Paws in Water

It’s not often that I see a cat with its paws in the water.

Drink

Paws in Water

Maybe it thinks it’s a raccoon?

My boss commented that strays must be desperate for water. The huge downpour last night ended a long dry spell, but I took these pix yesterday morning, well before it rained. This is not a bayou — it’s a large street puddle. How could there be a large street puddle in the midst of a dry spell? I’m not certain, but I imagine it has something to do with our raggedy infrastructure. There’s probably a leaky main under this street.
Continue reading Paws in Water

Requiem for a Cat

We adopted Archer back in 2002, I think, when we were living uptown. Actually we didn’t so much adopt her as take over feeding her when some guys down the street abandoned her. I’m not sure how old she was at that time, but she was already full grown.

When we bought our house in Mid-City she came with us, but remained an outdoor cat. She lived in various places, but her favorite seemed to be in the attic of the house next door.

Other strays came and went but Archer hung around. We even took her up to Indiana when we evacuated. She was never particularly friendly with me. She and Xy shared more of bond, but as a rule she preferred to keep her distance from people. She gobbled down her food with the nervous air of an animal that doesn’t know where it will get its next meal. She packed on a few pounds.

Here are some pictures of Archer which I took over the years.

Sleepy Archer

Archer on Craig's Roof

Archer's Got a Mouse

Down & Out in the Morning

Archer Jumps

Thanksgiving Archer

Archer

Come and Lay on My Rug!

When we moved to our new house, Archer came inside for a while. She never fully adjusted to domestic life, though. For example, every night she pooped on a certain rug rather than the litter box.

Then, a month or two ago, Xy took her outside and she bolted. We’d catch glimpses of her every now and then on the perimeter of our property. But she seemed intent on staying outdoors.

On Friday, the same day Nicky died, Archer turned back up. Xy found her lying in the sun, covered with fleas. She took her in, cleaned her up, and began squirting water down her throat. But it seemed clear she would not be long for this world.

Last night, Xy slept on the couch with her, and some time in the wee hours of the morning Archer passed away in her arms.

She will be missed.

Bye Bye Folds

Bye Folds

Folds seemed to be doing better immediately after her surgery. But a week or so later she took a turn for the worse. She was lethargic. Then she got more lethargic. She couldn’t make it to the litter box. She didn’t have the strength to eat. She could barely take a drink of water. She was losing weight almost before our eyes.

We took her back to the vet. They gave her fluids intravenously for a couple days but she didn’t really improve much. It seems her kidneys were giving out. I guess this might have been triggered by the surgery. In any event, when I talked to the vet today he made the point that if she was a human being she’d be getting dialysis and would be on the list for a kidney transplant. But since she’s a cat such treatment options don’t exist.

I expressed concern about her suffering and asked if he recommended euthanasia. He said yes.

After I hung up the phone, I thought to myself: This is surely the right thing to do, and I don’t even like this cat, so why am I crying?

So I went there, signed the necessary papers, and then got to hang out with Folds for a while while the doctor treated another patient. She was in a truly pathetic state, skinny as a rail, and unable to stand erect.

I wondered, of course, if I was doing the right thing. I wondered if I should consult with Xy first. She loved Folds more than me. I figured she might appreciate me dealing with this, but then again maybe she’d want to say goodbye? I remembered how she had cradled Folds in her arms for a good hour or more Wednesday night. So I figured she’d said her goodbyes already. Maybe she sensed what was coming.

I stroked Folds’ head. She tried to nuzzle my hand but she hardly had the strength.

When the doctor came in at last he was very apologetic that it had come to this, and he took pains to emphasize that this was the humane course of action, as she wouldn’t have much quality of life going forward.

Then he shaved her foreleg, found her vein which was shrunken due to anemia caused by her kidney failure, and he injected her with a fatal dose of some barbiturate. I thought I might look in her eyes and see if I could tell the moment of her passing, but she turned her head away slightly, and the drug acted so fast she was dead before the doctor withdrew the needle.

So then I gave the doctor a hug, got on my bike, and rode away to pick up my daughter.

