Over thirty years ago I went to look at some kittens, hoping to adopt one. I ended up choosing the smallest grey and white kitten. As I was leaving, the young lad who showed them to me had tears in his eyes saying “you’re taking my favorite kitten!” I remember telling him “I promise to take excellent care of her.” I named her Little Puss. True to her name, she remained very small and light in weight all her life. I had her spayed, so she never had kittens, but when our dogs had their litters, she was like a second mom. My Standard Poodle trusted her, allowing her to climb in the box and lick the pups. Puss was never fussy about the cats she shared space with in our home, but she could often be found snuggling beside our dogs. She never did anything incredible – no tricks like a few other cats I have owned, but then she has never shred the furniture, nor scratched anyone. She was generous with her love.
She shared her space with our other cats, like Prissy, Mitzie, Moses, Boss I and Boss II, all who have passed on to Rainbow Bridge. More recently she had earned the respect of our two cats, Mook and Doc. Mook, a small grey tabbie, came running across the lawn up to me, rubbing against my legs as if to say “please help me.” I searched for Mook's real parents, putting up posters, and ads in the papers, but no one claimed her. We kept her, named her Mook & had her spayed. That was 12 years ago. After my beloved cat, Boss II, a orange and white beauty died, I adopted another older cat from my vets clinic. Boss II had serious heart problems and he died in his sleep after a week of being at the veterinarian hospital trying to save him. Boss was only 5 years old. He also came in our yard mewing to get my attention. We guessed him to be around 6 months old. Again I searched for his parents to no avail. Boss was one of the most incredible cats I have ever owned. Not only was he loving, but smart. He would play incessantly with a plastic grape, holding it as if he had real fingers. Often for fun, while he was on my bed, I would throw the grape in the air and he would spiral up to catch it like a foot ball player catches the ball. He loved that game the most. But I noticed after a few throws one day, that he lacked the energy. After the third throw, he lay on the bed panting. I didn’t give it much thought at the time, but looking back I realize it was the first sign of his trouble to come. It’s been 6 years since he died, and rarely a day passes without me thinking of him, and still, tears surface. I miss him desperately.
Doc, so named after our vet, is another orange and white beauty. Unlike Boss, Doc was most likely very abused. He is terrified of so many benign objects, actually, anything that moves!. It took over three years before Doc would allow me to hold him, if only for a minute or two, then he becomes anxious and jumps off my lap. When family or strangers come to visit, Doc hides. Little Puss accepted him well enough, but they were never pals.
One year all three became infested with fleas. This baffled us, as they were indoor cats, except for the occasional times I put a harness on them & took them for "walk walks". They have learned to walk quite nicely on the leash, and treat themselves to some grass or fresh catnip I grow in container pots. Doc actually doesn't need a harness, when he comes out with me he sticks like glue to me, as he is so afraid to be alone, and is terrified of all street noise.
I’ve learned that fleas can hitch hike on human’s pant legs! I had to treat all of them, which included giving them the dreaded bath. Doc was by far the most frightened of water. The next time I took him to the sink to check for fleas, he kept begging me with one paw, as if to say “please don’t do this to me.” Knowing it was for his own good, I had to check him. That’s when I started playing a game with him. After a good comb and brush, I taught him to shake a paw and that would sign his release. In short time he learned how to offer his paw, then I would ask him for the other paw. At last, he had to kiss me three times, and then I would release him back to freedom. Now when I ask him to shake a paw, then the other paw, he never makes a mistake! When I ask for three kisses, he very gently bites the end of my nose, exactly three times. He understands a lot of commands and words … especially “ice cream” and a wee taste of bacon - a very rare treat. If I’m not thinking and ask my husband out loud if he wants some ice cream, Doc comes running, mewing “me too please.” So now I have to spell it out in a whisper.
