Respecting our Four-legged Elders

Petfinder sent me a poll the other day asking the age range of my four-legged friend (as if I only had one). Since most of my four-leggeds are in their teens, I chose the 7+ yrs option. Petfinder defines animals over the age of 7 as seniors. I define them as in their prime!

Petfinder’s poll respondents so far identify their four-legged friends as 34.87% <1 yr, 44.19% 1-6 yrs, and 20.94% 7+ yrs (senior). I can’t tell you how much that statistic saddens me. Perhaps Petfinder sets the “senior” bar so low because so many folks start dumping their animals around that age when they are no longer youthfully “fun”. What happens to these prematurely “senior” animals then? Are we losing them to broken hearts? Starvation? Predation? Various forms of human disposal (including shelter euthanasia)? Are they just sitting there, stressed and overlooked in shelter cages day after day, week after week, and month after month?

Whatever happened to respecting our elders, much less treasuring their lifetimes of loving devotion? Pet “owners” who routinely discard their aging “property” must not realize what they’re missing. Middle-aged and older animal companions are generally better behaved, less destructive and less demanding than their younger counterparts. Their quiet presence and peaceful demeanor offsets an otherwise hectic human household, providing a balance that benefits everyone.

When I visit a shelter, I always enjoy watching the youngsters bounce and play. But it is in the eyes of the older animals that my soul makes the strongest connections. I can read their lives through their eyes – the hopefulness, the longing, the silliness, the sadness, the strength, the fear, the love, the abandonment. It’s all there – the complexity of their lives, experiences, and spirits – in their eyes.

If you are considering sharing the love and spirit of this holiday season with a new four-legged family member, look into the eyes of a mature animal. You may find family there.

Posted in Cat-related philosophies and reflections, Cats and dogs, Lessons that cats have taught me | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Being Prepared – A Pet Caretaker’s First Aid Kit

In my earlier post, Cat Health Procedures You Should Know How to Do, I listed a number of pet caretaking skills that can make the difference between full or partial recovery from an illness or injury, or, in some cases, the difference between life and death.  Those skills are particularly important to acquire if you live more than a few minutes from a 24-hour veterinary hospital.

The same holds true for the list I am providing today. This list includes both routine and critical care supplies that are advisable to keep on hand. Also included are items that you hopefully will never need but will be darned glad you have if and when you do.  Most of these items involve learning how and when to use them, and some should be used only under the express and specific direction of your veterinarian. Your veterinarian can advise and instruct you on the use of these items. If you have the slightest doubt about how, when, or if you should use any item in this list, ALWAYS CONSULT YOUR VETERINARIAN FIRST!


  • phone numbers for your vet, the nearest after-hours emergency vet, and the pet poison hotline (1-800-426-4435)
  • pet first aid book

Prescription Items (use in consultation with your veterinarian)

  • *oral antibiotic (amoxicillin or other)
  • *non-steriodal triple eye antibiotic
  • *fluids (Lactated Ringer Solution or other – treats dehydration)
  • *medications and supplies prescribed specifically for your pet (have enough on hand to complete the prescribed course of treatment)

Over-the-Counter Remedies (use in consultation with your veterinarian)

  • Probiotics (repopulates beneficial gut bacteria during and after antibiotic treatment)
  • canned pumpkin (helps normalize stool consistency)
  • Laxatone, Cat Lax, Petromalt, or other hairball remedy (for hairballs and constipation)
  • pet enema (NEVER use a human enema on a pet)
  • Miralax (to prevent chronic constipation)
  • baby aspirin (NEVER administer to cats unless under the specific direction of a veterinarian)
  • Corn syrup (treats hypoglycemia)
  • Benadryl (for allergic reactions – use ONLY under veterinary advice)
  • L-lysine (for herpesvirus flare-ups in felines)
  • hydrogen peroxide (to induce vomiting)
  • pyrantel pamoate dewormer (eliminates most worms except tapeworms)

