Jan. 4th, 2017 08:41 pm
bookofmirrors: (Smithers)
Like Whimsy, Smithers has been with me since the day he was born. His origin story is also hers, and I said it better in It includes how we ended up with Smithers, how he got his name, and his early life.

As I stated there, we hadn't planned on keeping Smithers. He had a home lined up. But the couple ended up not taking him, and my father agreed that I should keep Smithers, in addition to Whimsy, so we ended up with the only two gray and white kittens from the litter... a matched set, male and female.

Even though we always joked that Whimsy (and therefore kinda Smithers) was Dean's cat, Smithers was always a Mama's Boy. He loved to be on my lap, milk treading and purring. When he was a tiny kitten, and I had to go to work for one of my off-hour shifts, I took him with me. He spent most of the time there sleeping in my cleavage while I did paperwork. Although it obviously didn't bother him at that time, Smithers had a weird quirk where he hated skin. More accurately, he hated walking on skin. This was a bit of an issue, since I spent a lot of time naked. He'd jump up on the couch, wanting to be on my lap, but not wanting to get his feet on my bare skin. He'd pace and meow plaintively, until I threw a blanket over myself, and he'd jump up immediately, and proceed with his cuddling.

He had an adorable habit when he was young, where if you petted him, he'd bliss out and his tongue would slip out of his mouth. I loved it when he did this, and thought it was the cutest thing. Whenever he did it with Dean, though, Dean would touch Smithers' tongue with the tip of his finger, and Smithers would pop it back in his mouth. I protested, because I thought it would make him stop doing that. Sadly, I was right, and it wasn't something that remained a habit for very long.

I don't recall a time Smithers was ever sick, up until the end of his life. The only medical problem we had was one of his claws started growing back, and we had to get it re-done. I found out then that there were two different ways to declaw cats, and he and Whimsy had both had the incomplete version. I opted not to have the surgery re-done on all their claws, and that was my first inkling that declawing wasn't the benign procedure I had presumed it to be. I cried when I had to replace his dressing, heartbroken to think that something I'd done had caused him pain. But we both got through it, and there were no further complications.

There are no good pictures of Smithers. Most of them either look frowsy (and he was that, at times), or just like ...well, a cat. None of them captured his easy, muscular grace. As Whimsy had been the smallest of the litter, he had been the largest, and he was the only cat I had whose muscles clearly rippled in his shoulders when he moved. He wasn't a particularly athletic cat, but he just somehow had that build. But for all his obvious power, he was a much more timid cat than his sister, and moreso than all the other cats. I always said he was a bit neurotic, and pictures also failed to capture the almost perpetually worried look he had. His other "look", which photos likewise could never portray, was a regal pose he would have sometimes, either sitting and towering over his domain like a contented monarch, or lying in a pose very much like that of the Sphinx, and looking just as wise.

In spite of being neutered as early as possible, Smithers still apparently had a healthy sexual appetite, and would chase Whimsy and Loki frequently, must to their annoyance (and horrible yowling). I don't think he ever caught them, but it certainly wasn't from lack of trying.

As part of his neuroses, singing in his presence almost always caused him to yowl in a very concerned manner. Apparently Glenn and I concerned him often. Everyone's a critic. :) He would also go through the house yowling for no apparent reason, moreso later in life. Glenn told me that it increased to an almost constant when I was out of town for work. Trying to get him to stop was like talking to the walls. But we loved him anyway, even as we were trying to get back to sleep. It certainly drove Brett nuts, but to his credit, he never did more than verbally complain.

