Two years on

It’s two years to the day since I had to say goodbye to the last of my kitties, Her Royal Furryness, Cassie. I didn’t think it would be this long and that I still wouldn’t have taken in a new cat or two. Since I lost her while dad was very ill and waiting on his operation I couldn’t even think about that, and when that went so badly and the short hospital stay turned into months, then months more helping him recuperate (thankfully all of that time was rewarded, I am glad to say) of course I couldn’t think about visiting the shelters to see about giving another cat a home, then for the last year once things were better on that front the financial front just got increasingly bad, going from strained, to bad to downright desperate, through no fault of my own. Finally, very, very slowly recovering from that but still too tight to think about added expenses that come with looking after animals. I lost Pandora, then Dizzy, and then only a year and a half later, Cassie, and it has been emotionally quiet hard, especially after so much stress and strain (amazing how much our furry friends help our state of mind and emotions, even in the hard times) and I still find it odd living in a home with no cats ruling the roost, and really didn’t think I’d have to wait this long. Galling not to be able to just do it, especially knowing the rescue shelters are full of animals who desperately need a new home, and I need some to make my flat back into a home.

Of course, part of me feels ambivalent about it, because even when I do bring new cats home – and I will, eventually – they won’t be my girls. It took years – a lifetime – for us to bond the way we did, I knew all of their little character foibles (and they are so individual) and equally they knew all of mine, we meshed, they had me trained, Cassie especially could tell me with one mieow and a little look or gesture what she wanted, they could tell what I was up to, like seeing me go to brush my teeth at night meant bedtime coming and they’d relocate themselves to the bedroom, making themselves comfortable and waiting for me to come through. And of course different kitties will behave differently – not only does it take time to bond and get used to each other, it will never be the same because the new cats will have their own personalities, they won’t be the girls, they will be themselves. But I also know when I can go to the rescue shelters and I see some of them I will forget the differences and melt and it wouldn’t take long for them to adapt to their new home and train me to their liking, as cats are wont to do. We’ll just have to see, it certainly won’t be this year, sadly, have decided I won’t actively look for new kitties till next year at least, if someone I knew locally had one needing rehomed or their cat was having a litter and they needed homes for the kittens I’d maybe do it earlier, but I won’t actively go looking for a good while yet.

Meanwhile I just miss having my lovely girls bringing the flat to life and making it feel like an actual home rather than just a place I live.

A year since cookie cat…

Today marks a full year since I lost the last of my furry girls, my darling old puss Cassie, after sixteen and a bit years, and a very sudden decline. She had given me a health scare earlier last year, ominously on the first anniversary of the date we lost her wonderful sister Pandora on, but we got lucky and she recovered to become even bouncier than before, until last autumn, when I noticed she was a little slower a couple of evenings, then when curled up next to me at night, I noticed her purring sounded wrong, a bit too nasal, which worried me, especially as this was a precursor to her previous health scare. I booked an appointment at the vet, but on the day I was to take her in she was okay if sounding a little bronchial in the morning but a little later the same day she suddenly declined, breathing hard to try and get air. The vet took her in right away and tried various approaches, but they weren’t working, and at her age the breathing problems were having knock-on effects on the rest of her body, and I had to make the decision to let her go so she wouldn’t suffer. I went from being a little concerned that morning but thinking another shot of the treatment she had six months previously would sort her out again, to realising she was dying and I was losing her.

Cassie on bed

Having lost Pandora then darling Dizzy the year before it was shattering to consider being without her. The vet let me stay with her until she was gone, then my friend brought me home, a home, for the first time empty except for me. The girls were only a couple of years old when I bought this place, so I’ve never lived here without them. The sight of their food bowls and toys had me in tears and the horrible emptiness of the flat was terribly upsetting; lying in bed that night I kept waiting for the quiet pad-pad-pad of cat paws on the wooden floorboards sneaking through, then that little pause of silence as she readied herself to leap up in the dark onto the bed, then over, nose in my face, a mieow, then settle down, curling up against me to go to snooze while getting her tummy tickled, purring us both to sleep. Of course it didn’t happen, and of course she wasn’t snuggled up contentedly with me next morning when I woke up, and the thought that this would never happen again was heart-breaking. Coming home from work that day was awful, because I knew I was going to come in to an empty home. In fact it simply stopped feeling like home without the girls.

