The Saga of Georgie
It was mid-October, and it was just starting to get cold enough to frost over at night. One night, my husband, Chris, came into the house and told me that there was a cat in our driveway. He had driven in and saw a cat sitting at the top of the driveway. He had assumed that the little guy would move when he pulled in, but he didn’t; he continued to sit in the driveway even after the car pulled in. Chris got out of the car and inspected the cat, and told me that he thought there was something wrong with it. He had never owned cats before, though, and I have had cats my entire life, so I am our household’s “cat expert”.
I went outside, but the cat was no longer in the driveway. We walked around the side of the house and underneath the deck, we found this little guy. He was huddled up behind the stairs, and he looked scared. I agreed with Chris’ assessment that there was something wrong with him, because although he looked terrified, he didn’t move an inch. That is not normal for a scared kitty cat – a kitty that is healthy and scared doesn’t stay in one place, they run away. I tried to get him to come out from under the deck, but he didn’t look like he wanted to go anywhere, and I wasn’t going in after him, so I made Chris run in for some food and water and tried to bribe him instead. I wanted him to come close enough so that I could see if he had tags or a collar.
When presented with food, he immediately came the rest of the way out and began chowing down. He was obviously starving. I couldn’t see any collar on him, but his fur was long and he looked like a Persian, so I figured that someone owned him and was probably missing him. I knew it was going to get cold that night, and he didn’t look like he could take care of himself very well so I thought we could take him into the garage for the night so he would be warm and well-fed, and we’d look for his owner the next day.
The only problem was that I didn’t want to touch him. We have two other cats, and I was worried that he might have some sort of disease that they could catch. So while I wanted to be nice to the kitty, living in the country had taught me that you have to be careful with stray cats – infections and parasites that they are carrying can be transferred from them, through you or your clothing, to other kitties in your household. We finally decided that we would lure him into one of our cat carriers (Well, actually a friend had left her cat carrier at our house, and so we totally used hers… like we were going to put some strange, possibly diseased cat in our cat carrier? Moral of the story – don’t leave things at our house.)
With the promise of food, he went in easily enough, and once we were in the garage, I opened up the door and set the food just outside of the door. He quickly positioned himself half in and half out of the carrier so he could eat, but still be partially in the carrier. I decided to give him a bit of time to get acclimated to the garage, and so I left him and went inside for a while. I worried that once he had had is fill of food and water, he would station himself under my car or hide in amongst our junk, and that we would have a hard time getting him out again, but about a half an hour to an hour later, I went back out and found him exactly where I had left him. He hadn’t moved an inch, and he was still eating.
This was both good and bad. It was good that he was eating and interested in food (It’s a good rule of thumb with animals that if they have a healthy interest in food, there is hope for them no matter how badly they’re hurt, but when an animal refuses food, it’s bad news.)
However, I had expected that once he felt a little more safe and warm he would explore his new surroundings a bit. It’s what cats do, but he wasn’t moving at all. So I stuck my hand in the carrier to pet him (I told myself, I would scrub up when I got back inside and even take a shower if I had to) and I was horrified by what I found. His hair had made it seem like he was much bigger than he actually was, but when I touched his back, I could feel every single vertebra. All there was was fur and bones, but he purred so loudly when I touched him that I could hear him from outside the kitty carrier. This kitty was not just hungry, he was literally starving. I also noticed that he had not drank any water at all. I began to think that this kitty was going to need a lot more than just a little bit of food and water; it was time to call the vet.
Luckily our vet is open pretty late and they said we could bring him in. The vet estimated that he had been out for almost a month on his own. He was 4.5 pounds, and probably half a pound of that was fur. The vet was pretty straight with us and said that running tests was pretty expensive and there was a good chance that he wouldn’t make it through the night – he had been too dehydrated for too long. They recommended that we only give him fluids that night and then if he lived through the night, we would go further and run tests and sort out what was what.
We moved him into our downstairs bathroom and blocked it off from the other kitties so they wouldn’t have contact and when we went from the bathroom to the rest of the house, we had to wash everything on us that had touched the kitty and I threw my clothes directly into the washing machine for good measure. I was scared about the possibility of him dying in the night, and I made Chris check the next morning and promise that if he had died that he would take care of it, because I didn’t know if I could handle it. I’ve had kitties my whole life, but the oldest kitty that I’ve owned without my parents is Kiki – she’s 10. So I haven’t ever had to deal with a dying kitty on my own yet. I was hoping that this wouldn’t be my first experience with it.
Here he is the next day. Not the most beautiful kitty ever, but still alive and STILL EATING. The vet had given us a couple cans of food that is specially designed to fatten kitties up. It smelled horrific (Seriously. The main ingredient was liver, and for months after Georgie had left, our bathroom smelled like this food. It was disgusting.), but this did not seem to bother him. He had pretty much only stopped eating to sleep and then he was right back to it. He was a machine.
So back to the vet we went. It turns out that my precautions were a good thing. The vet reported that he didn’t have any of the biggies (feline leukemia, distemper, etc.) but he did have numerous infections and a seriously nasty case of fleas. His organs were also not functioning properly, his liver wasn’t looking good, he was anemic, and he had a heart murmur. Very. Sick. Cat.
So decisions had to be made. The vet said that organizations like the humane society wouldn’t take a cat with this many things wrong, because it would take so much to fix him up and there was still a very real possibility that he could still die after all of the money and effort. So it was up to us as to what we wanted to do. Chris and I discussed it and decided that we had the money and he was such a sweet kitty who deserved a fair shot at life with a good family; so we would do what we could for him and if he did die at least his last bit of life would be filled with warm blankets, tons of food, and people to pet him.
