(In memory of Abby – found 1 Dec 05, deceased 9 Dec 05.)
An account of the little section of Abby’s journey that btmao and I walked with her (it may not all be deathly accurate since our mental storage aren’t what they used to be).
Thu, 1 Dec 05
btmao was on leave. At about 10am, she called me, and by the agitated tone of voice, I knew something was not right.
She was rushing out to get some paperwork done. And through some strange thought process, she decided to walk instead of taking the feeder service out. So there, where she passed by Area 2, she saw a cream coloured cat under a car, a newbie unfamiliar to us. She was in a rush, and would check out the kitty later.
I waited tersely for her report. When she called again sometime later, she was very angry. The kitty was in very bad shape. It just sat there, and there was a bad smell coming from it too.
We debated about what to do. If we sent it to the vet, and it required care, we’d be in a fix. At this time, Foster Mum was having a collection of crises – she was at capacity and her beloved mongrel, Por Por, was ailing. Worse, her helper had decided to run away, days after begging her to renew her soon-to-end contract.
We really shouldn’t trouble her. But we were at a loss – I asked around and could not find someone who could care for the cat. I decided to ask Foster Mum if she knew someone who might be able to help if the cat required boarding and care.
There was no one else. Lucky for us, and despite the personal trauma, Foster Mum decided she would take on this cat if need be.
I relayed the good news to btmao, who then went to fetch the cat. The photo above was taken as btmao coaxed the cat to eat. It was a she. And she was emaciated, with vey little interest in food. That was not all. btmao discovered the source of the offending smell.
Notice how in the picture, the forepaw is looking sort of wet? It’s soaked in urine. When btmao lifted her to put the cat into the carrier, she nearly gagged – all the cat’s paws and underside were also urine-soaked. Worse, the cat was dripping urine. btmao nearly cried.
What was the cat’s problem? Was she incontinent? OR had she been confined in a cage and left to sit in her urine?
There may never be answers, but what’s important was to get a vet’s assessment. btmao called me again when she got home. The slackers were curious of course. But the cat was very calm and quiet. Maybe she was just tired. The cat didn’t look like a homeless cat – she was cream-coloured with very beautiful light blue eyes. btmao isolated her in a room.
We called V to arrange transport, and the vet appointment was fixed for the evening. btmao didn’t want to be alone should any drastic decision need to be taken.
I rushed home as as soon as time was up at work. When I saw the cat, my heart sank – she looked so grubby, and despite the poor lighting with her in the carrier, I could see her emaciation clearly. And she smelled really bad too. But she was extremely calm, or maybe she was just tired. But her eyes were captivating. There was a gentle tranquility there, a sentient look full of trust. I hoped we could help her.
V arrived promptly and we had a terse ride to the vet’s.
While waiting for our turn, V kept checking on the cat, and agreed with us that she didn’t look like a homeless cat. He also said she might be a FiV/FeLV/CRF cat. We braced ourselves for the possibility that she’s all three. Our attending vet was Dr J.
When it was our turn to see Dr J, we were rather surprised that he advocated observing her rather start on tests right away. His reasoning was, given that we know nothing of her, stressing her further with tests was not the way to go. After giving her a physical exam, he concluded that she may just be starved, so the best was to try to feed her and see if that’s really her problem. It sounded logical.
She was also an old girl – probably 10-12 years or older. No indications of a problem with the urinary tract, nor incontinence in the prognosis. We were carefully relieved.
Then we reported to Foster Mum and confirmed a cage’s ready for the old girl. V would send her over straightaway.
To be honest, we had worried about needing to cough up tons of dough to cover a battery of tests and treatment. The fact that we did not have pay through the nose right then wasn’t necessarily a good thing. It was just so much cold comfort. But we couldn’t not care either. That choice had passed us by once we decided to interfere.
Somewhere in between the flurry of the day, we had named the cat Abby.
Fri, 2 Dec 05
Foster Mum called a few times, reporting on Abby’s situation. She was also worried that Abby may be a FiV/FeLV/CRF cat. We all tried to hope for the best.
Abby seemed interested in food, but had trouble eating. After checknig her mouth and seeing the ulcers there, Foster Mum was worried. Then she tried to get Abby to take some food, including whetting her appetite with wet food, and home-cooked foods at intervals.
