I lost my lovely cat, Bendicks, in the depths of the pandemic. I’m still missing him.
I’ve been hesitant to adopt a new friend. Would I be able to love a new cat, with all their foibles and activities and behavioural misunderstandings? What if they got sick? Did I want to take on that pain of loss again?
So, I decided to foster a cat. The humane society was overrun, they needed help. The gruelling procedure for evaluation of my suitability went on for months, involved vets in two provinces and most of my friends, but eventually I passed the tests. Finally I got the call to pick up my new foster, an older gal, Tilly, a short haired tortoiseshell. I happily leapt in the car to pick her up. What could possibly go wrong?
Picking her up was the first challenge. Sixteen years old and weighing about twenty pounds, lifting her in the carrier was a workout in itself. We headed home, laden with donated supplies, and after several trips I managed to get her and everything else into my apartment.
Then came the Days of Hiding. Eventually I lured her out with treats, and our adventure together began. The poor gal couldn’t be adopted until she had dental surgery, and we started out giving her pain pills twice a day – this locked her into a time clock that meant treats had to happen, 9 am and 9 pm, no matter what else was going on. She needed shots for the pain as well, so I hefted her into her carrier and took her to the humane society every month for a top up. She was stiff, couldn’t walk properly, couldn’t jump up on the furniture, moaned when I lifted her (or maybe that was me. My quads were finding her a challenge).
One day, she started acting funny, being overly affectionate, meowing. She was going into heat! I had no idea cats never ever stop going into heat, so after frantic and ultimately disappointing searches about cat menopause on the inter webs, I gave up and told the humane society they’d have to add spaying to her surgical agenda. They weren’t sure, so on one of her visits they shaved her tummy to look for a surgical scar. She was insulted, but eventually forgave me.
She didn’t have a voice, so her heat howls came out as squeaks. This still was disruptive when leading Zoom meetings and the poor girl was miserable, so I invested in good weed (catnip) and kept her stoned for much of that week. That passed, but two weeks later, she was in heat again. And again. And again. A random stranger suggested I violate her with a Q-tip to stop the heat process, but Tilly and I discussed it and we both felt that was one step too far. We struggled on.
We bonded over the need to diet, she on her almost acceptable diet food and a few treats a day, me on salads and a few more treats (I am bigger, after all).
She got more comfortable, demanding I sit where she could stomp onto my lap for cuddles. She learned to jump on the bed, landing like a bowling ball on me in the middle of the night, climbing onto my neck for pats where she would press her paws on my carotid artery and wait until I passed out before she settled in. She’d curl up and purr loudly enough I couldn’t hear anything else. It was soothing, at least when I could move her off my vital organs and breathe again.
Less soothing was when she’d try to jump up and not make it, landing with a thump and a pussycat swear on the ground, shredding my sheets as she did.
We developed a cozy pattern, hanging out together, doing our own things. One day I was sitting stitching, something she resented as it took up my lap, when I started singing along to the radio. She ran (!) over (not her usual pace), climbed into my lap and put her paw over my mouth, meanwhile singing along with me in her mini mew. I’m not sure if she was critiquing or merely wanting to take the lead…all I know is that she really enjoyed Queen’s Radio Gaga.
She started to get sick, and we made more trips to the humane society vets. Fostering a cat is a bit like leasing a car. Though you have it, it’s not really yours. Any damage involves layers of bureaucracy, and the decisions about treatment aren’t really yours to make. So back and forth we went, me thinking she didn’t look good.
She stopped eating, and when she climbed onto my lap she’d allow a few pats and then growl and hiss. She’d still run for her treats (low calorie ones) but eventually she stopped even that.
Last Saturday evening, upon advice of the society, I took her for her last ride to the emergency vet. We waited together in the car for the mandatory hours, during which time I ran down my car battery playing the radio to soothe us both. I called CAA, the vets called us in, told me the bad news. She was too high risk to do anything with, and obviously in pain.
At least this time, unlike with my cat, I was able to cuddle her before they sedated her. I talked to her a bit, but she wasn’t up for singing. They took her away, and I headed out to meet the tow truck.
All the while I fostered her, I told myself and everyone else that she was just a foster, that I wasn’t going to adopt her, but despite that she purred herself into my heart and I am still heartbroken. I keep looking for her, waiting to hear her meow. I haven’t been able to take her bed out from under mine, still hear her snoring under there as she did so often.
The humane society, who have been wonderful, contacted me to tell me they hoped I’d foster again. A younger cat, they told me. One with fewer health problems. I’m not sure my heart can take it. Not when I can still hear her squeak every time I hear Queen playing on the radio.
But then again…
(Spay or neuter your pets, please! Tilly likely developed cancer from being intact all those years; it’s common. There are low cost spay/neuter clinics in many areas.)
Oh my, I’m now in tears after reading this. I’m not “one” for pets, but I hate any sort of sad story/cruelty re animals. I’m glad Tilly had a great last part of her life with you. (I’m not a pet lover, but gah, I’ve now had Moses, a maltipoo, for the last six months, and I don’t know how I’d survive if something bad happened to him.) Yes, you need to adopt or foster another, DA!
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Moses looks like a real charmer! Give him a pat for me? Thanks so much for reading and commenting!
Oh, DA, tears here, too. But also laugh out loud humor in your story. You’re a hero to go down that long path with Tilly, and I’m glad she had you.
My five year old Shirley, a dark tiger with white socks and bib, a sophisticat who was flown to CA from her Oahu birthplace with my granddaughter, is my totally satisfying housemate and it may be a race to the finish for us if I make it to 100. When eighteen year old black Stewart went down I knew I needed another cuddly friend and we’re happy together. Sarah will fly her to Tennessee if I depart first. Yeah, we are cat people, too.
Fascinating about the spay/no spay/cancer connection.
Hugs, DA in CA
Oh, both of those kitties sound lovely! I do think I will foster again when I get back from babysitting my son’s cat in Vancouver this summer. Love those kitty friends!
Adopted or fostered, losing a pet is tough. Good on you for making her feel cared for on her last days.
Sad and moving – a wonderful tribute.
What a shame that there was nothing to help Tilly. I am so sorry. I still remember bringing Pushka to the vet for the last time. We held him as he went to sleep.
They do get under your skin.
Dear Dorothy Anne,
What a sweet, sad, funny, poignant post! You’re a love for deciding to foster. Whatever you decide about taking on another kitty, I wish you the best.
RIP Tilly and hugs to you, DA. So hard to lose a pet. You have painted a fine memorial portrait. I’m betting on another kitty in your life, perhaps soon.
Best wishes, Sharon