Friday, September 28, 2012

Tucker (Almost) Triumphant

Tucker made his latest visit to the veterinary this week. He was declared to be well on his way to recovery. The results of the surgery are healing very nicely; the doctor seemed surprised at how well things were going. There is a little raw patch near his injured area, but when I ventured the opinion that it was caused by the edge of the cone rubbing against Tucker’s skin when he tried to lick the region, she agreed with me, and considered it to be nothing to worry about. Indeed, in the last few days, it has not become worse. Tucker is not licking his wounds much at all, and hair is growing back.

This is quite a victory for my roly poly. This is a cat who spent several days in hiding when he first came to me, and had to be force-fed for a week, because of the emotional effect of the change. When he had dental surgery, the trauma to his nerves was so great, he licked himself raw under the tail. Now, though the veterinary visits were a great strain on him, he has, mentally and emotionally, vanquished his fears. That’s not to say that he did not have them. On what I hope will be the final medical visit for him for a long time, he wet in the carrier, such was his anxiety. But once home, the cone came off and he was able to clean himself as he hasn’t done in a fortnight.

Now he is more active than ever, literally. Even long before he was afflicted with his urinary troubles, he was not as mobile as he is now when playing. He had been quite agile for a tubby little sausage, but over the last couple of months, he slowed down. I thought it was boredom with the toys we were using, but now that I think of it, I realise that he may have been troubled by urinary blockage for some time, and it only recently became a crisis. After all, when one has a full bladder most of the time, the joy of running and jumping palls somewhat. But now he rushes about chasing a piece of string (of all the toys I have for the beasts, he likes this simple one the best right now), throwing himself along the carpet (front end down, rear end up) and leaping over and zooming through the nylon tunnel. He has been given a new lease on life.

The total monetary cost of Tucker’s revitalisation was high, just over $3,000. But it prevented a higher cost: my cat’s death. It has ensured that such a problem as he had, and to which he was prone - increasingly so with age - would not recur. He acts like a youngster now. He’s without pain and he’s happy. I consider the money well spent. I have learned to watch my cats even more closely for signs of trouble, and I am gratified that I listened to Tucker when he told me of his distress.

He has continued to wet on the carpet downstairs, but in smaller amounts. I will deal with that. It’s an emotional problem that will, I feel sure, disappear with time and effort. It’s a leftover of his physical troubles and, compared to them, is a minuscule affair in our lives. Tucker will triumph over that too, eventually, as he has over other things. And if he stumbles a little, I’ll be there to catch him.

UPDATE: I didn’t think I’d have to catch him so soon. He had a bit of a relapse today. I realised that he was under the weather this morning when he didn’t purr at all. He was leaking blood in his urine, so I took him to the hospital again. He hated that, so I did, too. He has an infection, so he is back on the medicine he was given immediately after his surgery. It’s the weekend, so I wanted to have him seen to before everything closed for Saturday. The veterinarian is confident that the problem will be cleared up soon. I hope so, because my roly poly has been through enough, and I want him purring again.

Professor Renn on String Toys

As you may know if you’ve read these articles in the past, Renn is my resident scientist. He won’t discover the cure for the common cold (and if he did, he probably couldn’t communicate it to me, a most frustrating situation) or devise a better means of space travel, but he has his own fields of study nonetheless. His specialty is water, though he has shown more than passing interest in the topography of linoleum. He is always observing.

But he is not just a thinker. He applies those principles which have occupied his mind. It took him but a short time to determine how best to bring down the toys that hang from a string and bounce up and down to his touch. He simply grabs the soft toy with a claw, holds it down, thus drawing the string taut, and then chews through the string. It takes him some time to do it, and is usually done over a period of days or weeks, since this renaissance cat is often intrigued by something new while dealing with an ongoing problem.

But eventually the task is completed and the toy is brought low through his ingenuity. The green toy in the picture is the result of an earlier successful endeavour. Unfortunately, that normally spells the end of Renn’s fascination with the toy. His interest is in the science of the problem, and his fun ends when the problem is solved.

