Friday, July 31, 2009

Kitty Heaven Has a New Angel

Dear Mother Catresa fans,

I suppose I knew, deep down, that this day would eventually come. But that doesn't make it any easier, and I never could be prepared.

On Wednesday, one of my five newborn kittens died.

The tiny, all-black, female baby was barely a week old when I came home from work, and found her lying, frozen and lifeless, in a corner of the nursery. She had seemed fine before that; in fact, she seemed to want to break away from the litter and step out of the nursery (an extra-large cat carrier) and explore the big world waiting for her. This seems like the feline version of SIDS (Sudden Infant Death Syndrome).

I've been told that this happens all the time, and that newborn kittens - particularly those from unhealthy backgrounds - are just so fragile and vulnerable, and some just don't make it.

Surely, I know, in this line of work I do, the occasional death of a baby I foster is inevitable. This was the first time it has happened to me in my two years of fostering - and, with many years ahead of me, I'm sure it won't be the last.

Still, I feel so awful about it, wondering what more I could have done to save her. I am so saddened to see this tiny little kitten, barely beginning her life, gone so very soon.

When I found her dead, I lovingly wrapped her in an old washcloth, and held her close as I cried. I then gently placed her and the cloth into a shoebox. This morning, I wept hard when I brought her in and left her at the shelter, where they will have the body cremated.

"I'm so sorry, baby," I whispered, tears streaming down my cheeks, as I petted her furry, soft head one last time.

Then, as I turned around and limped away on my sprained ankle, I prayed that, someday, this sweet little feline who lost her earthly life will be there to greet me in that otherworldly "Sweet Bye and Bye."

As always, I am,

Mother Catresa
Patron Saint of Homeless Felines
(and the "smitten kitten")

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

"Oh, Rats!"

We now return to KITT-FM, where it's all kittens, all the time. And now, broadcasting live from our studios in Purrbank, Cat-ifornia - heeeere's your hostess, Mother Catresa!

Hi folks!

On Friday, I picked up a litter of five newborn kittens and their mom: a malnourished, sweet black kitty named Grover. She was part of a big rescue done by the Animal Friends' humane investigations department; some owner evidently was pretty negligent and irresponsible. From that home were seized some 20 cats, many of which were expectant or new mothers. It kind of reminds me of the poster situation for human welfare reform: poor, young, unwed mothers having numerous kids for whom they can't provide well. But when an animal is the mommy, it's entirely the custodial human's fault for not taking care of her and getting her spayed.

But, oh, what sweet babies resulted from this! They are tiny newborns, no more than a few days old. Their eyes are barely open, their ears are folded down, and they fit into the palm of my hand. They look like little ... rats! (Shall we scientifically call a newborn cat a "kittenus ratticus," maybe?) Seriously, they look like cute little rodents at this age! There is one black one, a black and white one, a solid grey one, a grey and white one, and a white one with a few black blotches, like a little cow. So cute!

Now, I thought the "Oh, Rats!" title simply would be a play on the appearance of newborn kittens, but then, the interjectory expression took on an unfortunate new meaning. On Sunday, I suffered an awful fall at my house and sprained my ankle. I have taken two days off of work to heal my ankle, which is so bruised and swollen that it hyperbolically reminds me of, perhaps, an inflatable Batman's foot at the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade. I went to my doctor's yesterday, and was sent to a hospital for x-rays, to make sure I didn't fracture a bone. I'm waiting for those test results, and hobbling in an ACE bandage in the meantime.

I have to say, newborn kittens - so long as they are with their mom - are the perfect foster kittens for an injured foster mama like me. The kitty mama does pretty much all the work with the tiny babies and wants to be left alone most of the time, so I don't have to run up and down the stairs constantly! I just bring Grover some food, clean her litterbox, pet her (and the babies, a little), and then lie down and watch Grover nurse her kittens. The maternal scene is so sweet and calming.

Altogether now: aaaaaawwwww!

Until next time, I remain,

Mother Catresa
Patron Saint of Homeless Felines
(and the "smitten kitten")

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Loving, Losing and Living

Thanks for tuning into KITT-FM, where it's all kittens, all the time. And now, broadcasting live from our studios in Purrbank, Cat-ifornia - heeeeeere's your hostess, Mother Catresa!