Wound and Injury Care

  • antibiotic salve (available over-the-counter at any pharmacy)
  • Betadine or other wound cleanser
  • cornstarch or styptic powder (to stop minor bleeding)
  • 2″ wide gauze roll
  • gauze sponges
  • sterile no-stick gauze pads
  • Q-tips, cotton balls, or sheet cotton
  • vet wrap or other self-adhesive, elastic bandage wrap
  • adhesive tape
  • blunt-tip scissors
  • splint
  • Elizabethan collar (to prevent licking or chewing wounds or bandages)
  • expired credit card or similar (to scrape away insect stingers)
  • magnifying glass
  • penlight and extra batteries
  • tweezers
  • needle nose pliers
  • latex or nitrile exam gloves
  • grooming  clipper

Miscellaneous Supplies

  • digital thermometer
  • Vaseline or KY Jelly
  • stethoscope
  • piller (I prefer Dr. Hanson’s Bullseye Pillgun)
  • Pill Pockets (my cats prefer the duck flavor)
  • pill cutter
  • pill crusher or hammer
  • sterile syringes (3-5cc)
  • needles (Terumo 20 ga Ultra Thin Wall – may require rx in some U.S. states)
  • IV tubing (for subcutaneous fluid administration)
  • rubbing alcohol
  • hot water bottle (fill with either warm or cold water)
  • emergency blanket
  • nail clipper (I use a human nail clipper for cat claws)
  • flea comb
  • Dawn dishwashing liquid (dilute with warm water and use as a flea shampoo – do not get in animal’s eyes)
  • digital baby scale

Restraint and Safe Handling


  • feeding syringe or regular needleless syringe (10cc)
  • kitten nursing bottles
  • KMR or other kitten milk replacer (do NOT feed kittens cow’s milk)
  • baby food meat (check ingredients for meat only – NO onion or garlic)
  • Nutrical or Nutri-Stat (high calorie dietary supplement)
  • A/D prescription canned food (for debilitated animals)
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Meet Lamie – Tough as Nails, Just Like Her Momma

Lamie the cat

Lamie is one of Tommy’s daughters, and the most similar in terms of character and behavior. Like her mother, Lamie is tough and intolerant, and like her mother, this toughness was tested early in life. When Lamie was a tiny kitten, she, her sisters, mother, aunt, and cousins were subjected to a violent attack by their drug-raged owner. Lamie was injured during the attack, which left her unable to use her hind end properly.  After Joe and I rescued Lamie and the rest of her family and brought them home, she gradually recovered full use of her hind legs.

Whether the result of her early injury or just an unfortunate roll of the genetic dice, Lamie is extremely drug-sensitive. When I took all five kittens to the vet for spay/neuter surgeries at around 6 months of age, her siblings and cousins recovered fully from the anesthetic by late that afternoon. Lamie, however, continued to feel the effects of the anesthesia for 3 ½ days before her body finally managed to process it out of her system. Many years later as a senior adult, Lamie underwent another surgery, lightly anesthetized with isoflurane. This anesthesia should have left her body almost immediately after surgery, but again Lamie’s body was slow to process the drug out.

Lamie’s sensitivities extend to physical contact, as well. While she enjoys the occasional stroking and scratching, even the sight of a comb or brush, or the slightest tug on a mat will send her into a man-eating fury. Unfortunately, she mats very badly every spring. The worse the mats, the shorter and more violent her temper. I discovered last year that the easiest way to deal with her mats is to shave them off with my electric clipper while trying to stay out of the way of teeth and claws. It’s a strategy that holds considerably less risk of sending me to the ER for a blood transfusion than trying to work her mats out by hand.

Lamie, an angry catThis fiery feline also commands fear and distance among the 4-leggeds. Cats and dogs alike give Lamie a wide berth, lest they feel the wrath of her weapons. This has always been the case, but now that Lamie is an old girl (18 years) with substantial arthritis, she makes even more of a point of defending her personal space. Like her mother and siblings, she now spends most of her time away from high traffic areas or under pieces of furniture that afford protection from oblivious dogs.