As I mentioned, our three guys have always been indoor cats, until my husband extended our deck and gated it. Our deck became a safe place where the cats could safely go out without escaping, and enjoy the fresh air and sun. The last few years Little Puss would meow incessantly until I would give up and let her go lay out on the deck. She spent long hours just sleeping in the warmth of the sun. We live on the West coast of British Columbia. It rains and rains right into spring. It seemed Puss lived for spring and the time she could get outside again. Of course I always provided a fresh dish of water, and kept a close eye on her. After many years, I lost track of her age until one day I came across a photograph of her dated 1976. Since she was a healthy cat, trips to the vet were not frequent. The worst problem she had was a bout with a bladder infection, about 5 years ago. Early in October of this year (2006) while grooming her, I noticed what I thought was an abscess on her jaw, and raced her to the vet. It wasn’t an abscess. Lab results would show she was in Renal failure and had Squamous cell carcinoma in her jaw, the same kind of cancer humans can get.
Her veterinarian, Dr Smith remarked that her coat was shiny and in great condition, certainly not indicative of her age or her health problems. She had some periodontal problems which I knew I should have taken care of, but I was so afraid she wouldn’t wake up from the anesthesia … I regret my failure to have had it done. I didn’t give her credit for being the fighter she turned out to be.
Due to her longevity and the situation and size of the cancer, surgery, nor chemo was thought to help at this point. All we could offer her was palliative care. The cancer grew fast and furious. By end of October she wouldn’t eat, so I began trying to feed her by syringe. She did not take to that at all. So I mashed up her food, put a anti slip mat on top of the counter for her to safely stand on, put a bib on her and began spoon feeding her. She certainly preferred that to the syringe. I used the same baby spoon I fed all 3 of my children with. From October until December 9th I spoon fed her several times a day. She went to the liter box and drank milk and water on her own. I also gave her daily subcu IV treatments to help with the dehydration. Dr Gary Smith had her on Fortekor, Antitrobe Aquadrops and Epakapiti. He also suggested we try putting Shark Cartilage powder in her food which has shown in some cases, to slow the cancer down. In the beginning of December it was getting more difficult for her to eat. It was as if she was choking down the food. The thought of having to “put her down” grieved me. I kept praying that God would take her gently in her sleep.
Many a morning I would wake up and hesitate to go see her in her basket, where she slept in front of the warm fireplace, not sure if she was still alive. Some days were so much better than others for her, but the cancer wasn’t shrinking, I learned that Squamous cell carcinoma is often caused by being in the sun. This information caused me to grieve even more. Had I known that could happen, I never would have allowed her all those long hours of sleeping in the sun. Even though I would provide ample shady places for her to sleep, she would get up and move to the spots where the sun was shining. I suppose you could call her a sun worshipper!
Late Saturday December 10 was one of the hardest days for her. Her kidneys were failing and she kept going to the liter box every minute or less - I timed her!. I moved her litter box close to her basket so she wouldn’t have to walk so far. This lasted nearly 2 hours, finally the 2nd IV finally helped it to settle down.
From around the time she was 25 years old, she stopped wanting to be a lap cat… favoring her basket to my lap, but she always remained loving. That Saturday I laid on my bed with her on my chest. It was the longest she allowed me to hold in years – almost an hour. She lay quietly purring, and starring into my eyes the whole time. I cried and talked to her, telling her how much she meant to me. She kept staring back into my eyes. It was as if she really understood everything I was telling her.
Monday, one of the blackest days in my memory. I had to rush her back to our vet. Upon inspection, Dr Smith told me the cancer had gone well into the other side, and that the cancer had actually broken her jaw. I knew she was in pain that day, as I felt her shivering. I had hoped we could have put her on tube feeding and pain meds, but this news was too horrible. He said “I know how you feel about euthanasia” … I asked him what he would do if she were his pet. He said he would do the kindest thing. I fell apart, sobbing, trying hard not to become hysterical.. I asked him for a hug, and that man held me, not rushing to let go. It was at the end of his day – his last patient, yet he gave me the longest hug, which truly helped strengthen the little bit of courage I was trying to muster. He told me to take my time but I knew, if I didn’t do it right now I would take her up in my arms and run out of that clinic. Regardless of her age and condition, she had exhibited such a strong desire to live. I could see how she was fighting for her life. I couldn’t bear the suffering I knew she was in. Animals can and do hide pain, but there are signs like shivering. The only time she shivered was when I tried feeding her the last few days…. So I knew she was experiencing pain. To tube feed her and put her on meds would only prolong a horrible death. Dr Smith administered a sedative – but she did not accept this … she growled and began kicking her back legs as if to fight death. It was horrible to see her final moments like that. He said he’d never seen an animal fight so hard to live. It was not a good, nor easy death. Puss was the oldest cat he had treated in over 30 years of practice. The final overdose took her quickly, but did nothing to relieve my pain. I hated what I had done. I hated that she had cancer. I hated watching her fight so hard, but this was the kindest thing to do. I still choke on those words, even though I believe it is true . . .