Hi folks,

I had to bring my beloved baby girl, Brita, back to the shelter on Sunday. There, she and her black sister, Babe, who finally was starting to warm up to me, are awaiting their spay surgery in a cage.

And their mom-mom, yours truly, longs to hold and comfort them. And she thus far largely has avoided going into the now-vacant kitten room at home, because it chokes her up. It's as if Brita and Babe will burst through the door when it's opened, and instead, it's empty.

I love all animals I foster, but Brita was something extra special. I totally fell in love with the grey and white beauty, whom I nursed to health from her frail, anorexic condition when she was only about six weeks old. Brita was one of the sweetest, most gentle and affectionate kittens I ever have had - if not, the sweetest. She just couldn't wait to cuddle up to me, and would start purring like a motorboat just when I walked in the room.

I wanted to adopt her so badly, but with four cats - three of which are "foster failures," and the other of which is an ailing senior - I'm just at my limit. Love doesn't always mean clinging at all costs; quite the contrary. In fact, truly loving - in a sacrificial way - sometimes involves setting the loved one free, if that's what is best for the person/cat, etc. Even though it may break your heart.

So, Brita, my sweet baby - I miss you and Babe so much. I am praying that God is preparing a home with people who will love you as much as I do. I will hold my adorable "smitten kitten" in my heart forever - and don't you ever forget yours, either.

Oh, Brita. You had me at "meow."

Oodles of love, hugs and kitty kisses,

Mother Catresa
Patrons Saint of Homeless Felines
(and the "smitten kitten")

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Dr. K.B. Gormly, D.V.M.

We now return to KITT-FM, where it's all kittens, all the time. And now, broadcasting live from our studios in Purrbank, Cat-ifornia - heeeere's your hostess, Mother Catresa!

Hi folks,

I have had an exhausting deadline day with newspaper stories today, so I just had to wrap up my day with a quick epistle of the fun, unedited stuff.

Now, unfortunately, the KITT-FM topic isn't nearly as fun this time: it's about my sweet old guy Rum Tum Tugger, who is still quite ill with the respiratory infection he came down with two weeks ago. I took him to the animal ER on July 3, then I had to have him hospitalized overnight a few days later. Since then, he's been on intensive home care. At least once a day, I have to clean off his crusted face, put on the vaporizer, force-feed him with a syringe, and even give him fluids under the skin via a needle and IV bag. I also give him an antibiotic, immune booster and eye ointment twice a day.

The poor guy is hanging in there, but still very congested, and he has no appetite. I am giving him his next dose of the appetite stimulants tonight. Rum Tum definitely has perked up, though, and isn't isolating himself like he was before. The vet thinks he definitely is on the mend. Please keep the 13-year-old orange tabby and white kitty in your prayers. Having Cousin Catnip from the Cornfields here (see my last post) was such a blessing to both me and R.T. She was his roommate, and he got some good cuddle time and morale boosting. Catnip was like the nurse, and I was like the doctor who came in for the treatments, and said, "Syringe, please! Forceps, please!"

Meanwhile, my two kittens - Babe and Brita - remain next door. I am going back and forth between them and R.T. during the evenings, and using up a lot of hand sanitizer. I think the kittens will be going back on Sunday. I hope they forgive me for my slight neglect during the past two weeks. My time has been in much higher demand than usual.

With my newspaper industry in shambles, maybe I should apply to go to vet school. What do you think?

Nah, it's out of the question at this point. But it's always fun to fantasize about what I want to be when I grow up.

Until next time, I remain,

Mother Catresa
Patron Saint of Homeless Felines
(and the "smitten kitten")

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Cousin Catnip from the Cornfields

We now return to KITT-FM, where it's all kittens, all the time. And now, broadcasting live from our studios in Purrbank, Cat-ifornia - heeeeere's your hostess, Mother Catresa!

Hi folks!

