Sunday, December 14, 2003

From Kat's personal diary:

Dear Diary:

It happened again. Several years ago, Calypso and I experienced the true horror that was our move away from Mike's apartment to a new one. As you may recall from my diary entry on January 29, 2000, the series of strange events that led up to us being whisked away to a new and strange place were as frightning as they were confusing. When Calypso and I recently began to witness the same sort of warning signs this time around, we were able to better sense the coming doom, but nothing could have fully prepared us for it.

As before, furniture in Mike's apartment started to disappear and there was the sudden appearance of many cardboard boxes. Calypso and I had first surmised that their placement was some sort of diversionary tactic on Mike's part to prevent us from getting distressed over the missing furniture we had spent so much time and energy marking. However, soon it became apparent that Mike was using these boxes to temporarily store other, smaller items in his possession, and that's when the wave of familiarity hit me --we were moving yet again!

Calypso and I spent considerable time going over possible scenarios aimed at thwarting this latest attempt at displacing us --for example, we'd devised a plan in which I'd jump onto Mike's chest as he slept and then steal his breath-- but these plans all had inherent weaknesses that left their efficacy questionable at best (I had performed a "test run" of this plan on Mike's girlfriend, but the results were disappointing). Indeed, it seemed our only choice was to succumb to allow Mike to ultimately place us in our respective cat carriers and transport us to some new, foreign, ostensibly uninhabitable land.

When it was time for Mike to place me in the carrier, I had all but given up. I allowed him to effortlessly trap me in a two-foot long by 10-inch wide cell, where I witnessed all the same types of strange sensations I had felt nearly four years ago. Calypso put up much more of a fight --she had hidden herself under a radiator and screamed her bloody head off as Mike tried to coax her out. Mike seemed flabergasted at her response, but what did he expect? She swiped at him violently, screaming all the while, and I could see from the blood on Mike's right hand that some of her blows had hit their mark. Serves him right! Still, Mike managed to literally trap her in a corner, positioning the cat carrier in such a way that forced Calypso into it.

It's been three weeks since the move and I am slowly adjusting to the new surroundings. Some of the old furniture is still here, which has been comforting, but many more items are totally new. For example, there is now a couple of strange, green items that Mike calls a "couch" and a "love seat" that he now sits on instead of the more familiar black futon. They are a somewhat welcome addition, as I find it very enjoyable --irresistable, in fact-- to scratch along their sides. Mike seems bent on sabotaging my enjoyment, however; he has placed these strange, smooth plastic pieces along the areas I like to scratch, which are just horrible. I now have little choice but to sharpen my claws on my usual scratching posts...but sometimes I'm still able to find a place on the couch that Mike hasn't covered in plastic.

One truly creepy area of our new home is something Mike calls a "basement." I don't know what that means, but I can tell you it's cold, dark and occasionally damp when it rains. Calypso doesn't mind it down there nearly as much as I do; she'll walk right up to this gargantuan structure that belches flames from inside it and then blows hot air throughout the house. Why on earth would Mike move us near a flame-belching monster? Is the man daft?

When we had first arrived here, Mike actually had the audacity to place our litterboxes in that cold, dark "basement." I sure wasn't about to go down there, I can tell you! Instead, I found a nice, warm corner of the living room to relieve myself. Apparently Mike got the message, because not only was my pee cleaned up immediately thereafter (and covered with this awful-smelling stuff Mike calls "Nature's Miracle"), but the litterboxes were now in the kitchen. Chalk one up for me and Calypso.

Monday, October 6, 2003

Shortly before my girlfriend had moved to her new apartment, Gina noticed that Fred, her 14-year-old Himalayan cat, had started inexplicably losing weight and didn't seem to be eating as much. He was taken to the vet, where they found nothing really definitive, so the assumption was that the diet food Gina had been feeding her two cats was no longer adequate for Fred. It was also surmised that Fred may have been having problems chewing the dry food (he had lost a tooth or two in his old age). So, Gina started feeding Fred some higher-fat wet food.