She was my precious girl for half my life.
Little Puss Spring 1976 ~ December 12, 2006
I mentioned that Puss, Doc and Mook were never pals. However, Doc, who always sleeps each night on my pillow above my head, moved out mid October, and took to sleeping on the couch, just a short distance from Little Puss. It was if he was trying to keep her company. Doc kept vigil on Puss until her death. Little did I know how her death would also affect Doc and Mook. Less than two weeks after she died, I noticed Doc wasn’t looking or acting well. After examining him, I realized he was very constipated. He was hiding his problem. I rushed him to the vet at midnight. He was so impacted, the ER vet had to manually extract a huge amount of poo that though contained a lot of fiber, had hardened, and had blood in it. Had I not taken him in that night, he might of died due to complications. Then on New Years Eve, I picked up Mook, who screamed in pain. Again, I examined her, she was running a high fever of 105, and her anal glands were impacted. Another trip to ER. Both vets said they thought their condition was due to depression. Both cats are on R/D, a weight reducing diet loaded with fiber. There is no way Doc or Mook should have become so constipated on that food. In the days that followed Puss’s death, both cats walked around sniffing for her. I could see they were depressed. Each had their own way of trying to comfort me when I was crying. It’s hard to understand why they took it so hard, as I have explained, they were never pals. They treated Puss with great respect, never trying to attack her or bug her in any way. It was funny to watch them move aside to give her space, when she walked around.
As I was writing this, the clinic phoned to tell me her ashes had come in. I am grateful this can be done for ones beloved pet. I am grateful Little Puss had such a wonderful veterinarian. I have buried all my other pets who died … it’s been raining hard, so having her cremated spared me the digging and the pain of having to put her in the ground.
I had to leave off writing these as the tears would flood my eyes until I could no longer see the screen. I miss her desperately. I can not help thinking, what if I brought her home in spite of her condition – would that have been cruel? Seeing her fight death with all the strength she had left lingers in my mind. I choke because it hurts so much. Couldn’t we have put her on pain medication, and kept her comfortable until natural death came? So many questions haunt me. Perhaps had she slipped peacefully, and not fought the sedative, I would feel differently, maybe I wouldn’t hurt so much.
I remain vehemently opposed to euthanasia for humans. I accept it as a necessary evil for animals. I can not imagine anyone destroying any animal because they find it doesn’t fit in with their family after all – or because they are allergic to them – whatever the excuse. Far too many animals are destroyed, abused and neglected because they are a burden. Caring for Little Puss was never a burden, stressful, but not a burden.
I wish I had known what I do now about Squamous cell carcinoma. At the end of this tribute, I am sharing with you what I have learned about this cancer, and some other material that may be of interest.. My father used to tell me “We get too soon old, and too late smart” … sadly this is true for me … had I known that the sun can cause this type of cancer in felines, I never would have allowed her all those hours and days out in the sun on our enclosed deck.
Doc is back to sleeping on my pillow. Just like in the cowboy movies, it’s as if he always has to have his back to the wall. I could write many pages just on Doc and how loving and fun he is. On January 22nd, 2007, I adopted a 13 week old kitten from a rescue shelter. He is another orange and white feline, and absolutely adorable. After searching for names, I settle for naming him Takoda. It is a Native Sioux name, meaning friend to everyone. I suits him to a tee. Within two days, he charmed Doc and Mook into accepting him with his gentle head butting and rubbing against them. He did get a couple of hisses, and swats in return, but that didn’t seem to fizz on him one bit. I think Takdoa would have loved Puss very much, and she he. But how could I know I would get another very gentle kitten. I had wanted to adopt a kitten while Puss was alive, but worried a new kitten would have put unnecessary stress on her. We feel very blessed to have three very well mannered loving felines in our home. I know I couldn’t possibly live happily without a cat ~ in fact, I would be completely miserable.
