Saturday, June 29, 2013

Adopt a Shelter Cat Month, Part 2

Adopt a Shelter Cat Month, Part 2

Well, I'd promised to fill this month with stories of all the various cats I've known, but it's been a busy month and that promise has gone unfulfilled! So here's a story of my first feline companion, which started over 25 years ago.

Humane Society House Panther

Pictured above is my first cat. In my early thirties, I'd been through yet another difficult breakup with a boyfriend and had come to realize that I needed someone to love who wasn't going to reject me. Having grown up with dogs, I knew that would be a pet. But my job had me on the road a lot and a dog wasn't a practical companion for my apartment lifestyle.

Since early childhood, I'd had a terrible allergy to cats. Just walking into a house where cats lived would start my eyes itching. The sneezing would commence shortly thereafter, and if I still didn't get out, I'd soon start having an asthma attack. Even in my twenties, when I'd tried to cat-sit for a friend who was traveling, it had happened to me. But there were better antihistamines coming out that I could get from my doctor, so I decided to give a cat a try.

It was Monday of Thanksgiving week and I was on vacation from work. Someone from the local humane society was on the noon news show and had a beautiful Himalayan cat they'd named Stormy. "Whoa! There are cats that gorgeous at the Humane Society?" I thought. "I'm going to get Stormy!"

Unfortunately, as I arrived there, somebody was already adopting the TV star. Disappointed, but still wanting a feline companion, I asked, "Well, what else do you have?" They took me back into the cat area.

In the row of double-decker cubbyholes with bars on the fronts, there were cats of all sizes and colors. Some were coughing like they were sick. Most were lethargic and seemed depressed. And then I got to the last upper cage, where a beautiful black cat came over and put his paw up against the bars. I put my hand up to touch him, and he wanted to be petted. He was playful and friendly. Now, here was a creature who would love me unconditionally! 

The information card they had on him didn't tell us much. Just that he was around a year old, and had been there for a while. He had a beautiful black coat and reminded me of a miniature panther with gold eyes. "And he would complement my black-and-white decorating theme in the living room perfectly," I thought.

But I didn't have any cat supplies at my house! What to do? I asked them to hold him for me, and rushed over to the nearby grocery store to pick up some litter, a litter box, food, and dishes for him (along with some antihistamine for me), worrying the whole time that somebody would get there, see my gorgeous cat and adopt him before I could return. But he was still waiting for me, so I filled out the paperwork and took my new boy home. He yelled in the car the whole way there. "Should've bought a carrier for him, too."

Adjusting to Each Other

He spent the first couple of days hiding under my bed. "Great," I thought, "so much for something to cuddle with!" But soon he was exploring every part of the house. He used his litter box faithfully and didn't even show any interest in scratching my furniture! He loved to be near me and always wanted to be petted. He'd sit in the windows overlooking a retention pond at my apartments and watch the ducks waddle around. He'd sit on the end of the sofa and wrap his tail around me. He slept on the other pillow in my bed, right next to my head. Aloof? Certainly not my cat!

Christmas was coming, and it was time to decorate. You always hear horror stories of cats climbing Christmas trees, batting off ornaments, and even knocking the whole thing over. So I was a little nervous about this. But I put up a real tree in the corner by my front windows, and my little cat loved it! He'd sit in front of the tree and just gaze up at it, like it was the prettiest thing he'd ever seen. Then he'd lean forward and gently sniff the tips of the branches. What must have been going on in that little feline brain of his?

When we moved to Atlanta, there was a lovely walking path out behind the condo. My boy would stand at the door and yowl to go outside, so I put his harness and leash on him and decided to try walking him there. Walking a cat is not quite like walking a dog; it's more like "standing with a cat." He'd sniff the grass in one spot for a few minutes, then take a couple of steps and sniff it somewhere else. One evening around dusk, he decided he wanted to actually walk, and we walked the entire flagstone pathway before I finally picked him up and carried him back inside. Another time he showed particular interest in going under a bush, like he was stalking something. I got down on his level to look, and there was a big ol' snake staring back at me! Grabbing up my boy, I hurried back inside. Within a couple of days, I was hearing that they'd killed a copperhead snake back in the walking area, with a whole nest of baby snakes. "Yes, I met that mama snake, up close and personal," I thought. Although I didn't like the idea of their having killed her and her brood, it's the way things go in today's litigious society.

