Monday, January 11, 2010

A Cat's Tale

While my intent was to get my newest line of Gnomes photographed and listed this weekend, that didn't happen all because of my love for a cat.

Let me tell you about this cat. Her name is Miss Luna. The year was 2004, and I was living in my parents' house in Maryland. This wasn't a particularly cold December but, as all Decembers seem to go in Maryland, it had its cold days and nights.

Early in the month, we had started to see a little black kitten around the house. It was short-haired and all black, except for a little white chin and tiny white paws. And it was a tiny kitten. I felt bad for it and so started to leave food on the porch for it. We already had a cat, a large calico named Callie, so leaving food wasn't too hard. They were forecasting snow on the second weekend, and I was concerned for the kitten. I opened the garage door a few inches and set it so I could hit the button and close the door. I moved the food into the garage, and gradually moved it farther and farther in. During the week, I saw the cat in there, but it ran out before I hit the button. Another time, I hit the button, but the door bounced back open and the cat escaped. It was the evening of Thursday, the 9th, when my mother called while I was driving home from work to say she had successfully caught the kitten! I went into the garage to check on her, and she climbed up the door and sat on the track to get away from me. This was not the same kitten I had seen! This one was long-haired, and had a white crescent shape on her nose.

We caught her and caged her and took her to the doctor on Saturday morning. She was so little; at a glance she appeared to be six weeks old. Judging by her teeth, the doctor announced that she was really at least six months old! My main concern was if she had any kind of disease that she would pass on to Callie if we kept her. The doctor gave her a clean bill of health.

Over the next months, I worked with her. She was feral through and through. She hissed and bit and scratched. While she did meow, the sound that came out of her throat was a kind of whispered "ack." I held her with thick leather gloves as mom cleaned her litter box. We kept her in an unused closet for a couple weeks. I held her and played with her several times a day. Next, we let her out into the unused bedroom for a few weeks, and I still held her and played with her every day. Many experts say there comes a point where you simply cannot tame a wild cat, and most of them say Miss Luna was past that point in age. But I worked with her daily, several times a day. I worked up to the point where I didn't need gloves. She found her meow and her purr. Eventually, we let her into the house, where she was perfectly content to stay, to play with Callie (much to Callie's annoyance) and to get into all sorts of mischief.

I could talk for quite some time about Miss Luna's life in the house and the unbelievably cute things she did. She grew into a very sweet cat. She was still very small, the most petite cat I've ever owned, and her tail had a little crook in it, probably from a break in her youth, the doctor said. As for the black cat with the white chin that I had first seen? He lived as a neighborhood stray for a couple years, but met his untimely end in a battle with a car on the main neighborhood road. I must remind myself that I can't save them all.

Fast forward to 2008. That March, our regular veterinarian retired shortly after diagnosing Callie with diabetes. Callie was in a dreadful state; she had lost much of her energy and was no longer using the litter box. For that reason, I couldn't take her with me when I moved into a condo at the end of May. I could, however, make her life a little easier by taking Miss Luna with me. I needed one of my girls, after all. It was a couple weeks after moving in that I brought Miss Luna over. My roommate had two cats already and I wanted all of us to get settled before putting Miss Luna in a new environment. She adjusted fairly well, but the other cats (who are much bigger than my little gal) tormented her frequently.

After a time, she started sleeping on the bed with me at night. This was something she never did at the house, mostly because Callie claimed my bed. Miss Luna spends her time near me. If I'm working at my desk, she's snoozing on the bed behind me. If I'm in the living room, she's on one of the chairs nearby. If I get up to get some water or hunt for a certain color of yarn and take too long, she'll come looking for me. I've gotten rather used to this.

This past November, my roommates brought a kitten into our home. She was eight weeks old, mostly blind, and had fleas. There is a story about this kitten all its own, but the short of it is that the cause of her blindness is Feline Herpesvirus, which is incurable and, while there is a vaccine, it will not prevent the other cats from getting it if they are exposed. I did not know of this kitten's condition when I agreed to my roommates taking her in. I told them to be sure she didn't have anything that she could pass to the other cats, they assured me she didn't. They were wrong, but by the time we all realized that, the damage had been done. My roommate now thinks taking Aura in was a mistake, not Aura's fault of course, nor mine.

Three weeks ago or so, Dréa (one of my roommate's cats) developed a fever. Blood tests did not show she was fighting an infection. The doctor could not explain the fever at all. Dréa got some antibiotics and the fever cleared up in 24 hours.

