I can't believe that it is nearly a year since I posted on this blog. It just shows that blogging is not really for me!
I don't suppose I would have bothered again except that yesterday I had to have a cat put to sleep and today I need to write about her. If anyone reading this is bored and irritated by "pets" - I prefer the term "companion animals" myself because it more accurately describes the relationship - then stop reading now.
Poor little Fluffy was only 11 years old, which is not a great age for a domestic cat these days. She and her brother were feral kittens living in a summerhouse in the next village; the owner of the house didn't know what to do with them and eventually called the CPL, whom I used to foster for.
The two kittens were about 9 weeks old, not at all socialised to humans; and by that stage it is doubtful whether they ever will or not. They were little black longhairs, and that in itself is bad news if you're a feral cat, because grooming is so difficult when living rough. They had fleas, lice, eczema. I put them in the rescue pen in the garden of the house we had then and we just hoped that with patience and gentleness we would be able to tame them and find them a home.
Unfortunately it didn't work out like that. They were never offered the right home, and there were always a parade of needier cats who queue-jumped and became house pets. I wish now that I had been more pro-active in handling Fluffy. It wasn't really until a few years ago that we were able to brush her and control the eczema she was getting from a matted coat; and it was only last year, when they both caught a strain of flu from a local feral cat and had to be intensively medicated, that we really got on handling terms.
Yes, of course they were vaccinated! But there is more than one strain of flu, like in humans.
She hated to be picked up, and would not sit on a lap. We organized a routine where I would collect her each evening and put her on an armchair so I could give her a good brushing, back and sides, base of tail, neck and ruff, back legs, tummy. She loved that and sometimes would get up on the chair herself,and stand paws on the arm, waiting for the ritual.
Then on this Bank Holiday Monday (isn't it always!) I found her, in the early afternoon, on the floor by the chair all tangled up in her blanket. She used to like to sleep on a high shelf, and the blanket was for comfort. She couldn't stand, one leg was paralysed and the other too weak. But she didn't seem in pain or frightened; but I shall always remember the look of relief on her face when she saw me. "Oh, thank goodness you're here; you will help me."
Oh if only I could have. We rang the surgery and took Fluffy in to see the emergency vet. Who confirmed that she had some kind of spinal injury, but he couldn't say what, or how bad. He prescribed intravenous steroids to damp down the inflammatory reaction to the injury, and antibiotics in case it was an infection, and said all we could do was wait. Her bladder was very full, so he emptied that. That makes me think she must have been there for some hours, for the bladder to fill up. Maybe that was why she was trying to go out.
We came home and made an extra fuss of her brother. Apart from a week when he had been isolated with an infection, they had never been separated all their lives. I frantically read up what Christopher Reeve in his marvellous book Still Me says about spinal injuries. The trouble is, nearly everything that is written about these, on the net anyway, seems to be about broken necks.
The next morning a senior vet saw Fluffy and kindly rang me. He said he thought that she was deteriorating. I went into the surgery at lunchtime and they allowed me into the kennels where she was confined in a little cage. She had eaten and drunk but not used her litter tray. I gave her a thorough brushing and she purred her heart out, but she still didn't want me to pick her up. I noticed that she seemed more paralysed, now both legs and her tail were useless. After some argument, they agreed to continue treatment for another 24 hours to see if there was any return of function.
In the evening the vet who had first treated her rang us. He said that compared to how he had first seen her, she had got noticeably worse. We went again to the surgery and I agreed that the paralysis was spreading. He said, if she had been a young cat he would have recommended keeping her going for longer, in the hope of what he called "a miracle" - well, I have known two cats (not mine) who were in RTAs and paralysed in the hind quarters and who both recovered, but they were young.
But it looked as if the paralysis would creep upwards, and anyway he had had to empty her bladder for her again, this time using a needle and aspirating. We agreed that that could not continue.
She was still dopey from the bladder aspiration, so I don't think she felt any fear. She was by now used to having people pull her about. Just one little squeak as the euthanasia drug went in. It is so very quick.
And then she wasn't Fluffy any more, but just any little black cat. We brought her home and buried her in the garden as we have done with other animals over the years. We did leave the body near where her brother was waiting, just in case. I don't know if cats recognise death, but I am sure that they mourn the loss of a friend, so it may help if they don't have to wonder where the friend has gone.
Then I went to clear up. Now with most companion animals there are things to be put away when they die: toys, a favourite blanket, food and water bowls, leads, harnesses, whatever has been necessary. But with Fluffy, there was only the little wire brush that I had used on her coat, and that will go to be used on another cat. She had fluttered through our lives for eleven years like a ghost, a frail little black soft bundle, huge eyes in a pretty little face her most noticeable feature, a general air of "treat me with respect, or else!", and left not a trace behind.