Fruits of The Call of the Wild

My beautiful little house panther lived with me through three moves, and eventually decided that he was going to pee on everything in the house if we didn't let him go outside. He'd come in every night, but preferred to spend his days exploring the neighborhood and drinking from the bird bath in my back garden. No watching the birds from the window for him: he wanted to be right out there with them!

He did kill a couple of doves, and would eat everything except the liver. We'd find feathers and the cleaned-off liver where he'd eaten the bird. But before the anti-cat bird folks get all up in arms, he wasn't the only one killing birds in our yard; a hawk would bring his prey to the oak tree out back to devour, so there were always piles of feathers underneath that tree. And crows were always stealing baby birds from nests and washing them off in our bird bath before eating them.

Our little mini-panther also killed a couple of garter snakes. One wasn't quite dead when he left it on our doorstep, and my mother nearly had a heart attack when she went to step out the back door and that snake raised up its head! But she said he was right there to pounce on it and hold it down again.

Going outdoors, however, is not a good idea for cats in the suburban environment, and soon he got into something that poisoned his kidneys. It was in about January when he grew lethargic and wasn't eating. I took him to the vet, where they told me he was in renal failure. I cried. They told me I could keep him going a little longer by feeding him a special kidney diet and giving him sub-cutaneous fluids at home. "Do what?" I asked, a little leery of taking on that task. They showed me how, and we headed home.

The first administration of "sub-cute" fluids was a real adventure. I carried him into the bathroom and closed the door so he couldn't escape. He may not have felt well, but he could still move pretty quickly when he wanted to! Setting him on my lap, I pinched up the skin like the vet had taught me, and uncapped the needle on the IV bag. Inserting it into the fold of skin, I started the flow of saline...which immediately started squirting out of the needle that had gone through both sides of the fold of skin, wetting the entire bathroom. The cat was squirming, the fluids were going everywhere, and I couldn't get the flow turned off fast enough!

There was also a problem with the kidney diet: it was made of liver. He wouldn't even touch it once he got a whiff of that. So I'd go to the grocery store and buy fresh chicken livers and boil them, then chop them up very finely. He'd drink that broth. That and the occasional teaspoonful of Häagen-Dazs vanilla ice cream was the only thing keeping him alive.

True Kitty Love

By this time, he'd developed a close friendship with a little girl cat from down the street who'd come down and spend the whole day hanging out with him. We started referring to her as his little protégé. When he came in overnight, she'd hunker down in our front yard and wait all night for him. Each morning, he'd be eager to get outside and see her. She was wearing a collar and tag, which had her owner's name engraved on it. I called them to tell them she was down here, in case they were worried about her. "Oh, we're so sorry! We'll come and get her," they said the first time. After that, I'd tell them not to worry about it, I just wanted them to know where she was and that she was okay. If they took her home, she was just going to return as soon as she got out the door, anyway.

Eventually I learned how to give the fluids correctly, and my boy would get all sloshy in the chest area afterward, where they would pool to be absorbed by his body as he needed them. One night a few months later, he had peed on the carpet in the den, which he never did. Cleaning it up, I noticed that it was just like water, no odor or color to it. I held him all night, and he even peed on me a couple of times. My boy could no longer control his bladder. He was still feeling very bad, and I knew it was time. The next morning, I took him to my vet's office, and soon thereafter we were digging his grave next to the bird bath in the garden from which he'd loved to drink.

In the days after his death, we observed something fascinating. His little protégé would come down to our house every day and lie on his grave. How she knew where it was, was a mystery to us. It was so touching and sweet to observe. She was grieving for her love!

Eventually, she stopped coming and we didn't see her for a while. Then one evening, we had a relative visiting and were sitting out front in lawn chairs. Here she came, ambling up the street to see us. She said hello, hung out with us for a few minutes, and went on her way. Shortly thereafter, her family moved away and we never saw his little protégé again. I like to think of them happily reunited together in heaven today, or if she's still alive, perhaps his spirit visiting with her.

This little cat, who someone had cast off by taking to the humane society, brought me so much love and enjoyment in our decade together. Sure, I have to take an antihistamine every day to live with cats, but the rewards are so worth it. There's no amount of money I could have spent on a cat from a breeder that would have made me any happier than he did. Or have been more beautiful. And there's something about a rescued cat, too: they know that you saved their lives. They are eternally grateful to you for having done so. And that's something money can't buy.

1 comment:

  1. Hello friend: I've been visiting your blog and I found "great", with good data.

    I would like to share with you and your readers more interesting information about the Himalayan cat breed.

    I hope you like my space "Dogs and Cats" and leave me a comment if you fancy.

    Greetings from Spain