I thought it would be nice to add an uplifting post. These are pictures from our much-too-short stay in the Adirondacks (NY) in August, 2014. Please enjoy. It’s very serene if you ever get a chance to go there and the air smells divine (just like pine).

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Nijinsky, Isadora and Lulu on the couch

Nijinsky, Isadora and Lulu on the couch

It’s different loving a cat from loving a person. Not the feeling of love: the feeling is exactly the same. The experience of loving an animal is what I’m talking about.

Isadora died a week ago yesterday. I told my husband on Wednesday (the day preceding the week anniversary of her death) that I hadn’t cried that day for her and she’d only been gone a little less than a week. How quickly I adjusted, is what I was thinking.

I found out when I had to have Peleas, my 17-1/2 year old cat, put down (in 1999) that our memories of cats are so very different than the memories we have of people. I panicked when I realized I didn’t have specific photo-type memories in my mind of us “doing stuff” together. I had to think about it and realized I needed to remember how it felt to have him around all the time, how his energy felt to me.

When I got Peleas (at 8 weeks old) I lived in Chicago. He moved with me to D.C., then Philadelphia, then briefly to Cleveland, then back to D.C. for 6 months, then to New York City, and finally to New Jersey (where he died). I didn’t have memories of us going on vacation and, for instance, paddling around in a kayak, or of eating out at our favorite little restaurant.

I had a strong sense of his presence in my daily life. A cat’s presence is one of constantly being there, at least in Peleas’ case. He was always there for me. He slept up against my butt every night, and every day he greeted me when I came home. Not with a “How was your day?” but with a sweet look, a readiness to be petted, and an immediate purr. His was a constant presence I could count on. Did I remember what I liked about him, for example, his sweet energy? Yes. Did I have specific memories of outstanding times spent together? Not really. I had to remember my sense of his personality and energy, not the stuff we did together. I used to tell my friends my relationship with Peleas was the longest relationship I’d ever had with any male other than my father or brother!

Remembering her presence is how I remember Isadora, except perhaps more subtle. Isadora was always the bottom cat. When I had Nijinsky, Lulu and Isadora, she (Isadora) was at the bottom of the feline hierarchy. When Nijinsky died, she was still the bottom cat. Both Nijinsky and Lulu (especially) demanded much more attention than Isadora. She would come into the bathroom when I got up and if Lulu was in there already, she could not proceed or Lulu would chase her out. At night when I sat on the couch Isadora came to me to get petted, but again, if Lulu was already on the couch, Isadora had to be careful and I had to be careful too, or Lulu would be aggressive with Isadora, so poor Isadora got the scraps of loving. She always seemed very grateful for any attention she got and if she had to make herself scarce, she didn’t seem to resent it at all but always seemed gracious in her acceptance of her role.

My memories of her are really much less of a constant presence than with Peleas, since I lived with him for many years when he was the only cat — I could give him all my attention. With Isadora, she was always the bottom cat among 2 or 3 cats and I now realize I should have made more time for her. I don’t really have an idea how I could have done it, and it’s really too late since she’s gone now.

If you have a dog or cat and think perhaps you aren’t paying enough attention to them, I’d like this to be a reminder that it will be too late once they die. So maybe you could take a clue from my relationship with Isadora and give your pet an extra few minutes today, and perhaps every day after this. Surely it’s not something you’ll regret, and I know your pet will be grateful for every extra second you give them.

Isadora

Isadora

Ain’t it a gas {{{sarcasm}}}? I hadn’t posted in almost a year (364 days, to be exact) and today makes two in a row.

Why? Because I had to put down one of my (2) indoor cats today. I’m feeling very toxic to cats, lately.

Poor, sweet Isadora. She was a feral kitten when I got her at 10 weeks old in September 2000. I’d lost my 17-1/2 year old cat, Peleas, the year before (to kidney disease) and finally felt, after almost a year, up for getting another cat. I had Nijinsky, but he was never a lap cat, nor was he particularly affectionate. Plus, having just one cat felt empty.

I decided to get a kitten that “really needed a home” and called my (then) cats-only vet and asked if they had any kittens. They did! Feral kittens had recently been found and brought in and were ready to be adopted.

I went to the vet’s office and was told, “Oh, they’re fine. We can clip their nails and pick them up.” I picked the prettiest one, a beautiful calico with a delicate face. I’d already decided if I got a female cat to name her “Isadora”.  Can I tell you she’s never had her claws clipped by me since the day she came home?  Not once.  Not possible.

Back in 2000 I had no idea how to introduce a new cat into my home. I let her out of the carrier in the middle of my living room and she scooted under the couch, where she stayed for the next month. Nothing could coax her out, and I ended up having to feed her under the couch or she would have starved to death.

Two weeks after I got Isadora, my laundry lady, Lucy, handed me a black and white puffball of a kitten and said, “Julee, can you take her? I have 5 more at home.” This kitten snuggled up to my chest and started purring. The insane part of my brain said, “What’s one more?” and I dropped her in my purse and took her home with me. Thank goodness I did, or Isadora would have been returned to the vet. She just wasn’t my idea of what I wanted in a cat. I need an affectionate cat, and Isadora wasn’t even letting me near her at that point.

For the next 2 years I thought off and on about taking Isadora back. We really didn’t have much of a relationship. However, I knew she would have a hard time being placed, since she wasn’t very social, and of course she was way past the cute kitten stage, so eventually I realized I had to keep her. I knew she didn’t have a bad life, but it was hard to see if she had much happiness. Still, I knew because I had Lulu (the black and white cat) that if Isadora didn’t seem unhappy, and she got along with the other two cats just fine, I needed to keep her.

Admittedly, I didn’t understand anything about feral cats. I thought Isadora would eventually adjust and be like other cats I’d known. Wrong. Completely wrong. No thanks to the vet’s office, which didn’t bother to explain anything about feral cats, I was in the dark and this was well before I went on the internet to look things up. I just didn’t have any information and made assumptions based on my experience with cats that had been socialized to humans at a young age. Isadora was nothing like any cat I’d ever experienced before.

