The Peace a Cat Lends to a Home


This photo of Gracie at the window on a snowy day gives me a sense of quiet, of peace. Maybe it’s the shades of blues of the late day light. Maybe it’s the warm comfort looking out on snow-draped trees, cup of tea in hand, the house quiet. Maybe its the stillness of the cat, observing.

Gracie sat at the window for some time, until the last bird departed the bird feeder, and then sauntered off, blinking her greeting to me as she passed by.

 

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Gracie and the reversal of feline kidney disease

IMG_0862Gracie is an extraordinary being—calm, content, intelligent, and sweet-natured.  All this despite a rough beginning.  She came to us at eight months of age after having had a litter of kittens and being thrown from a car window by her forearm.

A man and woman found her and took her in while searching for a home for her.  Through a circuitous path, she came to us.  We’ve had her for thirteen years now.  She has been devoted and loving presence, almost Buddha-like, through moving more than once, kids, and a few rescue dogs and cats.  I love her completely.

Several years ago Gracie was diagnosed, as many cats are, with kidney disease—thought to be untreatable.  A savvy DVM  with alternative medicine training put Gracie on a Chinese herb (Ba Wei Di Huang Wan–see below), which improves blood flow to the kidneys (and therefore optimizes functioning of the undamaged parts of the kidney).  Much to the surprise of mainstream veterinarians, repeated blood work revealed that much of Gracie’s kidney disease was reversed, improving her prognosis beyond 6 months/1 year.  In addition, I also put her on low-phosphorus, low-sodium, high-protein (not low-protein) food. She regained weight and resumed a full life.  It’s been four years now, but she’s starting the inevitable decline. The herbs have done what they could.  I am resigned and heartbroken, grateful for the time we’ve had together and for her benevolent presence through these years, and I’m dreading the coming goodbye.  Gracie is nearby as I write this, snug and drifting in and out of sleep.

Info on herbal treatment of feline kidney disease:
Ba Wei Di Huang Wan ( https://www.google.com/search?q=ba+wei+di+huang+wan+1+g+buy&ie=utf-8&oe=utf-8 )—500 mg. 2x/day or 1/4 teaspoon 2x a day— available online and through your vet via Natural Path Herb Company. I use the Natural Path ( http://www.nphc.ca/tips.php ) vet-ordered, high-quality version.  Gracie refused to eat it sprinkled on her food, so I bought size 4 empty vege capsules ( http://emptycaps.com/size-4-vegetarian-capsules-quantity-1000.html ) (larger-size capsules are difficult for cats to swallow) and an inexpensive capsule-making contraption that makes filling it relatively easy.  The effort has been worth Gracie’s quality life extension: https://www.herbaffair.com/cap-m-quik-capsule-filling-machine/

 

It’s Cold Out There

Dog in snow ID-100144221Please bring your animals inside.  Fur helps but doesn’t do much in icy winds and frigid temperatures.

Please, have a heart.  Bring dogs and cats inside.  They feel pain too.

 

photo courtesy of Spaniel in the Snow by Tina Phillips, freedigitalphotos.com

Ollie & Spuds – Chapter 3

Chapter 3 – With that Picture in Mind, She Can Sleep
© 2014 Carolyn Cott

Chapter 1: https://untoldanimalstories.org/2014/02/15/ollie-spuds-chapter-1/
Chapter 2: https://untoldanimalstories.org/2014/02/21/ollie-spuds-chapter-2/

red cat from free digitalSpuds had no plan. By night she hunted. By day she slept. She moved from place to place, restless.

Spuds wandered eventually into the city. Spuds learned to spot potential danger and change direction instantly. She came across a band of other cats in the park tried to live with them, but they were as prone to fighting as they were to grooming each other. She left and eventually made her home in a partially crushed box in an abandoned trash pile. It was often bitter cold, but there were plenty of mice to hunt. Water was the issue. She had to learn to drink when it rained and went thirsty when it did not. When the water froze in winter, she went without for longer periods of time. It was difficult not to crave water; sleep was the only escape from that gnawing need, but sleep was never deep and sound—Spuds learned to keep part of her mind alert for danger even in sleep.

