My Feline Family
Tallulah Jane was rescued from scheduled euthanasia at the Solano Animal Shelter by a young woman who mistakenly assumed she could quickly find another home for the kitty she was unable to keep. Tallulah was about 6 weeks old and very ill when she was brought into my booth at the Lafayette Art and Wine Fair in September 2003. She weighed less than a pound and was malnourished, dehydrated, infested with fleas and a tapeworm, and was almost unresponsive due to a serious upper respiratory infection. The woman told me that she would have to take the kitten back to the shelter the next day if she didn’t immediately find someone else to care for her. The last thing I needed at the time was another cat, but there was no way to turn my back on the sick baby. Tallulah remained in quarantine for 3 months, during which time she was on as many as 9 different medications, some of which had to be administered every 4 hours around the clock, before she finally recovered enough to join the rest of the family. She has a variety of health issues, including a heart defect, but her symptoms are fairly well managed. For years Tallulah went with me to my art fairs, hanging out and greeting customers. I always sold more art when she was with me! But a few years ago I noticed she didn’t seem to be enjoying it quite as much so she is now retired and spends her days napping at home. Riley had a rough start in a feral cat colony. One day the woman who managed the colony found him lying unconscious in the street. He was rushed to the vet and diagnosed with a serious infection that filled his chest with fluid. Luckily they were able to save his life, and he recovered under the care of foster parents from ICRA. I had been looking to adopt another young cat as a playmate for Tallulah. I saw Riley at an ICRA adoption event the first day he was available. I happened to have Tallulah with me; when she sniffed his nose and patted him on the head, she looked at me as if to say, “He’s the one!” I adopted him in May 2004 when he was about 6 months old. Riley’s feral background shows in his skittish behavior any time strangers come to the house, and it took 6 years before he was comfortable enough to fall asleep on my lap. But he adores other cats and likes nothing more than to groom or cuddle with one of his siblings! Annabel was orphaned just a day or two after her birth. She and her littermates were brought to the Hayward Animal Shelter and placed with a mother cat that had just lost her kittens. Unfortunately, the surrogate mom infected the kittens with an upper respiratory infection. A volunteer stepped in and brought the kittens home for bottle-feeding and round-the-clock attention. The kittens all recovered but Annabel was left with a damaged right eye. I met her in September 2005 at an adoption event where I was selling my art to benefit a medical fund administered by the shelter volunteers. Her littermates had all been adopted, but people who saw her kept making rude comments about her eye and didn’t seem to notice what a beautiful and playful cat she was. I adopted her and brought her home a few weeks later. Annabel had to be kept in quarantine for the first 2 months due to ringworm, but as soon as she came out and met Tallulah, the two of them became inseparable. Annabel is my friendliest cat, eagerly greeting all visitors at the door. Everyone who meets her falls in love. Genevieve was being fostered by a volunteer with Sunshine Rescue Group, but her never-ending eye problems (the result of four different upper respiratory infections) kept the group from being able to place her up for adoption. She was around 5 months old when I offered to take her to an eye specialist in September 2007 and to foster her until her eyes had healed, with the understanding that I would keep her if she got along with the rest of my furry family. Genevieve recovered with only minor damage to one eye and I finalized the adoption. She’s still got a lot of kitten energy and she can be difficult for the other cats to put up with; they don’t always appreciate her games. She loves for me to carry her around the house while she washes my face. Vivian spent her first 12 years in the same home with her brother before both of them were taken to the Berkeley Animal Shelter. Her brother, who was very ill, was euthanized. Losing her home and her brother and then being confined to a cage surrounded by other cats was traumatic for Vivian. The shelter staff told me that Vivian didn’t like other cats, but I took a chance that she would adjust once she was in a home environment. After 10 months of desensitization and counter-conditioning exercises under the guidance of a veterinary behaviorist at UC Davis, Vivian was finally able to come out of confinement and join the family. She is still not entirely comfortable around other cats but she is very affectionate with me and she loves tummy rubs.
According to shelter records, Saffron was found trapped in an outboard motor at less than two months old. She came to the Alameda Animal Shelter covered in tar and motor oil, and with a broken tail and fractured pelvis. I fostered her for a month before finalizing her adoption in December 2012. She’s turned into a supremely self-confident cat who sometimes bullies the others even though she’s far smaller than most of them. Her name comes from her beautiful gold eyes.
Gladys was 15 years old when she was surrendered to the shelter by her owner. A friend had shared a brief video of her on Facebook, and I couldn’t resist. I began fostering her through Cat Town but quickly decided she was going to be part of my family. She’s deaf and has a lot of health issues, but she’s a happy girl with a loud purr who loves feather toys, long naps and lots of attention.
Herman Herman’s human mom died the same day as my own mother. The hospice coordinator for both women contacted me to ask for advice on finding him a good home, and since Humphrey had just passed away, I decided to bring him here. He joined my family in December 2016. He’s a big, healthy 13-year-old who’s missing about half his teeth (including one of his fangs!) and is just learning about toys. He was a solo cat in his previous home so it’s taking him a while to make friends with the rest of the feline family, but he follows me around the house and sleeps next to me at night.