For some reason, the significantly younger Feather has recently taken to sleeping beside Lamie from time to time. This is a new alliance for him, and an unexpected one.  But Lamie seems to accept his presence kindly, and in so doing, has become The Pride’s first cougar.

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“Natural Death” in Pets – A Painful Myth

In nearly six decades of sharing my life and home with non-human animals, I have yet to experience the passing of a pet who simply went to sleep and never woke up. I have, of course, read of these miraculously peaceful passings many times, and if they do, in fact, occur, they are not the intended topic of this essay.

I much more frequently encounter pleas on pet-related forums asking for advice regarding end-of-life decisions for companion animals. Distraught caretakers struggle with this final, irrevocable resolution. They seek out and cling to any justification to avoid enacting euthanasia. And why wouldn’t they? The responsibility for ending a beloved life is, and should be, profound, solemn, and emotionally consuming. And so, the oft asked question when one is faced with a pet nearing death:

Should I euthanize or just let nature take its course?

This question, frankly, makes me crazy. It suggests that there is a way to avoid assuming responsibility for the manner in which our companion animals pass from this life, when, in fact, such responsibility is unavoidable. The first time we feed, shelter, vaccinate, or treat an animal for illness or injury, we effectively cut “nature” out of the equation. In practical terms, we spend the lifetime of the animal doing everything in our power to minimize or eliminate the effects of nature on that animal’s life.

Nature does not allow animals to linger through old age or prolonged illness or injury. Nature culls animals as soon as such infirmities occur, and that culling is often violent or painful. But that is not the fate of most companion animals under the care of humans. We go to extraordinary lengths and expense to provide our companions with extended happy and healthy lives that no wild animal will ever be likely to experience. Our pets are fed and maintained even when they wouldn’t be able to provide successfully for themselves in a natural state. Our pets, in effect, lead entirely unnatural lives.

It is therefore unrealistic and, in many cases, erringly cruel to expect nature to step in at the end of a wholly unnatural life to provide any sort of humane end. There is no natural death for companion animals. Death in companion animals is likely to be as extended a process as is life. And so, the question realistically asks:

Should I provide an assisted death, or should I withhold assistance?

When we assume responsibility for an animal’s life, we also assume responsibility for that animal’s death. We can opt to provide a quick, humane euthanasia when the animal’s physical condition is no longer compatible with an acceptable quality of life, or we can choose to do nothing and wait for our companion’s body to deteriorate to the point of death. If we remove the convenient scapegoat, “nature”, from the conversation, the choice becomes more clear, though no less heart-wrenching. An assisted, humane passing is our ultimate responsibility and final compensation for a lifetime of devoted companionship.

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Saving Money on Medications for Pets

prescription bottles

Over the decades I have spent vast amounts of money on medications for my animals. As anyone who has ever had an ill pet knows, medications for pets can be very costly. This can be especially true when meds are purchased from a veterinarian. There are, however, ways to save substantial amounts of money on your pet’s medicine.

Few veterinary clients realize that their veterinarians may be steeply marking up the price of medications purchased through their clinics. Clients simply take whatever meds the vet hands them on their way out the door without question, and they may end up paying a much higher than necessary price for them. Some vets, however, will price match medications if you take the time to research cheaper med sources. This is always a question worth asking your vet.

If your veterinarian will not price match, request a prescription for any necessary medication. In many U.S. states, veterinarians are required to write prescriptions on the client’s request. Even in the states that don’t impose that requirement, many vets will write prescriptions to maintain good client relationships. Be forewarned, however, that some vets charge a fee to write a prescription. When price shopping, it’s important to factor in any such fees to determine the final price of a medication.

