Bart the Cat LIVES

Two weeks ago Bart the cat headed back to the shelter.  I was going to be out of town and he had procedures planned:  bandage change followed by cardiology appointment.  He was still very sick when I left him sneezing and bandaged.  My soul hurt not knowing if he was getting better, going to be diagnosed with a fatal heart murmur, or dying from complications due to his other problems.  Right before I left on my trip the shelter called: Bart was doing okay, but couldn’t go to the cardiologist until he was 100% healthy, which he was not.  They mentioned he would likely need foster care again, if I was willing when I got home.

I decided I was willing.  From Washington DC I e-mailed to let the foster folks know I was heading home and could pick Bart up if they needed me.  An emphatic “Yes” was delivered to my inbox.  When I arrived last Tuesday he was bandage free, upper respiratory infection free, but his nose was a bloody mess.  Having had a snotty cold for three weeks his nasal passages were a wreck, so I was told to take him home, get the humidifier on him, and bring him back in a week if his nose stopped bleeding.  Only then could he get his heart murmur evaluated.  (He also can’t be actively bleeding at the cardiologist.)

Poor bloody nose.  Ouch!

Well friends, I’m here to tell you that I might not be the cat grim reaper.  Look at this beauty!  Bandage gone, bloody nose gone, fur free of blood, and Bart  cleans up quite well.  Almost a week of damp kitty humidification action and he looks like a cat that will find a home in no time.

I’m so happy.  This was what my foster experience was supposed to be.  The shelter and I worked in partnership to make Bart well.  I’ll take him back Tuesday night and the cardiologist will evaluate him Wednesday.  If all goes well he could be up for adoption Wednesday night.  This boy could have a new home by Christmas, and I’m actually hopeful for the first time in my foster career.  The best part is that even though he loves my daughter I don’t feel like he’s our family’s cat.  While I’ll be sad when we leave him Tuesday it all worked out the way it was supposed to: Bart was sick, we got him healthy and he and his huge purr will make some family an amazing pet.  I still don’t think that this is the best way for our family to help make the world a better place, but I feel healed knowing that our first litter was bad luck, not some kind of horrible cat curse.

If you are in the Denver area and in search of a new cat, drop me a message.  I can hook you up with a winner.  Mr. Bart will steal your heart away.

I Really Want Kittens

I have always wanted kittens.  A litter of tiny kittens I could watch grow from birth through kitten-hood.  I want to see the tiny babies born, licked clean by their momma, and then nursed.  I want to see their ears open, their eyes open, and watch them take wobbly first steps.  I want to have kittens chewing on my fingers, crawling up my leg and sitting on my shoulder.

I am a responsible pet owner.  I spay and neuter my cats just like I’m supposed to.  I think letting your cats have kittens is irresponsible, but I really want kittens.

My daughter wants kittens.  We sit together and watch the Animal Planet show Too Cute, and we marvel over the tiny furry babies.  We coo as they take first steps.  We laugh when the fluffy ones get their first bath and become wet and sad looking.  She asks me, “Mom, why can’t our cats have kittens?”  I tell her that our cats had surgery and they can’t have kittens, but I want kittens too.

Our last cat we adopted from the shelter was a foster cat.  A seed was planted.  A lovely woman I met at the shelter had my kitten at her house, and had cared for the tiny kitten until she’d grown “big enough.”

I found the program.  I signed up.  I went to training.  I was interviewed.  I went to more training.  My house was inspected.  Finally I got the e-mail that I was an approved foster parent.  If I could get to the shelter within the hour I could bring home kittens.

My daughter and I had discussed the perfect number of kittens.  Three: one for each human in our house.  We wanted them to be fluffy.  We wanted a momma and her kittens.  No, we just wanted kittens.  We wanted them to like our other cat.  We wanted them to love us.  We discussed how we’d have to give them back when they were 8 weeks old and 2 pounds.  That would be hard, but we could do it.  We dreamed about our kittens together.

We did not discuss the other side of fostering, but I learned.  Kittens die.  Kittens get horrible diseases.  During my interview I heard about an entire dead litter.  Kitten after kitten inexplicably dying.  It had only happened once, my interviewee assured me.  Pan Luke she said, but I didn’t know what that meant.  I heard about ringworm that infected your entire house and sounded like lice on steroids.  That had only happened once my interviewee assured me.  There were terrible things that could happen, but I really wanted kittens.

We came home with three tiny fluffs.  They were four weeks old and black head to toe.  They were exactly what we dreamed.  Two tiny boys and one big girl.  We laughed at the mistake we made at the beginning assuming that the aggressive big one was male and the small one we named Tiny was a girl.

Tiny had a purr inversely proportional to his size.  Holding him would start a motor in his chest that could be heard across the room.  His sister Adventure would purr, but not as big.  His brother Blackie had a quiet rumble that you could feel but not hear.  They all had personalities and we fell hard and fast.

Something wasn’t right with Tiny.  He ate less each day while his brother and sister got bigger.  He’d climb onto you and sit and purr but wouldn’t drink and wouldn’t play.  Five days after we got him I took him in.  I knew something was wrong.  They tested him and said the horrible words: panleuk, not Pan Luke.  He was going to die.