Cassie on the sofa

That this happened during dad’s illness, while we were awaiting his serious operation, just made it all worse. When we lost mum so shockingly suddenly the kitties were wonderful for keeping my morale up, especially on those nights where it all became too overwhelming. And then just weeks later dad’s operation, and it not going well, those weeks and weeks in intensive care, weeks before I could even hear my dad speak again even if faintly, constantly travelling for hours back and forth to hospital, the bleak December, what would have been mum’s birthday came and went as dad was desperately ill in hospital, Christmas day after visiting him in hospital I sat at the family home, utterly empty for the first time I can remember on that day, alone and more depressed and strained and stressed than I have ever been until my lift back to Edinburgh came, and then it was back to an equally empty flat, not even my furry girl to demand attention and cheer me up; it just made it all so much harder to bear. Amazing the effect on our mental state and morale our furry friends can have. I couldn’t even consider visiting the rescue shelter to see about another kitty while I was worried about dad and then having to move back home to look after him when he finally got out after a long, long, dark couple of months. Christmas, New Year and my birthday all went past without registering or happening for me.

Sleepy Cassie 3

Now dad is much better and I find myself starting to think about it again, but after years of being on tight income coupled with too many bills for travelling back and forth last year and the unexpected vet bills of the previous couple of years I simply can’t at the moment, if I took in a cat just now and she needed treatment I would be too stretched. One more impulsive friend tells me to stop hesitating and just do it, but I think that’s very irresponsible, no matter how much I may want to, I take looking after an animal seriously. Part of me is still emotionally unsure about new cats though – what I really want are my girls, but of course I can’t have that ever again. But I know that when I am at the animal shelter it will be just like all those years ago when I first went there before they gave me the girls – two tiny, ten week old kittens – and of course I melted at all the cats there, lots of them in the open play area were coming up to me for attention and I wished I could take them all away and give them a home. So I know although emotionally I’m still a bit unsure I also know that if and when I take in other cats it will help me move on. And it’s no bad thing to give some animals a home. Although as I once said on here before, when you take in a rescue animal from the shelter you don’t exactly give them a home – they make a home with you. They give it warmth and life and make a place you live in into an actual home. I’m not sure when I will be able to take new cats in, but just days before Cassie fell ill I had picked up a spare bag of cat litter. I still have it, unopened. The nice lady in my local pet store kindly offered to take it back as it hadn’t been used before I suddenly lost Cassie, but I decided to keep it tucked away to remind myself that no matter when it is, I will have other kitties at some point.

sleepy puss

Hard to believe that’s a whole year since Cassie left though, a whole year, the first year I haven’t had cats to look after in a long number of years, and it still feels wrong. Funny how such a small creature can have such a huge impact on your life. Goodnight you demanding furry queen of my heart, with your ever present demands for attention offset with warm cuddles and purrs and oh, that astonishingly soft fur. And that strange taste you developed for cookies and cakes. I had some cake just last week and found myself turning around still half expecting Cassie to be sitting in the kitchen doorway observing me, licking her lips and doing the big-eyes thing, waiting to claim a piece for herself. She could be asleep on the bed two rooms away and yet magically if I made a cuppa and grabbed a cookie I would turn around and she would be right behind me looking at the plate, licking her lips, and if I came in with a bag from the wee patisserie nearby she went crazy. I don’t know how she developed this taste for cookies, cakes, croissants and all things baked, but she loved a little bit of it and it became a little ritual with the pair of us, one of those little habits that makes life run a little more nicely. I miss that too.

