Category Archives: Cats

On Hairballs and the Writing Life

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I meant to get a lot of writing done today. I hadn’t necessarily intended to do a blog, especially after I spent the entire morning doing the state taxes for our businesses (mine’s writing, of course), but I wanted to get some work done on that 15th Anniversary Edition of one of my books that I’m revising. Which was supposed to be published in December 2015.

Missed that deadline by being Mommy to a doggie that had to get an emergency tooth extraction, to one of our kitties who was diagnosed with uncontrolled diabetes and who had to be hospitalized (who’s now in remission), to another kittie who has FORLS — a dental disease found in 20% of Rescue cats which causes their teeth to break and expose the root — requiring two emergency tooth extractions, and to another kittie who has Stomatitis, an auto-immune disease in which the cat is allergic to the natural bacteria on its own teeth, causing its tongue, gums, palate, and throat to get inflamed and swollen, leaving the cat in great pain and unable to eat or drink. The only possible cure: complete extraction of all her teeth. But she still occasionally gets lesions on her lips, allergic lesions, which cause her great pain and prevent her from eating. So she has to get NSAIDs every third day, and get blood work every three months to make sure her kidneys are functioning properly.

As if that weren’t enough to keep Mommy from having any writing time over the last few months, the dreaded HAIRBALL Season has begun.

If you have cats, you know what I’m talking about. That horrid time of year when the weather begins to warm and cats’ hair begins to shed. Only it usually ends up in their mouths and digestive tracts from grooming before it gets a chance to be swept up by your vacuum. Last week, it was 50-60F every day. Shed-city.

And before we knew what was happening, Hairball Disaster Zone.

IMG_0576_1024 2Sascha is leading in this race to cover the house with slimy, disgusting, smelly hairballs. She’s hurled 7 of them just in the past few days, 4 of them this morning and this afternoon. None of them has been less than 5 inches long, and each is as wet as a dripping beach towel. I’m thinking of giving up washing the blanket I put on the couch to protect it. Water is a more precious commodity in the desert than a couch, even if it does get stained. Meanwhile, Sascha, who doesn’t think much of the hairball gel, is giving me the Evil Eye and the Arched Back from the top of the highest Cat Tree in the house.

Eli’s become a real pro at this Hairball Game. He can drag out a Hairball, leaving little gnarly puddles of food and… well… imagine it… all around the room in a circle before he finally coughs up one humongous hairball. His must be at least 6 inches long and 3 inches in diameter. It wouldn’t be so bad if he did it all in one place, like Sascha, but he prefers to try to cover as much ground as possible while discharging the hairball and all its accompanying contents. He’s only done 3 today, but when you have to clean the entire carpet in the room each time he hurls one, it makes it seem like so much more.

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Ling seems to be annoyed that the LongHairs are getting all the attention, so she dropped 3 in an hour today. And even though she likes the taste of the hairball gel, she made us chase her for half an hour before letting us get some into her. Then she stalked away and promptly ejected another gnarly mess.

Trixie just gave us the Evil Eye To The Max when we tried to approach her with the tube of hairball gel: I believe she feels she has “done her time” — for life — after being subjected to Blood Glucose tests, which require ear-pricking, and insulin shots for the past 2.5 months. Don’t tell her she might come out of remission: she might run away and join the circus.

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Sophie is totally simpatico with Trixie on the hairball thing, even if she does like the taste of the gel if she’s in the mood. Neither of them were in the mood today. And both of them like to expel their hairballs on the top of things like my computer keyboard, my desk, the book I’m currently reading, my iPad (cover closed, thank god).

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Baxter likes the gel, but not all the commotion. After depositing his slippery hairball gifts on the kitchen chairs today, he jumped up onto the top of the cupboards. I guess he thought it might be fun to see us climbing on chairs and ladders to try to catch him. We eventually surrendered to his High Ground, though I’m sure there’s a pile of hairballs up there by now.

