Caring for another creature can and should humble you.
Sweet Fudge arrived on our street one day. No collar or tags. No readable tattoo in her ear or microchip under her skin. Her ears bore battle scars as did her nose. Her fluffy coat was full of tangles and matted knots that any dreadlocked Rastafarian would envy. (Yes, I know that was profiling, but you get the picture right?)
We asked around the neighbourhood if anyone know who she belonged to. No one knew anything about her. We took her to our vet and learned her tattoo was unreadable. We learned her approximate age and weight. And that she was deaf. Totally deaf as post. We brought her home and had to make a few plans. We informed the neighbours she was deaf and that she wouldn’t hear cars approaching on the street, so could they all please be more aware of her on the road.
We built wooden houses, insulated them and filled them with soft bedding for her to sleep on. Her house was decorated at Christmas and Hallowe’en to match our house. You could hear Fudge snoring when she was asleep inside her cozy abode. My weekly Spud delivery guy was always happy to see her.
She became fiercely protective of our property. Dogs were tolerated as they walked on the road, but if one dared step a toe onto our grass or driveway. . . well, Fudge went into Guard-cat mode. The Chocolate Lab went home with a sliced nose. The Golden Retriever went home with a matching slice. One small white fluffy dog, perhaps a Bichon Frise, decided to come to the front door one Saturday morning and sample Fudge’s breakfast. That little dog made noises no animal could make voluntarily. This fluffy white pup went home pink and red. Fudge let him know whose food he dared eat and it was a lesson not ever forgotten.
We spent hours brushing her coat daily. It was common to find twigs and dead bugs caught up in the fluffiest of her underpinnings. She tolerated the daily removal of assorted bricabrac from her fur. Her personal best, was a branch of a rosebush, complete with a spiderweb and a dead worm all firmly woven into her back leg fuzzy bits.
Her favourite place to sleep was with her head under the Azalea bushes.
One summer, a young man came to our door selling book subscriptions to pay for his Theology and Religious studies. He was distracted by Fudge with her head hidden under the bush. He kept looking at me and looking back at Fudge. Finally he said “Mum, I think there is something wrong with your cat. She didn’t look at me when I spoke to her.” I assured him she was fine. “No, mum, you don’t understand, she isn’t moving when I talk to her.” I explained she was deaf and then touched her side. She brought her head up so quickly, she knocked flowers to the dusty flowerbed. I told him how Fudge came to live with us and how it isn’t my place to turn my back on a creature in need. She may have been a Queen in a former life and it was my job to care for her now. He stopped his speech about religion and shook my hand and thanked me. His eyes were wet and he bent down to nuzzle Fudge before going on his way.
Over the years, we noticed her fluffy coat was getting more and more tangled. She seemed unable to keep herself well groomed. There often were bathroom cling-ons stuck in her fur. We had to help clean these from her coat. From time to time, we needed to wash these southern parts with warm water to remove the dried matter. She was less tolerant of our brushing sessions. We opted to get her a haircut. A Lion-trim to be more precise. Well, that was revealing to say the least.
Upon her haircut, we noticed she was thin. Really thin. We asked for a check up. Her blood work came back revealing she had kidney disease. The vet gave us many scenarios we could explore. She said Fudge could last anywhere from weeks to maybe a few months with a diet change etc. There were also some far more involved options too, if we wanted to investigate those. We chose a food change. We told all the neighbours she was on a new diet and to please not feed her anything. Fudge was known for seeing what was for dinner at the other houses on the street.
She didn’t care for the food switch. We tried every brand, every formulation of food that was designed for kidney issues in cats. She turned her scarred nose up at every single offering. So, now what? Quality or quantity? Give in and let her eat what she wanted or feed her what she didn’t want, and therefore left untouched?
We moved her bed into the garage, installed a space heater for her and fed her what she wanted. She ate happily. Then, one day, she had the look in her eyes.
We brought her and her litterbox upstairs and made her a spot to sleep on the bed. Fudge no longer had the sweet smell of happy kitty. She was instantly sour and acrid. Her fur, once soft and luxurious to brush, was cold and greasy feeling. We called the vet in the morning.
They accommodated us first thing. The vet explained they would try to find a vein, but in the state she was in, it may be difficult. She wrapped Fudge in a blanket and took her to the back. They emerged a few minutes later, the vet smiling with relief as they were able to find one. (the alternative is to apparently go directly into the heart and not pleasant for family to watch) We held her fuzzy hand as she slipped away. She seemed to smile as she left us.
We miss sweet Fudge more than she can ever know.