I began writing this soon after she died, but couldn't bring myself to finish it until today. I wrote about her for several reasons, but I think it has become an important way to help release this terrible grief A few months have passed now since her death, and I find it very hard to read this, and look at her photos. I wish I could walk over to her basket, pick her up and love her, hear her purr and mew just one more time. Did I own her? No, but she owned me! We shared a huge part of our lives together, thirty years is a long time for a cat to live. There is no doubt in my mind, keeping cats indoors will extend their life. There is far less chance of them contacting a disease, being killed by predators, human or animal ~ and they certainly won't accidentally end up being road kill. I am actually allergic to cats! However, I have decided that my life would be so completely empty without my felines, that I am willing to put up with allergies. I see so many ads, people trying to find new homes for pets because they are allergic. How I wish people would find out first, before adopting one of these marvelous creatures if they have allergies to cats. As you have read, animals can and do suffer depression. Just like some children who are placed in one foster home after another, cats suffer just the same. Try to remember, cats need a 'forever home'.
Thank you for visiting my page. I hope I have helped someone see how easy it is to palliate a cat; take care of senior cats; and see the joy and love they bring into a home. It is also my hope that people won't dismiss adopting a senior cat ~ it may be just the purr-fect companion for human seniors, especially those who live alone.
March 18, 2007
PHOTOS: I.) Little Puss in 2004, II.) Little Puss 2005, III.) Her last month in 2006. Puss loved sleeping in her basket near our fireplace. I raised her water & milk dishes on top of a few books, (see -under the piano) so she could drink it a little easier.
ARTICLES AND LINKS
Squamous cell carcinoma in cats
Warning – I have taken just the text from this article, as the pictures on its web site can be disturbing.
Cats are even better sun
worshipers than people and most of them can lie in it all day without burning or
damaging their skin. However, this is not true for some cats - like pale skinned
people, cats with white non-pigmented areas of skin (often with only a sparse
covering of hair) can suffer damage to the skin which can be very serious. The
areas most commonly affected are the ear flaps or pinnae, the nose and the
eyelids. Initially the damage to the skin will show as a pink area with perhaps
some scaling and hairloss.
However, continued exposure will lead to more serious crusting of the skin. If this is not treated and the cat is not protected from the sun, then a serious skin condition called squamous cell carcinoma (SCC) can develop. This is a malignant tumour which will spread locally, destroying the surrounding tissue. It can also occasionally spread to other parts of the body such as the lymph node or lungs. As the condition gets more serious the skin looks very red and there may be ulcerated areas with raised hardened edges on the ears, eyelids, nose, lips and face. Bleeding from the pinnal lesions can be a major problem in some cats.
Can SCC be treated ?
Treatment will depend on the severity of the condition. If skin damage is only minor then your vet may suggest that you simply keep the cat in during the hottest part of the day (between 10 am and 3pm ). Some cats will tolerate a sunblock of factor 15 or more on the vulnerable parts, however, cats being cats, most will groom it off fairly quickly!
Shark cartilage has the ability to destroy tumors by inhibiting the creation of new blood vessels which nurture and sustain tumor growth. Therefore, cutting off tumor blood flow, causing the tumor to shrink rather than flourish. The shark cartilage is able to do this without damaging healthy tissue.
Tumor cells are constantly breaking down and being replaced by new vessels. In the presence of shark cartilage, they are not replaced by new vessels and the section fed dies (necrosis).
Many tests and studies have been done regarding shark cartilage and its effects on tumors. Studies done in the early nineties at the Ernesto Contreras Hospital in Mexico tested eight patients with terminal cancer or serious tumors. They were tested with shark cartilage alone. In seven out of eight patients, a reduction in tumor size of 30 - 100% occurred. A woman with stage III cervical cancer that was considered inoperable, experienced an eighty percent red
We wish to thank Dr. Gary Smith, owner of Frasier Animal Hospital, in Surrey, BC for the wonderful care he has given our pets. Puss was his 'patient' since we moved to BC over 15 years ago.
With photos of Little Puss and our other cats.
Personal photos taken of Victoria Butterfly Garden
http://www.chninternational.com/Peanuts%20for%20Peanuts%20&%20gang.html Photos of a special Steller's Jay and other visitors to our yard
http://rainbowsbridge.com/Poem.htm Rainbow Bridge Poem
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