Warning, this is a long one, but writing this has helped me.
Pirate 4/1/2004 to 3/28/2018
It's been 2 weeks today.
Having grown up with many animals, I was very used to cats. Pirate was really my “first” cat that chose me and was really mine. Bebe (Ballerina May-yay) was my technically first cat, but came from my mom). We had got Bebe as a kitten and she was an indoor/outdoor cat out in the country at my mom’s. Bebe spent most of her time outside because she didn’t get along very well a few of the cats we had. When I graduated from college and moved back close to home, I needed a companion and Bebe was perfect.
Pirate found me. I remember the day June 22nd, 2004. I was sitting by my apartment door, putting on my shoes, getting ready to walk out the door and start my 12 hour night shift at Methodist. I heard meowing from the hallway. Opening the door, in runs this little tiny kitten. Immediately purring and wanting my attention. She was very little, maybe 10 weeks. She had a flea collar on. I remember thinking how sweet she was and how some neglectful bastard let her out. But, not knowing how Bebe would be, not knowing how Pirate would be, and not wanting to come home to something amiss, I put her back in the hall, locked the door, and drove to work. I thought, she has that flea collar on and she is so friendly, maybe she ran out while her guardian went to run an errand or something. I also didn’t live in the best area and didn’t want to be accused of stealing. I felt guilty. I thought about her all night long.
The apartment complex I lived in at the time was a large one. It easily had at least 300 apartments (including townhomes). My building had 12, but was connected to a row that had a total of 36. Each 12 had their own front and back entrance with a laundry room on the ground floor. My apartment was on the 2nd floor. When I got home, the building was quiet. I walked down the stairs to the laundry room and looked around. I had decided that if this little kitten was still around, and unattended, she was MINE. On the floor of the laundry room I found her flea collar. It looked to have been cut off. But no kitten. I looked outside and in the bushes. No kitten. I was disappointed and worried. I hoped she was somewhere safe and happy. I planned on looking again that afternoon after I slept.
I walked up to my 2nd floor apt. As I came up the stairs, I was surprised to find a little kitten sitting outside my door. I unlocked the door and she ran inside, meowing and wanting attention. I picked up and took her into the kitchen thinking she would be thirsty and hungry. I showed her where the food and water was. Not interested, she wanted to be held. I put her in the cat box, same thing. Bebe was fine and didn’t react. I went into the bathroom to shower the hospital dirt off before laying down. Pirate came right in and sat on the corner of the bathtub and watched. After I got done, she followed me into the bedroom where she preceded to lay on my face. I moved her and she settled on my pillow by my head. Bebe settled in with me too. I woke up about an hour or so later to kitten on my face. I moved her. And this happened again twice more. Thankfully I was off that night. After a couple of hours I decided to just get up. She followed me right into the kitchen. Pirate immediately went to the litter box and when she was done, preceded to the food and water. I remember being surprised she remembered where everything was since I had only showed her once.
The rest of the day I was either holding her or she was laying on me. Bebe too.
It turns out I didn’t have to worry, in hindsight I could have let her in my apartment. Pirate knew where everything was. Bebe was just fine and seemed to like having another cat around. She fit right in.
I don't know when Pirate's birthday is. She was most likely born at the end of March to beginning of April. Since my birthday is in April, I decided to make hers the 1st.
Pirate LOVED being kissed on her forehead and this also meant she loved Bebe licking her there too. I’ve since long lost count of the times she’d get a Bebe bath and then come to me for her kisses and I’d be kissing a wet forehead. Bebe would tolerate a little play, but Pirate seemed to know when to stop too. Pirate had a habit of playing with non-cat toys. Like when Bambi came out on DVD, I bought it at Best Buy so I could have a little Thumper stuffed animal (I thought it was cute- and free with purchase!). Pirate decided this should be hers. I caught her carrying it in her mouth with her head up so it wouldn’t drag on the ground. She was bigger, but not by much. She’s fetch too.
She also developed bad habits. Like getting up on the counter. She knew she shouldn’t. I’d get up to go and tell her “no” and I’d hear her jump down and run down the hall. So, she knew better. After a time, I decided fuck it, and gave her full rein. I figured if she was going to be bad, be bad and do it in front of me. I didn’t really care, her house too, right? She liked her food, but also wanted what I had. She decided she liked lettuce, French fries, bread, cantaloupe, watermelon. We had to keep the bread up, otherwise she’d get into it.
