Mews & Views

Mews & Views -- A blog for cat lovers everywhere with a focus on the low-income pet cats of northern and central New Mexico.

Sunday, August 25, 2013

Our Acute Veterinary Care for Cats Gets a Makeover

Tripod was born without a rear leg but it didn't cause any
problems until something started to grow at the stub.  The
vet removed the stub and now she's doing fine.
Our feline Acute Veterinary Care Program – initiated last January -- got off to a very slow start.  Partly because we wanted it to -- so we could do some beta testing before we got too deep into it – and partly because the system we set up to handle the applications was cumbersome to the point of scaring caregivers, vet clinics and ourselves away from it. Learning from our early participants, we've fine-tuned the program to strip out most of the red tape and now the program seems to work almost as smoothly as our seasoned spay/neuter program does.

Full Full details on the program are on our website, but here are the key changes:

We no longer require Care Credit applications from all applicants – only those not receiving food stamps.  SNAP recipients simply fax us written confirmation of their account and we accept that as proof of financial need. 
We now include the cost of the initial vet exam to determine what’s wrong with the cat in our eligible expenses.    Most veterinary assistance programs exclude this first visit and we originally followed suit.  Ironically by doing so, those most in need of our financial help were least likely to participate since they couldn't pay for the initial exam. 
 We no longer require the vet clinic provide us with a written quote of the charges before we approve the cat.  We simply limit our vouchers to covering reasonable and customary services and supplies to treat the acute care issue we describe on the voucher – and limit the amount of aid we can provide to a maximum of $300/cat.
And, instead of faxing a voucher to the clinic while the cat is waiting for treatment, we now e-mail the voucher to the Caregiver before the appointment is made.  They simply print out the voucher (at home or at the library) and take it with the cat to any of our participating clinics who accept it as a “coupon” to cover the work described on it up to the $300 limit.

11-Year old Tessa had a growth on her
head that started to grow.  The vet
removed it and found that it was benign.
Our mission is to keep cats in their homes – off the streets and out of shelters.  We’ve always know that sterilization was the key to this.  But – as kittens grow into cats – acute health issues invariably arise and can threaten the cat’s long-term home as much as not being sterilized can.    Worse yet – a simple acute care issue left untreated can result in permanent damage to a cat or even death.  We hope by adding this supplemental service we’ll further our mission of keeping cats in their homes, happy, healthy and living out their lives with those who love them.

Sunday, July 28, 2013

Helping The Cats of the Night

We wanted to share an e-mail we received recently about stray cat behavior written by someone who knows it well.  The author, Jeremy, works at night and on his walk home sees the cats most of us daytime people never know exist – the feral and stray cats that hide from humans during the day and then come out in the dark to look for food.  Jeremy’s one of the many unsung heroes of community cat care that -- after seeing these homeless cats -- helps them the best way they can –by providing them with supplemental food and human attention.    Here are his observations:
I recently found the article, “If You Find a Stray Cat” on your web site while Googling “how much to feed a starved cat.”  It was a well-written piece with very sensible advice.  I particularly liked the suggestion to collar a suspected stray with your contact information.  It is a brilliant idea, and I had never thought of that.  I have always been a cat lover and a sucker for strays.  Over time, I have learned a few other tricks that your viewers might also find helpful.
There are SO MANY strays in my neighborhood.  I walk home from work most nights, so I have begun carrying kibble and wet food in my backpack at all times.  Although I’ve only lived here for a few months, most of my “regulars” have picked spots and know to meet me there for dinner.  I also keep my camera with me, so I can try and find homes for these little ones.
In my experience, most strays do not immediately dart away when faced with eye contact.  In fact, you can use eye contact to your advantage with a technique called the “slow blink”.  It is a signal that cats use among each other that means, “We’re cool.  We’re so not in a fight right now that I will even close my eyes while you are staring at me, and I will do it in my slow, lazy way.”  This technique, coupled with soothing words and that “prbt” sound, has had dramatic results for me with startled or skittish cats.  They will often run right up after the signal is given.
What will usually startle a stray are the headlights and noise of an oncoming car.  I have had starving cats bolt away from a meal because of this, so I no longer put their dinner on the open sidewalk.  If you can put their dinner behind a fence, wall, trash barrel, or under a parked car, they will feel much more comfortable.
As for recognizing a stray, well in the neighborhood, it is obvious.  They are too thin.  But the real tell is that once you establish trust, they will meow desperately and follow you for a block or two, sometimes even running ahead of you.  A contented cat with a happy home does not do that. 
We hope Jeremy's comments give you a window into the secret world of the night cats -- we just have one thing to add.  Please don't remove the cats from their outdoor homes until and unless you have a plan that will ensure their future will be better than their present situation.  On balance, outdoor cats do very well in their homes and removing them without a lifelong plan often puts their lives at risk.  

