Wednesday, December 27, 2006

Twenty-Eight Cats

One year ago today our thirtieth cat, Fat Sally died.

Then, for three hundred and sixty-five days, we had twenty nine cats.

Today we have twenty-eight. Hard to believe what a hole that twenty-ninth cat leaves in the household. But that is something I will write for myself.

I already know we have passed the zenith of the arc and will never have twenty-nine cats agin. That each year will end with fewer and fewer. That's how it has to be, because I don't want to die leaving dozens of cats needing a care-taker. I owe it to them to see them through their lives safely before I leave mine.

It's just the attrition that's killing me...

Tuesday, December 26, 2006

Gone




Dinky is gone.

It was relatively quick and (I hope) painless. She spent most of the day sleeping in the bed, nestled between two hot water bottles . When I came in from working in the shop, I took her to the litter box, but she just lay down, too weak to stand. That's when I knew it wouldn't be long for her.

I took her back to bed and made a little nest for her, then lay with her, waiting for the end of this life to come for her. She had a very brief spat of crying out -- more in confusion--I pray--than pain, but it passed quickly and she fell into semi-consciousness. Her breathing grew slow and deep. And then, about a quarter-hour after six, she gave a little push against me with her paws and I knew that was it. She was gone.

My sweet, spunky little calico...

I'm going to miss her forever.

But I am glad that the long process that began with the renal failure diagnosis last spring is over and that for her there will be no more needles and no more droppers of medicine. I am glad it was a quick decline for her with no agonized lingering.

And that the last thing she heard was me telling her how much I loved her. She can carry that knowledge into the forever with her, where I trust she waits for me at the end of time.

Monday, December 25, 2006

Christmas Morning

Dinky slept under the covers beside me all night (short as it was for me.) I think we are both comforted by the contact. She's not eating. I got about five mouthfuls down her yesterday afternoon but when I tried to feed her more last night she started gagging. I gave her something to settle her stomach but didn't try to feed her any more. I'll make her some soup this afternoon and try again.

I am conflicted about force-feeding. I don't want our last days to be a series of confrontations over food, but I hate to think that she could be hungry but just be unable--for whatever reason--to eat. Cats always seem to stop eating before they die, as if some internal voice were telling them that they didn't need food any more.

Maybe that's why I am trying to keep Dinky interested in eating, to hold her here a bit longer.

Sunday, December 24, 2006

Dinky

I always know this time is coming and that every one of these cats is going to break my heart eventually.

Dinky has been such a joy to know, it's hard to think of life without her--she takes up considerably more space in our hearts and home than one would expect. I'm glad I can voice my sorrow here without fear of misunderstanding but I don't want to get wrapped up in it. After all, she is still with us and I shouldn't be whining about the inevitable future--I need to focus on the moment and enjoy the love we share today.

She's not feeling good and she doesn't seem to be eating much, if at all. I gave her vitamins and a small amount of baby food this morning. I know her mouth is sore and hope the antibiotic will heal it enough that she will feel like eating. There's not much else we can do but keep her as comfortable as we can.

I know she enjoys being home with us--which is why she's not going to spend another night at the clinic. She's come home to die but it is home just the same--our circle of love that encloses her.

Saturday, December 23, 2006

Home

10 degrees, overcast
16 inches of snow on the ground

Denny picked up Dinky from the vet clinic yesterday afternoon while I was at work. There is a big circle of happiness completed by having her at home.

She had pink streaks of amoxicillin on her face and throat and a polka-dot bandage wrapped around one leg where they had shaved her to administer fluids. I cut off the bandage, washed her face and combed out as much of the hardened antibiotic syrup as I could. It took her a while to relax and accept the fact that she was at home. She slept curled up next to me all night long, not moving from the bed until this morning.

Denny was told that her blood values--which had been elevated from normal by a factor of ten--had been lower by half yesterday afternoon. I don't know if that means she still has some kidney function or if the flushing out of toxins was working. I just hope it means that she is feeling better.

I doubt that I will put her through hospitalization again. The IV-fluid therapy may have helped but I know the stress of being away from home didn't. If I can double up on her fluids at home and maintain similar numbers, I know she will do much better. There's the adage, "Treat the cat, not the numbers," and I know the boost of being home and comforted has to weigh in for something in the equation.

Friday, December 22, 2006

17 degrees, overcast
Strong northerly winds
16 inches of snow on the ground

I’m having a hard time getting into the holiday spirit this year.

This should have been a week of relaxing and enjoying the season. I had my cards in the mail, Denny is home for the holidays... Instead, I’m feeling like a Grinch and all the over-the-top gaiety grates on my nerves.

The main downer is that I know this is Dinky’s last Christmas with us. My thoughts dwell on those other dear souls who left us in the dark of winter...Sparky, Johnny, Newt, poor Fat Sally.

I think about the dire straits Dinky and Sparky were in twelve years ago. Christmas for them that year—their first winter—was spent cold and hungry, abandoned by the people they had depended on for food and shelter all their brief lives. It was one of the last days in December when they were brought into the Shelter. In my heart, I bless the gruff man who rescued them, who gave enough of a damn not to just leave them to freeze or starve as their “owners” had done. If not for him, I never would have had the chance to know Dinky and Sparky, two cats whose sweetness was undeterred by harsh circumstances.

So if I can milk one good thing out of this sadness, it is that Dinky will not die cold, hungry and alone.

Thursday, December 21, 2006

Bad News

20 degrees, partly cloudy
16 inches of snow on the ground

Well, the news from the vet is not good concerning Dinky…

They were unable to get her kidney values down even with IV fluids, so it would seem that she has lost all her kidney function and her time is very limited now.

I had such hope that she would be able to hold this inevitability at bay for a while longer. But would there ever be a good time to say goodbye to a cat like Dinky?

Tomorrow we will bring her home for this little space of time we have left.

I’m just sorry that there is nothing we can do to hang on to her. This disease will take everything from her before the end--everything but that little heart so full of love and the mind as quick as mercury.

I will fight to keep her comfortable as long as possible. I hope I don’t give up too soon. I hope I don’t hang on too long.

I know that is the last gift I can give her but I don’t want to do it. I want her to die in her sleep curled up in my arms, where she has slept for so many nights. I want her to carry happy dreams and a sense of love and security into eternity…

Damn it all.

So, tonight, for comfort, I am holding close the realities of the lives I have saved, even if only for a while. I guess all we can manage is a little while, and then we have to let go. I am so very glad I brought Dinky and Sparky home twelve years ago. And of course, Punkin, who is my comfort and constant companion.

Dinky has been such a special cat to me. These coming weeks are hard to face.

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

26 degrees, windy, fine snow
17 inches of snow on the ground

Dinky is spending the next two nights at the veterinary hospital.

I took her in to see the doctor this morning to get a blood check on her kidney values. They had been dropping ever since she was diagnosed. But we didn't check them in November and she's been acting a little quiet the past two weeks, so I thought a re-check wouldn't be out of line.

Her values were all through-the-roof elevated.

The vet wants to keep her a couple of days to try and "flush her out" with IV fluids, then she'll come home for us to treat with more sub-Q fluids. She is still bright and active but I know this means her disease is moving to a new phase--a phase closer to the final one.

Damn it.

I know what you may be thinking, She has so many--what's the big heart-ache over one?

The sad truth is that the cats that we are the most likely to lose are those who have been with us the longest.

