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Wednesday, January 30, 2013

La Mort, C'est La Vie

It never seems to become any easier.

Like most people, I've said goodbye to my share of pets. Maybe more than my share, since we bred Birmans for a few years. The mortality rate of pure-bred kittens is, sadly, higher than with the mixed breeds. Plus there's the simple fact that they all die, eventually.

Unlike most people, though, I've also said goodbye to a stepson. Almost a decade later, the pain of Shane's death is indescribable. The loss of a child changes you, permanently, providing a perspective on life that isn't available any other way. (How much worse for Corinne, his mother…)

Then a few years ago we thought Lauren was gone, too. That was bad enough that I can safely compare it to the pain of losing Shane. In fact, the two are permanently linked in my mind. On a personal level, they were similar. Thank God she and her parents came back. I nearly lost my mind.


With all that behind me, you might think having to put another cat to sleep would be easier. You'd be wrong. I was wrong.

Z'est La Vie

We called her Lovey, which was the end of her real name (Z'est “La Vie”).

She was nothing but trouble from the moment she came to us. Our first two Birmans died at about a year old from FIP. The breeder owed us replacements, of which Lovey was one. Along with her came ringworm, which swept through the cattery and ended our breeding for good. (Ringworm is nasty. Horrible. Especially with long-haired cats.) Once the ringworm was gone, she developed a sinus infection. She basically had a terribly runny nose for the last… uh… I'm not sure how many years. Too many. It was gross! Sneezing, coughing, blowing her nose all over everything, all the time.

She was also our best mouser.

Lovey was one of the most affectionate cats we ever had. Her breath (due to the sinus infection) was truly gag-tastic, but drop your guard for less than a second and you'd find yourself with a face full of cat giving you a bath, purring so loud that you'd think she's going to fall apart.

She begged like a dog, too. Right up to the end, she'd follow Corinne around the kitchen when she was cooking, meowing loudly until Corinne gave her a treat.

Even with plenty of eating, her weight dropped from 7 pounds two years ago to just 4.5 pounds today. Even seven pounds was light, 7.5 or 8 would have been better.

So, this afternoon, I asked Dr. Turco's office to euthanize yet another of our cats. She was well loved, and it finally came time to prove it the hardest way we know how. I cried a bit on the way home, and now I've spent almost an hour writing about it, because it just never gets any easier.

And Thank God for that, too.

Sunday, December 23, 2007

Our Little Letter M


We lost a special little cat today. Her name was Xodus.

Officially, you'd pronounce that the same as Exodus. We tended to call her Zodus, or Zodie-Pop.

Why the weird name? Birmans are traditionally named according to the year of birth: they're all 'X' cats one year, 'Y' cats the next year, then 'Z', then back to 'A', etc. Xodus was seven years old.

In her first year she was the New England region's Best Birman Kitten. We have the ribbons and the plaque to prove it. The picture above comes from that first year. That sweet face and the bright blue eyes melted the judge's hearts the moment they saw her. The pronounced 'M' on her forehead, the perfect head shape, the classic Birman stance, and the thick, deep coat all helped her to win over and over again.

Later we found that she wasn't the healthiest cat in the house. She went into heat in "stealth mode," and got pregnant (with the willing assistance of Xerxes) more than once without warning us ahead of time. She was a breeder, so getting pregnant wouldn't normally be an issue, but she usually had trouble with her litters and we lost a lot of her kittens. We finally had her spayed a couple years ago (in fact, we stopped breeding altogether, and got them all 'fixed').

Corinne has always said that Xodus was a great nap cat. They'd snuggle up in the afternoons and Xodus would just lay quietly under the covers, against Corinne's side, until nap time was over. The other cats were never as good, they'd sometimes wake her up too soon. Never Xodus, so she tended to get a little preferential treatment in the afternoons.

The same could not be said for Xodus at night. Instead of cuddling up with us and sleeping quietly, she would always come crying to me, head-butt me, and make her signature cry: "MMMMMmmmmmmmmmmmmm!" That sound and the mark on her forehead produced the nickname, "our little letter M."

Another of our cats, "CP", took a strong dislike to Xodus. Being a much larger cat (she takes after her father, Xerxes), she would chase her into a closet or under the couch, and then stand sentry for hours to make suer she didn't come out. We'd put a stop to it whenever we saw it, but could never teach CP to just leave her alone and we couldn't guard Xodus all day long. For the last couple of years, she spent a little too much time hiding from the other cats.

We came home early this afternoon to the sound of a cat in loud distress. She wasn't making the "m" sound now, but I knew the voice. At first I thought that she was just tired of being hassled by CP. I lifted the couch with one arm, grabbed Xodus with the other, and brought her to the bedroom so she'd be ready for Corinne's nap time. She ran for the edge of the bed to jump down, and I immediately knew something else was wrong: her back legs weren't working.

Corinne was quite upset when I told her — of course — and asked me to please call the vet. The office was closed (Sunday afternoon before Christmas in a small town? Duh.) but Cheryl called back about an hour later and told me to meet her at the office at 3:30.