Sunday, July 21, 2013

Kittens 101: If your cat has kittens ...

All too often the motivation to fix a cat happens only after she gives birth to a litter of kittens.  Many are pet cats whose guardians put off spaying for lack of money and/or time, yet many are outdoor cats who show up at someone’s home and the owner unwittingly initiates a relationship with the cat by putting food out for her.    (This latter group would never consider letting their pet cats go unsterilized, but the outdoor cat is different – it’s “not their cat” – they’re just putting food and water out for her daily and petting her and letting her live in their yard.)  Exactly how this differs from what they’re doing for their pet cats is unclear.

Both groups seem caught off guard by the pregnancies – unaware that cats are persistent breeders starting as young as 16 weeks and having 2 or 3 litters each year of 4-6 kittens per litter.  And -- unlike dogs that go into heat once or twice a year -- cats go in and out of heat every two weeks from February to November– even when they’re nursing. 

Once the kittens are born, the caregivers typically react in one of two ways: 

(1)    Scoop up the litter (and often Mom too) and drive them to the nearest rescue or shelter to let them deal with the problem.  This is not a good idea on many levels.

a.       For kittens to become “adoptable” they need to be well socialized and this cannot happen in a shelter cage or in an overloaded foster home.  While their personalities are forming (the first 8 weeks of their lives) they need to have intense human interaction – preferably from a variety of people – young, old, male and female – and they need to learn to live in a home acclimating to typical noises like dogs, doorbells, TVs, washers, etc.   Your home – or that of someone you know that immensely enjoys kittens – is a far better and effective option than a shelter.

b.      Mom needs to be with her kittens for the first month – to feed and care for them – and littermates need to stay together for at least two months so they learn they’re cats and don’t grow up thinking they’re little “humans” because all they saw during those formative weeks were people. 

c.       The darker reason to hold on to Mom and her kittens is that in a shelter they often stand a better chance of being euthanized than being adopted.   Inadequate socialization, lack of foster homes, stress-induced illness, overcrowding are all common reasons shelters euthanize cats and kittens.   And -- if Mom is given to a shelter -- she’ll have to compete against younger, cuddlier kittens for the few homes that adopt from shelters.  Less than 20% of pet cats are formally adopted.  The rest are passed from person-to-person or simply show up at someone’s door and move in.

(2)    Caregivers that don’t turn Mom and the kittens over to shelters often embrace the kittens as part of an extended cat family and want to hold onto all of them for the rest of their lives.  This is typically a better option than turning the family over to a shelter, but it can be a mine field too.   To do this you must be able to make a lifelong commitment to the cats and have the ability to get the entire group spayed and neutered quickly to prevent follow-on litters.    This is a steep financial and emotional commitment – and one that is difficult to undo later on.  The older the kittens get, the less adoptable they become and the more dependent on your lifelong care they become. 

We like a third option – keep the kittens in your home until they’re 8-10 weeks old – and give them loads of love and affection.  While you’re doing this, network with everyone you know to find good homes for them -- preferably adopting them in pairs so they stay with a litter mate.  Often simply giving them matching names (Ben and Jerry or Frick and Frack, etc.) will ensure someone adopting one will want both. 

Just make sure when you give them away that you like and trust the caregiver who adopts them.  With all the care and love you put into their socialization, you’ll want the best for them.  And – if you know in your heart the kittens will have a good life in their new home, giving them away gets easier. 

If any of the kittens don’t find good homes, hold onto them – Mom will appreciate their company and you’ll know they’ll be well cared for.  And – most importantly – get Mom fixed as soon as she’s done nursing so you can enjoy her without the worry of more babies.  Any kittens you end up keeping should be fixed as soon as your vet will do it – typically around 12 to16 weeks of age.

Monday, June 24, 2013

At age 20, Simon succumbs to kidney failure

Simon’s quality of life started to slide late last summer.  Always idiosyncratic, he suddenly became more so – instead of sleeping on the seat of a chair he’d sleep on the back, instead of standing next to his food he’d get on top of its tray to eat, and he didn’t recognize when he had to use a litter box so would simply go wherever he happened to be when nature called.  The vet suspected he had had a mini stroke – or at the age of 19 – had simply become very senile.
At any rate he was clearly a special needs cat and to accommodate his bizarre behaviors we set up a large floor cage lined with washable piddle pads for him to live in.  Since he spent almost all of his time sleeping, this worked very well.  We confined him overnight and left the cage door open during the daytime so when he wasn't sleeping and wanted exercise he could come out.