But that’s my big boy, always thinking, always wondering. Where do birds go when they fly past the window? Why is the floor uneven? Why does water sparkle when it moves? Why did the human stop rubbing my chest after only half an hour? These are the questions that occupy Renn’s fertile brain. They are the product of a cat who sees the world a little differently than others.

Presenting Rachael

In the continuing drama of Tucker’s condition, I received a new house-guest. Luther is now gone to a foster-home in which he is the only cat, a much better situation for him. Not only is there no one with whom he can fight, but he is out all day and night in the whole of his new house, and no room is barred to him. Furthermore, he has the attentions of not one but three humans, undivided by another animal. An e-mail report to the PAW Society, the group through which he was rescued, stated that Luther was doing well, sleeping on the bed with his new human guardian and in good spirits. He was described as ‘talkative’. Hehehe.

In that orange boy’s place has come Rachael. She is quite different. A quiet, soft-speaking female, she has long hair, grey, black and peach. She is much more diffident than Luther, and reacts more typically to other cats in her new environment. There has been hissing and growling, and even a few fights; Rachael and Renn seem to dislike each other right now. The newcomer has chased Renn through the house, and not playfully. But the situation is nowhere near the problem Luther created. I have confidence that Rachael and the others will sort themselves out, even if there is some disturbance along that road. I can leave Rachael out all day while I’m at work and, there are no signs of battle when I return. Tungsten doesn’t concern herself with the newcomer unless the latter passes too close to her. Tucker will hiss and trot away, while Josie is largely untroubled by Rachael’s presence.

Rachael is a little cat, despite all the hair. She is light, no more than a couple of pounds heavier than the slender Tungsten filament. She communicates through high, long peeps, for the most part, though she can express her discomfort or displeasure well enough. She spends most of her days on a high cat-tree right now; this may be due to some anxiety about the other cats in the household. She usually ignores them, though last night, I heard a ruckus and came out to see Rachael heading for the top of a cat-tree and Tucker looking guilty. The roly poly one has a habit of swatting any passing cat, even one who can administer a beating to his sausage-like form; it's mischievous and means nothing - but Rachael may not know that.

She is a cat whose previous owners decided to ‘downsize’ - in their own terms - their pet population. The PAW Society from whom their three cats were adopted has taken them back. I don’t think the humans took much interest in them when they had them; Rachael has so many knots in her beautiful coat that they will have to be cut out when she is unconscious and undergoing her planned dental cleaning. She also seems to be afraid of soft food, and backed away several times when first offered it.

I was told that her previous people called her a ‘recluse’. Renn’s former owners claimed the same thing about him, and Renn loves people, he adores human company. It’s true that he is shy. But being afraid to share yourself isn’t the same as not wanting to. I think the same applies to Rachael. If she wanted to be alone, she would spend her days downstairs in the basement, where there are comfortable chairs, water, a litter-box and food. She doesn’t do that; she chooses to be within sight and sound of everyone else. That suggests to me that she wants company, but is hesitant to trust it - as any animal would be in a new situation.

Rachael has already shown signs of improvement: she has sat on my lap for an extended period, has acquiesced to being held and carried, and even flexed her paws and purred during it. She has a better life ahead of her, I’m sure. I hope it will start with me and my cats.

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Tucker's Little Battle

Tucker is recovering from his surgery, though he has some way to go yet. He must now eat a special food and dislikes the two varieties available, and tries to get to the other cats’ regular food whenever possible. He gobbles it as if he’s starving, and it makes me sad to have to turn him away and provide him with food he simply doesn’t want. He doesn’t drink enough water right now, so I have to use a syringe to force a little water into him. He wears a plastic collar when I am not watching him, and that depresses him. He lies very still, doing nothing, when that is on his neck. But at least that will come off eventually.

We go back to the veterinarian next week to have remains of his dissolving stitches taken out and his progress assessed. I hope the collar can come off. He’ll be free to clean his wound as he sees fit and, as we all know, a cat’s tongue can be pretty rough on their skin, and there’s no fur there at the moment to protect it.

