Climbing to New Heights

ProProOver the weekend Prometheus figured out how to climb on top of the cabinets.  While our other cats figured out how to do this their first minutes within our kitchen, Prometheus physically can’t jump as high as our countertops.  I had rearranged some things, including the cat food container, which sits on the floor.  In my poor judgement, I set it next to our table in the kitchen.  Prometheus managed to jump on top of the food container to get on the table.  Needless to say, he used our windowsill as vehicle to get to the counters, and in turn, somehow was able to get on top of the refrigerator, then on top of the cabinets.  Every time I found him on top of the refrigerator, I picked him up and put him on the floor.  I’ve seen him try to jump off the refrigerator.  He end up landing in the sink.  And that worried me.  However, his new feat worried me more.

Ron snapped a picture of him sleeping on the cabinets Monday morning.  He sent it to me while I was at the shelter.  I freaked out inside my head, but figured Ron would have gotten him down safely.  When I got home, Prometheus was still on the cabinet.  He arched his back, stretched, and let out a high-pitched meow.  Ron started talking to him and wanted to say goodbye before leaving for work.  I held my breath as Prometheus tried to jump onto the refrigerator.

He didn’t quite land right.  I think it was more of the angle of the jump than anything else.  I’ve seen him fly through the air and land perfectly (as he can, of course).  But the steepness of the drop messed up his landing.  He fell on his side.  Ron and I scooped him up and check him for any injuries.  He hurt his pride more than anything else.  Still, I didn’t want to see him injured if neither of us were home.  I moved the food container so he wouldn’t be able to get on top of the counters anymore.

Prometheus wasn’t happy with my decision.  He’s been trying to climb the table to get higher, but remains unsuccessful.  Each time I’m present when he fails, he meows at me as if to say, “Can’t you lend me a paw up here?”  I tell him no and that it’s for his own good.  Prometheus is not happy.
We’ve got to figure out how to accommodate his needs better.  He can access most areas in our apartment.  There’s some means for climbing near many of the windows.  In the bedroom, he climbs on the bed, then hops onto the window perch.  The dining room and living room both have seating in front of the windows that he can use as “stairs.”  Even so, I feel he’s limited to exploring only three rooms.  Time for Ron and I to brainstorm DIY special needs cat furniture projects for the spring/summer.

Full Circle

RE: Apollo

On Friday, a package was waiting for us in the hallway.  Neither Ron nor I had ordered anything, so we were curious as to what it was.  I showed the box to Ron.

“That’s not Apollo, is it?” he asked.

I shrugged.  The receptionist at the emergency vet said that Apollo’s ashes would be shipped to the vet’s office and that it would take two weeks.  Carefully, I placed the box on our kitchen table and sliced open the packing tape with a box cutter.  Green foam popcorn spewed over the tabletop.  A dark cherry box wrapped in bubble wrap was inside with a certificate.  It was Apollo.

Ron held her for a little while.  When he was finished, we put her ashes next to Juno’s.

Eventually, we’re going to get a few small tabletop easels and lucite display boxes so we can properly show off the clay paw prints next to each appropriate urn.  Morpheus’ paw prints have been sitting on a shelf in our kitchen for the past two-and-a-half years.  They have gotten dirty with dust.  We don’t want further damage to occur, as each set of paw prints is irreplaceable.

Regarding Lucky


Lucky The Cat, a month after rehabilitation

Lucky has been doing amazing since he first arrived at the shelter.  The weight is slowly coming on, and he’s been exploring a lot lately.  When I pick him up, he’s not as bony.  I don’t feel like I’m cuddling a faberge egg on the verge of breaking.  He’s a very special boy.  Lucky is going to save someone soon, I know.  Yet, I am a little saddened at the thought of him leaving.  Rationally, it is the best thing possible for him, finding a forever home that will spoil him rotten and treat him like a little prince.  After all the time and emotion I’ve invested in his recovery, I am finding myself protective, like Wilson.

This past weekend, Lucky was awarded the START II Post-Caturday Shelter Award for Most Talkative.  He was chatting away all morning Sunday, rolling around on his back and letting out little purr-meows.  Each time I asked him a question, he came to the front of his cage and meowed at me.  Once he vocalized his answer, he proceeded to rub against the cage doors until I opened them to pet him.  I love him so much.

Regarding Wobbles

Wobbles recovering

Wobbles recovering

Wobbles (April) is such a ham.  She has really come around in the past week.  Now when she sees volunteers, she meows and purrs at them.  I spent a bit of time with her yesterday.  Wobbles was so excited to have so much attention that she kept flopping over and showing her belly.  She couldn’t sit still!  I gave her lots of pets and kisses.  The wound on her neck is healing nicely.  It’s scabbed and I’m sure it itches.  It makes me itchy just to look at it.  Nonetheless, it looks worse than what it really is.  I managed to snap a picture of her on my cell phone.  She was a little frightened by the phone when I stuck it in her cage, so I was only able to get one.  I can’t express how happy I am that Wobbles is inside under our strict care, rather than outside fending for herself.

