Farewell to Boudicca

Shortly before 3 o’clock on Friday afternoon, my beloved Queen Boudicca Mata Hari Sophia passed from this life and found peace. It was dreadfully sad. Boudicca was terminally ill with multiple chronic, incurable, and progressing medical conditions, and she was suffering as a result. I had to to be her advocate and, out of love and duty, I had to act on her behalf and end that pain. The tears flowed and ebbed. Boudicca passed painlessly away, hopefully with the knowledge that her human family loved her fiercely.

I knew this day was coming and began to prepare myself mentally and emotionally weeks beforehand. I had to make a hard choice but in the end it was the right one, and I don’t regret that choice. Her human mother–me, the human she chose all those years ago at the ASPCA–loved her enough to let her go.

Afterward, everything seemed surreal and out of focus. Happysad feelings are difficult to articulate in coherent sentences. I felt a sinking feeling in my chest–sadness and loss. At some point, relief trickled over me. Comfort knowing that Boudicca was in good company with the rest of my family’s pets that have gone over the Rainbow Bridge. Gratitude for the 18 years of loving companionship and joy that she brought to my life.

It still feels mildly surreal to accept that my sweet baby girl no longer lives among us. Her pink beds lie empty, vacant thrones upon which Queen Boudicca lay in languid repose. In the evening, the boys aren’t interested in or know how to enjoy lap time yet. Charlie, for example, would probably enjoy it quite a bit but he’s rather wiggly. The boys certainly like to snuggle with one another but they’re not snugglebugs with humans yet. We’re working on that. I love Charlie and Garrus deeply (every pet in my house always winds up slightly over-loved) but they do not and will not replace Boudicca.

There are hundreds, if not thousands, of little things I will miss about her. Without fail, Boudicca greeted me when I came home, yammering and dancing around my feet until I picked her up. She turned into a limp slinky accordion cat when held. Her purr rumbled, punctuated with trills, when she was filled with lazy contentment (or feline entitlement), especially when I kissed her in between the ears. I would sometimes wake up with her camped out on my chest in a smug cat loaf. I miss her quirks, like when she went through a kleptomaniac phase and repeatedly stole my grandmother’s light blue mohair scarf, complete with matching hat and gloves, and absconded with them to her tower. She became an early riser and pawed me awake. Her eyes turned lantern bright Maleficent-esque green, as though she was plotting nefarious deeds and how to take over the world…just as soon as she finished her nap. She sprawled across books and newspapers and refused to budge. She explored new boxes with relish or took her responsibilities seriously when testing a crocheted blanket for softness and nappability. When I spoke on the phone, Boudicca contributed her two cents to the conversation. Queen B was an excellent reading buddy, especially on quiet rainy days.

Rest in peace, Queen B. I love you.

P.S. I am very grateful for all my friends and family that reached out to me and offered me hugs, comfort, and condolences. Your kindness and thoughtfulness is truly touching. Thank you.

Garrus’ Procedures

Yesterday Garrus was abducted by aliens! Of course I’m kidding but I’m sure he felt like that happened. He went to the vet, where he had an echocardiogram and extensive dental surgery. Good news: he does not have primary heart disease but has a slight enlargement in his left atrium. We will continue monitoring his heart, and if necessary, put him on heart medication.

I caught a snuggle in progress the day before Garrus’ surgery.

In order to treat his severe stomatitis and dental disease, Garrus had 17 teeth removed. Don’t worry–he kept his canines so he can still make his vampy smile. Dr R called to ask to keep him overnight since he was super groggy and a quiet place to recuperate on a heating pad. (Let’s be honest, Charlie would be all up in his business the moment he got home.) I was content to leave my dear Gentleman Cat in quite capable hands, where he could be closely monitored for any swelling and his pain managed by professionals. Since Dr R is amazing and super-helpful, she agreed to give him extra love on my behalf. (It’s hard to resist petting him since his fur is so plushy. The techs remarked that his fur is as soft as a rabbit’s, so naturally his new nickname is Bunny Cat.)

We picked him up this morning. He was bright-eyed and bushy-tailed, even in the carrier, but apparently forgave us for taking him to the vet. When we let him out of the carrier, Charlie rejoiced and trotted merrily over to greet him, then proceeded to escort Garrus as he toured the house to ensure everything was right where he left it. We noticed that Garrus moved with an extra jaunty bounce in his step and–surprise, surprise!–he started talking like a squeaky chimpanzee and asking for food less than five minutes after he got home! He hasn’t had any issues eating so far.