Goodnight, my furry queen

Cassie on the sofa

I’ve just lost my darling old girl, my furry queen of all she surveys, her royal furryness Queen Cassandra, better known simply as Cassie. It’s just over a year and a half since we lost her dear sister, the huge cuddlepuss Pandora, then a month later my precious petite puss Dizzy was taken away from us. And now with Cassie goes the last of my wonderful girls and I’m sitting here alone in a dreadfully, miserably empty, lifeless feeling flat. I’ve had the girls since they were tiny kittens from the rescue shelter, small enough to fit on the palm of your hand, mieowing in that high pitched kitten squeak for someone to give them a home, love, adoration and lots of tummy tickles.

Actually the first part of that statement isn’t really true; I didn’t exactly give those little kittens a home – they came with me and made my flat into a home. They brought life and warmth and purrs and fun and furring up my clothes and chasing balls of wool and attacking my shoelaces and jumping on my head in the morning when it was time for breakfast. They made it a warm, inviting, alive place that we shared. You never give an animal a home, an animal makes a home with you and enriches it so beautifully, simply and wonderfully. Giving an animal from a shelter a home isn’t just giving them a home, it isn’t just taking responsibility for looking after them, they look after you too and they enrich your soul as they do.

Cassie by fireside 1

And the girls made me so very happy, even though sometimes they drove me mad and delighted in doing that deliberately contrary cat behaviour thing. And these last four years… These last horrible, devastatingly hard four years since mum was ripped away suddenly from us… I’ve struggled, struggled a lot. You try to go on but there are times when you just wanted to curl up in a corner and not be part of the world anymore. And there were my girls, through all of those bloody awful, hard years. Warmth and the softest, softest fur against me, gentle purrs that you didn’t just hear but felt, vibrating right through you. The worst times suddenly felt that little bit more bearable. Hard as coping these last few years, losing mum, worrying about dad’s health, I had my girls helping me, soothing me. They didn’t make the bad things go away, but being curled up with purring kitties always helped a bit.

A few months ago, back in February, by horrible coincidence right on the first anniversary of the day I lost Pandora, Cassie gave me a big health scare, some horrid breathing sounds developed. We went to the vet, she was worried it might be a growth that some older cats get in their nasal passages and which can’t be treated save with very expensive surgery only available in the vet hospital, and it wasn’t recommended for a cat her age as she was unlikely to survive it. Only other chance was it some anti inflammatory drugs and steroids, but they might not work depending exactly what the problem was; fortunately within two days she was bouncing around happily again, fine.

Sleepy Cassie 4

Over this weekend I noticed she started to make those bronchial breathing noises again, just a little bit, not all the time. When having her tummy tickled she purred and it was lower and more nasal than it should be; I also noticed she seemed to be breathing a little harder and faster than usual, so I made an appointment for this afternoon. She seemed not too bad this morning when I went to work, but when I came home early to pick her up for the vet she was nowhere to be seen. Found her eventually hiding under the bed, very lethargic, picked her up, cuddled her, her breathing was much harsher now, lay her down on the sofa and her wee tongue was sticking out as she gasped in air, the colour not the healthy pink it should be, struggling to get in air and I realised with a shock how much she had deteriorated just since the morning, her situation had gone from something to be a little concerned about and needing a look from the vet to being seriously distressed; I started to think I was losing her. Mel drove us to the vet and despite a good long period of trying there really wasn’t much that could be done, X-rays showed that old age and the condition had taken their toll and even if we could help her through one bit something else was going to go wrong and she would be in distress all the time we tried. I had to let my little darling companion of sixteen years go gently to sleep.

my girls with their toys
(Cassie hiding behind her cat toy mat, with her wonderful sister Pandora on the right)