Post Script: This makes six cats we’ve lost in nine years. And yet only the third confirmed death. (The other three cats just disappeared. In some ways that’s more difficult.) I believe this is the closest I’ve ever been to any actual death. I mean I’ve swatted bugs but that doesn’t seem the same.

Cat Problems

Folds

Our cat Folds is going under the knife today. I feel ambivalent about this. The idea of cat surgery seems sort of ridiculous to me. How did we get to this point? Folds was living in the shed behind our previous house when we purchased it in 2002. She moved into our house in 2003. I evicted her in 2004 but she wormed her way back into the house later that year. We took her with us when we evacuated for Katrina; she disappeared for a month, hiding underneath my in-laws’ house. Her health has never been the same since. The vet says she has a hyperactive thyroid, so we started giving her methimazole in larger and larger doses. It seemed to help somewhat, but she’s hardly the picture of health and happiness. The vet eventually suggested surgery to remove one of her thyroid glands. I was surprised to calculate the cost of surgery to be equal to just about half a year’s worth of medication. From a strictly financial perspective, then, it would seem to make sense, assuming she lives another year. She must be at least ten years old. She looks about one hundred. (The photo above was taken before her health declined.) Of course there is always the possibility she might not survive the procedure. That would be a great relief to me, actually. I don’t particularly like Folds. She gets in the way around the house, constantly sneaking underfoot, and she tracks litter everywhere, especially into our bed. She’s got a nasty disposition and doesn’t seem to particularly enjoy being alive. Yet she seems so pathetic we can’t bring our selves to turn her out.

Indeed, our situation with all three of our cats raises ethical questions I have difficulty in resolving. What exactly is our obligation to Folds, and our two other cats? I don’t feel that we adopted any of them, exactly. It seems more like they adopted us. They were all volunteers. Archer, for example, was abandoned by her owners down the street back when we were living uptown. We started feeding her, and took her with us when we moved, and she’s been with us ever since. I don’t feel an obligation to care for every stray cat that comes down the street; that would be a full-time job. But at some point Folds and Archer and Crybaby crossed the line and became part of our household. At some point we felt obligated to care for them. It’s not a matter of personal attachment. I don’t care much for Archer, and I actively dislike Folds. Crybaby is OK, but to tell the truth I haven’t been able to love a cat since Lucy disappeared. Archer and Folds have not adapted well to life in our new house. Archer might be happier as an outdoor cat, but that raises other problems. Because these cats are old and have issues, I can’t imagine we’d find anyone who wants to adopt them. I couldn’t turn them out on the street. Euthanasia seems wrong. So in a sense I am waiting for them to die. It’s not really a good feeling.

Messy Morning

I woke to the sound of a cat vomiting. Then I discovered the girl’s diaper (Huggie’s Overnight) had sprung a leak and there was a sizable wet spot on the bed. I removed the diaper, which was pretty heavy with the volume of urine it had successfully contained. In the time it took me to fetch a clean diaper, she pooped on the floor and had left little droplets of fecal matter in her path as she pranced to the next room. After getting that cleaned up, I found a cat turd in the hallway. Well, I consoled myself, at least the vomit wasn’t much, just a thin bit of liquid under the bench at the foot of the bed. Or so I thought until I discovered a more substantial repository of vomitus on the stairs. Some of this nastiness had spilled over the edge of one step and dripped onto the futon couch below. And as luck would have it Xy had removed the futon cover the night before. Joy!

Milo

Our household has been diminished by one.

R.I.P. Milo

He doesn’t look sick, does he? But this is the last picture ever taken of Milo. He was lethargic and not eating much, so we took him into the vet just after this picture was taken. They confirmed he was having some serious issues, and kept him over the weekend for diagnostics. We were racking up a huge bill which was making us nervous. They had him on an IV and in a heated chamber because his temperature was dropping. This morning they called to tell us he’d expired. He was just two years old. A few weeks shy of two, I’d guess.

It’s hard to believe he’s gone. Seems like just yesterday he was a palm-sized kitten.

