Thursday, December 13, 2007

The story of a cat

So this post is more for me.

Shortly we are going to go get our new kitten. Leif is thrilled. I am thrilled. Skadi... well she will be thrilled. Winny... hmmm... Winny's world is going to be turned upside down. AB? Not so thrilled, but that's ok. He will grow to love Lucky, I know.

While we bring a new kitten into our home and heart, it makes me think a lot about my cat, Calley. I wrote this up recently and finally decided to post it. Sorry for the length, but you know me by now... wordy. I would split it into parts, but since I have it all penned already, here it is, one big long story of one cat's life.

So here is the story of my cat, who lives on in my heart.


When I was 11, my friend's cat had kittens. My parents had just seperated and my mom gave me the go ahead to get one of the kittens. I remember going to her house and picking out one. A calico I named Alexandra and we called her Alley for short. She was an outdoor cat (as all our cats were back then) with a little bit of a hard streak to her. She brought home birds and mice and wasn't much of a cuddler.

I was in 6th grade and the first boy I liked came by after school. I remember him saying, "your cat's pregnant". I told him she wasn't. How could a BOY know those things anyway?

About three weeks later my sister was home sick from school. She called my mom at work crying.

"Alley's in my closet and mice are eating her!" she cried to my mom.

My mom was enough concerned about this statement that she went home. Either my sister was really sick and therefore hallucinating, or there was a real problem with the cat.

What she found instead, there in my sister's closet among her stuffed animals was Alley, cleaning up four little kittens she had just birthed.

She was a tough old brod (the cat) even though she was only about 8 months old. That night Alley grabbed the favored cat, the little calico, brought her into my room, onto my bed and nursed her. Left the other kitties in my sister's room. We brought the kittens to her and almost had to force her to stay there and nurse them all. This happened for a few nights. Then eventually she figured out they were all her kittens and that she couldn't just pick and choose her favorite. Or she just got tired of hearing them cry and us eyeing her disapprovingly.

At some point my mom said that we could have two cats. But that they were both getting fixed. It was an easy choice, we were picking Alley's favorite kitty, the one calico I had named Calley. The others (Jojo, Popcorn and Sparky) we would find homes for.

The kitties were about 4-6 weeks old when my mom came in and told us that Alley had been hit by a car that night. The neighbor... "Crazy Rod"... had done it. I am still not sure what the events of the evening were, but I think he had thought he had done my mom a favor (and he probably had) by "cleaning it up" so that my sister and I wouldn't see our dead cat.

For weeks afterwards I scoured the road, curb and sidewalks (there was neighborhood talk, he had hit our cat on the sidewalk) for evidence of this crime.

The kitties were suddenly weaned, they grew older and one of my favorite memories of them was when they would fly across the living room floor simultaneously and up the drapes. You would walk into the living room and see four tiny kittens sitting on top of the drapery rod meowing at you as you walked by.

My mom looked into a procedure called "declawing".

Jojo, a mild mannered black kitten, was accepted by a pet store because black kittens were "easy to move". The two male tabbies, Popcorn and Sparky, were out of luck. My dad took pitty on us and adopted them. Within a few months though my dad's allergies were killing him. The cats slept with him and I even remember a story of him rolling onto one and bringing it back with mouth to mouth resuscitation. The cats went to live on a farm. Quite possibly the proverbial farm. I was old enough to wonder at least...

We kept Calley. She was a tortoiseshell calico with what her Reno vet called a "candy bar personality". She could be as sweet as could be for about 2 minutes. Then when the candybar is gone, you were almost sick to your stomach with her. She was a wild thing.

She would lie in wait as my sister (her prey) would dance across the living room floor. Then Calley would assail her prey with the intent of bringing the nine year old down to her knees. I remember my sister standing on the kitchen chairs crying and my cat eyeing her from below. And she had this death glare in her eyes. She was out for blood.

AB says that he would have had the cat put down after this happened. I asked him how you really take the beloved pet from one child away? I am sure my mom thought the unwarrented vileness towards my sister would end. And it probably did at some point. (My sister would probably insist it never did and that Calley despised her till the day she died.)

Calley, on the other hand, loved me. I was convinced she was my soul mate and told her my every secret. (Since I was just getting to that stage where secrets are real. I am finding out three year olds don't understand secrets so well...)