As I type, I take back what I said about him not being sick ever. At one point, he developed crystals in his urine. (Apparently, there are two kinds. I can never remember which kind he had, but it was the most common kind.) The praised me for knowing my animals so well, and for paying attention enough to notice something was wrong, because apparently, this could progress to death very quickly. He said he'd have to be in a special diet the rest of his life, and that deviating from it would cause them to come back. All the cats ate the same food, so all the cats ended up going on the same diet. I tried to switch him over to a different food later, when Silver required special food for his megacolon, but the crystals did indeed come back, so we had to switch back. Interestingly enough, however, when we moved to Illinois, the original vet we went to (now retired) was not only a DVM, but was also versed in animal chiropractic, acupuncture, and Chinese medicine, and said that we could switch him over to non-prescription food if we only fed him "cooling" foods, as per Chinese medicine. I was skeptical, but I went ahead and tried it, and damned if it didn't work perfectly. I was able to switch all the cats over to the food that the in Atlanta (*highly* recommend her, by the way) had recommended, and if it was possible, they got even *more* healthy, with a noticeable difference in their coats - and it's certainly not like all of them hadn't always had top-of-the-line food since they were kittens. Everyone had always commented on their coats, and any cat that lived with us, or was cared for by us for any length of time had a noticeable improvement in their coats, even before then. What you feed your pets matters, people. (/end rant... maybe) After a few years of the cooling foods, it turned out it had pretty much cured him, and he could eat anything without the crystals returning. Really amazing.

Anyway, he was about 16 when he was diagnosed with kidney disease. All cats who live long enough will eventually get this. It's kind of amazing that Whimsy didn't seem to have it, all the way up until the end. But it's something that happens, and it progresses, and there's really nothing that will cure it, although there are some things that can be done to delay it. I gave him subcutaneous fluids for a while, but he didn't like it, and I wasn't going put him through that just because I didn't want to lose him. Ditto any medications, which I knew would traumatize my already-neurotic cat. In spite of that, he lived a few years without his levels going up significantly, and having no apparent major changes.

The first thing that really happened was when he started wasting. I was worried that he was losing weight, because I could start to feel his bones when I petted him. The checked him out, and said that he'd actually gained weight since his prior visit, and that what I was noticing was actually wasting - loss of muscle mass. This progressed slowly over time.

As any elderly cat will do, he started to move more slowly, and look like he had some of the aches and pains of old age. But he was otherwise still himself. At his last checkup, my suspicions that his kidney disease was progressing more rapidly were confirmed with bloodwork. I knew it would be soon.

He kept seeming older and older, but I never got the "signal" I'd always gotten with my other cats. He started sleeping almost exclusively in the corner of the living room where the two heating registers met, or on top of the subwoofer in Glenn's office.

It wasn't until Whimsy's death last Friday, that I really realized how far along he'd gotten. Whimsy ate like a fiend, and even moreso after her seizures, so I hadn't realized how little Smithers was eating. Since her death, he ate a total of less than one can of food, and there was only one tiny piece of stool in the litterbox. He was less interested in cuddling, which was very unlike him, so I finally went and picked him up for a while, which is when I realized he had a bunch of cat litter in his paws that he hadn't cleaned out, so I knew he wasn't taking care of himself. I was able to get all that cleared out, and I'm sure it must have been uncomfortable, but when it was gone, he didn't seem any less uncomfortable when he walked. Gentle petting while he was standing was enough to make him lose his balance. I was sure it was getting time to put him down, but I hadn't gotten any message from him, and when I'd had the with Whimsy, they'd worked a bit with Smithers, as well, so I thought I'd have more time with him. But all this was too much. I asked around, and finally decided that, signal or no signal, I couldn't keep him alive any longer.

So, I made the appointment. And I sat down and told him how wonderful he'd been (I swear he must have thought throughout life that his full name was BigOleSmithersHim'sSuchAGoodBoy), and that I thought he was very brave to be willing to stay with me in spite of his pain, but that I would never ask that of him, and that I didn't want him to hurt anymore, and that I was going to help him pass on.

When Glenn and I took him to the vet, he wasn't as calm in the car as Whimsy and Silver and Loki had been (they'd all made their wishes clear to me), but he was so tired and worn out. He didn't get out of his carrier at the vets until I took him out. Glenn and I petted him while he left the world, and I didn't feel him go like I'd felt my other cats go, so it was hard for him to feel dead to me. But I know he's in a better place now, and I'm happy for that.

So now, for the first time in over 20 years, I have no cats, no pets. It's strange how much of my life was focused on their care. I didn't realize how they're almost my first thought in most things. When I come home, when I wake up, when I walk through the house - there's a part of me that is always on the alert for them, and wondering where/how they are, what they're doing, thinking I need to get them more food/water, change their litter, just know they're there. I can tell now, because I constantly have to check myself from doing those things. I know it's only been just over 24 hours, but there's definitely an emptiness.

