Thursday, August 12, 2010

Bad cats

One of my clients went on vacation last week, meaning that much of the project management and decision-making work he handles on various projects has found its way down the line to me. I can hardly wait until he gets back.

I completed the first draft of the technology book, but now have a lot of additional work to do. I'd hoped to get to it this week, but, thanks to client #1, it hasn't happened.

And, in all fairness to him, there are the cat problems:

Zoe, the big, annoying tabby, is going through a bullying phase. The other cats have always pretty much ignored her (she blocks the doors, and takes a desultory swat at any cat that walks past) but about a week ago I noticed Mabel, the new black Bombay, was avoiding Zoe and even avoiding the house. Two nights ago, Mabel spent the night outside, then came in and spent yesterday holed up in the basement. I kept checking on her, and she seemed cheerful. She was eating, but sneaking around and avoiding Zoe, who I had to move out of Mabel's path a couple of times. This morning Mabel ate breakfast and went upstairs to her cat bed. I was suspicious, and went up to pet her and came away with my hand covered with blood. She had a huge, fresh abcess under her chin, and was running a fever.

Mabel is now at the vet, recovering from minor surgery to clean out the abcess and remove dead skin. I'm sure she'll recover just fine, but I'm glad we got her in for treatment. I'm not sure if Zoe, who has extremely long claws, caused the injury or if Zoe just took advantage of Mabel being injured to bully her, but Zoe is going to be under close scrutiny and will get "time outs" in the bathroom if she so much as looks funny at Mabel.

I discovered Mabel's injury just as we were about to go up to Amelia's to check on Smokey. Smokey is a 14-year-old black Russian Blue I found in Wallingford 12 years ago. When I moved to Ballard, I brought Smokey, who kept running off to move in with elderly people. He finally settled with my elderly neighbor Steve, and lived there for four years until Steve went to a nursing home (and was afraid if he brought Smokey, the cat would have run off). Smokey came back to our place, didn't much like the (then new) tabby kittens and wandered off and found Amelia, who had just lost her husband. She lives alone seven blocks north of us. Smokey "commuted" for a year before moving in permanently with Amelia.

Amelia is extremely fragile — she's only in her early 70s, but has severe osteoporosis and must weight less than 90 pounds. She can't have Smokey in the house because if she tripped over him in the dark, it could kill her. So Smokey lives in a very large glass greenhouse in her backyard. She's out there tending plants every day, even in the winter, so he gets plenty of attention. We go up every couple of months with Smokey's flea medicine and take him for his shots and checkup once a year.

In late June, Smokey, now 14, had the expensive geriatric blood tests and got perfect scores. But the vet noticed he had lost some weight, and asked us to check him. We went up yesterday and were shocked to see how thin he was. It's possible he has parasites (living and eating outdoors) or that he has cancer. We went back today, and, after talking with Amelia, we are also wondering if he isn't getting enough food and water. We left a water dish for him.

Amelia seems to be increasingly confused, and I'm wondering if she is simply forgetting to feed him. Amelia has a son who stops by frequently and takes very good care of her, but I doubt he is particularly concerned about the cat. We are going to go up every other day and police the situation, and feed Smokey some snacks and make sure his water bowl is cleaned and filled. And we're going to take him in to the vet Monday morning and see about getting him parasite medicine that would be safe for an elderly cat to take.

Last winter, we couldn't get Amelia to keep Smokey's cat bed heater plugged in (she was afraid of tripping over the cord). If Smokey does indeed recover from whatever is causing him to lose weight, I'm thinking that, come October, we will need to convert the outdoor pet-bed heater to run off a battery pack and simply go up and replace the batteries every few weeks.

Smokey is exactly the same age as Sheba, the deaf white cat, and you can really see the difference between the health of a pampered, mostly indoor cat like Sheba and an outdoor animal like Smokey. The way Sheba leaps and gallops and vaults through the house every morning you'd never know she's 14. She even still gets up on the next-door neighbors' roof.

Back to work...

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