Saturday, October 24, 2020

Here Be Kittens

I have been thinking of bringing in another foster-cat since Jessel’s time with me. The perma-cats have been complaisant, and it was time to confuse their world. Besides, another rescued cat ready for adoption isn’t a bad thing for a rescue-group. I had not, however, expected kittens. Meet Oleo (grey) and Bisto (black).

They were found, I was told, in a car engine, after the person who discovered them had driven some distance. I wonder about that, since they are about three weeks old and I can’t see them climbing into a car’s engine on their own. But there was no chance of re-uniting them with their mother, and the rescue-group to which I belong was called. They arrived at the Cosy Apartment at one o’clock.

I have no idea of their gender, but they seem in good health. They are active and, though they did not seem hungry when I took them in, they ate well when provided with food. I tried syringe-feeding kitten milk replacement at first. Both sucked it back eagerly. But I wanted to test their progress with eating on their own. They can. However, I will supplement this with the syringe if I feel it necessary.

I was informed that they have wet and pooped on their own, though they are not trained for litter. The woman who gave them to us did not have cats and wasn’t about to keep these, so they were using newspapers. That was good enough to start with, but I will be keeping an eye on their waste-management.

There is much to do. I have to maintain a steady supply of food for them, wash their faces – and the rest of them (I will use a cloth wet with warm water, then dry them) – arrange a very low-lipped litter-pan, spend time with them and watch everything they do. For bed-time, I think a snug, towel-floored carrier, with its door kept open, will suffice.

Oleo and Bisto will be in my bathroom for another week and a half, until I know they won’t bring anything into the household. I wash my hands after touching them, and make sure I am covered with a towel when I put them on my lap. This may be over-cautious, but no one ever adopted ‘better to be reckless and sorry’ as a motto. Not having had such young kittens to care for priorly (the partial day I held newborn Adah in my hands not really counting), I am concerned over everything. They are eating too much, they aren’t eating enough; they are too noisy, they are too quite; why aren’t they moving? Did I poison them, did I push the syringe too far into their mouths? Oleo and Bisto are why I have old cats.

Though I have had them for only a few hours, they appear typical kittens. They have already purred; they evidently enjoy being stroked down their backs. Toys will be introduced and, eventually, the babies will be moved to the library. After that, comes the introduction to my beasts. They will, of course, be available for adoption some day, perhaps in a couple of months, after they have aged me several years…

Tuesday, October 20, 2020

Their Special Needs

When writing about Neville for the previous entry in this blog, I started wondering about ‘special needs’ cats. Technically, the Nevsky is rated as ‘special needs’, because of his diabetes. I have read of others who fall into the category, perhaps because of their diet, which would have included my good friend Cammie. Some cats have allergies to a few kinds of food; others, like Cammie, are allergic to almost everything. Some cats have physical handicaps or health conditions that increase concerns over them. Even the aged can be considered as ‘special needs’, if extraordinary measures are required to take care of them.

My thoughts on this subject divided themselves into parts. Firstly, I wondered just where the line is drawn for placing a cat in the special needs category. Is it when medicine needs to be regularly given, as in the case of insulin? Does it depend on the frequency of the medicine? Its availability? If a cat has trouble with its waste management and needs a gentle laxative given once or twice a week, does this count? What about a cat who is mildly over-weight, and would benefit from a reduced or particular diet? Is it the ease of management?

Secondly, if the category of ‘special needs’ indicates a cat who requires care that is different than other cats’, or a cat who wants particular vigilance over diet or activity, does this not suggest that every cat becomes a ‘special needs’ cat at some point in his life? Certainly, some, like their human counterparts, age faster than others; some remain youthful in body and spirit long after their contemporaries want merely to rest in untroubled retirement. But most will reach a stage at which their care must become characteristic of their needs.

I don’t mean to belittle the label of ‘special needs’ or the cats to whom it is applied. Clearly, some felines cannot cope without constant help or supervision. A cat whose bladder needs expressing several times a day, one who has diabetes, one who must have dietary supplements; these are indeed in need of special treatment, as are many who are afflicted with what may be seen as lesser problems. These must be distinguished from other cats not so troubled. Unfortunately, their situations will sometimes affect their adoptions from rescue-groups.

Many people do not want a pet who will limit travel plans, or family gatherings or even every day routines. They want a pet who will enhance these activities, enhance their lives. I understand that; that is natural. It is no different in human inter-relationships: few people hope to find a life-partner who will require the most work and anxiety, while costing them all their excess money and time. Yet when we commit to a relationship, we accept the possibility that, barring deliberate infliction of hardship by the other party, we will be responsible for helping our friend over any difficulties that come up. Most pet-owners do this, as well; the care many pet-owners put into their furry family-members are as much to qualify the latter for special needs in any case. The difference with adopting ‘special needs’ animals is that their complications are presented at the start.

