Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Mr. Oliver

I said Good Bye to my BEST friend today.

One year, seven months, ten days and fourteen hours ago....Christmas of 2008 my Oliver was diagnosed with Chronic Renal Failure.

He had 'crashed' Christmas Eve. Could have been the vintage cotton skirt he had been licking unbeknown to me, I moved a package and found a hole in it.

He was constantly drinking water so I set up a drinking fountain for him but when I noticed he was not interacting with me and he was not eliminating in the litter box I knew something had to be wrong.

After blood tests and staying at the vet for a couple of days and nights with IV fluids he came home with antibiotics and medicine.

I researched as much as I could and found out that he needed a complete diet change.

We switched all his foods to prescription and homemade organic foods which took some doing. Going organic with less chemicals (prescription foods still have chemicals in them) than commercial would be better anyway. When I questioned what type of protein he needed it was difficult getting clear cut answers from professionals. Not being a meat eater myself, I do but only on rare occasions and do not cook it at home, I shuddered at the thought of buying organic livers and worse, the smell of cooking them on my stove. But we do what we have to for those we love. Besides, cats naturally do better with wet food and a cat with CRF does better with wet than dry because of the water content in the food.

Then there was the problem of Oliver not liking it, all his life he ate wet food due to not having most of his teeth, nibbled/gummed dry & when I put the plate down for him he looked at me as if I had completely gone bonkers.

I had to be diligent in not letting the food sit for longer than 30 minutes due to spoilage. This is something else he didn't like.

In the end he adjusted and I preferred knowing what was going into his system.

The amount of holistic and regular veterinary information regarding the treament of CRF was mind boggling. The treatments, foods all depended on his BUN, Creatine...every month...which is why there was no clear cut answer.

Now that I look back at all the years I could have been feeding him better food instead of the junk (assuming it was healthy just because the label said so) I would have done it a completely different way.

He had always loved tuna, salmon/fish foods and turned his nose up at most anything else. I admit that I caved in too easy. I think I could have given him fish as a treat now and then just not as often as I had.

After he was diagnosed with CRF I was advised to stay away from fish because cats with CRF require a diet low in phosphorus.

At first he let me know he was not pleased with me. Sniffing the food, whipping his head around complaining under his breath, turning his back to it.... But I had to change his diet if I wanted him to get better. So for better of worse the 'piggy' in him finally gave in and he learned to love chicken, turkey...

I cant help wonder if feeding him foods with fish had something to do with his developing CRF. When I adopted him I was told he had already suffered a couple of urinary infections. After he was with me I caught two right away. He also had terrible teeth, he had to have almost all of them removed.

Despite those issues Oliver always looked much younger that he was but after he was diagnosed his little body began showing signs of deterioration. Also his hearing and sight began to be affected, I believe the disease aged him rapidly.

In the beginning he had to have subq fluid treatments to hydrate his little body once every 2 - 3 weeks, then once a week. The vet taught me how to give him the treatments at home.

First time I gave him the treatment I was a nervous wreck and he dug one fang into my hand but instantly I could sense he felt bad, I think he had been poked and prodded so much at the vet's that he was over it. I purchased a muzzle he wore without any complaints. Some folks do the treatments in the bathroom, some do it on a table. We began in the bathroom with a towel on my lap the bag hung from the shower curtain. But I wanted to keep the procedure as normal as possible.

So we moved to our special spot in the livingroom and he would climb on my lap, I would adjust the muzzle and the treatment would begin. Later on I doubted he would have bit me but it helped calm him down so he wouldnt move during the procedure. Usually Oliver got on his back and loved me rubbing his pink tummy but while he wore the muzzle he knew we were not going to do that and the tummy rubbing became a reward.

Checking his gums for color, blood tests, weighing...became a routine. Eventually I noticed that he needed once a day subq treatments. He was a trooper. But I knew the dangers of daily subq treatments. Water can eventually build around the heart, lungs...and this is when I began to try to prepare myself for the inevitable, specially since he was now 22 years old. A younger kitty may have had a better chance but my little guy's odds werent very high.

The past few months we were going through 3 - 30lb bags of litter a month - 2 multiple cats and 1 crystals. I even mixed it with natural wood pellets to make it last longer but I knew that the rate water was leaving his little body couldnt be good.

Besides hygiene issues he began having balance issues, I noticed he wouldnt jump up on the porch chair as much, when he climbed the stairs he had to lie down to take a rest at the top. When he stood up from lying he wobbled a bit. The last day of his life he barely touched his food and I could hear a wheezing in his breathing.

My son told me he was coming home in a few days from overseas and I was hoping Oliver would be able to see him.

The last couple of times I gave him the subq treatment his skin felt so thin and tough. I couldnt feel any muscle and I could see the outline of his hips and spine.

When I drove Oliver to the vet I did with the assumption that he would possibly get a shot to improve his appetite...but when I asked the vet if Oliver was suffering and he said yes, although it was breaking my heart I had to do the right thing.

