I’ve written about the chickens and my journey with dogs, but am finally writing a post about cats.
Oh gosh, I love cats. I really love cats. Really. Really, really.
My heart has paw prints from quite a few cats left on it. There’s the first cats in my life, Mookie (spelling not confirmed) and Puppy, whom I have no memories of, but have seen pictures and been told stories about. The first cats I do remember, Jake and Maddie, captured my adolescent heart, irreparably. There’s also Tibby, who is my parents’ current resident cat, that had a leg amputated (from illness) after coming into their care. Also, Tucker, who came into my life in college, and now lives with my sister’s friend. My first cat as an adult, was also my first kitten, and sadly, Suki passed away from FIP mere months after her adoption. In present day, there’s Louis, whom sleeps on my chest every night. And, there’s also two foster cats, that have been a pleasant adventure, and that I will miss dearly. Before diving into present day, I do have to start with Jake, my first real feline love.
He takes me back to life to good ol’ St. Louie: my family got two cats, right around when I was in the third grade. They were a brother and sister pair, found at a Petsmart adoption event. I remember my mom had to leave and come back, if we were to adopt them, and she let me stay with them while she was out. The brother was a big orange tabby, we named Jake. The sister was tortoiseshell, and named Madeliene (after my best friend at the time), nicknamed “Maddie.” I couldn’t tell you much about Maddie when we first got her, but Jake was just the love of my life. He was beautiful and cuddly, and so much trouble. He lived by no rules and I loved him unconditionally. He once peed on me, and I didn’t care. He shared my bed and my heart. It’s hard to impress upon you how absolutely obsessed I was with this cat, and how deep my little heart loved him.
Jake was eventually demoted to an indoor/outdoor cat, as his antics in the house got to be too much. He loved being outside, so he had no problems with that. I, on the other hand, saw the outside world as dangerous to him, and fretted about his well being. I wasn’t wrong to be worried, as Jake later lost use of the end of his tail by some accident; who knows how it happened. The rules didn’t change, though, and he continued his indoor outdoor life, until it killed him.
I was in the 8th grade, getting ready for soccer practice when our house phone rang. I answered, and there was a kid on the line. They told me that Jake was hit by a car, and that I should come get him. Of course, I freaked out!!! My beloved cat, that I had spent almost 6 years of my young life with, was in dire trouble and needed to be rushed to the vet! I think I passed the phone to my mom, because she got clarification that my beloved cat, that I had spent almost 6 years of my young life with, was actually deceased, laying in the street, and we should come get his body.
Grief, as I had never known. I didn’t go to soccer and my mom went to get Jake. I held him in the backyard and cried. Just cried, and cried. Honestly, I’m crying a bit writing about it. We had a burial, and my friends gave me cards expressing their sympathies. I was, and still am, totally torn apart by his loss. I have a picture of him in a jewelry box on my vanity, and one in my cube at work. He has been the most influential feline on my life, to date. I have a very soft spot for orange tabby cats, and will ensure I have the company of one (or many!) for the rest of my life, thanks to him.
When my husband, then boyfriend, and I finally moved in together in 2015, my first objective was to get a pet. We got a dog, which we loved (him and the experience), and I wanted my cat. I had lived almost 3 years of my independent, adult life without a feline, and it was not an ideal way for me to live. I got on the internet and found two orange tabby sisters, being fostered close by. Of course, we went to meet them! Unfortunately, they were not very affectionate and also had specific medical needs. Their foster care taker was not very pushy about them and let us know if their care seemed a little overwhelming, it was ok to admit they were not a good fit. I thought about it, and spent time with them, but ultimately, we did decide they were in good hands currently, and were not a good fit with our lifestyle. Their foster care taker suggested I consider a kitten she had, the last of the litter, who happened to be a little orange tabby.
Be still, my heart. I had never had a kitten before, always preferring adult cats, assuming they were less likely to be adopted since baby animals are always so popular and wanted. I didn’t say yes, right away, but I did say yes before we left that day! We took her home and named her Satsuki, from the movie Totoro, calling her “Suki.”
She is probably the best cat I’ve ever had, and Chris declares her the best cat “ever.” She slept on us, she was so fun and beautiful, she got along great with our dog. She was not troublesome at all, which was new for me! She just lit up our lives, and was a wonderful companion.
It is with terrible grief, that this third pet blog post also features recent loss. We adopted Suki in August, and she passed in November. We had been free feeding her and it took us a few days to realize she wasn’t eating. Although she seemed to be acting normally, we verified she was not interested in food and took her to the vet ASAP. The vet did an overall workup, and concluded she likely had FIP, which is Feline Infectious Peritonitis. I had never heard of that, and he we didn’t get an actual diagnosis because to do so is very evasive, and the vet could make that conclusion fairly confidently without the procedure. I got the call at work with the diagnosis, and had to talk through it, not knowing anything about this disease. I am grateful for my understanding boss, who caught me crying in my cube. The vet let me know there was treatment, but really, no cure, and that the prognosis was terminal.
Nothing short of wonderful.
If you want to learn more about FIP, you can do some reading here. The main takeaway is that it only affects cats in their ~first year of life, and the disease can lay dormant for a while, without indication or detection. There’s not much to ‘prevent’ it, assuming your kitten lives in a normal, healthy environment, without other sick felines.
