I guess you find out which one you really love when they fall ill. Bugsy is doing well in her cage, happily consuming baby food, but still unable to walk on the floor without rolling sideways. She's not suffering, but she's not improving. Part of me wishes I had had her put down right away. The other half is glad I have given her her chance to improve.
If she were a pet cat, especially an "only" pet cat, this really wouldn't be an issue. If Ivan were rolling sideways (my pet cat), but still loved his baby food (and me) and could be coddled and loved and helped, it wouldn't be such a devastating illness. But Bug doesn't like people. She likes cats, and she like her wet food. She can't stay trapped in a cage, and she can't jump up to her high places that she loved so much. Am I keeping her in a cage to give HER a chance, or just to make the humans involved feel better because THEY gave her a "chance?"
She misses her buddies. When they are "at liberty" in the evening she comes out of her den and meows. I think I'll give her some down time in the cat room with them tomorrow, but I'll need to keep an eye on her, so hopefully she won't just hide in the corner if I'm there.
Tonight I went into the cat room to give everybody their Wednesday-Saturday comb-out, and figured since they'd heard me pop the top on a baby food jar for Bug, I should give them a treat as well. I opened another jar and went from cat to cat, running my hand down those that permit petting, and combing each one as they ate. When I got to Buttons he was on his usual spot on the window ledge, flirting with me. I ran my hand down his back...
and slightly pudgie handsome Buttons felt like bones. Like old cat bones. How could a cat lose that much weight in just four days since his last combing? Did I miss him because I was concerned about Bugs? I cracked open his mouth and checked his teeth. No red gums. No abscessed teeth. Was he bonded with Bug and had stopped eating entirely because she was gone to the other room? I put a dab of baby food down on the shelf and he went right for it. Lick, lick, lick, lick...but then after about 45 seconds he stopped, gave one last lick, and turned away. "Hey, I'm hungry! That smells good! That tastes good! Oh...I don't want to eat anymore. Something doesn't feel right..."
I petted him and he purred like nothing at all was wrong. He let me open up his mouth again and poke around. This wasn't just a little weight loss. This was serious weight loss. A few weeks ago I had been wondering if maybe I should put him on a diet. Last week I had thought how he was looking good (but maybe was already losing weight, going from pudgy to normal)and wondered if I should bring him in he house as a pet. Now here he was, way too thin.
And all the sudden I found myself in tears. I had been prepared for Bug. I have even prepared for Fluffy, since he has entered his senior years (he's doing fine). I wasn't prepared for Buttons. I pulled up on Buttons' fur and he was a bit dehydrated, but not too bad. I tried some more baby food and he just turned to face the other way. Still purring. But not willing to eat any more.
You know, it's hard enough when they are pets, but at least they had a full and loving life when they become old or ill and pass over. When they have been stuck here in a building all their lives with no special ONE PERSON to love them... I realize that they came in here before TNR was an option. They are the in-between cats. I always was prepared for the day when they would become ill. I expected it would be earlier than a pet cat, given the stresses of living in an adoption facility. Still, I can't help but feel that their lives have been stolen. They never had a home and alternatively, they never were allowed to be free. They were warm, well fed, and had the company of other cats. But there was never that expansion to their lives. A home. Their own home.