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We brought Charlee and Ruby home six weeks ago. As instructed by the adoption organization, we confined them to a small space, gradually expanding their range as they acclimatized. Except only one of the sisters, Charlee, seemed to be doing much acclimatizing. Ruby continues to be reticent, either by nature or as a response to her first adoption experience, in which she found her self in a home with an overly friendly dog.
They started in a bathroom, then had run of a bedroom, then the bedroom and an adjacent bathroom, and then that space along with our master bedroom. Charlee took quickly to each expansion, Ruby less so. Eventually we extended their range during the evenings to part of the first floor, keeping them out of the kitchen remodel. Charlee would sit with us, occasionally escaping to the basement if we left the stairway door open.
Finally, the remodel reached a point two days ago at which we could begin to use the new kitchen. It’s not finished. There’s a long list of items to be dealt with. But it’s functioning, and so we have been moving in. The cats too.
You can see, above, how settled in Charlee is. She has made the kitchen hers. And below, Ruby is checking out the birds. However shy she is, she shares Charlee’s curiosity. She just doesn’t want us to be in the way when she’s exploring.
Maybe they’re beginning to enjoy life.
It’s not my intent to turn Ron’s Blog into Our Cute Kitties. But really, how can I resist?
The eight-month-old sisters joined us twelve days ago. Under strict orders from Janice the adoption supervisor, we confined them initially to a small bathroom. Too small. After two days ago, we brought them upstairs to a bedroom/exercise room. Now they range beyond it to the adjacent bathroom.
Charlee—the girl with the black triangle nose—is full of energy, bouncing from room to room. Ruby is less comfortable with her surroundings. At least she now leaves the security of the carrier case. She’ll sit still when we enter their space rather than retreating. Charlee races away at the sight of us, then returns, maybe even sits on us (Gail anyway).
And now they’ve discovered the towel basket. I came upon the scene above on my return home tonight.
It’s been seven months since we lost our sweet Emma. Gail has insisted that once the remodel is done, we will bring home new residents. I found myself in no hurry.
But with the remodel showing no signs of ending, Gail’s patience had waned. When our friend Brooke mentioned on Tuesday that All The Best Pet Care on Lake City Way had two sisters up for adoption, Gail got it in her head that these were the cats destined to share our house with us.
Gail called first thing Wednesday morning, thinking that even though it was New Year’s Day, someone had to be there to feed the cats. Actually, one of the store staff—Jen—had been their foster mother for two months, taking them home each night. Thursday Gail called again, confirming that the girls were still available. She and Jessica showed up in the afternoon.
Friday, once I was done at work, we all (Gail, Jessica, Joel, and I) met there and spent 45 minutes with the cats in a special quiet room. They are 7 1/2 months old. Jen had named them Ruby and Rose. Until she came in to join us, they spent most of their time heading to the corners, but her presence calmed them. She told us that just a few days earlier, in discussing with Janice (the woman in charge of adoptions for the organization that had placed the cats with the store) what kind of family the cats needed, she posited that a professor would be a good match. And here I was, a professor. Providential for sure.
Yesterday morning, Janice called the house and interviewed Gail for half an hour. The key issues were, don’t declaw the cats, don’t let them outside, feed them wet food. Once we got past that, the question of how to manage the transition arose, the woman insisting that the cats be kept in a small enclosed space, preferably a bathroom, to start their adjustment. We agreed. A few hours later, we were at the store, ready to complete the adoption.
Food, litter, litter box, scoop, toys, treats. What else? Scratching board. A free throw-in: the bed they had been sleeping in. But the adoption fee had to be paid by cash or check. Oops. No one had mentioned that. We paid for the supplies, drove to an ATM, returned with cash, took the cats to the car, picked up a takeout dinner, and headed home.
Gail put the cats in the assigned bathroom. I brought our dinner in, she set up their dinner and litter. We ate, checked in on them, and found that they had eaten in parallel, devouring all their food. That was 26 hours ago. There’s little to report since then.
I can’t help thinking they’d prefer run of the house. There’s not much they can do in the bathroom. One of them made quick work of one of the toys, a stick with dangling feathers, tearing all the feathers off in short order. This morning, when Gail went in to spend time with them, they headed for the farthest corner, behind the toilet.
This afternoon, my futile attempt to provide company drove them into the litter box.
Better days await. If only our co-occupants shared our confidence in that.
Emma turned 17 six weeks ago. As I wrote at the time, “just getting up onto the bed is chore enough … but Emma remains determined to get around. … She’s a tough old gal.”
