MethuseLeah

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I was getting out of my car one Saturday evening last month when I noticed Connor, the teenager next door, along with one of his buddies hanging out by my fence. On the ground next to him stood a calico cat, a cat that didn’t belong to his family. Even though Connor has been nothing but a model neighbor, my heart stopped. Sometimes teen boys and stray cats are a bad combination. Turns out, he’d found her a few blocks away. Then I saw what Connor had seen. Vacant golden eyes stared off unresponsively even in these unfamiliar surroundings. Her gait looked odd.

My God. She’s blind!

When I picked her up, I almost cried. She felt like a potato chip. Beneath her thick winter coat every bone jutted to the surface.  This antique cat was starving to death.

I thanked Connor for his compassion and took the calico inside. Whether Connor knew it or not, he was a hero. That night the temperature plunged to the low fifties. No sweat for a healthy cat, but a death sentence for such a frail feline.

When I really examined her, I learned it was even worse than I originally thought. MethuseLeah, (a feminine version of Methuselah, the oldest person to ever live) weighed less than five pounds. She was so dehydrated when I tented her fur, her skin didn’t return to her muscle. And her front claws had grown into her toe pads. Each step must have been agony. Between starvation, dehydration and painful feet, it wasn’t surprising she could barely stand.

Why she hadn’t already ended up in the stomach of a coyote is beyond me. She couldn’t have been outside long. In our town coyotes have grown fat and lazy on athletic outside cats. This arthritic, blind older-than-dirt kitty with embedded claws was future snack food for the neighborhood coyotes.

Upstairs in my makeshift ICU, I gave her B-12 and fluids under the skin and offered her some turkey baby food one finger blob at a time. She obligingly licked a dollop from my fingertip. She ate five blobs, then stopped. While it was almost nothing, at least she took it voluntarily. The old girl hadn’t given up. Next came the pedicure. Even though I didn’t quick her nails, the pads themselves bled when I removed the nails from them. Then it was time for another five blobs of baby food. By the end of the evening she had consumed the entire jar. Poor little Leah. She’s a fighter.

On Monday, Leah and I went to the vet. Dr. Epstein refused to play “Guess Your Age”, but I’m betting the little Grandmamma Kitty is 16 to 18. Her thyroid looked good for her advanced age, one of her kidney values was elevated and even after eating all the baby food she wanted for two days, she still only weighed five pounds.  Dr. E’s prescription: continue with food, fluids and B-12. A prayer or two couldn’t hurt.

Naturally Leah isn’t talking about what happened, but I’ve rescued enough kitties that certain conditions seem to be common with specific situations. She couldn’t move well enough to sneak out the door. My guess is, she came from the home of an elderly person who hadn’t trimmed her nails in ages. Her person likely died or went to a facility, and the old lady’s antique cat was kicked to the curb literally.

That scenario plays out all the time. I have fostered many an unwanted old kitty dumped by the family of an elderly person. I simply don’t understand; if you loved the person, why can’t you love and care for the dog or cat in their absence?

This little antique should have been an extension of the family’s love for their senior citizen, not an inconvenience. However, the old person may not have been valued either. My heart breaks for both of them.

Recently I’ve noticed, despite the thick cataracts, she seems to have a little vision in her right eye. After a month of frequent feedings, she has gained two pound s. She still looks as though she’s being starved, but her spine and ribs have filled in. She now complains at a high decibel level when I dish out the wrong brand or flavor of food in her bowl.

She dislikes my personal kitties, but she doesn’t mind the dog checking in on her. She does consider the cold nose up her butt an invasion of privacy.

MethuseLeah has turned the sink cabinet into her private hangout. She lays there gazing blankly out into the bathroom and hall. I know she’s waiting for her person to take her home.

If you have pets, talk to your family about what will happen if you can’t care for them (or yourself) any longer. Don’t assume your adult kids or nephews or best friend will take care of Fluffy or Fideaux.

I don’t understand how someone who loves their mother (or father or aunt) can abandon a living piece of that loved one. If you believe in an afterlife, you can imagine the anguish the old one must feel at knowing her kitty companion was simply released to fend for herself.

Sadly, providing for your pet in your last will and testament most likely won’t help them. By the time the will is read, pets have often been dumped at the shelter and euthanized.

AdoptAShelter.com’s columnist Newton recently covered legal options you can take to protect your pet and prepare for the inevitable. You can read it here. http://adoptashelter.com/2012/10/02/notes-from-newton-long-term-estate-planning/

Looking at my confused little foster kitty, I have to wonder what will happen to the abandoning family in the future. I think there is a special place in the Hereafter for them. They will certainly have some ‘splaining to do. But there may be more immediate fallout. Whether they know it or not, when they abandoned Gramma’s cat or dog they taught their children that life is cheap and disposable. Those impressionable minds learned, “You need not be inconvenienced by either elderly humans or elderly pets.” These kiddoes will recall this lesson when it comes time to deal their own parents or grandparents. They’ll have learned by example that the old person’s desires can be ignored. And that person, who years ago locked MethuseLeah out of her house, will karmically be kicked to the curb.

To the person MethuseLeah once belonged to: She misses you. And when her body gives out or she gives up, you can get together again. Until then, she’ll eat whenever she’s hungry, sit in our laps, welcome the dog into her parlor and hiss at our cats. No one around here is in a hurry for her to leave.

However, if you would like to give MethuseLeah a calm place to live out her remaining days, go to www.AnimalAlliesofTexas.org and fill out an application. She is current on her shots and tests negative for FeLV and FIV.

About the Author

Dusty Rainbolt, ACCBC is AdoptAShelter.com's editor-in-chief. She is past president of the Cat Writers' Association. With three decades of animal rescue under her collar, Dusty has rescued and rehomed over 1500 cats. She's author of Kittens for Dummies and Cat Wrangling Made Easy. Her new paranormal mystery, Death Under Crescent Moon, can be purchased to benefit your favorite AdoptAShelter.com charity at Amazon.com.