As the years passed Isadora became more social with me. She didn’t like my husband (then boyfriend) and disappeared the second he came in the door, but the moment the door closed and he left she came out, so I knew she knew what she was doing. She and Nijinsky (the cat I had to put down 1-1/2 years ago) liked each other a lot and she slept with him and groomed him. She seemed okay and content in her way.

After my husband left for 2 years (we weren’t married at that time) to work in Canada, Isadora and I bonded a bit more. When he came back she hid. Since he was living in my apartment, this was not good. I finally assigned him cat feeding duties, knowing that Isadora would eventually like him again if he was in charge of the food. I was right. She eventually started coming out again when he was in the room and even started letting him pet her sometimes, a real breakthrough.

All her “progress” took years. I realized after I’d had her for maybe 5-6 years that one can only measure the progress of feral cats – their acclimation process – in years. Not days, not months. Years. But progress happened and it was very gratifying. She used to leap off the couch if I tried to pet her. Then she tolerated it, although she squinted her eyes and cowered a bit when she saw the hand coming, so I learned to pet her from the back of her head so she wouldn’t be so afraid of the hand. And in the past several years, she had actually started coming to me to be petted. She’d come up on the couch and sleep right behind my neck, her back snuggled up against me. She’d head butt me (like a little pony rearing up) when she was on the floor if I reached down to pet her. And in the past maybe 2 or 3 years she came up on the couch and stood, her front two paws on my leg, and asked for head scratching. In the past year or so she came to me almost nightly for head scratching, and I was able to brush her, which had never been the case before.

We went on vacation a month ago and when we got back she wouldn’t come out from under a chair in the living room where she likes to hide. I was worried, but my husband said she was coming out to eat. Since her appetite seemed fine, I figured she just didn’t like the person who came in to feed her, or maybe just the change in routine. She always hides when new people come into the apartment, so this wasn’t really unusual.

After a week she came up on the couch and I noticed she seemed dirty, and her mouth was slobbery. There was a lot of saliva. I wondered what was up, but I’ve never picked her up (when we moved to this apartment I put her in a carrier – she was only about 5 mos. old, and she bit down on the bars of the door so hard I realized if she’d bitten me she would easily have bitten down to the bone, which was a major warning that she was very different from the other cats I’d had). I couldn’t look in her mouth, but she let me brush her and seemed very relieved. Gouts of fur came out and I had the impression she hadn’t groomed herself the previous week.

I kept checking with my husband that she was eating, but was concerned because she was getting dirtier (her feet, especially), and the saliva was always there, plus she made a sort of yawning motion with her mouth as though she was trying to dislodge something. I spoke with the person who’d fed her when we were gone and he said she’d come out every time he came over to feed them and seemed fine.

Finally I realized, after a week, that I needed to take her to the vet. Much easier said than done. I tried feeding her in the cat carrier and she kept a back foot out of it every time. I finally tried to close the door one morning and she just sped out, and after that wouldn’t go back in to eat at all. So we fed her normally, and then last Monday I set up the have-a-heart trap and baited it with food. She would not go in. We tried and tried. One morning she had gone in the night before and I thought, this is it, I’ll set the trap (I’d taped it open to feed her). I went in the bedroom and waited for it to spring. I heard it spring and thought, “Yay, I got her” when all of a sudden she comes into the bedroom. She must have touched the outside of the trap and the damn thing sprang w/out her in it. After that, she wouldn’t go in that thing for love or money. We withheld food for two consecutive feedings and although she’d sniff at it from outside the trap, she simply wouldn’t go in. I didn’t want her to starve to death, so we again started feeding her normally.

Unfortunately, she’d been getting dirtier as the week(s) went on. She had food down the front of her chest and on the sides of her cheeks for the past several days. Her feet were filthy. I brushed her at night, but she wouldn’t let me near her cheeks, as that area seemed sensitive, and I’d never brushed her chest and she seemed nervous when I tried, so I brushed her head, the top and sides of her long body, and her tail, which got crusty every day. She seemed to like it and would sit on the couch and purr.

Several days ago my husband mentioned she was taking much longer to eat. Then yesterday he told me she was getting food all over the floor and a lot of it wasn’t actually being eaten at all. So I contacted Carol, the person who has the feral cat organization in the city where I live, and asked her for suggestions (on how to trap Isadora). She sent me an email this morning saying, “Why not have the vet come to your home?” and emailed me a link. http://www.vetdispatch.com

I had no idea such a service existed! Let me tell you, if it exists in your area I highly recommend it. I called and the person on the phone was very nice, she listened when I explained the problem; that I couldn’t get Isadora into a carrier and she was feral and the vet might have a problem examining her; that she would very likely have to be sedated. She contacted a vet in my area immediately and the vet agreed to come as soon as possible. In fact, she was unavailable after today until next Tuesday, and I didn’t feel it was a good idea to wait.

She showed up about 1:50 p.m. with her mother! Holly was the vet, and Pauline, her mother, is about 5’ and weighs, I’d guess, around 90 lbs. She had bright red hair and was the sweetest person imaginable. Holly couldn’t get a vet tech to come with her on such short notice, so she brought her mother, instead. Holly is the vet Carol told me (in the email) she’d heard great things about, and I was glad she was the one to come and help with Isadora.

It was very difficult cornering her. She kept finding the smallest cubbyholes to hide under/behind. She found a space behind a kitchen cabinet and went back there. Fortunately, my landlord’s shabby work was an advantage here, because the cabinet is moveable, but I had to take everything off the top and then move it. Holly had a big towel (mine) in one hand and the sedative/syringe in the other, but Isadora got past her. She was growling as Pauline called to her. Isadora finally went behind the stackable washer/drier and Holly was waiting for her with the towel and syringe on one side, while I took a pole (an extension for rolling paint) on the other side and poked at her until Holly grabbed her and managed to sedate her (w/out getting scratched or bitten).

Isadora made her way under a wooden Ikea open shelf (it has about an 8” clearance off the floor), and I had to clear away everything in front of it to get her out. Holly recommended waiting for a couple of minutes for her to go under. When I moved everything she was lying there, very obviously out, although still breathing.

