Thursday, February 27, 2014

Thank You

I would like to thank all those who have left kind words for me on the passing of Bear-Bear. It is comforting to know that so many care; I realise that too great a number of people have also experienced the loss of a beloved animal friend. I will try to thank each of you individually over time.

I have published a memoriam of my long-cat, with pictures. Don’t feel that you need to comment on it. Just read it, please, and remember the BB.

In Memoriam: Bear-Bear

Bear-Bear died on 25th February, 2014. He was about eleven years old, very possibly older. He was my foster-cat; I never adopted him, which I regret now. But he didn’t know the difference, of course. After a while, I didn’t either. But I feel it now. This is his story, accompanied by photographs in no particular order or preference.

He came to me in April of 2013. He was found wandering around an apartment building, and was taken in by a couple who felt sure that he was lost and someone was searching for him. He was such a friendly fellow that he must have been missed. He was neutered, so someone had taken the trouble to see to that. He was healthy and strong, well-fed. Yet no one came forward in response to the couple’s search. Bear-Bear became another lost cat, and was taken in by a local rescue-group. This group’s headquarters suffered a terrible fire, of which I wrote at the time, and, after a while, Bear-Bear and a few other cats were transferred to the care of the Lethbridge PAW Society, the cat-rescue group with which I volunteer.

The BB soon went to live with a couple on a ‘trial-adoption’ for two months. Thereafter, he went overnight to a veterinary hospital for some more or less routine health-work; nothing serious. The couple could not be reached when it was time to collect Bear-Bear. That cat came to stay with me for a day or two. When his prospective people were reached, they stated that they had decided against adopting Bear-Bear, and no satisfactory explanation was ever given as to why. Bear-Bear was homeless again, and his two-day stay with me became longer - permanent, as it turned out.

What was Bear-Bear like? He loved people, first and foremost. He had lived, when first rescued, with several other cats in a temporary facility. He got along with all the cats there. He ignored them, really; people were his interest. He enjoyed talking to them, whether it was me or friends come to visit. “Raa,” he would say, or “rao”, with different inflections, depending upon the meaning. He would greet me at the door when I came home, usually trying to get there first, so that he didn’t have to wait behind the other beasts, and he sometimes would appear on the bed at night, trying to get as close as possible to my face. That would have been more endearing if he hadn’t also been suffering from a cold during many of his attempts.

He played when he first arrived at my house, chasing fuzzy mice I would throw him and trying to catch a toy on a string. He also liked 'Undercover Mouse'. But his health declined soon after, and playing slowed and disappeared. But he remained sociable to the end, ready to discuss things and events, even if his loquacity suffered.

The BB was not upset by much. He was very adaptable and would have done well if adopted into a new home. Novel situations did not faze him, and even a journey to the veterinarian did not worry this cat. He would lie in his carrier and speak to the people in the car with him. He never cried or sang; all his talk was conversational. They sounded like comments: “Look at how blue the sky is this afternoon; isn’t that nice?” or “Is this route different than last time?” and “I never noticed that Burger King before.”

He was patient, dignified. He endured medicine through most of our time together. First, I tried giving him pills. That would not do. Bear-Bear simply would not take them; too degrading, I suspect. So then I was given medicine to rub in his ear. This he took stoically. Later, the drugs were dispensed orally, but in liquid-form, and he acquiesced to this method, though he never liked it. This became worse when he stopped eating, and had to be fed by syringe. He never fought me. He was very helpful - and that was a favour to me but to show his disdain for the process, he would turn his head, or push away the syringe with his paw, but he accepted the food, though he couldn’t have guessed why I was tormenting him so.

Before he became sick, Bear-Bear enjoyed eating. He usually cleaned up his dish. I tried to interest him in good foods, but he preferred the less healthy ones. Eventually, just before he stopped eating, he seemed to like some better choices. In his heyday, he could eat a whole tin of his favourite food. I of course would give him as much as he wanted, as he was a biggish fellow and he was never as weighty as he should have been.