But I can still raise a purr from my roly poly from time to time. He showed some interest in playing and was happy for a few minutes, but his heart wasn’t in it. He has to endure a little more before we see the beginning of the end of this episode, and in some aspects, it will continue for the rest of his life. It’s unfair that this terrible ordeal had to occur to Tucker, but then to whom would it be fair? At least Tucker is co-operative in the process and suffers the indignities, discomforts and pain like a trouper.

I want to thank all those who have wished my cat well and have expressed hopes for his rapid recovery. The advice given by those who have commented is also appreciated, and helpful. It’s good to know that others are supportive of Tucker and his fight.

Monday, September 10, 2012

Tucker Returns, Minus a Bit

Tucker is back from the hospital, and he appears to be doing well.

He had a tough week. He first went to hospital because of a urinary blockage. This was cleared, and he came home. He blocked again the next day. It was tough to see the little sausage of a cat trying to lick his rear end where he was feeling so much pain, and to hear him cry out. He was not doing well. I took him back to the veterinarians, and they unblocked his urethra. It blocked again, almost immediately.

This situation called for a drastic measure, and I gave my permission for the doctors to operate on Tucker. This procedure is called a perineal urethrostomy, and involves the removal of what was left of Tucker’s mancatliness after he was neutered.

Yes, that’s right. It made me flinch when it was first described to me as a remote possibility when Tucker was initially brought to the hospital for his blockage. It moved from remote to close and then to a certainty. This procedure meant that there would be nothing left to become blocked.

The surgery was performed Saturday. I visited my boy before that. He was rather drugged, and kept trying to nip my fingers. But I think he knew I was there. The operation went well and I was told I could collect him on Monday.

However, the doctor called yesterday afternoon to tell me how Tucker was doing and suggested that he could come home. There was no medical or physical reason to prevent him and, in fact, she, the doctor, thought it would do him some good. My roly poly one had not eaten or drunk, or used the litter box, since his surgery, and it was thought that he would do better at home. I agreed, since Tucker is a very sensitive animal.

When I went to pick him up, the doctor showed me what had been done. I have to admit that I was startled. It looked very ugly. It looked painful and frightening. There were many precautions that I had to take and many things to do for Tucker. He is staying isolated in my bedroom, for the time being, though his spirits seem good. They are dampened principally when I put the plastic collar on him to prevent him from licking his wounds. He has liquid medicine and pills to take; there’s vaseline to put on his sore spot. He has special food that he will be on for the rest of his life. But at least he was home.

Last night, he acted much as the good old Tucker always did. He purred. My goodness, how he purred. I slept with him on the bed, the other cats barred from the bedroom, unfortunately; it’s thought that keeping him isolated would be beneficial for him, and to put him in a cell alone for the night seemed to undermine the benefits. The other cats, therefore, had to sleep elsewhere. When I got into bed and turned out the lights, Tucker started purring. He was still purring half an hour later. I think he realised then that he was staying with me, and not going back to the hospital.

He ate last night and this morning, he drank plenty of water and, best of all, he wet in the litter-box provided. The doctor had stated that Tucker was able to go at the hospital but just wouldn’t. I figured he would not want to. I had brought some of his own litter to the hospital for his stay there, but they mixed it with newspaper pellets. I knew he wouldn’t go in that. The doctor said that they wanted to avoid the possible contamination from the pine-litter I use. Well, my boy avoided the contamination - by not using the litter at all. Once back home, he had no problem doing what he should.

This morning, he took his medicine like a veteran, ate a good breakfast, drank more water and visited the litter-box. My only worry is slight spotting of pinkish liquid on the soaker pads on which he was lying. It obviously contains blood, but he is not bleeding as such, for the liquid is plainly diluted. Some of it is visible in the accompanying pictures. I have a call in to the veterinarian about it, but I am confident that it is a minor problem. I think my roly poly is on the mend.

This was an expensive process. The only time I laid out more money, I got a house out of the deal. But Tucker is worth it. He’s not even half-way through the lifespan of the average cat, and he is in otherwise good health. He’s such a neat little animal. He deserves the rest of his life. What, after all, is money for but for acquiring and taking care of the things one loves?

