Friday, November 27, 2009

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Lettting Her Go

1996? - 2009

Her whole life was a struggle but she, for the most part, didn't seem to notice.

She was born with cerebral palsy, and fought for the movement that came effortlessly to the other cats. Where they moved with grace and speed, her motions were slow and jerky--but if she resented it, she never showed it. She tottered around the house like a drunken sailor, undaunted by her own clumsiness. She would just persevere until she got to where she was going or accomplished what she set out to do.

I don't know why her original family took her to the Animal Shelter. Perhaps they were tired of her. Perhaps they didn't want to bother with a cat who wasn't "right." For whatever reason, Slippers--confined in a small cage--was pretty pitiful. With her unsteady movements, she was forever tipping over her litter box or food dishes. She was so "tippy" that she had to dip her paw in her water dish and lick it dry to quench her thirst--to lean over her dish was to invite a dunking.

It was that last image that burned into my heart.

I would go in the the animal shelter on my volunteer day and let Slippers out of her cage. I would watch her stagger around the cat room, enjoying the simple pleasure of having space to move in. I knew no one coming to the shelter to adopt a cat was likely to pick the stunted, plain-jane little tabby with the unsteady walk. They would logically assume she was unhealthy and prone to maladies. But I knew a little about cerebellar hypoplasia. I knew that this affliction only affected muscle coordination, not health or intelligence. In fact, CH cats are known to be both bright and cheerful little souls despite their handicap.

Still, I knew no one was going to adopt her, with her common looks and awkward gait while she was surrounded by lovely cats and engaging kittens .

Well, no one but us.

We learned a few things about her right away.

She didn't like to be picked up and would struggle frantically to escape our grasp. We figured she must have been dropped a few times by children or those who weren't expecting her to be so twitchy in her movements. So we made a promise to ourselves and to her that if we picked her up, we would never let her fall. After a few months, she became calmer and less frantic when we picked her up. It took a couple years before she learned to relax when we held her.

Apparently in her first home, there were no regularly scheduled meal times. Or perhaps Slippers was just forgotten more often than not. For whatever reason, she was a hazard to navigation in the kitchen, never trusting that we would feed her unless she was there underfoot to remind us. She had a voracious appetite, as if unsure when her next meal was coming. Despite regular and lavish feeding for the past decade, if anyone was in the kitchen, Tripper would be there, too.

For the first few years after she came to live with us, Slippers was quiet and rather shy. Time changed that so that in her final years, she was often the first one of our cats that visitors would meet. She loved her pillow in front of the wood stove and that's where she would receive guests.

All stories have an ending and we suspected that Slippers' story was drawing toward its close when she began to have seizures this past year. They were rare at first but increased in frequency until by October she was having several a day. We would find her in random locations, wedged under a shelf or between furniture, dazed and exhausted. We put her on medication that stopped the seizures but left her groggy and confused. Her nervous system was betraying her. In in the process she lost the strength in her hind legs and became incontinent. I tried to keep her clean and comfortable but she continued to decline and I had to accept that this wasn't a malady that she was going to recover from.

Slippers never gave up. It was the pattern of her life. But life gave up on her. What was left for me to do was let her leave with dignity and love.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Friday, November 20, 2009

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Max is Bax...

Max in his new digs in the shop:

So now the question is--what to do with him? I will give him a week or two in the cage to catch up on his eating and sleeping and generally de-stress. Then we plan to introduce him into the shop addition--an area where he will have no rivals and lots of room to patrol. That was our original thought when we first let Max outside.: that he could have free run of the outdoors and have the shop addition for shelter and warmth. In the hope that Max would eventually return, Denny installed a pet flap last month in the wall beside the man-door. But I think we will keep the flap blocked off until Max has had the chance to adjust to his surroundings and the weather gets milder.

All that is in the future.

As to where he's been and what he's been doing, Max remains mum. I know he wasn't two-timing us with a second family because surely someone would have noticed his collar maladjustment and come to his aid. So he has been subsistence hunting since July, perhaps supplemented with the dry cat food I kept available in the shop addition. I know he and Amber's kitty, the fluffy red guy from across the block, disputed the ownership of our lot because we heard the sounds of cats squabbling in the night occasionally during August, then less frequently. Then all we ever saw was the red kitty.

Cold and hunger must have driven Max back to brave his rival. I had heard the sounds of a cat argument Monday morning but when I ran outside to the shop addition and called, no one came running. Still, I just had a feeling--or a hope--that Max would remember where he was sheltered last winter and come back to us.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009


I was settling in to watch the evening news and glanced at the camera that monitors our front door. A dark cat was on the porch, drinking from the heated water dish. It wasn't the fluffy red cat that regularly patrols our lot. Could it be Max? Could it?

I crept downstairs to peek out the window, trying not to make any sound lest I send the cat running off before I had a chance to get a good look at him. Leaning over the sink, I could see gray tabby stripes. The next thing I knew, I was throwing open the door and calling his name--"Max! Max! Kitty kitty..."

He made a move as if to jump off the porch until it sank in that I was calling his name, then he turned and came to me. I gathered him up in my arms and took a quick inventory--he was thin but not critically so, and his red collar had slipped to around his chest. It was tight--too tight to unfasten--and later when I had cut it off of him, I could see it had rubbed his fur into clumps around it and there was a patch of dried blood where it had cut into his skin at some point.

Oh my poor Max... I am sure it was a relief when I snipped it off of him, but by then I had transported him to the back room and he was so torn between confusion and joy that he probably didn't notice.

Anyway, I have him settled in the big cage in the shop--familiar to him from the days he spent there last year--with food and water and a bed and litter box all his own. He ate a can of Friskies and drank half the water, then settled in to appreciate warmth and safety.

I slept so well last night--without the half-waking and the worries about where Max was and if he was warm and fed. Finally I knew the answers to those worries.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Rare Sight

Cats can always surprise you, so I won't say I never expected to see Mimi and Frannie sharing a bed. But given their long-time hostility, I did feel I should capture the moment for history. I suppose with Clarence back on the scene, Frannie has found a new opponent and now regards Mimi as an old friend. And apparently Mimi is accepting the new attitude with feline aplomb.