Saturday, March 3, 2012

In Loving Memory Of Mrs. P

Mrs. P with her friend
Blaze sitting behind her

I have to admit that feral cats are my favorites. I love their resourcefulness and independence and their ability to not just survive but to thrive in what most of us would consider the harshest conditions. So I considered it a real honor to know Mrs. P and count her among my friends.

Mrs. P and I met when her trapped-neutered-returned colony was supposed to be relocated. The cats were old, and we wanted to keep them together, but we were having a hard time finding a barn home for eight cats. We were desperately negotiating with the property owner -- and getting nowhere -- when one of the feeders suggested moving the cats a couple of blocks away to her backyard.

On moving day, seven of the cats willingly went into our traps, and after a quick detour to a vet clinic to update their rabies vaccinations, settled into their new home. But Groucho, a handsome orange and white guy with a sporty white mustache, refused to go into a trap.

For two weeks, he and I met in his little patch of woods every day for food and a few moments of conversation. I was sad that he was all alone, and I worried about what he'd do if we didn't manage to trap him by winter because the cats' shelters had been moved to their new home.

Then, one day as I was walking along the path to the place where Groucho ate, I discovered another cat! Mrs. P, his lifelong friend, was back! Over the next week, all of the cats returned to their old home in the woods.

Even if no one else was there, Mrs. P always met me at the street and jogged up the path ahead of me to the feeding station. She was always tiny and frail looking. But over the next few months, we could see that she was losing weight. With aching hearts, we watched her gradual but steady decline. Sometimes we talked about what we could do for her, but our hearts always told us to do nothing. If we had been able to ask her, she probably would have told us to let nature take its course.

Last week, a feeder found her in one of the shelters. She looked comfortable and content, like she'd fallen asleep and life had quietly slipped away. Today, a friend and I scattered her ashes around the shelter. She's home again, and she's outside with her friends. For her, that's the perfect ending to a long, and we hope happy, life.

Here's her handsome
lifelong friend Groucho.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Snuggles: He's Happy And Healthy Now

Snuggles Tells His Story
"For 13 years, I took care of my family. I lived up to my name and snuggled with them when they needed reassurance and comfort. And I was kind and welcoming to all the cats who came into our home after me. I still don't know what happened, or how we all ended up in cages at a shelter. They said they were tired of cats, but how could that be? We were quiet. We used our litter boxes. We never scratched the furniture. And I snuggled with them when they wanted me to, even if I wasn't in the mood. How could they be tired of us, especially me?

"The Howard County Cat Club got all of us out of the shelter. We were happy to be together again, but I was very sick. I had a terrible upper respiratory infection, and I spent the first week I was in the Howard County Cat Club's group home curled up on a bed just trying to sleep. My friend Cloudy Girl never left my side, and I was so grateful she was there to comfort me when I was feeling so miserable.

"Finally, the URI was gone, and I was really beginning to enjoy life. I found a comfy perch on a cat tree that I loved. I could stay there for hours, looking out the window and soaking up the sun. Then my mouth started to hurt. I couldn't eat. The pain was so bad, I couldn't even yawn!

"It turned out that I have stomatitis, a painful and dangerous mouth infection. I'm taking medicine, but I still feel so awful. I'll be going to a dentist soon to have all of my teeth removed. Odd as it may sound, I can't wait!

"I realize that not many people want to adopt a cat my age. And I know, too, that most people want to adopt one cat, not three! But Sheba and Cloudy Girl and I are devoted friends, and we want so much to always live together. We've talked it over, and we've decided we'd rather stay in the group home for life than be separated. The thought of never having a family again does make us sad, but we'll be okay. I just wish this awful pain would go away. Maybe my heart would ache less, if my mouth didn't hurt, too."

Update: Snuggles' dental surgery was a huge success, and he's a happy, healthy cat now. Thank you, Dr. Stein!

Cloudy Girl


Sunday, October 2, 2011

From High Kill Shelter To My Loving Arms

It's Sunday, Sept. 25, and tonight I'd like to write about one of my own cats. I wish this was a Cat Tale with a happy ending. But chronic renal failure is a cruel and complicated disease, and my beloved Winston and I lost our fight with CRF last night, after just six short but torturous weeks. He was just three years old. Maybe a veterinarian who genuinely cared about saving, or at least prolonging, his life would have helped. Or maybe if I had been able to learn much more about CRF much more quickly, he would still be here. But that doesn't matter now. All that matters is that he's gone, leaving behind a human with a broken heart.

