I'd like to tell you about Feema, my sweet baby girl who passed away yesterday. Unfortunately I never had a chance to submit her photo and story to Cat of the Day... but better late than never, right?
Feema had been my grandmother's cat for many years. My grandmother adopted her from a rescue organization. Feema's original parents (though I hesitate to call them that) did not provide a good home for her. When my grandmother adopted her, Feema was extremely scared, showing symptoms of possible abuse, and she hid in an unused part of the house for more than a month, only coming out late at night (after everyone was asleep) to eat and use the litter box. It took many more months before Feema was finally brave enough to stop hiding in that room and interact with the humans, although she remained quite shy for a few years, always running and hiding whenever a visitor came to the house.
When my grandmother died a few years ago, my aunts and uncles all offered to take Feema, but many of them already had pets, including dogs, and it was felt that Feema would do best in a place where she could remain an indoor cat and not have to deal with dogs or multiple outdoor cats. I already had a cat, but he was an indoor cat and very low-key, so I was given the honor of taking Feema. I think my grandmother would have approved -- she knew that I'm a cat person and that I've provided a good home for my cat. (You can see him here: http://catoftheday.com/archive/2003/June/27.html )
When I brought Feema to her new home with me and Mr. Mackee, she initially reverted back to her extremely shy and scared ways. She hid underneath my bed for almost two weeks -- only coming out late at night while I was asleep to eat and use the box. Sometimes she would quietly sneak up onto my bed while I was asleep to check me out; if I woke up and attempted to pet her, she would immediately run away and hide. Eventually she became more comfortable with me and allowed me to interact with her during the daytime, and would even let me pet her. It took at least three months, however, before she would sit next to me on the couch... and three more months after that before she was brave enough to sit in my lap.
Ultimately she did get past the shyness, and within a year we were inseparable. Wherever I was, she was right there next to me. She would follow me around the apartment. At night she would curl up on the pillow next to my head, or she would curl up on my chest.
She and Mr. Mackee got along reasonably well. I think Mr. Mackee always knew that he was the "original" cat, and he would get a bit jealous, but any fighting they did was of the playful non-vicious variety. Feema didn't have a mean bone in her body. She would never, ever lay a paw on Mr. Mackee unless he provoked her. She was always very sweet with me, too. Not once did she ever bite or scratch me.
In 2008, Feema developed some unusual health problems. She would lose her balance and had the symptoms of dizziness or vertigo. Sometimes she couldn't walk without falling over. The veterinarian was stumped. Could be an ear infection, could be a tumor, could be a stroke. No way of knowing without an MRI and other very expensive diagnostics, none of which I could afford. She was given an injection of a long-acting steroid and within a week she was back to normal.
In 2009, she had some health troubles again. Lots of vomiting and diarrhea. I tried different foods, and some of them seemed to help, but eventually the vomiting and diarrhea returned. The vet prescribed prednisolone, which helped greatly. Occasionally Feema would get sick, but usually she'd be back to normal within a week or two.
In 2010, Feema started losing weight. By February of 2011, Feema was down to just 5 pounds, and as of last month she weighed only 4 pounds. She was nothing but fur and bones. She still seemed happy, though, and I tried to make sure that she always got enough to eat -- which wasn't easy with Mr. Mackee around; he's overweight and can be a real pig when it comes to food! Feema wasn't getting sick very often, but it seemed like she just wasn't adequately processing her food -- perhaps this was partly because of her ongoing G.I. issues and partly because of her age, which we guesstimated to be somewhere between 16 and 19 (hard to know for sure with a rescue cat).
In June of this year, her appetite took a nose dive. She was eating less than a quarter of a can of food per day.
Last week, she stopped eating. She was still drinking water, but all she would do was take one small lick of her food, and then walk away. Within three days I could tell that she was very, very sick. She was extremely weak, and could no longer get in and out of the litter box. By the fourth day, she could barely walk across the living room floor. She couldn't climb up onto my bed.
On Friday I called my vet (who exclusively does housecalls), but she was at a conference out of state. I thought about taking Feema to the emergency clinic. I knew that the end was near. But I hated the thought of putting her in the carrier and taking her to a scary, unfamiliar place. (She was one of those cats who gets completely panic-stricken at veterinary clinics -- panting, drooling, turning herself inside out, etc... that's why I switched to the housecall vet a few years ago). So I left the housecall vet a message and told her that I needed her to come ASAP on Monday.
The weekend was hell. I was watching my baby girl die and I couldn't do anything about it. By Sunday she could no longer drink water.
On Monday the vet came and relieved my sweet Feema of her suffering. It was one of the most horrible, unbearable, gutwrenching days of my life. All I can do is keep telling myself "she's not suffering anymore."
We buried Feema yesterday afternoon in my mother's back yard, near where our beloved other pets have been laid to rest. Her body was wrapped in one of my t-shirts, along with one of my face towels for extra padding. Her all-time favorite toy, a simple little catnip-filled mouse, was placed inside the box with her.
I miss her so much. I'm sure Mr. Mackee misses her too, even though he probably wouldn't admit it if you asked him. But I know he had a special bond with his adopted sister.