Thursday, November 24, 2011

Claudia's Story

On Monday, November 14th, I had to euthanize another cat this year.  Her name was Claudia.  I had bailed her out of Orange County Animal Services in 2005.  At that time I was still president of CARE Feline Rescue (now CARE Feline TNR - . 

CARE is a Trap/Neuter/Return nonprofit that partners with Orange County Animal Services (OCAS).  OCAS has a low cost spay/neuter clinic that opened in 1989, offering affordable surgeries and rabies vaccinations for the cats and dogs of Orange County residents.  In 1995 CARE was founded to fix the feral and community cats in Orange County – providing traps to caregivers and free surgeries for the cats.  To date CARE has facilitated the spaying and neutering of well over 15,000 cats and kittens.

As with most TNR groups, the ear of a fixed cat is snipped off, which makes it easy to identify who is fixed and who isn’t.  The one difference with the CARE program is that the right ear of females is tipped/snipped and the left ear of males is tipped/snipped. 

Part of the arrangement with OCAS involves notification whenever a cat with a tipped ear is trapped and/or turned into the shelter.  That’s how Claudia entered my life.  I got the call in 2005.  She had been trapped by an attorney who lived alongside the Dubsdread Country Club.  Apparently he wasn’t pleased that a “stray” cat was coming onto his property.  I guess she couldn’t read the No Trespassing sign.  Already having more than my share of cats in my home, I first tried to locate the caretaker who had trapped and fixed her.  That ended in failure.  Next, I tried to find someone in the rescue community to take her.  Again, failure.  There were only two options left for Claudia – let OCAS kill her or to bail her out myself.  Well, I bailed her out.

She came home with me with an upper respiratory infection she had picked up in the shelter.  She also came with Baytril to treat the infection.  Unfortunately, Claudia wasn’t exactly a docile, compliant patient.  So, my friend Barbara would come to my house twice a day to hold her while I pilled her (Claudia, not Barbara).  For the purpose of full disclosure, her original name was Clawdia because she had a tendency to swat anything that moved near her.  She managed to scratch me on numerous occasions, as well as bite me a couple of times.  She really wasn’t feral, just more than a bit grumpy.  And she didn’t like the other cats nor the dogs.  In fact, she spent most of the first year here in a large kitty condo cage – for everyone’s protection.  I handled her and petted her as little as possible for fear of getting a serious scratch or bite.  She had imbedded her claws in me a couple of times, which resulted in me getting bitten when trying to detach her from my hand or arm. 

I let her out about a year after her arrival.  She was fine as long as she wasn’t approached.  And it took nearly a year for her to make the transition from only dry food to actually enjoying canned food.  Due to her reaction to being approached, I felt she might have limited peripheral vision.  As time went on all of us adjusted to each other and she did fine until earlier this year.

I noticed she wasn’t grooming herself and, although she had short hair, she developed mats.  She also started vocalizing, with a disturbing, plaintive wail.  She also seemed to be losing weight although she cleaned up every cat dish at dinnertime.  In fact, she would drive the other cats away from their dishes so that she could finish off the food.  I took her to the vet in February.  Because of her poor condition, she wasn’t well enough to be anesthetized for a dental, so she got a scraping instead.  Her blood work revealed that she had hyperthyroidism and she was severely under weight as well.  Within a few weeks of diagnosis she went blind.  When that happened she stopped using the litter box.  I spent the next 9 months wiping up puddles and picking up poop.  She did learn to negotiate her way from the living room to the kitchen, hallway and bathroom.  She continued to eat well and would even take her thyroid meds in her food.  I had never had any luck getting a cat to take their pills in their food before.  Of course, it helped that she practically gulped down her food instead of lapping it up like most cats.  In fact, he ate more like a dog than a cat. 

In late September or early October she started passing blood in her urine.  We tried antibiotics – no change.  The vet thought she might have stones in her bladder.  She was in no condition for surgery, so I tried special food.  It didn’t help either.  Then I tried Kidni-Flow, a homeopathic treatment, and she only occasionally passed blood in her urine.  Although she never put weight back on, she seemed to be holding her own.  I kept the paper towel industry in business, but you do what you have to do, right?  My kitchen floor certainly got mopped a lot more frequently than in the past.  On Thursday, November 10th, she ate very little.  On Friday morning she threw up her breakfast.  She wouldn’t eat Friday night or all day Saturday.  She also started wailing again, which she had not been doing since before she was diagnosed with hyperthyroidism.  And, apparently, the wailing, plaintive crying is a common symptom of this disease.  She also was more restless and seemingly confused.  I felt certain that she was in pain.  It was obvious to me that it was time to let her go.  I didn’t see any reason to prolong her suffering or put her through a surgery she probably wouldn’t survive.  She did eat a bit of A/D on Sunday, but wouldn’t eat for me Monday morning.  I took her into the vet and put her to sleep that afternoon.  

 I have no idea just how old she was.  She was obviously an older cat when I bailed her out, possibly 6 – 8 years old, but that’s only a guess.  I have no idea what her life was like before she came into my life.  She lived on or around Dubsdread’s golf course but, without finding her caretaker, I have no idea how long she had been there.  The fact that she wasn’t feral indicates that she had been in a home at the beginning of her life.  No doubt she had either been dumped there or left behind when her owner moved.  Although for most of the time she lived with me and the other critters she was not very accepting of affection, she did develop some affinity for head scratches the last several months.  She seemed to enjoy having her head and cheeks rubbed and even being picked up.  Maybe not an idyllic life, but she was safe, well fed and comfortable for the six years she was here. 

I asked the staff at the clinic to take a picture of Claudia for me, since I didn’t have one.  This was Claudia on her last day – I do miss her.  

I’m glad that she had an extra 6 years off the streets and I know that I did the right thing by giving her that chance.  There are so many, many cats and kittens who never get a chance and are killed every day in shelters or on the streets.  They deserve so much better than that.  I am thankful that I was able to avoid that fate for Claudia, even for a short time. 


  1. Oooohhhh....Connie.....breathe...your year certainly has been one of trials..what always comforts me is that I believe that our fur children go to the bridge to wait for us and one day we will be reunited with them. She is pain-free...but now you are filled with pain and that makes me sad. Hugs across the wires, my friend. Godspeed, Miss Clawdia nka Claudia.

  2. So very sorry to hear about Claudia. It is never easy when a loved one leaves us. Thank you for giving her so many wonderful years of love and fun.

  3. Thanks Candy & Melissa. I know both of you have been through this many times yourselves. While it's never easy, sometimes - too infrequently - we know when they are ready to go and it makes it easier to do right by them. Each one is special in their own way and their different personalities is what makes them unique and memorable. Much like snowflakes, no 2 are alike.

  4. So sorry about Claudia. What a pretty girl. To be loved even for just a few years is so much more than many enjoy.

  5. Thanks, BB. I'm glad she had a few years of safety and all the food she could eat. Hope you & Mr. B are getting better each day.