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Shooter Tov — THE Alpha male in this household — not to be outdone by his little brother Baxter, who sometimes gets the privilege of playing Alpha Male if Shooter’s taking a nap, watched Baxter cover the cushions on the kitchen chairs, watched Mommy and Daddy sponge-sponge-sponge-ing them off, and then climbed onto the kitchen table and decorated it with a hairball that would rival any canvas of Jackson Pollock’s.

So, there.

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The only person who has NOT expelled a hairball today is Sadie-Doggie, but she’s been following the cats around as they do them because she loves the hairball gel and insists on getting some each time one of them does. Mommy’s trying to write and Sadie’s begging for more gel. I can just hear her asking, What does a dog have to do to get some yummy-yum-yum hairball gel around here? Cough up a hairball?

And I’ve just been told that Shooter is attempting to deposit a slimy gift in my bag, which I accidentally left sitting on the kitchen chair while I went to clean up Sascha’s latest offering.

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Ahh, the life of a Mommy.

I had to write this blog today to remind myself that I am actually also a writer.

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Filed under Cats, Humor, Philosophy, Real Life of a Writer

Death, Be Not Proud

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For Mosie

Death, be not proud, though some have called thee
Mighty and dreadful,  for thou are not so.

John Donne
Holy Sonnet #72

We rescued Mosie from a suitcase, literally, where someone had stuffed her, claiming she was “feral and violent and dangerous.” After my BF, who did animal control work at the time, donned protective clothing, including welder’s gloves to keep from being bitten and clawed, he unzipped the suitcase, and  jumped back. He expected the worst. He waited. He thought the violent cat might have killed itself in a frenzy inside the closed suitcase in the locked bathroom. Either that, or she’d been suffocated. He took a step toward the case. Cautiously.

Up popped the most adorable black cat he’d ever seen, sitting there ever so calmly, wagging her tail, and meowing to him plaintively.

“That’s no feral cat,” he said as he removed his gloves and protective gear, so as not to frighten her, and motioned to her. “Come on, Kitty. Come on.”

She did, purring like a little motor-boat as he petted her, rubbing against his legs, going easily into the cage he’d brought. He covered the cage with a blanket, exited the bathroom, took the $100 fee for “capturing the dangerous and violent feral cat” from the woman who’d hired him, then yelled at the woman for shoving a cat into a suitcase and locking her in a bathroom.

He was supposed to take her to the Shelter to be euthanized, which is the law with dangerous feral animals who bite, scratch, or otherwise attack people in an unprovoked manner.

Instead, he opened up the can of cat food which he’d brought along as bait, lifted the cage door, and offered it to the cat. Purring, she stepped out of the cage, ate the food (“As if she hadn’t eaten in ages,” he later told me), curled up on the seat of the truck next to him, and went to sleep.

That is how Mosie came into our lives.

We named her Mosie, from the Navajo for “Cat”, because we were set to move West the following month. The vet pronounced her healthy, shaved her belly to find that she’d been spayed, and got her immunizations up to date. As soon as she got home with us, she promptly took a taste out of each of the bowls of dry food — our buffet — then came over and thanked us by purring and rubbing her forehead on our ankles. When she met the other cats, she stood patiently as each smelled her, then she kissed them. After that, the romp began: running, playing, chasing each other.

“Feral cat, my tuches,” said my BF. “More like a poor little Suitcase Cat.”

That became our nickname for her. Mosie, our little Suitcase Cat.

Mosie-Cat

Mosie-Cat

She was always one of the most delightful, affectionate, non-aggressive cats we had ever met. She was so good at the Vet’s that she would walk out of the carrier and onto the baby-scale for her weight. She knew the routine. She was as clever as she was sweet. And for the last, almost eight years that she’s been ours, she’s been completely healthy.

This January, she began experiencing some strange health problems. Her teeth were bleeding and there was a mass under her tongue. The Vet suspected cancer, but the biopsy came back “Benign.” Since the teeth on one side had exposed roots, the Vet extracted them, changing her diagnosis to FORLs, a dental disease — not cavities — where the enamel eats away at itself instead of rebuilding. Unless the teeth are extracted, the disease attacks the jaw and facial bones.