I suppose the obvious question people will have for me now is to ask if I'll get more pets/cats.

Yes, of course. But not for a while. And I don't plan to own for quite some time. There are a couple of groups in town that do cat rescues, and they're always looking for foster homes. If I own a cat or cats, I can only help the cats I own. If I foster, I can help so many more lives. I'm sure I'll end up being a "foster fail" at some point, of course, and that's fine. Also, with fostering, the cost of veterinary care is covered by the group, and I could really do with saving money right now. When I do adopt, I will probably do so from the Humane Society, and will focus on animals that need to be adopted together, or special needs animals, or ones due to be euthanized next. I figure I can help more lives that way, too.

But for now, I'm just going to take some time to regroup. I'm going to do a deep cleaning on all the cat areas, and I'm going to put everything away, and/or donate all my current supplies. I'll call PetFlow and figure out if I can stop my current shipments and still maintain my early-adopter discount when I start shipments in the future, or if I need to keep a minimum order to be able to do that, and arrange for that order to be sent to charity in the meantime.

I am so grateful to all the animals in my life for letting me share in their lives. This is the end of an era for me, and I look forward to the next chapter.



Nov. 13th, 2014 04:07 pm
bookofmirrors: (Mirror Mirror)
My cat Ashira died unexpectedly this morning.

Ashira was a birthday present. The first year [ profile] blckwngdorcl and I were dating, we were wandering the mall in Kennesaw on my birthday. I'm generally opposed to mall pet stores, but of course, we always went by there to look at the puppies and kittens and whatnot, 'cause puppies and kittens. They seemed to be having a sidewalk sale of sorts that day, because there were a few enclosures outside the store. Ashira was in one of them.

She was clearly frightened. She was sitting in her own litter, which cats don't typically do unless they're upset about something, and hissing at anyone who got close. There was thick green drainage coming from both of her eyes. Obviously, I had to take her home.

We had some cash on us, and admittedly, I had left some in the car, so we had more, but I went up to the clerk and asked how much it would cost to get her. I forget the amount he named, but it was more than we had on us, and less than we had if we would have gone out to the car and gotten the rest of the cash we had. At any rate, I pulled out the $65 we had and laid it on the counter. I pointed out that she was clearly sick, clearly not well-socialized, and scared. I assured him I'd give her a good home. Almost as if he were hypnotized, he agreed and took the money we gave him. He shared with us that someone had found her as a stray and brought her into the store. One of the workers at the store said that she had almost taken her, and that she was scared, but even though she was frightened of it, she really enjoyed physical affection.

We didn't have a carrier, and they didn't provide one, so [ profile] blckwngdorcl took her and held her, such that she was looking backwards over his shoulder. She dug her claws in, but didn't struggle or try to escape. She was clearly terrified. The whole time we walked through the mall, he put out "don't-see-me" vibes, 'cause we didn't want to get stopped by security for carry this animal. We walked by at least one guard, and none of them paid us any mind.

I always take any new cat to the vet before I let them interact with the other cats in the household. At that time, we had Neg, Loki, Whimsy, Smithers, and Silver (called Murke at the time). I don't remember much of what the vet said about her at the time. She was healthy, except for her eyes, and I'm guessing they gave her an injection for that, 'cause I can't imagine, especially back then, that she would have come close to tolerating eye drops/ointment. They said she was about 6 months old, so we set her birthday as 6 months back from mine, so April 16. They told us she was a domestic shorthair (as all my cats are/were), and that her coloring was called lilac-point lynx. Certainly, she was the most beautiful of the cats, with that coloring and her blue eyes. Later, even though she had stripes instead of spots, I thought she looked a lot like a snow leopard, which is an animal that's important to me from my shamanic workings. (As an aside, there actually now is a cat that's been bred for that coloration... same as Ashira's, but spots instead of stripes, and called snow leopard.)