Dinky's been with us almost twelve years now--the dirty, starving, half-grown cat who was brought to the Animal Shelter in deep winter. She and her brother, Sparky.

Sparky died just before Christmas in 1998 and I have clung to the sweetest of his memory as I held on to Dinky.

She has been a wonderful cat, a great companion, and I am trying hard to muster gratitude for her presence in my life out of the heaviness that is in my heart.

Saturday, December 16, 2006

18 degrees, overcast
12 inches of snow on the ground

I'm concerned about Dinky. She has been uncommonly subdued for the past four or five days. I fear her kidney problems may be catching up with her. She was doing so well for so long, I let myself believe that she was going to "get over" it somehow. I have to face the reality of her condition. I made an appointment for a vet-check for her next week to see how her kidney values are doing. Maybe there is something we can do to make her feel better.

I noticed last night that Punkin and one or two of the others are a bit congested, so it's likely there's a cold going around. Maybe that is why Dink is feeling low. I need to be more careful about changing clothes when I come back from the Animal Shelter. I didn't worry too much when all the cats were younger, but as they age, I should be more vigilant about bringing home germs.

I bought some dry food for Frieda that is formulated for a sensitive gut. We will see if that helps with her digestive disorder. Exploratory surgery is one way of determining just what type of inflammatory bowel disease she may have but that seems a harsh diagnostic process for a fifteen-year-old cat. She hasn't responded to the medications that treat the two of the types, so that pretty much points to the third option--food allergy.

Thursday, December 14, 2006

Lucy

I had a dream that our Lucy Sue was walking down the hall to jump up on the bed next to her sister, Cissy. Even though it was a dream, I was happy to see Lucy again. She was such a loving and wonderful cat.

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Monday, December 11, 2006

Punkin

28 degrees, clearing
three inches of snow on the ground.

Punkin is my darling.... Since she came to live with us at such a young age, I think she actually believes that I am her mother. The force of her conviction has convinced the other cats as well--no one has disputed her right to be Queen since she took on the role upon the death of Whiskers in 1999.

She is mostly a hands-off ruler, content to claim the best sleeping spot (which she will share with the blind kitty) and first shot at my attention, letting the minions dicker over their own petty roles. She walks through the daily hub-bub of the House of Many Cats with her confidence as her shield, taking little notice of the underlings.

She reserves her focus for the people in her life, Denny and me. She lights up when we call her name, eyes alive with intelligence and affection. It was the smallest quirk of fate that brought us together--but we have formed a bond so deep that it seems as if we were fated to meet.

Sunday, December 10, 2006

Grendel

We have made some progress with Grendel this year.

After years of basically letting her be, we became more intrusive this year--probably as a result of Fat Sally's death. We didn't want any hidden health problems to crop up when it was too late for us to do anything for her, so Grendel got hauled to the vet several times this year.

She is passive for a feral. She will let me pet her if she can't escape but then will sneak off to a new hidey--hole soon after. Catching her to take her to the vet has become progressively less traumatic though we still have to corner her and stuff her into a carrier against her efforts to escape. But then, there are several nominally "tame" cats that have to be treated like that, so I'm not holding that against her.

Grendel has to be about eleven or twelve now--a round-bodied tortoiseshell with golden eyes. She is virtually invisible most of the time. She and Skinny (aka Star) have a large cardboard box hideaway in the corner of our main upstairs room. If the house is quiet--after I go to work or town or after bedtime at night--Grendel comes out of her den and will go downstairs to sleep on the bed of the spare room, desirable because of the access to the outside cat condo from there. When the weather is fine, she likes to sit out in the condo and watch the birds and take in some sun.

Her fear of us is slowly eroding. She watches us warily if we enter the room when she is exposed on the bed, but doesn't run for cover every time she sees us. I try to peek into her den and say "Hi" frequently, just so she will get used to our attention. It's a quiet life but she seems happy, with shelter and companionship and a steady supply of food. I hope some day I will wake up to find her sleeping on the foot of my bed, but if that never happens, I will still feel we have done okay by her.

Saturday, December 9, 2006

Update

Dinky has been a real shit about taking her fluids lately. I massaged her shoulders and she doesn't seem to have any inflammation there that would account for her attitude. Maybe it's just too much for too long as far as she is concerned.

She saw me warming the bag of fluids this morning and split. It took me about half an hour to find her, wedged in the back of the pantry. I have to be so careful when I start preparing the fluids or else I find myself extricating her from the most inaccessible location she can find.

I started Frieda on acidophilus yesterday. All I could find were tablets, so I cut them in half and ground them up to mix in her baby food along with the slippery elm. She seems to be doing no worse off her meds than she was doing on them. Maybe I will give her gut some time to regroup before resuming the antibiotic. She had been on it for a month already.

Cissy has bounced back from her cold and is her old self again.

Tommy is quietly blooming under the additional attention he has received since his seizures and seems to be feeling quite well. The blood work showed that his glucose levels were fairly well-controlled in the month before his seizure.

Since I hadn't been giving him insulin up until a week prior to his reaction, I am wondering if he really needs it or if his diagnosis was based on the slight elevation of glucose levels that all the cats seem to get under the stress of a vet visit. I will get him rechecked in a few weeks to see how he is doing but right now the risk of overdosing him on insulin seems greater than the risk that he's going to lapse into diabetic coma.

Friday, December 8, 2006

Clarence & Lola

Tonight I am thinking of that wisp of a cat, our Lola.

If not for Denny and I, she would have grown up wild in the forest to a short, harsh life. Now she lords it over the Boys in the Back, a perfect little princess of a cat.

In some ways, Lola is reminiscent of Newt—another small, quick, silky black cat. But Lola is quicksilver where Newt was steady. There are aspects of her personality that recall Dinky, but as of yet, she hasn’t shown the heart that Dinky has. But these are not shortcomings—Lola is just what she is, a quick and quick-witted creature who is still finding a way to be our kitty.

Lola and her brother Clarence are blessed among our cats. Born in the early summer, they have never known what it is to scramble for survival in winter’s cold and dark. The most traumatic event of their young lives was also the greatest blessing--when they were trapped by us and given passage into the world of humans.

Clarence has adjusted to life in the back (with the Boys in the Back) remarkably well. I felt badly for him, that first week or so after his banishment. But it was so liberating not to have to search the house each morning to find where he has sprayed, to deal with the laundry and cleaning and deodorizing, and resenting him for it.

And--as often happens-- having found his niche in the back rooms, he seems to have stopped spraying—-or slowed way down on it. He has gone from being Lena’s timid shadow to being one of the dominant personalities in the back.

He’s bulked up a bit, too--not growing fat but more sturdy. His new contours echo Bart’s blocky body and it no longer seems odd to think that they are father and son.

Gone is the dirty-white kitten who bolted from me that first day, the first time we realized that we had kittens eating on our porch.

His smudged features have darkened into red-gold points and his pale body taken on that golden cast that flame-point cat acquire. He retains a pantherine grace that suggests the wildness of his youngest days, but he loves to be stroked, pressing against our hands with a decidedly non-feral urgency.

I think in time he will mellow to the point where we can let him come back into the main body of the house.

But cats are creatures of habit above almost anything else, and the Boys in the Back have formed their own stable and happy social group. Pickle Boy still moves between both worlds, as does Lola on occasion. Bart and Punkin visit the back rooms but rarely stay for more than a quarter hour or so.

