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Posts Tagged ‘cats’

tulips

One side effect of owning a cat for the better part of 18 years was a strict no-flowers-in-the-house rule. Yang loved nothing more than calmly sniffing a bouquet and then suddenly snatching a flower between his teeth, ready to chow down like a champion.

When the husband brought home a gorgeous bouquet of lilies for Valentine’s Day, I actually left them at home instead of hiding them in the closet until I could secrete them away to the safer confines of my office. They were a lovely, colorful addition to the condo.

During my next trip to Trader Joe’s, it occurred to me that people actually buy flowers for their homes, all the time, without holidays, birthdays or anniversaries as a prompt. Five dollars later, I had the perfect little bouquet of tulips to add a touch of spring to the living room.

It’s a small indulgence, but $5 every couple of weeks is money well spent to lift the mood of our small space. I’d trade them in an instant to have my cat back, though.

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Yang has been gone for almost a year. While we’ve discussed getting another cat, or another pair, we haven’t taken any steps toward doing so. I don’t really want just another cat, I want MY cats. I realize that sounds like the logic of an 8-year-old, but I miss my boys.

Last week, my office visited the Lifeline Animal Project in Decatur, Georgia, to walk dogs and socialize cats. Lifeline runs a private shelter housing many animals that have been abused or neglected; neuters dogs and cats at little or no cost to owners; runs a trap-neuter-return program for feral cats; and helps underserved pet owners get access to free vaccinations for their pets. Lifeline also manages Fulton County Animal Services and DeKalb County Animal Services.

If it sounds impressive, it is. You should visit.

Anyway, I was hoping/dreading that I would instantly fall in love with a shelter cat. I think the husband fully expected to arrive home to a newly installed feline condo resident.

Didn’t happen. A couple of young cats snuggled right up to me, purrs and all, but the magic just wasn’t there.

You know what was there? Hives. On my face, where said young cats head-butted me. Short-haired cats are, apparently, not for me.

The only cat I halfway connected with is the beauty pictured above. She didn’t hide from us, but she wasn’t having any of the socialization we were doling out, either. She was, in short, her own cat.

She certainly wasn’t destined to be my cat, nor were any of the rest of the itch-inducing little buggers. I guess my perfect cat is out there, but Yin and Yang just showed up at our door one day and never left – they found us.

It’s going to be kind of hard for a long-haired cat to show up at the condo door, but I guess the first one that does gets to stay.

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I don’t know what to do with the two tins of cat ashes sitting on my top shelf.

I never intended to keep them forever — I’m not exactly an ashes-on-the-mantel kind of girl. I couldn’t WAIT to get my dad’s ashes out of the house, heading to New Orleans to scatter them in the Mississippi River as soon as I could after they arrived in the mail.

In. The. Mail.

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And it’s not like I want to scatter them someplace where I can return in reverence year after year — if I want to remember my cats, I can remember my cats anywhere.

I have two tins of cat ashes only because I thought that I should scatter Yin and Yang at the same time. They were together pretty much 24-7 for more than 14 years, after all.

We lived in a quite nondescript subdivision when they showed up, then moved to another subdivision, then moved to yet another subdivision before heading to Atlanta, where I don’t even have a potted plant, much less a yard or a garden. Besides, one of the reasons for moving to Atlanta was so we could be mobile, so it’s not like this place is necessarily going to be “home” forever.

In other words, I have manufactured a relatively rootless existence for myself, with no appropriately resting place for beloved pets. Dilemma.

They’re cool hanging out on the top shelf for now, I’m sure. There’s no higher spot in the condo, save for the top of the kitchen cabinets, which, I have to admit, they would have found a way to climb onto during their glory days.

Maybe this is one of those solutions that hits you out of the blue, like realizing that you can wear the same dress at the Monday-night conference reception AND on Wednesday so you won’t have to pack so many outfits.

I just want it to hit me: The cats would LOVE it here. Let’s go get the ashes.

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Yang_April

The last time I mentioned Yang on this blog, I talked about the unexpected success of getting him to wear a harness so he could be a balcony cat on the 16th floor of our condo. He had a fantastic spring out there with us, full of cool breezes and irresistible puddles of sunshine, a combination that enabled some of the most peaceful and satisfying naps of his life.

It’s taken me a long time to work up to writing this post. Yang died on May 19 after a short bout with cancer.

He was happy enough, but we knew he was slowing down. He had become so docile that, as you can see in the photo above, we would often let him wonder around on the patio without his harness.

Like all good animal emergencies, Yang’s problems started the very day I left town for a business trip to San Antonio. A mere two hours after I had landed, the husband called to tell me that he had found blood in the litter box and had already made an appointment with the vet. I stumbled through the better part of 24 hours, not knowing if I would still have a cat when I flew home.