Bear-Bear was a long and lanky beast, tall, with a span from nose to tail’s tip like the spread of a hawk’s wings. He was light on his feet, considering his size, and I compared his gait to that of a deer’s, rather than Josie’s brontosaurus, or Tucker, who reminds me of a manatee with legs. The BB was graceful until a week or so before he died, when he mis-stepped from time to time. His footfalls were quiet, and unlike Renn’s heavy stumping, the first intimation that Bear-Bear was present was often a quite “rao rao”, when he wanted my attention.

But, oh, what an ugly fellow he was. I would tell him that, too. “An ugly brute,” I would call him, though he never took offence. His facial colouring reminded me of a drunken clown, too inebriated to apply his make-up straight, and his pink lips were spotted with black, making it look like the end of his tongue was lolling out. But his eyes were golden and bright, and full of enthusiasm and cheer.

It was discovered that Bear-Bear had anaemia when he went for a dental operation to fight his mild gingivitis. He couldn’t take the anaesthetic, so the gingivitis stayed. It gave him bad breath. Now, I had an ugly, smelly foster-cat. Strangely, it didn’t bother me much. I probably was ugly and smelly to him; he liked me anyway. More worrying was the low number of blood cells in his body. The doctor concluded that it was either a case of his body mistakenly killing off its own blood cells, or cancer.

A long course of Prednisone initially helped raise his cell-count, but that didn’t last. We think now it was cancer. The BB retained his appetite for quite a while, though he continued to lose weight. Then he refused food except at breakfast, so I plied him with as much of whatever he would consume at that early meal. Then, he stopped eating even then. I had to feed him by syringe, something we both detested. His deterioration thereafter was rapid. He grew weak. I came home one day to find that he had pooped on the floor and wet in a cat-bed: he didn’t feel that he could manage the stairs to where the litter-boxes were kept. I moved a box upstairs, and once again, his hygiene was good. He was always conscientious about that. But he ceased grooming himself eventually.

Bear-Bear’s life in his last two weeks was confined to his heated cat-bed, with periodic trips a few feet away to the litter-box. He even stopped drinking water, which had lasted longer than his desire to eat. But he still was able to find me to tell me he wanted to sit on my lap, and at those moments, it was as if he were healthy again, so bright and glad were the sounds he made.

He died a few minutes before six o’clock, 25th February, 2014. I and a friend from the PAW Society took him to the veterinary hospital at five. First, Bear-Bear had a catheter inserted in an artery of his leg, and we spent some time with him before a tranquilizer was administered to knock him out. He was a tough one, even at this stage, because he had to have a second dose: he just wouldn’t go to sleep. When doesn’t a cat want to sleep? There were too many things left for him to do, he probably thought. He wanted on my lap. I stroked his fur, which was still smooth, and talked to him as he, eventually, abandoned consciousness. I wanted me to be the last thing he felt and heard, so that he would know I was still with him.

The lethal dose was then given. The end came very quickly after that, and he was gone. He was very limp, not at all as though he were sleeping, and his pupils had dilated to fill his eyes, making them black. His soul had departed.

I had taken pictures of him the previous weekend, the last photographs of my long-cat. He looked ravaged. I’ll never show those images to anyone. I present to you instead pictures of Bear-Bear in the glow of life. He was, perhaps, already dying, a cancer growing within him. But you wouldn’t know it. He was a happy, cheerful cat, ready each morning for a full day of eating, sleeping and gazing at the wide world. I miss him, and will until I myself die.

I can’t say farewell to Bear-Bear, because he will never leave me. His memory will remain, a little less clear each day, but always present. He is a part of my life, and will stay far more than the ten months which God kindly gave me to know him. He is a fixture in my heart.

As the BB himself would say, “Raa.”

Wednesday, February 26, 2014


Bear-Bear died yesterday, just before six o’clock in the evening.

His condition had deteriorated greatly in the last week, and there was discomfort and little joy in his life. He was taken to his veterinarian who sent him away from me. I will write more about the extraordinary BB tomorrow or the next day.

