After the storm

Posted in Cats at 14:48

Sleepeh kitteh tummeh

An hour before I returned to the vet for the last time on Thursday, Nice was hit with a hail and rain storm; our first rainfall since the end of May. It lasted up until a few minutes after Grey’s passing, and hasn’t rained since. Kanoko was puzzled when I came home without Grey, pawing at the empty cat carrier and looking at it from every angle, then meowing at me. The next day, Kanoko was much worse; when I got home from work, he had strewn placemats and napkins around the apartment, and had rubbed his face raw on one side during the day. He’d never done any of that before. While I was home, he obsessively searched the apartment for hours, especially re-checking Grey’s favorite spots on the cat tree and kitchen bar. When he’d exhausted himself from all the walking, Kanoko sat and licked his fur for another hour, occasionally stopping to meow-wail — it was not a meow I’d ever heard before.

Saturday (yesterday) went better, although Kanoko still took time to search the apartment occasionally. He snuggled with me much more than usual, and finally, in the evening, relaxed enough to sprawl out as shown above. Today he’s mainly been sadly peeking into Grey’s spots, again; the most heart-breaking was when he even checked under the living room chairs, then sat listlessly, head drooped for several minutes, just staring at the floor.

I want to thank everyone who’s written — I’ve read all your comments and been touched by them. Like Kanoko, I too keep looking at Grey’s spots out of habit, since he always had his head toward me, the only exception being when he was watching birds outside. But when there were no pigeons at which to gaze, he’d sit on his white chair and meow or sigh happily when he saw me go by. I’d usually go out and give him an ear scritch.

I most miss his “discoveries”, which he’d always share. Slugs were the funniest. This winter was very wet, and my patio would often get the slimy visitors in evenings. One evening, I heard Grey give a long, insistent meow. I wondered if something were wrong, so checked on the cats from the patio door. Grey was sitting on his hind legs in the middle of the patio, Kanoko was napping on the composter, nothing looked amiss. “Meeeeeoooowww!!!!” Grey repeated. “What, dear?” I asked. “Maw!” Grey replied, keeping still in his spot. “What? What is it?” I asked him. He looked down, did a cute little dance on his front paws, and happily said “Meow, meowmeowmeow!” then looked up at me expectantly. I went out to look at what was fascinating him. “Moww!!!” he danced again on his front paws, looked down, said “meeeeeow!” and looked up to say a soft “maw”. I burst out laughing: the object of his curiosity was a little brown slug. “Yes dear, that’s called a slug,” I told him. It moved, ever so slightly. “Maaaaawwww!!!” he said to it, cocking his head to one side. “Yes dear, they’re very slow,” I chuckled, and patted his head. He purred and gave another soft “maw”.

His gentle spirit is very missed. I am, however, experiencing a different sort of grief than for Malo’s more traumatic passing (just after I’d moved in to my then-new apartment, he had escaped through a window that wouldn’t close properly and been hit by a car). Although Kanoko and I miss him very much, and wish that Grey had had more time in good health, remembering his trust and purring happiness while in my arms at the end makes it much, much easier to bear.

Adieu, Monsieur-qui-parle

Posted in Cats at 18:14

Grey, 30 May 2010

In a very sad turn of events, I chose to have Grey put to sleep today. On Tuesday evening, by chance, I took an earlier bus home than usual. This turned out to be a fateful coincidence: as soon as I got home and washed my face, Grey used the litterbox near the sink. I glanced at it, then panicked — there was a lot of blood in and around his stool. I rushed him to a nearby vet — had I come home at the usual time, the vet would have been closed.

Grey was hospitalized, given blood transfusions and several tests. I took the next afternoon off to return to the vet and check on him. More tests were needed, since Grey had tested negative for the first ones done. I agreed to the extra tests, keeping in mind that if he had something transmissible, Kanoko and Patches would also be at risk for it. Results still came back negative for them all: it wasn’t poisoning, FeLV, FIV, or anything else that could be tested. Bloodwork showed he was very anemic and having liver problems, but it wasn’t fatty liver syndrome. (He had been eating and drinking fine; I’d been watching closely since I had been worried about how thin he’d become recently.) Very low red blood cell counts; very high white blood cell counts; low albumin, high bilirubin. Kidneys and heart were fine. The vets — two work at the clinic I went to — both agreed it was an autoimmune disease, very probably Feline Infectious Peritonitis. Quote from that article: “One of the most difficult aspects of FIP is that there is no simple diagnostic test. The ELISA, IFA, and virus-neutralization tests detect the presence of coronavirus antibodies in a cat, but these tests cannot differentiate between the various strains of feline coronavirus. A positive result means only that the cat has had a prior exposure to coronavirus, but not necessarily one that causes FIP.” The “good” thing is, that it’s mainly transmitted in unclean environments; I’ve always been good about litterbox and general cleanliness, plus Kanoko is at a healthy age and Patches, constantly hiding, hasn’t been in contact with Grey or anything that could transfer from him.