Once you have a prescription, call all of your local pharmacies and check prices. Most pharmacies, particularly the chain pharmacies, have discount drug lists from which you can purchase listed drugs for astoundingly low prices. Prices tend to be even lower for larger prescriptions. A 60-day supply generally costs less per pill than a 30-day supply, so ask your vet to write the prescription accordingly. These discount drug lists vary from store to store and are updated by each store periodically, so make a point of asking each pharmacy to check its discount list for the specific medication you need. If there’s a drug that your pet takes for an extended period of time, call around and check the discount drug lists each time you need a prescription refilled. The large chain pharmacies like Walgreen’s, Target, Kmart, and Walmart also publish their discount drug lists on their websites.

Some pharmacies require you to buy an annual membership in a savings club in order to take advantage of their discount drug lists, which may or may not be worth it, depending on which drugs your pet needs and how often (s)he needs them. Certain pharmacies may offer discounts for pet medications, so don’t forget to ask about this, as well.

A few prescription items and supplies can be purchased inexpensively in case lots, such as bags of sterile fluids administered subcutaneously by many caretakers of cats with kidney disease. I, personally, can purchase a case of 14, 1000 ml bags of Lactated Ringers Solution (with a veterinary prescription) from my local Target Pharmacy for less than some folks have told me they have paid their own vets for a single 1000 ml bag of the same solution!

Most medications used in veterinary medicine are actually human medications dosed down for use in companion animals. It’s possible that you may have difficulty finding drug stores that stock these lower strengths of some medications. In this case, ask the pharmacist if the lower strength can be ordered. Some pharmacists will do this for you; others won’t.

Ordering pet medications and medical supplies online or through a catalog is a far riskier business than buying locally. There are, of course, reputable remote veterinary and human pharmacies, but if you choose to order from an Internet or catalog source, it is critically important that you research the source carefully to make certain that it is a legitimate and reputable pharmaceutical provider. Your pet’s life depends on it.

Veterinarians will sometimes prescribe medications and supplements that are available both in pet and human formulations. Two examples of this are L-lysine, an amino acid commonly prescribed as a supportive therapy for herpesvirus infections, and probiotics, used to help normalize digestive activity. The pet-formulated versions of these over-the-counter supplements are flavorized to presumably make them more appealing to pets … and MUCH more expensive for our pocketbooks! The human versions are easily mixed into canned pet foods and are generally substantially cheaper.

When your veterinarian prescribes anything for your pet, make sure you understand exactly what is being prescribed and why. Ask if there is a less expensive, generic equivalent. Ask if there is a suitable, human-formulated equivalent for pet-formulated items. Ask for a prescription. These questions can help you stretch your available veterinary funds to provide the best possible care for your 4-legged family members.

Leave a comment and let me know if you have any additional pet medication savings tips to share.

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Cat Burglars – Preventing Felines from Stealing Each Other’s Meals

Tommy and cat eating, and BooBoo the cat watching

As I explained in Free-feeding vs. Portioned Meals for Cats and Shadowood’s Feline Fat Farm – A Weight Loss Program for Cats, after decades of free feeding my family felines, I switched to portioned meals back in 2007 when I got tired of tripping over tubby cats. I had been avoiding making this switch for a very long time, mostly because I had no idea how I would prevent 14 cats from stealing each other’s meticulously portioned meals. The problem seemed insurmountable, or at least too mind-boggling to attempt.

I tried first to feed the Pride in my tiny kitchen on 14 separate plates with each cat remaining obediently in its assigned spot until all plates were cleaned. Yeah, right. I can’t imagine what lunacy overcame me and made me think for a single addled moment that such a strategy would work. The cats had no experience or concept of “separate” where meals were concerned, so of course they raced from plate to plate, stealing bites where they may, leaving me to wave my arms uselessly in their midst, trying to shoo one away while redirecting another. Strike one.

Physical separation seemed the likely solution to this logistical nightmare. My house, however, does not contain 14 separate rooms, so I tried first to feed in shifts. Made sense on paper, created chaos in practice. Every time I tried to segregate a single cat in a single room with a single food dish, several more famished felines scooted in before I could get the door shut. With each cat, each room, and each food dish, the scene recurred, making the whole hair-pulling process untenable and unmanageable. To make matters worse, certain members of the Pride, who had always enjoyed communal meals, were adverse to eating alone. The ex-feral, Phantom, even went into a catatonic panic when left alone in a closed room. Clearly another solution had to be found. Strike two.

