I moved my mother to a personal care home in December 2002 for the extra care she needed for her congestive heart failure and COPD. I visited her frequently and got to know the staff of the small facility as well as the other twenty or so other ladies there. I learned that many of them had given up kitties when they moved there and missed them terribly, and I listened to and shared many kitty stories with them. Most of the ladies had some depth of dementia and I could never be sure the stories were accurate, but at that point you just go along with their reality and everything is fine.
And two years into my mother’s stay there, when my schedule permitted more time, I suddenly had just the kitty to fit right in with these ladies for occasional visits.
When Peaches and Cream joined our household on the last day of June 2005, they’d been living in their person’s home for about three months being cared for by a friend after their person, an elderly woman, had died. She and the woman’s son, who lived out of town, had shared the two cats’ photos and stories everywhere trying to find someone to adopt them, to no avail. Neither of them wanted to see this woman’s beloved cats end up euthanized in a shelter, and her son had even taken them to their veterinarian to be euthanized rather than surrender them. But in the end neither he nor the vet could go through with it because even though they were 15 years old they were still obviously full of life, social, friendly, ready to go on.
That friend was also a friend of mine and convinced me to take them to foster, and delivered them here after she had sorted through and cleaned out the house and it was ready to go on the market.
The two girls had had a diet of dry food and water from automatic dispensers for a while, even while their person had been ill, were somewhat dehydrated and showing clear signs of renal failure. My veterinarian and I set up a plan for frequent fluid therapy and a recovery diet. Peaches responded within a month, able to stop the fluids and eat regular food, but her sister Cream continued a need for fluids once or twice a week. Petite dilute calico Peaches had gained a half pound and looked plush and healthy for her age, but Cream, a rangy calico, nearly all white with a few orange and black spots on her head and tail, had the look of a cat who had lost an amount of weight already and was not putting any back on. Still, her blood tests were acceptable and while she didn’t get along with the rest of the household very well she was happy for attention and maintained a good level of health after stabilizing.
But where Peaches looked at me one day and I knew she had accepted me as her new person, Cream kept looking for the person she had loved all her life. Each time I came in the door of the foster room, I could see the eager excitement in her eyes, which faded when she saw only me, sometimes confusion, questions, sadness, even while she pressed her head into the palm of my hand and happily settled on my lap whenever it was available.
As the summer heat cooled into September, I asked the managers of the personal care home if they thought the ladies would like a visit from a well-behaved, affectionate elderly kitty who just happened to be missing her human. They thought that was fine as long as there were no messes and no injuries.
I knew that Cream was a very gentle cat after the way she’d responded to everyone she’d met, especially the way she’d responded to my niece’s young children, who were kind and respectful but still active and noisy.
So every two weeks or so through the autumn and early winter I packed Creamy into a carrier and took her to visit the ladies. She was calm about everything and riding in a car wasn’t a problem.
I took her into the living room of the home in her carrier the first time I took her for a visit and most of the ladies were curious and turned from the television. A few guessed there was a kitty in there and began talking about their kitties. I opened the door and Cream walked out as if she lived there, looked around at the ladies and I could see she was pleased. I’m not sure if she thought she’d find her person, but she didn’t hesitate to walk over to one row of chairs and took a closer look at the ladies. She walked to sniff the hands that reached for her and petted her, rubbed her face and shoulders on legs and slippers, and chose a lady whose lap she liked, jumped up, head-butted the woman’s face, then walked in a circle and settled down.
These visits seemed to invigorate Cream and she was happier at home, ate better, and when we reached the living room she rattled the carrier door to be let out to get to her ladies. The ladies enjoyed her visits as well. She didn’t always choose a lap, sometimes she walked around the room and smelled things, but she provided a diversion for the ladies who had something to talk about.
Cream was strong enough for a visit for an hour or two, but in January she began to slow down as my vet and I saw her numbers were dropping and the renal failure was winning. Taking her out in the winter cold wasn’t a good idea, even with a heated pad in her carrier, so I kept her at home and told the ladies Cream sent her regards.
At the same time my little Moses at age 20 was beginning to weaken from general organ failure with mini strokes now and then, her numbers began dropping as well and I began administering occasional fluids to her too. I lost Moses at the end of February that year.
Cream continued to fail, losing weight and ability, but her need to see her human was as clear to me as if she had said it out loud. When her condition started to look desperate, yet she would not give me a sign she was ready to let go I talked it over with my vet, and then I talked to Deb Chebatoris from Chartiers Custom Pet Cremation saying I just couldn’t make the decision for her, but she wasn’t even holding her fluids anymore. Deb suggested I tell her that I’d find her person’s grave and scatter her cremains there so they’d be together forever. I did tell Cream I would do that, I made it a promise that I’d do as soon as I could. The next day she let me know it was time to go and be with her person, and we set her free from her body. It was the end of March and she’d only been with us nine months, but as they always do, she left her mark on our household, and on many other human’s hearts as well. It actually took a while to get the information for the woman’s burial place, but I never forgot the promise. Cream was at peace.
Cream with my great nieces and nephews, the same ones who adopted Simon and Theo.
You can read more about how “Angel” and “Rosebud” arrived here and became “Peaches and Cream” in Peaches’ rescue story, Never Underestimate a Senior Kitty.
Read other stories in my Rescue Stories series on The Creative Cat.
Gifts featuring cats you know! Visit Portraits of Animals
Great Rescues Day Book:
Portraits, Rescue Stories, Holidays and Events, Essential Feline Information, All in One Book
Each month features one of my commissioned portraits of a feline or felines and their rescue story along with a kitty quote on the left page, and on the right page the month name with enough lines for all possible dates, with standard holidays and animal-themed observances and events. Great Rescues also includes a mini cat-care book illustrated with my drawings including information on finding strays or orphaned kittens, adopting for the first time or caring for a geriatric cat, a list of household toxins and toxic plants, or helping stray and feral cats and beginning with TNR.
Each book includes also 10 sheets of my “22 Cats” decorative notepaper with a collage of all the portraits in black and white so you can make your own notes or write special notes to friends.
The portraits in this book, collected as a series, won both a Certificate of Excellence and a Muse Medallion in the 2011 Cat Writers’ Association Annual Communication Contest, as well as the 22 Cats Notepaper mentioned below.
All images and text used on this site are copyrighted to Bernadette E. Kazmarski unless otherwise noted and may not be used without my written permission, although links to your site are more than welcome and are shared. Please ask if you are interested in using and image or story in a print or internet publication. If you are interested in purchasing a print of an image or a product including it, check my animal and nature website Portraits of Animals to see if I have it available already. If you don’t find it there, visit Ordering Custom Artwork for more information on a custom greeting card, print or other item.
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Weekly schedule of features:
Sunday: Essays, Pet Loss, Poetry, The Artist’s Life
Monday: Adoptable Cats, TNR & Shelters
Tuesday: Rescue Stories
Wednesday: Commissioned Portrait or Featured Artwork
Thursday: New Merchandise
Friday: Book Review, Health and Welfare, Advocacy
Saturday: Your Backyard Wildlife Habitat, Living Green With Pets, Creating With Cats
And sometimes, I just throw my hands in the air and have fun!