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Tucker in the Hospital

Tucker is in the hospital. He has a urinary blockage. When I woke on Sunday, my roly poly one was crying in an uncharacteristic manner, similar to how Tungsten cries when she’s about to throw up; Tucker rarely gives such warning. He was growly and trying to lick his private parts. I thought he may have been dirty, though that too is unusual for him. He was, in fact, adequately clean.

I was puzzled but not worried. As you may know from recent articles on this blog, Tucker has been having some litter-box issues. He was banned from the carpeted basement except under close supervision, and a litter-box brought upstairs. That put me in the position to watch him go into the box. This day, not a minute after he came out, he went back in. I thought that most strange, but I still thought there was nothing dangerous. I did believe that there may have been too much litter in the box. Tucker is a big sausage of a cat, and he may have had trouble positioning himself.

So I switched that litter-box for another and prepared to clean out the one Tucker just used, only to find that he had not used it. This was worrisome. I wrote an e-mail to a friend in the Lethbridge PAW Society, a rescue organisation with which I work. She advised me that it may be a blockage and that it can kill a cat within a day. So I called the veterinary clinic and took Tucker down there. His bladder, normally the size of a plumb was the size of a grapefruit. It was no wonder the little sausage was in so much distress.

He was sedated and a catheter put in to drain his bladder. That worked but it took a while for the blood to clear from his urine. After two nights in hospital he came home. He must have felt like he had to wet, because he made about thirty trips to the litter-box in ten minutes, though he couldn’t go. I was told this was not unusual.

I put Tucker in isolation with all the comforts he needed, and ‘soaker pads’ on the furniture, because for a while he would have no control over his bladder and would leak. He did wet a bit in the litter-box, which was encouraging. But that night, he did not go at all, though in the morning, he was energetic and interested in food. At noon, when I returned home to check on him, the situation was the same.

By 4.30 that afternoon, though, when I came back from work, he was in a bad way. He had not eaten, not used his litter-box and was lying on the floor, squeaking. He favoured one of his legs and kept trying to lick his bottom - all the same symptoms as on Sunday. He was blocked again.

He was taken to the hospital yesterday evening, and is there now. He is relaxed, I am told, and wetting through a catheter once more. What bothers me is that it seems that an adequate job was not done on him by the veterinarians the initial time. I was informed that recurrences of blockages are common; I did not receive a good explanation of why this is. If it is due to crystals forming in his bladder and urethra, I can think of only two explanations for a recurrence: the crystals grew again overnight (which seems incredible since they took eight years to form in Tucker’s bladder the first time) or they were not sufficiently flushed out the first time. Though the cost is secondary to his health, no one who has a pet can ignore the issue of money, and it seems as though the $1,000 I spent on Tucker’s first flushing was a waste. I can’t afford to subsidise the veterinary clinic to that amount every two or three days. I will demand a thorough explanation of Tucker’s condition when I visit him today.

I give all my cats what the veterinarians consider good food. I was told that in some cats, the propensity for crystals to form is simply greater than in others. Tucker has unluckily drawn a short straw in this case. I will have him on a special diet from now on. He won’t like it because one of his enjoyments in life is poaching from the other cats’ dishes when his is licked clean. But anything that will cause my roly poly to live a long and healthy life, I will do.

Luther: a Missed Chance and a New Adventure

Luther remains in my foster-care. He has had people interested in him and, in fact, went to a house just this past Friday to see how he would do with a family’s current cat. He came back on Saturday.

Things did not go well. Luther has a thing about other cats. He attacks them. There is no growling or hissing on his part. There appears to be no malice. He simply launches himself at them. It’s not playing; it’s a fur-tearing, screaming battle. Fortunately, no one has been hurt. Well, I have, but I mean no cat, which is the important thing. I don’t know what it is about my orange guest-cat that makes him want to assault every member of his species, but it limits his possibilities for a permanent home.

Don’t misunderstand; Luther is a wonderful, friendly, entertaining, warm, little creature - to humans. The people who wanted to give him a home loved him. They gave him a second chance after his first attack on their perma-cat. Luther blew that chance, too. But it shows how much they think of him that these good people are going to talk to others about Luther in the hopes of finding him a home. Everyone who meets Luther loves him. Another woman was seriously contemplating adopting Luther, but she has a cat whom Luther would not tolerate.