On January 3rd, I came home from an extended weekend with my parents (I had also spent the previous weekend with them). Miss Luna was not begging for food as she normally did. I put it down for her anyway, and she ate maybe half of it. I asked my roommates if they noticed anything wrong, and they said they had not. That told me she was mad at me for being away. If you've ever owned cats, you'd know this was highly likely. In truth, I wanted to take her with me for the weekend but, since we don't know what adopting Aura may have exposed her too, I couldn't risk spreading that further by exposing Callie (who has enough problems with her diabetes).

As the week progressed, Miss Luna was still not quite acting herself, but she seemed to be improving. And then she seemed to not be improving. I'm used to her begging for every meal and waking me up if I sleep too late (I feed her at the same time every morning, even on weekends when I don't have to go to work). On Saturday, I slept right through my 5:30 alarm and didn't wake up until 10 or so. Miss Luna did not attempt to wake me, which she usually does around 6:30 or 7 if I oversleep. I put food in her bowl and she ate about half of it, which she normally inhales every last kibble, and climbed back on my bed for more sleep. I went about my day. I didn't feed her lunch, because she still had half of breakfast in the bowl. When I came home around 7 in the evening, about half of that was gone. But, there was still food from breakfast!

It's hard to describe what I noticed here. She had flopped onto the floor and was breathing loudly. Her right hind leg seemed to have been causing her pain, as she didn't put any weight on it after I picked her up and set her down. I carried her into the living room so she would be nearby as I worked on something. She rolled onto her side and covered her eyes with her paw, like the light was hurting her, and it was shaking. She then stood up, arched her back like she was stretching, jumped off the chair, and sprawled onto the floor. She picked herself up and, still with the arched back with her back feet turned inward, walked gingerly across the floor to the carpet. That was enough for me. I called the emergency clinic and they told me to bring her in.

My roommate came with me, after giving her completely non-professional assessment that she didn't think my cat needed a doctor. They admitted Miss Luna right away. They found she was moving fine, but took some x-rays and discovered she had an enlarged heart. This makes giving antibiotics and fluids via IV difficult. They drew some blood and started some tests to try to find out what was wrong. They reported that she had a fever of 105.1 and started an antibiotic. We went home around 10:30. Without my cat, who needed to stay for treatment and tests.

They ordered tests for bacteria and parasites, and found through blood work that she was anemic and needed a different antibiotic. Some time in the night, she was showing difficulty breathing and they stopped the IV. It was a very very hard night spent without her.

In the morning, I discussed with the doctor the possibility of taking her home. He wanted to consult with the day-time doctor and give her a chance to further stabilize. At 5:00 in the evening, they let me come and get her. She has a suspension antibiotic (that really must taste awful to a cat), as she still had a slight fever. I have to follow-up with the regular vet to check her red blood cell level and the progress of the anemia. I have to follow-up with a cardiologist to check for heart disease. I am still waiting to hear about the tests that were sent out to the lab.

After all of this, they don't know what caused the problem, and it seems like everything that they found may have contributed in some way to the symptoms she was experiencing, all independent of each other. Was it exposure to Feline Herpesvirus? Something that Aura may have had that was transmitted through fleas? A fluke that an indoor-only cat would catch something infectious at all? A virus that has to work its way through all our cats before we're rid of it? Hopefully the tests will yield some answers.

Now, I am faced with a high vet bill that I have no idea how I'm going to pay off, and it's not over yet. I still have two follow-ups of more tests at least. My dreams of moving out of this rented condo into a purchased house when our lease is up in May are gone. My boyfriend and I were planning a trip to Miami in the spring, which I had to cancel.

On the bright side, Miss Luna is doing better. She was begging for her meals again. She was a little jumpy, and I'm still trying to keep her quiet and calm. It has only been one night since I brought her home, but she is doing better.

Now and for the foreseeable future, all purchases in my Etsy shop will go towards paying for Miss Luna's hospital care. We would be so grateful if you could please find it in your heart to help a cat by buying a Gnome. Thank you.


  1. What a great story - I sure hope Miss Luna gets better. Cats have a way of becoming so important in ones life!

  2. Oh, that is so true! She has her first follow up on Thursday. I hope she doesn't hate me. I know she's mad enough at me for shoving that cherry flavored medicine down her throat (yes, cherry flavored, I'm not kidding. Best to not ask how I know. They couldn't come up with something more cat-friendly?!).

    But she is doing so much better. I'm so relieved, and so happy to have her home. At this point, I wish I could take some time off of the day-job to spend with her!

    Thank you for your hopes!