A Cautionary Tale

A Cautionary Tale (2)

Tiki the Escape Artist

Few things cause real panic in cat owners. The retching sound before a hairball is ejected onto the carpet can be scary, and emergency vet trips in the middle of the night are far worse. What makes my heart stop is when an indoor-only cat darts out the door, which is what happened to me last week.

Tiki has lived with us for six years, inside the walls of our little Cape Cod. I don’t know much about her past, except that she was found outside and brought to the shelter. All four of our cats have spent time in the outdoors prior to being adopted.

We keep water bottles at both doors to spray any cats that get uncomfortably close. Some people shake pennies in a coffee can as a deterrent, but the water bottle method works for us. When we leave, we exit with the bottle, placing it outside the door until our return. To enter the house, we crack the door open and start spraying. The cats soon learned not to hang out by the door. We did this for a long time, until we were confident that the cats wouldn’t attempt to bolt. I never thought we would have an escape with a cat who has been inside for six years.

My hubby let the dogs out into the yard to do their business. Red fell over outside, and when he opened the door to go assist him (Red ended up righting himself anyway), Tiki went with him, down the concrete steps into the back yard. She froze at the next to the last step, and he was able to scoop her up and deposit her back into the house. I was coming up from the basement, just in time to see Tiki go out the door. Talk about heart stopping. Incidents like these are why all the cats wear breakaway collars with identification tags, and are also microchipped with a registered chip.

So what have we learned from this potential disaster? Never, ever let your guard down. There are plenty of cats who live inside for years and never make an attempt to go out the door. Tiki had never expressed an interest in going outside until that day, although she loves to sunbathe directly in front of the door. I had let the dogs in and out with her there several times before and she never moved a whisker.

As a cat parent, I am adamant about my cats being kept strictly indoors. Tiki’s less than a minute adventure had a happy ending, but that’s not always the case for other wayward felines. Some never come home. Please remain vigilant in your efforts at keeping them in if you choose to do so, as Tiki just proved to us that you never know.

I would also like to wish the puppy that stole my heart from the first time I saw him a very Happy 16th Birthday! I love you, Moose! xo

A Cautionary Tale (1)

Sunbathing Near the Back Door

Rude Awakening

Rude_Awakening_Moment

Tiger’s Rude Awakening

Cats can function as furry alarm clocks, especially when it’s feeding time. Some are subtle about it, while others are downright rude, beating you over the head to wake you up. Tiger has his own obnoxious way of telling us when he wants his breakfast.

We have four cats. Vlad will lay on us, Barney will stare from atop furniture, while Tiki taps me on the head, giving me gentle kisses. Not too bad, right? Enter the orange monster Tiger.

He jumps on the bed, all 13 pounds proceeding to pace on our pillows. It’s annoying, but easily ignored. If that doesn’t elicit the response he wants from us, he ups his annoyance game.

On the dresser located next to the bed is a clock radio where an old iPod charges. Tiger has found a way to walk on just the right button to start the music. I’m all for blasting heavy metal, but in the wee hours of the morning, not so much.

Remember I mentioned about being beaten over the head? Tiger takes this to heart. He sits on the dresser, proceeding to swat objects onto the floor. There’s not many things up there that are cause for concern, except the lamp. The heavy, brass lamp. He knocks it down onto the head of the unfortunate person who sleeps on that side of the bed. That unfortunate person is always my hubby. Luckily, he has never suffered a serious injury as a result of Tiger’s wakeup call. Did I mention that Tiger swats the lamp cord loudly against the side of the dresser before sending it crashing down?

I’m not exempt from Tiger’s morning tantrums. He wreaks havoc on my hair, but not all the time. He seems to take offense to the smell after it has been processed. That’s when he tries to wake me up if the hubby won’t respond. He bites as close to my scalp as he can and pulls. Hard. I shouldn’t be surprised that the scent bothers him, because this is the same cat who tries to cover up my coffee mug when it’s sitting out.

Tiger has another tactic to let us know that he wants breakfast. There are two pictures hanging on the wall, accessible to the tabby with attitude. He stretches up from the dresser and proceeds to swat the photos repeatedly against the wall. Wham, wham, wham! I think it is even more obnoxious than blasting the music.

As annoying as all of this is, when he doesn’t do it, we miss it. Tiger wasn’t eating for a couple days, and during that time he wasn’t into his normal routine. We’re not sure what was wrong with him, but he left the vet’s office with an appetite stimulant that got him eating again. I thought he might have a hairball blockage, so I found something at a pet supply store to remedy that. Now that he’s back to his usual self, he’s up to his old tricks. Maybe I will buy hubby a football helmet for Christmas.