Clarence may choose being a dominant cat in his small domain over being one of the lesser cats in a larger one.

Thursday, December 7, 2006

Our Tabby Girls

38 degrees, occasional rain
3 inches of wet snow/slush on the ground.

I surely enjoy Molly, a brown tabby of indeterminate age. She is such a pleasure to hold--round and soft and full of pleasant noises. She is a "hummer," who comments on most any occurrence with a short "Prrt" sound and reacts to physical contact with her persistent purr.

Her life has improved quite a bit since the winter she spent sleeping in the woodpile of a summer cabin and scrounging for food where she could find it. She found it mostly at our house, but being skittish, she never let me approach too closely. All we could do for her was make sure that food was left out for her and watch and worry over her.

A deep snowfall forced me into action. When I went out to leave her food that night, I saw her tracks, weaving from side to side in our driveway and realized that she was looking for a path through the two-foot deep snow cover--and that she was wearing herself out trudging through the snow.

I followed her tracks to the carport next to the house, where she was huddled underneath a boat. I set the food down and while she was eating, I edged close enough to grab her--that desperate hold that knew there would be no second chance. I had her inside before either of us could draw two breaths.

I don't know much about Molly's life before she was abandoned. Someone had cared enough about her to raise her and feed her and have her spayed. But she was been living on her own for months, and some time before she came to live with us, someone had made her fear people and flinch from contact. At some point, two of her canine teeth had been broken--had she been hit by a car or by a human being?

It literally took us years--a decade--to overcome her fearfulness. That she comes to us when we call her and greets us with joy may mean that she has finally forgotten the hard life and the times before...

~*~*~


I guess Maggie is about seven or eight years old.

She started her life in a neighborhood of Anchorage known as Muldoon and enters on the scene as an abandoned cat, a young mother who was raising her kittens under a trailer in a mobile home park where my brother and his family was living. My sister-in-law and nieces took pity on the poor cat and rescued her and her kittens. The kittens had no trouble finding new homes but, as is so often the case, an adult cat without the benefit of kitten-cuteness is not as sought-after as a pet.

So my brother's family kept "Momma Cat" as their own.

A year or two passed and the family was moving out-of-state. So--you guessed it--we took in "Momma Cat." I met her for the first time when Denny pulled into the driveway with the fluffy tabby cat sitting on the front seat of his pick-up truck. She looked very composed for a cat who had just had a 220-miles road trip. That quiet self-composure is a hallmark of the cat we re-named "Maggie."

Maggie is a great cat. She doesn't pick fights or force her attentions on people. She is smart and pays attention and tries so hard to understand what we ask of her that she reminds me of Newt in that respect. Her fierce little Persian-type face makes her look forbidding but it masks a sweet and compliant personality that any cat-owner would cherish. I am glad the long road from Muldoon ended at our house.

She lives in the shop right now and I can't recall quite how that happened except that there were strong personalities involved and she was being terrorized by one or more of the established house cats. Moving her into the shop seemed the best solution for all concerned at the time. The dynamic in the house seems to have mellowed lately, and we are slowly trying to reintroduce her into the household social group. As she is a very low-profile kitty, I am optimistic that she can find a place in time.

She has a happy life in the shop--sitting in the window or outside in the cat run, sunning herself or looking for errant shrews in the straw carpet of the cat run. Like many of the more self-effacing cats, she doesn't demand attention but I suspect she would enjoy having more.

~*~*~

It is a mystery to me why Snickers was left to languish at the Animal Shelter while her two siblings found a home.

I knew from the first time I met her that Snickers was an exceptional cat. She had life and personality and a way of looking you directly in the eye when she spoke to you. I marked her as special, taking an interest in her and hoping every week when I went in to volunteer at the Shelter that she would have found a good home.

I guess eventually she *did* find a good home. Ours.

I was really trying to hold the line against gaining more cats but every now and then one comes along that you can't close out of your heart. I cared about the shaggy earth-toned tabby and worried about her fate. As I dithered about whether I could possibly squeeze her into the House of Many Cats, she contracted a bad case of cat flu.

It was difficult, in the ramshackle conditions at the old Animal Shelter, to keep the animals all healthy. One sick cat coming into the small cat shed could spread an air-borne virus overnight and there weren't any decent facilities for quarantine. Serious illness usually meant euthanasia.

When I showed up for my volunteer day, Snickers' cage was empty.

I was afraid to ask what had become of her, though I peered into the crowded supply room and the office area to see if she was in isolation there. I couldn't find her and went through the day with a sad heart, wishing I had been able to save her. I knew too well the realities that made it so hard to save sick cats, especially when there weren't enough homes for the healthy ones, but I knew I would hold the memory of the out-going tabby close to my heart for a long time.

That evening, as I passed the Shelter on my way home from work, I remembered that I hadn't checked in the bathroom. The small but warm room frequently had to stand-in as an isolation area. Maybe, just maybe, Snickers had been put in there...

I heard her miserable meow as I unlocked the bathroom door. She was there--nestled next to the space heater but too sick to do more than raise her head when I came in. With her eyes gummed up and her nose clogged, she looked pretty sad. But she was alive and I felt as if I had been given a second chance to save her. Without really thinking, I bundled her up, put her in the truck, and took her home for personalized nursing.

Despite being young and strong, Snickers almost didn't make it. It took several vet visits, days of force-feeding and subcutaneous fluid therapy before she started to make signs that she was interested in living. And when you fight so hard for the life of a cat, it is very hard to put them up for adoption. I guess it is true that when you save a life, you become responsible for it.

Snickers was ours because I couldn't bear to lose her again.

She is a wonderful cat. At least all the people who know her agree with that. For some reason, most of the cats that know her well find her insufferable. Maybe they think she is an incorrigible suck-up. She isn't confrontational but she doesn't back down from defending herself and she is good at it. Anyone who tries to violate her personal space can end up with scratches while she is unmarked. She may not be well-liked by her peers, but she is respected.

She radiates self-confidence and a joy of life that give me a warm feeling when I look at her. It is obvious that whoever gave her up for adoption was not a connoisseur of cats, because she is a treasure among felines.

Cissy

36 degrees, overcast
rainy, windy
3 inches of old snow on the ground

Cissy is the other of Demi's surviving kittens. Strange to think of her and Frieda as kittens when they are fifteen years old but there is a wealth of emotion encompassed in the designation "kitten". There is something special about knowing someone their entire life. I was the first human to touch them (and will undoubtedly be the last.) Frieda and Cissy (along with a handful of those we adopted as very young kittens) go through life with a sense of confident entitlement born--no doubt--from never having to scramble for shelter or scrounge for food.

They have only known love and security, and it shows. Cissy is a friendly, talkative cat who loves to be held and adores being combed. She is less assertive than her sister but has been known to insist on respect from those cats who joined our family after her. In any confrontation, she knows she can count on Frieda to back her up.

But by and large, Cissy's joys in life are the simple ones--sunning in the cat run, hunting for voles and shrews and savoring fresh grass in the spring and summer. In the winter, she sleeps snuggled up to the warm and fluffy Toby John and Tommy on the sheepskin bed in the middle of the shop.

Wednesday, December 6, 2006

Frieda

She is fifteen now, my little red tabby girl, Frieda. She still is the dominant personality among the cats in the shop. Judging from my very limited experience, orange female cats seem to have dominant-type personalities.

