Saturday, July 8, 2017

Ode to Sam.

My spare kitty Sam died recently. Sampson. Sammy. Sam Sam. He had kind of a sad story with several owners during his lifetime. He was declawed which is horrible. He had a persistent sinus infection which is no fun. He was mostly blind. He had an extended stay at a pet shelter after his last owner died. Life at a pet shelter isn’t bad but it isn’t luxurious. Not that Sam was the pretentious type who insisted on luxury. I had him less than a year before he died but his last days were comfortable and he got lots of love.

The poor fellow was also diabetic so he had a hard time getting adopted from the shelter. I believe he was there for at least five years before I brought him home. I spotted him alone in a cage when I was visiting the shelter with a friend who was looking to adopt a kitty. Sam kitty was in a cage at the time so the staff could monitor his food intake and give him the proper amount of insulin. I think the other cats beat up on him and that was another reason to keep him isolated.

I kept thinking about Sam after the visit to the shelter and I decided that I would adopt him after my Zoey kitty was gone. Zoey was diabetic and I kept her going for a good eight years after she became diabetic. After so long it got pretty easy to keep her blood sugar regulated and I’m proud to say that my vet would often remark at how good her “levels” were. I figured I was kind of an expert on diabetic cats and I should give Sam a good home. Nobody else wanted him.

When the time came the good folks at the shelter were so happy to have Sam finally on his way they waived the adoption fee and even sent a spare bottle of insulin home with me. Sam was remarkably calm on the ride home and didn’t complain one bit during our pit stop at the vet. He immediately seemed happy when I brought him into the house and didn’t even mind the sassy attitude from the other two cats.

I got the entire adoption on video and you can watch it here:

I hoped the other two cats Ginger and Oscar would accept Sam kitty but they never really did. There was lots of hissing and unkind gestures but eventually things calmed down and Sam was mostly ignored and slightly tolerated. He didn’t seem to mind. He finally had a comfortable place and I had made up my mind to keep him through the rest of his days. I’m not sure he sensed that but I like to imagine he did. No more being shuffled from one place to another. Welcome home Sam.

Given that Sam was mostly blind he often had a hard time finding his way around the house. He did pretty well on most days and he could certainly find his way to the kitchen when the food came out but he didn’t always make it to the litter box at the other end of the deal. I would find his gifts on the carpet every few days but I figured he would get things sorted out and improve his aim so to speak.

Unfortunately he never did improve and the odd thing was he mostly had trouble with number two. Number one wasn’t so bad he usually made it to the litter box but number two just didn’t belong there for some reason. I decided to shut him into a back room with his own food, water, and litter box at night or when I was away from the house but that didn’t seem to help. I tried positioning the litter box in various places but that didn’t help. I added a second box but that didn’t help either. Sam would poo just outside the box. It started to escalate. I was involved in a cat poo cold war and I was losing badly.

Finally I decided I had to keep Sam in a large cage much like the one he was confined to at the shelter. He had his food and water and litter box and a comfy spot to sleep in. He didn’t particularly like being in a cage but he got to come out for a few hours in the evenings and even more extended time on the weekends. And it helped contain the cat poo. Mostly.

I don’t know if Sam was stubborn or just blind and kind of senile but he STILL couldn’t get the poo in the box even right there IN the cage. I think his intentions were good but once his feet hit the sand in the litter box he probably felt he was IN the litter box while his furry butt was actually hanging out over the edge. Sam would drop anchor and some of the poo would end up in the box but lots of it would not. Sometimes most of it would not. If you had needed someone to think “outside the box” you would have wanted Sam on your team.

I quickly grew tired of scrubbing the floor of the cage and so I placed cardboard around the perimeter of the box to make cleanup easier. This helped but it was still such a chore to clean the edge of the box and switch out the cardboard and all that. My technology was improving but Sam and his poo were a formidable stinky duo.

