I didn’t believe that I could still sob like an eight year old kid. But I did. Today. Most of the day actually. Over a stupid, determined, tuxedo, lap-loving, purr-happy cat that I knew for maybe 10 weeks.
We adopted the tiny bugger from Daryl’s school. They have a relationship with the local ASPCA to let the students interact and sometimes learn to care for kittens. The kittens are part of their foster program.
Our first grand dame, Zazu, came from there 5 Christmas’ ago and we adore her, so after much cajoling from Daryl (3 glasses of good wine, and the promise of something naughty), I FINALLY gave into seeing a photo of this new kitten. “He looks a little sick. Like maybe he has a cold or something,” I snorted. “Just a cold, ” Daryl assured me, “He’s on antibiotic. He is THE friendliest kitten I have ever seen there. He came right up to me and sat on my lap, then climbed onto my shoulder to purr. It’s like he wants to snuggle all the time!”
“Okay,” I said reluctantly. Or as reluctantly as I could fake. “But you’re giving medicine, and litter, and clean ups, etc.” Daryl agreed. He takes such wonderful care of Zazu. How could we not welcome more love into our relationship?
I got home from work after 5 the day he came into our home. Daryl had off and got Pippin used to his new surroundings. We have a very small condo, and our initial challenge was going to be keeping the baby from his big mean old sister Zazu.
This kitten was pathetic looking. Runny nose, gook in both eyes, sneezing into everything, including a few cups of my coffee. But something about this cat was special. Something I haven’t seen before in any of my million cat history growing up. He was just LOVE. We kept him in the bathroom all night. He’d jump into the sink and fall sound asleep while his purr motor ran rampant and loud.
As soon as I would open the door, he would follow me like a puppy. He didn’t meow, didn’t bite, and rarely clawed at anything. As I would start the Keurig he would lie on my feet looking up at me. I’d bring my coffee to my sofa perch and he’d hop right up and plop onto my lap. Not in a cat way… but just a plop. Then he’d purr so loud as I stroked his tiny head. It was just what I needed to start my day. So calming. So loving. Every morning as I watched the sun rise and dawdle on FaceBook.
He was peace. At least to me. Not so much to the queen bee Zazz. She finally got to meet him face to face after the sixth day if “cat-solation.” She wasn’t pleased. He went immediately up to her face as if he were the new 8 year old kid on the first day of school. Hey there lady… my name is Pippin. I think you look really neat. I like you! I’ve never known Zazz to say an unkind word to anyone. She doesn’t even meow. Until now. A hiss and a growl that I think even surprised HER!
Pippin backed away as if to say, okay lady, that’s cool. You’ll warm up to me eventually. In the meantime, I have a lap to find. I left them alone that day and when I came home from work, they were sleeping in the same bed (ours) about a foot or two apart. Zazu looking at me as if to say okay guys… “It’s” really annoying me and when can you take “it” back to where you found “it?”
This behavior between the two continued for a day or two to mixed reviews.
Pippin’s cold wasn’t really progressing like I’d hoped. It wasn’t getting worse, but it wasn’t improving either. Kitten snot everywhere. The poor guy didn’t seem to mind. He continued his lap loving, purr mending ways.
I decided a visit to the vet was in order. I wanted to have him checked anyway even though the ASPCA did their routine shot treatment before he was adopted. As soon as I took Pippin out of his crate, the vet held his head (as he continued to purr loudly) and informed me that Pippin had herpes.
“You’re shitting me right?” was my elegant no filter response. Apparently, cat herpes is quite common in shelter environments. Kittens can also get it from their mothers milk. It’s an airborne version that is extremely contagious to other cats but in no way harmful to humans.
Did you say contagious to other cats?
What about Zazu? We’ve kept them separated for several days. They haven’t had any contact really. We still have their food and liters in different locations. Zazz should be fine right? “Unfortunately, your other cat is already infected,” was the vets response. “It’s THAT contagious.”
After getting a very expensive bag of various pills, powders, and liquids. I headed home to explain to Daryl what our next steps were. Pippin hopping in and out of the travel crate like it was an adventure without the least bit of hesitation.
Within a day, Zazu was a wreck. Her eyes filling up with gunk, her sneezing incessant, and she could not eat or drink without vomiting clear mucus. She got depressed pretty quickly and hid in places that were not her usual spots. It was very difficult to see this cat who was never sick, go downhill so rapidly. The herpes had taken over.
Daryl decided to get her to the vet within the week. He brought his own bag of prescription goodies and our home soon looked like the ward for wayward cats with bottle, salves, and liquids with schedules that rivaled any senior living lobby.
With patience, teamwork, and a little time, we got both animals to a sense of chaotic order. We did it together. All of us.
The two pusses even tolerated each other somewhat out of a resolution of we’re all in this together in this tiny little condo world. We can make this work.
Eventually, Daryl and I could not stop this kid from wanting to sleep in between us. He’d climb up and plop directly between our heads, never fearing getting crushed or being uncomfortable. He would stay with us all night. Purring most of it, as Zazu continued her nightly slumber at our feet.
A few weeks later, Pippin began walking with a slight limp to his hind left leg. I guess we just attributed it to him sleeping on it. He’d be running to play with his favorite laser light and he’d sort of trip with it. Way too quickly within a few days it evolved into he couldn’t walk without his back end sliding to the side. He looked drunk. Almost cute… if it weren’t so serious.
Back to the vet. X-rays, and tests and still no answers. New antibiotics in hand, we coached the little guy along. Hoping to see improvement, he deteriorated quickly. His entire back of his body began to lose function. He had to drag himself around. He never complained or looked in pain as he tried to come running to me looking like a funny seal. I had to pick him up to get him to my lap since he couldn’t climb. He had no control over his bladder or bowels. We were losing him.
Daryl made another vet appointment for that late afternoon. I ended up staying home with the little guy for the day. I cancelled all plans on my schedule and decided to wrap him in a favorite blanket of his (and mine) and sat with him on my lap all day. He was semi alert and continued to look at me off and on during the day, his tiny face staring at me as if HE was trying to comfort ME. At one point I even told him that I didn’t think things looked good as I wept and he stretched his paw out and touched my arm. He continued to sleep off and on, hiding his tiny head deep into the blanket. He couldn’t get up to eat so I would take him to his bowl and watch him attempt to stand as he’d flop into his bowl of water. He just looked at me and placed his head on the floor. I lost it. Like an 8 year old kid… I lost it.
I don’t know how animal volunteers do it. I don’t know how they can look at these faces of unconditional love, of painful eyes, of unspoken thoughts and continue to care for or lose these creatures of heart. I give them credit.
The back of my head kept saying to me, it’s only a cat silly… you haven’t even had him for long. Snap out of it! Stop acting like a big baby.
Daryl came home in cautioned silence as he opened the crate and we watched as Pippin hobbled in without question. Without hesitation. To the vet for blood work. We wanted to see if there were any solutions. Deep down, I didn’t believe the day would end well.
So many of you reached out. So many of you understand this incredible loss of a pet. More than a pet. A family member. One that never really gives you grief. They just want to be with you is all. They don’t judge your looks, your attitude, your mood. They just see your soul and they allow you to see your own.
Thanks for the support. It is truly of value.
And thanks Pippin, for coming into our lives no matter how brief. We love and miss you terribly. 😿