The blue jays have been coming to my window feeder for years, but in spite of the fact that these birds are often contentious and some times even downright hostile, they have also proven to be quite shy. The slightest move from someone on the inside will send them soaring out of range. For some reason this winter’s birds don’t seem to object to having their picture taken.
Sometimes in life, things are just hard. Today was one of those days. At one o’clock this afternoon, we buried my dad. As humans, we were devastated, but deep in our hearts, we knew this day was coming. No, that doesn’t lessen the pain, and every time I walk past his chair, I experience the sharp stab of grief as I realize he is no longer there, but even though death was an unwelcome visitor to our home, his presence was not unexpected. But to Dad’s dedicated and loving companion cat this death was an incredible blow. The Elderly Gent had walked into our home and given his whole heart away to my father, and in a moment, that big feline heart was crushed.
The night Dad passed away, Gent forced himself beneath the china cabinet and refused to come out, except for a brief moment to have an accident upon the article nearest to his cave of exile. We swiftly found that the exterior of my brother’s suitcase was not waterproof. (or urine proof for that matter) A disposable pad I placed in front of the cabinet became a makeshift litter box. Food and water were placed nearby, but Gent showed no interest.
That night, I slept in my mother’s room, and the big tomcat slept at her feet. Aside from two hours of endless washing, Gent seemed to be making progress, but the next day when we came home from making arrangements, we walked into my Mom and Dad’s room to find a cat owner’s nightmare. Loose bowel accidents covered Dad’s pillow, the bed on which he died, and Dad’s favorite chair. Messy footprints, trailed across the furniture, and blood-tinged urine soaked the pale yellow embroidered quilt that a friend had made for me. And though I didn’t scold him when I discovered his crimes, Gent shot back under the china cabinet. When he isn’t in hiding, this loving, old cat who prefers to look at nature from the inside out, has also been trying his best to get out the door. He doesn’t want to be held, and runs at the slightest noise. The Elderly Gent appears to be in mourning.
This is a first for me. My cat Grenny mourned when her brother Pudge died, but Gent stepped in and cared for her, and though Grenny has attempted to comfort Gent, her cuddling seems to have very little affect upon his mood. I purchased a calming collar and put it on him this evening. This seems to have helped somewhat, but I was wondering if any one else has experienced this with their cat, and what methods they have tried to help the animal through this.
Thanks for reading,
(Note: because of his past health problems, blood will sometimes appear in Gent’s urine during times of stress. A dose of medicine and some cranberry juice usually straightens him out.)
I almost gasped as the cat stuck his head out around the wheel of my son’s motorcycle. This animal wasn’t supposed to be here. Not this close! The old cat meowed then ran to my feet and waited for a response. Instinctively, I backed away. This wasn’t right. Everyone knows that uncharacteristic behavior from a wild animal is a sign of rabies. The elderly cat had skirted the edge of our yard and avoided human contact for over four years. You could call him. He wouldn’t come. A sideways glance would send him running into the woods. He hated humans. Why was he standing at my feet? Cocking his head to the side the cat looked up into my face and meowed again as if to say, “Hi. It’s me. I’ve come home.” He rubbed against my leg and I rubbed my eyes. I had fallen asleep the night before in the real world and it appeared that I had awaken in the Twilight Zone.
“A rabid animal will not drink,” I quoted to myself as I stepped backwards towards the door. Milk seemed to be the answer. If he drank the milk I could relax, but if he began to froth at the mouth like something from the Exorcist, I could…
“I could what?” I asked myself. ” Shoot him? Me, shoot a cat? I don’t think so.”
“Milk first,” I decided “Panic later.”
The cat waited patiently as I slipped into the house and got him something to drink. I placed the bowl in front of him, but rather than lap at the milk, the hungry, old cat checked out my offering, then looked up as me as though he were asking permission.
“This looks pretty good,” he seemed to say. “Are you sure you don’t want it?”
“Drink, Kitty,” I coaxed, and the cat lowered his head and obeyed.
