soft colors against the gray remnants of rainshowers, ultraviolet to infrared.

Somehow, in the half hour I had been home, my sense of loss and my worries for Lena had been eased.

Thursday, January 6, 2005

Clarence and Tommy

We laughed quite a bit this morning at poor Clarence's expense.

I spent a few moments in the big cage with Tommy Boy and as I was coming out, Clarence came into the room--probably en route to the condo (aka the cat porch). I didn't see what exactly happened but I guess he must have finally noticed that there is a Strange Cat in the big cage, because when I turned back to him, his tail was expanded to a truly remarkable extent--I'd never seen such a perfect bottle-brush.

Clarence retreated with that studied decorum of cats--as if his tail wasn't completely giving him away--and preceded me upstairs.

"Denny, check this out!" I called as Clarence started down the hall.

I could hear Denny guffaw and ask what had happened.

Poor Clarence was trying to act nonchalant but with his tail all puffed out, it was impossible to pull it off. We must have laughed at the sight for a good five minutes or so.

Wednesday, January 5, 2005


Just patches of refrozen snow on the ground. The pine siskins have shown up in the past two days. They seems to have either absorbed or displaced the redpolls--the two species are so similar that from a mid-distance it is hard to tell them apart There must be over a hundred birds on the flocks around the house, so I put out a goodly amount of seeds for them every morning.

The cats are most appreciative of the distraction during these quiet winter days, especially Frannie, who--being deaf--is more visually-oriented than the other cats. She spends hours on the window sills watching the activity outside.

Saturday, January 1, 2005

New Year

I still haven't taken the tree down yet though I can't keep Lola penned up much longer. I had gathered the balls of yarn from yesterday and put them in a plastic bucket, but she had found enough balls of yarn to have another macrame surprise for me this morning. I recalled that Newt actually had kicked a couple of the yarn balls out of the crochet box but she only displaced what she needed to make a space to sleep. Newt had much more of a sense of decorum than Lola has--and more than any other cat, Newt seemed to strive to understand what it meant to be a "good kitty", what it was we wanted from her. Lola probably doesn't willfully try to misbehave--she is just too much energy in too small a package. Punkin, on the other hand, has never had *any* interest in being a good kitty. Any attention is better than no attention at all.

Anyway, I emptied the crochet box and sealed its contents in plastic litter pails so Lola will have to find another way to get into deviltry.

The redpolls have shown up en masse over the past week. I thought they were pine siskins until I got a closer look and spotted the distinctive red cap. One news story says they are showing up in town in great numbers because much of their usual wintering area burned this summer. I am keeping plenty of sunflower seed outside. The cats find this most entertaining.