Category Archives: Family

I slept in and…

… Well, the inevitable happened.

catfight

No, I am not a victim of (voluntary) domestic physical violence.

My cats are extremely active in the morning, having spent the entire night sleeping on my bed, under the covers, on my chest, and anywhere else that pleases them. And the one thing Allegra loves to do every morning is engage in a game of catch, which does fairly well to wake me up because all three of them end up chasing each other back and forth across the bed, and over my own body.

Then this morning, in her excitement and general disregard for anything in the house, Allegra ran over my face. Yes’m, she did. This is something she has done more than once, but on all the previous occasions, I was able to pull the covers over my head in time. This time, however, I was just barely waking up, so all signs of imminent danger — and disfiguration — did not yet present themselves in my brain.

It was extremely painful in the first minute that it happened, but I only really panicked when I took my hand off my face and saw blood on my fingers. And so, for the next few weeks, my concealer will be working overtime to hide the results of Allegra’s unchecked boisterousness. I always knew it was worth investing in good makeup.

makeup

It’s probably worth noting that if I had gotten out of bed when I was supposed to — a whole half-hour earlier — I could have avoided this entirely.

Baby makes three

I don’t usually stop at a gas station past 9pm. My brother got robbed while getting gas some months ago and I’ve been paranoid of meeting the same fate (to be fair, it was supremely stupid of him to stop for gas at 3am when the gas station was completely deserted).

But on that one Saturday night, at 11pm, I was running nearly empty, and I wasn’t sure if I would be going out at all the next day. So when I saw that the Shell station just around the corner from my house was still crowded at that hour, I figured it would be safe enough to make a pitstop on my way home.

To this day I’m still not sure how I was able to hear it over the sound of so many cars, voices and the radio blaring over the loudspeakers at the gas station. But heard it I did: the squeakiest (and loudest) little mew. And as I looked around me, I saw, peeking from under the aluminum wall panels that separated the gas station from the enormous electricity plant next to it, a tiny little white face.

allegra

February 23: Allegra on her first night in my house

As soon as I had filled my tank, I drove across the station and parked as close as I could to the wall, where this little kitten was squeezing out from under the wall. She started stumbling about on the grass and mewing so loudly that I felt immensely sorry for her, so I ran into the station’s convenience store to buy some crackers to feed her with. But being a kitten and unaccustomed to normal food, she could barely eat any of it, so I did the only thing that popped into my head at that moment.

I took her.

I picked her up and dropped her into one of the eco-friendly bags I keep in my car, zoomed home to put down my shopping, and took her to the 24-hour animal hospital where I had first brought Offa and Costa when I suspected they’d ingested rat poison. The vet dewormed and defleaed her, and told me to keep her in quarantine for a week before bringing her for her vaccinations. So I brought her home and shut her in one of the downstairs bathrooms for a week, which I soon realized may have been a vast improvement from the wilderness, but also frustrating because she couldn’t run around as she pleased.

In all that time, Offa and Costa moved about the house in suppressed curiosity; they knew there was another feline being in the house, they could smell her, but they couldn’t see her so they didn’t bother themselves about it as much. Meanwhile, I paid enough attention to them that they knew they would always come first with me, even if a new kitten joined us and I had to take care of her. I was terrified that she would have some form of disease that Offa, with his FIV, would catch, and I wondered how I was going to find someone to take this new kitten in if I couldn’t keep her.

Finally, a week later, I brought her to the vet, where she got the shock of her life in the form of a needle to her thigh, and had her blood taken to test for FIV, FELV and FIP. Fortunately — and almost ironically, given that she was a stray — her blood work came back normal, and Allegra came home with me.

baby makes three

The first meeting

Yes, I named her Allegra. She has spent the past 11 days becoming acquainted with the house and the other two cats, and she seems to have settled in relatively well. She has an enormous amount of energy that I’m not used to seeing anymore, now that Offa and Costa have grown up, but when she’s calm she’s the sweetest little kitten to be around. I’m also trying to get used to having a female cat in the house now, as I’ve only ever had males. I’m in a constant state of trepidation that she may go into heat earlier than the average cat and I would miss my window to have her spayed before she ever gets the chance to become the village bicycle. It would be the absolute height of irony for all the neighborhood tomcats to come squalling outside my door, while my own two tomcats haven’t the slightest inkling of what’s going on.

the first night

March 3: Tired out from running all over the house on her first day out of quarantine

Allegra’s chances of contracting FIV are ever present, as she has already begun sharing food and water with Offa and Costa, but I’ll deal with that if or when the time comes. Until then, I will take care of her as best as I can and keep her happy. And if there were ever a need for more proof that keeping cats is just like raising children, I have it: Allegra officiated her first night out of quarantine by wetting the bed. My bed.

morning cuddles

March 10: One week later

 

The three dreaded letters

FIV.

