misadventures in kitty mama-hood
A couple weeks after my Mama died, I found myself at the Denver Dumb Friends League on a Saturday. Saturdays, for those unfamiliar with the DDFL, are their busiest days. I wanted a kitten. My home was too quiet without my Mama there to fill it. After months of never ever having time to just be, I had a hard time doing nothing and adjusting to the echoes of rooms that no longer felt like mine. I wanted something to love and something to take care of. I wanted to play and smile again because I felt like I never would do that again.
So, within the chaos of settling my mother’s affairs–boxing up her life and sending it to charities…boxing up my life in preparation for movers and a tiny, new studio apartment next to Cheesman…and starting a whole new degree…while finally detaching from one of the great loves of my life (even now)…
I found myself at the DDFL. Looking for a kitten.
I remember going in, getting a number, and sitting. An old man was sitting there, too, and he told me he was waiting on his new cat to be microchipped. He was so excited to have something to love. I could relate.
They called my number, gave me a pad and a stubby pencil, and told me to tour the cat wing–writing down my top three choices.
There were no kittens. The youngest were a year old.
I wanted an orange tabby or a Siamese or a Persian or a white one with blue eyes.
They were all black and gray. With green eyes.
I was disappointed. But I wanted a friend. So, I kept going.
And then two black cats, in the sick wing, stole my heart. The first was more animated, and the second one was quite sleepy.
I only wrote down those two numbers.
I went up to the desk, turned them in, and followed the adoption counselor to a room–where she went over my application. She told me that, coincidentally, there was a couple in the next room who chose the same two cats. She asked me which one I wanted to see first. I chose the lively one. They had chosen the sleepy girl. The lively one was a bit aggressive for me, so I asked to see the second one. They wanted to see the lively one.
So, we switched. And Cleo found her way into my arms–and would not let go.
She wheezed and stuck out her tongue.
I was hooked. She was mine.
And so begins our love story–the story of a little girl who needed some love and care + her human Mama who needed a lot of big hugs.
That was about 10 years ago this January.
Cleo has been with me for everything. She was there when I had a breakdown when I moved (twice). She was there when I injured my back, sprained my ankle, knocked myself out, and had major surgery. She’s loved me through bad boyfriends, awful jobs, bruised toenails, and financial collapse. She’s my shadow. My lady girl. My kitten little. My Cletone.
To say I love her more than most people would be a vast understatement.
We’ve been through it, always together. The one thing I could always count on. Sometimes, the only thing.
Cleo’s always been a little sick. She was so sick when I got her. It took months to get her back, and taking care of her again oddly changed me…made me able to embrace that mothering side of myself that I found so difficult when I was taking care of my own mother. She got over the really tough stuff, had more tough stuff, and then just sort of even out–still wheezing and occasionally getting colds–but still feisty as ever.
Sometime in December, things changed. Namely, every few days, she would vomit. A lot. Like the worst. All over.
At first, it was just gross and annoying. Maybe she didn’t like her food. Maybe she caught Rilly’s cold. Maybe she was just getting old.
After a bit, I just felt like I needed to get her to a vet. Call it kitty mama instinct. This wasn’t normal. They initially said to change her diet. So, we did. She went Paleo. It got better, but continued. It was odd because she seemed totally normal and fine.
We went back to the vet, who then recommended an ultrasound. The ultrasound showed inflammation in her digestive tract. It was not really following the normal course of IBS since only a portion of her tract was inflamed. But, basically, the only way to get rid of food was to barf. Somehow, she hadn’t lost any weight.
They were worried it could be cancer, so Cleo underwent an endoscopy–which was difficult–and had a biopsy. Everything came back normal. She was a touch hypothyroid (like her Mama), but that could be treated after the inflammation was handled. We were overjoyed. We thought–finally–we know it’s not cancer. We can put her on a drug to get rid of the inflammation, and our girl will be back–good as new.
We were given Prednisone for cats–and started several days ago. First, every day, and now, every other day. It’s a battle to get her to take it. Despite the suspension, it tastes and smells awful. Cleo didn’t take too well to it. She started drinking less water and needed an IV at her last vet visit. She started sleeping more.
And then, she started eating so little, I thought maybe she had a broken tooth. Maybe mouth sores. The weight started falling off of her. It’s only gotten worse. I can feel and see every single part of her spine and ribs. Yesterday, she started refusing to eat or drink. Last night, she actually stopped breathing for a second while asleep.
I have done everything I know to do. Given her the stinkiest food. Endured tuna fish stank. Smooshed up Pepcid AC into powder. Even tried syringing water into her unwilling mouth. She is completely disinterested in anything except sleep and cuddles. I stayed up all night, terrified I’d lose her–googling everything I could. I grew up with cats. I know what to do, usually. But I also know how quickly they can go.
Her big eyes are still bright. She’s still stubborn. And she growled at me today. Those are good signs. But she is SO thin. I am scared.
We see the vet again tonight. Prayers, good vibes, maniacal appetite curses–all warmly accepted.
Please keep my sweet girl in all of them.
I’d be lost without her.
It’s been a rough 24 hours, but Cleo seems to be doing a lot better. After not eating for two days, she finally ate 6 cat treats (out of hand–which has never happened) and just ate a little wet food. Vet gave her a water infusion to help with her severe dehydration. She only lost about half a pound since her last visit. Considering how thin she’s gotten (I could feel all her bones)–that’s a huge relief since it’s still within normal range. We got some meds to stimulate her appetite and more to help with other digestive problems. 10 more doses of the prednisolone, and hopefully, her little gut will be healed enough to come off meds. She hasn’t barfed since starting the meds, so that’s a good thing. She’s feisty today and fighting with Rilly. Not feeing good, but better than last night. Thanks for all the prayers and support, friends. It helped a lot on a really challenging day.