When I began living as a low income senior, I decided that it wasn’t practical to get another cat.
The expense of regular and unexpected vet care, and the fact that most landlords don’t allow pets, were my deciding factors. That was before a young feral cat and her mother touched my heart.
It was a brutal winter for Northern California. Drenching cold rain and harsh winds swept our area for days. Our furnace was out, I was living in a hellish relationship, and I was extremely depressed from debilitating hip and foot pain. I was sleeping on the floor in a room converted to an office. Although walking was painful, I managed to feed the stray mother cat and her kitten, in the garage. I left the door ajar so they could have shelter from the elements.
I knew I had to move out, so I continued to look at rooms for rent. One after the other was unsatisfactory due to my physical limitations. I finally found one, and began packing up my basic possessions. The cat I had named Sweetie and her kitten would be left behind with no one to feed them. I decided to take Sweetie to the local shelter. She was more tame than her wild kitten. She was a beautiful long haired tortie.
After I moved, I checked on her status, and got the good news that she’s been adopted 2 weeks later, on Valentine’s Day. Her name might have helped a little….
I had to return to the house a few times to get more of my things, and each time I took out my keys to open the door, the kitten would show up. She was used to the sound of the keys to mean food when I opened the garage door.
A year passed, and I was still going back to the neighborhood once in awhile. Someone told me that the now year old kitten had already given birth to two litters. I decided that I’d have to take her to the shelter, which by now I was volunteering at.
She was timid and fearful after living on the street, with no regular food. She was held in the intake room for a month, and wouldn’t allow anyone to touch her except me. I received a call that she was scheduled for euthanasia because she was “unadoptable”. Although my new landlady didn’t allow pets, I convinced her to let me have Mitzy. I named her that because of her huge polydachtal paws (or mitts).
So, that was her first rescue from death as an “unadoptable” feral cat. After she began to trust her new confining environment, she came out from hiding under the bed and in the closet. Although my disabilities prevented me from working, I continued to volunteer as a “cat cuddler” at the shelter, a few hours a week. Mitzy and I became bonded. She helped me, as her mother before her, to slowly crawl out of depression.
Things went o.k. with no health issues, other than fleas when I moved to another rental. She became insistent about going out, so I bought a halter and leash. We went for backyard walks every morning and afternoon. That’s when fleas starting showing up. I got in the habit of using the flea comb daily, and finally resorted to spot on treatment, which she tolerated.
A year later, in a new rental, she was lucky to have a porch connected to my room. I secured it with wire so she couldn’t escape, but at least she could feel that she was outside. She stopped crying to get out, and things went well for awhile. No fleas, and no health problems.
Until I noticed that she had stopped drinking water, from the various glass containers I had placed around the room, and even from the fountain. That created constipation, and a highly stressful journey with no apparent solutions, even after seeing two different vets.
She was given an anti-biotic for an “assumed” urinary infection, even though she was eliminating without signs of straining. She was also given Lactulose as a stool softener, which helped move things along, but she had a reaction to the anti-biotic. She started to scratch her ears until I saw scabs, although I thought she may have mites, there was no signs of that residue. I took her to a new vet, who proceeded to give her a sedative while she cleaned her ears. She said it was just “debri”.
When she woke the next morning, she could barely walk without falling over, and her pupils were different sizes. The vet said to bring her in right away. She’d had a re-action to the sedative, so they wanted to give her another drug to bring her out of it. I had already paid $150 for the visit and cleaning, and now I was being asked to sign for another $150 for the “reversal” drug, and another ear exam. I had a melt down! I told them I would have to euthanize her because I couldn’t afford to pay anymore money. I lost my credit rating when I was forced to quit work, and leave debts unpaid.
So, Mitzy was again faced with death, now by my decision! I broke down in tears to think that I would now have to take her life for lack of financial resources. But her feline angels were with her once again, as the vet spoke the words I’ve never heard before in all my years with pets. She said “Don’t worry about the bill, we’ll take care of her.” I could hardly believe my ears.
It was 2 weeks before she walked normally, and began to gain back the weight she’d lost from lack of appetite due to the drugs. She was still constipated, except when I gave her the stool softener. The new vet suggested I give it 4 times a day, which I simply refused. I was on a mission to find a real solution.
After many months of trial and error with various strategies which included food changes and all kinds of fiber added to the food, along with serious “de-shedding” her long fur which was impacted in her small dry stools, I resorted to giving her some dry food for “weight control” because it was high in fiber. I watched as it seemed to work in two ways. She began to leave bigger poops, and she began to drink water again.
But the biggest change that has produced the best results, and no more need for Lactulose, is raw cat food, made by a local supplier. The two flavors I’ve tried are ground turkey with sardines and ground chicken with sardines. She cleans her plate, and she never did that before! Her coat has become softer and silkier, after looking so dry and lifeless from the drug treatments.
The new challenge is that she wants to go out again, so we’re back to the halter and leash walks twice a day, which seem to satisfy her need for a taste of freedom that was once hers. I even let go of the leash so she can walk without me holding on, but I keep a close watch on her so I can grab her if necessary. She sticks pretty close by, and even comes when I call her….if she feels so inclined!
I’m thankful that I didn’t have to take her life, after saving it.
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