Only about 20% of red/orange cats are females. There is a reason the phrase "ginger tom" rolls off the tongue. Genetically-speaking, the feline world produces black or red tabby males and tortoiseshell or calico females in abundance. And every now and then, red tabby females.

Like her coat, Frieda is a firebrand--stubborn, assertive, protective of her family and courageous in the face of threats. In her youth, when she was allowed access to the outdoors, she stalked spruce grouse, chased off intruding dogs and challenged eagles and owls who came too close. I fear unrestrained, she would have had a brief but exciting life.

Now settled into retirement in the shop, she is the Queen. Any disturbance (if she doesn't initiate it) will draw her attention. Any threat to her mother or sister will draw her wrath. She oversees her domain with a no-nonsense air about her, emphasized by her short, upright tail, like a little exclamation mark.

She may be fifteen years old, but no one messes with Frieda.

Monday, December 4, 2006

Twenty-Nine Cats

No one sets out to have twenty-nine cats.


They just happen, one cat at a time. Johnny was an abandoned two-month old. Newt was in a box of kittens outside the grocery store. Toby (the first) was struggling to survive in zero-degree temperatures at the town dump. Fred was subsistence-living in our woods... Just single little lives in need of shelter. One by one, like individual pearls on a string, we added them to our life.


I have thought a lot about Demi lately. The first few years that she lived with us, she was genially ignored, overshadowed by the cuteness of her kittens. She is not a pushy cat and never demanded attention, but I have memories of her following me on my treks through the woods, happy to keep me company.


From the first, she has been out-going and friendly. Abandoned by her original owners and expecting kittens, she discovered the dish of cat food I kept out under one of the vans and must have clung tightly to a steady source of food. One morning when I went out to fill the dish, she popped out from under the vehicle, looked up at me and said hello.


I brought her inside and set her up in the shop with bedding and a litterbox. Gradually over the next week, she worked her way into the house and up to the bedroom. Two weeks after we met, she gave birth to six kittens in a nest box I had set up for her in the back room. Frieda, Cissy, Lucy and their siblings entered our life.


Inobtrusive and self-contained, Demi is a member of our household who rarely demands or receives special attention. She was and is content to have a warm, safe place to sleep, regular meals and occasional cuddling, but time has brought to us a greater appreciation of the little polka-dotted calico with her unfailing affection. She slipped into our routine with barely a ripple but she is a comforting presence in our daily lives.

Sunday, December 3, 2006

Fred is the cat who has lived with us the longest, joining our household in the early winter of 1990. He is an easy-going, friendly cat who enjoys being with people. He has to be at least seventeen years old--possibly as old as nineteen. At this point in his life, he is a skinny old man of a cat, wiry and spry. He has a notch on one ear, a last souvenier from Wild Red, the feral cat who fathered Frieda and Cissy and who used to make life interesting for Fred back in the days when he was allowed free access to the outdoors.


Now Fred's world has shrunk to the shop and the second-floor mezzanine, which he shares with Twitch and occasionally Cissy. He spends most of his time napping in the laundry baskets or on the spare bed. With his advanced age, he carries a feline dignity that spares him from the petty byzantine bickering of cat society. Where he was once a target for casual abuse by the other cats, time has mellowed their attitude toward him and he can pretty much do as he pleases and go where he wants.


He still enjoys sitting in the outside cat run and watching the world go by. I doubt he recalls the winter he lived in the forest behind our house and only came to us for food and affection. The year after he came to live with us, Demi showed up and her kittens were born here. Every other cat who joined our family found Fred here first, ready to accept them into our household without prejudice or rancor.


In the sunset years of his life, we appreciate his love and unfailing good-humor and are glad that fate brought him, an abandoned young cat to our door so many years ago.

Saturday, December 2, 2006


I have cut back on Frieda's medications quite a bit, since they haven't really done anything to cure her symptoms. I am trying slippery elm and yogurt to soothe her gut now, and tempting her palate with ground chicken and special treats. She can go back to the vet in a couple weeks to see what else we can come up with for her. Poor kitty. I sure love that hard-headed girl.


Tommy, on the other hand--Tommy who looked so close to death just over a week ago--is walking around the shop like he couldn't be in finer health. The best guess is that he went into insulin shock. Due to the long-acting qualities of feline insulin, it effected him for nearly two days. He seems fully recovered, though he now prefers the bed we made him on the shop floor to the communal bed he shared with Toby and Cissy. Always a quiet cat, he is relishing the extra attention we give him now.

Friday, December 1, 2006

Bart

After all these years, I still don't understand the minds of cats. They are a mystery wrapped in velvet.

Bart is a particular enigma.

I don't recall exactly when he started eating from our porch--we have had a series of stray cats show up over the years. So many of them have been black and there was no particular reason to remember him at the time.

It was as if he made a decision, in the summer of 2005, to try to trust us. By that point, we had trapped his family and moved them to other homes. Clarence and Lola remained with us. His other companion, Star (aka Skinny), had moved inside a year before. It could have been that he was lonely and wanted to be with the other cats.

He moved his feeding spot from the front porch to the back deck, where he could look into the house through the patio doors. When fall came, Denny built him a small shelter so he could look into the house and eat without having to sit in the rain. He would still hiss and move away from us when we put his food outside, but his retreat was shorter and shorter as time progressed.

Finally, one day, I propped the door of the cat run open and put some catnip inside to lure him in. In a matter of minutes, he was trapped and his life outside was over.

He is an unexpected cat. His wildness has fallen away, leaving a devoted cat who loves to be petted and twines between our legs when we walk. He grew up with people. People who apparently didn't mistreat him, for he is trusting and loving.

So what led him to be living in the woods, with a deep mistrust of humans that had me convinced at one point that he was "hopelessly feral?" And having reached that point, what made him decide we might be trusted? Was it the way we treated our cats? Could he see that Clarence, Lola and Skinny were happy and well-fed, part of a feline community?

That is Bart's secret. I'm just glad he made his choice to join us.

Tuesday, November 7, 2006

Up earlier than I wanted because BeBe and Punkin had dental appointments at the vet clinic this morning. Oh joy--how I love getting up early on my day off...


Also, since those two had to fast after midnight, I picked up all the food in the house and the natives were getting a bit restless by seven this morning. So I got up, made some coffee, got dressed and put BeBe and Punkin the their carriers and then put the food back down--to the delight of Slippers et al.


At least Punkin and Beebs aren't the most vocal of our cats, so the drive down to town wasn't filled with nerve-wracking complaints from the back seat. It is hard to concentrate on driving when you are trying to comfort a distressed cat. Punkin has been on the trip often enough that she doesn't seem too stressed out by it. She almost seems to enjoy the change of scenery and having all those people make a fuss over her. Bebe gets out so rarely that he wasn't sure exactly what was happening.


The new vet, Dr. Craig, was meeting Punkin and Bebe for the first time, so we spent a little extra time going over my concerns with Punkin's wheezing and limping. Bebe, although he hasn't been to see the vet in seveal years, is basically a healthy young cat.


We went back into town about three for a vet appointment for Tiny and Frieda and to pick up the dental patients, so we took the Suburban to hold all the cat carriers.