By end of day, Foster Mum had decided it was time for a vet visit. This time, she went with Abby and saw Dr E. Blood tests were conducted, and she was cleared of FiV/FeLV. Good news! However, her renal profile would not be in til Monday. Her mouth, however was full of ulcers. This could explain why she had trouble eating. But there had to be a cause to the ulcer plague.
Dr E gave Foster Mum some nutrient supplement, to perk up Abby’s appetite and help her gain some strength.
It was still touch and go, but at least, we went to bed feeling a little confidence as Abby started eating soon after getting back from the vet’s. But we were also starting to get nervous about vet bills.
Sat, 3 Dec 05
We visited Abby at Foster Mum’s. Foster Mum was smiling when we arrived. Abby had managed to eat by herself. It was good news.
We watched the skies, and it seemed certain the sun would be out for a while, I got ready and changed my clothes. Then, with a bit of apprehension, I fetched Abby out of her cage and we went into the bathroom. She weighed practically nothing, and did not resist being carried at all, despite being in a alien environment. I nearly gagged from the smell.
Then, hoping for minimum damage, I gave Abby a bath.
It was necessary – not only was she soaked in urine and smelling awful, she had fleas on her. We definitely needed to avoid setting off an infestation in the cattery. Applying something on her, like Frontline, was a no-no. She was so frail she may be harmed by the strong chemical contents. She also felt very cold – I hoped the sun stayed out long enough to warm her.
As she stood on the bathroom floor, I couldn’t help but notice how horribly emaciated the poor old girl was. She appeared worse now that I could see her without the confines of a carrier, cage or vet’s hands. She was literally skin and bones. How can she be alive? And how can she be so trusting?
She was very very sweet, and allowed me to cleaned her. Once the water got good and warm, I shampooed her twice and managed to get most of the goop encrusting her nose off. Abby did not make one sound of complain.
After that, I decided to stop bathing her, she must be tired and stressed from the handling, even though she didn’t show signs of discomfort nor protest. Going by what the slackers, as healthy moggies, go through during baths, I decided it was prudent to throw in the suds while we were ahead. Plus there was the sun to catch.
Abby still smelled and there were still stubborn grubby bits here and there – Bast knows the kind of conditions she lived in before. No matter, I could do another bath the following week.
Foster Mum had dragged a cage outside. After giving Abby a cursory rubdown, I placed her in the sunning cage to continue the process au naturel. We did not want to rub her down completely as it would stress and tire her, again based on our homeslackers’ ordeals. Besides, she was frail, none of us dared apply even a bit of force handling her.
The sun was nicely mild, a benign warm caress. There was, surprisingly, no wind either. It was great weather for drying a cat in Abby’s condition.
As she rested with the sun warming her cold body, we sat talking about her. Her sweet nature and the manner of her appearance in Area 2 told us one thing: pet cat, abandoned, likely had her health problem neglected until the owners decided to discard her, like a disdained old toy.
But Abby looked contented. We hoped we can right some of the wrong she had suffered. If need be, we would appeal for funds. But we’ll take it one step at a time.
Sun, 4 Dec 05
Foster Mum reported that Abby wasn’t eating again. She would monitor her closely.
Mon, 5 Dec 05
Abby had stopped eating completely. Foster Mum brought her to the vet and saw Dr T. It was probably her mouth ulcers causing her problems.
Dr T gave Abby an injection. (I no longer remember the purpose of it) She was also diagnosed with terminal kidney-failure. It had taken its toll on her. She was like an old worn-out system, having her organs shut down involuntarily. In short, they were giving out under the strain of keeping her going. And there was nothing to stop the process. One of the ongonig symptoms was that her immunity was giving out badly, which would be why her mouth was full of ulcers.
It was depressing, but at least Dr T agreed that her eyes still had life, and there may still be hope.
Once again, Abby went home with Foster Mum.
Later, Foster Mum called to report that Abby’s appetite was back. The jab worked. We heaved another sigh of cautious relief.
It was beginning to feel stressful to have Abby’s condition see-sawing with such fickle-mindedness, but we couldn’t complain – Foster Mum was the one in the frontline, fighting the battle with Abby.
