Saturday, December 1, 2007

The latest addition

The phone rang as I was about to leave home to pick up a mama cat and her seven (!) newborn kittens that I was going to foster. The woman who had found the little family said a new kitten, about four weeks old, had just wandered up. The lady knew all the neighborhood cats, and this baby didn't belong to anyone, so she seemed to have been dumped. The woman asked if I would take this one too, and I said, "Sure, why not?"

Fostering the mama, Sassafras, and her seven boys is a trip, but this little girl just stole my heart from the get-go. I called her Spot, because of her speckled belly, for the first couple of weeks until I realized I was going to keep her. Then she became Emily. She's pictured here at 6 weeks old.

My boyfriend teases me because I've nicknamed her "The World's Most Perfect Kitten" -- even though she doesn't always quite make it to the litter box in time! She's incredibly sweet and snuggly, and has made friends with all my other cats -- even my curmudgeonly 17 1/2-year-old, Shugi.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Full house

Lots of excitement in our household these days. A few weeks ago, a woman who said she was referred to me by my vet called and asked if I could foster and/or adopt a pregnant cat who was about to have kittens any day. Her neighbors had moved and abandoned the cat, she couldn't afford to take of it, and with winter coming on she was worried about the babies.

So what could I do? I couldn't let the little ones freeze to death. So I agreed to go pick them up on Nov. 1.

The woman called that morning, and said Sassafras, the mom, had her babies the night before. There were SEVEN of them, all boys. One was a runt, which she had bottle-fed through the night because the mom kept pushing it away. So I was getting a lot more than I had bargained for. I would have to keep them until they were old enough to be adopted, and then find homes for seven kittens--if the littlest one, which the woman had optimistically named Hercules, survived.

Sassy, as my boyfriend and I call Sassafras, and her boys are keeping me extremely busy. Sometimes I feel like it's just too much, especially with the holidays coming up and so much to do, and my cats are rather put out by all the commotion.

But these guys are so sweet, and little Hercules is fighting so hard to get stronger, I feel blessed to be able to care for them a little while. I have to watch Herc all the time to be sure he's getting enough to eat, since his brothers tend to push him away from the "dining table," and Mom ignores him much of the time. I'm supplementing his mother's milk with several bottle feedings a day, which seem to be helping him put on a little weight. He's unbelievably tiny. He loves to be cuddled up against my chest, and will just stick like Velcro while I walk around the house, doing chores or whatever. I pray all the time that he will survive and thrive.

Sunday, September 16, 2007

The foundling

We found this little cutie Friday night, Sept. 14. When I say "we," I really mean Bobby's cat L'il Bit and me. I got to his apartment early while he was playing a gig, and L'il Bit wanted to take a walk so I let her out the back door. While I was out there watching her eat grass and check out everything in her world, I started hearing what sounded like a tiny kitten shrieking. I followed the sound, and it seemed to come from a neighbor's house, but I didn't feel comfortable going into their yard to check it out.

Finally a young man came out, and I asked him if they had a kitten, and he said no, they didn't have any animals. I told him about the squalling, but he didn't seem to care. After he left, I didn't feel any qualms about going into their yard to investigate. The sound was coming from a crawlspace under the house that had a boarded-up opening. There was just enough room at the bottom for me to reach into. I was a bit nervous, but stuck my hand in, and this little fuzzball walked into it.

I pulled her out and held her close. She had fleas jumping off of her and was rather dirty, so it didn't look as if her mom had been around for a while. She was screaming at the top of her lungs. I thought for a minute about whether I should take her or leave her in case her mother came back. But it was getting dark, the night was going to be very cold, and as cold and hungry as she already was, I doubted she would make it through the night if something had happened to prevent her mom's return. I didn't see or hear any other kittens under the house, so I snuggled the baby and took her to Bobby's apartment.

Sunday, March 25, 2007

Yesterday I said goodbye for now to my sweet Raj, who would have turned 20 in July. It's so hard to lose such a dear friend who's been with me for so long--he was barely 6 weeks old when I got him.

Raj was such a character--a true terror as a kitten who grew up to be the most laid-back, outgoing and empathetic cat I've ever known. He was great on a leash, and even went hiking in the snow with me when we lived in Mount Shasta, Calif. (I only made him do that once, though!)

He lost one eye to glaucoma two years ago, and shortly after lost the sight in the other eye due to a cataract. It was so hard to see him learn to cope with blindness, but he did it with his characteristic grace and courage. In the past year or so, he developed a form of dementia known as cognitive dysfunction in cats. He would frequently become disoriented and yowl pitifully until he heard my voice, when he would settle down. He also wandered a lot, especially at night, which is common with this disease.

Raj had been diagnosed years before with a heart murmur, and a few years before with an enlarged aorta. He also was in the early stages of kidney failure, but it was not progressing very quickly. He took one pill for his heart, and that was his only medication.

Then last month, his belly began swelling. At first I thought I was giving him too much of his favorite treat--cheese--but within a couple of weeks he looked as if he'd swallowed a watermelon, and I knew something more serious was going on. The vet aspirated some fluid from his belly for analysis, and the diagnosis was heart failure. He put Raj on Lasix, and showed me how to measure his belly to chart his progress daily as the swelling went down.

Until this point, Raj had been acting completely normal, enjoying his food and sleeping a lot. But after about a week on the Lasix, one evening he wouldn't eat his canned food. I knew that was the beginning of the end.

I have to stop here. I'll try to pick this up later, but it's really hard right now.