Or, as you cat-lovers will know, feline immunodeficiency virus. Or, as you cat-unlovers will not know, HIV for cats.

Offa has been diagnosed with FIV, and I will likely hear tomorrow that Costa has contracted it as well.

I can hardly believe that it was only two nights ago that I rushed them both to the 24-hour Animal Medical Center on Jalan Tun Razak to be checked out for rat poisoning, as my brother had witlessly left our store room door open with the rat poison within reach. I had been somewhat consoled by the fact that they could be given antidotes for the poison and would be set to rights. It was only a little worrying, however, that Offa had spiked a fever, and his temperature was 39.5°C, a full degree higher than normal. But maybe that was due to the stress of being in a hospital among strangers, and Offa has always been nervous around strangers.

I left them there for the night so that they could have blood tests done in the morning to check for any effects of rat poison. I left them there after assuring them that I loved them and they would be home soon, and they would be fine.

Yesterday, after spending all morning on tenterhooks, one of the vets from the hospital called. Offa’s blood panels did in fact show signs of rat poisoning, but with the Vitamin K antidote he would be all right in time. The main cause of concern was his temperature, as it had not gone down since I left him at the hospital, and had, in fact, become even higher, reaching 40°C at one point. They wanted to keep him there longer to monitor it, and if his temperature continued to spike, they would run a virus screening to check for other possible causes. But Costa was fine, they said, and I could bring him home if I wanted, and continue to administer the antidote myself at home.

This afternoon, as I was driving to the hospital to visit Offa and ask to bring him home, another vet called and said his temperature was 39.8°C, and had not gone down at all. He should be tested for other viruses, she said, and I would have the results by the time I got to the hospital.

The worst thing about being in a hospital, whether human or animal, is the waiting. Waiting for your turn, while other people around you coddle their ill or injured pets. Waiting for test results to tell you whether or not your world was coming to an end. Waiting for the doctor to give you some form of miracle to save your baby’s life.

So I waited. I alternated between waiting and sitting with Offa, who showed no signs of being ill, and actually sat up when I opened his cage door. Again I told him I loved him and he would be going home with me soon. I told him I was sorry I had left him there, but he would be fine and he would be home soon, and I would take care of him.

I think in my heart I already knew; when the vet finally told me that Offa had tested positive for FIV, I wasn’t shocked. I wasn’t even angry. I was just extremely sad, and sorry for this poor little boy who had never done anything to deserve it. But cats with FIV can live relatively long and happy lives, she was quick to reassure me, as her own FIV-positive cat had survived seven years with the virus. All I could think of at the time was that seven years was less than half the lifespan of an FIV-negative cat and Offa was being robbed of more than half the life he could have had if he weren’t FIV-positive.

Could Costa have it too? It was possible, she said, as they have been living in close quarters and playing with each other for nearly six months now. And sharing food and water, and licking each other’s faces, I didn’t dare to tell her. But I sent him for virus screenings anyway, and I will know the results tomorrow. In retrospect, I don’t think it would make any difference. Even if he doesn’t have it now, he will have it eventually, as there is not an inch of this house that hasn’t been touched by Offa, and more importantly, I could never separate two cats who love and would miss each other.

After today, everything changes. I always said that I wouldn’t know what to do if something ever happened to them. And I don’t know what to do now. Oh, I probably do, but it’s something that is so complex, so unfathomable to me that it feels as though there is nothing I can do. For the rest of their lives, it will be all about managing diets to boost their immune systems, making sure they have no contact with other cats or step out of the house, and keeping them as happy and comfortable as possible, perhaps not so much as sick cats, but as cats who are destined to have short lives. I can’t decide which circumstance is worse.

It feels as though a part of me is dying along with them; Afham is much more stoic, and has taken the news in relatively good stride. But as I sit here and try to imagine my life without either of them, I find that I can’t. I can’t imagine a day that they won’t be sitting at my feet waiting for food, lying on my chest to sleep, or turning over on their backs to have their bellies scratched.

From the day I brought each of them home, I swore I would give them a good life and they would be the most spoiled, petted and envied cats. And that vow has never meant more to me — and maybe them — than it does now.

Be brave, my boys. I love you to the moon and back, a million times over.