I did not want another cat; I’d resigned myself to keeping Namir, the feral black domestic shorthair that I had live trapped in my yard, but I really just intended to foster other kitties to keep him company during his life time. However, when the friendly, pushy, and very vocal medium haired brown tabby showed up to eat in my front yard (I was putting cat food out for the many strays) I brought him inside since I was afraid he would venture into my backyard and get crossways of my cat aggressive dogs. He was so social I was sure someone must be looking for their cat, right?
After a month of waiting for someone to respond to the found cat signs I’d posted around the neighborhood I realized I had better get the new kitty neutered and vaccinated, so I could try to find him a home. During that time I’d realized that Gabe was super vocal, tomcat pee reeks like nothing else on earth, and that this cat could make noises that sounded like a human infant that made me want to punt him out the backdoor in the middle of the night (just try being woken up by a cat singing the song of his people in the middle of the night through a door and from two rooms away and see how charitable you feel). I desperately wanted to get him cleared medically and start the task of finding him a household where he could get as much attention as he craved (at the time I was crating and rotating dogs plus I had to keep the dogs and cats mostly separate since I had three dogs with varying levels of cat aggression).
Gabriel got his name because Gabby (a synonym for chatty) is a nickname for Gabrielle, not because he reminded me of the Biblical angel. Out of my three personal cats he was the most talkative although Rhys and Namir have both broken out of their more reserved behaviour today to solicit attention by meowing and fussing at me (Gabe was my friendly, cuddly cat…Namir, well, he’s the house feral, and while he allows some touching it’s always on his terms. He’s a “near cat”, not a sit on your lap or dance in front of the computer to demand attention cat. Rhys is just naturally very shy and nervous, but he loves being brushed. I’ll need to do more of that to get my kitty petting time.).
If I planned to adopt Gabe out how did I end up with him permanently? I got Gabe neutered through Emancipet since I couldn’t afford full cost vetting, especially not when I wanted to find him another home. Unfortunately, I got some incredibly shocking news at his pick up: Gabe tested positive for FIV, feline immunodeficiency virus, which would make him extremely difficult to rehome. Initially, I wasn’t sure I could take him back home; I had other cats in the house, and I didn’t want to risk exposing them (FIV is much less contagious than feline leukemia since bodily fluids have to be exchanged through bites, sex, or in utero, but it’s not risk free), and I was woefully uninformed about the virus. I couldn’t just abandon him though, so I brought him home and vowed to educate myself about the illness.
Thanks to Gabe I became one of the most informed people I know about FIV in pet cats, and I unofficially became the FIV expert for the Austin Humane Society and Charlyne’s Pound Puppies. I still am an advocate for adopting FIV positive cats and how to keep them healthy and safe (and look above: Gabe was almost 15 years old, so I must have been doing something right!). Rhys actually joined my household because of Gabe: he is also FIV positive, but he was born with it while I suspect Gabe was bitten by another tomcat (he was never a fighter even before his neuter, but Gabe was extremely dumb at proper cat interactions; I suspect he pissed off the wrong tomcat by getting into his face and not backing off when warned to do so). I’ve fostered two FIV positive cats for AHS (Pibb was a permanent foster for the last two years of his life; Pepe now Giovanni was just a short term visitor), and I may look into fostering some other FIV positive cats in the future (Namir was vaccinated against FIV before the vaccine was considered a cancer risk, so he probably is okay to be around FIV positive cats).
About a month ago I noticed that Gabe really wasn’t eating well, a concern since he was a notoriously piggy eater, but I first thought it was stress from the residing project on my house. However, I found runny, bloody diarrhea outside the litterbox one morning and became very concerned. All of my cats are fastidious litterbox users, so an accident outside the box meant someone was in bad shape aside from the consistency. I began force feeding Gabe baby food/broth/anything thin enough to syringe into him to see if it was just an upset stomach, but by the next Monday I knew we needed to see a vet. This started several vet visits to try to determine why Gabe didn’t want to eat. He was dehydrated, but the bloodwork didn’t show anything terribly interesting. Giving him fluids would temporarily jump start his appetite, but I could tell things weren’t right. I convinced myself if we could get his stomach discomfort fixed Gabe would eat again, so I was dismayed when our vet said I should consider an ultrasound to make sure there wasn’t anything that bloodwork wouldn’t check. The last ultrasound I had done on a pet was when Perdy was diagnosed with cancer three and a half years ago, so I had misgivings about it, but I also knew that that it was probably the answer to Gabe’s health problems. Sure enough his lymph nodes were enlarged, and he had a lesion and a growth in his small intestine: probably diagnosis lymphoma.
The specialty vet suggested doing a pathology to know for sure and an oncology consult, but it wasn’t in my budget plus chemotherapy would have almost certainly killed a 14 1/2 year old FIV positive cat. I took some meds home to see how long I could keep him comfortable: I got a week.
I don’t know if I fully believe in ESP or a sixth sense, but with some of my pets I have known that I would have to put them down shortly: I knew with Suzu, and I knew I would probably have to let Gabe go this week. When he escaped the house last night and tried to run off I had to accept that the universe was giving me a sign that Gabe was suffering and needed me to be strong enough to let go (bless Patience for alerting me that he was outside under the next door neighbors’ truck, so he didn’t just wander off and be gone).
Gabe was more than ready for his final journey: he sat quietly in my lap on the way to the vet (I do not recommend this with a healthy cat!), and he was so dehydrated they struggled to find a vein to place the catheter. He went to sleep in my arms and looked relaxed and at peace for the first time in several weeks. I stayed with his body longer than I did with my previous pets, perhaps because Gabe is the first cat I was able to be with when they passed. I petted him and cleaned him a little because I needed the soothing sense of peace I got when I touched him.
I don’t intend to get more cats; Indi’s not super well-behaved with the current crew, and it’s harder to integrate new dogs into a mixed critter household. However, I put a new bowl of cat food out in the yard tonight, which I haven’t done for years. If I can find a way to keep the ants out of it I might lure another Gabe into my life, like it or not.