Monday, June 22, 2009

The cat who ruled my roost

I read this article on The Sunday Times, 21 Jun 09. It is an article about a cat's life, reprinted from the Los Angeles Times. I quite enjoyed reading it, the charmed life of this cat which had probably enriched the life of the author and his family. There is no doubt the cat was loved by the family and memories of it will forever be etched in the family's memories.

By Jerry Zezima

“Connecticut – No man who has a cat can ever claim to be king of his castle. No man who has a wife and children can ever make that claim, either, but that’s another story.

I found this out in 1989, when my wife, Sue, and I moved with our young daughters, Katie and Lauren, from an apartment to a condominium in Stamford, Connecticut.

The girls, who longed for a “real pet”, had grown tired of goldfish whose life expectancy was approximately as long as the Super Bowl half-time show.

They wanted something that could return their affection, that had some semblance of intelligence, that would respond to their every command. True, they already had me. Bu they wanted more; they wanted a cat.

So, on an overcast Saturday, we went to the Humane Society and saw lots of cats of every conceivable make and model. Asking not one child but two children, ages nine and seven, to pick out the pet of their dream borders on cruelty, not necessarily to the children, who would gladly devote their lives to such an endeavour, or to the cat, but most definitely to the parents.

Ultimately, the decision was in my hands. Or, more accurately, on my feet. That’s because one little kitten, a black-and-white cutie of almost unimaginable softness, climbed out of her box, scampered over to me and began to rub up against my size 11 sneakers. When I picked her up, she snuggled against my cotton shirt and purred contentedly.

It would be years before she showed me such affection again.

Of course, I wouldn’t have known that. But it was late, the girls were hopelessly confused and I was hooked, so I announced: “This is the one.”

Katie named her Ramona, after Ramona Quimby, the title character in a series of books by children’s author Beverly Cleary. It was a monumental misnomer: Ramona, the fictional eight-year-old girl, was charming, lively and smart; Ramona, the real-life eight-week-old cat, was grumpy, boring and stupid.

But the girls were happy. Sue and I were, too, because, for all her mental deficiencies, Ramona quickly learnt how to use the litter box. I like to think she followed my example because, of course, O already was house-broken.

Ramona’s cushy lifestyle as a pampered princess who rarely deigned to associate with commoners ended in 1995 with the arrival of the newest member of the family, a puppy named Lizzie.

Sensing competition, Ramona finally began warming up to us.

Her miraculous transformation into an affectionate sweetheart continued in 1998, when we moved to Long Island, New York, and got another cat, Kitty, who then had her own kitties, Bernice and Henry, all of whom ignored Ramona, who was only too happy to reciprocate and focus her attention on us.

Just before her Sweet 16th birthday party, Ramona began emitting a series of loud, strange, agonizing cries that sounded a lot like me when I get out of bed in the morning. Sue didn’t help matters when she shook her head sadly and said, “It’s her time.”

I rushed to Jefferson Animal Hospital with Ramona, who sat calmly as Dr Jeff Rose checked her teeth and, at the other end, took her temperature. Then he listened to her heart and began feeling her stomach. “Have you watched her when she uses the litter box?” he asked.

“I don’t make a habit of it,” I replied. “Why?”

“Because,” Dr Rose announced, “she’s constipated.”

“You mean I worried myself sick over this stupid animal, thinking she was at death’s door, and the only thing wrong with her is that she can’t have a bowel movement?” I asked incredulously.

“I’m afraid so,” said Dr Rose.

The bill: US$165.10. The prescription: a stool softener.

Our first “real pet” enjoyed good health for four more years, until about three weeks ago, just a few days before the end. She was two months shy of her 20th birthday.

For two decade, Ramona had us all wrapped around her little paw.

She lived on her own terms and was loved unconditionally.

I guess she was pretty smart after all.”

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Sunday, June 14, 2009

It's been 365 days already

Last time this year, we brought Xin Xin to the vet as she was refusing food and was lethargic. We expected her to just have a simple flu or something similar but instead, the vet told us she had acute renal failure and had to be hospitalised immediately.

The next 10 days were a blur and an emotional roller coaster for us as she was subjected to blood tests, injections and IV drip. Her condition went from bad to worse as she was further diagnosed with cardiomyopathy (heart disease) and the general feeling was that she would not make it.

We spent at least 4 hours a day at the vet with her. Forcing her to eat, singing to her, coaxing her to pee and poop, and generally just be by her side. It was only on the 10th day the vet allowed her to take her home, perhaps feeling that there was not much they could do for her.

She was very weak when she reached home. She was refusing food but needed the nourishment badly. She had to be medicated 3 times a day. I cannot remember how we passed those 2 months after that but it was the Wife waking up extra early in the morning, trying to syringe feed her while I will rush home during lunch to do the same thing. There was no OT for us during that time. When it strikes 6pm, we would rush home to begin the whole process again. Office work had to wait till 9 or 10pm before we would actually settle down for a breather. The worst was actually injecting her everyday to combat her dehydration.

Xin Xin was a fighter though. Time was not up for her. She fought a good fight; she put on weight; she began drinking herself; she started fighting with the gang again.

One year from then, she does not seem to be that sick cat anymore. Not for the past 9 months. She passed her quarterly vet examinations except that her heart is still beating at 180bpm compared to a regular 140bpm.

Everyday now is a routine.7am will be 60 kibbles of renal food gobbled up in 10 min. Then she will lounged around waiting to be stroked while we feed the rest and prepare breakfast. At around 7.50am, she will voluntarily stroll into the kitchen and sit there while I wash the breakfast plates. She knows it's time for her morning pilling. So kitchen door closed and in 2 minutes or less, either the Wife or myself would have succeeded pilling her 7 pills. And finally, the magic tuna and tuna water for her as her reward for being so cooperative.

Back home before 9pm, she will gobble up another 60 kibbles of renal food and then another round of pilling. But no tuna or tuna water this time. She does not really mind if we substitute it with some time devoted to stroking her or playing with her on the bed.

So for the past 9 months, it has been like this day after day. We have all fallen into a routine. No more overseas holiday for us since then as one of us has to be home on any day to feed and pill her.

I wish for many of such days. At least for another 10 years.

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