“Hi Mom and Dad! I’m happy to be home! May I have scritches please?”

Dr R said that, while his mouth heals, he needs to eat only wet food (no problem there) and after his sutures heal, we can transition him to kibble again, if he’ll take it, though he may prefer the texture of wet food. Since he lost weight over the last couple of months and remains underweight, Dr R recommended that we increase his caloric intake to two cans of wet food a day. Another option would be to give him kitten wet food. I expect we’ll have a very happy boy.

“Om nom nom” ~Garrus (in the most polite fashion, of course)

Garrus’ Checkup

This morning Aaron and I took Garrus to the vet’s office for his annual wellness exam and vaccines. We also wanted to get his nails trimmed (we have not had success yet doing that at home), check his weight, and investigate why he (1) abruptly switched himself from kitten kibbles to wet cat food and (2) lately he has become unusually finicky, seemingly nervous, and occasionally won’t eat the wet food we offer him. We suspected that he had lost weight and that his teeth were behind the recent behavioral and dietary changes, as he had dental issues before.

Getting him into the carrier was the first obstacle. He immediately suspected something was up so he hid behind furniture. Eventually we were able to coax him out and I picked him up, but he soon panicked and became a swirling mass of claws. He raked my shirt, tearing several holes in it, and scratched my chest, arm, and hand. Okay, my mistake, I should have grabbed and secured his front and hind legs so he would feel safer and couldn’t scratch. We ultimately used the towel burrito method, upon which he gave up and let us put him in the carrier. (He protested with one mournful cry-meow and a few sad squeaky chimpanzee meows after that.)

At the vet’s office, Garrus behaved quite well. Dr R and a tech put a towel over his head and placed him on his side in order to trim his nails. (Both remarked that his fur was “bunny soft”.) He didn’t protest or wiggle when his vaccines were administered or Dr. R examined him. He had indeed lost half a pound of weight since he had last been seen. She quickly determined the issue underlying his recent eating behavior: his gums and teeth were severely inflamed due to stomatitis. We first learned that he had this issue soon after we began fostering him in August 2017, and his dental pain then necessitated emergency dental surgery with five teeth resected. Dr R recommended resecting the rest of his teeth, with the exception of his canines. She also noted that his heart murmur may indicate heart disease, which would complicate anesthesia. We needed to determine with an echocardiogram if he had heart disease before we could do anything with his mouth.

Rather than bringing him back tomorrow for the ultrasound and again on Tuesday for surgery (Tuesday is set aside for surgeries), we opted to do it all in one shot. We scheduled an appointment for next Tuesday for an echocardiogram to check out what’s going on with his heart followed by dental surgery.

Dr R also explained the possible treatment plans for Garrus if he does indeed have heart disease. The usual treatment for stomatitis involves steroid therapy and antibiotics, but steroids could push his heart. None of us want Garrus to go into congestive heart failure or suffer complications because of heart disease or dental surgery. I am naturally worried about my Gentleman Cat but am hopeful that we can find successful methods of improving his quality of life and health.

After we brought him home from the vet’s office, Garrus settled down to a well-deserved nap.

Finicky Cats: Part One

In the last month, Garrus has made his preference for wet food quite clear and does not eat his kitten kibble much. I spoke to Dr R about it and she assured me that cats are very texture-oriented and some prefer the texture of wet food to dry food. Since he still needs to gain weight and I was worried that he was actually losing weight trying to hold out for wet food, Dr R encouraged me to give him small portions of wet food and increase it accordingly if that was all he was eating.

Yesterday Aaron gave him his dinner and tried an experiment by sprinkling some kitten kibbles on top of the wet food. Garrus ate them—hooray! Both Boudicca and Garrus need the extra calories so I replicated Aaron’s experiment and added kibbles on top of their breakfasts this morning. I was pleased to see that my cats, who had been so patient as I prepared their meal even though they were so hungry, ate everything I gave them! Charlie, in this typical squeaky fashion, was delighted when I offered him a few morsels of wet food on a spoon. (Since he is at a healthy weight, he gets a very small amount of wet food as a treat. As he is not a fussy eater and remains a very busy guy, Charlie has no problem eating most or all of his dry food every day.)