About a week ago, getting around became even more difficult. She was spending more and more time on her heated mat. Friday night, when I watched her head out the back door to the yard, her rear legs were noticeably stiffer than usual, and the next morning, she struggled to walk down the hall to her bowls.
Thus, it was with surprise—and delight—that I watched her work her way down the stairs later in the morning and head out the back door. At which point the mean Stellar’s jay started harassing her, flying from branch to branch and screaming at her. Emma retreated under some shrubbery and hung out there for a while, then emerged, at which point Gail carried her back into the house. I opened the front door and she hobbled right out. Soon she settled into a location where we don’t usually find her, under some more shrubbery, as shown above. (Look closely and you’ll see her eyes.) There she sat in the sun and relaxed.
We had some errands to run, so we left her there, where she was a half hour later on our return, and another twenty minutes after that. Then she came in and worked her way upstairs to her mat. In late afternoon, she came down again and headed out back. There was still life in her.
The thing is, she wasn’t eating much, and on Sunday she ate nothing at all. Nor did she get off her mat. Yesterday morning, I went upstairs at one point and was surprised that she wasn’t on the mat. Gail and I searched the entire house. Then Gail went out the back door and the jay’s clicking sound was in evidence, suggesting that Emma was out there somewhere. We looked under the shrubs again, but this time she was hiding in full view on the patio, sunning herself.
Yet, she wasn’t eating, and walking was hard, so Gail made an appointment with the vet for this afternoon. I had some meetings I couldn’t re-schedule, meaning Gail had to bring Emma on her own.
Emma weighed in at 4 1/2 pounds. The kidney disease we were warned about in its early stages two Decembers ago and in a more advanced stage last December had taken its toll. I got to the vet around 5:00, an hour and a half ago. Gail and Jessica were with Emma. We spent some time saying goodbye. As I petted her, she licked my wrist and made some noises. Still engaged in life, though no longer up to living it.
And now our dear, sweet, beautiful cat is gone. We miss you so much, Emma.
A month ago, I wrote about Emma’s seventeenth birthday. I thought at the time that she had retired from active duty. But with warmer weather and longer days, she’s been resuming some of her outdoor ways, including a return to sentinel duty this afternoon outside the front door. She had been keeping a keen eye on passersby until I appeared in the doorway to take the photo above.
A few evenings ago, she performed similar duty at her more familiar post in the backyard. Thanks, Emma. Good to have you back.
Our sweet geriatricat Emma celebrated her 17th birthday today. Here she is, a couple of hours ago.
Emma wasn’t always so sweet, I have to admit. But her days of fierce independence have largely passed. No racing up the cherry tree to a branch twenty feet above the ground in the blink of an eye. No jumping onto the kitchen counter, or the desk. Just getting up onto the bed is chore enough. And ever since January, when we adopted Brooke’s suggestion of putting an electrically heated pad on the floor, there seems to be less reason to make the effort.
But Emma remains determined to get around. Last night, when we returned from the airport with our friends Tom and Carol, just in from Edinburgh, Emma came to the top of the upstairs staircase to greet us on the main floor below. A few minutes later, as we lingered in the basement guest bedroom after bringing the luggage down, Emma appeared—a rare trip to the basement—to make her presence known and be acknowledged. She’s a tough old gal.
The NYT published an article yesterday about Holly, the 4-year-old tortie who made it home to West Palm Beach two months after being separated from the couple she lives with when they were together at an RV rally two hundred miles away. Scientists can’t explain how she did it.
“I really believe these stories, but they’re just hard to explain,” said Marc Bekoff, a behavioral ecologist at the University of Colorado. “Maybe being street-smart, maybe reading animal cues, maybe being able to read cars, maybe being a good hunter. I have no data for this.”
There is, in fact, little scientific dogma on cat navigation. Migratory animals like birds, turtles and insects have been studied more closely, and use magnetic fields, olfactory cues, or orientation by the sun.
I mention this story not because of its intrinsic interest, but because of my surprise on seeing last night that it had made its way to the top of the NYT list of most e-mailed articles. Tonight, it remains #1, and #4 under “Most Viewed.” Much as I enjoyed the story, I didn’t expect this. Are there really so many cat lovers out there, eager to spread the word about the wonders of the species?
Speaking of wondrous cats, our resident 16-3/4-year-old tortie Emma has not been doing well. At her annual physical 3 1/2 weeks ago, we were stunned to learn that her weight had fallen to six pounds, and her blood test suggested weakening kidneys. We’ve been experimenting with a variety of new foods since then. Last week she became listless, spending Thursday and Friday on her new heating mat without getting up to eat or drink. We brought her to the vet Saturday morning and she was down to five-and-a-half pounds. The vet recommended keeping her for the day so she could be hydrated, tested, and observed.