We were in Trybalaka at the time, an a capella singing group, which sometimes met at our place to practice, so of course, we had to show off the new cat to them. A friend in the group, Melody, suggested her name, from a song she was singing with another group at the time. Asherah is a (primarily, at least, I think) Hebrew goddess, mentioned rarely in the Bible as a consort of Yahweh (well, technically El, I think). I just changed the spelling and the pronunciation.

It was a challenge socializing her. We kept her in our office for some time, and every day, I'd catch her and hold her on my lap while I was on the computer. She'd settle into it, and let me pet her, and even purred once or twice. But catching her to do it was traumatic for both of us. After a week or so of this, I decided it wasn't worth the trauma, and decided to let her come to us, if she chose to.

She didn't choose to. For about 3 years, she wouldn't willingly stay in the same room as a human. Anyone coming into a room she was in was met with a hiss, which was followed by her bolting out of the room. She wouldn't eat if we were in the room, and having to pass either of us in the hallway or wherever was clearly terrifying to her.

She absolutely *loved* the other cats, though. She would try to rub up against them any chance she got. She very much wanted affection, and she didn't want it from us, but she certainly wanted it from them. Whimsy, with her characteristic princessly airs, wanted nothing whatsoever to do with her, and would strike at her if she got too close. Most of the other cats reacted similarly.

Not Neg, of course. Neg, my Buddha cat, my ambassador, he of the Very Old Soul, whom I cry to remember even now (as we speak)... he did as he'd done with every cat since I asked it of him with Loki - he took her in. Even he, the undisputed benevolent monarch of the house, would sometimes get frustrated with her clinginess and swat her away, but for the most part, he showed her the ropes, and they would often be seen curling up together. If I was ever able to touch her or get close to her in those years, it was because I was petting Neg, and she wanted to be close to him. When Neg died, Silver took over that role. When Silver died... well, Smithers and Whimsy tolerated her most of the time.

She was the first cat I didn't declaw. Having grown up with dogs, I considered declawing a fairly harmless mostly cosmetic procedure, and had only recently been exposed to what an absolutely horrific thing it is to put a cat through. But she would never have needed it, anyway. Born out of fear, her obedience was immediate and absolute. One use of her name in a firm tone, and she never did that thing again, whatever it was. And she was absolutely the most gentle cat I've ever owned. With the exception of Whimsy, who wasn't above biting people that annoyed her in her younger years, none of my cats have ever been mean, by any stretch of the imagination. But Ashira just radiated gentleness. Until today, she never ever attempted to bite me or anyone else. Until today, she only ever struck at me twice. The first time was shortly after we got her, and I had to corner her to get her into her carrier when we were moving to another apartment. She struck at me once, but stayed right where she was, and was clearly absolutely mortified that she'd done such a thing. Then, as every time I picked her up, she curled up into me and held on for dear life. (Of course, she would only tolerate that for a very short time before she desperately tried to get down.) The second time was recently (so, 13 years later) when I had to board them while we were in Atlanta. The boarding was so traumatizing to all of them that, when I went to pick them up, she struck at me as I was trying to get her out of the cage-like thing they had. Nothing else (until today) ever made her react violently. She was the sweetest of cats. An archaic novel would use the word "dearest", and that would be entirely accurate.

I was going to the animal communication and shamanic healing classes about that time, and when there was a call to bring any animal forth for healing, it was always her. She had some pretty intense experiences, usually reluctantly, by all accounts. Stories are often told in allegory when it comes to shamanic work, but it was made clear that the 6 months prior to me getting her had not been happy ones for her. We did everything we could to help her heal from that. I don't think she ever fully did.

But she made progress. Over the years, she started allowing us to pet her. I'd lie down with her when she allowed it, and pet her as long as she'd let me. The times got gradually longer, until I often had to be the one to stop it myself, because it seemed she would let me go on indefinitely. I tried picking her up a few times for reasons other than putting her in her carrier to go somewhere, and that never went very well; it was too much for her, and I eventually stopped trying. There was no point in putting her through that for my own selfish reasons. Every little milestone was met with awe and thankfulness. The first time she let me pet her. The first time she came when I called her. The first time she came out into the middle of a room we were and laid belly up without a care or fear in the world. The first time she slept on the bed with us. Every little thing was a cause for celebration, joy, hope. By the end of her life, she would come well over 50% of the time I called her, almost always came close for petting at every opportunity, rarely ran from us, and the bed was her domain. Even accidentally kicking her in the middle of the night, which I would have thought would have sent her running, never did. Her look and demeanor, when she didn't revert back to her fear, was that of a dowager, even though Whimsy was the clear matriarch, and had been since Loki died.