But, as sad as his new behaviors were, they were not life-threatening.  And – as with many geriatric cats – it would be kidney failure that would ultimately cause his death.    By last Wednesday he stopped eating and on Friday with much sadness we decided it was time to let him go.

Little is known of the first half of Simon’s life – TLC picked him up from the local animal control shelter in 2003.   A cat Samaritan had turned him in after finding him wandering the streets of Ann Arbor, Michigan.  The shelter estimated his age at 10 and so he was too old for them to adopt out.  They also feared he was blind because his eyes were totally milky with no visible pupils.    Turned out the cause of their milkiness was a flare up of the herpes virus – probably a condition he was born with.  It literally took a few years to stop the periodic outbreaks and he required a series of daily eye drops for the rest of his life.

Simon clearly preferred people to other cats – loving to sit on laps and talking constantly.  He pretty much ignored other cats as they ignored him.    We often thought he was more human than feline – and had the appetite to prove it.  Where most of our cats ignore human food Simon sought it out.  By last January he had morphed from cat food to baby food which wasn't great for his kidneys but it was all he would eat.

Simon was a remarkable little guy – and one we will not soon forget.  RIP.

Monday, May 27, 2013

"We just thought it best that our cat have one litter before we spayed her."

We don’t hear this every day, but we hear it often enough to make us shudder.  Someone calls to get a free spay/neuter voucher to fix their cat and proudly announces that it's time now because she just had kittens – usually coupling the announcement with “they found good homes for all her babies” or – they “will keep mom and her babies together forever” in their home because she’s “such a good mother” to them.    Apparently this makes it okay – the kittens will be cared for.

No one will argue that their hearts are in the right place.  The miracle of birth and motherhood are a sight to behold – and who can deny that baby kittens are precious?    Yet – like many of life’s temptations – allowing your cat to reproduce for your and her enjoyment – has many unintended consequences.

Just a few days ago we had a frantic call from a woman whose pet cat’s planned pregnancy went awry.  She gave birth to one kitten but several hours later was still in labor and obviously suffering.  She had no money to take her to the vet and needed financial assistance to get her help.    This meaningful experience of giving birth almost cost the cat her life.  Although many cats can and do have kittens on their own – a good number of them end up at vet clinics when they encounter problems.   You don’t know if your cat will need help until it’s too late – and the cost of emergency vet care can be staggering – with no “kitty insurance” to absorb the cost. 
The concept that it’s okay to let a cat have one litter is flawed because it doesn't keep the population stable – it increases it geometrically.  Cats don't have babies they have litters -- averaging four to six kittens (not one or two) and some litters contain seven or eight kittens.    Add to that the likelihood of a mother cat getting pregnant again while nursing and the numbers go up even more.     You “may” think you can find good homes for the first litter, but the second litter -- not so much. 

You may want to keep Mom with her kittens in your home but as the kittens grow into cats the commitment gets more and more difficult to keep.  The average cost of caring for a cat is about $500/year.  By the time you realize the financial commitment that was implicit in the cat commitment the kittens are much harder to adopt because they’re now adult cats.  And – if you lacked the money to get mom and the litter fixed promptly – when the kittens are 8-16 weeks old – you’ll soon find the kittens are now parents too and your problem has escalated to a crisis point.  Don’t look to shelters to take on your cats and find them homes – they simply can’t.  According to the ASPCA about 70% of -the cats given to shelters are euthanized for lack of homes.  And the no kill-shelters you think will welcome your cats?  Well they're usually full – and when they are admitting – they’re looking for kittens because that’s what they can most readily place.   Many will accept new cats only if they are current on vaccinations and already sterilized -- at your expense.

With all of these pitfalls, it’s hard for us to understand why anyone believes it’s best to let their cat have "one litter".  Spaying and neutering your pet cats should be a bottom line of adopting them – the sooner the better.  But – if you and your family want to experience the wonderment of kittens – do it responsibly.  Hook up with a shelter or rescue that has a family of kittens in need of a foster home to love them and care for them until they’re old enough to be adopted out.  It’s a 4-8 week commitment that instead of contributing to the problem of cat euthanasia can work to prevent it.    And – who knows – in the foster family there may even be a kitten or mom cat with your name on it.  