Tests showed that Emma’s white blood cell count was high, indicating an infection, perhaps a kidney infection, so she is now on antibiotics. We didn’t see any signs of improvement when she got home Saturday, or most of yesterday, but since last night she’s been eating again, moving around, behaving a bit like her usual self.
It looks like Emma has made it through. We have to continue with the antibiotics for another two weeks. Her nightly torture. They’re in liquid form, mixed with tuna juice by the pharmacist to make them more palatable. That’s the theory anyway. I’m not sure Emma got the message. At least she doesn’t claw us. In her prime, she would have made us pay. Now she’s much more tolerant of our ways.
Emma turns 16 tomorrow. There she is, above, just 10 minutes ago.
We have no big plans. None that I’m aware of anyway. We’ll spend the evening with her, maybe give her some treats, but that’s about it. Whatever we do, she’ll be content as long as we’re here. And as long as we let her sit by the open door, or maybe step out for a bit. Her needs these days are simple.
Happy Birthday, Emma.
We took Emma to the vet today for her annual checkup. (No, that’s not her. That’s a sheep. Emma’s a cat. I’ll explain the relevance of the photo in a bit.)
Emma is 15 years old now, 15 and 8 months, and today for a change the visit wasn’t a routine in and out. The time had come at last for a discussion of senior cats and their ailments. Emma has slowed down, of course. She’s not much given to running around the yard anymore. When I start up the stairs, she no longer bounds past me. She still manages to jump up on the bed, but isn’t too keen to get onto the desk when I’m working. And worse, she struggles when she jumps down.
We discussed all this with the vet, as well what appears to be the occasional difficulty Emma has walking. Her rear legs or hips look strained. Last year, Gail explained this to the vet, who examined Emma and saw little cause for alarm. This year, when she (the vet) palpated Emma’s hips, Emma complained. The vet suggested that we could consider an x-ray, and recommended some dental care: a cleaning and perhaps a tooth extraction. If we go through with the dental work, Emma will need to be anesthetized, which would provide the opportunity for an x-ray, should we wish.
I don’t imagine there’s much to do about Emma’s hips if we do find a problem. I’m more concerned with giving her pain relief. But, of course, it’s difficult to gauge what sort of pain a cat is in, an issue we also discussed with the vet.
All of which gave us much to think about, and served as perfect preparation for the article I found on the NYT home page when we returned home with Emma: What We Can Learn from Old Animals.
In an unusual project, Isa Leshko, a fine-art photographer who lives in Philadelphia, set out to capture glimpses of animals at a time when they rarely attract much admiration or media attention — in their twilight years. The photographs, part of “a series called Elderly Animals”, are intimate and at times gripping. In one, a thoroughbred horse named Handsome One, age 33, stands in a stable, his hair wispy and his frame showing signs of time. In another, a pair of Finn sheep at the advanced age of 12 embrace as an elderly couple on a park bench might. And in another, a geriatric chow mix named Red lies with his paw under his chin, the signs of glaucoma apparent in his onyx-colored eyes.
The Times has a slideshow of twelve of Leshko’s photos, and you can see more by following the link above to Leshko’s website. What’s striking is the dignity of the animals, a dignity Emma has acquired as well. As she ages, her feral ferocity turns to sweetness.
Duncan, the family cat back on Long Island, died today. He was a good cat, and he thrived for years, but he has not been well for much of the past year.
Duncan came into our family’s life unexpectedly over a decade ago. One of several kittens who appeared in the yard one summer, he was persistent after the others drifted away. Eventually, my family fed him. But with parakeets in the house, his coming in wasn’t an option. As the weather cooled in the fall, he moved into makeshift lodgings by the kitchen door. With bedding and a steady source of food, hewas content.
A year later, he moved again, into the house. The basement was his domain, a door separating him from the parakeets. He would come up to eat or to go outside, but otherwise spent much of his time downstairs sleeping.
Over the years, his domain continued to expand. He still liked his basement bed, but he established alternative sites upstairs. And he treated the parakeets like a gentleman. When one managed to get out of his cage last year and land on the dining room floor, Duncan was there to watch over him and meow until he could be rescued.
But Duncan had not been eating much in recent months, for whatever reason, and that began to take its toll. He remained friendly and affectionate, eager to get outside to keep up with the latest developments. However, it was only a matter of time. And that time came today.
We’ll miss him.