Five cats… what the hell happened!?

I wanted to make a little post to talk about the cats, because the stream has definitely heard about it, and …I don’t know, it feels like something I want to talk about for a minute.

I’ve always loved cats, if that wasn’t obvious. Perhaps it was my first interactions with a dog as a child – my parents apparently got a puppy that kept biting my diaper off, until one day it missed and hit my butt. They rehomed the puppy, and we just didn’t have pets. Perhaps it was that. Or perhaps I just always liked the cute and cuddly, yet independent, nature of a cat more than a dog. Dogs are great, don’t get me wrong, but they’re super needy. I always thought cats were great, because you have to earn their trust more. I relate.

My first cat was a family cat we got when I was around 7 year old… so what, 1989, 1990? Her name was Tabi, and she was a gray tabby, and… she was great. LOL. My first day with her I remember was kind of rough, because I thought she had gotten loose and was lost forever. I walked around the neighborhood all day, crying and asking anyone if they’d seen her. I didn’t even have a photo to show them. After a long day of searching, we ended up finding her nestled in the back of the master bathroom sink cabinet, between some pipes where she had found a really interesting but cozy spot to sleep. Tabi was always that kind of cat, loving but skittish. Several years later, we’re not sure what happened to her, but what we do know is that we came home from running errands as a family and she was laying on the ground crying. She had slipped and fallen off of something, and couldn’t move. We rushed her to the veterinarian, where it was discovered that she had somehow slipped a disc in her spine. I’m fuzzy on the details of what happened as I was probably around 10 or 11 when this happened, suffice to say we were able to save her and she lived for a very long time (14 years), though she walked sideways and was basically special needs from that moment forward. She needed help to access the bed or the couch. We overfed her, because we loved her and we didn’t know any better. She eventually was diagnosed with diabetes and kidney failure somewhere in her 12th or 13th year of life, and we gave her medicine, insulin shots, and everything we could to care for her. We probably kept her alive longer than we should have, if only because she was our first, and we didn’t want to say goodbye. Somewhere near the end of 2005, Tabi was finally sent to the rainbow bridge. A week later, my parents adopted Chloe.

I didn’t get to know Chloe as well, but she was definitely a strong independent kitten who didn’t need no owner. I moved out not long after they got her, but I loved her all the same. Chloe passed away late last year, which was also sad.

I wish this post wasn’t so sad, but I have some grievances to air… heh.

When my parents moved back to Nebraska from Kansas City in 2016, I was asked to cat sit Chloe. They brought her to my apartment, where she stayed the weekend and spent equal time in my lap and on the fridge complaining about stuff. When she left, I felt an empty void in my life and wished I could keep her, though I knew she just wasn’t mine. A couple of months later, I ended up with Sam and Gabby – the first cats that were actually mine, that I was fully responsible for. They taught me a lot of things, and they saved me from myself in a lot of ways. They were 6 weeks old when I got them, their story being that someone just left them in a box on the steps of The Humane Society in Kansas City. That sounds heartbreaking, and it is, but I am thankful that they did because I would never have had their light in my life if that had not happened.

Sam and Gabby went through a lot of things with me, a lot of heavy things and a lot of really good things. They got to meet new people, they got a chance to love Trav and his kitty Nathan, and they were spoiled rotten to the best of my ability. They were, for all intents and purposes, my everything. I learned to love myself over time, but for a while they were the motivating factor in my life to do anything. Sam’s big fluffy cloud energy, and Gabby’s snarky neurotic energy, were a yin yang that worked well with me. Most of the stream viewers know Sam’s story, suffice to say it was a painful end in 2019 when he became very ill very quickly, and was diagnosed with fatty liver disease and a bleak prognosis. I was given the option to swing for the fences and try to save him with a very expensive surgery, one that our amazing community fundraised for. I did everything I thought was right, but his little body didn’t know how to come out of the surgery, and he passed away in a semi-vegetative state, though in my shaky arms. He was 13. I miss him every day.

We lost Nathan in April of this year, on the heels of the March Madness subathon and days after his 16th birthday – it too was very sudden and heartbreaking. He had congestive heart failure and his lungs were filled with fluid. We had no other option but to do the most painful thing we could think of: say goodbye. I’m still trying to get over that one, which I suppose is how we ended up where we are today.

Roughly a week after Nathan was gone, Trav and I found ourselves visiting with a ragdoll cattery to fill the absence of our recently departed one. We knew we had to wait until June, but after visiting with them and meeting some of their kittens, we felt good about the situation, and decided to get on the wait list for the next litter, coincidentally born a day or two later. From there, we were able to find ways to heal, get rest, and wade through the emotional soup they call grief. It wasn’t easy. It also threw some curveballs.