The trouble with this situation is that finding a cat-person who doesn’t have a cat is, as may be imagined, difficult. Someone wanting to adopt a cat usually has one or two or three or more. This recent episode has shown that Luther needs to be the only cat in his household. Once he is, his life will be easy and his humans will have a pet so much fun, they can cancel the cable television. But someone who wants a cat and doesn’t have one is a rarity.

We’ll keep trying, though, and until he finds his destiny, Luther will stay with me. His life is somewhat restricted at my residence, but it’s warm and safe, with plenty of food, fresh water, a comfortable place to sleep and company - from me, not my cats. Somewhere there is a place for him. It’s just a matter of finding it.

Since I wrote the above paragraphs, there has been a development: a good turn of events, though not the best. Luther is not being adopted, but he is going to a new foster-home. Though I, as much as the rescue group who is sponsoring him, dislike shifting cats about, even from one temporary residence to another, Luther will have a better life in this different abode. He will be an only cat! He will have the run of the house, which means the freedom of as many rooms and windows as there are, not just one room for a whole day. And because of that, his new foster-guardian will be able to give him a great deal more time and attention than I have been able to do. I will miss the orange exuberance of the little fellow; he grows on a person very quickly. But this will be better for him.

And, just in case I become lonely with only the four perma-cats for company, another foster will be coming to visit. The PAW Society, with which I volunteer, has had five returned cats - felines given up by their families after years, for various reasons; one person even called it ‘downsizing’ their pet population. In any case, foster-homes are in short supply, so I will be receiving the oddly spelled Rachael in return for Luther. The orange boy goes to his new place on Saturday. I wish him well, but I know he will prosper in his new, wider spaces.

Josie Remains

I haven’t written much about Josie in the last couple of months. She is unspectacular, if one doesn’t count her girth. She stays low, figuratively speaking, and doesn’t do anything tremendously cute or tremendously bothersome. She’s my little loner.

But my Chubs is on my mind as much as the other cats, sometimes more so. I don’t like neglecting her but I do, inadvertently. That’s for two reasons. She doesn’t demand attention in the same way as the other cats and when I do give her attention, it isn’t the kind which may be given while I do other things. Tungsten, Renn and Tucker will lie beside me or, in the case of the first, on me, as I read or listen to music. Josie’s principal hint for petting comes when she ambles near to me, then crashes on to her side. That’s how she asks for my time.

Lately, I’ve been putting her on my lap. And lately she’s been staying. She purrs more than she ever has, and it can be loud, a kind of wheezing trill, like a buffalo trying to be a graceful gazelle. However much she may like my touch more than previously, she still doesn’t care for the proximity of the other cats. A different level on the cat-tree is as close as she likes.

She has taken to waking me with demands for food. This is the result of my new feeding schedule, whereby I make the hard-food bowl available only at certain times, in order to reduce the amount of food my fat cats are eating. This strategy is not working. It has, however, induced my Great White to wake me quite early, squeaking and walking over my back and head in the bed. She will stare at me, purring, evidently finding great enjoyment in disturbing my rest. When I tell her that it’s not time to get up, she gets off the bed, then gets back on - repeatedly. I get angry at her for it, but she seems to be deriving an amount of entertainment from my discomfort; ironically, that makes it difficult for me to be annoyed with her for too long.

Now that it’s September, the cool weather will be coming ‘ere long. That means the heated cat-beds will be brought out, something I’m sure Josie will like. She clung to them longer in the spring than any of the others used them. I am able to insert cat-bed heating pads under their cushions, but I won’t use those until the cold weather really sets in. I think Josie favours the parapet that surrounds the bed just as much as its warmth. When a cat is as round as she is, such an addition helps contain her. And it’s funny for me to see.

So my Chubs continues to move under the radar, which is, one would think, hard for a cat her size to do. But she is unobtrusive, snoozing on her high cat-tree, squealing when I tell her it’s time for dinner and periodically functioning as my hostess, greeting visitors who come to see me. On Christmas Eve, she’ll have been with me for four years. As with the others, it seems as if I’ve always had her. Hopefully, I always will.