I have three ‘special needs’ cats: two diabetics - one of whom was not when I adopted him - and one elderly. The fourth will be, God willing, elderly in his turn. I have had another diabetic, a hyperthyroid, and one with FIV. I’ve had cats develop and die of cancer. I have learned to give insulin by two different methods, take blood samples, give medicine by pill and liquid, provide subcutaneous fluids, force-feed, watch for allergic reactions, clean bums and any number of other lessons too rare or too frequent (by now) to recall. But if there is one thing above these that I have learned, it is that all cats, from the healthiest to the sickest, from the most carefree to the fussiest, are, to some extent or other, ‘special needs’. A cat requires love and attention, a warm and comfortable home, security and health. These needs may not be designated officially as special, but they require work on the part of the human, as much as injecting insulin or shopping for expensive food for a specific diet. And they are special to the cat. 

So, to someone thinking of adopting a cat, perhaps for the first time, I would say consider, along with others, those with what are termed ‘special needs’, the ones who need people the most. It may be discovered that what these cats require isn’t much different than what every cat requires. Yet what is provided will make the difference between happiness and sorrow to that cat, perhaps between life and death. And it may turn out that the human will realise that he or she is receiving some special care, too.

Sunday, October 18, 2020

Neville's Way

As readers of this blog know, Neville is my foster-cat. He is, therefore, available for adoption. As they may also know, he is diabetic, and classed by many as ‘special needs’; this limits his availability, though, in fact, diabetes in a cat, once managed, doesn’t require a great deal of work or money.

But Neville has another quality that may affect a potential adopter’s decision: he is not usually a cuddler. It’s not his way.

Many people want a cat who enjoys physical closeness: a lap-cat, or one who likes to snuggle next to the person. I understand that. It’s not only a delight for the human, it signals in a positive and concrete manner the affection the cat has for his person. The Nevsky doesn’t always do this. Like every cat, my former Thin Man prefers things on his own terms, doing them when and where he wants. Many cats want to be close to a person all the time; Nev does not.

Yet there are times when he will demonstrate that he likes me. Yesterday, for instance, I rested on the couch in the sitting room and, looking at Neville on the cat-tree by the window, patted my lap, more in hope than in anticipation. He jumped down and came over. Leaping up on the couch, he hesitantly settled on my lap. I started stroking him under the chin, which is his favourite manner of petting.

For about twenty minutes, Nev lie almost still, pushing his head forward to receive the most from my attention. I moved to one side of his face, then to the other, then back to his chin. He was silent, but I could feel the purrs vibrating in his throat. At the end of the period, he got off my lap and lie down at the other end of the couch. He was done.

This doesn’t happen every day, or even every second day. But I crouch next to him as he snoozes on the carpet and stroke his back. Or I stand beside him while he reposes on a cat tree and comb his long hair. Most of the time, this results in a low, throaty purr, slow to begin and rough to hear, but definite nonetheless.

Some cats are like that, just as some people are. There may be no word of encouragement or even warmth for a long while. Then a gift is set beside one’s chair, the action itself done without a word. That’s Neville’s way. There is nothing wrong with it, or with him. He may be quite different with another human. But a reminder that you care for him will result in a reminder that he cares for you. It may be rarely given; it may be of short duration, but, like the gift presented without a word, it is real.

That is Neville’s way.


Wednesday, October 14, 2020

Stabbing Josie

I seem to poke my cats with sharp objects a great deal. Both Tucker and Neville receive two injections of insulin a day, and, once a month or so, I jab needles into their ears to make them bleed, so I can obtain samples of their blood to read their glucose levels. Now, I have added a new kind of stabbing.

Some of you may recall that my old lady, Josie, had not been feeling well. In fact, she seems improved. I watch her and see that she still halts in mid-motion periodically, but I have determined that this is not confusion, as I first believed but, as some readers of this blog pointed out, probably discomfort, due to aged joints and muscles. I think this came on when I stopped giving Josie joint-medicine. However, that medicine was causing another sort of discomfort for her, and so, weighing the one disadvantage against the other, decided to stop giving her the medicine.

Now, though, the Great White is receiving fluids. They are delivered subcutaneously by syringe and – harkening back to the opening sentence of this entry – needle. Remembering the ordeal that giving fluids was with Cammie, I was reluctant to give them now to Josie. Indeed, the first time I attempted it, this past Saturday, she struggled and cried. It was telling that her protests came not when I inserted the needle but as the fluids were being injected.

A friend, greatly experienced in cat-care, reminded me that she warms the fluid prior to giving it to a cat. I had neglected to do this with Josie, though the fluid was actually room-temperature. Tonight, I warmed it in the micro-wave oven. Considering that appliance’s age, it may have been quicker to rub two sticks together, but it was done; I tested the warmth on my skin, then brought Josie to the operating table (ie. the dining table.) This time, though she protested, her complaints were not vehement, and sixty milliliters were rather swiftly put under her skin.

The needle went in so easily, and there was so little evidence that Josie had received the fluids, that I wondered if I had put them in right. But sixty milliliters of liquid would had to have gone somewhere, and nothing was damp; I think the operation simply went smoothly. The plan is to give her an equal amount twice a week, though this will likely increase, possibly soon.

In addition to this attention, my Chubs is being given a laxative to facilitate her solid waste management; I had noticed that her droppings were small and rather too hard. Fortunately, the laxative dissolves very well in a few ounces of water.

So further medicine – of a very simple nature – and more proddings have been inserted into the cats’ schedules. I expect more to come, too, as their years advance. But I don’t mind. If untroubled rest and a tranquil old age is the result, I won’t mind busying my own schedule a bit.