For the Love of a Cat

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I’m not entirely sure how I came to acquire four cats. A big part of it probably comes from my inability to turn away an animal in need, which was the case with all four of my feline friends.

Four years ago, my son came to me, asking to adopt one of his father’s cat’s kittens. We already had two cats, which was my self-established limit, so the answer was no.

There were two black cats in the litter and my son Trevor was pining over the smaller of the two. He gave me weekly updates on how sweet the kitten was and promised he’d take care of it, something I pretty much rolled my eyes at. I’ve been down that road many times before with other cats, guinea pigs, gerbils, pet rats and canines. I knew that the promise was made with good intentions, but would never last longer than a week. Even though I can be a bit of a push-over, I remained firm. No more cats! This changed weeks later when one of the kittens became injured.

The kitten Trevor had been begging me for somehow leaped over a fireplace grate and landed in the hot coals. “Please let me have him. I don’t think they can afford to bring him to the vet,” he pleaded.

I took one look at his sad face, images of a horribly burnt kitten rising in my mind. “Go get in the car,” I told him with a groan and headed over to his father’s house.

As can be expected, the burn wasn’t nearly as bad as my excellent imagination conjured up. His toes were red on one foot and some of the hair was singed, but we packed him up and brought him to the vet anyway.

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As I suspected, the kitten was fine. The vet checked him out and didn’t even feel the need to treat his injured paw. It healed within days and I found myself with a new cat.

George settled in quickly, making friends with my other pets. My two older cats, Gatorbug and Skeeter, weren’t initially thrilled with the rambunctious new addition, but they adapted.

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As George grew, we became aware of his affinity for high places. We never knew where we would find him.

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He even became friends with my parrot and would sleep on top of his cage. 004 DSCN1887

As my world became more and more wrapped around the paranormal world, I began to notice that George was picking up on the ghosts too. As I’d sense something moving around my bedroom, I could watch George as he scoped them out. Sometimes, he tried to attack them, getting up on top of my dresser to bat at them.

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When a tiny orphaned squirrel showed up on my doorstep on Mother’s Day of 2012, George was delighted with the addition. Wanting to keep Skippy the Squirrel separated from George was almost impossible. I’d find George hanging out on his cage at every turn.

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George’s comical personality was evident from the beginning. It was apparent that he was born with a sense of humor and used it often, providing us with many laughs. When my neighbor brought over her new puppy for me to see, George was obviously confused. “What the hell is this thing?” he seemed to be saying as he sniffed at the small shivering creature.

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George saw me through so many tough times. He was always there for me, no matter what. He would pin me down and wash my face with his scratchy tongue and lavish me with purrs.

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After the death of my beloved Skeeter, I found myself back down to three cats. Skeeter was truly a mentor for George, teaching him important “cat things,” like how to always cover the food dish after he’s done eating.

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In 2013, my son and I moved to western Massachusetts, so we could be closer to his new college. The pets made the move easily, especially George. He scoped out every window and began begging to get outside. While I’ve always spoiled my pets beyond belief, I couldn’t imagine letting him outside where he could be hit by a car or eaten by a coyote.

My “no more cats” rule took a backseat once again a few months after we moved. I often drive to Indiana to see my family. On one of my visits, I was presented with another sad story that I couldn’t resist (yes, I am a push-over).

Jack and Rose were orphaned at five days old after their mother was hit and killed by a car. My sister bottle-fed them until they were old enough to eat on their own, but she was concerned about where they would end up. The people who brought them to her wanted to keep them outdoors as “barn cats.” My sister knew that these tiny little kittens wouldn’t last long without a mother to teach them the perils of outdoor life. She begged me to bring them home with me, knowing they’d get a good home. As soon as I met them, I fell in love in an instant.