I wasn't too optimistic about Frieda. She has been losing weight and having trouble keeping her food down and for some reason--probably because her family has a history of tumor growing--I was sure she had cancer. But when I described her symptoms and Dots examined her, she seems to think Frieda may be suffering from irritable bowel symdrome. I felt glad about the diagnosis, though, because that is more treatable than cancer. Tiny has--as I suspected--a bad mouth infection but her pain-management seems to be holding well. So we came out of the vet's office with four cats and courses of medications for all of them. Punk and Beebs will just be on post-dental antibiotics but Frieda and Tiny are starting prednesone and antibiotics, plus an anti-nausea drug and Vitamin B-12 for Frieda.

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

Tuesday, May 9, 2006

Black Cats

I have been thinking about black cats lately--probably because I have four of them. There seems to be a large number of black cats among the stray cat population. Maybe that is because there just are more black cats to begin with--second only to tabbies in number. Maybe black cats are better suited to survive the perils of homelessness, for they have come through the hard centuries as survivors.

Those who study such things believe that the earliest domesticated cats were the ubiquitous tabbies. Indeed, tabbiness is ingrained so deeply into a cat's genes that breeders of designer varieties of cats despair at breeding out striped-ness. Mother Nature loves her tabbies.

Evidence suggests that the very first variation on the stripey-cat theme was the mutation that left the coat solid black. Just as some leopards are born black, there must have been the occasional all-black kitten in the ancient litters of proto-cats. As cats became domesticated, these kittens were no doubt viewed as special and treasured for their rarity.

Well, we all know that eventually the human race went through a period of superstition and madness and black cats came to be viewed as demonic or ill-favored. As far as I can tell from my own experience, black cats are only unlucky if you happen to be one--finding yourself the target of every manner of indignity from neglect to barbarous cruelty.

The black cats of today, descendants of the revered and maligned, are friendly, practical companions. Judging from my own small sample, Houdini, Skinny, Bart and Lola each came in from the cold world of the stray or feral and are wary of people they don't know, though affectionate enough with us. Only Little Miss Newt knew love all her life. She was less shy--I couldn't say she was out-going but she accepted visitors.

And then there is Raider.

Raider is what Barbara Holland described as "one of those black cats." You know what she means--those cats who--without having a single trace of "oriental" blood in their lineage, still exude a sense of being Siamese. The first time I read her description, I knew exactly what she meant. I had run across "those black cats" from time to time and, more recently, I have known Raider. Raider is a huge, chunky cat, but there is something about his piercing eyes and his out-going, vocal personality that puts one in mind of the round-headed Siamese cats of the mid-20th century.

Only in the past few month have I puzzled out a possible explanation for these seeming enigmas. I discovered that what we call the "Siamese" or "colorpoint" gene is a mutation that limits the expression of color in a cat's coat to the cooler portions of its body. And that a--say--seal-point Siamese is actually a genetically black cat with the Siamese gene. Since seal-point is probably the original expression of the Siamese/color-point gene, I suspect the original Siamese mutation arose in a population of black cats. So what we think of as the "Siamese" personality may well have been present in a population of all-black cats that were the source of a collection of traits we have come to associate with the colorpoint cats of southwestern Asia. And if the occasional solid black cat reveals something in his personality that whispers of the exotic Siamese, it may just be a sign that the source of "Siamese-ness" is still buried in the core of the black cat.

Friday, May 5, 2006

Twitch

Twitch is not a nice cat.

It's not his fault. I am sure he started out a sweet little kitten just like any cat, but whoever had him before he found himself outside looking for shelter last fall, they did a number on his head. I mean, you can just tell he is used to being roughly handled and hit--he is short-tempered and always ready to defend himself. He can be pleasant enough around Denny and me--but it is not a pleasantness that I trust. At any time he might take it into his head to lash out or bite. And he remains aggressive toward the other cats--most of them senior citizens who don't need his attitude.

I am afraid he is going to eventually have to take that one-way trip to the vet, and I don't want to have to do that to him, but he isn't a cat you can hand off to some other unsuspecting stranger. He is unadoptable.

So, we are trying a new approach for him. Now that it is warmer, we are going to put him outside during the day--starting with a few hours and building up to how ever long he wants, hoping that it will help mellow him out. I know it could be a modified death sentence, that we are risking that one day he just may not come home--but he is a young cat and cannot spend the rest of his life in a cage.

So, I bought him a collar and we have let him outside.

The first time, he was hesitant and needed to be reassured that he would be let back inside. Understandable. He was probably put outside and left there at his last home. The next day, he seemed more prone to explore, still sticking close to the house and coming when we called him.

I just hope it helps him.

Tuesday, May 2, 2006

Toby John

Well, we started Toby John on insulin last Wednesday.

I have to say, if you are gonna be a diabetic, it is better to be a feline one. His treatment thus far has been blissfully simple.

He gets one insulin injection--under the skin on his back with a real fine needle--once a day. I do it in the morning, when I feed him some breakfast. In just the seven days he has been receiving treatment, I have seen a change in him. It is plain that he is feeling better--he is perkier and more active and there is something in his eyes--a brightness--that was missing before.

My only regret was my fear to start treating him sooner. But we are there now and we are making it work.

Saturday, April 29, 2006

Just A Quick Update...

..not because anything exciting has happened. Just because it's been a long time.

Denny has been keeping the wood stove going for Tiny. She prefers to sleep downstairs and without the wood stove, it can get cold down there at night. She's not doing all that well and I don't know how else we can help her. I eased her pain-med dosage up to the maximum that was suggested and now have split it into a morning and an evening dose, in the hope that will make her life more pleasant.

Toby is now on insulin for his diabetes. I started him this past week and have already seen an improvement in him--he's perkier and seems to be feeling better. I didn't know cat diabetics were so easy to handle--just a once-daily injection under the skin with a very fine needle. Hardly any work at all.

Now that Dinky has had her teeth cleaned, she is off the antibiotic, so all I am doing for her these days is the daily sub-Q fluids and a couple of dropperfuls of vitamins. I read webpages and support groups for CRF cats and there are long lists of drugs and medications to lower blood pressure and bind phosphorus and quell stomach acid. It seems like I should be doing more. But Dinky is looking and acting so normal, there really isn't much to treat right now. We are hoping the dental work she had done will help with her blood values. We will see how we stand next month.

Thursday, April 20, 2006

Medical Concerns

I took Dinky and Toby John into the vet's this morning for their teeth cleaning. About an hour after I got back home, Dots called. I always shudder when that happens because I know it probably isn't good news. But this wasn't something I didn't know. "Toby John's diabetic..." "Well, I knew that--we've been trying to keep him controlled by diet..." Not very well, I discovered. His blood values were very high and Dots wants to get him stabilized (using insulin) as soon as we can. I have no objection to any of that. I was just disappointed because I had thought he was doing okay with the way we were approaching the problem. Also, I felt badly because I hadn't noticed the little infections--his eyes and gums for example--that would have told me there was something going on with him that wasn't right. It was just easier to think because he seemed to be doing fine that he was--in fact--doing fine.

In addition to that, he had to have some teeth pulled--better out than in--including two canines. That they were diseased/infected/worn enough to warrant pulling makes me hope that their absence will make TJ feel better, once he gets over the initial discomfort. Dinky lost a couple pre-molars as well, poor little thing, but I am hoping that having dealt with the infection in her mouth, her blood values may improve a bit with the next check. She is looking and acting so good it is hard for me to really believe in my heart that she is all that ill. It is something I know intellectually but a part of me keeps hoping that it will all turn out to be a mistake.