The diagnosis was a (likely) blood clot in a vessel that runs along the spine (aorta?), about 3/4 of the distance from her head to her tail. She had no feeling in her legs or her tail, and her feet were cold. Treatment would be very expensive, would not reverse the damage which was already done, and was not guaranteed to even clear the clot. Also, many cats (and dogs) who get these clots will get another one a few months later.

Little Xodus was obviously in pain. She hadn't stopped meowing since we came home.

I made the tough decision, told Xodus how sorry I was, and stroked her head and her little M until it was over just minutes later.

Monday, March 12, 2007

The Prodigal Cat

xodus.jpgAfter disappearing sometime yesterday, Xodus has been found.

Nobody was sure when she was last seen, but my big concern was that she may have slipped outside through the garage.

We upended the house in search of the wee beastie, to no avail.

Late this morning as I sat at my desk, I heard a very quiet "mmmmmm". I couldn't tell where it came from, and it was so quiet that after a quick search I decided it must have been a cat upstairs.

This afternoon I heard it again. I moved around very quietly, trying to find the source. The "m" sound came from somewhere near one corner of my office area.

There's a closet there, but I'd already checked that.

There's also a pile of stuff, there. To rescue this wayward cat, I had to:

  1. Move all the parts to my parents' foldaway bed, which they're storing here until they have room for it again. This includes the solid wood, queen size base.

  2. Lift the leaf of the old dining room table which is currently acting as "temporary storage" for a bunch of other "stuff," in the corner of the room (it was behind the bed). (This table has two "fold down" leaves, one at each end, that convert it from card-table-size to an eight-seater.)

  3. Pull out one of the old computers from under the table, to prop up the leaf and keep it out of my way.

  4. Pull out the other two old computers. Ahem. Anybody need some old junk?

  5. Climb completely under the table and reach around/behind the other leaf, to rescue this cat who was trapped between the leaf and the wall.

Yes, I have some junk in my basement. Isn't that what they're for?

Anyway, the relief at finding this cat really does more than make up for losing her. In fact, Corinne is fawning over her so much, she's already plotting her next trick.

Monday, December 26, 2005

Kiki, The Houdini-Wannabe

We have two cats that stay in our bedroom all the time: Kiki, and her daughter. They're *allowed* to leave our room, and occasionally they take an adventurous jaunt down the hall... but as soon as they see any other cats, they bolt back to the bedroom like their tails are on fire.

This morning, when I went into the bathroom to take my shower, I noticed that Kiki didn't follow me in there as she has been doing for months. (She's obsessed with figuring out how the water comes out of the faucet in the tub. It's like magic, man!!!) After my shower, I still didn't see her. She wasn't laying at the window listening to the rain, nor was she laying in my spot in the bed.

Curious, I grabbed a flashlight and looked under the bed. No sign of her. But, cats can be "invishible" when they want to be, so I didn't worry about it much.

I had to go back into the bedroom again a few minutes later. Still no sign of her, so I grabbed the flashlight and more throughly searched the room. She wasn't in the closet under Corinne's dresses, nor behind the chests of drawers, on the closet shelf, under the bed, in the bathroom. She wasn't even in the clothes hamper, where I've found her a few times. Trying not to awaken sleeping beauty, I poked around Corinne's sleeping form to see if she was under the blankets , in the crook of Corinne's knees, or perhaps between the blankets and sheets. No sign of her.

Somehow, this little escape artist must have managed to sneak out a closed door, at night, and shut the door behind her!

Oh wait, there's one last place to check. Behind the blinds! I had opened the windows last night because it's so warm (about 45 degrees F), so she had probably crawled behind the blinds to sleep on the window sill.

As my hand reached for the blinds to pull them back, I remembered one little detail and my stomach immediately headed south. This Summer, when I installed the air conditioner, I took the storm window -- frame and all -- right off the house so that the ac would sit properly. When I opened the window last night, I'd *really* opened it: there was no longer anything to stop a clumsy, curious cat from falling out and finding herself outside and alone for the first time in her life.

@&#$% !!! $%& +@() !!!!!!!

No more letting Corinne sleep late (in spite of working all day at the Westerly WARM shelter, Sunday). This was very bad.

Corinne woke up instantly when I told her what happened. In a few seconds she was dressed, and actually got outside before me while I put on my shoes. Calling didn't work -- this is a cat, after all -- so she went back in (probably to get some shoes on).

I thought about it. "She could have gone out the window any time last night. We live on the edge of some big woods, but she's a timid cat and has never been out here before. She'd try to find shelter... but where?" The car port seemed like a good place to start, so I walked around to that side of the house. Jed has a lot of stuff stored under there right now (tools, mostly), and I was afraid this was going to take awhile.

Actually, it was easy. She was on the stairs leading into the house, under the car port, curled up under the dryer vent! When I walked around the corner she started pirouetting and mewling in a staccato, plaintive fahion. "Please rescue me!"

Phew. That could have been really, really bad. Kiki currently has "most favored feline" status, is tied for first as my favorite cat, and was a big comfort to Corinne last year.

All's well that ends well, though. Right?

Saturday, March 26, 2005

When Cats Take Over the World

... and speaking of ways to destroy the planet, I bet you didn't know that our particular crop of super-villains have their own theme song, did you? Well, now you do. It was written and sung by Jamie Anderson (or more likely, by one of her cats).

They made me post this.

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