He sat on my shoulder while they filled out paperwork.  Someone mentioned the other cats in the litter.  Tiny just sat while I said I’d take any litter mates that weren’t sick.  The kittens had to be quarantined for two weeks.  They might as well all be together at my house.  They brought the two litter mates in.  One more time I heard panleuk.  There were five kittens in the litter and two died.  I brought three home, but not the same three I brought from home.

I watched my daughter when I told her, “Tiny died.”  She crumpled in a way I’ve never seen before.  This grief was bigger than any she’d ever felt.  I watched her and for the first time saw her feel sadness the way I feel sadness.  She tried to stand tall, but all she wanted to do was curl up and sob.  We are too proud to show that grief, but we feel it, and you can see it as our head drops and shoulders slump.

It took us four days to name the new cat.  Finally he became Sneaker because of his ability to escape.  As if the name had attracted the attention of unknown spirits the next morning he was lethargic and had lost weight.  I took my daughter to school and we both worried silently.

At home alone I went to the kittens.  I held all three and sobbed.  Alone the tears fell and the cries become audible.  How could I have done this to my family?  How could I have done this to myself?  I wanted kittens.  I didn’t want dead kittens.  What kind of person does this to herself and her family?  All three kittens purred in my arms as I wiped my tears and snot from their soft fur.  Then I e-mailed the shelter and made an appointment.

“It’s negative.” she said looking at the test.  He was sick, but he wasn’t dying.  Or if he is dying it’s of something else.  I’m instructed to give him a huge shot of fluid under his skin twice a day.  Gleefully I box up the same three kittens and take home the needles and fluid.

He spent the day next to my heart in my jacket.  It wasn’t fair for me to keep my distance because I was hurt by his brother.  I wanted kittens.  His warmth and motor kept me company through spreadsheets and graphs and conference calls.

“You are such a good person.”

“I am moved by your dedication.”

“You are an amazing person and foster parent!”

“Thank you.” I reply, but inside I know I just really want kittens.

Hard Knock Cats

I’ve owned four cats in my adult life, and have developed a reputation with my vet.  I feel like my cat carrier should display a plaque with these words from The New Colossus,

“Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!”

Our first cat, Neko, was two when we adopted her.  She was a skinny wisp of a thing who loved to fetch.

Neko fetch (2)

When she was ten she was diagnosed with diabetes.  She was wasting away to nothing and we took her to the vet.  Only two shots of insulin a day would keep her fit and healthy the vet assured us, the parents of a newborn baby.  Really, the one thing missing from our sleep deprived spit-up stained life was two insulin shots a day.  She died of a stroke when she was thirteen after three years of twice daily shots.

Boo the cat

We adopted Boo when he was somewhere between five and fifteen years old.  He came into our life as a sweet stray who sneaked into my great-aunt’s house and took up dominion under her dining room table.  I loved him from the moment we met.  When my great-aunt died my mom asked if we would take him, and we brought him home.  A few years later, he developed glaucoma.  Two pet ophthalmologist and two different opinions later, we opted to not have his eyes surgically removed.  He lived out his days blind with great big creepy eyes swelling out of his head.  Kidney failure claimed him, somewhere between ten and twenty years old.

After Boo died, but before Neko died, we adopted Hazel.  I’ve written about him before, and sadly he passed away this summer.  When we adopted Hazel from the shelter he had a bald spot on the top of his head from having a benign growth removed.  My husband accused me of taking him home just because of his head wound, and asked if we didn’t want to adopt the three legged cat instead.  (To be fair, the three legged cat was in quarantine and I couldn’t adopt him.)  Hazel was the sweetest cat I’ve ever owned, and the head wound healed over beautifully, but we only had three years with him before he wasted away from kidney failure, even with a round of dialysis.

After Neko we adopted sweet Katie.  A teeny kitten who loved Hazel and who was loved by Hazel.  The only creature she loved more was me.  I remember, less then fondly, her early days where every night she curled on my chest, waking me numerous times with her tiny disgusting kitten sneezes from the respiratory virus she picked up in the shelter.  She still falls asleep every night nestled in my hair bathing my neck and cheek.

Katie desperately misses her best friend Hazel.  She was a fostered cat before we adopted her, and I’ve decided that I need to pay it forward and try to foster a few cats before we find a new “forever” cat.  I figure I have experience.  I can give shots; I can hand feed; I can deal with knowledge that some of the sick kitties may not make it, and hard decisions might have to be made.  Today I took Katie to the vet to get her immunizations up to date and make sure she’s healthy before we foster.  Turns out she has this cat syndrome which causes her gums to reject her teeth.  She’s already lost four adult teeth, at the age of two, and the rest of her teeth are filled with holes.  Her gums are red and bleeding, and she is in pain.  I have an appointment for next week to have all her teeth removed, the only way to solve this problem.

I love my vet.  She and I talked through Katie’s options and agreed that this was the only choice we had.  We laughed about my horrible cat health luck, and we bored the vet tech to tears with all the medical woes we’ve been through together.  She assured me that I am not her only client that attracts a mix of sweet cats with horrible health.  She predicts I’ll make it one round of fostering before I fail and adopt one of the cats. She tried to shorten that cycle by offering me a stray cat that was left outside her clinic last week.  I think I’ll hold out for a three-legged cat, or a deaf cat, or whatever foster kitty is the next best friend to Katie, the toothless wonder.