I almost brought him back home so I could say good bye all night long, hold him in my arms...but that would have been selfish of me.

*~The beginning of my life with Mr. Oliver~*

aka The BEST cat in the World.

August of 95 I took a friend to an animal shelter in St Petersburg FL to look for a kitty of his own, that's where Oliver found me. As we were looking with my friend this cat stuck his paw out of his cage and touched my face, then he gave me his pink tummy to rub. It was love at first sight.

Resistance was futile.

For better or worse.

The last time we had a cat was home in NYC in the 70s. The loss of Ebony, our first cat when my son was a baby, was so traumatic that it took many years before I considered allowing another feline in my life. The memory of rushing in downtown traffic in a taxi to the Animal Medical Hospital with my cat crying in my arms was something you never forget. My cat had been misdiagnosed with hair balls when in fact he had an obstruction in his bladder. I cant begin to imagine how painful that must have been.

While my son was growing up we had turtles, fish, birds, a ferret we named Mimi. This little guy was so full of personality you had to have a heart of stone not to like him.

Oliver gave me fifteen years of love and happiness. I was blessed to have him in my life.

He was 7 years old then, had been living with an older lady who, the shelter assumed, was going into a retirement home. He had not been fixed and the shelter took care of that. When I saw him after the surgery he looked so pitiful! His golden eyes half closed.

When he recuperated and I was able to bring him home he adjusted quickly. At first he walked around with his cotton tipped tail flying high, examining every little corner of the 600 foot place until he looked up at me approving of his new digs, certainly better than the one at the shelter, he settled down and ate his first meal.

Welcome Home Little Man!

Inspector Oliver. I think this place will do.

My son was 23 and on his own. I had two jobs, volunteered at my community radio station, had a pretty busy social life and traveled often. Having someone depending on me was not in the cards, or so I thought.

I think I can get used to this!

They didnt allow cats in my condo and I had to figure out a way of keeping him in stealth mode, for the time being anyway. My buddy lived in the same building, we were partners in crime. Some years later we found out we were hardly the only ones with cats in the complex.

Oliver was not a vocal cat in his younger life, thank goodness! he became so as he grew older to communicate with me. Specially when I had to separate him from the office/studio area here, he was not happy about that but I had to keep him separated from the vintage and designer duds. He had the rest of the house to himself, but he didnt care, he just wanted to hang out with me.

The front window of the condo facing the hallway of the complex leading to the elevator had to be blocked with the Victorian china cabinet. A few times he managed to sneak in and I found him sitting on the window waiting for me.

I handcrafted a ledge so he could get his sun at the back window by the water, we lived off Tampa Bay, and covered the glass with reflective film. He could still see the sky, birds flying by....

I had to dispose of his litter by taking it to the dump because the building maintenance was known to go through the trash. Later on my mom 'paid' the manager to keep our little secret. Vet visits were made quietly in my backpack till we were safely out of sight in the car.

Oliver loved listening to music, particularly the music of Widespread Panic. Im not sure if it was because he liked the vibrations of Dave's Schools's bass but it was the oddest thing, whenever I played WP he relaxed right next to the speakers. Sometimes I would pick him up and dance around the room with him in my arms. He was a pretty easy going cat, his vets loved him they always said how they could always do anything to him.

When I was hit by a car in 1999 I had an awful long hospital and physical rehab, months! I worried sick about Oliver. My son and my friends looked after him during that time. There was really not much to do, just change the litter box, feed him....pet him a little...cats are usually pretty self reliant, right? Except Oliver has always been a very social cat. He has never been a shy one. He never hid under furniture when company came, Oliver was right there at the door ready to greet everyone. I knew he had to be very lonely.

I will never forget the day I came home. As my son helped transfer me from my wheelchair to my bed Oliver saw me, the look on his face when he realized it was me almost made me cry. He jumped up on the bed and rubbed himself against me harder than he ever had, he kept going back and forth jumping like a puppy and making whimpering sounds.

They say cats have no feelings and are indifferent, they are so wrong. I had never seen so much love, relief, happiness...in that little face.

From that day he never slept anywhere else except right next to me watching. He'd wake up in the middle of the night and check up on me to make sure I was still there. He crept up my back, touching me with his little paw falling asleep again reassured it wasn't a dream.

Oliver seemed to always be happiest next to us. Anywhere. If we were sitting on a chair, he'd sit by us on the floor and extend his paw just so he could touch our feet. If I was in the tub, he'd climb up on the toilet and wait for me to finish. As I was getting ready for work he'd sit there gazing at me adoringly. He was my little man.

In 2000 he finally earned his very own sunny window. I no longer had to worry about anyone reporting us to the condo association. Not only did he have a window but he also found little 'gray toys' that ran around pretty fast with long tails that he could chase, play with, some of them were very tasty.