Holly weighed her on a portable scale she’d brought. I was surprised that Isadora weighed only 6.5 lbs. She was always a small cat, but she is long, and I simply figured she weighed more, although I don’t pick her up so don’t know why I thought she weighed more. She wasn’t emaciated, but I sensed she’d lost some weight over the past couple of weeks (her hip sockets were more pronounced) and yet was not expecting her to weigh so little.

Holly examined her mouth. I have a big flashlight that I use when going outside (at night) to feed the feral cats. It’s very powerful. Since we were in my kitchen and there wasn’t as much light as Holly might have been used to at a vet’s office, I shined it in Isadora’s mouth. Holly lifted Isadora’s tongue and there was a mass under it (adhering to the underside of her tongue). It was a tumor. When she saw it she said, “This is not a good cancer to have. I’ve seen it with many cats, and it’s a very bad place to have cancer. It’s hard to treat, and the treatment is usually not effective.” She explained that chemo didn’t seem to work well on this type of cancer, and that it might eventually lead to them cutting out Isadora’s tongue and taking off part of her jaw. I said, “No, no, I don’t want that.” Holly then said, “Since she is 14 and this cancer does not respond well to treatment, I think . . .” and I wailed, “NO!” but realized it was what we needed to do for Isadora, because the Dr. said she was in pain (the drooling).

Holly said she is usually a strong advocate for treating cat diseases, but not in this case. She also said since Isadora was already sedated, now was probably the best time to put her to sleep. Her mom, Pauline, was so sweet and kind to me and they both said they’d step out and she would get the paperwork and let me have some time to be alone with Isadora.

I petted her and cried and told her I was sorry. She wasn’t very conscious, I don’t think. Her pupils were huge, but she was breathing steadily. When Holly and her mom came back, Holly kissed Isadora and said, “I’m sorry, Mama” and kissed her again, then shaved the inside of her back leg, which exposed a vein (meaning it was visible). Then she had her mom come over and hold her finger on the vein above where she was inserting the syringe.

I didn’t realize Isadora had died. I was able to chant over her as Holly administered the drug, although not very strongly, as I was crying. She didn’t move at all, didn’t twitch. I petted her head, and then Holly said to her mom, “Mom, let go” and then a few seconds later she said, “She’s gone.” I didn’t realize Isadora had died. When I had Peleas put to sleep (in 1999) he took a couple of agonal breaths after the drug was administered, and it took a while (a few minutes) for him to die. But with Isadora, she passed very, very quickly and peacefully. In fact, Holly checked again (with her stethoscope) but there was no heartbeat.

Holly was gone (with Pauline) by 3:00. It seemed like the whole thing had taken hours but I checked the time because I had to text my husband about the decision I’d made (I’d texted him earlier to let him know a vet was coming to the apartment). Because he was in the city and works one-on-one with people, I don’t usually call him because it interrupts what he’s doing. He was upset that he didn’t get to “pet Isadora and say goodbye”. And he cried, which I’ve never, in 15 years, ever seen him do. He said, “I hoped she would move with us to our new house.” So did I.

Last year turned out to be a bad year for my feral, backyard cats. In my last post I wrote I had seen the orange kitten after taking his mama to the vet (and having her put down). He came around for another 2 weeks to eat, but after that I never saw him again. I tried coaxing him into staying back there and tried to make it a friendly place for him to hang out, but his mama taught him too well and each evening after eating he left the yard and went to his hiding spot. What happened to him I don’t know, but I haven’t seen him since he reappeared (after those 2 weeks). This is the difficulty of caring for feral cats. It’s tough to keep track of them.

Adding to the difficulty is that I am not allowed to provide a shelter for them (we rent) because my landlord is an unfeeling jerk, which makes it very hard to know where they go after eating, because many of them do not stay in our yard, but leave to go elsewhere for sleep/shelter, etc.

I lost the orange kitten’s mother (explained in another post), then him, and a third cat from my colony died a few months after the orange kitten disappeared. She was a tortie, like the orange cat’s mother. She, however, had been fixed the year before. I got her fixed along with her sister and two brothers the previous summer. She was in the last litter “Mama Cat” had. My upstairs neighbor, Dave, who is a cat rescuer himself, helped me trap them and Mama Cat, and we had them all spayed/neutered through a program that another woman in my city originated. She had funds allocated for fixing ferals, and we were able to use those funds to get all 5 of them fixed.

Mama Cat passed away last year, as well. I was told by someone who works for my landlord that a cat who looked like her had been hit by a car (on the next street) and was dead. I hadn’t seen her for about 2 weeks before he mentioned this, and when he told me I felt sure it was her, because she usually showed up nightly to eat. Mama Cat never hung out in the backyard except to eat or bring her kittens to eat — she went somewhere else. I was sorry she died so soon after the spaying (within 9 mos.) because I’d hoped she might settle down and perhaps decide to stay in the backyard, but it was not to be. She was such a smart and wonderful cat mama. In fact, we had a lot of trouble trapping her because she was so smart.

The little tortie who died last winter seemed to have developed an upper respiratory infection. I tried to trap her, but was unsuccessful. She just wouldn’t get into the cage. I could tell she wasn’t doing well, and hoped she would recover, but one night I think she crawled up on my engine block for warmth and died there.

I didn’t realize where she’d gone and banged on the car hood before leaving (which I always do), then drove to work. On the way I smelled something sweetish and organic, and when I got to work asked one of the guys in the mail room to look under the hood for me (I’ve never opened the hood on this particular car). When he did I saw her little feet sticking up. The engine was “cooking” her head, which had fallen down and was resting against the engine block. She had a big, black circle on her head, but otherwise looked fine. I am certain she was dead because the wound was not pink at all.

