Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Cat Care

When they were young, Katie and David wanted a cat, and with two children, you know it is better to get two kittens than one. We bought our cats, Latte and Liger, from the Humane Society through a local pet shop when they were tiny - and the same size.
Things have changed.
When you have a pet from babyhood, you don't really know what its character will be. Both of our kittens were shy at first. David and Katie chose them from a group of kittens, and were beyond thrilled to bring them home. I remember the day. We called my parents, who used to have cats, and they came over to meet the new "grandkittens."

We decided that Liger's name didn't fit him (I can't remember what it was), so we thought of new possibilities. "Tiger" was one, since he has stripes, but that was passed over in favor of "Liger," due to our enjoyment of the movie "Napoleon Dynamite." Latte's name seemed to fit him (Italian for "milk") since he is milky-colored, so there was no need to make a change there. The kids took wonderful care of the kittens from the time we brought them home in May of 2006 until Katie's cancer diagnosis in October of that same year. Then came the big separation.

We were blessed by our neighbors, who took care of the cats when we had to move to Seattle and live in Ronald McDonald House and Children's Hospital. At first, Gregg and David commuted back and forth, but that was exhausting, and we did not like being separated from each other so much. Our neighbors stepped in, fed our cats, let them in and out of the house, changed the litter box, mowed our lawn and brought in our mail. They took perfect care of our home when we were unable to do so ourselves, and that included our cats. They gave the cats love and attention so that their characters developed well; the cats are now comfortable with all kinds of people.

We missed Latte & Liger, and were dreadfully homesick, but there was nothing we could do about that except to be patient. Katie missed them so much that she got a toy cat in the hospital's gift shop; it had batteries, and made a purring sound. It even fooled many of the hospital staff, but it wasn't the same as the real thing.
The day came when we were able to bring Katie home for a weekend visit. The cats gave all of us the "cold shoulder" except for her! Isn't that interesting? It was as if they understood. She loved being with them again, and they loved her. Eventually, they forgave the rest of us.

After all five rounds of chemo were completed, we were allowed to move back home for three weeks of rest before Katie's big surgery. That was another happy reunion between cats and family. Then we had to move back into Ronald McDonald House for Katie's surgery. It lasted 18 hours, and she nearly died in the process, but she didn't die - she lived. It was a miracle. After her surgery and six weeks of recovery, we got to come home for good. The cats have been a source of a great deal of joy, love and laughter for our family. They entertained and comforted Katie right up until the day she died.
Katie was paralysed from the waist down two weeks before she passed away. Latte would come to her room and sit with her.
They are no longer shy, but their temperaments have developed quite differently. Liger is like Gandhi, and Latte is like Attila the Hun. Liger is very feline, and Latte is dog-like.
Latte has some kind of injury on his ear right now. I am trying to avoid a trip to the vet, because A.) the cats HATE-hate-HATE the car, B.) I don't like leaving them with the vet overnight and C.) in my experience with cats, nature can often resolve the problem. So I am waiting. While I wait, Latte has a tendency to make a mess on any and all furniture - he heads right for the light-colored upholstery when he has any blood or such. So last night, I decided to give his ear a cat bath (or a "whore's bath", for Smileygirl's benefit) with a warm, wet cloth. He fought me at first, but then he started to purr and come back for more, so I wrung the cloth out and repeated the process several times. I imagine that it may have felt to him like his original cat-mother was licking his head. It was a win-win situation for us:  his ear looked better, he was happy, and now, I think I know how a mother cat feels - minus the fur-balls catching in my throat.


Elizabeth said...

Your superlative qualities are never-ending, apparently! You are also a supreme mama to cats!

And I love the photo of Katie reaching toward the cat -- so sweet.

Mary Potts said...

I have tears running down my cheeks as I look at the picture of Katie in bed with Latte and read your words about their relationship with her. Of course she didn't get the cold shoulder! They knew. Oh how that brings back memories of my own. Thank God for our wonderful pets and for caring neighbors and friends.

Jim said...