Rude Awakening

Looking for a Way Out at the Vet

Meet Tiki

Meet Tiki (2)

Glamour Girl

Last but not least of our crew to introduce is Tiki. When she came to live with us in 2012, she became cat #4 behind Annie, Ozzy, and Tiger. She has since moved to cat #2 in the hierarchy, after the passing of Annie and Ozzy. She rounds out our fur family which consists of 4 cats and 2 dogs.

Tiki is the second cat I adopted through volunteering. She’s a big girl, who was approximately five years old when we met. She’s a dilute calico, which means that instead of having the usual black, orange, and white fur, her colors are “diluted.” Her coat is gray, tan, and white. I have always wanted a calico cat. Did you know that almost all calico kitties are female? I didn’t, which is why I thought I could easily find a male. Apparently a male is a very rare find.

Tiki is a doll and a beautiful cat, if I do say so myself. I would reach into her cage every shift to pet her, and she would just roll onto her back, loving the attention. She’s a huge cuddle bug.

One morning I was cleaning the cages, with Tiki watching. As I walked past her, out came a white paw with a gentle “notice me” swat. Assuming she wanted a break from her confines, I opened her door and I sat on the bench. Once free, she climbed into my lap, standing up to put her face close to mine. I wasn’t sure what she was doing, but she started licking my nose, giving me kisses. So much for sticking to three cats at home.

I inquired about her and was told that a family was supposed to bring her home, but they never came back for her. It happens. Sometimes people change their minds or go to another shelter. Their loss was my gain, because this girl is fabulous.

She’s a mommy’s girl through and through and I wouldn’t have it any other way. She’s the only female of the fur kids, so we girls have to stick together. She’s often one of the first to arrive to greet me after work, and later watches television with me. Tiki is a lap cat and my bed buddy. As soon as I go into bed, I can count on Tiki to spend the night curled up next to me, sometimes with her head on my pillow. If it’s a cold winter night, she doesn’t mind being covered with a blanket. Since I sleep on my left side, she curls up there, preferring that I drape my right arm across her, with her head cradled in my hand. More often than not we fall asleep like that.

I don’t know what I would do without my girl; she’s such great company. I miss her on the occasional nights when she might choose to sleep elsewhere, or when we travel. It’s said that animals looking for homes often choose their new people, and I’m so glad Tiki chose me.

Meet Tiki (1)

Cuddled in the Crook of My Arm

 

Happy Birthday Annie

Happy Birthday Annie 2007

Annie on Top of the Fridge – 2007

Today is a bit sad in our house, because our beloved brown tabby cat Annie would have been 20 years old today. Cats can live to this age and beyond, and Annie was a healthy girl until she succumbed to what we believe was cancer at the age of 17.

She was the first pet we had together, and the only pet to live in our apartment. When we moved, Annie ruled the house with an iron paw, a declawed force to be reckoned with. (At one time it was common to have cats declawed and altered at the same time. We no longer put our cats through the former procedure, known as Onychectomy. All of our current felines have their claws). Annie let any new addition know that she was queen of the castle. The dogs feared her, and the other cats aspired to be her.

She had attitude when she was a baby; I remember fighting a little tiger to put drops in her ears to treat her for mites when we got her. Annie was three years old when we brought home a new kitten we named Ozzy. We thought a kitten might awaken her maternal instincts, but we couldn’t have been more wrong. The first night at home she hissed at her new baby brother and swatted him down a step into the family room. Little did she know that he would grow to be bigger than her, and become an instigator. He would do everything possible to aggravate her to incite a hiss, growl, or swat. He played his own version of “I’m not touching you,” and then stand there, ears back, as she unleashed on him. He rarely fought back. They were together 14 years, and they played this game for the duration of their time together.

Annie tolerated, if didn’t care for, any other pet that came after her. She spent all her time from her invisible throne atop our tall entertainment center. She liked to be up high, surveying her kingdom. The problem with this was that she spent too much time away from the other animals. When she did come down, she was such a novelty to them that they bothered her, causing her to retreat to her wooden tower.

One day the gigantic tube television was replaced by a sleeker model, and gone with it was the old entertainment center. Annie now had to relocate to another safe space, and she chose the top of the refrigerator. We outfitted her new digs befitting a queen, complete with a cat bed beneath a body heat reflecting mat. Her majesty even took her meals up there, and there was not enough room for another cat to comfortably join her. Rarely did one of the others attempt to intrude. It was understood that this was her space from which she could observe daily life. She still sits in her bed atop the fridge, and her brothers and sister still respect her special spot, although she is no longer here to defend it. Happy Birthday Annie, we love and miss you.

Happy Birthday Annie 2005

Ozzy and Annie Standoff – 2005

Meet Tiger

Meet Tiger (1)

Waiting for a New Family

By now you know that I have two Italian Greyhounds which I adore. I also share my home with four rescued indoor cats. I’ve previously written about the two latest additions, Barnabas Collins and Vlad. In this post I will introduce you to the first cat I adopted through my volunteer job.