So we got a flea treatment for him as well as flea treatments for the other kitties just in case (They were super excited about that.) Every day I gave him drops in his eyes, a pill in his food in case he had worms, antibiotic liquid down his throat and the vet gave him a shot of uber-antibiotics while we were there. There was pretty much not a bacteria or parasite in existence that was going to survive this onslaught. The vet hoped that the more serious problems (the liver, anemia, and heart murmur) were caused by the dehydration and the fleas that were sucking the life out of him. He recommended that we do nothing to directly treat any of those things, and just hope that when he was flea free and hydrated, the numbers would get better by themselves.
We also decided to call him George. (Because you’ll love him and hug him and call him George.)
We got into a routine where I would go in and give him all of his medicine, and then because I didn’t want him to think that humans were only around to poke him, prod him, and squirt various liquids into his eyes and mouth, I’d hang out and pet him while he ate. Although normally giving kitties tons of medicine is filled with claws, teeth, and growling, little Georgie was so sick he didn’t protest any of it. But he would purr any time you would touch him and lean into your hand to the point where he would fall over if you took your hand away; he was obviously an affectionate cat. We thought someone must be heartbroken over losing him. So we called the Humane Society, because we had been certain that someone would have reported him missing. No one had reported a missing or lost Persian kitty. We listed on craigslist, and while we did get responses, none of them were looking for Georgie. We went to our neighbors to see if anyone knew anything. Nothing.
It was becoming increasingly clear that whatever had happened to this kitty, no one was going to claim him.
After a week, we took him back to the vet to see how he was doing and the news was awesome! His anemia and heart murmur were gone and his liver numbers looked better. We were almost done giving him drops in his eyes every day, we were done with the pill in the food, but the vet discovered an ear infection so we had to add drops in the ears to our routine. This was not taken well by either Georgie or me. He was starting to feel better, and he wasn’t the biggest fan of having things dripped into his ears. I’d put the drops in and then he’d shake his head violently and the drops would fly in every direction – mostly on me. The liquid was kind of sticky and gross and it matted the fur around his ears. Basically, neither one of us enjoyed drops-in-the-ears time.
In addition, he was Persian and at some point in his life he had been a beautiful kitty, but his fur was so matted and scraggly, you certainly wouldn’t know it. The vet said with all these mats, his skin was being pulled in so many different directions that it was causing him pain and they didn’t even know if it was possible to detangle it. She said it would be best if they just shaved the mats out. So the vet shaved him. Everything but his tail, face, and legs. Georgie was angry about this. The entire time we had had him, he had not so much as hissed. It was mostly purring and eating and then more purring and more eating. Even when he was getting antibiotic shots or putting up with drops here, squirts there, swallowing pills or trips in the carrier, we didn’t hear even a hiss or growl of protest. But when the vet took the clippers to him… he fought to holy hell, he growled, hissed, bit and went a little insane. They had to take him to the back and restrain him to get the job done and every time he saw that vet afterward, he growled. The fur is sacred, you do not mess with the fur.
I have to say, the shaving didn’t really improve his looks. He sulked for a bit after having his fur taken off, but after a while he sat down and cleaned himself and for the first time was able to reach some of the places were the fleas had gotten him bad and he didn’t have giant mats of fur to contend with. So trauma aside, it probably felt pretty nice and it was really the only option available. He had gained 2 pounds in 10 days, but you could still see his bones, and his haunches were gaunt. I can’t even imagine what he would have looked like without his fur that first night. I don’t even want to think about it.
The thing we had to worry about now was what we were going to do with him. It had been more than a month and no one had claimed him. I had thought about taking him in, because he was such a sweetie, but as it turns out, being sweet in our house hold is not necessarily an asset.
There was one incident that solidified the fact that Georgie wouldn’t fit in well at our house. Georgie was out and about downstairs and the two other cats were down there as well. I was trying to coax them into playing in the hopes of breaking the INTRUDER ALERT tension that Kiki and Momo had whenever they saw Georgie. I wiggled the string near Georgie and he playfully batted at it when it came close to him. I knew Kiki wasn’t going to go for it. She was too busy staring daggers at the new guy. I wiggled it a little closer to Momo, our giant orange kitty. He crouched behind a post, wound up (if you’ve never seen a 16 pound cat do a butt wiggle before jumping on something, it’s a sight to see) and launched himself on top of the string full throttle. That string was dead meat.
Georgie. Was. Horrified. His eyes were wide and he was backing away from The Momo, who had flipped onto his back and was happily gnawing on the string and would claw wildly at it when it moved away from him – even a little.
Can I put the difference in terms of classic television and movie characters? Yes, yes I can.
My cats are like the Sharks and the Jets. Their interests include plotting territory take-overs and stalking all other creatures in the house. They mean business – they have their territory and they will defend it with any and all means necessary. They will cut you.
Georgie is like Elmo. He loves you and wants to be your best. friend. His interests include cuddling, purring, and eating truckloads of food. He will adorable you to death.
What happens when the Sharks and the Jets meet Elmo? I really didn’t want to find out.
I warned them, that he was going to be a lot of work. When his fur grew out, he was going to need special grooming and we still weren’t sure if his health problems were going to come back or if more health problems were going to crop up. But they said they’d give it a shot. Just after Thanksgiving, little Georgie went to live with my parents.