I had a mini nervous breakdown in the parking lot and got pretty hysterical. I was not sure initially if she was dead before I started the car. It took me a while to figure out she must have already died before I started the car and drove to work. The shock of my smelling her, and then seeing her feet sticking up, was upsetting in the extreme. The guy who looked under the hood jumped back when he saw her and went back inside, leaving me to deal with it. I called one of the women I work with who is a big animal lover (and rescuer) and she came out with gloves, a box, and a plastic bag and put the cat in the bag/box, and then put it into a dumpster. She asked if I wanted her body but since I rent, I really had no place to bury her. This co-worker also let me cry, literally, on her shoulder and hugged me until I calmed down. Thank God for the kindness and good sense of some people. I actually heard from someone that the guy in the mail room was mad at me because he thought I was rude to him. Really? He couldn’t see that I was hysterical? I don’t remember anything after seeing her feet sticking up except sitting in the car, crying hysterically, and finally having the thought to call my co-worker. I guess I may have said something insensitive, but honestly, wasn’t it apparent that I was extremely upset to the point I was unable to talk and was sobbing and shaking? Come on. Who was actually the insensitive one?

Right now my feral colony is down to only 4 cats who come to eat, which is the lowest number I’ve fed outdoors for many years. Buddy, my black and white “old boy”, who has been in the neighborhood for at least 12 years, anchors the backyard. He was once owned by people who lived in a row house down the block, but was abandoned by them and started coming over not just to socialize with other cats, but to eat as well. Two of Mama Cat’s four kittens still come to eat every night. One is a torbie girl, and the other is a black male. The male is stunning, has no white on him that I can see, and is the most feral of all the cats. He doesn’t like me coming near him and only shows up to eat, then leaves. The torbie girl hangs out in the yard with Buddy sometimes. She’ll roll around and shows her belly when I drive up, but won’t let me touch her. Finally, there is an orange male, unneutered, who showed up this spring. He has a very “top cat” mentality and is not nice to the other cats. I feed him from his own tray, or he just intimidates the other cats into moving so he can eat their food. Buddy used to be a top cat before I had him neutered, and he isn’t intimidated by the orange male, but the other cats are. The orange guy doesn’t stay in the yard but comes to eat most nights. Buddy gets along with every cat that I’ve ever seen come through the yard. He has a very special ability to subtly keep order and not back down from the intact males that show up from time to time, w/out being a heavy or unpleasant about it. He has a really sweet soul.

I wasn’t able to talk/write about these deaths until now, because they took a toll on me. I get very depressed and talking about it seems to make me relive the sorrow, especially regarding the two female torties who died. The one in the car was particularly difficult, and I had many nights before going to sleep picturing her on that engine block. It took a while for the image to fade, and then of course the substitute picture of the other tortie with maggots in her wound came to mind all too often, as well.

I am emotionally invested in the backyard cats, even though I am unable to provide much shelter for them and don’t name them (any more). They become very personal for me and while they aren’t, say, as beloved or coddled as my indoor cats, when they disappear, or die, I am deeply affected.

I feel since I’ve written a lot about the cats I owe anyone who might still read this blog an explanation about what’s happened with them. My husband and I are looking for a house and when we finally buy one, I will relocate all the cats in the backyard with me and they will have a more permanent, comfortable home. It saddened me that so many died last year, as I’d hoped to take them all, but this is the way it goes with feral cats, in my experience. The uncertainty is difficult to deal with, but I feel I must continue to care for them as best I can because they have no one else.

If any of you can help feral cats, please do. You may not be aware of it, but almost all of you probably have cats who come through your backyard at night. If you sit outside and begin to observe, you’ll see this. There is a wonderful organization online, “Alley Cat Allies” that deals only with feral cats and has many useful suggestions about how to help them. If any one of you can help but a few ferals in your area, you would be doing a wonderful thing. If we were all to help the abandoned outdoor cats in our area, we could eradicate this sad situation altogether, by spaying, neutering, feeding, and providing shelter for them and letting them live out their lives. By spaying and neutering we can cut the feral kitten population so there aren’t so many of them out there, abandoned, starving, dying from wounds or hunger or disease.

I was shocked and surprised last night around 3:00 a.m. when I went outside to take up the food I’d put out at about 1:00 a.m. (was late getting home — had to wait for a drawbridge).  Usually take water out with me to refresh the water I put out earlier, in case raccoons have upset/fouled the water, and as I walked around a bush to the water bowl, saw — THE ORANGE KITTEN!

YES, he is alive!  Almost 1 week to the day after I had his mama put to sleep and hadn’t seen him for several days before that (so about 9 days since I’ve laid eyes on him).  She must have taught him well, that sweet little 1-year old tortoiseshell mommie, because he looked fine – not too skinny.  He was hunched over, drinking water, with his back to me, and I guess he didn’t hear me until I walked right up behind him (about 5′ away). He scampered into the hostas quick, quick, quick!  I shined my flashlight on him because I was so surprised to see him and wanted to make sure my eyes weren’t deceiving me, but it was definitely him.  He also must have been coming to eat late over the past 9 nights, as she taught him, and I just hadn’t caught a glimpse of him until last night.  He’s so careful.  I feel he must be missing his mama, though, as he’s on his own.  Have never spotted a sibling.

As I walked back around the bush (towards the hostas) he took off towards the cars and hid under one of them.  I collected the cat food, all except one plate, went into the house, and got out a can of soft food.  Divided it in half, then took it outside and deposited the half portion onto the plate, and put it under my car, where I’d fed him and mama last week (in their separate, later meal).  I hope he ate it.  He wouldn’t come out for me (not that I was expecting that), but am hoping, since he was the only cat over there, that he eventually made it to my car and got his extra ration.

I will be figuring out some way to trap him, since I feel he’s way too small to leave on his own at this point.  One of the other cats was near him when I went outside but she ran off when she saw me.  She’s a small tortoiseshell, too, but was in the litter that we got fixed last summer.  The mama tortoiseshell showed up about a week after we got all the kittens spayed/neutered, and she was on her own (and was a kitten when she showed up).  This tortoiseshell who was near the little orange guy last night has a few of her littermates still around, even now (there’s a beautiful black male and a torbie [girl]).  I tend to think they do better in a group when they’re very young.  But little Mr. Orange-Boy is all alone, just like his mama was last year when she appeared.

I’m thinking of bringing this little one inside, although it’s not a perfect idea.  Since Nijinsky was put to sleep last year I only have 2 indoor cats, but one of them, my favorite, a black and white named Lulu, really hates other cats.  She loves people, though.  Still, I don’t feel good about his chances if he’s left outside, and think I owe it to his mama to rescue and bring up her baby, since she isn’t able to be with him any more.