Bereft is from the Old English word ‘bereave’, which means ‘to steal’. The bandit clans who lived in the Middle Ages on both sides of the English-Scottish frontier were known as Border Rievers, because of their lifestyles. It’s how I feel: Bear-Bear was robbed of half his life. But God gave me a piece of it to share, and I am grateful.

Godspeed, Bear-Bear.

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

The New Hammock

Before Tucker’s recent sojourn into unwellness - he is doing much better now, by the way - which cost me an arm and a leg - the roly poly one himself contributed nothing to covering the cost, it will be noted - I was able to bid on a cat-hammock in an on-line auction to assist a little dog named Tweedles. (From his blog, it looks like he is doing as well as Tucker, which is good news.) Last week, the hammock arrived through the post and this weekend, I put it together.

The hammock is actually a Ham-mick, created and donated to the auction by Forty Paws, and I am very pleased with it. It was easily assembled; though it came without instructions, there was nothing to figuring out how to put it together. It was probably the most successful mechanical job I’ve ever accomplished. It may, in fact, be the only one I’ve accomplished. Anyway…

Tungsten was the first to brave the new furniture. In the photograph above, you can see two of the boys contemplating it while the tiny terror staked her initial claim. And below, Cammie also investigated. The picture may look confrontational, but there was just some sniffing going on. Cammie isn’t one for cat-beds of any kind, though that may change, as I saw her exploring one on sunny Sunday morning.

Then, Josie had to see if it fit her, or vice versa. As you may observe, she fills up the hammock pretty well. She is, in some ways, like gas, as described in high school chemistry classes: she expands to fill the available space.

At last it was the turn of the boys. Renn rolled about, taking in the smells that came with the new item, and leaving his own. He often likes to give a good roll to wherever he plants his big frame.

Tucker enjoyed the hammock even more. From what I’ve observed, he and my Chubs are the ones using it the most. It may be just a coincidence that it finds favour principally with my two fatties. Whatever the reason, I am very pleased with the product, and want to buy another, though that will have to wait until my finances recover from recent feline expenditures. Maybe next year…

A word about Bear-Bear… You can see him in a couple of pictures. He goes for another blood test this very day, but over the weekend, he stayed in his heated cat-bed. He doesn’t go anywhere else except on to my lap, for which I am grateful, and down to the litter-boxes, for which I am equally grateful. He is currently being syringe-fed, since his nose is so clogged from his previous respiratory infection (I believe it is gone now) that he cannot smell anything, and thus will not eat anything. We may see about dealing with that when he goes for his test. Until then, the BB is resting comfortably. Just not in a hammock.

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

How Cammie Behaves

I think I may have written in this blog previously that cat relationships are most interesting to me. The way they develop friendships - or animosities - can be baffling, sometimes in their complexity, sometimes in their simplicity. Cammie is a good example.

My Siamese foster-cat has come a long way from the animal who refused to have anything to do with anyone, man or beast. Her relationship with me is the easiest to comprehend. We are becoming friends. She likes to be petted and stroked - except for certain mornings, when she can be a grump - and has taken to dropping onto my lap when I am at the dining table writing. She will jump up onto a neighbouring chair, cross the table and step down on to me. There she will lie, purring hard while I pay her due attention. This is inconvenient for me as it is difficult to write with one hand while stroking a cat with the other. If I stop the latter action, Cammie pops her head up to see what the disturbance is, and this is even more inconvenient. The result, as every cat-owner knows, is that I stop writing while Cammie is on my lap.

Cammie’s interaction with Josie is also rather simple: she hates my Chubs. I still believe that the injuries Cammie sustained at the start of the year were gained through a brief scuffle with Josie. I don’t think bad wounds were intended, but as is sometimes the case, trying to get away from a situation makes it worse. Anyway, my contention that the injuries were caused by Josie, whether directly or otherwise, is supported by Cammie’s reaction to the Great White. She will hiss and growl and spit as she does with no other animal. And Josie, hitherto my pacifist, has been seen staring at the guest-cat in that way we all know will lead to trouble unless contact is broken. So far, I have been able to keep the peace between them - or at least to keep battle from being joined once more.