Thursday, May 2, 2013

Safe Sex for Cats Begins and Ends with Spay/Neuter

For most cats spay/neuter is a bottom line at adoption, but for those cats living in low-income households it’s often an unattainable luxury.  This is especially true when there’s more than one cat to fix causing the price to go up exponentially.  These caregivers want to act “responsibly” but they just don't have the front-end money to fix their cats -- even at low-cost nonprofit clinics.  And even if they can afford the lower rates, the longer drive to get to one of these clinics keeps it out of reach.

Yet far from being “irresponsible,” many of these low-income caregivers make a valiant effort to keep their cats “kitten-free” using other methods of birth control.    Here are a few of the most common:

Delay.  If their pets are kittens, they delay sterilization assuming they’ll save up the money by the time the cat is old enough to reproduce.  What escapes them is this can happen as early as 16 weeks, which is why shelters with staff veterinarians won’t release kittens until they’re fixed – sterilizing them when they’re as young as 8 weeks and including the cost in the adoption fee.  Ironically, the caregivers who can’t afford to fix their cats also can’t afford an adoption fee so they look elsewhere for their pets – and are not disappointed.  Finding a free cat or kitten is easy – they’re readily available from friends, relatives, and coworkers or simply roaming around outdoors -- typically the offspring of other cats whose caregivers also couldn't afford to get them fixed.

Isolation.  Many caregivers try to keep their female cats indoors while they’re in heat – which is every two weeks from early spring to late fall – but inevitably someone opens a door without looking and the cat is out in a flash – often pregnant  by the time she returns home. 
Even those who succeed in keeping their female cats indoors often assume it’s okay to leave them with their male relatives – thinking that sons, fathers and brothers won’t impregnate their mother, daughters or sisters.  Not true.  Cats have no cultural mores to prohibit incestuous behaviors.    In the cat world any female cat is fair game for an intact tom.  Those that realize this may try keeping the male cats in one room and female cats in another, but of course this plan is foiled the moment someone forgets to close a door.  And – the stress it puts on the caregivers is considerable.

Selective Sterilization.    Still another common method of kitten control in multi-cat homes is to fix one sex and not the other. A major flaw with this is that it’s not always easy to tell the sex of a cat and by the time you realize “Harry” is really “Mary” she may already be pregnant.

And since it’s so much cheaper to neuter a male than spay a female, the males are often the ones fixed, so inevitably the female cats get pregnant anyway – sneaking outdoors when they have the opportunity.

Even when the money is there to spay only the females, the male cats will find other females to impregnate – or will start to spray and lose their homes for a problem that could be prevented by simply neutering them.
As valiant as these attempts at birth control are, they are all largely ineffective.  The only way to prevent kittens is sterilization – a simple surgical procedure that not only is 100% reliable, it also increases the probability a cat will keep his or her home long-term.   Once sterilized, cats are better housemates – no longer spraying, yowling or kittening.  

In most of central and northern New Mexico, we provide free vouchers to low-income caregivers committed to the life care of their cats.   These vouchers pay the full cost to spay or neuter their cats at local veterinary clinics who subsidize the surgery costs.  If you know someone living in our service area that has intact cats, refer them to us.  They – and their cats – will be glad you did.

Monday, March 25, 2013

Cats Deserve Equal Rights With Other Species

If you read the news regularly, you'd think it's open season on cats.  Frequently there'll be a news flash from the American Bird Conservancy or kindred organization alerting us to what overzealous bird hunters cats are --and more recently the federally-funded Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute joined in.  It published a study in the journal Nature Communications reporting  that U.S. domestic cats kill up to 3.7 billion birds and as many as 20.7 billion mice, voles and other small mammals each year.  

According to Merritt Clifton of Animal People – a nationally recognized keeper of animal statistics – their study is deeply flawed on many levels.  For one, it dramatically inflates the U.S. domestic cat population by at least 124 million cats.   And one of the scientists who conducted the study -- Nico Dauphine --  was arrested in 2011 for trying to poison neighborhood cats.  She was convicted and sentenced to do 120 hours of community service, spend a year on probation, and pay a fine of $100.  Yet -- in spite of this -- the Smithsonian kept her on staff and allowed her to continue doing “research” on cats.    Her sentence is a sham when compared to the calls to kill outdoor cats for threatening birds -- as a human she should have known better.