Wobbles [aka April]

A couple of weeks before Superstorm Sandy ripped through the Northeast, a new cat found her way to one of our feral colonies.  She’s a pudgy little white and tabby kitty, quite friendly and loves people.  It is obvious someone dumped her.  She doesn’t act feral at all.

I was watching her one afternoon.  I try to gauge the personalities of the frequent visitors at the colony so I can anticipate their behavior and adjust mine according to each cat.  The feral kitty cried a few times in the distance.  When I spoke to her, she arched her back and rubbed against a tree.  A meow back.  The charade lasted for some time, until she was close enough to sniff my hand.  As she slowly approached my vicinity, I noticed that her hindquarters didn’t quite communicate with her front.  I was pretty certain she had cerebellar hypoplasia.  The shelter manager confirmed after a few sessions of watching our wobbly friend.

I started to call her Wobbles.  While the volunteer staff names the cats to be adopted by somewhat “normal” names, fun names that describe physical traits are reserved for the feral colony.  This way, everyone is on the same page as far as who’s who.  Wobbles was very people friendly.  Even if it wasn’t feeding time, she would let us pet her and rub up against our legs.  She wouldn’t let us hold her, though.

The weeks the shelter was closed because of Sandy, Ron and I broke through police barricades, tangles of electrical/cable wiring, and flood waters to feed the feral colony.  Wobbles was stuck on a concrete wall that separated the feral barn from a golf course.  She was surrounded by water.  Ron trudged through stagnant muck to rescue Wobbles from her solitary perch.  He showed her the way back to the barn so she wouldn’t get stuck in mud or high water.

Since then, she has been extremely sociable with volunteers.  The more time I spent with her, the more I became angry that someone could dump a special needs cat.  Wobbles was on her way of becoming a candidate for adoption.  She even let us give her flea medication.

In the beginning of April, something happened to Wobbles.  The shelter manager and I opened the barn one morning to find her sitting on one of the perches with her eyes glazed over.  Her neck looked like the size of a grapefruit, while it was evident by the loose skin at her sides that she lost weight.  As we carefully approached her, we saw coagulated blood around her neck with missing tufts of fur.  I was horrified.  The shelter manager tried to trap her, but Wobbles ran off, backside swinging after her.  It looked like she got bit by a raccoon or fox.

Another volunteer who monitors the feral colony managed to trap Wobbles and take her to the vet.  According to Doctor P, it appeared that Wobbles suffered from a severe laceration across her neck.  As far as cause, the vet postulated that it could have been from getting caught on sharp fencing or the claws of another animal.  Wobbles was giving s.q. fluids, a rabies vaccination, and antibiotic.  She had to have drains put in her neck as well as many stitches.  The volunteer named her April for her medical records.  I still call her Wobbles.

Wobbles was kept in a small cage for about a week after visiting the vet.  There was no way in hell any of us were going to let her back outside in her condition.  She was frightened.  After two days living in a cage, Wobbles managed to rip both drains out of her neck.  She spent the remainder of the week under close supervision at the vet.

I saw Wobbles on Wednesday.  She’s back at the shelter, sans drain and stitches.  And she looks amazing.  Her old, spunky personality returned.  The best part is she allows volunteers to give her hugs and kisses now.  I think she’s relishing in the extra attention and love.  We all agreed that we would not allow her to go back outside.  We made it our mission to find her a forever home.

O Wilson, How Art Thou?

The first cat I started writing about at START II was Wilson.  I began volunteering a week after Ron and I adopted Castiel and Ishtar.  When you walked through the door at the shelter, Wilson’s cage was eye-level across the room.  He was a run-of-the-mill brown tiger-striped tabby with a scrawny tail and huge head.  Seriously.  His head looked like it was too big for his body.  But there was something about him that attracted me to him.  I remember when Ron and I met Castiel and Ishtar for the first time, I had also looked at Wilson.  Somehow I knew the match wouldn’t be right.

Wilson1From October 2010 to January 2011, I spent a lot of extra time with Wilson.  Every morning when I opened his cage, he gave me his own type of hug.  I dubbed them “Wilson hugs,” and I still use the term today when other cats display the same affection.  Both of his front paws found their way around my shoulders and he would climb out of his cage onto my chest.  Then Wilson would rub his cheek against mine.  His show of affection nearly made me cry at times, especially on days when coping with Morpheus’ death was difficult.

Wilson enjoyed sleeping in my lap.  I would set aside time before I left the shelter so he could have adequate lap time.  Most days he would fall right asleep, purring like a motor boat.  Sometimes he’d give himself a bath first.  Regardless, I was completely relaxed when he was on my lap.

According to other volunteers, Wilson was rescued from Paterson.  When he first arrived at the shelter he was really sick.  Volunteers that worked with him daily didn’t think he was going to make it.  However, out of nowhere, he made a miraculous recovery.  By the time I met him, it was hard to believe that he was waiting at death’s door a month or so prior.

Everyday I was at the shelter, I spoiled Wilson with extra hugs, kisses, and lap time.  Don’t get me wrong.  I spoiled all the kitties at the shelter.  But I feel a different connection with Wilson.  Certainly not the same connection I felt with Morpheus or was developing with Castiel and Ishtar.  There was something special between us that words can’t begin to describe.  All I know is the way I felt.  And I felt protective of Wilson.