The Siamese one’s relationship with Tungsten has matured. She is now in a renewed bout of stalking the orange one but it seems half-hearted. Whereas Cammie previously would have waited outside the bathroom for half an hour for Tungsten to emerge, she now gives up after a few minutes. And the tiny terror, for her part, is largely unconcerned with the newcomer, and even hissing is rare between them.

While Cammie has little interaction with Tucker or Bear-Bear other than the odd hiss which is usually ignored, it is with Renn that her most complex relationship exists. To hear the two of them much of the time, one would think that they loathe each other, almost as much as Cammie does Josie. One will encounter the other coming out of a room; there will be hissing and growling and a stalemate, until one decides to move, slowly, cautiously, past the other.

Yet, I have seen numerous instances of one of the pair going downstairs to the litter-box, and the other following, purposefully, sneakingly. First Cammie will do this, then, the next day, it is Renn. This results, of course, in another hissing stalemate. But if the one dislikes the other, why go out of the way to shorten proximity? Other times, one will wait on the far side of the nylon tunnel to surprise the other; both do this but Renn achieves the better result, since Cammie is more spectacularly startled. The outcome? More hisses, growling, flattened ears.

Do they dislike each other? Do they like each other? Do they like to dislike each other? Is it a game they play? I am intrigued by what the future will bring in the relationship of Cammie and Renn. I don’t expect it to remain the same, but which direction will it take? I think it was King Charles II who said, while watching testimony in a divorce proceeding, “It’s better than a play!”

And In Other News...

While Bear-Bear is struggling with his problems, aided by some caring humans - though their actions may be regarded by the BB as quite the opposite - Tucker appears to have recovered from his severe constipation.

I write ‘appears’ because it’s not certain, in my mind. I want direct evidence of his improvement. While he was on Cisapride, I would scoop the litter-boxes every time I found that someone had used them. That way, when I saw Tucker go downstairs too relieve himself, I would descend after he had come back up, and look at what he had deposited. I was able to determine that he was leaving poop. But now that he is off the pills, he seems to be pooping during the night or when I am at work. I think I have discovered his results but cannot be sure.

Certainly his behaviour is that representative of full recovery. He is cheerful, playful, responsive and following his old habits. I am cautious. I believe this may be because he will suffer constipation again, and has yet to reach capacity, as it were. So I will continue to watch his behaviour and, just as importantly, try to observe what he leaves in the litter-boxes. Only when I see that he is pooping, will I rest easy. And even then, as cat-owners whose pets have health conditions or something chronic know, one can never let down one’s guard. As the mum of the late and sorely missed Eric wrote in reference to an earlier article of mine, even then, “I used to watch him like a hawk every time he went to poop.”

Monday, February 10, 2014

And Now, Back to Bear-Bear...

It’s been almost a month since I reported on Bear-Bear’s condition. Then, it was improving. That has, alas, not continued. His ‘numbers’ have diminished. Four weeks ago, his red blood cell number was 28. I don’t know exactly what that represents, but the higher it went, the better. Last week, the BB’s test showed his number to be a mere 19.

My long foster-cat is deteriorating, I think. He eats less than he used; that was a bright spot. He would be enthusiastic for his soft-food. Then his excitement for meals waned, except for breakfast. This morning, he didn’t rouse himself from his cat-bed for that. I hope to re-kindle his appetite tonight, as the food that I gave him during the weekend was a new brand in our household: Merrick. Bear-Bear very much enjoyed the turkey flavour, but as I fed it to the other beasts to see if they would like it as well (most did), I rapidly ran out of it, and the next day featured Merrick chicken. The BB didn’t care for it as much as the turkey. I hope that is the case, though it may be that the initial favour was granted to a novelty, and not to the food itself. I plan to buy more, as well as the tuna flavour, today.

I suspect that he is eating hard-food, which is available in two varieties throughout the day and night. His poop is in too great a quantity each time he visits the litter-box for him to be subsisting on the soft-food alone. But his air-ways are easily clogged, the result of an interminable upper respiratory infection, and when this worsens, he doesn’t eat. That’s understandable. The same infection makes his nose run and the mucous dries it out and cracks it. The veterinarian prescribed some new medicine for this condition, and suggested that I apply warm compresses to Bear-Bear’s nose gently to wipe away the refuse. I am minimally successful at that. 