As for treatment, it could have been possible to keep Grey alive for another week, few weeks, perhaps a month or two. However, for that to work, he needed to eat… and yet he refused. I took him home yesterday evening and tried to give him some of the delicious-smelling prescription food the vet had given me. He turned his nose away from it. This is a cat who would gallop to the kitchen, meowing up a storm, as soon as he heard his metal food dish come out. (I give a bit of wet food to Kanoko and Grey from time to time, in addition to their usual carnivore-specific dry food.) I tried using the feeding syringe the vet had given me, putting food onto Grey’s tongue through his teeth. He swallowed it dutifully, but ran away and hid on a dining chair under the table when I tried a second syringe.

I woke this morning to Grey on the floor by the bedside, waiting for me. He meowed when he saw my eyes open. I snuggled him, then picked him up and took him out on the patio. He didn’t want to sit in his favorite pigeon-watching spot. Instead he hopped onto his favorite chair and meowed for me again. I offered him some food. He turned away, huffing. I tried the syringe again. He swallowed, but refused some, leaving bits of wet food on his mouth that he didn’t lick off. I ended up having to sponge the food off his fur. I brushed him, which made him purr with happiness, then he set to cleaning his front paws, even the one bandaged to protect the needle kept in his arm for further transfusions.

I took him back to the vet just afterwards, as we’d agreed the night before. Grey had another transfusion. The vet told me to come back at three this afternoon, after she’d observed him some more and had a firmer idea of his prognosis. When I returned at three, the vet had him in her arms, and Grey nearly lept out for joy on seeing me, meowing and pawing excitedly. I took him in my arms. He purred his motorboat purr and kneaded my shoulder and arm. The vet told me he was still refusing to eat, even with a syringe. His prognosis was very bad; to survive he would need daily transfusions. I brought up euthanasia and the vet agreed. Grey stayed in my arms the whole time, purring and head-butting me up until the end.

Monsieur-qui-parle was a pet name I gave him, since he was always keeping up a conversation with me. The vets remarked on it too, noticing his different tones of voice and how purposeful he was with his meows; for him it was clearly communication, he never meowed just for meowing’s sake. And he was always so gentle; an exceptionally sweet, kind cat. I miss him very much. However, I’m also glad I was able to let him go while he still had the heart and energy to purr. I couldn’t stand to see him suffer and not even find joy in eating.

How to Shower a Cat

Posted in Cats at 13:36

Grey after his shower

Today I gave Grey a shower! Being the sweet cat he is, he complained merely by wailing pitifully and trying to get away from the shower head, but he would still purr when I lathered him and petted him. He never tried to scratch me.

I’ve noticed a real difference in temperament in these two cats that I’ve raised on my own. With unbroken consistency — having a cat with someone who doesn’t understand the importance of consistency can ruin that — and only positive reinforcement (though I do occasionally yell when they do something dangerous), they’ve both become very happy, well-behaved and trusting cats. They’ve never reacted in fear to me. Kanoko has the bad habit of dashing around underfoot, but even when I accidentally step on or kick him (oh, the guilt when that happens!), he won’t claw at my legs like other cats have. He just flips his ears back and puts himself out of harm’s way. Minus a bit of fur that’s stuck under my feet sometimes…

Grey’s coat had never quite recovered from his month or so on the streets; it was stringy, greasy and dandruffy. Although he’s eaten excellent food (Acana and Orijen) ever since arriving, and has regular brushings, his fur didn’t show much improvement. Thus his shower today. Grey’s fur looked much better even when it was damp, as in this photo, and now that it’s dry, it’s definitely nicer!

Domesticated lions

Posted in Cats at 15:04

Here birdy birdy...
A year and a week ago (on 25 July 2008), Kanoko came into my life. His whiskers had been cut off by his abandoners, apparently a common tactic to further disorient cats. A year later, they’re now long and luxurious! Kanoko is a delight, very affectionate and creative, although he does love to play with (read: destroy) my plants and can be a bit too energetic when tackling his “big brother” Grey.

Grey is starting his fourth month with us, still a calm and very matter-of-fact cat. He loves nothing more than to be petted and cuddled, with a deep motorboat purr that starts as soon as he knows he’s going to get affection. He patiently allows Kanoko to pounce on his back and his tail, and gives a harmless but firm swat or two when he’s had enough. His favorite activity is stretching out on the terrace and napping in the filtered sunlight.

Grey

Posted in Cats at 11:57

Grey

The new cat is here, and already with Kanoko — I was given no choice in the matter, the three women who brought him let him out in my living room before I could say anything. It’s going well though, they’ve both got their ears perked forward when they watch each other, even when they hiss and growl. Grey needs antibiotics; I had to use a towel to hold him steady for his pill and he’s chosen that towel to nap on. One of the ladies brought Feliway, so perhaps that’s one reason they’re both at ease.

As I mentioned yesterday, Grey got pretty badly beaten up. I learned more of his story today: he’s originally from Le Cannet (just north of Cannes), and people there knew him and his owner. They saw his owner, a woman, put him out on the streets, and asked her what she was doing — “I don’t want him any more, I’m moving” was the answer. When he was found this Monday, he had a 42°C (108°F) fever and was at risk of death from blood poisoning. He was brought to the vet by a lady who rescues cats, checked for any and all diseases etc., and is fine apart from his infections (being treated with the antibiotics).