Athens, Georgia 2000

One day I was at the front of the house and heard him making weird noises, that chattering cats make when they stalk prey, this was the first time I'd heard him do that. I noticed a snake had managed to find its way into the dining room, Oliver had chased it up into a wind chime. I'm guessing the snake thought that it was a tree.

After that the chattering became more frequent with all types of flying insects, specially moths. He had found a new language.

By this time I thought it would be nice to find him a companion. A pretty Siamese kitten found us one cold winter night but Mr. Oliver was the king of his castle and the 'roommate' didn't last very long. A few scraps, bruises later (all from her as he had been declawed by his original owner) and I had to find her another home.

He managed to wiggle into my son's heart. The mere mention of my son's name and he'd stand at attention by the door or at the top of the stairs waiting for him tail swishing excited side to side.

With my son he would wrestle and play 'rough', my son would let him bite his hands and do all sorts of fun things boring mommy wouldnt.

Athens, GA 2005.

Yes Mal spoils me. You wish you could have a shaggy purple sofa!

He liked baths. He also loved riding in the car. We burned thousands of miles together up and down the E coast. He traveled in his carrier with my finger touching his paw. At rest stops he'd walk on his leash and use the litter pan in the back of the Jeep which I cleaned after each use.

When my son and I drove to Seattle in the moving truck Oliver lounged the entire journey on the dash. Truckers got a huge kick out him. I swore he had been a dog in another life, he would even listen to me when I told him to do certain things like if I called, he always came and when I said 'stay' he would. Most cat owners will tell you they have a mind of their own and dont listen to anyone but my boy listened to me. They say dogs are man's best friend but my cat was the best companion ever.

In Seattle WA 2006 on his favorite chair.

Halloween in Seattle 2006.

I am a good boy mom!

Inspector Oliver still at your service 2007.

Home from the vet listening to Mal on the phone May 2009.

In his favorite chair on the deck 6.4.2010

He had been feeling pretty lousy the past week or so, sleeping with his back to me, turning his face when I asked for a kiss. Didnt have as much interest for the deck, he'd go out for a few minutes then back to his bed. There was a time he'd spend the entire day outside.

Clear signs he had lost interest in life; not cleaning his beautiful fur or taking care of his sleeping area. I gave him a couple of baths when it was warm but did not want to take the chance while he was feeling so sick. I did wash his face, paws...with a washcloth and I could tell it made him feel much better. His eyes began looking sunk in. Treatments, prescription foods...were no longer helping him, he was drinking a lot of water again, I was changing the bowl 2 - 3 times a day. I had a pet fountain for him as well but he seemed to prefer the water from the faucet in the bathtub so when he couldnt climb in on his own I helped him. He had lost 5 lbs. As terrible as I felt, as much as I wanted to keep him around and knew how terribly lonely I would be without him, I knew it was time and I couldnt be selfish, I couldnt let my friend suffer. I warned my son he may not make it home in time to see him again.

Today he kissed me and I am convinced he was telling me Goodbye.

I held my sweet boy in my arms as the vet administered the dose. He loved to hear "Momma's good boy!" so as he was leaving I told him what a good boy he was and how much Mal and I loved him. I kissed his nose as I had so many times in the past my heart shattering into a million pieces.

The vet checked his heart and said the words Ive been dreading to hear since his diagnosis in 2008 "He's gone."

No matter how much you try preparing for this moment nothing, ABSOLUTELY NOTHING at all helps the pain. My son says he is now dreaming his cat dreams.

The worst times are when I get up in the morning and when I go to sleep at night. He was always there to greet me, meowing his little 'Momma Im hungry' and not asking for much more than love now and then. Always patient, never pushy. He could never sleep in his bed if I was anywhere near him. He always needed to know where I was and came over to lie next to me as I watched my favorite shows. I could always count on his company. If I was not feeling well and I wanted to be left alone he respected that and watched for signs that told when I was again ready. Lately he seemed to need to be next to me more than ever. If I had known we had so little time together I would have spent the last couple of weeks by his side 24/7.

This house is very empty without him now but I know I did the right thing. A huge piece of my heart is gone! I wonder if I was truly worthy of his unconditional love.

The thing that keeps me from breaking completely is knowing he is no longer suffering and a glimmer of hope that some day we will re unite on the other side. I will be looking for that cotton tipped tail waiving high waiting for me so we can put another million miles behind us.

Seattle 2005.

Someone once said that a good death was not about when or how; its about knowing love.


These things helped us a lot with our CRF kitty and my research for better nutrition and well being.

Feline CRF Website

Dr. Pitcairn's Complete Guide to Natural Health for Dogs and Cats.


  1. Aw Liz... this made me cry! Sounds like he had a pretty awesome life, though. Hugs to you, girlfriend!

  2. Thank you! I still have not moved his bed from his favorite spot with his indentation. Miss him terribly!