I took Calley everywhere with me. We went to my dad's house in the summers. We moved to Colorado in junior high. I picked her up from my mom's after my first year in residence hall at college when I had my own apartment. We moved to Boulder and had a few apartments there.

I had a boyfriend I lived with just outside Boulder during early college. Calley used to make him cry too. Then she expressed her discontent at him by peeing on his jumbo bean bag, and then his pillow. He was history soon thereafter.

Then AB came along and there was the now infamous attack to his head by Calley while at my parent's house. He grabbed her and launched her across the room. My step-dad applauded and AB was immediately accepted into our family. I, on the other hand, could not believe my boyfriend had done that to my cat.

AB eventually accepted that I came with a 15 year old psychotic cat and we packed her up and went to Reno where I was going to grad school. I am sure he thought the cat couldn't live *that* much longer.

While in Reno her occasional vomiting spells became routine and I somehow had failed to notice how much weight she had really lost. I took her to the vet and was astonished my healthy 13 lb cat was now 9 lbs.

An ultrasound revealed that she had massive cirrhosis of the liver. Her days of living as a lush had to come to an end.

On a serious note after doing a little reading on liver functions in cats and remembering back to when her vomiting started, I feel strongly that it was the massive ingestion of hundreds of miller moths during a summer invasion in Fort Collins, Colorado. An invasion I will never forget as one of the most gross experiences I have had. She ate moths until she was stuffed and my apartment - actually, the city was infested to epic proportions.

I was happy this cirrhosis was actually treatable. She may never regain her liver function, but with steroids she could maintain what function she had as well as giving her an oral synthetic bile.

We went this route for five years during which time she gained a couple pounds back, quit vomiting and met her new soul mate in life - a rascally Belgian Sheepdog named Winny.

The unlikely pair were inseperable. Calley's life though stable, still hung in the balance and our vet was satisfied with our route of "benevolant disregard". We weren't going to go to heroic lengths to save Calley, no liver transplants or operations, just medication and treating symptoms as they arose. He understood the huge trauma to her for any blood analysis after finding a fang lodged in his arm after one such experience. (It actually broke off IN his arm.)

Calley had good days and bad days. Sometimes she behaved like a spry 15 year old cat, and sometimes like a feeble senior.

She was swinging on the low side when we decided to move to Washington state and our vet warned us that she may very well not survive the move. She had just been diagnosed with early stage kidney failure and diabetes. Her spine had nearly no cartilege left from the longterm steroid use. She was hunched over and unable to groom herself, which was fine since Winny did that for her. (We would go camping with Winny and return after a couple days to our greaseball kitty cat who hadn't been groomed during that time. It was obvious Winny maintained her.)

Not only did she survive the move but lived for another two years in Washington State. We found a vet who was receptive to our desires to "leave her be". This was actually more difficult than it sounds. We went through two vets who thought she needed to have surgery (at age 20) and the second even went so far as to state abuse and attempt to take her away from us when I took her in because her eyelid quit retracting. Finally a friend pointed us to a woman he knew who understood the issues of older pets. She agreed with us that our chosen route to treat her problems was best and added in fluids administration to help with her failing kidneys.

Calley spent most days sleeping in the closet on her heating pad and sitting for her daily bath by the dog.

Then the day came that she didn't bounce back. She kept going downhill and we awoke to her in one of the spare bedrooms (which was odd enough) convulsing. I tearfully held her, knowing what we had to do. She was 22 years old. Death was upon her. Our dog wouldn't come near her. AB and I cried as we called an on-call vet and arranged to take her in to be put down. It stung as the on-call receptionist listed off the rules and fees. I know she didn't know us from the next person, but we weren't just simply annoyed with the animal (as apparently many people are and have pets put down).

We took her in wrapped in a towel as she didn't have control of any faculties anymore. AB and I sobbed. I hadn't seen AB cry that hard about something ever. He had obviously grown to love her as well. Within minutes, she was gone and we said goodbye to her.

We went out to the desk to settle what we were expecting was our massive bill for a Saturday call in and the receptionist told us we were only being charged $50 for the equipment use. (We had been quoted over $300.)

We had Calley cremated and still today her ashes are on my dresser in a small container. I never knew where to lay her to rest because she was an indoor cat. There wasn't any special place - other than in my arms, next to her dog, or on her heating pad.

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