Winston and his mother, Honey (she's a white cat with honey-colored patches), and his sister, Katie, came to the Howard County Cat Club from death row in a North Carolina shelter. They were supposed to go to our shelter, but Honey had an upper respiratory infection, so I brought them home with me until she was well. By the time she was fully recovered, they were enjoying sleeping on my bed, lounging on the cat tree and roaming the woods behind my condo, so I decided to keep them until they got adopted. The only problem was that no one except me really wanted a ready-made family of three cats, and I wasn't willing to separate them. So they quickly moved from fosters to permanent members of my family.

Although Honey reminds me of a round, chunky farm cat, Winston and Katie were long and lean with narrow heads. Perhaps their father was Siamese. Like many Siamese cats, Winston talked a lot. But instead of the Siamese voice, he had a funny squeaky meow. He also squeaked when he purred.

I know I shouldn't say this, but of the three Honey Cats, he was my favorite. And while I rarely use the word charming, it fit him perfectly. He was loving and good natured, and his zest for life was contagious.

He was afraid of people he didn't know, but he loved the humans he lived with and his cat friends. I'd often see him wandering around outside head butting every member of his cat family. Even grouchy Sizzle loved him.

For three years, he was my alarm clock. He'd wake me in the morning, not to be fed but to be let out. I'd drag myself out of bed, stumble to the door and open it for him. Before he left, he'd stretch... a long, luxurious, elegant stretch. Everything about him was graceful and elegant.

The only symptom of kidney failure he ever showed was weight loss, and I was shocked when I got the diagnosis. But I know many cats who have lived for years with kidney failure, and I was confident I could get him stabilized and he'd live nine long, full lives. But the vets -- three of them -- knew better. When they offered little advice and no encouragement, I turned to the CRF email lists and Holisticat. They were the ones who told me which supplements to give for his acute anemia, how phosphorous binders work, and what to do when his mouth started bleeding. But I could never get ahead of the disease and its many heart-wrenching twists and turns and complications. He gave up before I did. Feeling miserable was not his style, so last night, he fell asleep on my bed and didn't wake up.

I will always miss him. I'll miss seeing him fall over on his back for belly rubs. And I'll miss having him meet me at my car and lead me up the steps to our condo, squeaking the whole way.

To the vets, he might have been just another cat with kidney disease. But to me, he was very special. He was my wonderful, loving little boy, and I would have given anything for Winston's Cat Tale to have a happy ending.

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Tornado Kitty: Home From The Hurricane

As Hurricane Irene was wrecking havoc up and down the east coast this past weekend, I was thinking about another hurricane that occurred years ago and the orange cat who was literally blown in the door of a house in Anne Arundel Country. The people named her Tornado Kitty but refused to keep her. We had no room in our little shelter, but I thought a cat who had been through a hurricane deserved better than a cage at Animal Control. And that's how Tornado Kitty became our first -- and last -- cat to live in the Adoption Center at the Columbia PetSmart. She was there for four hours! Meanwhile, I was thinking about her in tiny cage in a huge noisy store and working the phones, trying to find a foster home for her.

When Katie agreed to take her, I raced to the store to retrieve her. I got there just minutes before closing time. Katie had always had a soft spot for orange cats, and when she and Tornado Kitty met, it was love at first sight. Within a few days she'd gone from foster to probably permanent resident, the caveat being she couldn't stay if Katie's boyfriend was allergic to her. Thank goodness for allergy medication!

Over the years, Tornado Kitty and Katie became devoted friends. They celebrated together on Katie's wedding day and comforted each other when Katie got divorced. Every summer weekend, the two went to Deep Creek Lake together where they joined Katie's family, including all the pets, at her parents' cabin.

No matter what life threw her way, Tornado Kitty was always calm and cheerful. She loved catnip and fish flakes and being brushed. And she loved her human. Sadly, she's gone now, a victim of cancer. Katie adopted two more cats from us, but there will never be another Tornado Kitty. I loved her almost as much as Katie did and miss her almost as much, too.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Myles: Still Longing For A Real Home

Myles tells his story:

"I try to be a happy-go-lucky guy, but life has been pretty tough for a couple of years. The people I lived with tossed me out of the car in the middle of a huge shopping center parking lot and drove away. I was so surprised and scared! I had no idea where I was or whether I'd ever have any friends again or how I'd find something to eat.