In February, her left eye looked strange. Its pupil was fixed. Open. I thought she’d had a stroke. The Vet thought she might have gotten Toxoplasmosis, a virus carried by rodents, to which cats are constantly exposed in their litter boxes, but which they rarely contract. (Though our cats do not roam — because we live on a mountain where there are wild animals — there is a roofed kennel attached to the house: they can go outside, but only into the kennel. A mouse could have gotten into the kennel and left feces there; the cats could have inhaled the virus, which would go through their systems and be excreted in the litter box.) Cats, even those who do not roam, are constantly exposed to the virus unless they never leave the house, but they rarely contract it themselves.

Unless their immune systems are compromised. She tested Mosie for Feline Leukemia, though we’d had her tested before we ever took her home and put her with our other cats, and for Feline Immuno-Deficiency Virus (FIV), the equivalent of HIV in humans. Both tests came back negative. The Vet feared that, though she had assumed that Mosie came through the teeth extraction surgery “like a trooper,” it may have weakened her immune system. She prescribed eye-drops and strong antibiotics. Mosie seemed fine thereafter, though her pupil was permanently open. If she were human, she would have been considered “legally blind” and would no longer be able to drive: she could see light, dark, shapes, movement, etc from her L eye, but had to turn her head to see details.

Like the corned beef we offered her every time we gave her a dose of those nasty antibiotics.

All this time, Mosie continued to slowly lose weight. However, as she was on a diet, and the weight loss was slow and steady, we were all proud of her, including the Vet.

Four years ago, when we first moved to this house on the mountain, which is surrounded by Juniper and Pinon trees, she began sneezing and got a sinus infection (as did two of our other cats). Mosie had never had any allergies after we moved to New Mexico. Until we moved to the house on the mountain. The Vet at that time (who is, no doubt, no longer a Vet due to her extreme incompetence and terrible bedside manner) decided Mosie has asthma and put her on steroids. Mosie’s weight went from 15 to 25 pounds in 3 months. Her “asthma” didn’t stop until the Juniper stopped blooming. Exactly the same time our own allergies stopped, and the other cats stopped sneezing. We took her off the steroids and changed Vets.

In the last two years, Mosie has lost 8 pounds. Good work for a cat. Especially since we refuse to restrict food for any of our cats. They’re all Rescues, many had been found, starving, by the side of the road, and we simply will not feed them only once or twice a day. Their food is always available. None has an eating disorder. The Vet suggested more canned food, which Mosie really didn’t like, since that would help her lose weight (higher carbohydrates in the dry food).

So the fact that Mosie continued to lose a little weight over these last three months was cause for celebration, not alarm. The Vet wanted her back at her original 15 pounds, and she was down to 16 pounds, 11 ounces. She was doing better than most people who try to lose weight.

However, even at 15 pounds, Mosie’s face was always round. Now, though, her face seemed to be getting gaunt, while her belly seemed to be ballooning. But her weight was still going down. I pointed these things out to the Vet during one of Mosie’s follow-up eye exams, asking if she thought Mosie was “bloated.” She laughed. “Mosie’s just fat and needs to lose that last bit of weight,” she said, patting Mosie on the head, then bending over and kissing her.

Last Tuesday, at a follow-up exam for Mosie’s eye, to see if we could take her off the eye-drops, the Vet asked, “How long has Mosie been breathing like this?”

Since the night before. She was sneezing, too, so we’d assumed that allergy season had started.

The Vet took an X-ray. Mosie’s heart was slightly enlarged and moved to the right side of her chest. Very odd, even if a cat is in heart failure. Furthermore, her trachea was curved to the left. Odder still. She gave her heart medications and a diuretic, to eliminate excess fluid from her chest cavity. Mosie did not improve. In fact, she seemed to worsen.

By the weekend, we were convinced she was going to die. She seemed dazed, disoriented, and very confused. She couldn’t breathe, despite the medications, and we had to carry her to the litter box and put her in it to prevent her from having accidents. She stopped eating and drinking.