In late-January 2011, Wilson was moved to Petsmart in Paramus.  I was crushed.  I knew it was coming, as all of our kitties go to one of the Petsmart locations we adopt from (granted they are not in foster care or adopted from the shelter).  Still, it pained me to see him gone.  Logically, I knew the move was best for him.  He had a greater chance at adoption.  Emotionally, I was devastated.  I cried the day he left.

Ron knew how attached I was becoming to Wilson.  He suggested that we visit him during an adoption night.  So, we did.


Poor Wilson wasn’t himself.  He looked depressed.  Wilson didn’t give me any of his namesake hugs when he saw me.  In fact, it was like he didn’t recognize me.  Even Ron commented on how depressed he looked.  Wilson sulked toward the back of his cage the majority of the evening.  When he came to the front, his head was low and he picked at food, not enjoying the meal.  I felt a pang of guilt run through me for not adopting him.  I picked him up and held him for a long time, giving lots of kisses.  He didn’t purr for me.

Wilson didn’t stay at Petsmart for very long.  A couple of weeks later, I received news he was adopted.  I was apprehensive and happy at the same time.  Like I said, I was protective of Wilson.  Any home wouldn’t do.  It had to be the home.  Wilson was adopted into a family with children who went absolutely bonkers over him.  When I heard that, I let the apprehension drip away and was overwhelmed with happiness.  My big-headed Wilson finally found his forever home.

I still think about him and wonder how he’s doing.  I hope he is healthy and well, spoiling his family with Wilson hugs and kisses.  And I hope his new family realizes that they are very lucky have him in their lives and he chose them – not the other way around.

Dearly Departed

The past couple of days have felt surreal, where time seems melt in lumpy globs, like burning wax.  Apollo is gone.  While I may not have been as close to her as Ron, the loss is still painful.

The steroid didn’t work.  We tried feeding her num nums (wet food) on Friday and Saturday.  Apollo sniffed at it and started dry-heave.  This happened during all accounts when food was presented to her.  There was a complete 180-degree change in her behavior from when I had her to the vet on Thursday to the weekend.  Ron made an appointment for 8am Monday morning to have her put to sleep.

Sunday I was volunteering at START II all morning.  Ron was working.  When I got home, I found Apollo on the couch.  She was cold and barely moving.  Bloody bile stains surrounded her on the towels I put down on the couch for protection.  Morpheus vomited like this once the morning we put him to sleep.  It was scary to see it then.  By the pattern of the stains, it looked like Apollo vomited bloody bile at least four times.  A chill came over me.  I knew she wouldn’t last until her appointment in the morning.  I also knew that if she wasn’t put to sleep that evening, her death would be excruciating.  I’ve seen cats suffer from liver failure and starvation.  No matter what way you look at it, death is never glamorous or beautiful.   It’s a messy business, a gaping maw of abysmal suffering.

I spoke to Ron and we agreed we would bring her back to the emergency vet when he was finished with work.  I spent about 8 hours tending to Apollo.  At some point she tried to jump off the couch to go for a drink of water.  Her legs gave out from beneath her.  Fatigue incapacitated her movements.   I filled a shallow bowl and brought it to the couch.  Apollo rested her cheek on the side of the bowl, but did not drink.  When she moved her head back to the couch, the white porcelain was stained reddish-brown.  I picked her up and let her lay on my chest.  I almost fell asleep petting her, but she threw up more bloody bile.  I changed the towels twice so either of us wouldn’t be sitting in the stuff and used a damp washcloth to wipe vomit off her paws, chin, and chest.  She was throwing up all over herself.

By the time we brought her to the emergency vet, she was hardly moving.  I held it together pretty well up until this point.  I had a couple of short crying outbursts in private over the weekend.  However, the gravity of the situation weighed on me differently at the vet, knowing we were minutes away from putting our 15-year-old friend to sleep.  I lost it.

Ron and I had as much time as we needed to say our goodbyes.  I had only experienced the “process” of putting a loved one to sleep through our primary vet.  I wasn’t sure what to expect in the ER.  Luckily, everyone operated with the level of compassion and understanding that I was used to from Animal General.  Ron held her and I pet her head while she was administered the medicines.  We received clay paw prints from the ER that evening.  Her ashes should arrive in two weeks.  All of our cats have had private cremation.

Last night I was plugging in my cell phone in the bedroom.  I had just responded to a text and I saw a small black cat walk toward me.  When I bent down to pet him, there wasn’t a cat there.  I looked under the bed, and nothing.  I could have sworn that Orlox was just there.  I looked in the living room to find him a deep sleep on the perch of the cat condo.  It was obvious he was there the entire time.  We don’t have any other black cats.

Ron got home from work.  I was still standing in the bedroom with my hand covering my open mouth, near hysterics.  When I reiterated the experience to him, he said it was probably Apollo and I should feel honored she paid me a visit.  I can neither confirm nor deny that shadowy feline figure was Apollo.  To entertain the possibility it was, well, that makes me feel a smidge better about our dearly departed.