They are a little difficult to catch, but I think if I put a trap out (Have-A-Heart trap) w/ food he will go inside.  I might catch some of the other cats, too, but will just release them.  They were all trapped last summer, but many times they forget, especially if smelly, nummy food is inside!  I also found last year that it’s imperative to cover the trap with a big towel so (a) a smart cat can’t fish the food out through the back of the trap and (b) a cat will tend to go into darkness, rather than an open-ended-looking trap.

I don’t have a place in my apartment to isolate him, either, so will have to get him to a vet ASAP and have him cleaned up (I’m sure he’ll have fleas) and tested (FeLV and Feline AIDS), but I think it’s the right thing to do.  Wish me luck!  Will keep you posted if/when I am able to trap him.  Have to start thinking of a name . . . I prefer mythology or opera names, and if anyone has a suggestion, feel free to leave it.  No “color” names or common names.  He’s an orange tabby, so nothing like “Red”, or “Stripey”, or anything like that.  I love exotic names for cats.  And he’s a “HE”, I’m relatively sure, so male names, please!

You may imagine how happy I was when I went inside. I had a giant grin on my face and a warm feeling in my heart chakra — I felt so very pleased to see him and know he hadn’t died. I feel that sense of hope again, and want to do my best for him since I had to take his mama in and end her life.

I had to have one of the outdoor cats I feed put to sleep yesterday. She had an abcess (which I hadn’t noticed, because she is a dark-colored tortoiseshell and I only see most of the cats at night when I feed them) on her neck which had burst and was open, about the size of a quarter (which is very large for a small cat).

I hadn’t seen this cat for months and she reappeared in my yard a little over a week ago with a small, orange kitten. Obviously she’d had kittens, and clearly this one was the only one who survived. I suspect he was about 3 months old, since the feral mama cats who have kittens are very cautious about bringing them out in the open until they get old enough to run away. This kitten was very fast, but he stuck close to her. She brought him with her to eat for a few nights, and both of them seemed to be eating well. He hid in some hostas near the house, and she would settle in very close to where he was hiding. When I came out to feed all the cats she would eat and he followed after I went inside. I began going out about 2 hours after the initial feeding to bring them a plate of canned food, which I placed near her, so she and the kitten could have extra food. This entailed policing some of the other cats who linger in the yard, but after 2 nights she and the kitten knew the drill.

This past Saturday night (the one right before Labor Day) when I called the cats to eat, she came up to me and meowed and rubbed against my leg, which had never happened. She had definitely been hungry and gotten close to me when I brought the food out on previous nights, but had not rubbed up against me before, so I was surprised. I thought perhaps she was extremely hungry, since she was nursing the orange kitten. Although she wasn’t super-feral — she’d begun to be friendly with me last year and allowed me to touch her (she first showed up in my yard, all by herself, as a kitten, a little over a year ago), over the winter I hadn’t had as much contact with her and she had become more distant. Since my landlord won’t allow me to put out shelters for the cats, in the colder months I am unable to stay outside for very long to interact with them, but continue feeding them every night.

On Sunday night she meowed and rubbed my leg again and I thought something might be wrong, but reached down to pet her because I thought maybe she wanted some loving. I felt something on her neck and went back inside, got a flashlight and saw a wound, which didn’t look good. It was at least the size of a quarter, very wet looking and crater-shaped. No vets were open on Monday (Labor Day) and she seemed o.k. otherwise (she was eating and walking/running around), so I decided to monitor her. On Tuesday I got an email from an upstairs neighbor who said he’d seen her and there were maggots in the wound (which I hadn’t noticed). When I looked more closely at the wound on Tuesday night I saw the maggots — the entire wound was writhing with them. It made me almost sick to my stomach — I’ve never seen anything like that. She drank a lot of water but also ate pretty heartily. Later, after all the cats were finished eating, I tried getting her into a carrier, but she fought me and I couldn’t get her inside, and then she got skittish when I tried later to approach her, so decided to try again on Wednesday morning. Didn’t see the kitten Monday or Tuesday night, but assumed he was hiding and I just hadn’t noticed him.

I got up early on Wednesday (I work until midnight, so getting up at 10:30 is early for me) and called in my “kitty, kitty” feeding voice, and she came out from whereever she had been hiding and drank quite a lot of water, but wouldn’t eat. She walked over to a tree and settled at the base, and when I approached her she didn’t move. I was able to pick her up and get her into the carrier with no problem. She didn’t seem to have much energy.

Thankfully, the vet I went to was not busy Wednesday morning and there was no one other than me in the waiting room (with the cat). We didn’t have to wait long, either. After we got into the examining room the vet tech took her out of the carrier (with a towel to protect him in case she tried to scratch or bite, which she didn’t) and looked her over. He pointed out the skin in her ears was yellowish, which meant some sort of liver failure. I asked if that meant the infection was septic and he said probably. The vet came in and recoiled when he saw the wound. The vet immediately asked me if I wanted to have her euthanized. I said no, I wanted to know if he could help her and clean out the wound. He said he could, but there were no guarantees and it would be expensive. I asked how much and he said around $7-800. And then he said she would have to be anesthetized and might not make it.

The vet left the room and the vet tech told me he’d seen cats recover from worse injuries, but not with such a massive infection. He told me he didn’t think she would pull through the anesthetic. I asked he thought putting her down was the best thing to do, and he said yes. I decided to have her euthanized, to the tune of $269.00. Can someone tell me why it costs so much? I couldn’t leave her outside to die. It would have been slow and painful, and she was clearly already in pain. I felt terrible. She was only over a year old, and this is a sad but typical end for feral cats. Injury and death within less than 2 years.

