Life sometimes takes the most remarkable turns. So much has happened in the last two weeks I have not had a chance to take a breath and think about it or process much of it, let alone write about it. Instead I have let myself be carried along by a tide which has been a swirling mass of foam and bubbles, with sharp rocks which have loomed up suddenly and cut my feet from beneath me.
I get so sick of picking up other people’s shit sometimes. Not that animals are shit, but why can people not take the most basic care of the pets they profess to love? Why is it always down to people like me to step in?
About 18 months ago, a small, squeaky cat inserted himself into my conservatory, decided he liked it there and defended all comers. He befriended my cats, endeared himself to me and lived there quite happily. He was not spayed but he didn’t roam, didn’t spray and was always in at night. I started feeding him when it was clear he was not living anywhere else and he was downing the foxes’ food like a starving child. He had such a cute, black and white dappled face with a very distinctive jawline (with very British shorthair cheeks and double chin) and loved sitting on my lap in the garden.
I then became aware of another cat, clearly his brother, also black and white, with a black moustache so distinctive, the kids next door called him Hitler. Where Mewsie was adorable and chirruped, he was not. Where Mewsie would come running for a cuddle when I came in at night, he was an infrequent visitor. He was also unspayed and Mewsie defended the conservatory like an Iceni warrior against Rome.
One cold winter’s evening a few months ago, Mewsie came in, covered in dirt and engine oil and I realised that he had had a lucky escape under a car. So I made the decision to bring him indoors at night. Doing a lot of cat rescue work I am aware of the dangers of introducing a cat whose background I did not know into my house. But he was healthy, back to a normal weight now that he was being fed regularly and already knew my cats. He was clean, didn’t fight and so with very little fuss, he joined our happy tribe.
I had also asked around but no-one knew where the cats were from. They were do distinctive I was sure someone would know where they had lived, but no-one came forward.
He wasn’t keen to be kept indoors at night and after some protesting, gave up in disgust and decided that the best place to be indoors was my pillow. He won Felix (who is a permanent occupant of the bed at night and a grumpy girl) round grudgingly, and despite Jaggie’s best efforts, refused to be intimidated. He would just gently withdraw and snuffle in my hair.
I have written before how the other cats worked out that if they touched him, he would go “Meep” and apart from a few days of pestilence by the more amused members of the household, he just quietly became part of the furniture.
I would let him and Jaggie out downstairs in the morning and call them in at night. He still liked a taste of fox food and would only come in once he had had a munch. I did not spay him initially, as I was out of work, he didn’t behave like an unspayed cat and I doubt he had ever mated. He never fought with mine and was as sweet a cat as you could find. The term “tomcat” just did not apply.
Two weeks ago, he came in as usual and I was buzzing about so only had a chance later in the evening to give him a cuddle. I noticed that he had a bad head wound. Not awful but bad enough for me to get the tea tree out and clean it. I then took him to the vet. My vets are wonderful (I may have said this before). There was a locum on duty, a truly spectacular woman and I explained that I was going to get him spayed and she suggested an FIV test (see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Feline_immunodeficiency_virus). My heart turned over. The thought had occurred to me but I had pushed it aside. With so much of my energy devoted over the past months to just keeping us in the house and relatively solvent, I did not have the energy to take on that particular worry. I booked him in however for the spay and test for a week later, on a Wednesday, when I usually do shorter hours.
In true Titflasher style, it was all a disaster – the night before, he came in with another wound, to his neck this time and the next morning he got out of his stupid bloody cheap carrier (cheers a lot unnamed animal charity for not returning my original ones), breaking the door in the process and loudly castigating me for imprisoning him. I debooked the cab, unbooked and rebooked the appointment, for the next day. I kept him indoors however as the wound, a large scrape, was big enough for me to want the vet to see it and also I did not fancy him getting any more banged up.
I came home that night to a loudly complaining, black and white furball, who settled down after dinner but came down at regular intervals to make his complaint known, claw at the door unsuccessfully, whinge at me again and then retire back to my pillow for sleeping and sulking. We made it to the vet okay, although truly it was not the day to do it.
I had been asked to work extra hours and had also taken 5 hours off to attend an interview (waste of time sadly) so was trying to fit a 45 hour week into four and a half days. Also, I had a house that was a tip and was about to receive a rather important visitor.
Both workplaces were manic and I didn’t stop at all. I only realised that I had not heard from the vet after the op just before I launched myself out into rush hour Croydon to fetch him and dash home. This was unusual but they know me very well and as I did not expect a routine op to go wrong, it was just a fleeting thought. As predicted, when I got there, they were busy. The nurse waved and asked me to take a seat. After 5 minutes, when it quietened and the nurse had made no move to fetch Mewsie, I knew that something was wrong.