Tue, 6 Dec 05
Abby was warded with Dr T by late evening. Her condition has been going up and down like a roller-coaster during the day. Foster Mum asked us to be prepared for one of 2 possibilities. Either she was going or even if she was going to live, a very large vet bill was the likely outcome.
We braced ourselves.
Wed, 7 Dec 05
Dr T called me to discuss Abby’s treatment in the morning. I decided to rush to the clinic during lunch so we can talk face-to-face. I also wanted to see Abby.
At the clinic, while Dr T discussed Abby’s case, I stood stroking her sides, giving her head rubs. She was very partial to chin tickles. While she sat quietly, she was also purring. I hoped it was contentment. She did not look different from when i saw her on Saturday. Maybe, I told myself, there is hope. But then, she was already in bad health already, so it wasn’t much to cheer for. I realised I may be kidding myself with false hope.
Abby’s case was a tricky-iffy one. We had been prepared for the worst, given the swing her condition had been going through since we found her.
Dr T said that she could have anything from 1 day to a few months. It was really difficult to tell without knowing her history. We could decide to let her go right then or try to treat her – as long as she can be sustained, he would be there to assist. The immediate task was to stabilise her condition. Once that is achieved, she can go back to Foster Mum’s.
Dr T raised the possibility that she may need a jab regularly. It may be that she would need one every week. But as time goes on, and her health continued on its inexorable downward spiral, the frequency could increase to once a day. At that point, it would be time to decide on letting her go.
All went quiet in room. Looking at her sitting there docilely, I think we both had the same thought that that point could come poking very soon.
I felt simmering anger. She was such a sweet little soul. And this was a time that she needed her people the most. Yet they had chucked her out and expected her to fend for herself. Even healthy cats, when abandoned, would find it very difficult to survive on the streets. What more an old girl whose health has been utterly ravaged by sickness? She really shouldn’t be going through this stage of her life with mere strangers as stand-ins. Damn the heartless louts.
I was also calculating the potential vet bills. Then I sighed. Money crunches always hurt, even in the best of situations. I looked at Abby. If we had to, we could negotiate for installment payment. But I winced inwardly at the enormity of it. After all, btmao and I were just regular, salaried labour stats of Singapore, and not very marvellously salaried ones at that.
Time was up right then. Abby’s medical bills was piling and already costing us a mini-bomb. More was to come. I looked at Abby. She seemed so peaceful. But was she ready to go? Should we let her?
I felt her gently vibrating flanks.
Then I drew a deep breath.
I thanked Dr T for his time, and confirmed we’ll follow his treatment plan.
I had to rush back to office then. Dr T reached out to take Abby over. We both let out a gasp of surprised whoop when she jumped off his arms. Maybe there was more hope than we credited the old girl for. He grinned as he retrieved her. I smiled back. We were both pleased, and I still had the smile after I left the clinic.
Thu, 8 Dec 05
Dr T called in the evening. Abby was holding steady. We kept our fingers crossed.
Fri, 9 Dec 05
Dr T called early in the morning. Abby had taken a very bad turn for the worse late last night, and she just kept going downhill. It was, he said, time to make the decision.
I took a moment to compose myself. What a sudden u-turn!
We did not know her well, but we certainly didn’t want Abby to die alone if we could help it, not like Milly, just 1.5 months before. So I asked him if he thought it ok to keep Abby until I got there, during lunch time. He very graciously said ok. Then I called btmao. She said she would go, since she had not seen Abby since Saturday.
btmao and I did not talk about her time there with Dr T and Abby that night. Later, when we could discuss it, btmao described it.
As I pictured, it was like a tear in the heart. Abby was, as usual, just sitting quietly with her beautiful eyes closed. She was also purring, purring very enthusiastically. However, she looked to be in really bad shape – her mouth was so swollen she couldn’t close it. She looked very tired too. Perhaps she also was trying to demonstrate that she had enough and was ready for what’s next. btmao started to tear.
For half an hour, btmao stroked Abby, gave her headrubs, telling her sorry and asking her to go in peace. Then she held Abby as Dr T administered the injection. We had come to the end of the road we could walk with her.
Abby at Foster Mum’s. 3 Dec 05, before her bath.
Where lies your path, what was before, what comes after?
This part we shared, we’ll safekeep.
Farewell, fare well!
Leave your burden, quicken your step.
Reunion will be, if you remember.
Then tell us about Abby’s Road.