Anyway, I met Denny at the vet clinic this afternoon when he went to pick them up. I wanted to hear for myself what had been done and what Dots recommended. I took a half-hour off from work to run over there, then spent the rest of my shift on the 'net. I read some info on feline diabetes and I think I can manage the shots and the monitoring. It's not like I am breaking any new ground here. Feline diabetes has been around for a while and there is a lot of information available. What I wonder about is how I can manage Dinky and TJ and whoever comes next with some serious health issue. I know I will muddle through somehow--it's just more subtle stress on me.

Saturday, April 1, 2006

April Fools!

I spent the morning tending the cats--Dinky's medicines and fluids, Tiny's pain medication, the antibiotics for Demi and Molly and Fred and treating various ears for persistent yeast cultures. That was all in between cleaning all eighteen cat boxes and making sure that BeBe and Twitch had time out of their respective confines.

Oh, and I trimmed a little bit on Tommy, who came out of the winter as one huge mass of matted fur; the result of a sedentary lifestyle and his own reluctance to groom himself. It was a case for the clippers, so now--aside from a mohawk of hair down the middle of his back, he is mostly crew-cut save his head and tail (and a few last patches on his underside.) He actually relished being cut free from the confining fur garment--stretching and turning to allow me to work the mats loose. Odd that he should be so matted when Toby John, who spent the entire winter bedded down beside Tommy, is perfectly groomed as always.

Such is my exciting life.

Wednesday, March 22, 2006

Dinky's Check-Up


Well, it's been a month since we started treating Dinky's kidney condition. I took her in to the vet clinic yesterday for a check up and follow-up blood work. The good news is that she has gained 5.6 ounces back and her hemocrit--a measure of anemia--was up from 28.5 last month to 32 this month, which puts it into the very low end of normal.


Her urine specific gravity was 1.015. (We hadn't tested that last month) It's a measure of how well her kidneys are concentrating her urine, and the normal range is 1.025 to 1.060, though one source listed 1.015 as the low end of the normal range. Typical CRF cats run 1.010 or less.

The rest of her numbers showed a slight movement down but nothing dramatic. Her phosphorus had been in the normal range (high) and now is right smack dab in the middle of normal. Her BUN was still high, down from 78 to 76. The same story with the creatinine, down to 5.3 from 7.4. Dots said that Dinky's bleeding gums could be contributing to the high numbers, so for now, we are going to concentrate on the fluids and an antibiotic to treat her gum infection and see if we can get her fit enough to get some dental work done in about a month.

It's easy to get caught up in chasing numbers but I keep reminding myself that each cat is different and that we really don't know what is "normal" for Dinky. That she is feeling good, gaining weight and eating are all good signs. I can hope that treating her mouth infection will buy her some better quality time. We have sweet interactions now, a sort of long good-bye, as I adjust to the idea of her mortality and the realization that she isn't going to be here forever, that each day is one less precious day of our shared life.

Tuesday, March 7, 2006

CRF

That's cat-people short-hand for chronic renal failure. It's so common in cats that it has its own abbreviation. Like FeLV or FIV or all the other collections of letters that break our hearts...

But I'm feeling better this week. I have come to realize that Dinky's condition is just that--a condition. It is not curable and it is degenerative but there is a lot I can do to make her feel good and improve her health to the point where she could very well die of something else. I joined a couple Yahoo groups--the one I am active in being "Caring for CRF Felines"--and have found help and support and good advice. Several members have been keeping their CRF cats going for years, which I found heartening.

It helps that Dinky is looking and acting so good. It even seems like she has put a few ounces back on. We are developing a system in treating her, though I still have to list all the treatments/medication she needs for the day and check it off the list as I go: Pepcid, vitamins, Antirobe, fluids. Washing her quarter-tab of Pepcid down with a squirt of water seems to make the process easier. She doesn't much care for the sub-Q fluids but she is learning to tolerate them. I got the Terumo needles this last Saturday and they have made a difference, going in smoother and delivering the required amount of fluids quicker. And since I decided to split her 150ml dose into daily doses of 75ml, we are done in a little over a minute.

Dinky actually seems to enjoy the increased attention and our interactions have become just a bit sweeter as we cope with this together.

Sunday, March 5, 2006

Saturday, March 4, 2006

Dinky looks and acts so normally, I keep thinking there has to be some mistake in her diagnosis. But I am trying to carry out the home-care instructions I have the best I can. Even with Denny's help, we had real trouble giving Dinky her subcutaneous Tagament injection. Even though I was using a 22-gauge needle, Dinky would cry and twist and flinch--not a happy scene at all. So I asked (and got the go-ahead) to switch her to oral Pepcid every other day. Dinky gets a quarter-tablet, washed down with a spritz of water--ever so much easier than jabbing at her with a needle.

But there is no substitute for the sub-Q fluids. Researching on-line I found recommendations on needles for giving fluids and was able place an order on-line. I have been wanting a small but effective needle for "doing fluids" for years now, so perhaps this will be helpful. Until my order arrives, though, I still have to deal with Dinky. She is so fidgety that I decided to use the 18-gauge needle, even though it is larger and one presumes more uncomfortable, it delivers the payload faster, so less time spent clutching Dinky and trying to calm her. She has been pretty good, actually, even though she lets me know she doesn't like it.

I also (finally) finished giving The House of Many Cats a face-lift. Now if I can find the time to update and finish the individual pages.

Thursday, February 23, 2006

It seemed more worthwhile this morning.

I could see Dinky was feeling much better even before I even got out of bed this morning. Not that she had seemed to be feeling bad but the difference in her overnight was noticeable--more bright and perky and (dare I anthropomorphicize?) cheerful. She was even showing a marked interest in food, which was heartening. I am glad she is feeling better but that didn't mean she was any more accepting of her morning injection. It didn't help that the needle seemed dull--I finally changed it out with another and got *most* of her dose of Tagamet to her. I'm glad this won't be a continual ritual...and tomorrow, Denny will be home to help hold her.

Wednesday, February 22, 2006

Busy Wednesday

Came home from the vet with special kidney-diet food, vitamins, injectable medication and syringes, and bags of sub-Q fluids. So it begins...


The vet wants Dinky on kidney diet but that isn't going to happen. Fred eats it (as will almost any other cat who *doesn't* have the need for it) but Dinky--at least at the moment--isn't interested in it. Maybe that will change once the Tagament kicks in but the important thing right now is that she eats--we can worry about specially-formulated diets once she is stabilized.

I was glad for the vitamins and Dinky didn't fight the dosing like she does the Antirobe. Obviously it tastes much better and I am hoping this means that giving her a twice-daily dose won't be such an ordeal.

The injection was another matter. Maybe Dinky has extra-tough skin but I had a hard time getting the needle under her skin and of course, after a poke or two, she got fidgety and wanted to leave. I finally got the needle under her skin but as I pushed the plunger, she decided to escape me by backing up and when the dust cleared, the needle was bent at about a thirty-degree angle and Dinky was on the floor licking herself with an affronted air. I guess the medication got where it needed to be and she didn't seem sore around her shoulders but I kept imagining the needle scratching across her muscle layer as she jerked free. I am going to need to polish my technique but by Friday I will have Denny home to help and the frequency of injections will be tapering off when we start to see results (in the form of an improved appetite.) Hang in there, Dinky.