A melding of the two strategies held some promise of success, since there were a few cats who actually preferred to eat alone away from the madding crowd of felines in the kitchen. The trick was to shove each little cat butt through a narrowly cracked doorway so that no other cat butts could follow on their heels. This was accomplished by not attempting to put both cat and food into the room simultaneously. After I had as many cats segregated in as many rooms as possible, I accompanied the rest into the kitchen where I intended to once again try to convince them to eat off of separate plates. Now that half of the cats were safely tucked away in separate rooms, I was left with only seven to supervise in the kitchen.

I prepared all fourteen plates and put seven of them around the kitchen floor, positioning a cat at each plate. I then ran the other seven plates to each of the segregated cats while the “kitchen seven” were busy eating. By the time I got back to the kitchen, the faster eaters were finishing their meals, at which point I unceremoniously scooted each of them out of the kitchen before any cat burglary could commence. After all of the kitchen diners were finished, I waited another 5-10 minutes to give the various room diners time to clean their plates before reuniting the Pride and cleaning up the dishes. The system worked. HOME RUN!

Over the years, there have been necessary adjustments to accommodate individual feeding schedules of the very young, the very old, and/or the ailing. To my great advantage and relief, however, most of the cats have adopted their own preferred spots in the kitchen or their own preferred separate “dining” rooms, and they all understand that they are to eat only the food offered to them on their own plates (note that I typed “understand” and not “unconditionally agree”). There are still occasional minor indiscretions, but as a rule, the Pride now behaves in as civil a manner as innately wild carnivores could ever be expected to behave during mealtimes.

Posted in Cat and kitten photos, Cat food - feeding strategies - weight management, Kitty caretaking | Tagged , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Veterinary Realities and Pet Owner Responsibilities

My sister spent two years waiting for her cat to die. Her veterinarian had taken a needle aspirate of what he considered to be a suspicious enlargement and diagnosed mammary cancer based on his interpretation of his analysis. He gave a prognosis of 2-6 months survival. He also briefly mentioned a very expensive surgical option with a low success rate. He offered no explanation of anticipated symptoms and progression of the disease. He simply sent my sister home with a dying cat.

Two years later, the cat has never exhibited a day of illness. A new veterinarian has declared her healthy and debunked the previous cancer diagnosis. So, what happened? The previous vet was wrong; that’s what happened.

Yes, that’s right. Veterinarians can be wrong. Veterinarians can be wrong a lot. This isn’t unlike any other human being on the planet, but for some reason, veterinary clients, just like medical patients, expect health care providers to be omniscient, infallible demigods. We believe every word that comes out of their mouths, even when those words clearly express ambiguity or doubt. We strain to hear concrete answers to the exclusion of our own common sense and intuition. This is not only unfair to vets, but dangerous for the animals under their care.

Putting common sense to work, we have to realize that it is completely unrealistic to expect any veterinarian to know all things about all illnesses and all injuries in all animal species. Once we accept that fact, we also have to consider the possibility that our vet may not be knowledgeable about the specific medical complaint for which we have taken our cat to him/her. When my own cat developed hyperthyroidism, two different vets prescribed two different dosages of the same medication. So, which vet was correct? According to Plumb’s Veterinary Drug Handbook 7th Edition, they both were. Turns out there was a dosing range listed in the drug reference. One vet opted for a low dose option, the other a high dose option. Whose dosing recommendation was I to take?

This is where my responsibility as my cat’s caretaker comes into play. Since I have now accepted the reality that vets can’t possibly know everything, and because I have no way of knowing exactly how much a vet does know about any particular feline disease, it is up to me to assume the role of a strong and well-informed advocate and partner in my cats’ veterinary care.

