Pictured: Larrikin, our first known FIV+ cat, soaking up the sun earlier this year.
By December 2007 we suffered from delusions of grandeur. Our project was to trap, neuter and return several stray cats to the factory grounds of the company that John was working for. It was agreed the cats could return in the guise of ratters. Staff would look after them and the company would pay.
Our experience with trapping had previously been utilised in the immediate vicinity of our close neigborhood. We knew how to do this!
On December 23rd we finished work to begin a two week holiday and on the 24th while Christmas shopping, the call came through that my father had been admitted to hospital.
During the small hours of Christmas morning, another call came in from the factory security guard that a trap we had set up had caught a cat and said cat was going berserk.
Our enthusiasm knew no bounds.
Christmas Day 2007 was an odd day. We brought the trapped cat home and went to visit my father who appeared to be in a very deep sleep.
Next day he was conscious and the day after that he was returned to the nursing home. He died two days later. It was just four days after Christmas.
By that time we had trapped more cats and were ferrying them about to be desexed, picking them up to recover, arranging for a funeral, taking calls from family and distant relations and coming home after the wake to face the reality of caged cats in the lounge room and none of it felt good anymore.
it was hot. In early January the Christmas Day cat appeared to be depressed so we decided to take him back. And that's when we saw the massive swelling on the side of his neck. I spent long sweaty hours well into the night trying to bathe that abscess to get it to burst and next morning, having failed, we lined up at the crowded surgery to be told he needed it lanced and it was going to cost. Us. Other vet work was not part of the agreement.
I was given instructions on how to flush the wound out. I felt a little sick at the idea. The responsibility was not something I had visualised and it felt oppressive. We soldiered on though and he seemed to improve.
As soon as the Christmas cat felt better he started to pace up and down near the front door. It was obvious that he wanted to get out to return to his tom catting. I didn't have the heart to tell him. The hormones were still high and would take a while to settle. Another male in a low cage hissed at him so he challenged him to a fight. They were going at it through the wire when I said in exasperation 'that cat is just a larrikin!'
There was also a head injury from bashing around in the trap. That eventually needed to be stitched too but the scary part was when the stitches came out of the neck and we arrived home, the wound just fell apart. Positive that I was the cause of all these failures we rushed him back and were told that the wound would have to heal from the inside out. It didn't.
The neck wound would explode with muck. Each morning there would be a struggle to corner him. I would have to dive under the table to scruff him. Similar to a football tackle. I had to bathe it, apply a soft bandage, dose him with the current antibiotic and hope to keep my hand intact before rushing to catch a train for work, which I missed far too often. There were supplements and vitamins and lots of research but I probably knew all along that he had to be positive to the Feline Immune Deficiency Virus.
Put to sleep was suggested if he was. Our answer an emphatic no.
We became so accustomed to traipsing off to the vet with him that we would park at the shops and have takeaway in the car on the way back.
I battled for nearly two years with this. Supplements, alternative treatments, sharing his story to ask for advice. The wound was in a very awkward place so a bandage didn't quite cover it. The offer of an Elizabethan collar was made. I had never seen one and I was filled with despondency when I did. Surprisingly he adjusted to wearing it and it helped enormously to stop him scratching. I have fond memories of him running down the hallway after teasing some other cat and 'chortling' to himself while the 'bonnet' went this way and that.
Larrikin became a bit of a legend with us. The memories crowd in, Larrikin stealing a Christmas ball from the bedroom and becoming a juggler, the velcro sticking to his paws as he tried to throw it in the air, his smug expression as it rolled and he caught it knowing all the time that Mickey was watching through the partly open door.
Mickey being separated all that time to protect him from Larrikin and FIV and finding out later that he had been positive all along. Mickey and Larrikin becoming friends.
Larrikin resting in his rabbit hutch on the front porch before we could offer him an enclosed courtyard. Larrikin seeking our laps or lying on my stomach when I rested.
Larrikin 'talking' to us, Larrikin a role model for the other cats, never defensive, never reactive. Humans could learn a lot from a cat like this.
There is a certain mindset among some of the shelters and some vets that FIV+ cats should be euthanised to stop the spread of the virus. We feel this to be an uneducated and archaic viewpoint. The Feline Immune Deficiency Virus is not Bubonic Plague. Over the years it can come against the cat in other ways but they can have years and years of a good life before that happens, not unlike any other cat. They can be more prone to Cancer but we have lost FIV negative cats to that too. Their immune system can be disengaged as they age but there are ways to support this. Larrikin was estimated to be fourteen and his illnesses were few.
Over the years Larrikin had his cheek teeth removed, surgery for nose cancer and that was all.
Recently a blood test revealed liver failure. He was being treated but died a week ago.
Until the second last day he loved to go into the courtyard during the day and be first at the door at feed time at night.
Those are the things that are hard to contend with. The absence.
Disclaimer: Content on these pages is not intended to replace veterinary advice.
