Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Happy cat blogging!

OK, time for a success story: The orange cat is named Romeo. He and the gray kitty both came to my house on the same day back in January. After that first day, the gray kitty went back to his original home, I guess, and I didn't see him again for a while. He reappeared in late February or early March and graced me with his sweet presence until yesterday.

Anyway, back in January, I was inside one Saturday morning and heard Rocky yowling his little head off. Rocky was sitting at the door that opens onto the deck and staring intently outside. I went over to look and there was a beautiful little gray kitten out there. I went outside to pet it; it ran off a short distance, but then stopped and rolled over and let me come up and rub its tummy while it purred like mad. It was the gray kitty in the post below. It was, I guessed, about 3 or 4 months old then.

When I stood up from playing with this kitten, I saw a big orange cat squeezing under the fence that separates my place from the crab man's house. The big orange cat strolled confidently right over to me and started rubbing on my legs. I petted it for few minutes, then went back inside.

An hour or so later I looked out the front door and the big orange cat was sitting on the front porch, staring in the house. I went outside and tried to gently shoo it away.

The cat hissed at me! "Hey, who do you think you are?" I said. "This is MY house."

The cat stayed on the porch all evening. When I opened the door Sunday morning, there it was. Staring at me with big green eyes. It was there all day Sunday, and Monday morning when I went to work, the cat was still on the porch.

"Look, I am not going to feed you," I told it. "You can just forget about that. What kind of sucker do you take me for?"

Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, the cat was on my front porch. It was there when I went to work and there when I got home.

"I am telling you, I am not going to feed you," I said. "Go home! Go to your own house and eat! Don't your own people have food? Stop looking at me like that!"

The cat's fur was coming out in great tufts. After a couple of days my welcome mat was coated with orange fur. Most of the fur was coming off the cat's hind end. The cat had longish hair, with a ruff around the neck, and a rather large head. Its skin was lumpy, and it had little sores and scabs here and there on the bare parts. A very bedraggled creature. Still, it carried itself with dignity. With the skinny, hairless back end and the big furry head and chest it looked kind of like a little lion.

The following Saturday, the cat was still there. It seemed to have gotten skinnier since it had started hanging around my house. As far as I could tell, it had been camping on my front porch or under my bushes day and night; it hadn't been going anywhere else to eat. I wimped out and fed it. It gobbled the food up as if it had been starving for, like, a week.

So I started feeding it morning and evening, and putting water out for it.

The cat looked like a male, but it didn't have any . . . well, you know . . . so I wasn't sure. One day I saw the crab man's daughter outside and asked her if the big orange cat belonged to them.

"Oh, that's Romeo," she said. "He's the one that started it all. That's why we have all these cats. I hope he's not bothering you."

"No, no, he's fine," I said. "I like him."

I wasn't sure if she meant that Romeo was the daddy of the dozen or so cats that hung around the crab man's place or if he was just the first cat they owned. Anyway, I started looking at him as sort of a feline patriarch after that, albeit one who had his . . . well, you know . . . cut off.

I took Romeo to the vet to get vaccinated and to have his skin condition checked out. I didn't ask the crab man first. I figured that the cat probably hadn't had his shots, even though someone had taken the trouble to get him fixed. The vet told me it wouldn't hurt him to be vaccinated more than once, on the off chance that someone had already taken care of that.

Romeo tested positive for FIV. When the vet told me that I blurted, "Well, I'm not gonna have him put down!" That wouldn't be necessary, the vet said, cats with FIV can live long lives. But the virus could be transmitted to other cats via a deep bite, so there would be some risk to other cats. The vet said it was fairly common in strays, ferals, and cats who live outdoors.

The vet estimated Romeo's age to be 11 or 12. His skin condition was probably from flea allergies. Otherwise, he seemed to be in pretty good shape.

Early in March I put my hand on his right flank when I was putting his food down and noticed that it felt slightly hardened in the area of his right rear leg. It didn't seem to bother him, though, and I didn't think much of it.

A week or so later, I noticed that he had a lump under the skin near the right rear leg. Still, he gave no sign that he was in any discomfort, and he was just an outside cat, not even technically mine, and I had already spent well $100.00 on him so I figured the lump had better just go away because what did I look like, some kind of cat rescue mission?

A few days later the lump was the size of a golf ball, and so I loaded him up and took him back to the vet. A different vet saw him, and she thought maybe it was cancer. So there I was wondering if I was going to have to finance chemofreakintherapy, for a stray cat! That was not my cat!

A few days later, the test came back negative for cancer. Phew. I went to the vet to pick up the antibiotics they'd prescribed. This was a Saturday morning, again.

When I got home, I went to pick Romeo up to put him on my lap and give him the first pill, and felt a big wet spot on his fur. When I inspected him I saw that the lump was now oozing reddish fluid. Ick. I called the vet to see what I should do, and they said bring him in. So I did.

A few hours and hundred dollars later the vet told me Romeo had a very deep and messy abcess that they'd misdiagnosed the first time. Romeo wasn't running a fever and didn't seem overtly sickly, which I thought was a good thing, but the vet said that was actually a bad sign - his immune system was compromised because of the FIV, and it wasn't fighting off the infection.

The vet prescribed an intensive regimen of antibiotics, and I installed the cat in a spare bedroom for the next couple of weeks in hopes of keeping the abcess from getting worse and so that I could medicate him and keep an eye on him. After two weeks, the swelling was down and the wound was healed. And Romeo's skin was smooth and his fur was coming back in . . . he looked downright glossy. The vet gave him a clean bill of health.

At that point I would have been happy to let him live inside, but Romeo clearly was ready to go back outside and be Lord of the Porch. So I let him, and he's out there now. He looks good and seems content, and I just hope he stays that way for a long time.

Now, my friend Anntichrist is trying to raise money for a spay/neuter organization in Louisiana. All you have to do is take a poll (and Annti's raising money too, if you're so inclined). If you like cats, go check it out. Go check it out even if you can't stand cats . . . if you don't like them, you ought to give double to a spay/neuter group!


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