How to keep your kitty alive.


Mikee

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Karen and I just had to have our cat Tigger put to sleep on Thursday. Less than two years ago I had to do the same to my cat Big Guy who I had the privilege of co-existing with for over 17 years. Tigger was only ten but according to the vet had a genetic predisposition for a heart condition which caused his heart to form a clot with broke loose and lodged in and artery cutting off the blood supply to his hind legs. It was very painful for him and very difficult for us to bear our sweet kitty having such a hard time of it. Big Guy had a similar heart condition as well as thyroid and kidney problems towards the end but we managed to keep him going with medication for over three years after he was diagnosed.

My rant is: I can't believe that it's normal for cats when you are feeding them well and giving them the absolute best of care and love for them to develope these conditions. What are we doing wrong? I ask the vet and she said "Nothing, he had a very good life, he was lucky to have such caring owners". So, I'm thinking about it and I've come to the conclusion that everthing we do to our cats is abnormal. We "fix" them [changing forever the hormonal balance they evolved with], we keep them indoors, we don't allow them to hunt, or fight or procreate. Maybe they need a substitute for their normal cat behaviour and lifestyle for them to be able to achieve their optimum health. I'm thinking "Why should they so easily get clots?" Cats have extrodinary recovery abilities from trauma. They can get into terrible fights and be wounded terribly and recover much more rapidly than you would think. They can survive falls from great heights. They truly have nine lives. What if, in taking them away from their rough and tumble evolved lifestyle we're short circuiting their bodies defenses and they work against themselves.

If anyone has an opinion or insight into "alternative" [but safe] lifestyles for kitties I would appreciate advice before we go out and get ourselves a couple of kittens. I miss Tigger. I'm a close to home person, so is Karen, we must have interacted with Tigger a hundred times a day. It leaves too big a hole when they leave far before their time.

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You're probably doing nothing wrong. 17 years is quite a respectable age for a cat and there is nothing abnormal in the fact that he developed one or more diseases at the end of his life. Isn't that the same for human beings? Now I can understand that you think that dying at 10 years is too early, just as 50 years for a human being is too early in our opinion. But humans can also have congenital diseases, so "it's all in the game".

If you buy a pedigree cat, you should buy it from a professional and trusted cat breeder. The advantage of a pedigree cat is that it's general behavior is predictable (lively, quiet, affectionate, independent, etc.). Still every cat is an individual. We have now our second Abyssinian, and although it is a typical Abyssinian, just like our previous cat, it has a distinct personality that is different from that of our previous cat. Compare it with two children from the same parents. A disadvantage of a pedigree cat is that it may have a congenital disease if the breeder is not really a good professional, there is always the risk of inbreeding.

I wouldn't worry about their lifestyle, cats are domestic animals and they are in general very well suited for a life in a home. Many domestic animals live better and longer than if they would be in the wild. Just don't give them too much to eat, a fat cat is not the most healthy cat. And with pedigree cats you should know the characteristics of that particular breed. So Abyssinians shouldn't be left alone too long for example.

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Mike,

I have always had a strong love of animals. (I don't have one at the present, though. My parents do and I have kept my distance to avoid getting too attached to it and avoid jealousy issues with my father.)

One of the habits I have developed with animals is to let them be themselves as much as possible. I especially love Kats (of course). But with all cats, frankly I see no way to live comfortably with one in household without having it neutered. The mating and territorial inconveniences are tremendous.

One of my exes had a cat that she adored. She treated this animal as if it were a human being, letting it sleep with her under the covers and stifling its natural inclination at every step. When we started our relationship, the first thing I did with the cat was start wrestling with it and doing the string routine - and the cat LOVED it. I exercised the animal that way.

I then bought a scratch pole and would periodically sprinkle catnip around it. The cat loved that so much that she always found where I hid the catnip, even when she could not get at it. Needless to say, the pole became a hangout.

I MEOWED at the cat and got her to start meowing again. I also smacked her when she almost fell off the balcony chasing a pigeon (apartment 17 stories up at that time). She became tremendously upset with that. She ran back and forth for awhile, peed on the floor from nerves, then hid under the bed. My ex had simply never disciplined her before that. Of course, I also lavished petting on her and feeding her cat-food tidbits out of my hand. Then the cat started favoring me over my ex and this started causing some tension. I could go on and on about that cat, since I really had a soft spot for her.

After I separated from my ex, she kept the cat, of course. I then visited her several years later. When the cat smelled me, she let out a long meow, one after another, and ran straight to my leg, rubbing up against it. Just as soon as I sat down, she was in my lap.

I kind of miss her now, but I would not trade having lived with her and having brought out the "catness" in her for anything. We connected on some primal level. We "saw" each other.

It sounds to me like you are blaming yourself for your cat's death. There's no real blame to be had, though. You apparently gave your animal a good life with lots of love. His number came up and, as Richard Pryor used to say, "Life's a bitch. And then you die."

Are you sure that animals in the wild don't get blood clots? There is one danger they certainly don't face when they live with a human master - that is being eaten by another animal. I'm not so sure that this danger is beneficial to them in a more "natural" lifestyle.

(And think about the stark terror in the lives of other animals you will be saving by feeding a cat cat-food. Cats are horrible torturer fiends. This is one side of them I let flow when a mouse shows up, but dayaamm! I sure don't like it.)

My advice is for you to get another cat as soon as possible - yesterday. It is obvious that you love cats and you are simply denying yourself because you hurt from the fact that life ain't fair at times. Well it ain't, and everyday you deny yourself your joy in loving cats, you make it even more unfair - for yourself this time.

Joy is to be sought and treated as a proper state of being. Death, illness and life spans are facts we all have to face, but focusing on them - essentially denying ourselves joy because these negative issues will come - is not a good choice in making our own lives as valuable as possible.

Michael

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Michael,

Thank you for your thoughts. I agree in letting cats be themselves as much as possible. And acting like a cat as much as possible interacting with them. I found that early on you can do nothing to frighten a new cat else they will never trust you. When you have established a rapport and they're a little older then you can discipline them a little. For instance, when my cats would scratch or bite too hard while I'm playing with them I give them a little swat on the head and then stop the play session. I get glares but they are not frightened. And they do play less roughly after a few sessions. I don't like constantly swabbing alcohol on my wounds. We do have a scratching post, liberal quantities of catnip mice, some on a string. We have a fenced back yard some we are in the habit of letting our cats out for a little every day. They always sleep inside at night. Our cats naturally come and sleep on the bed with us. Rarely under the covers. Big Guy, however, who I raised from about 2-3 weeks old thought of me as his mom and if he was cold had no problem sticking his nose under the covers and snuggling up to my side. I was so used to him I never minded. He was a all black short hair, very fine hair and very clean. Meowing at them does have a comical effect sometimes. And hissing at them when they are misbehaving works prettly well and can get you some pretty funny looks as well. My cats get to trusting me completely and will look me right in the eye.

I do feel guilt about putting Tigger to sleep. I felt like we had a pact. He gave up his natural lifestyle to live with me and I promised to take care of him. I know he was not ready to "give up". At great expense and uncertain outcomes I could have kept him alive longer. But I chose to save him from continuing agony and end his life. He would not have chosen that path and I will not fool myself into thinking that's what he would have wanted.

We will get another cat, perhaps two, soon. I found a nice article about the origins of the domestic cats here:

http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/sci/tech/4585766.stm

Coincidentally, the cat in the picture at the beginning of the article looks very much like Tigger did. Thanks to both of you for the feedback and the advice.

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