She was healthy pretty much her whole life. It wasn't until her checkup last year that she was diagnosed with hyperthyroidism. After much discussion amongst ourselves, including her input via an animal communicator I trust, we decided on minimal to no intervention. She didn't want the daily trauma of a pill, and we had tried the ear ointment that Silver had used before he died, and she didn't like that, either. The thyroid food none of them ended up liking for more than a few days, and she most decidedly didn't want surgery/radiation. So, as our roommate put it, we had her on Hospice. She was going to die at some point, and we were all OK with that, because it was on her terms.

While on a metaphysical level, I believe we all die on our own terms, I really really hate the way Ashira actually died, though.

As some of you may recall, my mother-in-law died in late August, which necessitated a trip to Atlanta for both [ profile] blckwngdorcl and I. We normally try not to travel together, because making sure the cats are taken care of is an issue. For various reasons, we weren't able to get an in-home sitter, so we opted to board them at the vet.

Keep in mind, none of my cats, alive or dead, have ever been boarded in their lives. You could tell they were freaking out about it from the time I dropped them off, and I was in tears at the thought of them staying there. When I picked them up, several days later, they were all clearly traumatized, and that marked the second time in her life that Ashira ever struck at me. She did it repeatedly as I reached for her, such that I ended up picking her up with a blanket. As usual, once I had her picked up, she relaxed a bit, and even though all the cats showed signs of PTSD for a few days afterwards, they all seemed to weather through it after a while, and things went back to normal. I promised them I'd never board them again. No matter how nice the facilities or how well-cared for they were, it was just too much.

So, this morning, they had an appointment for their yearly checkup. I had asked the vet to do it while they were there being boarded, but the vet recognized, as I did, how freaked out they were while they were there, and opted not to traumatize them any further, which is a good thing. At any rate, I always catch Ashira first, because if she gets wind I'm gathering cats to put in carriers, she'll hide, and she hides well, and in hard-to-get-to places. So, I was able to get her in a position this morning where I was able to pick her up.

And she fought me. She fought me like she'd never fought me in her life. I'll have some cuts to remember her by for a little while. She tried to bite me, which she'd never ever done before. She urinated in fear; although now, I really don't know if it was fear, or just her bladder emptying in death. But she died, there, struggling in my arms, one claw firmly lodged in my head, her face in my hair as she tried to bite me and I was trying to hold her and calm her down and keep her from getting away and not get too damaged myself in the process. This cat, whom I'd spent the entire time I'd had her trying to alleviate her fears, died in terror, no doubt from a heart attack.

I've gone over and over it in my head. Logically speaking, and according to the vet, there's absolutely nothing I did to cause her death - at least not by squeezing her too tightly, or suffocating her, or anything like that. She literally died of fright - the second cat I've ever had to do so, although I wasn't home when it happened to the first one, whose story I've never written, because he died before the days of blogs. The vet tells me that, in cats, it's not the loss of blood flow to the heart that causes heart attacks, as it is in humans, but usually a rupture of the tendonae chordae in the ventricles of the heart. I don't know if that hurts or not. In humans, there are no nerve endings in the heart itself. At any rate, I am convinced that she was so scared that I might be taking her back to be boarded, that it caused her heart to basically burst.

I hate that. I hate that her life ended this way. I had no warning. With the exception of Mika, who also died from fright (well-meaning rottweiler), all my cats have given me some sort of warning when they died. Neg told me he wasn't moving to the new house. Loki told me she was getting cancer a good 6 months before it happened. Skye didn't warn us exactly, but her diagnosis came before she started showing any symptoms, and that was warning enough. Silver I just knew. I especially hate that she died in the state she did, terrified of what I was going to do to her, that I was going to leave her again. I should have told her beforehand, but I typically don't warn the cats prior to taking them to the vet - it's usually on the way. And yeah, I know she probably had one of the best lives possible while she was alive, and made so many strides into becoming less fearful, and often loving. I get all that. But I still hate the way she died, and the role I played in it.


