I’ve rescued and fostered cats for just about 30 years, usually living with an average of nine cats including my “permanent collection”, those who were never adopted, and fosters, from bottle babies to senior citizens. In 2012 I lost Cookie, 20, and Kelly, 19, two of my first rescues in this house and the last of those old friends, and also the last in a long line of nearly yearly losses, especially of very old cats. I decided after losing Kelly in August I would take a break in fostering, vowing to stay with my family of five rescued black cats until I felt ready to rescue, foster or adopt again; my heart truly needed a break.
Stories of cats in need run past me all day long, every day, as I write and share my articles for my feline-centered blog, The Creative Cat. And even with all the pleas of people and cats in need I’ve been happy to live with only five cats with no health or behavior issues for the first time in decades. In place of fostering I do my best to help others who are fostering, posting rescue stories and cats for adoption on The Creative Cat as well as all the social media available to me, and providing as much support as I can to those who are out on the streets hands-on rescuing cats and kittens.
But I heard about two cats, 19 and 20 years old, who were living in a cage and needed a new home, and for all the other cats and kittens and fosters and hard luck cases that run by me every single day I couldn’t see a 20-year-old and a 19-year-old being shuffled around in cages. I’ve lived with and provided care to far too many geriatric cats, I remember the delicate thinness of their skin, their fragile bones just beneath it, the sunken hips and cheeks as muscle wastes away, how I sensed they were compensating in so many little ways every day but with that fire of will burning in their eyes, and I would do anything they needed.
I did not want to see these two older cats in this situation. I couldn’t imagine, for instance, Cookie and Kelly in this situation at just the same ages. I had taken in two 15-year-old cats from a situation like this and though younger they had struggled, and I’d lost one just months later. For all these reasons I knew I was better equipped than most to help these two.
At their age most shelters would consider them unadoptable and either turn them away, or warn that they’d be put to sleep, and in fact their caretaker had been advised to just have them euthanized. But I said I’d take them, sight unseen. It didn’t matter what they looked like, they needed a home, and possibly more than other cats out there appealing to an internet full of humans who might take them in. Kittens are fun. Adult cats are a known quantity. Geriatric cats are frightening. Their condition is unpredictable. They represent the immediate potential for loss and pain. They are walking in the face of death. But they are living, loving creatures and after a long life deserve to live that last time of life with love and dignity.
Both were dehydrated and unsteady. I could see that the older cat’s eyes had faded from Siamese blue to a greenish gray, which might indicate jaundice related to renal failure and thought he might not have much time at all. But after a slow start both responded to a quiet, comfortable room, constant food and water, transitional flower essences, and love and affection. Lakota, the Siamese mix, evidenced a confident and friendly personality, while Jojo, the long-haired black female, was friendly but reserved. Lakota began exploring my second floor, managing to get up on my bed for a nap and supervising me in my studio. They weren’t coming face to face with my cats but close enough to have conversations, but even these grew civil. I began to plan on how to integrate the two.
But after only four weeks, Lakota suddenly began to eat less, then be less active, and quickly declined in a matter of days. A veterinary visit showed end stage renal failure. We tried a week’s worth of treatments to bring back his appetite and provide comfort and he received an acupuncture treatment to help balance his Qi, but he didn’t respond at all.
So was he slowly fading but perked up when he came here with a more stable environment and just the excitement of change? A new person to charm and manipulate? A new home to explore? A reason to live a little longer? Likely so. And we loved every minute of the time we shared. He left this earthly existence behind almost exactly six weeks after I’d carried him into my home.
Lakota knew his end was near, yet he didn’t fear the new adventure and a new person to love, and why should I, or any of us? When we consider taking an animal companion into our home and our heart do we need the assurance of a full lifetime together before we’ll agree to it? Or can we simply love as long as love is there in the flesh, and continue on in memory? We should not forsake the joy of love for the fear of loss. Loss will always come. Not so with love unless we welcome it despite its risks.
As a creative person I turn my emotions into art, design and writing, and for Lakota I designed a new animal sympathy card which reads, “Never enough time, but time enough to love.”
His lifelong fur friend seems well, missing her friend, but easily affectionate. I changed her name from Jojo to Emeraude, befitting a lady of some dignified maturity with still-brilliant green eyes. I look forward to our time together.
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You can find Lakota’s sympathy card in my Etsy shop, and one for Emeraude too along with a card encouraging adopting or fostering senior cats.
Read more under the topic of Pet Loss on The Creative Cat.
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© 2015 | www.TheCreativeCat.net | Published by Bernadette E. Kazmarski
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!