Two of the most common illnesses that take cats to the Rainbow Bridge are Cancer and Renal Failure. At Catmint Cottage we have more than our share of these, due to the span of years that we have been rescuing. .
This photo is of Toya, a fifteen year old cat who we rescued from the colony surrounding our house and street in 2004/5. Toya lived in a cat enclosure here with her siblings and other members of the colony. until sadly, they too left for that other realm. If you read the last instalment on our page you will see a photo of Toya right in the front of the group.
Toya was always very timid. I used to tell her she had Bette Davis eyes. She lived in safety here, was desexed and vaccinated and fed a good diet. Last year she became ill and was taken for a blood test, a dental with many extractions and was discovered to be in the early stages of Renal Failure.
She was moved to the inside and her diet was changed to Renal Food when possible but after a while Toya decided she liked the 'other' food better, with a leaning toward chicken mince and giblets. Once she decided to do her own thing it was not possible for me to change anything so I made a decision to let her be.
Recently, I found Toya starting to sleep on a chair on the verandah. She had a weepy eye and looked 'fluey'. She also looked cold but I could not entice her to better beds. I was allowed to put a hot water bottle on the chair and she began to let me pat her without bolting.
Two weeks back I found her on that same chair in the morning, wet from rain where she had obviously been sitting in the aerial tunnel overnight. When I patted her I decided to go for it, scruffed her and locked her in to a crate.
The ensuing scream was something to hear! Within a day we transferred her crate to the loungeroom which is heated at night. Another screaming match until I covered the crate with a sheet and she began to see the advantages of having her own 'room.'
Now she has some of the Renal food but only when nothing better is offered. She still prefers the chicken mince. I am able to give her sub q fluids now and do t- touch over her kidney area.
This morning I sang to her 'She's Got Bette Davis Eyes', something I used to say about her when she was young. She is enjoying all the patting and talk and is at last forming a close relationship with me after all these years. I guess she never really needed that before and doing rescue for so many never gave me the time to concentrate on more socialisation. "If it ain't broke, don't fix it."
Toya, sadly, will not be with us for much longer. I did some research this morning to see if I can help her with a more enticing diet that is Renal appropriate. I found this article on the Feline Nutrition Org site which I thought might be good to share. It really is a wonderful site.
We all know that cats are really outdoor creatures. In years past our cats were indoor/outdoor just like everyone else. Nowadays, we like many other rescuers, have cats confined to enclosures or kept indoors. Enclosures need not be boring. Ive seen some amazing and wonderfully attractive cat enclosures on the web that are integrated with flowers, shrubs, grasses (cat safe only, of course.) .
I discovered Chirpy Cats some time last year and found it a wonderful and inspiring site and so pretty! What an achievement! So...why be greedy and keep it to myself? Enjoy!
Above: One of the best Wheatgrass crops I had grown....until Tigger made a bed out of it.
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Fifteen years ago it began with one tin of cat food for a stray kitten. The tins increased in number as the cats kept pace. Or was that the other way around? We had a stray cat situation the likes of which we had never seen before.
Soon came the embarrassment of lining up dozens of tins at the supermarket.
So I searched for alternatives that would cost less in comparison and be more nutritious and that was when I discovered bulk meat at the local independent pet store.
I would buy kilos of meat, come home, chop up vegetables and cook the lot. There went Sunday afternoon :( This method travelled along quite well however until the cats began to balk at 'what was in it.' Ten kg of raw meat cooked in batches for the week ahead. Nothing had changed from when they did eat it to when they quite suddenly stopped.
The dogs however saved the day. They had a weeks worth of cooked dinners.
I asked the pet shop if they had altered anything, were there preservatives or something that would cause this? According to them they had stopped using preservatives. Something didn't add up though and I changed to buying human grade beef at the local butchers. And we went raw.
I did lots of research on my favorite subject: diet and health for both humans and cats. Often these were interchangeable believe it or not. When I found a new supplement or food for myself I would research to see if it were good for cats.
These things do not always go according to plan though. My discovery of lentils was one. I read with fascination that lentils were high in protein. They were cheap. Cats could eat them. I dutifully sprouted a batch of lentils and mixed it with the meat. Some must have been eaten inadvertently but a lot of little lentils with sprouted tails were left on the plates. Poor lentils!
Not dissuaded by this I next decided to cook them. This went down quite well until Miss Marple spewed hers across the back of John's lounge, we shouted at her and at each other and I went for a walk to cool off.
Nevertheless my hobby has remained intact! I continue to add things to their meals in a less pioneering fashion due to the memory of Miss Marple's fall from grace. And one always should tread carefully, try adding to some portions and leaving others without. What will happen then? some cats will gobble it up and others will sniff and walk off. That's cats for you.
So I have decided to get back into the sprout thing. Here is an article on sprouts from the Animal Wellness Magazine that might be of interest to those other pioneering souls. Feedback (excuse the pun) is welcome.
Footnote: for the past few years we found a pet meat supplier who delivers top quality product
Below, is the infamous Miss Marple