Cancer. Probably. In his intestines. The only way to know for sure was to do a biopsy, which was a patently ridiculous notion given his age — he was nearly 18 (for all we know he was ALREADY 18, since we had made an educated guess when Yang and his brother showed up and simply let them share my June birthday). To be clear, the vet didn’t push this option, but instead offered a couple of palliative treatments that cleared up the blood problem and seemed to perk him up a little.

So, I came home to help run a cat hospice.

He was a great patient. He decided that his usual diet wasn’t going to cut it anymore, and would only eat Trader Joe’s Tuna for Cats, with minuscule doses of Pepcid AC. I figured it wasn’t the worse thing in the world, giving a dying cat whatever he wanted.

He had a pretty good two weeks. He ate, he drank water from the bathtub faucet, he chased sun around the condo, he moseyed out onto the balcony when he got the chance.

That final Sunday, though. Wow. He got 100 percent worse in a matter of hours. You know that horrible feeling, when you’re taking care of an old animal, or one that’s simply too sick to go on, that you won’t know when it’s time to let go? We totally knew it was time to let go.

As the day wore on, he lost most of his ability to walk. His balance was off, and his back legs just weren’t working right. He somehow was still able to get to the litter box, but he had no interest in food or water. He spent part of the night with me on the bed — I didn’t want him to wake up unable to move and scared to be alone, but that didn’t fly for long. Independent cat demanded to get down around 1 a.m., and he spend the rest of the night sleeping in the hallway. He was limp and non-responsive when I woke up a few hours later, and I was shocked to find that he was still breathing. He stirred as we started making breakfast, and he actually drank some water that I offered — I knew he needed to be hydrated to make it easier for the vet to find a vein. (I may be a complete emotional wreck on occasion, but I’m still the girl you want on your side to think clearly during bad times.)

We called in a euthanasia specialist (apparently a thing in large cities, thank goodness) so we wouldn’t have to subject him to a car ride. Dr. Katie Billmaier with Lap of Love Veterinary Hospice was a blessing that day. She came through the front door and immediately began doting on Yang. Part vet, part social worker, she let us tell her stories about him and completely control the timeline. It was all very gentle and very peaceful.

Like his brother before him, Yang was dutifully driven to the crematorium by the two people who had cared for him since he and his brother showed up on the carport of our rental house in Mobile, Ala., in 1996. We wrapped him in a pillowcase that my grandmother had embroidered (it matched the one that Yin was cremated with) and outfitted him with Greenies, a spoonful of catnip and a couple of toys.

Thus ends the saga of Yin and Yang, two Very Good Cats.

The condo is unbearably quiet at times, although it’s not so much the sounds of Yang that I’m missing (he was notoriously opposed to noise), but simply his presence. You spend 17 years with a furry little beastie, you expect him to be in one of his spots.

We’re cat-free for the moment. After caring for a quiet, older cat for so long, I don’t know that we have the patience or time to return to the hijinks of younger cats.

Mostly, though, I get the feeling that these guys might just be irreplaceable. R.I.P., Yin and Yang.

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mustache

I mustache you a question. Would you please remove this atrocity from my vicinity and stop pretending that I make puns?

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Yang remains unmoved by your argument.

“I believe I heard the sound of a bag of Greenies being opened. No? You say it’s a bag of croutons? Well, I happen to know that the croutons are stored next to the Greenies, so let’s just break those out while you’re standing there.”

I eat a lot of salad, so we play this game several nights a week. I pretend to be fooled by his charade, and he enjoys outsmarting me. Everybody wins.

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Yang turned 17 earlier this month. Not bad for a kitty who received the then-apt nickname of “vomicat” many years ago. A diet of homemade cat food has kept the old-cat ranginess at bay, and he may just be primed to register to vote next summer.

I know we’re lucky to have had such a great cat in the family for so long. (Not that Yin was any slouch in the long-term pet department: 14 years is not the shortest of cat lives, either.)

Animal lovers automatically surround themselves with other animal lovers, and are thus always experiencing the happiness and the tragedies of animal companionship. Just a couple of weeks ago, a friend’s 8-year-old cat died suddenly, and this week another friend is facing an undetermined, yet probably terminal, diagnosis for his family’s cat. He has the additional burden of helping his young sons deal with their grief, too.

If we had any common sense when it came to protecting our emotions, we’d stop turning animals into family members. The joy we would lose if we chose a lesser relationship with our pets, however, is simply unfathomable.

Thus, we choose, again and again, to love these furry little beasts, knowing that they’re going to leave us much too soon.

Totally worth it.

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