A family, including three dogs and a cat live happily in a good house with extensive gardens; a great area for the animals to roam and play. By this stage, the kids have grown up, moved away and started their own lives. Mom and Dad are still there, looking after the animals and the gardens. However, old age takes its toll on the father and he passes away. Not wanting their mother to live in the large empty house alone, one of the daughters asks Mom to move in. This she does on the condition that the dogs come with her.
A buddy of mine was asked to house-sit pending the sale of the house. While there, he found that the cat was still living in the gardens. It turns out that the owners had decided not to take the cat with them. The cat's health wasn't good and, besides, he was used to living in a big garden and probably wouldn't have liked to move anyway. At least, that was their excuse.
The story I heard later was that the cat was never theirs but had arrived on their doorstep one day and they decided to feed it. Naturally, it returned day after day. To my mind, that's taking responsibility for the cat. If you don't want that kind of responsibility, then don't feed an animal. It will move on until it finds someone who will care for it or feed it. But that's just me.
I popped out to see my buddy on a couple of occasions and to take a look around the house and gardens. The cat was there and looked in a sorry state. His breath stank to high heaven and he was suffering from cat flu. To be honest, I didn't want the cat near me as I didn't want to bring any infection beck home to my own two cats.
There things rested for a few months until a couple of things arose that prevented my buddy from house-sitting. He asked me to fill in for a couple of weeks until he could resume his duties. I asked him if the cat was still there and if he was feeding it. He told me that, yes, the cat was still there and, yes, he was feeding it. The original house owners were providing the food but still weren't interested in taking the cat with them.
So I arrived out at the house one dingy, rainy night and, fumbling in the dark for the gate keys, heard a faint meowing from behind the wooden gate. When I opened it, I was greeted by the cat. I could just make out his shape in the faint light. The entrance to the house lies through a dilapidated conservatory where the cat lives - there's a cat-sized hole in the brickwork to allow him to come and go, so someone originally went to the trouble of making this alteration for a cat nobody seemed to want!
The first thing I noticed about the cat was a half serious/half evil visage. This did not look like a happy cat. However, he was friendly and sidled up against my legs, purring all the while. I put out some food for him which he gobbled up, so his appetite was fine. I left the door to the house ajar while I turned on the light and got my bearings. I walked through to the kitchen and, as I turned to leave, tripped over the cat who'd silently followed me in. In the light, I got a better view of his face. He opened his mouth and meowed, but no sound came out. I soon realised he rarely vocalised. He was bleary-eyed and furrowed of brow, or so it seemed and was slightly unsteady on his feet. His eyes were weeping and his nose was wet. A cut, just below his right lip, had turned septic. His breath could kill at five paces. Stroking the cat, I found his hair was dry and matted in places, so I knew he wasn't grooming properly.
When I went to the fridge, he perked up and lapped up a saucer of milk I gave him. Once he'd finished, he followed me into the TV room and sat watching while I got settled. As soon as I sat down, he jumped onto my lap, lay down and started purring. Then he stood up and, as best as I can describe it, hugged me.
This kind of behaviour persisted over the next couple of days. There was no doubt that this was a cat that was not only used to people but was very affectionate with them. This wasn't a cat that just lived outdoors and got fed. This was a cat that had received a lot of love and attention. Again, I wondered how someone could just walk away and leave their pet.
Despite obviously enjoying my company, the cat always looked miserable, more so when sitting or lying alone. His eyes ran persistently, he sneezed frequently and dribbled from the area above the septic cut.
I guess I bonded with the animal because I couldn't stand to see such a friendly soul in such misery. So I took him to my vet. I've never seen a cat pant before but the stress of the journey was more than he was used to.
The cat settled down once I arrived at the vet. The motion of the car and/or the engine noise seems to have been what made him uneasy. For their records, the clinic required a name for him. Since I'd never known his real name, I chose the rather unimaginative name of 'Ginger'. Hey, it wasn't like I'd had a lot of time to think about it!
He was reluctantly pulled from the cat box but curiosity got the better of him and he started to inspect the new surroundings. Meanwhile, the vet began the examination. This was the result:
- 6 rotten teeth - this accounted for the bad breath. The vet noticed that Ginger's face was slightly asymmetrical. Apparently, the infection from the rotting teeth had travelled up through his face and probably infected his right cheek bone. The infection had also backed up into the sinuses and had caused a partial blockage of his tear ducts which prevented his eyes from draining properly and led to the bleary-eyed look.
- the remnants of cat flu - apparently the virus can stay in the system for a while causing persistent weeping from the eyes and/or nose. In his weakened state from the infected teeth, he might not have been able to fight off the infection completely.
- a septic cut below his lower lip - again, this probably didn't clear up due to the other infections he was fighting off.
- Ear infections
- A skin allergy
- A heart murmur - while a murmur was detected, his heart is strong and no other problems were detected
- The possibility of an immune deficiency disease which might have contributed to his inability to get well.
Why Help Was Needed
Antibiotics were prescribed to cure the infections and a flea treatment was given to kill off the fleas. The big problem was the teeth. Ginger needed 6 extractions and follow-up care. He also needed to be tested for immune deficiency diseases and feline leukaemia. And a new home needed to be found for him.
I covered the cost of the examination and antibiotics but couldn't cover the cost of the dental treatment and tests. His original owners weren't interested in helping out.
The vet wasn't happy that his owners had let him get into his deteriorated state. He told me that Ginger was very uncomfortable (not surprising with six simultaneous toothaches) and recommended two courses of action:
- find someone who would take long-term responsibility for Ginger; have him tested for immune deficiency disease and feline leukaemia and if he was clear, have the six teeth extracted. If he had either of the two diseases, Ginger could not go to a home where cats already lived as he'd pass the disease on to them. He could have gone to a cat-free home though
- put the cat to sleep and end his misery.
I didn't like option two and, if it was to be an option, it was going to be the one of last resort. This was a cat who'd had a miserable year and, despite the pain and suffering he'd endured and was still enduring, remained friendly and unaggressive. This gentle soul needed to have the opportunity to survive and have an enjoyable few years of life.
I asked visitors to my website to help me help Ginger survive with donations (through PayPal) to cover the medical bills. Finding a new home for him was the least of the problems and, I must admit, I was taken aback by the generosity shown?
To be continued
Gary Nugent, a software engineer by profession, has been a life-long animal lover, especially of cats and is the webmaster of http://www.just-pet-cats.com - a site that helps you make the best choices to keep your cat healthy, happy and long-lived. Information about cats in general, health issues that can affect them, some of their weird and wonderful behavior patterns, their history, and how to choose various products, supplies and toys for your feline furball. And, not to forget about you...there are a few things on the site to keep cat owners amused as well.