At about the same time, Fred started developing some strange behavior. He had become much more insistent upon getting "people" food --would get right in your face hoping you'd give him a piece of whatever you were eating at the time. I once joked to Gina during this stage that his behavior was starting to remind me of the character, "Billy" on Ally McBeal, who bleached his hair and started acting bizarre after developing a brain tumor.

Fred and Gina, 2000
A few weeks later, Fred began exhibiting more weird behavior. He started to purposely wet almost the entire left half of his face, causing his long hair to dry into a matted mess. For years, Fred had LOVED to jump into the bathtub and drink from the bathtub faucet, which Gina would leave on at a small trickle for his benefit. So the fact that Fred was wet didn't initially set off any alarms. But soon Fred started to smell like a combination of "wet cat" and cat food, because he didn't seem to have the ability to lick himself clean. It had gotten to the point at which Gina's other cat began licking Fred's face in an effort to clean him up, which was unprecedented.

When Gina took Fred to a specialist a couple weeks ago, she described to this vet the strange face-wetting ritual, as well as another strange symptom: Fred was starting to ever-so-slightly stick out his tongue. The specialist immediately discovered a growth under it. He advised Gina that 90% of the time, a growth in this area was cancerous. They cut a chunk of the tumor out and had it biopsied, but the lab results would take another two weeks.

In the meantime, Fred's symptoms continued to worsen. He had gone from a 13-pound cat to just under 7 pounds. When he tried to eat, he seemed unsuccessful at getting anything into his mouth. As a result of the incision, his tongue had swollen up to the point where it was forcing his mouth partially open and he was drooling. Last week, Gina took the cat back to her regular vet after it was clear Fred could no longer eat on his own. They gave Gina some cans of a high-protein food that would help make sure he got some nourishment from the little amount reaching his stomach. They showed her how to moisten the food down to a slurry mixture he could more easily ingest. While still very interested in food, Fred was clearly frustrated that he couldn't get anything into his mouth and would ultimately give up. The vet also provided Gina some anti-inflammatory medication to help Fred's swollen tongue.

Through the course of last week, Gina administered the anti-inflammatory, which seemed to help the swelling and minimize the drooling. However, Fred still had little interest in eating (though he still would visit the bathtub frequently to drink from the faucet). By this time, Gina had been forced to use a syringe to shoot food into the back of Fred's mouth.

Later last week, the biopsy results finally arrived: squamous cell carcinoma. Fred had cancer. They told Gina there was very little that could be done, particularly due to the location of the cancer. You could remove the cat's tongue, but a cat can't really survive very long without one.

Fred in 2000
Now Gina had the horrible task of deciding Fred's fate. She made the appointment to euthanize Fred on Saturday. We stayed the night at her apartment, where I found I couldn't sleep, worried as I was for both Gina and her cat. Throughout the night, I pet Fred, hoping that perhaps by morning, the vet would call and tell us that there had been a mistake...that Fred's illness could somehow be cured. But the call never came.

Gina's mom had gotten Fred back in 1989, when Gina was a junior in high school. Her mother arrived in the morning along with Gina's former roommate, who had also lived with Fred for several years. As the hour of Fred's final vet appointment approached, Gina slowly wrapped Fred in a towel. There would be no pet carrier this time.

When we arrived, the walk to the entrance was slow and deliberate. The realization was starting to sink in for Gina and her roommate, who were both fighting back tears. Once inside, the receptionist had Gina sign a euthanasia release and she paid for the procedure so that we could immediately leave once the heartrending task had been completed.

In a few moments, the four of us were taken to a cramped room with a cold, metal examining table against one wall. Gina placed the old beach towel under Fred to keep him warm...they weighed him one last time: a little over 5 pounds. The vet had originally planned on giving Fred an IV that she'd ultimately feed the drugs through, but because Fred was so thin, they weren't successful in starting one. So, they decided to inject Fred first with a heavy tranquilizer, and once he was unconscious, they'd give him the final overdose of barbiturates.