Milo

Seems like just yesterday we adopted him under strange and crazy circumstances.

He was a decent mouser. He had a penchant for nipping at us when he felt playful, but he could also be aggressively affectionate. He was the only other male under our roof. Milo is survived by Folds and Crybaby and Archer and various ferals, including his girlfriend Bronski. He will be missed.

But though it sounds cold to say it, I never let Milo too close to my heart, for reasons previously mentioned.


And so our run of bad feline luck continues. We’ve lost five cats over the nine years we’ve lived in New Orleans. I’m beginning to feel like there’s a curse.

[More pix of Milo.]

For the Love of a Cat

It’s been just over a year since Lucy disappeared. Somewhere along the way between then and now our hopes of ever seeing her gradually diminished until finally we have accepted that she is gone forever.

But I still miss her.

Lucy on the Front Porch

I find myself strangely unattached to the many cats in and around our house these days: Archer, Milo, Folds, Crybaby, not to mention the feral cat who just dropped a litter in our shed. They’re all nice in their own way, I suppose, but I don’t really care about them the way I did about Lucy.

Sometimes I think this is a defensive reaction, that I’m holding myself aloof to avoid getting hurt. We’ve lost too many cats in the past five years: Bilal, Van, Lucy, Biggs.

As sweet as they all were, none of them could compare to Lucy, and none of our current cats can hold a candle to her.

As an example of what made Lucy so special, consider this. Whenever I came back to the house, she always wanted to give me a kiss. She would jump up on a dresser or shelf and wouldn’t be satisfied until I had kissed her on the lips.

Missing Milo

Milo the Mouser

We haven’t seen Milo since I put him and Crybaby out of the bedroom this morning for making too much noise.

He missed breakfast and now he’s missing dinner.

I’ve got a bad feeling about this.

Update: He’s back. False alarm. But obviously my characteristic easy-going optimism is slipping. Still, I couldn’t be happier. This calls for a drink.

Feline Trouble

Biggs disappeared sometime around the New Year. He had an infected cut behind his ear. Xy treated it with peroxide, but we fear the worst.

Shortly thereafter a new cat started hanging around. We call her the Crybaby because she cried a lot at first. But soon she joined our household and seemed to fit right in with the other cats. She’s a small gray tabby, very attractive and very well-behaved.

Crybaby

She was probably somebody’s pet but we have yet to track down an owner. She’s already caught at least one mouse, so I’m happy to have her.

Earning Her Keep

Xy was convinced the Crybaby was pregnant. I thought she was just fat. We took her to the vet yesterday. They confirmed that she was less than two years old and, indeed, pregnant. There’s babies having babies up in here!

Well, not actually. It seems that if we have her spayed, the vet will abort the litter for just a few bucks extra. I’ll admit I was horrified by this prospect. What are the ethics of animal abortion? But Xy thought it was the right thing to do, and she made an executive decision. They performed the surgery yesterday. I’m supposed to pick her up this afternoon.

We’re also getting Milo fixed. He’s only seven months old, but he could be the father.

Milo the Mouser

Dark thoughts dominate my days. How could it be otherwise, with headlines like these: Man accused of robbing, beating elderly women mistakenly released from jail and New Orleans’ future bleak, historian says and Mom gave teen a gun for revenge slaying and Many residents of New Orleans consider leaving and A culture’s sad finale?

And to top it off Biggs has disappeared.

But I do have one piece of good news.

Milo the Mouser

In the last four weeks Milo has killed four mice. This proves we have a big mouse population, but then again, I already knew that. The good news is Milo’s not yet fully grown. He’s only about six months old. It seems like it was just yesterday that we adopted him, a tiny kitten who could barely walk.

Milo

I am confident that his mousing skills will develop even further.

I know it ain’t much, but it’s about all we’ve got going for us right now.

Sighting

Last night I dreamt we entered one of the many vacant houses nearby and found Lucy just sitting there staring at us. Alas, in waking life she remains missing. We finally put up flyers and talked to neighbors today. Some guys who appear to be squatting on the 200 block of North Gayoso said they saw a cat last night and again this morning who matches Lucy’s description, collar and all. The back yard where they saw her is practically across the street from our house, so it seems plausible. There’s also a skinny black stray with no collar running around here, so we take any sighting with a grain of salt.