I stood up and went to the counter and took one look at her face. She tried to smile, failed and bit her lip instead. I took a deep breath and said “the test was positive, wasn’t it?” With true grief in her face, she said “D wants to see you”. D finished up with his patient and called me in. He too looked so sad. He had a young bloke working with him and he introduced us and then we had a chat about the test and its implications.
Mewsie was indeed FIV positive and therefore was a risk to my other cats. D asked me whether he fought with any of mine and I confirmed that he didn’t, explained about his brother and then went cold, stone dead cold.
We discussed my options – rehome or run the risk of losing all my cats to it – and I mentioned that I had a friend who had an FIV positive cat already and who had talked about getting another. We looked at each other sadly before finishing up, with D saying what a lovely cat Mewsie was and how gentle and friendly he had been. I paid the bill, realising that I had been given a discount again (gods bless my vet, forever and ever).
The cab took ages to arrive and I held in my tears whilst wondering how the hell I was going to get home, feed everyone, sort a few bits out and still make it to Kings Cross for 9pm. On the way home, I texted my ex-hubby, who bless him, rang round until he got hold of J’s number for me. I left a message for her, threw us both indoors, threw the carrier, which reeked of urine, into the garden and then ran about like a mad thing, trying to get every bit of preparation done. It was a fruitless task and the cats, realising that something was up, followed me round everywhere. You can’t move fast when you suddenly gain 8 extra legs under you and my grief was weighing me down too.
I texted M to ask whether he could make it down to London Bridge by himself, with him agreeing to give it a go. I had no chance for tea, or even to brush my hair when I launched myself out of the door, 30 minutes late, stressed and grief-stricken. I managed to make it to Kings Cross just 15 minutes late and brought M back with me. Poor bloke got a true taste of my household this weekend!
The upshot of all of this is that J came round with her hubby, T and gorgeous daughter and met Mewsie. I picked him up from my cupboard where he had put himself in a strop because I would not let him outside to play. I brought him downstairs and popped him into T’s arms. He snuggled down immediately, no sign of nerves or alarm and snuggled mightily. When he had had enough, he jumped down and I gave him to J. Same response – nothing but acceptance and happiness. It was then that I truly realised I was going to lose him. God, it hurt.
Today, the rest of the kitties went outside to play so I put Mewsie in my bedroom. We had some champion cuddles and I told him how much I loved him and wanted him to have a good life. I put some of his biscuits into a container, picked up his flea medication and popped both into a bag.
This afternoon, with extreme sensitivity, J, T and R arrived and have just left with my beloved cat, woozy with a good dose of valerian, in their carrier. There are so many upsides to this – he has gone to an excellent home with wonderful people; I will still get to see him and I can’t think of anyone better to have him.
But my goodness, it is painful to think he’s never going to be asleep on my pillow again, he is never going hold paws with me as I drift off, go fruffle in my hair, chirrup when he spots me or come bounding down the garden chirruping and meeping for a cuddle and his dinner. He’s never going to give the fox a one-two-three bash around the ears again or give me that happy smiley, half-eyes-closed blissed out look of contentment. I have said to J that I will come round in a few weeks when he has settled down but truly, I need that time too, to adapt.
Further, I need to catch and take his brother to the vet and get him tested and neutered and then make a decision around what to do if he is FIV positive. And trap (because it will have to be a trap) the feral tomcat who I suspect may be the source of the virus.
But there is worse to come … what chills me still is the thought that went through me when D asked whether Mewsie had fought with any of my other cats. It’s the knowledge that Jaggie came home a few months ago with a bite, not from Mewsie but clearly from another cat.
So do I test all of my cats and have to make the heartbreaking decision to rehome any that are FIV positive, to save the others, if indeed homes can be found? Or depending on how many, whether I rehome the healthy ones? Or do I continue in ignorance, knowing that if any are, they may infect the others? There is no fighting in my house – the worst it gets is a bit of growling and pawing, but none of my cats has ever wounded another in a scrap.
And all of mine are spayed so no mating or territorial fights (the two main high risk activities) happen. The chances are therefore low that transmission could occur. But it is still a risk and moreover, any that are FIV positive are a risk to others outside. I guess I am going to have to have those tests done …
Do I regret taking Mewsie in? No. As M pointed out, thank goodness I did and thank goodness I did get him spayed and tested because if I had not, he would be out there, living rough and infecting other cats. But I cannot bear the thought of having to make a type of Sophie’s Choice (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sophie%27s_Choice_%28film%29) about the animals who are effectively my children.