Gone are the days when I will do anything and everything a veterinarian recommends without my thorough understanding and agreement. Experience has taught me hard lessons where my animals’ health is concerned, and maturity has given me the self-confidence to question my vets whenever necessary. The Internet has also greatly facilitated an enlightened and empowered approach to cat care. I spend considerable time researching my cats’ medical issues online, learning as much as possible about the mechanics of various diseases, their treatment and management options, and their progressions and prognoses. I also participate in online forums, groups, and mailing lists dedicated to both general cat health topics and to specific feline diseases.

I make sure that I can speak with my vet intelligently about my cats’ conditions, that I can ask relevant and necessary questions, and that I am able to make properly informed decisions that are in my cats’ best interests. Every decision regarding my cats’ veterinary care is, after all, my sole and ultimate responsibility. Veterinarians are highly trained, professional advisors, but they do not have to live with the consequences of their diagnoses and prescribed courses of treatment. I do, and more importantly, my cats do. The buck stops with me.

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Shadowood’s Feline Fat Farm – A Weight Loss Program for Cats

Weasel, an overweight catAs I explained in my blog entry, Free-feeding vs. Portioned Meals for Cats, I used to live with a houseful of feline fatties. This was the outcome of decades of free feeding high-carb kibble diets to my cats. This cheap and lazy way of feeding cats resulted not only in fat felines, but also in the tragic loss of one of my cats to renal failure that was diagnosed way too late, and a diabetes scare in another.

And so, in 2007, I implemented a weight loss program here at Shadowood’s Feline Fat Farm. I had been resisting embarking on this endeavor for an irresponsibly long time because I simply couldn’t imagine how I would work out the logistics of a weight loss program for all of my kitty kids. But I couldn’t continue to stand by and watch them fall, one by one, to various weight and diet-related illnesses. It was way past time for me to bite the bullet and act.

Phantom, an overweight catMy strategy was threefold. The first step was to remove the all-day kitty buffet and start feeding scheduled, portioned meals, instead. Simultaneous with this effort, I also upgraded the quality of their diet by swapping out their high-carb kibble for premium quality dry and canned foods as low in carbs as possible. Lastly, I started weighing each cat every two weeks on a digital baby scale and using the results to adjust food portions to maintain slow, steady weight loss.

I figured that since the cats were used to grazing on kibble all day, they’d make the adjustment with less complaining if I offered three meals a day: two kibble and one canned. I portioned and individually fed the kibble meals and then fed the canned meal in one, large, communal bowl at night before bedtime. Since the cats were committed kibbleheads with very little interest in canned food, I knew they wouldn’t overeat at that communal meal.

Somer, an overweight catAfter the first week, the cats were eating canned food more readily, so I swapped one of the kibble meals for canned and fed one kibble and two canned meals daily. After the second week, I eliminated one of the canned meals and settled on feeding only two meals daily: kibble for breakfast and canned for dinner.

Knowing from experience that commercial cat food packaging typically recommends feeding 1/3-1/2 times as much food as any normal cat needs to eat, I started each cat’s daily kibble allowance at 1/3 less than the package directed (also calculating in the fact that kibble was making up only a portion of the daily diet). After the first biweekly weigh-in, almost all cats had gained weight. I reduced the kibble amount slightly, and by the second weigh-in, most cats had maintained close to steady weights. I reduced kibble amounts again, and at the third weigh-in, some of the cats had finally started to lose weight.

Noddy, an obese catIn order to achieve steady, slow weight loss in all of the overweight cats, I now had to start portioning the canned food meal, as well as the kibble. I had reduced the kibble breakfast for each cat to a mere 1/8 c., which was as little as I felt I could feed them in a full meal. Once I started portioning the canned meal (2-4 oz per cat daily), I had complete control over each cat’s caloric intake, and I could make effective portion adjustments, as necessary.