I've had a rough week: Rum Tum Tugger, my senior cat, is very sick with some kind of respiratory infection. I had to take him to the ER on Friday, and to the vet again today. He is staying overnight for treatment, because he is so weak and dehydrated, and hasn't eaten for a few days. Please keep sweet little Rum Tum, and his mom, in your prayers.

The vet is confident that the orange tabby trooper will pull through, and that he will recover fully after home care. And he'd better, because on Friday, his aunt Jaime - otherwise known as Cousin Catnip from the Cornfields - is paying Mother Catresa a visit from Illinois! Catnip and Rum Tum, a longtime buddy of hers, will be roommates in my guest room. They should keep each other company.

Now, let me tell you a little bit about Cousin Catnip from the Cornfields, and how she got that way.

It all started back in 1999 - wow, it's the 10-year anniversary of that dramatic life change and grand adventure! I was working in my first post-college job as a staff writer at the Fort Worth Star-Telegram back in Texas. Yet as good as that looked on my resume, I was like a brand-new Porsche with four flat tires: I looked great, but I wasn't going anywhere. It was a great job in some ways, but clearly, advancement and greater challenges were not possible.

I could write an entire anthology on this chapter of my life, but I'll put it in a nutshell: after numerous job doors slammed in my face, I opted for something else - graduate school. I applied and was accepted into the Public Affairs Reporting program at the University of Illinois at Springfield, one of the most pretigious master's programs in the country for journalism.

I am so proud to be an alumna of that program, and also to say that I worked a reporting/writing internship for Copley News Service at the Illinois Statehouse in 2000, when Barack Obama was a state senator! The next President of the United States, in my midst? Wow, what a trip. And both Catnip and I lived in a 1920s-style apartment complex just down the road from the Downtown Springfield governor's mansion, where lived the corrupt George Ryan, who since has joined the Illinois governors' wing of prison. (Hey, George? Kellie from Texas here. Remember me? That bratty student from down South who grilled you at a news conference, and whom you chewed out? Say hi to Blagojevich for me, will you?)

Anyway, I left my home, friends and job in Texas - very difficult and scary emotionally - and embarked on my journey up to the cornfields of Central Illinois for a one-year program. It turned out to be a wonderful new beginning for my career and life in general, and a once-in-a-lifetime experience that I wouldn't trade for anything. Even the student loan bills.

So, it's there that I met Catnip, who simply was known as Jaime at the time. Well, actually, I sometimes called her Scarecrow, and she called me Dorothy, and we once sang, "Ding-Dong, the Witch is Dead!" We even bought red shoes and clicked our heels. But that "Wizard of Oz" thing is another story.

She, too, was an animal lover, and instantly bonded with my two cats - Rum Tum and Buster, who, God rest his soul, went up to kitty heaven on Oct. 31, 2007. I remember a big laugh when, just a few weeks into the year, our classmate Holly said, at a party, "So, how are your cats? Boom-Boom and Bruce, right?"

It was a hilarious misunderstanding of my cats' names, and the wrong names still stuck as the occasional nickname (Buster "Bruce" Gormly, for instance).

Well, Catnip really did enjoy my cats. I'll never forget the time when, on a glorious Sunday morning, we were getting ready to walk to a nearby church for a worship service. I started panicking, because I couldn't find Rum Tum - one of the feline world's sneakiest hiders - anywhere. After combing the place and looking for Rum Tum everywhere but inside the bathtub drain, we finally found him - smooshed between the wall and the back of the old-fashioned gas stove. We had to chase him out with a broom!

So then, years later, Jaime became Triple-C when Kellie became Mother Catresa, and Catnip instantly became one of my biggest fans. In fact, Catnip promises that when she buys her own house, she will start a St. Louis-area campus for the Mother Catresa operation. In fact, I am seeking associates all over the country who want to resuce kittens - any volunteers?

Hey, Catnip? I'm holding you to that. But in the meantime, you just get yourself down here, and I'll show you a good time in Pittsburgh. Rum Tum, the girls (my new cats, whom you haven't met) and the two foster kittens - Brita and Babe - are waiting. Oh yeah, I am too.

Until next time, I remain,

Mother Catresa
Patron Saint of Homeless Felines
(and the "smitten kitten")