Grey is very thin and bony, and his fur is rough due to being on the streets for a while. Le Cannet residents said it’s been about a month or two, rather than the week we first thought. Despite having been abandoned and on the streets, Grey is indeed very gentle and affectionate. He’s already let me brush him and showed me his stomach for petting, and has a lovely deep purr. He’s shown no aggression whatsoever other than the occasional hiss at Kanoko, but even those are rare. I’m looking forward to seeing his transformation as he regains his health!

(As for his name, “Grey” may very well stick with him since he is indeed a striking grey, even his eyes. I had a list of other possible names, Grey not being among them! None of the others fit, though. Update: I’m going to stick with Grey, using “Earl Grey” as his full name. Not terribly original, but most French people recognize it better than just “Grey”!)

A second feline friend

Posted in Cats, Nice at 17:57

New bed

I’m back to write about adopting a second cat, since I learned quite a lot about animal adoption agencies other than regular refuges (animal shelters) in France. Two weeks ago I asked a few friends and colleagues whether they had or knew of any kittens available, and also asked my kind neighbor, “Francine” (name changed for privacy), the same lady who gave me Kanoko. By “kitten” I meant aged 3 months to one year, hoping for a cat near Kanoko’s age to be a companion for him. Kanoko is well-behaved and careful with his claws, but unlike Malo (my previous cat), who had been able to go outside and find other friends for playful cat tussles, Kanoko can’t. Francine checked with a friend who works for an adoption agency that rescues cats found on city streets and puts them with foster families until adoptive families can be found. I had no idea such associations existed before. If something like this would interest you, ask around since it works best by word of mouth. It’s cheaper than going to a refuge as well, since donations are “optional” (you should donate), and smaller amounts (40-100 euros) are fine. Refuges here ask for anywhere from 400 to 800 euros for a cat. (When donating, do be sure to take into account whether they’ve had to vaccinate, operate, etc.! Vaccinations for a cat cost about 50 euros, males are about 60-80 to operate, and females are 100-150.)

The association lady set an appointment to visit my apartment and meet Kanoko, since she wanted to be sure my place was cat-friendly and that any cat she found would be a good match for Kanoko’s personality. Without me saying a word about Kanoko, she noticed he is indeed very affectionate, gentle and intelligent, so she assured me she wouldn’t set me up with a hyperactive or aggressive cat. There was a black, seven-month-old female kitten available for Saturday, so I agreed.

However, it turned out that the black kitten’s foster family had a small girl, who had fallen in love with the kitten and didn’t want to be separated from it! The adoption lady said that there was a female calico kitten she could give me on Sunday, though. “Great, I love calico cats!” I said. Sunday she phoned to say that it had been given to someone else, but no worries, there was a black and white male she’d try and have that afternoon. Sure enough, it happened again; the black and white kitten was given to another person by a different member of the adoption agency.

The lady handling my case was so unnerved with the other agency members that she had Francine phone me to explain: like many adoption shelters and associations (in many countries), some members gave cats to the first willing person to come along, without checking up on them or notifying other members trying to place cats. Francine’s friend was, clearly, of the sort who prefers to go forward carefully, so that each cat is placed with trustworthy people who are the best fit for its personality. Francine said her friend would phone veterinarians the next morning to check for adoptable cats and call me once she had any leads.

Monday morning she phoned to say that she had indeed found a cat who needed a home, and that he was very sweet. There was a small catch — he was five years old. Now, if you know much at all about animal adoptions, you know that adult animals can be nearly impossible to place, and once abandoned, often spend the remainder of their lives in shelters, if not worse, when in reality they can be great pets since they’re out of their rambunctious stage and are happy to have a real home. So, knowing he was a gentle cat, I agreed. This was when I was very happy to have a face-to-face relationship with the person in question, since it made all the difference: had I not trusted the adoption lady’s judgment, I would have feared the older male be more aggressive and take over Kanoko’s place.

The adoption lady continued the poor cat’s story: last week he’d been put out on the street by his previous owner, “since she was moving” (quoting her excuse). He’d been fixed and had spent his life as a single apartment cat, so he had no idea how to defend himself against other street cats, and promptly got beaten up by them. Since he’d also been vaccinated and ID’d, when he was found by an agency member who rushed him to the vet, they were able to contact the previous owner and get the cat’s back story. The previous owner confirmed she was abandoning him, and hung up. (I’m pretty sure her heartlessness goes without saying.)

Apparently he’s a beautiful semi-longhair, light blue (grey) tabby who charmed the vet and his rescuer with his gentleness, despite being in rough shape. (Cats are not usually gentle when injured.) He’s been under observation since Monday, and will come to join Kanoko and me tomorrow (Wednesday) morning. I’ll have to give him antibiotics for the first week he’s with us. He probably has a known name already, since he was registered, so I’m waiting to see what it is before deciding whether to rename him or not. It could go either way, since if he already has an identity that fits, it would be good to keep it, I think, but then again, the poor dear was abandoned cruelly by the person who gave him his name… it might be nice to have a new name to commemorate his “rebirth” into a new life. We’ll see tomorrow — I’ll also post photos here!