This is where the regular weigh-ins assumed a more exacting role.  I maintained (and still do maintain) a chart of all of the cat’s weights so that I could easily track fluctuations over time.  Any time a cat lost less than .2 (2/10) lb during a two week period, I decreased the daily canned food portion slightly. If more than .4 (4/10) lb was lost during a two week period, I increased the canned food meal slightly. It’s important to note here that it is critical for cats to lose weight slowly, because rapid weight loss can trigger a potentially lethal liver disease (hepatic lipidosis) in felines.

Using this strategy, I was able to restore all of my fat cats to lean, healthy weights over the course of about 18 months. Cats who had been lame carrying around all of that extra weight were now much more comfortably mobile. Cats who had been unable to groom their masses were now keeping themselves clean and shiny. Cats who had been completely sedentary were now chasing toys and each other around the house. Cats who weren’t even able to sit in a normal, upright position were now sitting pretty and perfect. Most importantly, there were no more fat-induced health issues in any of the felines. The Pride of Shadowood had, indeed, regained its pride.

Noddy the cat has a waist

What’s that I see? Noddy has a waist!!!

If you have tried weight loss strategies with your cats that have or haven’t been successful, please leave a comment and let us know. We can all learn from each other!

Posted in Cat and kitten photos, Cat food - feeding strategies - weight management, Kitty caretaking | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 12 Comments

Meet Tommy – A Feline Warrior with a Never Say Die Cattitude

Tommy the Warrior Cat

Tommy has always been a warrior. OK, perhaps not when she was a young kitten, but as soon as she reached adulthood, she had to fight for her life and for the lives of her sister and their respective young kittens. Tragically, Tommy’s sister did not survive, and Tommy was left to raise both litters while recovering from her own injuries. Read more about Tommy’s early history and that fateful night here.

After the kittens were weaned, circumstances necessitated that I rehome Tommy with a friend, where she spent the next 14 years trying to eat all of the other cats out of house and home, and where she assumed a commanding position as Alpha Cat. I saw Tommy occasionally over those 14 years, and she was always at the top of her game as a dominant force in my friend’s home.

Then things changed for Tommy in 2009. I visited my friend just before Easter and was shocked to find Tommy in a state of very poor health. She was, of course, an old cat by that time, so chronic illness was not entirely unexpected. Still, I had not seen the Warrior in quite a while, and the very skinny appearance of a cat who had spent almost her entire adult life morbidly obese was startling and upsetting. When I rehomed Tommy with my friend all those years earlier, I promised to take her back at any time if the need arose. Here was the need. After speaking with my friend, we agreed that Tommy should return to Shadowood with me, where I would have time to provide the ongoing nursing that she would require.

Tommy underweightAnd so, Tommy came home to Shadowood on Easter morning, 2009. I suspected that she was hyperthyroid, a diagnosis that was confirmed three days later. She was also a pound underweight. It took a little over two months to gradually and successfully achieve euthyroid (normal thyroid levels) with medication. Stabilizing her at her optimal weight of nine pounds was a much more elusive goal. As her thyroid levels normalized, her weight shot up. Then I had to take the extra weight off of her, at which point she decided she really wasn’t all that hungry any more and dropped too much weight. She never has managed to maintain that sweet spot of nine pounds for long.

Dealing with Tommy’s health issues was my primary focus when I brought her home, but I was equally fascinated to see how she and The Babies would react to each other when reunited after 14 years. Would she remember her daughters and surviving nephew? Would they remember her? Would there be a happy family reunion, or would they try to kill each other? I had no clue what to expect.

True to her cantankerous and intolerant nature, Tommy wanted absolutely nothing to do with her daughters or nephew. They, in turn, avoided her like the plague and consistently hissed or growled in passing. It was not the reunion for which I had hoped. Still, they coexisted without bloodshed.

Tommy the cat and Goober the kitten

Tommy and Goober


Interestingly, 2009 was also the year in which I rescued the GoBoys as approximately five-week-old kittens. To my surprise, Tommy demonstrated a tolerance and acceptance of the GoBoys that she would not afford her own offspring.



three cats sleeping on a pileOver the last several years, Tommy’s identity as the Cranky Queen Loner has started to soften. She now allows other cats to snuggle against her as long as she can pretend that she’s sleeping while they do so. Footsie and Bobble, however, pushed their luck a bit too far when they recently decided to sleep on her. To my great surprise, she only growled at them and left, rather than ripping off their presumptuous little faces.