The worst part of this whole experience for me was watching my girlfriend fall apart. Gina very rarely gets emotional, but when she does, it brings a tremendous sense of helplessness in me, a sinking feeling in the pit of my stomach that makes me struggle to find a solution when there is none. The vet injected Fred with the tranquilizer and left us alone with him for the last few moments that he remained conscious. At first, it seemed as though the injection had no effect --he was partly sitting up, with most of his weight balanced on his front paws. Then Fred placed his front legs out in front of his body in a more relaxed posture. "There he goes," Gina's mom said. Gina began whispering comforting words to Fred now while he was still relatively lucid. As she did so, his head slowly began to sink, lower and lower, until it was touching the table.

When the vet returned to the room with one of her assistants in tow, she told Gina that it appeared time to give Fred the final injection. They turned his limp body slowly over on his side to expose one of his hind legs, where they'd administer the dose. Though he was practically unconscious, Fred's eyes remained open and appeared, likely out of sheer happenstance, to be focused squarely on me. I returned the stare, hoping that if Fred could see me, he somehow found my face reassuring.

"I'm going to make the final injection now," the vet whispered. In that five seconds' time, a million thoughts raced through my head. I thought of Fred as he was three years ago, when I first met my girlfriend. I remembered the times he would sleep with us --usually hogging the bed-- but he did it in such a strangely unobtrusive manner that you felt obliged to give him half the bed if only to make him feel more comfortable.

I thought of crying out, "Wait! Don't give him the injection! I'll take Fred home with me! We'll spend all the money we can!" knowing full well that nothing in the world could make him well again. I thought about my own cats and imagined a time when I would have to euthanize them.

The vet placed the needle into Fred's leg and pressed the plunger. As she did so, I noted that Fred's pupils became slightly more dilated. The four of us who had come in to bear witness collectively held our breath. In a few moments, the vet placed a stethoscope on his chest. "He's gone," she said in a whisper.

The vet asked Gina if she wanted to stay with Fred for a few moments longer, but the ordeal was already too overwhelming, and she declined. They would send Fred's ashes in about a week. As we slowly filed out of the room, I glanced back to watch them gingerly lift Fred's lifeless body, his eyes still open, staring into emptiness.

This has been one of the worst weekends in recent memory. Beyond television, I'd never witnessed anyone or anything dying before me, and certainly not by euthanasia. The closest comparison to this in my life was the day I first laid eyes on my father lying in his casket when I was eight years old. It's the kind of experience I'd never considered when getting my own cats, and now I have to own up to the realization that someday I'll likely have to do the same thing for Kat and Calypso.

Rest in peace, Fred. We will miss you.

Sunday, May 4, 2003

Another one of my brother's cats died this morning. Her name was Cattie Brie, and she came from the same litter as Calypso. She was found on the floor meowing incessantly, unable to move and was taken to an animal ER. The vet determined that she had kidney failure resulting from liver disease. She was put to sleep.

Saturday, February 15, 2003

Up the wall,
Across the rug,
Every cat chases
The Critterbug!

So I got the Critterbug as a Valentine's Day gift the other day (For the uninformed: the Critterbug is a hand-held laser-emitting device used specifically to drive cats mad). I'd played with laser toys before but could never find one for myself at any area pet store. Thankfully, this device came out (and I'm kicking myself for not coming up with the idea first).

Katherine goes absolutely nuts when she sees the laser light dance and jiggle across the floor and walls. In fact, of all the cats I've tried the toy on, she's been the most animated. When she first sees the red light, her instincts immediately overwhelm her sense of reason as she prepares to pounce. Milleseconds later, she's mindlessly chasing the light around the house as I move the device. After several minutes of fruitless running and swatting, she will eventually lie down, staring at the light, chattering at it as though it were a bird, as if to say, "Just you wait, you fiery-red beast. Once I catch my breath, it's curtains for you."

Calypso, on the other hand, is more tentative and passive in her approach. She will occassionally swat at it or give a light, half-hearted chase, but she's more inclined to watch it dance about the room and wait for it to come to her. Perhaps that's because she's got more wits about her (don't tell Katherine I wrote that).

Note: If you get one of these for your cats, it's important to know that you SHOULD NEVER point the laser at their eyes, or those of anyone else. The concentrated light will cause blindness. The Critterbug uses a class IIIa laser.

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