Fostering our first cat

La Pantera having a kip

A lot can happen in a week.

Last weekend, a friend of mine rang me, asking if I could look after a cat for two weeks until adopted. They would have done it, but their existing cat wouldn’t have got on with it. So we said yes, and spoke to the fostering company.

That cat ended up being taken, but we were called on Tuesday about taking in a different one. On Wednesday lunchtime, the cat was brought to us. (This was written on Friday evening, to give context to relative time descriptions.)

Like the Met Office does with storms, the fostering company wants its cats’ initials to follow the alphabet. So we were on P. Seeing the girl was quite dark coloured, and given my fondness for heavy metal, we were fostering Pantera.

We were told she was a bit of an old girl, but it was only after the vet gave her a once over that we learned she was at least 14 years old. She was also mega light when she came to us. The story was she was chipped but not registered (how?), was abandoned and spent an amount of time on the street. The lady who brought her had her in her garage for a couple of nights, unable to bring her into the house because of her mother’s allergies.

After the trip to the vet, we knew Pantera needed a tooth operation and might have hyperthyroidism. She was a little wobbly one, shuffling about unsteadily on her geriatric legs, but surprisingly for a street cat, loved being around humans and purred on contact. It was up to us to give her warmth (physical and emotional), a comfy house and good food.

Finding her bed very quickly

We gave her a “stick” as a treat, like a Pepperami but for cats. She held her prey down with one paw while she devoured it. She drank a lot of water.

Over the course of 48 hours, Pantera became more active: her gait had improved to an extent, she was nuzzling and keen to be stroked, she had even started cleaning herself – the sign of a cat with the luxury to take her time. This morning, she even leapt onto our bed for attention; we thought she would struggle just climbing the stairs. As I gently lifted her off the bed, I felt her little ribs with my fingers. She would never not be baggy at her age, but we could make her stronger, healthier and happier.

We gave her a stick today, and she turned her nose up at it. She drank a lot of water.

We got Pantera’s blood test results, and rather than hyperthyroidism, she had renal issues. No biggie, said the vet: take some antibiotics, some renal food and she’ll be ready for the tooth op. But today, I noticed she had an infected-looking paw, so rather than merely swing by and collect the meds and food, the vet told us to bring her in for a look.

We drove to the town the vet is based in, and I had Pantera in a “donut” bed on my lap, the whole time. I was stroking her smelly fur (we got some grooming mitts, but that process takes time), and keeping her relaxed for the hour-long car ride. She was purring and nuzzling, which reassured me. After a little wait outside the surgery in the car (COVID restrictions), we put Pantera in the carry case and Girlfriend took her in to get her paw looked at.

***

Girlfriend came back to the car with an empty carry case and a tear in her eye. “They want to keep her in. They say she’s got arrhythmia and a gallop.”

We started the drive back, my lap still warm where Pantera had been resting on it, unbothered by the car journey. I wondered what she must have seen and been through in her 14+ years, to be so much more relaxed about the things that spook and disturb most cats. She was philosophical about it all, and had now given herself the luxury of cleaning her fur and having good, long, snore-filled snoozes at our place because she knew she was safe with us.

She missed the donut this time, but was comfy enough

The phone rang. The fostering people. They heard from the vet, and Pantera is in heart failure. What the fuck? We took her in for her paw. We wouldn’t have taken her in at all, if I’d not mentioned the paw. Heart failure.

We gave them the go-ahead to put her to sleep. They said that in her current state, she wouldn’t survive the anaesthetic for the tooth op. She’s dehydrated and her heart isn’t working. Girlfriend is the most caring person I’ve ever met. She lamented in the most heartbreaking way the fact that they’d just taken Pantera away without the chance to say goodbye. Lamented the fact that I didn’t know Pantera wouldn’t be coming back to the car. Wondered what Pantera thought, after a life of being taken from place to place, being dropped off by us at the vet. But she didn’t want her suffering any more.

If we hadn’t taken her to the vet, we would have most likely found her fluffy, lifeless little body in the donut. If we’d not taken her in, the woman would have found her dead in her garage. If not that, she’d have died slowly and painfully on the street.

I don’t know if I wish I could have been there to say goodbye. It would have been too painful. But she’d have known we were there at the end. As it was, we made her last days probably her best ones. She ate well, had energy, warmth, comfort and security. She learned to love, trust and relax again, and that’s priceless.

It’ll take a while, but we’ll foster again.

RIP Pantera, 2007-2022

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