We already had two cats when I started volunteering for the shelter approximately 15 years ago. They were acquired as kittens, the products of what I call “oops” litters. Annie was a brown tabby, perhaps mixed with a little Siamese, and Ozzy was a gray marble tabby (and the best cat in the universe), whose mother was Russian Blue. Sadly, we lost both of them exactly a year apart on June 2, 2015 and June 2, 2016.

There was an orange tabby in the adoption center. He was an adult cat who just wanted to lay around, and he didn’t stand out among the other cats looking for forever homes. I’m not sure why because he is a very handsome cat.

Week after week we developed a routine. I would lay my coat on the bench and he would curl up in it. I would come in for my shift and if he was already out of his cage, he would look to me for my coat, and I always obliged him. Since no one had showed any interest in him, and we had a bit of a bond, Tiger became cat #3 in 2009.

Fast forward nine years later, and guess what? He still lays around. That’s ok, now he has a much bigger space to lay around. I’ve heard that orange male tabbies are some of the friendliest cats. (Did you know that the majority of orange cats are male?) I have to admit that this isn’t accurate when it comes to Tiger. He is the least friendly of our felines. This is not to say that he is mean, but if you pet him too long, he will reward your effort with teeth marks. However, he is a cat’s cat, affectionate on his terms. He will head butt for attention, and climb into an available lap when the mood strikes him. Sometimes Tiger will even lay close to his humans in bed.

He likes to carry his toy mouse around and meow loudly, delivering us his latest “kill.” For this we heap tons of praise on him. He is the hunter of the group, and the only cat of the four who does this.

We call Tiger Pass-Out Cat, because he likes to sleep face planted. It really is adorable. If he’s really cold, he will burrow under the covers on the bed. If you see a lump, you know there’s an orange kitty under there. Again, he’s the only cat of ours to do this.

Tiger may not be a cat thrilled with kisses and cuddles, but we love him just the same.

Meet Tiger (2)

Pass-Out Cat

Remembering Annie 1998-2015

IMG_20150218_064250413 When I wrote “To Annie, With Love,” in April, I expected her to live into her twenties. She was always a healthy cat, never having issues. I had no clue we would have to make a painful decision two months later. Annie hadn’t been eating very much, she weighed just over 7 pounds when she died, down from the 14 pounds she weighed as a young cat. In addition to the appetite reduction, we noticed she was no longer jumping into her bed on top of the fridge. That was her favorite place in the house. From that vantage point she was free from the harassment of two dogs and three other cats. She was the queen of the house and her throne was perched atop a white Whirlpool. Our girl appeared to have difficulty getting comfortable. I pet her head to hear purring. One thing about Annie was that you could pet her for only seconds before she tried to bite. This reaction was so different that I knew something was wrong. I assumed it was arthritis, and the vet would prescribe a med to make her feel better. I held onto that assumption as I pushed her into the carrier, telling her not to worry, she would be home soon. My husband drove her to the vet while I stayed home. He called to say she was spending the night, as she was dehydrated. He wasn’t back from the vet yet when the office called. They asked me if I wanted her put down. I was dumbstruck. What were they talking about? Annie’s belly was distended, filled with fluid. In their experience, in cats of the age of 17, it was either stomach cancer, or a heart or liver issue. More tests could be run to discover the cause, but the outcome would be the same. Once the fluid was drained, it would return in 24-48 hours to require more draining. It was five minutes before the office closed. I wasn’t going to let them kill her before I could talk to my husband. I managed to tell the vet to keep her comfortable, I would speak with another vet who was on in the morning about her prognosis. I hung up the phone and lost my mind, my worst fear realized. I gave my husband the diagnosis through sobs when he returned. We held out hope that somehow she was wrong, that a more seasoned vet on duty in the morning would have a different opinion. The second vet agreed with the first. Annie was not going to get better. We told our vet we would euthanize her, but we wanted to visit to say our goodbyes. Later that day we went to the veterinary office. Annie was brought out to us, her eyes dilated from the pain medicine. We took turns holding her, telling her how much we loved her, and if there was anything we could do to keep her with us, we would have done it. We took a lot of photos that afternoon. IMG_20150602_162546383_HDR I wished I were strong enough to stay with her until the end, to hold her as she left for the Rainbow Bridge. I couldn’t do it, I was a coward. I couldn’t let my last memory of Annie be her lying dead on a steel table. Maybe that’s why I don’t like viewings, I prefer to remember people alive. Handing her over to the vet tech for the last time was gut wrenching. I knew she would be surrounded by people we knew, and our favorite vet in the office promised to perform the procedure. She had been the third vet involved and came to speak with us. She agreed we were making the best decision for Annie. It’s a month today that our girl has been gone. Annie’s homecoming was bittersweet, I couldn’t wait for her to be home, even if it was not in the same form. The house didn’t feel right without her. Her urn sits in her bed above the fridge, returned to her rightful place. Her food dish, a straw, and foil ball surround her. IMG_20150615_213719511 This was the first time I ever had to go through this. Previous pets belonged to my parents, and they dealt with the end of life decisions. In a way I was relieved it happened the way it did, so fast, so unexpected. There was no lengthy illness, no period of time where we wondered what day we would give her peace. I love and miss you, Annie.