“Is it dinner time yet?” Garrus is polite and patient but most persistent when he is hungry and waiting for me to give him wet food.

Having a cat with exacting and/or mercurial eating preferences can be a challenge for any pet owner. Here are a few tips:

  1. Understand how cats choose what food they like. Texture, odor, and taste are hugely important to cats. For example, Boudicca does not like chicken or turkey-flavored wet food but loves seafood varieties. She is also particular about the texture: she likes Friskies Paté but not the Shreds or Flaked or the generic brand we bought from the grocery store. Some cats will prefer one brand over the other based on taste, texture, smell, mouth feel, or other factors. Temperature and even presentation can make a difference. Case in point, while I can spread out the food I serve for Garrus, the same tactic will not work for Queen B. I have to spoon her food into a pile and “fluff” it for her. If after she’s eaten half of it and it’s smooshed down onto the plate, she will stop eating but if I resculpt it into a fluffed pile, she will finish what I’ve given her.
  2. More protein, less carbohydrates. Cats are carnivores and they need at least 40% protein to maintain a healthy weight and muscle composition. Carefully read the nutrition label on the dry and wet food you’re offering your cat. Is it comprised of more carbohydrates and fillers or is protein-heavy?
  3. Food allergies. Cats can develop food allergies. An elimination diet may help identify any allergies. Make sure you discuss this with your vet first for more information and address concerns before you try an elimination diet.
  4. Dental issues. If a cat is experiencing dental pain, it is understandable that his or her appetite might decrease. Crunchy kibbles may further irritate inflamed gums or bad teeth. If you suspect that your cat is having a dental problem, consult your vet!
  5. Rotation. If you want to switch to a new cat food, do so slowly. Sudden changes can cause upset tummies, diarrhea, appetite loss, and other issues. Here’s a handy breakdown to utilize:
    1. 75% current food, 25% new food for a few days. Is your cat eating well? All good? Move on to the next step.
    2. 50% current food, 50% new food for another few days. Keep an eye on your cat’s behavior. Eating normally? No indication of GI troubles? You may pass go.
    3. 75% new food, 25% current food. This may take a week or, for more fastidious cats, 10 days to two weeks.
  6. Make your cat hungry. I know that sounds cruel but some cats do better when they are not free-fed.
  7. Food o’clock. Begin offering your cat two established meals a day. (See #5.)
  8. Playtime. Play and exercise can stimulate a cat’s appetite.
  9. High quality. Again, check the ingredients and nutrition content of the cat food you’re buying. Don’t feed your cat junk.
  10. Canned vs dry food. Boudicca ate dry food only most of her life but now eats both wet and dry food. Garrus had eaten only wet food at the shelter due to his dental issues before we transitioned him to kibble. Now his preference for wet food reasserted itself and we’re giving him that because he needs extra calories. Some owners hate canned food while others detest dry food, so there is a lot of information from both camps biased toward one or the other. My advice? Talk to your vet, ask questions, and carefully evaluate the information sources you come across.

Stay tuned for Part Two!

Animal Care and Control Appreciation

Animal Care and Control Appreciation Week occurs every year during the second full week in April. This effort was created by the National Animal Care and Control Association to recognize and promote professionalism in the field of animal care and control. Agencies and individuals that provide these valuable community services should be commended for all their hard work.

When I see shelter employees out and about, whether I see them at the vet’s office, shelter, adoption event, library, or somewhere in town, I usually try to say hi and express my gratitude for all that they do.

What can you do today on behalf of your animal care and control agencies? Here are a few ideas:

  1. Express your thanks.
  2. Recognize and celebrate their accomplishments and, if warranted, nominate individuals and shelters for awards.
  3. Become involved in a Friends of the Animal Shelter or rescue organization.
  4. Donate.
  5. Volunteer.
  6. Foster.
  7. Adopt.
  8. Spread the word about the wonderful services your shelter and animal control agencies provide to your community.
  9. Raise awareness about the importance of and educate others how to be responsible pet owners.

Photo credits courtesy of Pexels

Caring for a Geriatric Cat

Greetings everyone! I realize that I have not updated Purry Home Companion in a while. I have been alternatingly busy with graduate school and a bit under the weather lately. Additionally, Boudicca, being a nearly 18-year-old cat, has needed a lot of care to stabilize her health (namely symptoms stemming from small bowel disease) and closely monitor her quality of life. Last week I was alarmed when Boudicca’s appetite markedly dropped and she refused to eat her wet food (which has her medications mixed in), both of which are most unusual for her. She will be seeing the vet this week for a re-check.