My final solution was to increase the size of the litter box to where it completely filled up one end of the cage and limited the target area outside the box. On the one edge where he was still free to overhang his butt I added a plastic ramp just inside the perimeter of the box. It had a slope that was not comfortable to stand on forcing him further into the box. He was pretty good about stepping into the box and the ramp solved the problem of the overhang probably about 95% of the time. Lots of poo was left on the ramp but that was much easier to clean than the floor of the cage. I considered my cat poo ramp technology a success.

But still we had our battles when I let him out of the cage. One particularly notable incident involved my vinyl record collection. I had been given some nice records by a good friend during a move that included an original Beatles “Abbey Road” album in pretty good condition. Not collectible but not bad. One evening I came home to discover a deposit of cat poo on the album cover. An original Beatles “Abbey Road” with cat poo on it. Dammit! How and why did he do that? The remarkable thing was that the album cover was not lying flat on the floor it was propped against the base of my stereo. Sam had to maneuver in just the right way and projectile poo to get a direct hit like that.

I guess Sam was not a Beatles fan. Maybe he liked The Rolling Stones or Pink Floyd? I didn’t really want to find out so I moved all the records out of reach of Sam’s butt cannon. I tried to clean the “Abbey Road” cover as best I could but Sam’s mark is there forever. I like to call it my “Scratch and Sniff Abbey Road” record. I pretend that one of the Beatles, probably Ringo, had a soft spot in his heart for cats and bought some big mansion where he kept all the stray cats who needed a home. To help pay the costs Ringo convinced the others to release a limited edition of “Scratch and Sniff Abbey Road” with all profit going to the cats. Too bad you don’t have one of these limited edition Beatles albums I do.

Sam’s diabetes went away after a few months. This will happen sometimes cats go into a sort of remission with diabetes. At some point he didn’t need insulin shots so he was pretty much like a normal healthy cat. Sadly there was something else that started to take a toll on Sam’s body. He started to lose weight and my vet couldn’t find an obvious cause. It might have been some kind of cancer but we never knew. I wouldn’t have put his little body through cancer treatment anyway. He was such an old fellow we decided to keep him comfortable and let it run its course whatever it was. He didn’t seem to have any discomfort but he got progressively more and more thin.

On Sam’s last day he got to be out of his cage and hanging out with the rest of us nearly the entire time. He was very weak that morning when I took him out of his cage so I gave him some fluids and held him. He gave the most weak little purr as we sat there together. After a few minutes he perked his head up and looked towards the kitchen. I took him over and set him down next to his food and he ate with gusto. He was still kind of weak but he seemed to rally as the day went on. He slept quite a bit but that is what cats do.

That night I put him back in his cage and put in a clean blanket for some more comfort. I checked on him about 2 am. I flipped on the light and he immediately propped up his head and looked at me. I wondered if I should bring him out for more cuddles but he looked comfortable and I was tired. I convinced myself he would be ok in the morning and I went to bed. Of course the next morning he was gone. He had died in his sleep.

The one thing I’ll never forget about Sam was his positive attitude. He didn’t have the best life. It could have been worse but it could have been better. I think Sam figured if could have been worse. Every single morning he was happy with his tail in the air and ready for some breakfast and a good nap. Even as his body started to fail he was still a cheerful fellow. He was probably the grossest stinky kitty I’ve ever had but that didn’t stop him one bit. I hope when my last days arrive I can have the same positive attitude as little Sammy. He was a great little fellow. He was a bit of a challenge as so many of us are, but he also had so much love to give. He would literally crawl up to put his paws around my neck and nuzzle his head under my chin. I’ve never had another cat do that before. What a great little fellow. RIP Sam.

Sam's adoption shelter:
Lifeline Animal Placement and Protection
310 W 45th St N
Wichita, KS 67204
(316) 807-8473

Another good shelter about 20 minutes east of Wichita:
Country Cats
P.O. Box 37
Andover, KS 67002
(316) 775-2288