By the late winter, Spuds’ hunger and belly had grown. One cold morning she birthed four tiny kittens, three orange, and the tiniest a pale ginger.

Spuds had never loved as much as she loved her babies. The need for food increased, so she’d leave her kittens huddled together, first communicating to them soundlessly not to move, not to mew. She held the gaze of each of them, then trotted off to hunt for her family.

She came to an area where the air was fragrant with food, women’s high-heeled shoes clicked on the sidewalk, and men’s overcoat tails flew behind them in wind. There were shiny lights and big cars along the street, and fragrant alleys and dumpsters behind the buildings.

The next night she moved her kittens, one at a time, in her mouth, waddling as fast as she could through the streets, to their new home.   She nudged the kittens beneath a stack of wooden pallets. There was no cardboard to tuck into and the concrete was cold, but food was available. There were always trade-offs.

Spuds would jump easily up and into the dumpster, emerging with delicious tidbits she’d present to her kittens. Once the kittens had eaten, she would do so, and then they curled together, the whole lot of them purring. This was her happiest time.

As the kittens grew, Spuds couldn’t keep them sequestered, so they wandered around together with her searching for food. Twice she had to fight dogs to keep them safe. Once the smallest ginger-colored kitten barely escaped the wheels of a passing truck.

Spuds sensed the time was drawing near when the kittens would wander off and start their own lives. When they settled down to sleep together, she sent them mental pictures of the life she hoped they would lead: images of a warm fireplace, kind hands setting down bowls of food and water, a soft place to sleep, and safety, safety, safety.

to be continued…

Chapter 1: https://untoldanimalstories.org/2014/02/15/ollie-spuds-chapter-1/
Chapter 2: https://untoldanimalstories.org/2014/02/21/ollie-spuds-chapter-2/

photo by Dan courtesy of freedigitalphotos.net

 

Ollie & Spuds – Chapter 1

There is a lane I recall, somewhere deep in dim memory.  I see it snow covered and winding and edged by black trees.  It is the way home.  I never returned there.
© 2014 Carolyn Cott

He lifts his nose to the wind and sniffs.  Something new.  With his head still resting on his paws, he opens his eyes and sees a flash of a ginger-colored cat, skinny and in pursuit of something, at the far end of the alley. red cat from free digital

Ollie climbs out from under a pile of rags and cardboard and stretches, keeping an eye on the cat.  The cat pounces and misses as the mouse leaps into a small hole in the brick wall and disappears.  The cat saunters into the one ray of sunlight angling between the tall buildings, sits down and begins washing herself.  The sun sparks on her ginger-colored fur.  Her movements are measured and deliberate.  Her eyes are slits, but she sees, she knows he is there.  She is watching.

It’s been three days now that the cat has appeared in his alley.  He thinks of it as his alley because he’s been there how long now?  Maybe two months, maybe four.  He remembers coming there.  There was snow.

The man had hunched over the steering wheel, his jaw set.  Ollie wanted to enjoy the car ride, but something was very wrong.  The kids weren’t there, although the back seat smelled vaguely of peanut butter.  The woman wasn’t there.  She had cried and stroked his fur before the man unchained him and yanked him toward the car.  The woman had whispered something to the man, who swung around toward her, his teeth clenched, saying, “No.  No.”

The man stopped the car on a deserted street.  He looked both ways before opening the back seat door, pulled Ollie out by the scruff of the neck, and sped off.

Ollie ran after the car as it moved farther and farther away, turned, and was gone.  He memorized the place where the car had turned.  It might be important.  Panting, he sat down, only then noticing the coldness of the snow.  He looked around.  The sun had just risen, casting chilly light on the faces of the buildings.  There were no people.  A tattered awning blew in the wind. A spear of an icicle crashed onto the sidewalk.

For two days Ollie ate only snow to quench his thirst, but it made him shiver.  He wandered the streets, looking for a familiar landmark and searching for food.  Then he found the alley.  It smelled of garbage and food.