That is always a bad sign.

On Monday we took her in, though her follow-up appointment wasn’t till Tuesday with our Vet, and after a Partner-Vet listened to her breathing, he said he agreed with our Vet’s revised diagnosis on Friday: that Mosie might have some lung inflammation that was causing the heart failure, not vice versa. He gave her two shots of fast-acting steroids, to make it easier for her to breathe, and told us to keep Tuesday’s appointment with our regular Vet.

Mosie improved dramatically. By late that afternoon, she could breathe relatively easily. She ate, drank, purred, talked, came to my BF when he called her name, when he held out his hand and wiggled his fingers (a signal we’ve taught them to come get pets). We were so relieved and excited, I foolishly tweeted about it all over the place. On inhaled-steroids, Mosie might have another year. We were deleriously happy.

Then, it all just stopped. No eating. No drinking. But, strangely, no hard breathing.

I couldn’t sleep. I was awake all night. I decided to write a blog about revision, which people have been requesting, so I wouldn’t cry all night. Mosie was beside me most of the time. She was breathing so quietly that several times I put my hand on her to make sure that she was still alive. She was, but she was noticeably cool to the touch. Around 3 a.m., she got off the bed and went to the litter box. On her own. When she didn’t come back, I woke my BF and asked his help getting her out (my back had become sore from carrying her back and forth all weekend).

There was blood on the floor.

When he took off the lid of the covered litter box, we found Mosie inside, lying there. I lifted her out. My BF released a string of obscenities, an attempt, I think, to articulate his extreme distress and confusion, since he kept repeating “poor Mosie” throughout.

The litter box was filled with blood.

Mosie was covered with it. Crying and very confused, we cleaned her up. She never once protested. Her breathing was fine. We lined the bottom half of the cat carrier with soft warm towels and laid her in it, like a little clubhouse, so she’d feel slightly confined and safe. Her breathing was still steady, easy, and good.

But Mosie didn’t answer when we talked to her. She didn’t even look at us. She was completely unresponsive.

And so she remained.

Until she died.

The Vet was shocked. After she heard about the blood, she said she believed that the original pathology report on the mass under Mosie’s tongue, though it had gone away with antibiotic treatment and teeth-extraction, had been wrong. She believed now that it had been cancer, and that Mosie had at least one mass in her chest, which had moved her heart to the right, curved her trachea into a C-chape, and was causing her breathing difficulties (though, after the two steroid shots, her breathing was easy and quiet until the end). She also believed that her distended belly, which her Partner-Vet had commented on the day before, was a sign that Mosie had more than one tumor. The blood was either from a burst tumor or because Mosie’s bowel had ruptured; she was guessing it was the latter.

That accounted for Mosie’s increasingly cold body temperature. Internal hemorrhage. Plummeting blood pressure. It also would be the reason Mosie was completely unresponsive. She was dying.

We’d already figured that part out ourselves. We just didn’t know why.

We lost Mosie on Tuesday morning.

Mosie, sleeping on her favorite pillow

Mosie, sleeping on her favorite pillow

At least she was breathing easier that last day. And we got to have one final afternoon with her, when she was happy, loving, purring, and eating all the corned beef and whipped cream she desired.

We were with her the entire time, as I’ve promised all the cats we’ve rescued: “You’ll never die alone. I’ll be there with you.” So far, we’ve been able to keep that promise. We don’t intend to ever intentionally break it.

No one should be alone when he dies.

Not even a Suitcase Cat.

(Antony’s “Hope There’s Someone”), followed by John Donne’s Holy Sonnet # 72, in case anyone wants to read the entire thing.)

Death, be not proud, though some have called thee
Mighty and dreadful, for thou art not so,
For those whom thou think’st thou dost overthrow,
Die not, poor Death, nor yet canst thou kill me.
From rest and sleep, which but thy pictures be,
Much pleasure, then from thee, much more must flow,
And soonest our best men with thee do go,
Rest of their bones, and souls’ delivery.
Thou art slave to Fate, Chance, kings, and desperate men,
And dost with poison, war, and sickness dwell,
And poppy, or charms can make us sleep as well,
And better than thy stroke; why swell’st thou then?
One short sleep past, we wake eternally,
And death shall be no more; Death, thou shalt die.

