Only nine lives
This week: A stop, start, stop, stop week; Not always a people cat; Feline antics; Only nine lives; Time to say farewell;
This is the 40th blog of 2020, which means that there are just 12 more weeks of 2020 left.
After everything that has happened so far in 2020, one can but wonder what the remaining weeks will hold in store.
This has been the saddest week of our time in Dol. My senior cat Risha has been euthanised by the local vets due to incurable chronic kidney disease (CKD).
A stop, start, stop, stop week
I’ve been at the vets with Risha every day up to Friday this week.
He was off his food at the end of last week, then went missing. I searched everywhere and couldn’t find him at all on Sunday.
We woke up to a cold Sunday Morning, just 12ºC, then starting Sunday evening at tea time we had a storm come through with strong winds, which deposited 26 mm of rain in Dol.
With the awful weather, I really didn’t expect to see him again, but on Monday he appeared at 12:15, dry, but very wobbly and clearly very unwell. He had lost a significant amount of weight, so I put him into the carrier and went straight down to the vets.
We have two super vets at the Lota clinic in Stari Grad, Dr Prosper and Dr Fabian. We seem to be frequent visitors to the surgery, to the point where they know Risha by name!
A temperature check showed his body temperature was just 35ºC, when it should have been around 38ºC so he was Hypothermic.
The immediate treatment was to put a catheter into a vein in his fore-paw and put him on a drip of Ringers Lactate heated to 40.9ºC. After an hour and a half his core body temperature had only gone up by 1 degree.
His blood analysis showed he also has a viral infection, Pancreatitis and a kidney condition, presumably from lack of food and water. So after some strong antibiotics and a painkiller, we came home.
A comfy bed
I have the huge transfer box that we used when the felines travelled from Abu Dhabi to Dol, so I got that down from the loft and made it comfortable with towels and a hot water bottle.
The latter needed some innovation. I’ve not had a hot water bottle for decades and when I called round at DM on the way home, they said they hadn’t sold them for years. That meant that I needed an alternative.
A quick check in the kitchen and I saw I had some glass Olive Oil bottles. Only in the last 6 months has there been a bin for glass recycling, so rather than throw glass away, I’ve put all glass bottles on the windowsill.
It wasn’t a long job to boil a kettle of water and fill a bottle, then wrap it in a small towel, held with a rubber band. I moved Risha into the large carry case, with the bottle and a small litter tray and a little later when I looked, he was asleep.
We went back to the vets on Tuesday and again on Wednesday for more warmed fluids administered by IV drip, but he refused to eat anything, just drinking water.
By Thursday he was no longer hypothermic and the infections were under control. However the analysis of a blood sample showed his kidneys had lost more than 90% of their function.
His kidneys had failed, something which affects ⅓ of domestic felines over the age of ten and 50% of cats over 15 years of age. He is the equivalent of 76 in human years.
Dr Prosper assessed his chance of recovery as 5% or less, so the only decision could be euthanasia. He went to sleep quickly and without any pain. I brought him home and have laid him to rest in his favourite sunny corner of the orchard.
Household pets are a much loved part of the family, so looking after Risha has been my priority and little else has been achieved this week.
Not always a “People” cat
A few readers of my Dol House Blog have met him over the years, both here in Dol and when we lived in Abu Dhabi.
Risha wasn’t a real “people” cat, being reluctant to come up close until he had got to know the person a bit. But as a companion, especially here in Dol he was seldom far from my side.
There is an old saying that “Dogs have masters and cats have servants”. Risha certainly knew how to get what he wanted, lifting a paw to say please – a trick I taught him as a kitten.
He would always make straight for visitor who really didn’t like cats and rub up to them too. How do felines know that?
He would constantly investigate all ongoing work, would sit and watch me or follow me around the orchards, lying in the sun close to where I was working. I told the builders that he was really my “Clerk of works”.
Latterly he took up residence in the new workshop, claiming a corner of the workbench and in the heat of this summer, he preferred sleeping in the cool workshop rather than in the 28ºC in the house.
He always liked my Abu Dhabi villa because we had air conditioning that he could lie under!
Risha seemed to like having his photo taken and has appeared several time in this blog over the years. When I counted up the number, I have over 500 photos and video clips of him, including on his last day at home this week.
As domestic felines are studied more and feature on BBC Horizon programmes like “The secret life of the cat”, the vets and animal psychologists are learning more about their lives and their relationship with “their” human.
The next huge step forward will be when we can read their brain waves and properly understand their calls and what they are trying to tell us.
As humans we often anthropomorphise our pet’s behaviour, but I am certain that as we learn more about or feline friends, we will be surprised by their intelligence.
Risha was a quick learner.
He quickly worked out that the fridge was where the chicken was kept. He soon learned how to prize open the door with his paw – but not how to open the sliding drawers inside!
He also quickly worked out that his food came from the supermarket in shopping bags, which were deposited on the kitchen floor. These had to be fully investigated at every opportunity.
Here in Dol, he used to empty my recycling bag onto the kitchen floor, so he could climb in and go to sleep. I eventually relented and gave him the bag and used a box for recycling.
He eventually got his own Bauhaus bag to snooze in.
He developed an early interest in gardening books, but it didn’t help him identify the weeds. Everything growing in the garden was tested for edibility and lots of nice seedlings were removed.