It was my first, real experience with terminal illness in pets, and I have to admit I handled it wrong. The day of the diagnosis, Suki’s health declined rapidly. She still couldn’t eat, and was not able to hold down liquids. Her existence was a struggle, and clearly painful. I wasn’t sure if I should consider euthanasia and when; everything happened so fast. She was mostly normal at the exam, and the next day she was on death’s door. Around 10pm that night I called an emergency vet, open 24 hours, and explained the situation, requesting euthanasia services. I wrapped our sweet girl in a towel and we drove her there. Once in a treatment room, Suki convulsed and died before the vet could see us. I will never forget watching her suffer and pass, in such a violent and unpleasant manner. My selfish desire to cling to unrealistic hope and wish she could be around longer allowed her last moments to be dreadful. She didn’t deserve that, at all. She was cremated, and her ashes will stay with our family, along with precious memories of her.
It had been so long since experiencing the grief of losing Jake. Thinking about how short her life was cut made me feel afraid to have a cat again. That experiencing this grief again would be unbearable.
Louis under our Christmas tree, 2015.
After Christmas of that year, I felt like maybe we could get another cat. That it was worth the pain to provide sanctuary for a homeless cat, who surely deserved love and companionship. It was selfish to shy away from providing that, when we were so able to, and would so love another cat.
We went to Petsmart, and the same rescue Suki was from had cats there. I held a young male, sandy colored tabby named Leo, and I cried. I explained what happened with Suki, and the rescue representative was so kind. She offered to waive the adoption fee if we wanted to take Leo home. But, I still didn’t feel ready, so we left, and I told Chris I had to think about it. He was very supportive, but sure that we could take Leo home. Well, we came back for him, of course, and Leo turned into my Louis.
Louie (or “Lou Lou”), has just been the best. He sleeps with me most nights, and recently started sleeping on my chest (THE BEST). He was so great with Baron (after an adjustment period), and had no adjustment period for Juniper. He sits under our Christmas tree every year, just like he did when we first brought him home. He loves boxes, with a determination I have never seen. He’s a liiiitle naughty, like an orange tabby, but I wouldn’t have it any other way. He makes my heart swell, and I can barely handle how much I frickin love him. He does pretty darn well with our foster cats, too.
Nelly and Kelly came into our lives somewhat unexpectedly. I had cleared with Chris that I would be filling out a foster application, and his rule was one cat. We got a desperate call from the cat rescue to see if we would be willing to house two sisters, who had absolutely no where to go, if not with us. Chris let me say yes! And that immediately felt like a mistake.
Nelly and Kelly were, and really, are, very afraid of people. They don’t want to be seen, or be touched, or have any dealings with scary humans. We kept them in our guest room, and I spent time in there, daily, trying to become familiar and trusted. Kelly, the brown tabby, warmed up to me, and purred loudly when I visited. Nelly, the white cat, remained skittish. Months passed, little improvement was made, and eventually the girls needed to see the vet (just annual checkup/vaccines/nail trim). That was terrible. They couldn’t easily be caught, so Chris and I spent forever chasing them around the guest room. Chris got scratched and bitten! The girls were very unhappy, and I worried, traumatized.
Then, we needed the guest room, so we had to rinse and repeat, confining the girls to a dog crate for a weekend so we could let my family in and out of the room. That was terrible. Eventually, we needed the guest room again, so I decided it was time the girls move to the basement, and give them free reign of the house. Chris’ dad came to visit, and the girls hid in the basement for weeks. And then we started to see them late at night, when the dogs were put to bed. And then they started showing up for morning feeding times. And somewhere along the way, they stopped isolating themselves so much, and wiggled into my heart.
Now that they’ve spent some time with the whole house at their jelly bean toes, Nelly has really gained confidence. We see her all the time, and she loves lounging upstairs, in the hallway, in the kitchen, in the living room! She’s very flighty, and doesn’t want to be pet, but she is just a doll. So beautiful, and it’s so rewarding seeing her comfortable. Kelly seemed to have regressed a little, and once she had freedom, wasn’t interested in pets anymore. The girls are also both, crazy about Louie. They love him! They like to rub against him, follow him, and be where he is. Louis acts like a little boy and bats them away when their affection is too much!
What prompted this post is that the girls are being relocated to a new foster tonight, and I am heartbroken. We have given them lots of time, patience, and love-at-a-distance, but Chris has put his foot down that we agreed to be a temporary home, and that it would be better working conditions when renovating our kitchen if the girls weren’t around. I understand his reasoning, and respect my husband’s compromise. I’m glad we could take them in their time of desperate need, and I’m glad they have a safe, caring home to go to after ours. I will just miss their little presence. I hope that their lives stop having to be restarted, and that a kind soul with a big heart gives them a real home, a “furever” home, they call it. They really deserve it.
Update after dropping them off:
The girls are with their new foster home, and I feel confident they are with people that genuinely care about them, which is the best I could ask for short of a forever home. We first stopped at the vet for a quick nail trimming, and I cried the whole way there, while there, and then during the drive to their new home. The new fosters were very understanding of my tears, as they have lots of experience fostering. They seem like very caring and good people, but my heart still hurts. When the girls first came to me, I worried I was in over my head, but before long, I was wishing they never had to leave.
I’m not sure what’s in my feline future, but Chris says we can have two cats in the house, so I imagine we will either stay on the foster list (strictly open to one cat, so we don’t have to have a timeline), or look at adopting again, soon.