Of all the rants I’ve seen people go on abut how horrible 2016 was as a whole, I know that this one won’t make sense to everyone…. because I’m going to tell you that 6 months later, I still cry anytime I think about a cat and why he was the best thing that happened all year.
2016 was the year that, without realizing it, I thought often about the philosophy that you are equal parts of the 5 people you spend the most time with. As a work-from-home (that’s the first time I’ve ever said that. I stay home…but I work. I make a paycheck and dammit, I WORK.) I spend a hefty amount of time with my two boys and my husband. While I don’t see them much, I connect emotionally a lot with my sisters and my biological mother. Aside from them, I have a best friend who means more to me than some of my family members. She and I been through a circus this year. Lord help us. As long as I’ve know her, she’s poured her heart and soul into helping children, families and animals in need. It didn’t take long for me to catch that bug but it never felt like my calling. It felt like I was happily supporting my best friend by helping with adoption days, toy drives, donating unused beauty items, etc. I was always giving things but it felt…weird. I gave away things because they didn’t mean that much to me and I knew they’d mean a whole lot more to someone who had less. You ever owned 700+ bottles of nail polish and given one to someone who’s lost their home? It’s indescribable.
I know, nail polish? Stay with me…
Flash forward to 2016. We have a stoop cat named Peach. My sons named HIM Princess Peach before any of us realized that HE was in fact a HE and by then, the name had stuck and we just let it be. Peach is a very bad protector and sorry excuse for a male cat, to be completely honest. Tom cats came around and eat from him bowl and he cowered in the corner. It’s the funniest/saddest thing you’ve ever seen. After a few months, a fluffy girl kitty came around and became his better half. She had the attitude to keep away the Tom cats (that’s right, this pint sized fluffy girl of a cat because Peach’s front porch protector) and they became our stoop kitties.
Her attitude came with a serious reluctance to be touched by children and my youngest named her Scaredy Cat (yes, that name stuck). As nature would have it, she became pregnant. Because she has short legs and a very fluffy undercarriage, it wasn’t something I noticed right away and I had a hard time putting a date on the situation, but when she went missing for 4 days, I knew it was time. On the 4th morning she came back and I spent 2 hours looking at this….
Cats….are assholes. By this time, Scaredy Cat and I had a report and she would let me pet her, rub her pregnant belly and she would flat out beg for a brushing when she could no longer keep the burrs at bay. She knew I wanted to see the kittens and she was absolutely not giving in.
Eventually, I went inside and sat facing a window where I would see only part of our yard and tried (badly) to distract myself with work. After a while, I saw a flash of black out of the corner of my eye and realized she had hopped a fence into my neighbors back yard. I can’t describe my neighbor as anything else than a hoarder (for legal reasons?) but there is a fence within her fenced backyard that is overgrown and full of discarded furniture, machinery and other things.
That’s where I found her and her kittens. Pushed up against an old generator, under a discarded door and unfortunately in an ant pile. I scooped her and the kittens up and locked them in my bathroom and proceeded to pick off ants while Scaredy Cat glowered at me. She’d never been in my house beyond the front room and I knew she wouldn’t like what I was going, but I didn’t want her to walk away from her litter.
After they were clean, I placed them in a box containing my sweater and a blanket their mom slept on often. (both familiar scents) I fed Scaredy Cat some tuna and things calmed down quite a bit.
Eventually, I knew I couldn’t keep them inside. I didn’t think Scaredy Cat would know what to do with a litter box and my main goal was to keep this first time mommy comfortable and with her kittens. After checking their genders, we realized we had two boys and two girls. I did find one grey kitten that had not made it. To add to my reasoning for moving the kittens (which I do not recommend unless the situation is absolutely called for!), they were all laying on top of that dead kitten when I found them which may have explained the ants.
I made a bed for them outside, in my yard and waited for Scaredy cat to get used to the idea and she was having none of it. I waited 6 hours. I scared off numerous tom cats, listened to them cry and read up on what I should do if these kittens were left in my hands. Eventually she came back and got one of the girls but around hour 5, I ran to the store to get a miniature bottle and kitten formula. When I came back, the other girl was gone and I had two solid black boy kittens to care for.
We named in Jelly & Bean.