So, I waited a while for things to calm down before thinking about the sub-Q fluids. Since Dinky likes to stand or sit on my lap while I am on the computer, I thought I could give her the fluid therapy there. I got the bag out and set up, trading out the big 18-gauge needle for a smaller (and I hoped more comfortable) 24-gauge one. The only problem with a smaller needle is that the fluids flow much more slowly and after I finally got the fluids going under Dinky's tough little hide, she didn't want to hold still. So I fell back to re-group.

Obviously, she is going to have to get accustomed to getting fluids as she will be on them for the rest of her life. Equally apparent was that I would have to sue the larger-gauge needle to have any hope of getting the required amount of fluids into her during the length of time I could get her to hold still. I hated the thought of poking her with that big needle and she was by then skittish of anything I wanted to do with her but it had to be done. It came down to brute force--I slipped the needle under her skin and forcibly held her in place despite her efforts to wriggle free. After what seemed like along time but was only a couple minutes, I let her go. She jumped down and started licking the bulge under her skin where the fluids were. I felt the bulge and noticed how cool the area was. The bags of fluid had been sitting down in the kitchen all evening and should have been about room temperature. But I could see how uncomfortable a large amount of cool fluid would feel under one's skin and vowed that in the future I will warm the bag before fluid-time. I hope that will make it better for her, poor little thing.

I'm glad I only have to do fluids every other day.

Monday, February 20, 2006

I am feeling better, as predicted, about Dinky's situation. She is so bright and cheerful, it is hard to feel too depressed around her. I remind myself that I need to enjoy these moments, participate in them fully and not let my response to Dinky be muted by foreshadowed grief. There will be time enough to miss her later.

Sunday, February 19, 2006

The feeling of hopelessness is heavy with me tonight. I am researching kidney disease and chronic renal failure so I will know what to expect. I was reading in lisaviolet's diary about her recent loss of DeeJay. She had a photo taken on the morning of the last day of his life. It was so sad because it reminded me of my last photos of Rosie and Newt as thin, tired cats, those pictures I took in an effort to hang on to them just a while longer. Now I look at those photos and know that I did the right thing in letting them go. But it was so hard.

I can't do this--I can't watch Dinky who is so vital and bouncy turn into a worn-out old cat.

Maybe I should say I don't want to do it--but I have no choice. As much as it breaks my heart, I will stand by and support and love her as she faces her final journey. It's just that it happens again and again--the bright little kittens turn into old cats and fade away, seemingly before my eyes. Johnny and Lucy and Newt and Rosie...on and on in a chain going back to Kisa. Their lives are like flowers, so ephemeral as to be gone in a flash.

The hardest thing is knowing that I have a houseful of cats--each one an incipient heartache--and I will face this again and again and again. Dinky and Punkin and Molly and Bunny and Frieda and Cissy... I want to freeze time and live forever in this moment, untouchable by age or decay. There is no help for it. It is the price I pay for their love. And I am glad to have their love and their light in my life. I wouldn't trade any of them for the world (well--maybe Twitch...) Tomorrow I will feel braver, better. Tomorrow I can face the day.

But it's just--sometimes it is so hard...

Saturday, February 18, 2006

I feel a bit guilty that while I was aflutter about Punkin's upset stomach, imaging the very worst, I was comforting myself with the idea that even if the worst *did* happen and I lost Punky, there would be Dinky to help me through my grief and make the bed a tad less empty at night. Now I have to turn that thought on its head. Dinky is such a constant (one could say relentless) companion during my sleeping hours, her loss would leave a gapping absence. I try to guard my cats against every threat but there are some I am defenseless against.

I know, I know--don't borrow trouble. Invariably, things do not happen as we anticipate. We lost both BooBoo and SunSpot last summer. I had resigned myself to losing Boo back in 2002 when she showed signs of advanced kidney disease. Inexplicably, she rebounded (we think now she just had a kidney infection) and lived on for three more years. Sunspot, looking great for her age, dropped dead from a stroke with little warning. We thought Lucy Sue's surgery was successful in removing all traces of malignancy, but six months later, it returned, while her sister Frieda had a rapid-growing tumor removed from her tail four years ago with no sign of reoccurrence or metastasis.

So it is impossible to say with any certainty what course Dink's health may take and there is nothing to be gain by beating myself up because I wasn't worrying about Dinky getting kidney disease while I was worrying over Punkin's digestive problems. If nothing else, Dinky's problem has been very gradual in its onset and a few days delay in detection makes no difference in the course of the disease.

As Rosanne Rosannadanna would say, "It's always something..."

I finally got around to doing some work on the cats' webpage--uploading recent photos and starting pages for Twitch, Bart and MeToo. I am sad that I can only find one (blurry) photo for Sally to put on her memorial page. I will go through last year's photos again but suspect that the one photo I have is the only one to mark Sally's passage on this earth.

Friday, February 17, 2006

Dinky Update

Just finally heard from the vet about Dinky's bloodwork.

Her liver and thyroid are fine--it's her kidney function that is low and she is also slightly anemic, which can be a side-effect of decreased kidney function. I will get together with Dots early next week to find out exactly how to go about treating Dinky's condition. I found a great website about CRF (chronic renal failure) and have set about educating myself. I am glad I learned how to administer subcutaneous fluids--that is a major part in managing this condition. I guess I'll know more after I talk with Dots. She seemed more concerned with Dink's anemia at the moment.

Dinky herself seems totally unconcerned with anything. I have had a couple days now to adjust to all this. This is the way that Dinky will age and she will probably succumb to kidney failure or a related problem in time. But for right now, she is looking great--her usual bright and active self--so I will roll up my sleeves and see what I can do to support her. Older cats are prone to hyperthyroidism, diabetes or kidney failure, so I need to know how to treat this condition. Assuredly Dinky is not the last cat we have who will face this problem.

"All you have to do is decide what to do with the time you are given."

Wednesday, February 15, 2006

Knowing

I hauled two cats into the vet for checkups this morning
The original plan had been to take Dinky and Bart. But someone must have told Bart what it means when the cat carriers come out and I walk around the house with my coat and boots on making friendly, come-here noises. Since he has been a housecat only about six months, there is no way he could have known, so here's possibly more evidence for feline ESP. Anyway, no dice with getting anywhere near him, much less being able to cram him in a cat carrier. Okay--he has a cough and one eye that bothers him, but both conditions have been around pretty much since he came inside with no sign of getting worse. He didn't *need* to see the vet. So he won this round.

But I had an appointment for two cats, so I looked around for another possible victim/patient. Tommy, in the shop, has been sneezing and showing signs of a cold for the last two days, so I figured, given his positive-FIV status, he could probably stand a check-up. So, out to the shop I went. Toby was lying on the sheepskin, relaxed and happy. Frieda was in the cat tree and greeted me. Molly chirped underfoot. But Tommy saw me coming and vanished into the morass of junk engine parts, jack stands, air compressors and lumber that take up the front area of the shop. No amount of sweet talk would convince him to come out. Feline ESP strikes again.

So, there is always Fred. We don't know for sure how old Fred is, but he was at least a year old when he came to live with us in the winter of 1990. So he pretty close to, if not older than, seventeen years. With typical hybrid vigor, he keeps on keeping on and the years seem to have little effect on him. But it certainly wouldn't hurt to have the vet look him over. And he would be easy to grab. So it was his lucky day.

Fred is the originator of The World's Saddest Meow, and Dinky can make pathetic little noises when the occasion calls for it (in her opinion) so the trip into town was a pretty miserable-sounding affair. The only thing that makes it bearable is that I know everyone will be in a much better mood going home. They always know when we are Going Home...

