Pet Loss Poetry
We share our home with
6 7 cats. This was not intentional! <G>
In October 1994 we lost Popcorn to FeLV. Please read our story on why I feel even indoor cats should be vaccinated against this disease.
About a month later, we adopted Mudgiekewiss (Mudgie) from the Connecticut Humane Society.
In the spring on 1995, Kearra was diagnosed with a heart murmur. She's been on daily medication since then, and her murmur has not gotten worse since then. The cardiologist even downgraded her condition last year and at this writing the vet cannot hear her murmur.
In the summer of 1995 Frisky started throwing up. It actually took us about 2 months to figure out who was doing it - most of the time we would find something in the basement either overnight or while we were at work. And everyone looked and acted OK. We traced it to him and brought him to the vet. After two months of testing and trying different medications, the vet told me we should try exploratory surgery to see if we could find out his problem. She found it - he had 2 tumors in his stomach area. After the surgery he was so unhappy he wouldn't even eat. Once she got the biopsy results back, she convinced me to at least try chemotherapy. I wasn't too sure about it, and I had been hand feeding since he came home. I agreed, with the condition that if he didn't pick up quickly, or got worse, I would let him go.
In two days he was eating on his own again. After that, he picked up rapidly. He had weekly injections for 5 weeks (I believe) and then went to every 3 weeks. He had a slight relapse around Christmas 1995 and started over again with the weeklies, but has been going strong ever since. In the past 8 months he has even started to gain some weight, and he still flies around the house like there's no tomorrow.
Meanwhile, Tiger had been making funny sounds while eating. This had been going on for about a year, but she really was way too heavy for her frame, so common sense said that was her problem - everything was just too squashed in there. And her checkups always came up fine, except for her weight. She had been on a diet for awhile and had lost 5 pounds, and the noises were getting worse. So off to the vet she went. They didn't find anything the first time, but around Christmas (this was definitely not a good year for me!) she was sort of gasping/coughing at night. The vet took xrays this time and saw a slight shadow. We went to a specialist to have them look at it, they determined it was a tumor in her trachea, she underwent surgery and only survived four days after that. I never even got to bring her home. (there is a really long sad story attached to the details of this event) Even the specialist said that had we done xrays any earlier we never would've seen the tumor - it was very flat (for that matter, so is Frisky's - we never saw his on the xrays either).
Now we're down to 3 cats. As far as I know, Frisky won't last long, so I've decided when he's gone I'm going to adopt 2 kittens. Kearra was insanely jealous of Popcorn when she was alive and showed us by peeing all over the house. That had stopped and her and Mudgie got along great (as a matter of fact, we believe Popcorn's spirit is in Mudgie, and he picks on Kearra the way Kearra used to pick on Popcorn!). I certainly didn't want to upset the harmony of the house, and thought 2 kittens would keep each other company enough to leave the big cats alone.
Then The Kids showed up and the rest is history.
Boy, am I a sucker! Cat number 7! A month ago I brought Frisky and Kearra in for bloodwork. Frisky has his blood checked every few months to make sure everything is going well inside him. We had a scare early this year with his blood test; it looked as though his kidneys were starting to fail. 2 months, 3 tests, a dog crate that only he can get into in the dining room and some really expensive hi-cal kidney food later, it seems everything is fine in there after all. Personally, I think he just wanted some attention. He's been off his chemo since 6/98 and is really doing great. Kearra's heart disease has changed; her murmer has been gone but there is still damage to her heart. :( She is on new meds, and we needed to check her after a month to make sure her kidneys were ok with them.
I'm in the waiting room with the two of them in a carrier. I wander around as usual. No adoption cats are in sight, but here are some pix and descriptions. I wish I had this one verbatum, but the gist is this:
Missy: she has been in two homes already. When you reach in her cage to pet her, she cries and cowers back as far as she can go. She might have been abused. Whoever adopts her will have to be willing to have a cat they might not see much of. Lots of love and patience are needed.
There is a pic of an orange cat in the back of the cage near this description.
Nothing like putting a few tears in my eyes! We're called into the examining room. And I'm thinking: a cat we don't see. Hmmmm..... We've already got the three Kids that are certainly not lap cats. We do see them, especially at night when we sit down to watch TV, but they have been the house for 3 years and are pretty used to us. The doorbell rings and they hide in the basement. Any change in routine, and they hide in the basement. (buying another house and moving them should be fun! :-/ ) But they have learned that we provide food and fun things to play with, and that the bed is nice and warm on those cold winter nights. Often we'll find two or three of them sleeping in the cat bed at the foot of the bed on the not so cold nights. Love and patience.... we've got that.