At the Rainbow Bridge
Esmeralda was an incredibly beautiful, affectionate girl. After rescuing her pregnant mother, I witnessed Esmeralda’s birth in March 1979. She had lost an eye when she was 3 years old after getting into a fight with another cat, but that incident didn’t affect her sweet nature. When she sat on my lap, she would gradually hike herself up higher on my chest until she was tucked in under my chin, and she slept with me every night. I was with her when she died of natural causes at age 19 in June 1998. She’s my angel, and that’s how I depict her in my paintings. Ivan the Terrible was only 5 weeks old when my mother found him in October 1985 in a parking lot, and he earned his name. Ivan was never a lap cat; in fact, I knew he wasn’t feeling well if he behaved too affectionately toward me. He was perfectly willing to use his teeth and claws against me if I did anything he disagreed with, and he had a habit of spraying in the house. Although he was a tough guy who lived an indoor/outdoor life and frequently got into fights with other cats, he lived to be almost 18 years old. He crossed in May 2003.
Grace lived her early life as a stray, but she eventually settled down in the front yard of the house across the street from my mother. The elderly couple who owned the house put a bed on the porch for her and fed her table scraps but never let her inside. After the husband died and the wife went into a nursing home, my mother was asked by the family to feed Grace until they could figure out what to do with her. Mom finally took Grace from them after the family refused to seek veterinary care when she began limping. Grace was treated for internal injuries consistent with having been hit by a car, and I adopted her in May 2002. At the time, her age was estimated to be around 8-10 years old and she had minor neurological damage. Grace took to sleeping next to my face at night, and she completely won my heart. Two months later she was diagnosed with thymoma, a type of cancer. Surgery and chemotherapy gave her more than 2 extra years with a good quality of life, but I reluctantly had to let her go in October 2004.
Dominique was born to a feral mom in a wheelbarrow inside a garden shed. Luckily she and her littermates were taken in by a volunteer with Island Cat Resources and Adoptions, who bottle fed them from the time they were 3 weeks old (their mother was too feral for adoption so she was spayed and released). I adopted Dominique in October 2000 when she was about 7 months old. She was my Velcro kitty; she always wanted to be on my lap, even in the bathroom. In December 2010 I found out that she had developed a rare but serious fungal infection in her nose; despite several months of treatment, the fungus began to destroy the bony plate between her sinus cavity and her brain. In July 2011 I had to make the very difficult decision to let her go.
Fiona was about 9 months old when I met her at the Alameda Animal Shelter in 1998. She had been found as a stray with a newborn litter of kittens, and I thought she was one of the most beautiful cats I’d ever seen. I was looking for an affectionate lap cat, and she turned out to be just as sweet as she was gorgeous. It quickly became clear that she considered herself to be Queen of the Universe—she was in charge and the other cats had to follow her rules. She loved having visitors so she could get extra attention, and people who came to my house always fell head over heels in love with her. Her favorite activity was getting brushed, which was a good thing since she had so much fur! She was diagnosed with mammary cancer in 2009 and died in March 2012.
Midori was rescued along with over a hundred other cats from an animal hoarder’s house in 2007. Nothing is known about her prior history. For the next several years, she was moved around from an animal shelter, to a sanctuary, to a foster home, back to the sanctuary, to an adoptive home, and then back to the sanctuary yet again. I adopted her from Best Friends Animal Society in June 2012. Midori was a senior kitty with a variety of health problems including hyperthyroidism, inflammatory bowel disease, early-stage kidney disease and intestinal lymphoma. Despite her unfortunate past and frail health, she was affectionate and sweet. She only lived a short while after I adopted her, but I made sure she enjoyed every day. She died in November 2012.
Maude was taken to the Oakland Animal Shelter by a person who found her wandering on the street. She was around 16 years old, sick and underweight. A rescue group called Cat Town pulled her from the shelter and I adopted her from them in January 2014. She was a happy and spunky little old lady cat, and one of the sweetest cats I’ve ever known. Only 10 months after she joined my family, her kidneys shut down suddenly; she died in November 2014.
Shiloh was labeled as feral after he was taken to an animal shelter when his caretaker died. He was around 12-14 years old and had evidence of several previous injuries. The shelter ear-tipped him and a group called Tenth Life Foundation found him a safe barn home. However, Shiloh turned out not to be feral at all, and he had a cancerous mass in his mouth. BrightHaven Rescue assisted in getting him the vet care he needed, and I adopted him from them in June 2013. It’s incomprehensible to me how he was ever mistaken for feral! He was the sweetest boy, and it broke my heart when he died from complications related to diabetes in July 2016.
Rex had a loving home in North Carolina with a variety of other animals when his owner began suffering from dementia. I saw a post on Facebook about the need for him and his furry siblings to be placed into new homes, and I agreed to adopt him if he could be brought to California. He arrived in January 2015. He absolutely loved toys, and spent a lot of time moving them from one room to another while loudly keeping us all informed about his activities. He and I had a very special bond. He was diagnosed with cancer shortly after he joined my family, and although chemotherapy kept him in remission for quite a while, he passed away in July 2016.
Humphrey was part of my family for only five days. I adopted him from Berkeley Animal Care Services in December 2016, where he ended up after losing his home several times. His original owner moved and left him behind, a neighbor cared for him until she lost her home in a fire, and yet another neighbor fed him for a while but surrendered him to the shelter when she found out he was FIV+. He was obviously sick when I brought him home, but I hoped it was something treatable. Unfortunately he had cancer that had spread to several organs. Even though he was part of the family for such a short time, he was loved and will not be forgotten.
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