Strangely enough, an extra large tabby tom cat has appeared on the scene and wangled his way into our household. I hope he likes to hunt mice, because I just saw one run behind our stove.

Spray

Add this to the list of “crazy things white people do”:

First, we collected our urine in a bucket.

Piss Bucket

Then Xy poured it into a spray bottle.

Xy Pours

Then I sprayed it around the perimeter of our house.

Spraying

Why? The vet recommended it as a way to help Lucy find her way home. We also made a bilingual flyer which we’re going to post around the neighborhood.

Lucy Please Come Home

We haven’t seen Lucy since Saturday afternoon. She was lying on the curb in front of our house, kind of a strange place for her to be hanging out, but when we pulled up in the car she got up and ran off in perfectly normal cat-like fashion.

But we haven’t seen her since, and here it is Tuesday afternoon. That’s three days. This is the longest she’s ever gone missing, and it’s making us rather nervous and sad.

We adopted Lucy and Bilal just a month or two after we moved to New Orleans, back in 1999. Here’s a picture of the two of them as kittens, at our apartment in the Warehouse District:

Leg Shave

We lost Bilal when he fell off the roof of our house on Mardi Gras in 2002. We lost Van in April of 2005 when he was apparently run over by a car. We never found his body.

But Lucy was my favorite. Is my favorite. I’m already using past tense, but I shouldn’t. She could very well still be alive. Cats freak out and hide. It’s what they do. Bilal disappeared for ten days once. Folds went in hiding under Xy’s parents’ house in Bloomington during our evacuation and stayed hidden for a whole month. And since we’ve gotten back to New Orleans, Lucy’s been ranging farther afield, prowling through abandoned houses and generally getting a little wilder. Over the last few days there’s a been a lot of noisy activity in the neighborhood. Maybe it’s spooked her.

Anyway, as I was saying: Lucy is my favorite of all our cats, and she always has been. She’s intelligent, playful, friendly and a good mouser.

Please come home, Lucy. Your mom and dad are worried. It would break my heart to lose you. I really couldn’t take it.

(Damn, just thinking about this has got me so broken up I had to shut the door to my office and get out a handkerchief.)

More pictures of Lucy.

The Death of Van?

When I came home from my book club meeting today, Xy was crying. Our neighbor, Richard, had just told her some bad news. She didn’t get all the details, so I talked to Richard myself and confirmed the following:

Around seven o’clock this morning, he saw a car stop and pick up a dead cat from the street in front of his house. It was a black cat with a pink or red collar. Van matches that description, and we haven’t seen him since last night. Richard lives just around the corner from us. I’d never seen Van on that street, but it’s certainly possible.

What’s odd is that Richard was quite clear that the car he saw did not hit the cat. The cat was already there, dead. Why would someone pick up a dead cat from the street? Richard said it was not the SPCA or public sanitation or anything of that nature. Perhaps the mystery car hit the cat earlier and came back around later to retrieve the body? It doesn’t make a lot of sense.

Not knowing for sure is aggravating. Van’s collar has a tag with our phone number, but we’ve gotten no call. Hope springs eternal and all that, but with each passing hour it seems more likely that Van is dead.

Van on Steps

Van is survived by Lucy, Archer and Folds. He was our only boy cat. And he had very male energy. Our next-door neighbor, Craig, called him Van Halen, “because he’s always causing a ruckus” — namely, fighting with Craig’s cat.

Strange — our other male feline, Bilal, died too. That was three years ago.

What was cool was that Lucy bonded with Bilal, because we got them both as kittens and brought them up together. When Bilal died, we got Van; after many months of hissing at each other, Lucy finally bonded with Van. They would sometimes curl up together, groom each other, eat from the same dish at feeding time. They didn’t have the same territorial issues that most cats have. It was sweet.

Now it looks like Lucy’s lost her second brother. But I wish I knew for sure.