I take a deep breath and ask if I can see her (all the while thinking: don't do it don't do it don't do it!!!). When they're done with my cats, they bring me back to the adoption section and tell me what they know of her history. Her first home had a couple of small children. Apparently they used to chase her around, so mom and dad brought her to the vet to be given away. Then a boyfriend/girlfriend couple took her. Seems that the girlfriend loved her, but boyfriend hated her. After 6 months he apparently called them and said "If you don't take this &#$^! cat back I'm throwing it out the window". What they got was a very scared cat. And she did cry when you tried to pet her. She would cower way back and close her eyes. But most importantly, she didn't hiss or bite or scratch. Seeing her just about broke my heart.
All the way home I wrestle with myself. We had agreed that 6 was really quite enough, and we had been pretty happy with four, financially and time-wise. Then there was the whole Kearra/jealous/peeing thing. I couldn't go through *that* again, and it wouldn't be fair to Missy to take her, find out Kearra hated her and bring her to the vet the third time. OTOH, Kearra was fine with Mudgie and accepted all three Kids well. OTOH again, Mudgie is definately Tim's cat (but then, so was Popcorn) and the Kids are definately not lap cats. Missy would need some time and attention if she was to come out of her shell and trust people again.
What to do......
Well, the solution is so simple I can't believe I didn't see it. I'll tell Tim about her, and he'll tell me I'm insane and what am I thinking, and we have more than enough mouths to feed.
He said the same damn thing he said when I asked him how he felt about keeping the Kids: you can do whatever you want. I asked him again. Again: you can do whatever you feel is best. I tried harder: I'm not going to say yes or no. Just remember, you take care of 90% of their needs (ie litterbox duty) and you bring them to the vet most of the time (because I tend to make appointments for late afternoon and leave work a little early, instead of Saturday's or evenings when he can do it). So if you decide to get her, you are adding on to your own workload.
Damn. This isn't helping at all.
The next day I tried it on a few of my co-workers. "Oh how sweet! You're going to save her? You're such a good person! She'll do great with the two of you. You're doing the right thing. You can't let her stay there. Poor thing is scared to death. She needs you."
Hello? Don't you think I'm a little young to be collecting cats? You guys are no help - talk me out of this!!!!
Of course I called the vet in the afternoon and told them I'd take her. The one condition is that if there are major personality conflicts I would have to bring her back. I was afraid she would be the bottom cat, which would do her no good. Now I'm thinking today is perfect: it's Friday. I can pick her up tonight and we'll have all weekend to work with her (keeping her confined to a large crate - Frisky's special food crate, as a matter of fact).
As luck would have it, the adoption person I was supposed to talk to had gone home sick. Argh! Maybe it's not meant to be? After all was said and done, I finally picked her up the next Tuesday. She didn't make a peep the whole ride home and was actually pretty alert and curious about her surroundings. When I brought her inside I put her on the ground to let the other cats check her out.
Now I have to get her in the crate. I opened it up and picked up the carrier, put the whole carrier inside and held it so she was facing down. Boy, is she holding on tight! She finally tumbles out and runs to the back of the crate. I put her blanket and toy from the vet in there with her, and close it up so I can get her food and water. As I turn away I hear some shuffling. Thinking this must have been a fluke, I pull the blanket off of her and arrange it on the floor of the crate again. When I come back in the room, she's under it again. I have seen cats burrow under bedcovers before, but I have never seen a cat pull a small blanket entirely over itself (twice!). I figure she needs to be in there, so I make sure her nose is poking out and leave her for awhile.
When Tim gets home I decided she should be moved into the living room, facing the couch, so she can see us and see the other cats interact with us. We carry her in there. We actually leave the door open for a few hours as we're watching TV. She doesn't come out, but some of the others walk in to check her out. Frisky retains his "I really don't care who she is and what her problem is - what I want is my cage back" attitude.
The next night she's feeling a little more comfortable with us. (yeah, go ahead and yell at me about the flash and the cats eyes. i know i need to use a different flash, but i didn't, so there). Notice the blanket in front of the cage. That would be from Mr. "Do Whatever You Want". He spent 5 minutes sitting in front of the cage talking to her and petting her. By the time he stood up, she was not only purring so loud I could hear her from the couch, but she was pushing her head into his hand for more.
That's all the shots I have of her. By Friday night Tim was after me to leave her out of the cage. He felt she needed to know the house. I felt she needed to trust us. Friday and Saturday we left the cage door open a lot. Saturday she really went exploring (I closed the basement door as I had a fear of her losing herself down there and never coming up again). The downfall to closing the basement is that all the litterboxes are down there. Friday night it was easy enough to get her back in the cage; she didn't want us near her unless she was in her haven. All I had to do was walk towards her and she would run back in. Saturday I went to bed before Tim, and he left her out. He said he didn't see her. I suspect he didn't look too hard. ;)
Sunday morning I went downstairs figuring I'd find her back in the cage. What I found was all the toys we gave her placed neatly in her litterbox, with her blanket put on top. We ended up finding her in the tunnel hanging from the basement ceiling. Once the heat came on and I ran the washer, she hid somewhere else. Monday, same thing. Monday night, she made it all the way to the second floor. Unfortunately, we discovered each other on the dark landing, me with a basket of laundry. I'm not sure who was scared more. She did spend a few minutes checking out the bedroom before disappearing again.