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As soon as I brought them home, I saw a side of George that I didn’t expect. Instead of hissing at the kittens, which is common cat behavior, he took them under his wing, becoming a surrogate parent to them. He bathed them, showed them where the litter box was, and like his mentor before him, demonstrated the importance of covering their food dish after eating. The three became inseparable.

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In March of 2013, my older cat Gatorbug went into a series of seizures, possibly due to his diabetes, which I’d been treating for two years. There was nothing the vet could do. As soon as he came out of one seizure, he went back into another. She sedated him, but it was evident that he was beyond saving. We had to put him to sleep. I was devastated by the loss, especially coming only a year after losing Skeeter. I don’t think most people understand the bond some of us have with our animals, but the loss was like having a child ripped away from me.

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George quickly became king of the castle, now rising to the rank of the eldest cat in the household. He took this role seriously, taking good care of his charges. He treated Rose and Jack like his off-spring. I’ve never seen a cat take to other cats as quickly as he did. I have to wonder if Skeeter taught him this as a kitten. Skeeter was always the “house ambassador.” If someone came to visit, he was first at the door to greet them, something George began doing as well. You couldn’t come to my house without being thoroughly investigated and welcomed by the official door greeter.

Even though I still mourned the loss of Skeeter and Gatorbug, I was comfortable being back down to three cats again. That lasted a year. During another trip to Indiana, my step-mother found a two-week old kitten in the middle of the road by her house. I offered to bottle feed him, since there really wasn’t anyone else who could do it, and ended up coming home with Charlie.

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George took to Charlie just like he took to Rose and Jack before him. The three of them adopted their young charge and welcomed him into the household. As soon as Charlie was old enough to eat on his own, George quickly taught him how to cover his food dish after eating, a quirk I’ve never grown tired of laughing at. I’ll often find the oddest things on top of the food dish. Sometimes it will be a dish towel, other times it will be a scrap of paper, but George is meticulous about making sure the food is properly hidden.

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Life with George can be unpredictable. He still loves to sit in high places, something he passed on to Rose, as well. I never know where I’m going to find them.

Lately, as the weather has gotten cooler, he’s taken to sleeping under the covers with me. As soon as I get into bed, he jumps up and paws at the blanket until I lift it and let him under. He quickly finds his favorite spot behind my knees, as I lie on my side, and cuddles up. Moments later, I’ll feel the vibration of his purrs against the backs of my legs, something that makes me smile.

A few days ago, I noticed that George was straining in the litter box. Most people wouldn’t give it much thought, but I know my animals well. I work from home, so I’m with them 24/7. In fact, sometimes days go by where I don’t see another living human being besides quick visits from my son on his way to and from class and work. These animals are my entire world. I ran out and purchased some Petramalt for him, thinking that he was constipated. I had just switched them to a more nutrient dense dry food and thought maybe that was the culprit. He seemed to be better, but I still kept an eye on him. Several days later, he was doing it again. This time I didn’t attempt to treat him myself. I put a call into my vet.

I really didn’t have the money for the veterinarian expense. As a writer, I live on my book sales and they hadn’t been great for several months now. My latest book didn’t take off like my previous books, which left me scrapping for money every month.

The vet did a series of tests and concluded that George was having issues with his urinary tract. Having spent nearly 30 years working in the pet industry, I was familiar with cystitis. Some cats metabolize food differently from others, creating crystals in their urine which ultimately clumps together and causes a blockage. The vet didn’t think he was completely blocked and sent me home with medication to help him recover. I had high hopes for him, but it wasn’t the end of our journey with this issue. I brought him back to the vet the next day for a bladder check and she gave me the bad news. He was totally blocked.

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That meant an emergency trip to the animal hospital in Springfield. I called my son at work and asked him to come home to go with me, since George is really his cat. We made it to the hospital within an hour. The good news was that it was fixable. The bad news was that it was going to cost more money than I had.

I think many pet parents are faced with this issue at least once in their lives. How do you come up with the money? What price is too much for someone you love? Some people might say, “It’s just an animal,” but mine are more than that to me. They have a soul. They have emotions and feelings. Most of all, they have my heart.