What beautiful cats Karen! Isn't it great when they become a part of the family too.
I keep telling myself that it is time to have another cat here...it's been 5 years since Rita our cat passed on. She was 17 years old and a really eccentric cat as well. Just maybe, to celebrate the coming of spring, i will.....

Kay said...

The connection between the kitties and your Katie is beautiful. So sweet seeing her reach out for a stroke of that soft fur. Very bittersweet for you, I'm sure.

OK..must laugh at the cat bath thing. Soo been there. I usually opt for taking to the vet sooner rather than later cuz I want her to hurry up and get over it (and stop making whatever the mess is). So kudos to you for holding out and keeping her ear clean. Hopefully your tender loving care will correct the problem and help her heal.

Have to laugh at the cute pic of them going at each other. I'm glad you've got them to laugh at and keep you company.

Maybe you should post a video of any further ventures into cat cleaning. I'm sure we'd all be amused. : )

Karen said...

Meoooowwww. You are a good cat mama. They obviously adore you all as much as you do them. I loved the line about Gandhi and Attila. Kind of like children that way.

Busy Bee Suz said...

As annoying as my cats can be, they are very intuitive too. I love this relationship/love they held with Katie...they were little nightingales.
They do have silly/different personalities. I will have to think hard about WHO my cats really are. {that could be fun?!}
I also find that cats are much more resilient in health issues...I am sure your whore bath and love will help that baby's ear!

rebecca said...

i love this, every word. years ago when my father was suffering from cancer, my then toddler son adrian and i moved back home to help my mother so we could have dad at home.
one day my son opened the back door and a wild cat flew in the house and took a nose dive under my parents bed. she knew there was much care taking going on in our home and proceeded to have her kittens. imagine!
my father had never really been around cats in his life, oh but the joy of my little son laying those kittens across my father's lap was priceless. he loved their softness, and constant purring. what a sight. sometimes adrian managed to have all five of them in little sleeping balls across my father's chest!

there were a few difficult days and nights towards the end that my father needed to be hospitalized. my son was too small to be allowed in to visit. but he managed to talk my mother into sneaking the quietest kitten in a basket and i have to tell you the stowed away cargo brought him true and certain joy!

thanks for sharing your cat stories and stirring the sweet memories of those tiny kittens and my dear father. you have graced my day.

deb colarossi said...

I loved this!
I have late in life horrible cat allergies... the asthma type, and remember my last cat Patches in high school. He was a forever friend , and so very intuitive.

Karla said...

So happy to hear of all the joy Latte and Liger have brought your family over the years. I hope the ear gets better soon.

KBL 2 ORD 2 SAN 2 LUV said...

How in the world did I miss this post!???? WTFudge!? It is not like me to miss a post about BELOVED BEASTS!

Inshallah (“God willing”) I will visit you one day. When I do, I will abscond with your babies in my pocket, because they are beyond adorable. I’ve got a separate pocket for my beloved Chumley, of course.

I didn’t realize Katie had become paralyzed. I’m sure I’d read it in your posts, but I don’t remember it. I love Latte even more for keeping in the company of his beloved sister.

When you cuddle and bathe your fur babies, you know your precious Katie’s hands were there once, doing the same. Her fingers combed through the very same fur you are now touching. It is too beautiful for thought and I’m beginning to cry.

Our little critters know more than we’ll ever imagine. It is one of my most fervent wishes that God will allow me insight into my dogs’ brains to see what they saw, and to know what they knew. It would be magical to know their thoughts and their language for a moment. Bless your little furry ones, and I hope the ear heals up well. Your cats have Le Life for sure!


Tracey Axnick said...

Years ago, before Husband and Kids, I was a BIG "cat person". In fact, I even have an oil painting of my 2 cats (Jasmine & Mortimer) that my mother commissioned an artist to do for me (back in college) that still hangs in my house. My cats were there through my courtship wtih Hubster, early marriage, kids, etc. Eventually the cats got old and both passed away when the kids were very young; the kids only have blurry memories of them, but I really did love having them, and have great memories. They are fabulous pets, and when a cat loves you, you KNOW it is something special. :)

Your Latte and Liger are gorgeous; and I loved seeing the pictures of them with Katie.