He found writing difficult though and never quite mastered writing his own name in Arabic.
A box was always seen as an invitation to take forty winks.
The same as ladders and steps were an invitation to climb to reach otherwise inaccessible places. In his youth he was an athletic high jumper, easily scaling the 2 meter wall round my villa in a single bound.
He also liked to relax in the crook of my arm when I was working on the computer.
He has always been an Aristocat.
Only nine lives
Risha was born on 15th September 2006 and I adopted him from Feline Friends cat rescue, bringing him home, just a small, nine week old kitten, on 22nd November 2006.
The Pet Passport I was given said he had been named ‘Patch’. I called him Risha, an Arabic name for a Quill, (AR: ريشة: HR: Pero) because his tail used to fluff up at the top but stay thin at the bottom, looking like a quill pen.
The lady at Feline Friends asked if I had any other cats, and I said yes, another kitten and I was getting Risha for her company. She warned me that I would need to keep them apart for a few days until they settled in together.
When I came home, I left the carry case open on the floor of the lounge while I went back to the car. When I came back into the lounge a few minutes later, the two of them were curled up together, asleep in the chair.
I changed his name in his passport to Risha, which led to an interesting exchange when we arrived in Croatia and I went to Karina-Customs.
The uniformed customs officer wanted to know why his name had been changed and his passport altered. I told him that Patch is a dogs name in English.
“But it is not allowed to change names in passports.” Came the reply.
I asked the officer to check his microchip, to confirm who he was. “Machine broken, machine broken”. Was all I got in reply.
I’m thinking, “I’ve spent a lot of money on having all the vaccinations and certificates for international travel, have a folder stuffed with documents and all your bothered about his name? This is a cat for goodness sake!!“
Without looking any further at any documents or the vaccination stamps the official said, “OK, go, go.” and waved me away with his hand.”
Clearly we were a ‘too difficult case’….
When we were leaving the villa in Abu Dhabi, the Syrian administrator came round with a colleague from the Indian sub-continent. When talking about the cats I told them they were travelling with me and had their Passports. The Syrian turned to his colleague and said, “You see, that is the mark of a civilised society. Even pets can get passports and can travel freely to Europe.”
Where ever we have lived, he always made his mark. In Abu Dhabi he hated some other cats, especially Sultan who lived next door at one point, and Luna who lived opposite.
When he liked other cats, he would cuddle with them and he would share a bed, but he was fiercely defensive of his property. He NEVER shared his food.
Here in Dol, my friend Cvjetko christened him “House tiger” because of his size and lovely markings. He weighed almost 8.5 kg of muscle and bone.
He quickly settled into his new home with Callie and generally accepted newcomers like Gizmo, Isabijela and even the five kittens I currently have.
All newcomers were treated with a degree of suspicion, until he had decided upon their intent.
Risha wasn’t a hunter. I think he has only ever caught and brought home one bird. He would chase the grasshoppers, but soon tired of the chase and went for a doze.
He spent a lot of his life dozing in the sunniest spot he could find.
He had a routine, a patrol of the orchards, a check outside the gates to see what was new and then back to find a spot in the abundant sunshine.
Time to say farewell
Over the past couple of years I noticed he was slowing down, was looking older and was starting to suffer with arthritis in his joints. Then in the spring he began having serious teeth problems.
Due to his age, the vets were reluctant to extract them because of the potential effect of a long general aesthetic.
Risha has had some medical problems over the years, but was a fighter and always pulled through, emerging stronger after his treatment. I did tell him to be careful after more than one trip to the vets, because he only had nine lives.
In the last six months the vets in Stari Grad have tried all kinds of treatments from Cannabis Oil (CBD) to monthly Depo-Medrol injections, a cortisodal anti inflammatory, and latterly pain medication.
Reading about feline CKD this week, I discovered that poor oral health is directly linked to the development of the disease in felines.
I would pay tribute to Prosper and Fabian for their professionalism and the care they provided, right up to his very last moment.
My intuition at the start of the week, having been his companion for fourteen years, was what the eventual outcome would be.
Risha spent his last afternoon at home lying in the sun in his usual spot on the terrace, sipping water but refusing even his favourite food, minced chicken in gravy.
We had a walk around the orchards in warm sunshine before coming inside for some more lap time as the sun sank behind the hills.
I’m going to miss him joining me for coffee every morning on the terrace, and his welcome at the top of the steps (usually vociferously complaining about my absence and then asking for food) whenever I came home in the car.
Risha had a perfectly attuned body clock – or he heard the church bells chime – because if I was still working when it was coffee or lunch time, he would come and tell me.
Just before leaving home for the last time, as we sat in the morning sun, one of the young male kittens sidled up to him and they rubbed noses for several long seconds. I gained the distinct impression they were communicating and he was “passing the baton” on to the new generation.
To me, domestic felines are highly intelligent, sentient pets. They are the only animal in history who has chosen to domesticate themselves with humans.
Watching Risha go from a nine week old kitten, growing quickly through his teenage years, to becoming a young adult, prepared to take on the world has been a privilege.
He matured, through to being middle aged and finally retirement as Senior Cat with grace, but never lost his poise and his bright, clear green eyes. It has been an experience I would not have missed.
It is also one I have recorded in photographs which bring back all the happy memories. Farewell old friend. NCG