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.