I’m devastated. The girls got me through the worst parts of my life. Now the flat is so damned empty. I came home, put away the empty pet travel box, saw her food and kitty milk bowls sitting, almost untouched since morning, she hadn’t really used them, and I didn’t want to clean them and put them away. In the end I emptied them, cleaned them then sat them back down on the kitchen floor; I’ll put them away and sort the litter tray and cat toys later, but not just now. I sat down and looked around and the flat felt wrong, just a place, not a proper home without the girls. And I looked at the cushion Cassie would always pull down to use as a pillow for her nap, expecting to see her looking back at me with that stop typing on the computer and come here and pay attention to me , the centre of the world look on her face. Except she wasn’t there. And she won’t be ever again, and that breaks my heart. As I type I keep expecting to see her watching me, or rubbing her head against my leg, or deciding to curl up and snooze on my foot. But she won’t, she’s not here anymore, just an echo now.

I sat there thinking only two hours ago you were here in our home and now you’re gone from me and how can that possibly be? And who will demand a share of biscuit or cake now my beloved Cookie Cat is gone? Where did you develop that taste for cake, biscuits, even croissants, you crazy cat? Your sister never did, just you. Oh how you went crazy if you saw me coming home with a bag from the patisserie! And how you could be sound asleep on the bed yet as I made a cuppa in the kitchen I would turn around to find you had appeared in utter silence, sitting in the doorway, regarding me as if to say oh, making a coffee, eh, going to be getting out some shortbread to dunk in there, I daresay – know who else likes shortbread? And as she watched she would actually licked her lips in anticipation. Quite how she knew what I was doing as she slept two rooms away I never knew, obviously just those superbly sharp feline senses, but I couldn’t get it past her.

pretty kitty and her shadow

Goodnight, my darling, soft-furred girl, you and your sister made me very, very happy and I will miss you terribly and I really don’t know how I now face more stress, more depressing times, more hard times, without your wonderful presences to keep me going. I’m heart broken without my girls, but for all the pain this causes me I will never regret having them in my life, because they were simply wonderful. Goodnight, queen of my heart, be with your dear, dear sister now.

Cassie home safe

After that frightening health scare with my darling old kitty Cassandra (normally known just as Cassie), I’m delighted to say she seems much improved. The vet thought it was one of two things, as I said in my previous post – one is a growth inside the nasal cavity which can’t even be checked properly much less dealt with without a specialist procedure available only at the vetinary hospital in town, very expensive and advised against by the vet on grounds of her age meaning even the anaesthetic could be too much for her. The other was an inflammation – vet was leaning towards it being a growth and gently letting me know if it was I might be better thinking of what was best for her, a gentle way of saying I might have to consider letting her be put to sleep. As this was almost a year to the day since we lost Cassie’s wonderful sister, my huge cuddlepuss Pandora, I was horrified at the thought I was about to lose her too. Since we couldn’t tell which condition it was we decided to try the meds first, see if she did any better in a few days and if so good, if not then back to considering the awful decision…

sleepy puss

Wednesday night and Thursday morning not much difference, by Thursday night breathing sounded much better, less of the disturbing noises, by Friday even better, back into vet yesterday morning and they were pleased with her progress too, so we’ve been lucky and home we came. Spent evening simply being happy having my gorgeous wee old girl snuggled up next to me, purring away, having her furry tummy tickled, eating well (apparently the meds have a side effect of boosting appetite for a few days), then she jumped up onto the bed at night and curled up on top of me and purred me to sleep and I simply felt relieved and happy to have her there. She is getting on and I’m not fooling myself that some day I won’t have her there just as I no longer have Pandora, and that will be awful – I bought this place when the girls were very young and so I’ve had them for as long (longer) than I have lived in my own place, they are part of what makes a flat into a home and it already feels unbalanced without Pandora, without Cass it would feel so empty and lifeless. But not thinking about that now, right now I have my girl feeling better and demanding I give Her Royal Furryness lots of attention, tummy tickles, chin scratches and adoration (and kitty milk and some sliced ham too, please). And right now that’s enough to make me feel happy.