Ollie tucked himself behind a stack of wooden palettes and waited.  A man in a stained apron pushed his way out a door and heaved a luscious-smelling bag into a dumpster.  When the door clanged shut behind the man, Ollie scampered up a pile of cinder blocks and bricks, dropped down into the dumpster, tore at the bag with his teeth, and ate.

He fell into a routine, wandering the streets in the night and returning to his alley in the early morning when cars and people came into the streets.  He had learned it was not good to be out when people were on the streets.  There was an afternoon when the boys chased him: chubby-cheeked, dressed in blue uniforms, with book bags dragging behind them, they ran after him pitching stones at him.  Most whistled past, but one hit.  He yelped and slowed down, and the boys laughed.  They were almost upon him when he ran again, cutting across a busy road and turning a corner to lose them.  Returning to his alley exhausted and thirsty, he went to the low depression in the concrete at the base of a downspout looking for water, where a small puddle remained.  Then he curled up into the tightest ball he could, and slept.

Ollie & Spuds…to be continued

Chapter 2: https://untoldanimalstories.org/2014/02/21/ollie-spuds-chapter-2/

photo by Dan courtesy of freedigitalphotos.net

The Stray Black Kitten

I saw him again the other day, the black kitten that is growing into adolescence and toward adulthood.  He made it through the 0 degree Pennsylvania weather.  I hope that he found some place to shelter and was not, as I feared, huddled against a tree trunk with icy winds whipping around him.

Now that the weather has shifted, I will resume trying to humanely trap him (when I know he will not be sitting for hours in the trap, freezing, before I can get to him) and deliver him to the SPCA.  I hope that I can do so before he has sired kittens—all of which will be homeless, feral, and lead shortened lives.

When I saw the kitten the other day, he was sniffing around for food by the water saucer on my patio (since most animals do not eat ice or snow, I bought an outdoor water heater and placed it in a large plant saucer).  I stepped outside with the Mason jar of cat food I keep by the front door, walking slowly and speaking softly to him, but he ran off.  At the blue spruces at the edge of our property, the kitten turned around and looked at me.  I stood still, regarding him and looking into his wide, green-golden eyes, and I swear I saw him soften a little.

I poured the food into a tidy pile, plucked a leaf from the water saucer, looked at him again—his eyes had never left me—and went back inside.  He did not come right away, though later he did.  I can tell when the food has been eaten by a cat or a raccoon.  Raccoons hoover up every molecule of food, while cats eat only until they are full, sometimes leaving a small ring of food from which they’ve eaten away the center.

Once I trap and deliver the kitten to the SPCA, here is what will happen:  he will be euthanized.  I do not have qualms about this.  I think it’s infinitely preferable to the life he’ll lead in the wild—hungry, thirsty, scared, fighting for scarce resources, exposed to the elements, mistreated by some humans, and sooner than later, injured and diseased.  A feral cat typically lives only a few years, and they are not easy years.

There are approximately 40,000 million homeless cats in the US alone, though many think that number is a gross underestimate.  According to the University of Washington, each breeding pair of feral cats can produce between 100 to 400 kittens in seven years that live to reproductive age and subsequently reproduce, with each of those 100 to 400 mating and producing 100 to 400 kittens that live long enough to reproduce.  Given this exponential growth rate, it’s no wonder there’s overpopulation, and with overpopulation, the species as a whole and the individuals in it suffer.

Some humane societies are mandated to do feral capture, spay/neuter, and release.  I am vehemently opposed to this.  Some dedicated Trap-Neuter-Return (TNR) proponents provide food, water, and shelter for the neutered/spayed, ear-notched, and returned cats in their area, but this is rare.  More often, the cats are returned to a life of less-than-subsidence living.  While TNR can reduce overpopulation, which is good for the species as a whole, it does absolutely nothing for the suffering of the individual.

The black kitten will be given a humane, painless death by caring hands.  He will not be adding to overpopulation, and he will not go hungry or suffer.  I’m okay with that.


Humane trap:  http://amzn.to/1hLd1In

Outdoor water heater:  http://amzn.to/1ezfeU4