Dinky has been feeling thinner to me over the last month or so. When we put her on the scale, it was obvious that she has lost nearly two pounds since last summer (and she is a small cat to begin with, hence the name...) She has some inflammation to her gums in the back of her mouth, which might cause her to eat a bit less, but when Dots drew some blood to check for possible thyroid problems, she was concerned by how thin and anemic-looking the blood was, signaling possible kidney problems. She sent the blood out for analysis but it will take a couple days. Dinky also has a slight heart murmur, significant only because her brother Sparky died of heart failure. But that didn't seem problematic to Dots.

Fred is doing well for his age but may be in early-stage kidney failure. His gums are also not good, so I came home with a course of oral antibiotics for both of them and a special diet for Fred. Fortunately, Fred is very much an eager eater and enjoyed a snack of kidney-diet when we got home, so he won't be hard to treat in that respect.

So, I won't know anything firm on Dinky until Friday at the earliest. I have to wonder whether it is a blessing or a curse to know that she has a time-bomb, in the form of incipient illness or organ failure, ticking inside her. Right now she is happy and apparently healthy. I know that we are going to lose each of our cats eventually. I know that it will be before I am ready to let go of them. This is the sadness that makes our interactions bittersweet. But I don't want the future to overshadow the present. I would love to embrace the day and live in the ever-present now like the cats do, with no worries or fears about what may come. True, if I am aware of potential problems or early-stage disease, I can take steps to prolong the healthy portion of Fred and Dinky's lives and keep them comfortable when the end comes nigh. I suppose that is reason enough to embrace the knowing even if I dread it.

But part of me feels there is a lot to be said for ignorance being bliss.

Dinky is one of the cats that is particularly close to me. She sleeps with me every night, either perched on top of me or nestled beside me under the blankets. Over the last year or so, I have come to recognize and appreciate her devotion. She has a friendly, out-going personality, a cat that is a joy to be around, to interact with. I hope we can keep her healthy for many years to come.

Tuesday, February 7, 2006

So, my fat, gassy cat seems more herself today. She ate with gusto last night and slept with me on the bed, something she hadn't done for more than a few days. A visit to the vet always seems to stimulate her. (They draw blood, then *she* draws blood...I don't think Dr. Mersch has learned about the complimentary nail trimming Punkin usually gets...lol.)

I feel that we have her--and her problematic innards--back on course for now.

Punkin

Monday, February 6, 2006

14 inches of snow on the ground
32 degrees
snow

We just got back home after Punk spent the day at the vet. She had blood work and x-rays. The blood work had a couple values (BUN and glucose) on the high end of normal but the vet says he wasn't concerned given her age and stress factors. There was nothing there to indicate kidney or liver problems involved with her symptoms.

Whew!!

Okay, the x-rays showed her gut full of gas. He says it looks like the peristalsis is slowed and recommended trying to get her to eat more to stimulate her GI tract. For a fat (okay--obese) cat, she doesn't really eat a lot. He gave her an injection to stimulate her appetite so we will see if that helps. She already seems much more herself, though maybe that was just the stimulation of getting out and seeing the folks at the vet clinic. She certainly doesn't seem in pain and now that I know that she needs to eat, I can encourage that.

Feeling much, much more confident about her tonight.

What a day it was! I got up at 7:30--uncommonly early for one of my days off--just so I could clean the snow off of my vehicle, make coffee, get dressed and get out of here with Punkin before 8:30. I dithered over which vehicle to drive. It was warm (freezing) and snowing but I didn't know what conditions would be like down in town. Did I want the Suburban with its four-wheel-drive but not-so-good studded tires? Or the two-wheel-drive Chevy pickup with the good studs? Was I going to be driving through snow and slush or trying to stop on rain-polished ice?

I opted for the Chevy. The driveway and road were inches-deep in wet snow. By the time I got to the highway, I was thinking maybe I had made the wrong choice but I was committed and could only hope to get my errands run and get back home before too much more snow had fallen.

What a Monday for the gals at the vet clinic. The first three of us through the door had no appointments. Well, the lady with the young cat had an appointment, but she had it screwed up. Her cat's appointment had been for next Monday, but they told her they could take her cat in today anyway, since she was there. The other lady had a dog that needed blood drawn and like me had just shown up. One of the vets was out sick so the fill-in vet, Dr. Mersch, had just driven in from Soldotna. He is normally a bit hyper and after that drive, he was bouncing off the walls. We chattered back and forth while he examined the Punk and asked questions. I told him that I was worried about possible pancreatitis but he assured me it she had pancreatitis, I would have been into the clinic on Thursday. So at least that was ruled out. I left her at the clinic for x-rays and bloodwork. He said to check back about two pm. I hate leaving any of the cats at the clinic but with Punkin, it is like tearing my heart out. I know that I certainly won't have her with me for as long as I want. Being as she is my favorite, she'll probably die young--or at least younger. Denny and I sometimes morbidly joke that our last two cats will probably be the nasty ones, like Frannie and BeBe.

But I am not ready to say good-bye to Punkin yet. Not my hard-headed, fat, opinionated empress. She has such a strong personality, life with her is just too much fun.

We celebrated Punkin's homecoming by taking a half-hour nap, just me and her, on the bed downstairs. She crawled under the blanket, curled up next to me and purred--happy to be home.

Saturday, February 4, 2006

I'm Worried About Punkin

She's been feeling poorly for the last couple days. She vomited a couple times on Thursday but she nibbled on some chicken when I had my dinner so I wasn't too concerned. She started Friday off by vomiting so I gave her some metoclopramide that I had left over from a similar bout a couple years ago and her stomach was quiet the rest of the day. Also, because her vomiting can signal constipation, which she has had a problem with on and off, I administered (and that sounds so easy!) a Baby-Lax glycerin enema to her and got results in about fifteen minutes. The stool wasn't hard or dry, so I don't feel she is plugged up. I figured we could weather the weekend. (Why does this stuff always happen on weekends?)

She started off this morning by vomiting again, so today I gave her a quarter-tablet of Pepcid that I had on hand from Rosie. I don't know if it helped much because she spit half of it out. Because it takes a long time to be processed by the liver, I can't give her any more for two days. From her attitude, I can tell she is still uncomfortable and although she has taken in some water, she hasn't shown any appetite.

Punkin is my darling and I am worried about her. I know she isn't in the best health--overweight and out-of-shape--but she is under twelve years of age. You know when you look up symptoms on-line, you find all this scary stuff: CRF, inflammatory bowel disease, etc.? But with cats, sometimes they vomit for no reason at all. While I was sick, I had it in my mind to take her in to see the vet as soon as I felt well enough. It's not only her wheezing and the persistent limp she has, but I just had the idea it was time to check her bloodwork.

So I will obviously have to take her in to the vet come Monday to see what's up with her. It would be nice if she could get herself to rights by just fasting a couple days and be back to her old self by Monday but I know in my heart that isn't going to happen.

Saturday, January 28, 2006

Fat Sally



Yesterday marked a month since we had to have Fat Sally put to sleep. I'm still real sad about that, though I tell myself we did okay by her. I just wish...well, it I had known her time with us was going to be so brief, I would have tried harder to befriend her. I know she felt safe and secure in our house but she never sought affection from us, poor thing. It makes me sad that Denny and I are the only people who mark her passing or mourn her, that the only remembrance of her life is one blurry photograph.