I learned everything I needed to know about bottle feeding kittens. There was so much to do and I quickly realized that I was suddenly giving more than things, I was giving my time to save these kittens. I got up every 2 hours to feed, burp and potty them as well as check their heating pads, change their bedding. It was a lot like having a newborn only these weren’t my kids. They were defenseless animals who wouldn’t have made it otherwise.
As luck would have it, little Bean would stop gaining weight and develop an upper respiratory infection and pass away. It was hard to take because I knew that neonatal kittens had a better chance of survival in groups. A few days after Bean passed, most of Texas saw record breaking rain fall and large areas of my city flooded. Scaredy Cat came and pouted on my porch and never seemed to go looking for the two kittens she had taken with her. It broke my heart. I invited her in often to see Jelly but she hissed and never wanted anything to do with him.
Despite being a lone ranger, Jelly grew fat and happy.
Jelly went everywhere with me and I planned my entire life around raising him to be adoptable at 6 weeks old.
Enjoy this slideshow of some of Jelly’s funniest and cutest pictures.
I took a lot of photos of and with this kitten.
Jelly was always on the small size like his mom and his vet speculated (based on Jelly’s size and photos of his mother) that she might be part himalayan and part munchkin. Because of this, we kept Jelly until he was 7 weeks old and he was still not heavy enough to get his first set of shots. He finally hit the weight to be de-wormed and we looked for a home. We found one with one of my husband’s co-workers but his daughter was allergic to Jelly (which isn’t uncommon in long haired cats) and they brought him back the next day.
To me, the universe had spoken. Jelly was my first even rescue cat and frankly, I was the only one who would raise him right. My husband never liked the idea of having a litter box, but I wore him down and let’s face it, he was in love with Jelly too. Jelly because my very first “foster fail” as well as my first foster. A foster fail is a cat that you decide to keep when the intention was to foster them out. The reason it’s seem as a “fail” is for the simple fact that by keeping Jelly, I was limiting my ability to foster more in the future. Not everyone has the time to foster and if you can, it’s best to keep your home open. I knew that and my plan had been to help out the next litter that might need me. Sometimes, things just don’t go as planned.
Lucky for me, Jelly had a great attitude and got along with other cats. I did end up fostering this punk who we aptly named Regina George. She came to me with the most severe infection I’d ever seen in a cat. She had such bad ulcers in the throat that she could not eat despite her mother’s attempts. I force fed her for 8 days and she hated me through it all. She found a home with my best friend’s mother. She’s doing great and is sassy as ever.
Life with Jelly went on as normal. We went in every few weeks to weigh him and see if he was big enough for shots and the big snip snip and things seemed fine.
On July 7th, I took Jelly in suspecting that he had a cold. Some cats we had a play date with that week were sneezing so I wanted to get him on antibiotics if that was the case. This was the first time we heard about his heart murmur. They told us he had a grade 5 murmur and they didn’t think anything could be done. We went back two days later and they said it was a grade 6 with a mechanical sound. They went on to explain that it wasn’t a blockage in his heart but rather a weak flow and muscles. His heart was not oxygenating his blood enough for his body. He would huff and puff and his chest would heave in any attempt to get air into his body.
He slowly lost his playfulness and would lay on the cool kitchen floor most of the day. He never seemed to be in pain but the vet told us to be gentle with him because he legs likely hurt from lack of oxygen. We had a vet on standby should be seem to be hurting and we needed to make a quick decision.
Jelly passed away early on July 19th, 2016. He was 14 weeks old. Because of the nature of Jelly’s heart defect, he was one of the calmest animals I’ve ever known. The vet warmed me that he could go in his sleep or not. He didn’t exactly explain the “or not” part… I don’t wish for anyone to see anyone they care about die the way Jelly died.
I know to some people, loosing a cat and maybe even writing a long, wordy blog post about it seems silly and I understand. I effected me because I nurtured a creature and watched it grow knowing that without me, he would never stand a chance. Maybe I felt like God. I was quickly reminded how un-God like I was standing in my hallway watching him die having a full blown panic attack…
As much as Jelly taught me about loss and about how sometimes, life is cruel, he taught me more about how I want to spend my time. Jelly taught me how valuable my time is and he amazing it feels to give my time away. He forced me to become an expert in neonatal kitten care and I rescued 7 kittens in 2016. I am not much for resolutions, but in 2017, I want to help as many kittens as I possibly can. I want to get up in the middle of the night for weeks and go through it all over again. It was worth it.