Mother and daughter cats, Tommy and Lamie

Tommy and Lamie

Mother and daughter cats, Tommy and Pretty

Tommy and Pretty

Mother and daughter cats, BooBoo and Tommy

BooBoo and Tommy


A happy extension of Tommy’s social development is her gradual re-establishment of relationships with her daughters. Now that Tommy no longer actively rebuffs their advances, all three of her daughters occasionally move in for a long past due snuggle with Mom.
















x-ray of a cat's broken leg

x-ray of Tommy’s leg

Tommy the cat with a broken legTommy is currently facing another challenge with her characteristic toughness and indomitable spirit. She suffered a broken leg two weeks ago. It is an oblique, spiral fracture of her left hind tibia just above the hock joint. Broken limbs are never easy to overcome, but it could easily have spelled the end of life for an average 19 year old cat with chronic illness. Tommy, however, is anything but average. In consultation with both her local vet and a veterinary orthopedic surgeon, and after reviewing her x-rays and bloodwork with each, we decided to splint the leg and give her every opportunity to heal. And healing she is. Tommy is now getting around on her splint rather well … a bit too well, in fact. She thinks she should be getting on and off of the couch on her own, but I disagree. She has four to five more weeks of healing to go before her next x-ray, hopefully followed by removal of the splint.

True to the title of this entry, Tommy has never been one to give up in the face of injury or adversity. She has always been and will always be a fighter, and she will always have me doing battle by her side.

Footnote: I would be most appreciative for any and all healing wishes that my readers would like to send Tommy’s way. 

Posted in Cat and kitten photos, Cat intros and stories, Hyperthyroidism (hyperT), Veterinary and cat health concerns | Tagged , , , , , , | 5 Comments

What Do You See When You Look at a Cat?

What do you see when you look at a cat?

Billy the Cat


RoxieDo you see a companion who warms both lap and heart on days when everything else seems cold? A comrade of shared interests in birdwatching, sunbathing, and long naps on a favorite couch? A partner in mischief during sleepless nights? A confidante who keeps safe every clandestine deed, deliberation, and desire you divulge in quiet confession? A therapist who listens intently and challenges you to live an honest life with joyful abandon?

Or do you see a furry little human, subject to all of the rules of etiquette and behavior to which other humans are bound? A child in need of education in the social graces of human society? A living ornament with which to decorate your home? An exterminator to rid house and yard of vermin? A reflection of your humane ethic and sense of community responsibility? A source of amusement for yourself, your family, or friends? A babysitter to keep the kids occupied? A passport into a group of like-minded feline aficionados? A possession to be enjoyed until the “new” wears off?

Feather and Footsie - two catsThe felines with whom I have shared my life have filled many of these roles. Often, in so doing, great injustices have been done to the perception of the species and the value of the individual. Contrary to convenient belief, cats are not the roles to which we assign them. Cats are, in fact, cats.

It has taken me nearly six decades to appreciate cats to the depth that I no longer require or expect them to adhere to human standards of behavior that they can not possibly understand. If a cat sprays a favorite armchair, drools all over a new outfit, or shreds wallpaper off of a bedroom wall, I would acknowledge all of these actions as perfectly acceptable forms of communication in a feline society. If I do not provide the proper resolutions or outlets for these behaviors in my home, that would be my human failing. It would not be the cat failing their human.

I love everything that makes a cat, a cat. And if my cats should accidentally stumble into other more “human” roles, I won’t impose my human expectations on them. Who am I to interfere with the perfection that is CAT?

So, what do YOU see when you look at a cat? Leave a comment and let me know!


Posted in Cat and kitten photos, Cat-related philosophies and reflections | Tagged , , , , , | 7 Comments