Jan. 21st, 2007 09:45 am
bookofmirrors: (Default)
Well, it would seem Romero is going the same way that Murke did when I first got him. When I first got Murke, Neg was alpha, and once he got settled enough, he started challenging him. OFTEN.

Now, I'm all for letting animals work out their own differences, and not interfering, since I'm sure my human sensibilities about such things wouldn't make much sense to the cats. Back then, though, I was unaware of how barbarous de-clawing was, and all my other cats had already been declawed, which left Murke with an advantage. I had read, somewhere, that de-clawing was illegal in many other countries, which had given me a hint about how horrible it was, although I hadn't done any other research. At any rate, it hadn't been my intention to de-claw Murke. However, I love all my cats, but Neg was my BABY. My absolute favorite - I still think about him often. I couldn't allow the possibility that he might be hurt, or be able to defend himself in kind. As a result, Murke got de-clawed.

More research under my belt now, I would never de-claw a cat. When we got Ashira, she was so gentle that it was never an issue. Hell, half the time I think she forgets she has claws. So we never had to agonize about the safety of the other cats. Ditto for when I watched Fuzz for a week - he just didn't fight with my cats.

Romero, on the other hand, is 9 months old, and full of play. As he should be. My youngest cat, however, is almost 6 years old, and never (sadly) learned how to play to begin with. I think his desire to play with his new housemates (who aren't cooperating), having met with little to no success has gotten twisted into a dominance play instead. Certainly the postures I've seen him in with Murke have been attempts at dominance.

Being tired and not being able to sleep with the caterwauling landed Romero in the closet during bedtime a couple of nights ago (something he accepted with grace, thankfully), and while we were out yesterday. I had been told that he hated water bottles, so I went out and bought one last night, since I certainly don't want him to spend the rest of his time here in the closet. The result was that I got MAYBE an hour of sleep last night, before 7am this morning. Not all of this was because the cats were fighting. Part of it was that I was really cold, and couldn't relax enough to sleep. Part of it was because a great deal of the night, Romero did actually leave the other cats alone, and curled up around our heads. Of course, I wanted to encourage this behavior, so I made sure to make a fuss of him while he was there, which meant I wasn't sleeping. Plus, accommodating his head-sitting put me in a position I can't fall asleep in, anyway. Later, he discovered that a cat toy in the bathtub provides endless amounts of fun, in a boomerang-like way. All good things, and things I'm happy for, but noisy and sleep-stealing nonetheless. The cat-fights didn't start until about 4am, so every time I was dozing off, I would have to leap out of bed, find the source of the problem, and apply water liberally. Definitely couldn't sleep during that. The Beastie fared somewhat better, although various things woke him up during the night, too, including the fact that I had cranked the heat up in desperation. About 10 minutes after I finally started feeling comfortable (say, around 5am) is when he felt so hot it woke him up, and he went and turned the air-conditioning on. Bleh.

Anyway, I ended up getting a couple hours of sleep, was woken up by Murke and Romero fighting again, and since I'm going to the Dreaming Planning potluck, figured I'd better stay up. The lasagna's in the oven, and I appeased myself somewhat with leftover hash browns from the Original Pancake House, and I'll have to clean myself up soon so I can go.

For the time being, I'll be using the water bottle when I'm home, and when no humans are home, Romero will have to stay in the closet. I'm gonna have the Beastie pick up some of those SoftPaws, and once those are on, I won't be afraid he can hurt the other cats, and then they can go ahead and fight it out. In the meantime, though, I feel like shit, my eyes are all puffy and tired, and I've been a right royal bitch to my husband, and hope not to be to my friends.

Anyway, this was partially to vent, and partially to let Romero's owner know how things are going. Other than this particular crisis, he's doing very well post-surgically/etc., he's very sweet, and otherwise a joy to be around.

My opinion is that he needs a kitten, when you get your own place. Seriously, I'd plan for it. He needs another cat to play with, and one that's young enough that they're willing to play, and so that he'll be established as alpha from day one. It would be good for him.


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