People who know of him have often said that the elderly Gent, as we call him, came to me that day asking for help. I can see their reasoning. When Gent came to us, his health was failing. Life in the wild had not been kind. His broken nose is the first thing that greets you when he lunges onto your lap. As he snuggles close, you will immediately notice his raspy breathing. When you first caress his long, soft fur, your fingers will recoil as they trail across with his crushed ribcage. These were merely the beginning of the old cat’s problems. His sides were missing huge patches of fur and splotched with chemical burns. His fur was full of nits and he was crawling with lice. Deer ticks circled his neck like a collar, and he had the absolutely worse case of fleas I have seen in my entire life. But this too was only the beginning. His ears were blackened with mites, tape worm segments were clinging to his privates, and he was vomiting round worms. And finally (yes, these really do exist.) his urinary tract was infested with worms. The poor cat was passing things that looked like baby night crawlers. I suppose if I tried really hard I could make myself believe that Gent came to us that morning looking for help, but I think I would always doubt. You see, I believe the old cat is a miracle.
He came to me the morning after I buried Puff. I had no desire to face that pain again, so I had staunchly determined that I didn’t want another cat, but often times what we want and what we need are entirely different things. I needed Gent. I just didn’t know it. In the months to follow my family would have to face the loss of two more pets, the failing health of my parents, and too many other problems to list without becoming severely depressed. Through it all, Gent has been like a gift from God. This old wildcat gave up his life in the out of doors and moved flawlessly into our home. He is not neutered. We would never consider having him put under anesthesia. Yet he does not spray. Within a day’s time he stepped from the role of wildcat into that of therapy cat. Yes, we have provided him with medical care, but the care he has given us is so much more.
Calm and attentive, Gent has an uncanny ability to detect feelings and to decipher needs. He knows when someone is sick. He knows when someone is hurting, and he knows when someone needs to feel special. He saw Grenny through the deaths of Kitsten and her brother, faithfully staying by her side until she was ready to face the world on her own. When my elderly parents came to live with us, he took it upon himself to welcome them and provide activity to keep their minds and hearts alive. His fur has been cried upon, his ears have listened to plans, failures and heartaches. He glues himself to the sides of those who are sick and spends hours upon the laps of those who are depressed. The list goes on and on. This old cat has made us his purpose in life.
I have no idea how long we will be able to keep Gent. He is a very old cat. His lungs are bad. His heart beats too fast. His kidneys are almost shot, but we will keep him as long as we can, and I will face the pain when the time comes. because this old cat is our gift from God, and he is worth it.
Sometimes in life another being crosses your path, and for a brief moment in time stress, pain, and worry melt into happiness, companionship, and almost childish play. And then it’s over, leaving a hole in your heart that it seems nothing can fill. Tomorrow morning I will walk to the edge of the forest and dig a hole where I will lay to rest one of my best buddies. Puff (alias, Chief Puffy of the Dirty Foot Tribe) has passed away, the victim of poisoning. I don’t blame the person who spilled the chemicals. I don’t think it was deliberate. Accidents happen, and unlike most cats who hate getting their feet wet, Puff walked through, and rolled in, anything. For weeks, my companion fought valiantly for life, but too much damage was done, so wrapped in a blanket in my arms he eventually slipped away. I guess I knew when I took on the responsibility of a wild cat that he would face constant dangers until I managed to coax him into staying inside, but I thought our friendship would last longer than one summer. Life had different plans. “Wait for me,” I whispered in Puff’s ear as together we looked out over the garden for the last time. “Just inside the gates of heaven. I’ll be looking for you there.”
The weather is changing. Fall is upon us, and the creatures of the outdoors are looking for a warm place to spend the winter. This is the fifth one of these monsters we have found in the house. The largest spider we’ve dispatched this season was over three times the size of this wolf spider. I guess if you want to live on the edge of civilization, you must accept that sometimes the wild creeps indoors. Usually these spiders travel with a mate, and the females are far larger than the males. If this guy’s girlfriend is in the house, I had better load the shotgun!
Note: This wolf spider looks as though he is free, but he’s actually in a pickle jar. I wouldn’t suggest handling this breed of wolf. This specimen was extremely aggressive and would come after my fingers when I touched the glass!