To Ozzy, with Love

When we moved into our house with our cranky tabby Annie, it wasn’t long before I wanted to add a second cat to the family. By then Annie was three, and her personality was set. We thought bringing home a kitten would bring out her softer side, assuming she had one. We couldn’t have been more wrong. It turned out that Annie had the maternal instincts of Joan Crawford.

We acquired Ozzy in much the same way we did Annie. It was another unplanned litter, this time the mother cat belonging to someone working temporarily in my office. This person lived on the street behind our house, and one day brought over two kittens for me to choose from. Their mother was a Russian Blue, and their father a tabby. Both kittens were male, with handsome dark gray coats, one solid and the other with marble stripes. I sat on the floor, the solid boy aloof while the other was more curious, climbing on my lap. He was adorable and I was smitten. I chose the tabby-striped kitten, and because the owner had more kittens at home that looked like him, we put a drop of nail polish on his body to be sure I would get the right little guy when they were old enough to go to new homes.

Ozzy as a Kitten

Ozzy as a Kitten

When that day finally arrived, Annie was less than thrilled. She showed him no kindness, the only thing she wanted to show him was the door. She puffed up to twice her size and must have resembled a tiger to tiny Ozzy, who tried his best to puff up and look formidable. Their meeting can be compared to the scene in Jaws when Quint crushes the beer can and Hooper responds by crushing the paper cup. They hissed and cursed each other and with one quick swipe from the aggressive female, Ozzy was down the stairs.

I guess Annie didn’t expect her kid brother to ever grow. Eventually his 18 pounds eclipsed her 14 pounds, and her bullying wasn’t as effective. To this day he will instigate her into a reaction by getting close to her, almost purring, “I’m not touching you.”

Ozzy was a happy, robust cat until he was about three years old. He was having difficulty using the litterbox and appeared to be in distress. The vet took x-rays and saw that he was backed up. The vet performed a procedure to unclog him, but the issue became a chronic condition. He was going to the vet weekly, still unable to use the litterbox with any regularity. Ozzy was finally diagnosed with chronic constipation due to a low-functioning colon. This vet put him on two medications, a stool softener and a motility drug for his colon. We had hope that this would put an end to the problem, but unfortunately, it didn’t. We tried other ideas suggested by our vet, but nothing worked. When holistic methods failed, our vet told us there was nothing that could be done for him. Without saying it, the vet indicated that euthanasia was looking like our only option.

We sought a second opinion with another practice who is now our current vet. They kept our kitty on the same two medications, but added a low residue prescription food. He now had a food that produced less waste, a med to soften what waste he did produce, and other med to help him pass the waste. This combination saved his life, and we follow this regimen 10 years later.

All was well with Ozzy for quite a long time until one day I received a phone call from my mom, who was babysitting our animals. She was very upset, our laidback, loveable boy was howling at her whenever she went near him. Something was very wrong.

Back to the vet we went for more tests. It wasn’t until he had an MRI did we uncover the newest issue—inflammatory bowel disease. We were devastated, this guy has gone through so much, and now another medical problem. We were prescribed prednisone for this condition, which he continues to take.

Ozzy is a lovable lap cat. He is laid back, and never put up a fuss through any of the procedures he endured. From blood draws, enemas, x-rays, and MRIs, he took it all in stride, his sweet personality never changing. It’s a shame such a sweet cat had to suffer so much.

Ozzy has lived with chronic constipation and inflammatory bowel disease for years. He also suffers from arthritis for which we give a supplement, and occasional bouts of vertigo. We had no idea cats could have vertigo, and we were certain that trip to the vet would uncover something horrible like a brain tumor.

Ozzy will turn 14 on December 18, 2015. We have had 11 more years with him than we had expected. His food and medications to keep him with us may cost the equivalent of a car payment, but our little man is more than worth it. I know one day his conditions are likely to take their toll on him, and he may get other problems due to all the long-term medications. We will lose him one day, we’ve come close several times, and we will be devastated. Every day he is still with us as a blessing. I love you, Ozzy.

Ozzy-2015

Ozzy-2015