I had to fill out paperwork for the euthanization (and by then I felt like a walking zombie — it was all I could do to keep it together and not start sobbing uncontrollably). I went back into the examination room after paying for the procedure, and was able to stroke her head (which is amazing, since they usually won’t let you touch them, but she her energy was very low, which was why I was able to get her into the carrier earlier) and tell her I was sorry. The vet tech was holding her and her head was showing, but her body was covered by the towel, so I couldn’t see the wound. My face was very close to hers and I looked into her eyes — she looked right into mine and hers seemed tired, but understanding. There was no fear or anxiety, and she seemed to be saying that she accepted what was happening and was ready. I don’t know why it felt that way, but that’s how it seemed to me. I told her I was sorry again, and then said, “But you will feel much better soon,” and left. Of course I cried all the way home, as well as off and on all day. The guilt I feel every time I’ve had to make this decision (to put a cat to sleep) is overwhelming, even when I know it’s the right thing to do. It’s hard and painful to have to make such a decision for any living being.

I couldn’t do very much for her except feed her, since my landlord won’t let me put out shelters. With the help of the neighbor who emailed me, we got all the cats spayed and neutered last summer, but she showed up in the yard after that, so she was not spayed. My guess is she must have gotten into a fight with an intact cat, probably after she had kittens. I imagine she was trying to defend them. Of course there are other cats outside besides the ones I feed and she must have run into one who was aggressive and not fixed. It may seem odd, but I feel very upset every time I lose a backyard cat. I don’t name them unless they’ve been around for years, because it seems like whenever I do and become attached they either die or disappear. She didn’t have a name, but I will remember her. I wish she’d had a better life.

With my schedule, I feed them once a day, at around 12:45 a.m. I feel sad there isn’t even a picture of her, but it’s hard to get a shot of a dark cat at night! She lived in the yard for a while last year after first showing up, but moved on after that and only came around for feedings — I don’t know where she ended up hanging out or sleeping, but it wasn’t in my backyard. Since I never got a photo of her, she will only be remembered in my mind.

I wish I could do more for the feral cats and that’s big reason I want a backyard of my own, to have a place to put a nice shelter/building in which to house the cats. That way I could see them more often, in better light, and they could come in to the building when the weather is bad and I could keep better track of them. Also, if they get hurt I’d notice it much sooner because I’d be seeing them better. Right now I have to feed them under my upstairs neighbor’s SUV, because the across-the-hall-neighbor who moved in two years ago told me to move the food from where I’d been feeding them for 6 years because it was under her kitchen window. She thought her dog was getting fleas from the cats and if I moved the food the dog wouldn’t get fleas. I told her some of the cats hung out in the yard and moving the food wouldn’t help, but she insisted, so instead of being able to see them in the light (there is a light on the wall) and stand near them when they eat (which is about as close as some of the cats will let me come), I now have catch a glimpse of them under my neighbor’s SUV. Not ideal. I have much less contact with the cats since this woman moved in and made me move the food. I detest this neighbor. She blamed her dog’s inability to pee on the fleas and gave me more agita about the fleas in the yard, although I’d already moved the food, but she later discovered her dog had kidney stones (not flea related, of course).

When my husband and I move (we are in the process of looking at houses to find one to buy), I plan to put a building in our backyard for the outdoor/feral cats, and when I trap a cat to have it spayed/neutered, will have a place to hold it overnight while it recovers, which I am unable to do now. I hate it when they get an injury that results in my having to have them euthanized, or they just disappear and I never know what happens. If they had a shelter on my property they’d stick closer and perhaps I could prevent something like this from happening again.

Worse yet, I haven’t seen the orange kitten at all since Sunday night. I think he’s gone. I was so hopeful after seeing him — even though I wasn’t happy she’d had kitten(s) (I assume more than one, and that he was the only one who survived), seeing a new kitten always fills me with happiness and hope. These are small dramas in my backyard that no one else is party to, but for me it’s both a responsibility and a privilege to help these animals that very few other people are even aware of. I hope this little tortoiseshell mama is in kitty heaven with her little orange kitten — if he is indeed gone from this world — and they are frolicking in a sunny meadow, with plenty of food, water, love and shelter. I wish they’d gotten all that in this life, but perhaps they have it now.

World War ZI enjoyed this movie from start to finish!  I have become enamored of zombies, mainly because a friend of mine invited me to tag along to a zombie fest a few years ago, and I saw “Night of the Living Dead” on a large movie screen, met George Romero and Russ Streiner, and heard a panel of actors/directors, etc., from the movie discuss both the movie and the genre.  All very nice people, and I got interested in and started watching zombie movies after that.  There are a ton of them on Hulu and Netflix.  From then to now (I’m hooked on “The Walking Dead” on AMC), I’ve become a bit of a zombie-file.  When I heard about “World War Z” there was no question I would be seeing it when it came out.

The zombies are great, very realistic.  They’re “fast zombies”, and quite unnerving because of their speed and voraciousness.  The special effects are excellent and you are always “with” Pitt — he never knows more than you do, and you discover everything exactly when he does, so it feels as if you’re in it with him.  I loved the ending, and had read in Vanity Fair the original ending was scrapped, rewritten, and reshot, at considerable expense.  It works.  My husband really enjoyed the movie and so did I.  For anyone who wants a kind of zombie-thriller hybrid, an adrenaline rush, along with a LOT of Brad Pitt, go see this.  It’s fun and engaging and the time flies by.

The movie was engrossing and I never lost interest.  I was surprised when it was over, because it just didn’t seem like 2 hours had passed.  There was no boredom, no moments of, “when is something going to happen?”  There was just enough time for my heart rate to recover before the next exciting part started.  I found the construct believable, and Brad Pitt carries the movie admirably.  He’s barely ever off-screen, and I liked him throughout and felt he was believable.  Although he may not be quite as sexy as he used to be (I still remember him in “Thelma and Louise” — yum!), he’s acquired a realness that works.  He’s so natural with kids, and a very believable father; I’m guessing it’s because he’s had a lot of real-life practice.  I found the poster funny:  it’s the only one I could find with him in it, and all we see is his back and face turned 3/4 away, yet he’s in nearly every frame of the movie.  He may seem incidental on the poster, but let me assure you his character is the lynchpin for the entire movie.