Tuesday night I finally found her preferred hiding place: under Tim's back workbench in a box. She really blends in well, but she feels pretty safe there. Everytime we went down there we would talk to her. She was using the litterbox and knew where the food was, so I wasn't too worried about her.
As the week went on we found she would come upstairs around 9pm and look around. If either one of us moved, she bolted back to the basement. After a few days though, she didn't go as deep into hiding. By the end of the week, she was just going to the bottom of the stairs and looking back up at us; after a few minutes she would be back in the dining room.
The first thing she does when she comes up is head to those baskets of toys. She seems to really like the catnip carrot. She's checked out the whole sunroom, which takes a bit of trust on her part as there is only one way out of that room; she is essentially trapped once she gets in there. Zeus seems to have taken quite a shine to her. Quite often I'll go in the basement and they'll both be down there. Last night they were chasing each other around the dining room.
And the biggest success so far? Last night when I walked in the kitchen she only ran around the counter. I knelt down and called to her. She came closer, closer, closer..... and actually reached out and sniffed my hand. :) Later on I was able to wash dishes with her sitting in the dining room watching me (meaning I was between her and the basement). And tonight? She was upstairs at 6pm when I was eating supper.
The other cats are taking to her fine, and Kearra only hissed at her once. I think #7 is here to stay. :)
November 26, 1999 We must be doing good. Missy has moved from the box under the wookbench to the hanging tunnel in the ceiling. She's there all the time now. That is, when she's not trying to stay upstairs. Too much moving around still spooks her, but she keeps coming back up. I think she's finding all the fur mice that have been lost in the house for years. I see them all over the house now. And best of all, she's been letting us pet her when she's in the basement. I had tried that a couple of weeks ago and she would have none of it.
December 2000 This has been a very sad year for us. After treating for Frisky's CRF for 5 months, I had to make the painful decision to put him to sleep on June 21, 2000. His red blood cell count had dropped and the Epogen just wasn't helping anymore. He had what I believed to be a slight "crash" the night before, and when I brought him into the vet the next day, an irregular heart beat had developed that wasn't there two days previously.
Then on November 14, my shadow Kearra threw a blood clot and lost use of her hind legs. I was home when it happened and rushed her right to the vet. She started to go into heart failure while there, and our "we may have 6 - 12 months with her" diminished to "she may not last the night". I sent her to the Bridge that afternoon, to play with Frisky, Popcorn and Tiger. I would have sold my soul for that girl, I loved her so much and feel so cheated that I wasn't able to. So deep are my feelings for her that I found myself having a difficult time coming to terms with her death. I would find myself sitting on the couch thinking how badly my life sucked. How I never knew one could own 5 cats and still feel so lonely (doesn't help that one belongs to Tim, 3 were feral and one may have been abused in a past life). How empty the house seemed when I walked in the door at night and no one came to greet me. Or when I woke up in the middle of the night and reached up to her spot on my pillow, only to find it empty. Here is a Tribute to her that I wrote for www.petloss.com
A little over a week ago, when I was upset that I couldn't remember whether I had carried her from the cage she was in to the room where she was PTS, Tim asked me to consider getting another cat. Not a feral, not an abused one, but a kitten for me. Because for the first time, I do actually need the companionship. The last 4 we adopted were all with the excuse that they needed me (well, they did!). Now I need, and it's hard to admit. I thought about it all week and finally broke down and called the vet, to find out that they had gotten 2 kittens in the day before. I drove up there in a snowstorm, spent over an hour with them, and decided I would "try" the little girl out (who am I kidding - *try*?!). She's been here 5 days now and is an absolute doll (even though she seems to be ignoring me at the moment). Oops, I spoke too soon, she is climbing up my leg. :)
She is still unnamed because I just can't come up with anything that fits her. She is so *intense* about everything. You can see it in her face whenever she moves, which is constantly. Tim has never had a kitten before and I do believe she has wrapped herself around his heart also, despite the fact she is to be "my" cat. Oh well, when she gets bigger she can sleep between us - for now, she sleeps on my side (not that she sleeps <sigh>)
Here are some pix of her. The big fellow next to her is Mudgie.
The Missy page, until I go through and edit them.
Want to build an inexpensive scratching haven for your cats? Get some ideas from ours.
email me with comments or questions
first draft October 1997
updated February 12, 2000
quick update December 13, 2000
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