Bear-Bear is getting weaker. His red blood cells are certainly becoming fewer and farther between. I fear my friend may not stay with me for long. But as long as he is not in much discomfort, as long as he purrs, as long as he still enjoys snuggling on my lap, he will be a part of the household. It’s been a long time since I've had three cats, and I’m not ready to have just five.

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Tungsten's Test Results Are Known

While Tucker has been undergoing his most recent tribulations, the results of the creatine test on Tungsten have come back. Though not discouraging, they are not quite the opposite, either.

My orange one is on the verge of having kidney troubles. Her ‘numbers’ stand at 2.0. If they rise any higher, then steps will have to be taken to combat kidney failure, I understand. Certainly, kidneys that are not doing their duty does not mean the end of a cat. I will do all that is necessary to keep Tungsten alive and comfortable, though at the moment, I know only that I will have to give her sub-cutaneous fluids, if her organs are not working. I suspect that there will be more medicine to give her.

She is drinking more water these days. I had always urged her to drink more, and now that she is following my wishes, I want it not to be necessary. I turn on the bathroom basin’s tap for her whenever she asks, and I know that she is drinking from the little bowl I leave there during my absences. She refuses to drink from it so long as I am present to cater to her desires.

Tungsten is growing old. She will be, by estimate, fourteen this year. I realise that there are many good years ahead of a fourteen year old cat, even one with renal problems, but I recall the seven year old I adopted. She could leap straight up five feet to land on a bookcase, and was continually jumping onto the micro-wave oven from near by surfaces. And not so long ago, she was easily cresting the refrigerator, to stand like a tiny tigress.

These days, though, she spends most of her time curled up in her heated cat-bed, though she still likes to join me many nights in my own heated bed. She doesn’t play anymore, though that may simply be disdain for a childish activity. But she loves being rubbed; I rub her ribs fast and hard, too hard for a ‘senior’ cat, one would think, but she loves it, gripping the sides of her cat-bed and putting her head back. She also loves having her minuscule head enveloped by my hand and rubbed as quickly as possible. Tungsten remains, despite her changes, as fascinating and frustrating as ever.

A Satisfactory Weekend

The weekend was worrisome for me, though, as it turned out, things went as well as could be expected. Tucker needed to poop, to get out what was still in his intestines, and to regulate his bowels in general. It was a tense time; I felt as though I were a father-to-be waiting for a baby to be born. I’m proud to say that the delivery eventually was made, once on each of Saturday and Sunday and twice yesterday.

I was concerned because my roly poly one made several trips downstairs to the litter-boxes each day, without producing results. That, of course, was the problem’s initial symptom. However, the medicine that he is taking, Cisapride, stimulates the intestines, prompting them to move the waste along as they should. Since they are responding to the medicine, and not to the presence of waste, I imagine that they are doing their thing even when there is nothing to move. This would cause my Tucker to think that he has to go when he didn’t really need to. I commend his perseverance in continuing to visit the litter-boxes regardless of result.

I can gauge Tucker’s health by his behaviour, of course, and he has been active and cheerful the last couple of days; not as much as normal, but close. He played yesterday, and his tail was up more than not. It drags somewhat when he tries to poop - or thinks he must - but cannot. He of course does not know why nothing is happening when he clearly feels it should, so some discouragement is, perhaps, natural.

The big test comes now. His small supply of Cisapride pills has been exhausted, and he must now poop on his own. I intend to put him in the back parlour with food, water, a cat-bed and a litter-box during the day, when I am gone, so that when I return, I will be able to discern if he - and no one else - has used his litter-box. He won’t like this treatment, but I feel that it’s the best way to know. He is not eating much hard-food; perhaps he associates it with blockage. He eats a good amount of soft-food, which is probably why he has been pooping only small amounts. After the moisture is extracted by his body, there is not much left to come out. I will be satisfied seeing any amount in the litter, as long as I see it.