The plot seemed pretty cohesive to me, which is a miracle, considering how many writers they had.  It’s based on the book by Max Brooks (Mel Brooks’ son), but from what I’ve read doesn’t much resemble the book any more.  The movie itself is very visceral.  We (my husband and I) didn’t see it in 3D (we didn’t want to wait 2 hours) and I can’t say I would have enjoyed it any more in 3D.  In fact, it might have been too overwhelming if the zombies had been coming at me, which is saying a lot, because I have a high fear tolerance.  The 2D movie was plenty for me.  Of course, if you really want to scare yourself sh*tless, go see it in 3D.  I may go back to see it in 3D for fun, but it’s not for the faint of heart the first time around.  I think Brad Pitt achieved his blockbuster movie and believe they’ll easily recoup the rumored $250 million spent.  Based on my experience, it is a well deserved success for Pitt et al.

World's Worst TenantsWorld’s Worst Tenants, on SPIKE TV, is one of the funniest shows I’ve ever seen.  You cannot make up the stuff they walk into.  It’s simply impossible to imagine how bad/strange/weird some of the goings ons in people’s apartments are.  You have to see it to believe it.

Here’s a link to the show:  http://www.spike.com/shows/worlds-worst-tenants/

The premise is these 3 are eviction specialists and go to tenants’ apartments/homes to serve them with eviction notices, cease and desist orders, etc.  Todd is an ex-Marine, and he looks like a body-builder.  He is very aggressive, while his partner, Rick, is a bit more mellow and reasonable.  Then there’s Randye, Todd’s wife, who often goes out with them on tenant visits and calls the police, when necessary, while the guys do the more physical work.  There is some kicking in of doors, and physical confrontations do happen.  Todd often says to Randye, “Stay there” while he and Rick handle the confrontations.  She is blond and busty, natch.  Gotta have some eye candy, right?

When I first watched it was just a “let’s see what this is” foray.  I figured it would end up being dumb or boring.  Oh boy, was I wrong!  The first episode I saw had Todd and Rick going to an apartment complex because there had been a noise complaint from some tenants, and they were trying to find out what the problem was.  They traced the noise to a utility room, but could not find the source.  Then they knocked on the adjacent apartment door and discovered this guy was a keeping bees, and he had a beehive in his apartment!  What’s more, many of the bees had escaped and went through some sort of gap in the wall, which led to the utility room, which is why there was a loud, humming noise coming from inside.  They were living inside the wall!  Oh My!

The other night I watched a couple of episodes, thinking maybe the show would be less fun than the first time.  Nope.  It got better.   The guys went out to a small house in the country to evict the woman who lived there.  The owner had been ordered by the county to remediate some flood damage, which necessitated razing the house, and he’d served her with every legal notice, but she hadn’t moved out.  Todd and Rick went to talk to her to find out why, and asked if they could come inside.  She was adament she wouldn’t move out, but let them in.  They walked into her (small) living room, and there was a big sheet over the door into the next room.  One of the guys pulled it aside and there was a full-grown horse standing in the room, grazing on hay that was spread all over the floor!  A HORSE!  She couldn’t get the horse out because it was too big to go through the door!  AND I guess she was thinking, “It’s not likely they’ll notice a full grown horse in the next room”?!!!  They had to pull a wall down in order to get the horse out!  She told them when she’d gotten the horse she’d been told it was a pygmy horse.  Um, guess not.  This horse had not been outside since he was full grown, and when they led him out, he started nibbling on the grass.   This was the reason she hadn’t moved out, because she didn’t know how to get the horse out.  I was screaming at the t.v.,  “A HORSE!  She has a HORSE in her BEDROOM!”  Oh My Goodness!

But my favorite episode featured this Appalachian family living in a rather nice, seaside apartment.  Apparently, the relative who rented the apartment had died and his family decided to camp out in the apartment — about 10-20 of them.  The owner couldn’t get them to vacate (they hadn’t been paying rent).   Howard and Rick were dispatched to talk to them and knocked on the sliding glass door.  A kind of psuedo bad-ass, youngish man came to the door and gave them some posturing bullshit, but Howard, when he wants to, can be nice, and said they’d just come over to try to work things out and asked to come in for 5 minutes.  He offered the guy $5,000 to move out, so the guy said, “Only for 5 minutes”, and in they went.  Inside we see grandpa, wearing a big, floppy hat (like Jed Clampitt’s), with a white beard hanging down to his chest, and various and sundry other folks all seated in a circle in the living room.  Big ol’ Confederate flag hanging on the wall, and the “bad ass” guy was saying, “We don’t want to move because we have children.”  I didn’t see any kids, but Howard (in an aside) tells the camera they must know what they’re doing because the courts don’t like to move families when they have children living in a dwelling.

While Howard was talking to Mr. Badass and some of the other kinfolk, Rick asked ol’ grandaddy if he could use the bathroom.  This was just an excuse to look around, but ol’ grandaddy wasn’t too bright and gave him directions.  Off Rick goes.  He opens the toilet lid and sees the water is brown, and then turns on the faucet and no water comes out.  It’s clear the water has been shut off.  He tells the camera if he can find any violations, they can evict for those reasons, and that’s what he’s looking for.  He starts off down the hall and opens a bedroom door.  There is a STILL in the bedroom, working away!  I’m saying it had an open flame underneath it, a propane tank off to the side (with a hose connecting it to the thing under the still providing the flames), and the still itself looked like the textbook copper still you’d see in the Appalachian mountains!  In fact, there is a t.v. show about moonshining, and this one looked just like some of the stills the backwoods moonshiners are using!

A still in a regular apartment, in an apartment complex!  I loved it and about fell off my couch laughing.  Howard amended his offer to the Moonshiners down to $500 and a moving van.  They took the deal.

If you want a huge laugh, and an eye opener about what people do in their rental units, please give this show a gander.  It is hysterical.  I swear if you saw this stuff in a movie you’d say it could never happen in real life, but it IS happening.  Oh My Goodness Gracious!

identitythief-ps-26[1]I was shocked to find on imdb.com that this movie was only rated 5.8 out of 10.  Wonder where these folks’ funny bones were hiding?  I laughed frequently throughout “Identity Thief” and found it thoroughly funny and enjoyable.