I had just finished brushing Queen B when she sat like this on the window seat. I liked the way the sun shone through the window and illuminated her ears and whiskers.

Given Boudicca’s age and health, I have had the difficult conversations concerning her quality of life and knowing when it will be time to say goodbye. Having these conversations and making these incredibly difficult, poignant decisions are the most challenging parts of responsible pet ownership. In 2017 I made the hard decision to say goodbye to my 16-year-old cat Nala, whose quality of life had markedly declined due to increasing arthritis, which in turn complicated her diabetes. In some ways, I think saying goodbye to Boudicca will be harder since she is my first cat who has truly been my own and, after all, she chose me to be her human. She has always been my sweet girl and I will miss her VERY MUCH. (Cue tears welling up as I write this.) Because the idea of saying goodbye sometime in the future has been in the back of my mind, I have been making concerted efforts to spend as much time with Boudicca and cherish the time I have left with my googly girl.

Boudicca and I recently enjoyed a three-hour lap time session. She has always been a very enthusiastic reading buddy, lap warmer, and snuggler. Her eyes appear very green here too!

However, as I write this, we are not quite at that stage. We figured out why her appetite decreased: she apparently decided to be abruptly finicky about her wet food. We discovered that she prefers Friskies Salmon Pate. We were able to get her to eat something else when she did not want to eat wet food, and we were able to get medication into her in order to control inflammation, nausea, abdominal pain, and keeping her regular. Her appetite has since returned and now she gets very talkative whenever either of us is in the kitchen, because she automatically assumes that we will give her more food. (Either that, or she forgets quickly that we give her wet food twice a day. She still steals kitten kibble from Garrus even though she has her own bowl.) With that said, she has had accidents this past week–so messy and so much cleaning! She is not grooming herself very well, so I brush her regularly and will have to bathe her soon.

Caring for older cats (i.e. mature, senior, and geriatric cats) involves many factors related to health and what to expect at each stage. Aging affects cats in different ways; some will be rather frail at age 11 while others are still robust at 18 or older. Behavior can change in elderly cats. In Boudicca’s case, she is fussier about food, sleeps more, grooms less, talks less, and can be insecure around Charlie, whereas in the past she was quite confident and untroubled by the presence of other cats (Nala, neighborhood cats outside) and dogs. She requires a lot more vet care and medication due to her health problems. Nala and Boudicca aged differently with certain symptoms appearing at some stages with one but not the other. Caring for a senior cat has been a learning experience for both me and Aaron through our experiences with Nala and Boudicca. We are balancing being solicitous with Boudicca’s needs while meeting the needs of Garrus and Charlie, who are respectively six and two years old and have very different energy, nutrition, and health needs.

Googly cat is quite googly!

Update on Boudicca

This past week has been stressful. Boudicca became ill again, obviously having issues in the litterbox and, more distressing, her appetite noticeably decreased. She hunched over a lot and backed up when I tried to pick her up, something she has never done before. I took my girl to the vet for an abdominal ultrasound on Tuesday. She has intestinal/small bowel disease, which may or may not lead to cancer. One of the symptoms of this illness was constipation, which in turn led to the loss of appetite and abdominal pain. This is one of the challenges of responsible pet ownership: senior cats can develop more health issues and require more veterinary care. Thankfully, however, she is doing much better due to a cocktail of medications to stabilize her so that she has a healthy appetite and doesn’t have any litterbox issues (either constipation or diarrhea).

We have been able to mix her medications into wet food, which she eagerly awaits twice a day. Every time she sees one of us taking a small plate out of the cupboard she assumes it’s for her and gets very verbal about it. This, of course, alerts the boys and prompts Charlie to give his two cents in a number of ridiculously cute squeaks.

I know Boudicca is feeling better because she has been seeking us out for attention, especially when we sleep. Several nights I have woken up with a very purry Boudicca sitting on my chest or claiming half my pillow. Occasionally she has successfully executed stealth snuggles! I am happy to see Queen B feeling more like her usual sweet, lovey, and quite googly self.


After her vet visit, Boudicca happily reclaimed her box and spent a lot of time keeping me company in my office. She is an excellent supurrviser!