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On the Legal Majority of Cats

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This week, during a routine checkup for one of our cats, who, over the past few months, has had some health issues for the first time in her relatively young life , we got horrifying and completely unexpected news: Mosie is in heart failure.

Yesterday, after the Vet examined Mosie, we were told that some things had improved — her blood pressure (lower), fluid in chest cavity (gone), and her body temperature (higher though still below normal) — but other things remained unchanged — enlarged arteries and heart, and, more specifically, her labored breathing, which is causing her discomfort.

Because she can’t decide now if Mosie has a lung problem which is causing her heart failure, a heart condition that is causing her breathing difficulties, or both, the Vet decided to try a broncho-dilator for a few days, to see if Mosie’s breathing becomes less labored, making her more comfortable.

When I went into the pharmacy to pick up the prescription, the world turned into an Absurdist tragi-comedy.

I’m not even going to discuss the Pharmacist consultation, where the probably-just-graduated pharmacist bombarded me with all the possible dangerous side-effects of the drug I’d be taking, then got very upset that I would be giving the medication — albeit in extremely small doses — to a cat, and insisted that my Vet — despite her advanced training, residency, and practice in the treatment of Small Animals, and despite the fact that she is a Specialist in said treatment of Small Animals — must have written down the wrong prescription, and did I know that “absolutely no alcohol should be given to the cat if she was going to be taking this medication?”

No, I’m not going to discuss the Pharmacist’s panic not only because I trust our Vet, but because I’d just been through an experience concerning said medication with the Pharmacy Assistant and the Head Pharmacist that reminded me so much of Beckett’s Waiting for Godot that I didn’t know whether to laugh, cry, or argue the finer philosophical points of the differences between humans and cats.

This is what happened.

When the Pharmacy Assistant brought Mosie’s medication, she asked if I had taken it before because if I hadn’t, she conscientiously explained, they were legally required to provide a  “Pharmacist Consultation.”

Unless I signed a form indicating that I declined the aforementioned legally required Consultation.

I had already told them my own name, which is not even close to Mosie, not even as a nickname.

Granted, a Vet’s prescription pad looks exactly like any other Physician’s prescription pad. Except for the silhouettes of a cat, dog, bird, reptile, and horse displayed prominently across the top. And the rather large DVM printed after her name. And the words Veterinary Hospital written after the name of the clinic.

The fact that Mosie’s name was written like this on the prescription — “Mosie” Szeman — apparently didn’t catch the Assistant’s eye. Perhaps she just thought all doctors write quotation marks around their patients’ first names.

“It’s not for me,” I said. “It’s for our cat Mosie.”

“Sign that,” she said, indicating a screen and handing me a stylus.

This is what was on the screen:

◊ By checking this box, I acknowledge that I am the parent or legal guardian of the child who will be taking this medication, and have the authority to administer said medication to minor child.
◊ By checking this box, I acknowledge that I am NOT the parent or legal guardian of the child who will be taking this medication, and do NOT have the authority to administer said medication to minor child.

(I don’t even want to get into the legal, moral, or ethical ramifications of the second statement on that form, which, had I checked it, would not have prevented me from obtaining the medication…)

“Sign,” she said again, tapping the screen.

“Mosie’s a cat,” I said.

“How old is she?”

“Nine.”

“Then you have to sign.”

“But,” I said, despite the increasingly long line of customers forming behind me, “she’s a cat.”

The very competent and self-assured Assistant then turned around and shouted out to her boss, an elderly Pharmacist who never even looked up or stopped counting pills as he listened to her question, then answered.

“Does she have to sign this Minor Child Legal Form if Mosie is a cat?” said the Assistant.

“How old’s the cat?”

Without further ado, I signed.

Mosie, sleeping on her favorite pillow

Mosie, sleeping on her favorite pillow

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