Surely no one likes to think about animals killing animals but it happens -- and cats are by no means the only animal that does it.  Most species do -- including dogs and humans.   But only cat predation  makes the evening news. 

Since moving to New Mexico we’re constantly reminded about the risk dogs, coyotes and – yes -- large birds -- pose to outdoor cats and kittens.  Frequently a spay/neuter applicant will comment they keep their cats indoors to protect them from owls.  Just last week a woman called and said she wanted to get her cat fixed and when we asked how she got the cat, she said her dog had taken a kitten from a bird who had snatched it and then she saved the kitten from her dog!
Unbridled attacks on cat behavior veiled as scientific “research” need to be stopped.  And the media – who pick the studies up as chapter and verse and report them as “news” need to recognize them for what they are -- propaganda from organizations with anti-cat agendas.  

And as a culture, we must remember that cats are part of our ecosystem and as such, they should have the same rights as any other species.  Several years ago the San Francisco SPCA published a “Cats Bill of Rights” and it’s worth revisiting now:    These are the basic rights all cats should have:
·         The Right to be recognized as a unique and important species
·         The Right to have their individual lives cherished and protected
·         The Right to be free from cruelty and abuse
·         The Right to receive aid and comfort including food, water, shelter and medical care
·         The Right to a fair share of public resources for the care of companion animals
·         The Right to be treated as equal members of the animal kingdom
·         The Right to be represented accurately and humanely by those who speak on their behalf.
It goes without saying that many individual cats already enjoy these rights – yet as a group they continue to have these rights violated.  All too often a different standard applied to their behaviors than to other species.  How sad!

Friday, March 15, 2013

Robin Joins Joyce On The Rainbow Bridge

2013 is a sad year for TLC.  Robin just joined Joyce (who died on New Year’s) on the Rainbow Bridge.    Like Joyce’s death – Robin’s was sudden.  A few weeks ago he became very bloated and was diagnosed with end-stage cancer.   But -- up until a few days before his death there were no behavioral signs of illness and he passed his 6-month physical last fall with flying colors.  Cats are masters at hiding illness until it’s too late to treat.

Robin – like Joyce -- came from the show-and-tell feral cat colony we maintained from 2001-2005 at our Older Cat Sanctuary in Saline, Michigan.  While the older companion cats lived cage-free in the farmhouse, the feral colony occupied the barn.  Then, when we refocused our efforts exclusively on free and local cat spay/neuter, we merged both groups together in a closed-admission indoor shelter to live out their lives.  With these two gone only 7 remain – three of which (Onyx age 18, and Missy and Simon age 20) are in hospice.

Although Robin was given to us as a feral cat – he was anything but.   Unlike Joyce who stayed distant from people even after living as an indoor-only cat for 8 years – Robin was a ringer.  True – prior to coming to TLC he lived outdoors on his own – and when he first arrived he was very skittish around us – but once he settled in, the socialized cat re-emerged – enjoying being petted and groomed and living with people.  He most definitely was someone’s lost or abandoned pet cat.   The elderly man who gave us Robin recognized his "pet potential" and visited him every day for the first 3 years we had him -- then Maury's health deteriorated and he had to discontinue his visits -- having his wife Edna call weekly to make sure Robin was doing well.  

As often happens when cats are left to fend for themselves outdoors, they take on the behaviors of a feral cat – fearful of people -- hiding from them during the daytime and waiting for the cloak of night to come out for food.    Then – when they’re given a second chance to live with people– they calm down and the socialized cat re-emerges.    If it weren't for Robin’s ear-tip (done when he was neutered to identify him as a sterilized feral) you’d never have been the wiser.

Lucky for Robin when he was rescued he ended up in our cat colony – if he had been turned in to a conventional animal control shelter he would have been categorized as a feral cat and euthanized on arrival as unadoptable.  Shelter intake decisions are made quickly – and the “feral” Robin would have hidden the “socialized” Robin from their view.    That’s one of the dangers of categorizing cats – they’re not that simple and first impressions are often misleading or downright wrong.    And – in Robin’s case – an arbitrary decision would have ended his life 12 years too soon.

Sunday, January 6, 2013

Cat Spay of Santa Fe 2012 Update

We've been funding free cat spay-neuter help for New Mexico’s low income families since 2010.  Working through area veterinary and spay/neuter clinics we've fixed 3,113 cats to date for 1,479 committed caregivers – with 1,524 surgeries just this last year.  We hope to see these numbers continue to grow in 2013.  To complement our free spay/neuter assistance, we've recently added a program to help these same caregivers pay for acute veterinary care in the event of a medical emergency.  Full details on both programs are on our web site.