"I lived in that parking lot for two years. Sometimes, the people who worked in the stores gave me food. But mostly I was on my own, hunting and digging through the Dumpsters. Have you ever tried to hunt in a sea of asphalt? Take it from me. There's not much to catch.

"A couple of months ago, when it was freezing cold outside, a nice woman told me she'd take me to a warm place with plenty to eat if I'd just go in her cat carrier. I did, and she took me to a shelter where I wound up in a cage! I felt so betrayed. But when she found out what that shelter does to cats, she took me right back. I got very sick in that shelter, and she kept me until I was well. Then she took me to the Howard County Cat Club's group home.

“I liked it there, but it just didn’t feel like home. And then, the president of the Howard County Cat Club said I was going to her house.  I was really excited until I learned that I’m here because I’m having surgery (I don’t even know what that is, but I don’t think I’ll like it) tomorrow and will need a place to recover. Recover??? That doesn’t sound good. And then what?

“I’ve been so unsettled for so long, I just want a place to call home. A real home, with cat friends and woods to explore and a human who loves me, like I have here. I wish I could always spend my days on the balcony with Hoss, an old and wise cat who lived in a parking lot like I did. And I wish I could always go hunting at night with Trista, a former street cat who acts like a princess now. I love my new friends, and I feel like I’m finally home. Maybe they’ll let me stay. I hope so. I really hope so...”

Update: Myles is here to stay!

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Buddy, Brandy and George: Working Cats Now

Brandy tells his story:

"My brothers and I spent the first two years of our lives in a cage. It's not what you think! We weren't in a shelter. We were in a home --- an apartment, to be exact -- with 20 others cats and two dogs. Four humans also lived there. The humans thought if they kept us guys in cages away from the female cats we wouldn't, well, you know... Truth is, we did every time we escaped from the cages, Since that was pretty often, there were lots and lots of kittens. The other thing about these people was that every time they found a kitten outside, they just had to bring it in. More cats!!

"Finally, the neighbors started to complain about the smell, and the property manager called Animal Control. They were coming to... well, we don't want to go there either. Let's just say the Howard County Cat Club came and took enough of us away to make Animal Control happy.

"The Howard County Cat Club got us all 'fixed' (we felt a lot better after that was done) and took us to the group home. We were very shy though, and they didn't think we'd do well in a regular home. They were looking for a barn for us when some people came along looking for some cats to live in their garage. They had lots of mice! We love mice!

"We love our people, too. When we're not on mouse patrol, we play with the kids and cuddle with the adults. We've come a long way from being caged animals to working cats with a couple of acres and a garage to keep rodent-free and four humans to entertain. It's a great life, and we feel so fortunate. We wish every cat could be as lucky as we are."

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Best Friends

We didn't know much about Tabby when he came to our group home from death row at a Baltimore shelter. He was eight years old, his intake paperwork said. And he'd been given up because he "scratched the furniture too much." A big scratching post for a big cat probably would have solved that problem...

In our group home, Tabby loved everyone, and everyone loved him. Although he longed to be outside, he was happy with us and didn't seem to miss his former family at all. He must have known he'd be going home with someone special very soon.

Cats in no-kill shelters have a way of making things work their way when adopters are around. Tabby's people didn't come to meet him. They were there to see Mister, a tabby with long hair and a less than outgoing disposition. While we were hunting for Mister, who was supposed to be a two-year-old's new cat friend, Tabby was rubbing against the people's legs. While we were trying to lure Mister our from under a chair, Tabby was curled up beside the people he'd chosen, purring nonstop. We took him to their house the next week.

It takes most cats a while to get used to a new home. But Tabby settled right in. A few minutes after he arrived, Arthur, his new toddler friend, showed him all of his toys. Then Tabby joined their dad for a quick nap on the couch.

Tabby's name is Tsi-tsa now, which is Hungarian for kitty. Commenting on Tsi-tsa's and Art's photo on Facebook, their mom said, "He's an amazing cat. He and Art look like they've finally found what they've always been missing."

Sometimes it takes cats a long time, maybe even eight years, to find the perfect home.