We found ourselves not once, not twice, but three times out at The Humane Society in Omaha looking at cats and kittens that were listed on the website. I had mixed feelings about all of it, because I was worried for Gabby and her reaction to a new cat given her age (17 years), concerned for us and undue stress, and concerns about the idea of rushing into something before we had a chance to process what felt like a really profound loss. But I also wanted to be supportive to Trav, who was closer to Nathan than anyone else – that was his cat for 16 years. I just wanted him to feel okay again, knowing full well that I couldn’t really do anything to take away any of the pain that was there. The last time we were at The Humane Society was when it happened: we met two little girl kittens that we fell in love with. One of them fell asleep in my arms. Within 10 minutes of the rushed affair with staff, I found myself filling out paperwork with one arm occupied by this beautiful kitten, and that is how we ended up bringing home Maggie and Lily.

Within a week of bringing the girls home, Gabby got very sick.

I had been very worried about her already, because of the suddenness of Nathan’s passing. Adding to that, she had a habit of howling every morning for no particular reason, though now I probably know a little more about why. Not only was Gabby used to being around another cat her entire life, she was dealing with health issues of her own. I rushed her to the vet, and they did some testing to uncover that she has moderate kidney disease. It’s not a good diagnosis, but with a balanced and steady diet of special food, she has some life left in her still. And after a few weeks of very attentive care, I’m seeing my old girl spring back to life again. It’s good to see, though in all honesty it’s given me time to process what I know all too well is unavoidable. But at least now I know, and it won’t be such a sudden shock to my system. I cherish every day we have together, and with this renewed sense of hope I could focus on the next hurdle and concern: how was Gabby going to handle the girls, let alone the kittens we were waiting for still?

A couple of weeks after Gabby’s diagnosis, we let the girls and Gabby meet. Their first introduction was a bit rocky, and subsequent ones weren’t a lot better, but Gabby wasn’t being overly hostile and I had hopes that things wouldn’t be so bad. We eventually took the gloves off, let the girls out, and truth be told… we overthought it. Gabby does well with them, lets them know her boundaries without being violent, and I will often catch her smelling them, eating with them, or even running around with them on occasion. I love that for her.

At this point of this “little” post and our story retelling, we are in the end part of May, sliding into June. I’m not sure what the status is of the kittens other than we knew our litter had been born on April 21st. At the tail end of May, we got to meet the entire litter and hang out with them for a couple of hours to pick which ones we wanted. That’s basically when it happened: just like Lily, one of them immediately walked over to me and fell asleep on in my arms for A WHILE. We picked out our boys and scheduled the pick-up, which was sometime in early to mid June, around Father’s Day. When the time came, however, we received news that the entire litter had contracted a kitten cold, and we had to wait another week or two to let that pass. It was understandable and I am still thankful for the heads up, but we were admittedly antsy and ready to get things going. Finally, at the end of June, we picked up our boys – Carl and Henry.

We kept the boys quarantined for a small amount of time to make sure the kitten cold had passed, but over the last week we slammed through integrations and they’ve been fully out and roaming with the girls and Gabby. I’m more than relieved to say that everyone is getting along, and happy to be free. Gabby isn’t necessarily motherly, or their best friend, but I’m also seeing her play with them some, run around more, and generally seem to feel a bit more lively, which makes my heart swell like The Grinch on Christmas Day.

Five cats definitely wasn’t the plan, but I can think of worse problems to have than an excess of life and love in this house.

Trav and I talked a lot about …well, a lot of things, between the passing of Sam and the passing of Nathan. After Sam was gone, I was devastated, but I wasn’t quite ready to bring in a new cat just yet. We still had two to take care of, and I didn’t want to interrupt the delicate balance. As time passed, I was getting more and more ready to revisit the conversation, and possibly move forward with getting a new furry child to bring in. We wanted a cat, or cats, that were truly ours, and not just attached to one of us. When Nathan passed so suddenly, I could feel it coming like a massive storm brewing: kittens were on the precipice, but I didn’t know exactly how, when, or what. I knew I was ready, but I was also still grieving and trying to be a caretaker, and I didn’t want to make a mistake in the cloudy haze of emotions and exhaustion. My biggest fear was making a mistake and bringing innocent lives into it.

In hindsight, I feel I can confidently say that I didn’t make a mistake as I sit here typing this, surrounded by five sleepy kitties. I think we made a great choice. Our biggest concern was the idea of Gabby passing and us coming home to an empty house. I think about that a lot, and how actually devastating that would have been. Make no mistake, when her time comes, I’m going to be an absolute wreck. But I think I’m better prepared for it, between the time I’ve had to reflect on everything, the advanced knowledge of her condition, the extra quality time I get to spend with her, and the four young kittens to pour my love onto… I actually think getting these kittens was the best thing I could have done for her, Trav, and myself. They’ve brought us so much joy already, they’ve injected a sense of life and energy into the house, and if I’m being real here, they’ve made us much cleaner people. I am constantly cleaning house, if only to keep them out of trouble, but also beacause it suddenly gives me a dopamine hit. Adulthood, is this you!?

If you’re reading this and don’t happen to watch the stream, then you’ll want to stop by at some point because the cats are a constant presence there and demand to be seen. They’re always laying on the desk, or my lap, or trying to push on the keyboard or the soundboard. They’re cute, they’re full of energy, and they’re the newest addition to the TravTeen household. My heart is full, and I am happy to be a crazy cat lady.

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