Kansas Snapshots by Gloria Freeland - July 17, 2020

Feline family member

Husband Art and I live in a semi-rural neighborhood that has a lot of cats. Our calico cat Cookie died in 2013, and since then I've been feeding some of the felines that come to our back deck. I never know whether what I'm doing is good or bad - meaning should I just let nature take its course or should I try to make their lives a little easier?

I've given some of them names: Blackie, who is mostly black with a white spot on his chest; Schwartz (German for "black"), a pure-black one; Gray Stripey, who has a gray coat with darker stripes; and Fluffers, a long-haired gray cat, who sometimes looks as if she stuck her tongue in a power outlet.

Fluffers had kittens about a year ago, and one of them - a gray-and-white mix - immediately captured my heart. Whenever I'd put out food, she was more interested in me petting her than in eating. Being smaller than the others, I named her Mini-Fluff or Mini.

On Memorial Day, Art was walking to the van to go to town when he stopped and motioned for me come outside. There, just a few feet away from our front step, Mini was curled up, struggling to breathe. It looked like something had grabbed her as there was blood on her neck.

There are many coyotes around, and cats disappear frequently, never to be seen again. But although small, Mini was quick and perhaps the previous pitch-black rainy night had allowed her to escape.

Whenever we approached, she would run a few steps and then lie down again. This went on awhile until she disappeared into the high weeds behind our neighbors' house.

Art left and I called daughter Mariya and her wife Miriam to bring out a cat carrier. If Mini returned, I would take her to Kansas State University's vet clinic. The girls obliged and we waited to see if Mini would appear. After about 45 minutes, they had to leave, but they left the carrier.

I figured Mini was a goner. Not breathing well and with predators around, her prognosis seemed grim. I was heartbroken.

Then, two days later, Art and I returned home at the same time. As I stopped to get the mail, Art called out to look at our front doorstep! Mini was sitting there, looking a bit worn, but also like she might enjoy some attention. She was doing a bit better than before and she let us pet her this time.

She began purring, but struggled to breathe, and her ribs were sticking out. We put her in the carrier with little difficulty, wondering if it was so easy because she was exhausted or just happy for the attention. I called the clinic to let them know I was on my way.

When I arrived, I explained what happened. The admitting person asked if I wanted to drop Mini off as a "good Samaritan" - meaning they would decide how or whether to treat her and I would no longer have access to information about her, or if I wanted to register her under my name and pay for any treatments. I chose the latter.

Little did I know where that choice would lead. Mini was nervous and nipped one of the medical staff. That meant a 10-day quarantine period to watch for rabies. It also meant the county animal control office got involved.

She spent several days in an "oxygen cage" to help with her breathing. The doctor said the neck injury had either damaged her larynx or the nerve that controlled it and gave her a steroid injection to reduce the swelling.

I wondered whether it would have been kinder to euthanize her. After all, if her larynx wouldn't heal, she'd have trouble breathing and maybe even eating.

But Art said he felt once I committed to intervening, the right thing to do was to continue treatment to see how she would progress. "In for a penny; in for a pound," was his comment.

Mini did fine over the course of the quarantine, and she even acquired a new name. The staff spelled her name Minnie instead of Mini, and I decided I liked that better.

When we released Minnie at home, her initial anxiety caused her to "climb the walls." Well, not literally, but she did scale the wood frame of our patio door several times, each time slowly sliding down. I must admit it was rather funny to watch.

I closed our bedroom doors, but let her explore the rest of the house. That first night, we put her in our basement laundry room. She did pretty well, although Art heard a "crash" early in the morning. She had knocked over some CDs on a bookshelf.

But within a couple of days, she adjusted. Since then, she's had three rounds of rabies and feline leukemia shots and was spayed. The latter procedure required her to wear a plastic "cone" for 14 days so she wouldn't try to bite or lick the incision while it healed. Art called her "Cone-head."

I brushed her neck and under her chin with a soft toothbrush while she was wearing the cone and she loved it. Art said she almost seems like a dog in a cat's body as she enjoys attention so much.

Mariya and Miriam - who have three cats of their own - helped me stock up on cat supplies - a litter box, litter, food and water bowls, a scratching post, a brush, a special "calming" collar, a comfortable canvas cat carrier, and canned cat food.

In the end, maybe it was fate. After all, June was Adopt-A-Cat-Month. And as I write this column, Minnie is contentedly curled up next to me. Her injury does lend a certain "Louis Armstrong" quality to her meows, but it's fun to have a feline family member again.

Frequently when I am working on my computer, I have a friend.

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