Thankfully, my son had a high enough limit on his credit card that we were able to charge it. Since he’s a student, he doesn’t get charged interest. Unfortunately, he needs that money for college. We charged it and gave each other long looks. “How are we going to pay for it?” he asked. I shrugged, but tried to keep the faith.

“Something will work out. I’ll figure it out,” I told him.

Never in my life did I think I’d beg the public for money, but I really didn’t have any choice. I set up a Gofundme fundraising campaign and posted it, putting my pride on the back burner. One of my friends reminded me that I often help other people with their campaigns and it’s true. I’ve also sent many books to be used for fundraiser gift baskets and raffles. I’ve also been writing this blog for the past few years, something I do not get paid for.

I felt a little better about the decision, but still have a long way to go. The campaign has raised $820, which is about $1300 short of what I still need. Maybe I’ll set up a ghost hunt or paranormal presentation with proceeds going towards his care. I’ll figure it out. I have faith.

In the meantime, George is still in ICU, recovering from his ordeal. The doctor called during the middle of the night after they finished the procedure to tell me that it basically went okay. George struggled with the IV catheter, forcing them to have to repeat the process ($$) and he managed to pull out the IV delivering fluids to his body, as well. He had a bad reaction to the sedative they gave him. Instead of knocking him out, it increased his anxiety. I can only imagine what my poor kitty went through. The doctor changed him to another sedative and it seems to be working well.

The VCU in Springfield, Massachusetts was absolutely wonderful. The staff was was compassionate and friendly, and the doctors were phenomenal. The emergency veterinarian assigned to our case was a man named Dr. Radu Nastase, DVM. In all my years on this planet, I’ve never met a doctor like him. Instead of being the starched collar type of doctor I expected, he was down to earth and charming. He took his time with us, not checking his watch once, and explained every point of the process, insuring we understood it. He made us feel like old friends coming in for a visit and he made us laugh. We went in somber and walked out laughing. I’m not sure how that was even possible, but he turned around a really traumatic situation and made us feel comfortable. Trevor and I were laughing so hard, we had to stand in the hall for a moment and compose ourselves before walking into the somber waiting room. That takes a special kind of talent.

Trevor and I went down to visit George the night after they inserted the catheter. He was wild and determined to get OUT, so we cut our visit short. It was good to see him, but I feel like I probably caused more harm than good with the visit. He wasn’t crazy about the cone, as you can tell.

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Friday, I got the call that he was ready to be picked up. While he was at the VCA, he managed to rip his catheter out twice, as well as removing his IV several times too, even with a cone on his head. I felt bad for the staff, knowing how feisty George can be. I rushed down as soon as possible, knowing he’d be happy to be back home. I can’t say enough nice things about the VCA staff. They were phenomenal. I tried to remember their names, but most of them left me by the time I made it home. Emanuelle was the clerk who helped us at the counter and Tyler was our vet tech. Everyone else was great too. Thank you VCA for all the love and kindness you showed my George.

George is back home now. I’ve secluded him in my bedroom to keep an eye on him. He has a case of his new food on order as well as a water fountain, which encourages cats with urinary tract issues to drink more liquids. In hindsight, I really wish I would have paid better attention to his diet earlier. I’ve always fed my cats premium food, but didn’t bother with the urinary tract diets because I didn’t think it would ever happen to me. I’ve since switched all my cats to canned food only and will prevent the others from going through what George endured.

Here’s George resting on my bed. The first thing he did when he got home was ripped his IV bandage off and licked his wound until it started bleeding. I held him down and put another bandage on him that he hasn’t managed to dislodge yet.

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Below is a link to my Gofundme campaign. If you can’t help, I completely understand, but if you can, know it will be greatly appreciated by this starving artist/writer.

https://funds.gofundme.com/dashboard/6n8nkrhg

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