While we initially serviced only Santa Fe County, we've gradually expanded into other regions at their request.  We now work with 17 clinics conveniently servicing Bernalillo (excluding Albuquerque), Catron, Rio Arriba, San Miguel, Santa Fe, Socorro, Taos and Torrance counties.  These local clinics are essential to reaching our target demographic who often find driving a long distance to a clinic as challenging as paying for the sterilization.  We thank the following clinics for accepting our vouchers as “payment in full” for a spay or neuter and a rabies vaccination and look forward to continuing to work with them during 2013:

·         All Creatures Veterinary Clinic, Moriarty
·         Animal Haven, Socorro
·         Animal Wellness Center, Santa Fe
·         Ark of Socorro, Socorro
·         Big Country Veterinary Service, Datil
·         Brainerd Animal Health Center, Sapello
·         Cottonwood Veterinary Clinic, Espanola
·         Dr. Carol Joyce-Lloyd, Tiejeras
·         Espanola Valley Humane Society, Espanola
·         Gruda Veterinary Hospital, Santa Fe
·         Pecos Valley Veterinary, Pecos
·         Salazar Road Veterinary Clinic, Taos
·         Sangre de Cristo Animal Hospital, Santa Fe
·         Santa Fe Humane Mobile and Spay/Neuter Clinic, Santa Fe
·         Taos Veterinary Clinic, Taos
·         Valley Veterinary, Santa Fe
·         Vista Larga Animal Hospital, Edgewood

The Foundation is dedicated to assisting low-income individuals and families provide long-term care for their cats by providing a veterinary care safety net.  Through this safety net we help keep their cats out of shelters and off the streets where – without this help – they all too often land.

Saturday, January 5, 2013

Our Feral Cat Joyce Dies on New Year's Day

I learned about feral cats before I ever saw one.   In 2000 I attended a “No Kill Conference” in California and listened to a presentation by one of the founders of Alley Cat Allies on how to humanely care for them.    When she got to the part about how often people find them living in their yards I almost walked out of the room.  I was at the conference to help formulate cat programs for our foundation and I had never heard anyone in Michigan (where I was then living) mention that they had “wild” cats living in their yard.   Surely this phenomenon was limited to the east coast and wouldn’t play a part in our mission.
But– within a few months of starting our TLC (for The Love of Cats) programs -- Michigan feral cat colonies were popping up everywhere.  We responded in two ways:  (1) we formulated a free spay/neuter program for feral cats which we continued until we left Michigan in 2009 and (2) when we purchased a farm to sanctuary orphaned geriatric cats, we installed a show-and-tell feral  cat colony in its barn.   We wanted visitors to see feral cats up close and personal – and to understand how well they could live as outdoor-only cats.    Part of the ACA TNR perspective was that these cats were best sterilized and then left in their outdoor homes with a dedicated caregiver providing food, water and dry shelter.  For – if cats weren't socialized to people before they turned 8 weeks old – they would always be afraid of them – acting more like squirrels or rabbits than house cats.

Joyce was one of the feral cats in our colony.  And of the ones we ultimately moved indoors when we closed the farm, Joyce was one of the most feral.  Clearly she preferred cats to people and ACA was right about her – even after living as an indoor-only cat for 7 years – she never changed.   Rarely could we pet her and taking her to a vet for a routine exam would have required live-trapping so we never did.   Then last summer she started showing signs of chronic inflammatory bowel or perhaps lymphoma and we considered taking her in for evaluation.  At 12 years old, though, anesthesia without blood work was risky and there was no way a vet could examine her without it.  And – if we did find out what was wrong with her, medicating her would be impossible. 

Her quality of life seemed pretty good and there were no signs of physical discomfort.  Then – last week we noticed she was easier to pet and that her coat was starting to look a little straggly.   Little did we know that she was about to leave us –she was still acting normal in most other ways.  New Year’s Eve she was in her regular sleep spot when we went to bed but sometime during the night she died without moving from it.  We don’t know what triggered her death, but we think it was heart failure.  Hopefully it was a peaceful ending.

The house is a bit quieter now and we miss her.  But mainly our heart goes out to Larry – another feral cat we moved indoors with her that spent most of his time snuggling with her or walking to and from the food dish with her.    We used to think that Joyce relied on him for security – she was about a third of his size.  But over the years we learned it was the other way around – she was his security blanket.    He has other friends for sure – but he’ll never have another Joyce.  RIP.