Originally I wanted to see it because I saw Melissa McCarthy on a talk show and she seemed so funny that I felt it would be a good bet.  She is a white, overweight, youngish woman, a profile you rarely, if ever, see in movies.  She mentioned that originally the role was written for a man and they changed it for her.  Another tired “buddy” movie with 2 men?  Would have skipped it if that had been the premise.

Turns out Melissa McCarthy is the cousin of Jenny McCarthy!  If you look at her face you can see that same prettiness.  I’m sure she’s one of those fat women to whom people have commented,  “You’re so pretty, if you’d only lose a few pounds!”  I think she’s pretty as-is, and frankly, it was rather wonderful to see a woman in a movie who doesn’t look like she came straight out of “Models-R-Us”.

She is hysterical in the movie, and believable, as well.  There are a couple of sub-plots, and I kept forgetting these other folks would be showing up again.  Maybe because Melissa McCarthy is so frikkin’ funny and I was very focused on her and Jason Bateman.  When the other characters popped in from time to time I was always surprised, which in itself surprised me because I can usually see plot points being set up and coming a mile away.  For some reason this movie felt very fresh to me, and I enjoyed it thoroughly.

McCarthy’s comedic ability is amazing.  She’s physically and facially funny, and her line delivery is hysterical.  Her rapport with Jason Bateman is very credible.  Her character goes through a transformation, and her relationship with Jason Bateman’s character changes, and it all makes sense.  At least, to me it did.

Jason Bateman is someone whose acting is always substantial.  I feel like his characters come from the inside out.  Saw him recently in “Horrible Bosses” (on cable) and his character was very low-key — almost flat — but he was able to give it dimension.  Here his character is pretty low-key, as he is essentially the straight man in the movie, but as the movie progresses he gets some very funny lines.  Melissa McCarthy’s character helps him loosen up, and he helps her to understand she has real value as a person.  There is a moral at the end of the story, but it stays funny right up to the end and they don’t whack you over the head with it, thankfully.  She still retains enough of her bad-girl attitude to make it seem like she’s still got some crazy left!

Amanda Peet, as Jason Bateman’s wife, in the unenviable role of being a generic mom, doesn’t have that much screen time, so the character is almost extraneous, except to establish that Jason Bateman loves his family very much and would never do any of the terrible things the police think he’s done (when his identity gets stolen by Melissa McCarthy).  Kept thinking how pretty Amanda Peet is, what a waste this role was, is this really what happens when a pretty actress reaches a certain age, isn’t being cast as the romantic lead lead any more and hasn’t established herself as a comic actress (like Melissa McCarthy)?  She is consigned to boring “Mom” roles?  How thankless.

Paid full price to see this movie and didn’t regret the expense at all.  Went with a girlfriend, but honestly think men would like this movie, too.  It’s all-around funny.  Don’t know who was voting on imdb, but my friend and I enjoyed the movie and I’d recommend it to anyone if they want an extended laugh fest that doesn’t feel done to death.  Well worth watching.

Nijinsky in "his" chair

Nijinsky in “his” chair

I didn’t want to post this and have been avoiding doing so, but feel like I need to post an update.  We had to put Nijinsky to sleep a couple of months ago. He was not doing well. However, looking back on my posts I realize he lived 8 months longer than I’d initially expected, and for a lot of that time he was coddled, ate as much as he wanted, snoozed in “his” chair, and generally had a pretty good quality of life.

In the last few months he began needing to be fed more often and it finally got to the point where I was feeding him every 2-3 hours. He didn’t eat a lot, but he yowled when he got hungry and you couldn’t ignore it — the yowling was loud. Then he began yowling when we were alseep, and I was getting up 3-4 times a night to feed him, which was not good for my sleep.

Soon he started yowling even when he wasn’t hungry. He’d just yowl. He could still walk but sometimes he would not (he seemed confused about getting down out of the chair), and I would pick him up and take him into the kitchen to try feeding him, but often in the last weeks he refused to eat.

We finally came to the conclusion (my husband and I) that he was yowling because he was in pain. That seemed to be the only explanation. Nijinsky had lost even more weight and was so thin that you could feel every single bump in his spine, and all his ribs clearly showed through his fur. Plus, he was throwing up a lot and did not seem to be keeping most of his food down or digesting it very well (there was a lot of runny/smelly poop in the cat litter boxes that stopped happening after we had him put to sleep, as did the excessive cat cack).

We took him to the vet and had him put to sleep.  I’d really been hoping he would pass at home, but he just hung on and hung on.  It was a difficult decision, as he was still mobile, but really seemed to be the most compassionate decision. As was his way, he didn’t make it easy to decide.  My other cat, Peleas, made it clear the day he had to be taken to the vet (11 years ago).  He stopped walking and his hind legs wouldn’t work.  But with Nijinsky, while it wasn’t 100% clear, there didn’t seem to be another decision to make except to put up with yowling all the time and to get no sleep.  And since it seemed he was yowling for reasons other than hunger, we had to think it was because he was not feeling good.

The other cats didn’t sleep in his chair for a couple months after we had him put to sleep, and even now only one of them has slept on the arm of the chair once. So his chair seems to be regarded as “his” even now.  I can’t say that the other two seem to miss him, because Nijinsky was something of a bully with Lulu, and with Isadora, he stopped letting her sleep with him once he went blind.  It scared him when she jumped up and he would hiss and freak out, so she stopped sleeping with him.  By the time we took him in to the vet, I think Isadora didn’t miss sleeping with him any more, and for Lulu, it was a relief when he went blind because he no longer attacked her, so she didn’t care that he was gone.

Nijinsky lived to be 14, and while that’s not super old, it’s better than the alternative. When I took him he was going to be taken to the pound because his owners hadn’t found a home for him and he was about 9 months old by then. Initially I wanted him because he looked like my older cat (Peleas), and I thought he would be sweet like him (not!), so I saved from going to the pound and likely being put to sleep.

He had a good life, lived in a warm home with plenty of food and love, and never wanted for anything. I hope he’s in cat heaven. He used to love to watch men work (when they came into my apartment to fix things) and I have always sworn that when he comes back in his next life, if he is a human being, he’ll be a handyman. If you see a handyman who reminds you of a cranky cat, call him “Nijinsky” and see if he answers!

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