She handled the car ride to Idaho well. Pirate hid under my seat for the 2 day trip. Bebe rode on my lap. That’s fun when driving. I think they both liked the house, much more space than my one bedroom apartment in Indianapolis.
When Pirate was 3, in the Spring of 2007, Bebe got sick. We made the decision to euthanize since her kidneys were failing. The timing on this sucked. Bebe died right before we left to go back to Indiana for both of sister’s college graduations. Deanne was an Optometrist and Jessie a Physical Therapist. I think we were gone for about 2 weeks. I admit to not thinking how Pirate would feel all by herself. Granted, someone checking in, scooping the boxes, changing the water, etc was nice, but not us. Nor did she have a companion anymore. When we got back, her voice was so hoarse from meowing while we were gone. It took a few days for her meow to fully come back, She and Bebe was best buds so we thought need to get another cat ASAP!
Widdison joined our family at the beginning of June. One of the vet techs at one of the veterinarians managed a feral cat colony doing TNR (trap, neuter, return). Widdy’s mom was pregnant and gave birth to him and his siblings later. So, she kept the kittens and adopted them out stipulating they would be sprayed/neutered and indoor (which I really liked). Pirate really, really didn’t care much for Widdison, but eventually grew to tolerate him. There was no joint grooming or sleeping together. But, as things happen, everything settled into a pattern.
Widdison is on the left, Petya on right
Petya joined our family after I talked the hubs into a 3rd cat. Petya came from one of my hospice patients. Petya very easily has him wrapped around her paw, she just loves her B! Petya and Widdison are just a couple of months apart. Widdison was born March 27, 2007, Petya May 31, 2007. They are best buds.
Petya is super friendly with everyone. Widdy will hide. And Pirate is middle of the road. She’d watch from a distance. Each with their own distinctive personality that makes them them. The most Pirate ever weighed was around 8-7.5#. Widdy is 20# (and now on a diet). Pirate would deliberately pounce on Widdy, and of course he’d respond. She’s get so pissed at him. I’d tell her, “What did you expect! He’s more than double your weight!” But did she listen? Nope. Of course not.
Life continued on. Until I noticed at the beginning of this year Pirate was drooling and not eating her dry food. Started her on a wet food diet. She lost weight. Got her into vet. 5.5# Vet looked in her mouth and told me her mouth looked okay, she had seen worse, but a dental was definitely needed. She was concerned by her enlarged thyroid and rapid heart rate with a murmur. Labs were drawn and the diagnosis was hyperthyroidism- TSH was 6.7. (Very common in cats I learned, especially 10 and older). She got put on medication and we made an appointment for a month out for lab work. When the anti-thyroid medication be high enough?
For the month Pirate gradually had more difficulty with eating. Chewing seemed to be an issue. She could only eat pate wet food. Anything that was wet and not ground she couldn’t eat. My cat who always wanted what I had (and would have no problem trying to steal it) lost interest. She continued to lose weight. I would add water to her food to thin it more. The drooling continued and she started to paw at her mouth. Grooming became an issue too leading some hair loss of her legs, face, and neck. Giving her a bath regularly helped, but as soon as she’d eat again she was dirty again. Bought baby wipes to clean her between meals.
When we presented to the vet for labs, I brought up her eating difficulty again. My thought was she had a bad tooth that wasn’t obvious (or something) and if she could eat, she’d feel better and gain some weight back. She got weighed. Now 4.5#. The vet techs got her blood work. One of the then palpated her neck and under her jaw and noted it was firm (it’s supposed to be soft) and looked in her mouth. Noted right side of tongue was swollen. Luckily the vet was available and came in for another assessment. Pirate was so good, it was like she was thinking, FINALLY! Unfortunately it wasn’t a bad tooth. She had a mass under her tongue. Opted to not do a biopsy since that was a surgical procedure and we weren’t going to treat. Most likely my beloved Pirate had oral Squamous Cell Carcinoma, a common cancer that cats get. However, it is usually fatal. Chemo and radiation are largely ineffective. The effective treatment is surgical removal of the effected part of the jaw. What or not that is an option is dependent on location and when cancer is detected. Surgery is often disfigured and creates other difficulties for the cat. Needless to say, none of the treatments were ones we were going to pursue. We planned on continuing her anti-thyroid and added pain medication (buprenorphine) and a steroid (prednisolone). When we were ready, she didn’t have to come back to the vet, but rather the vet would come to us.
The steroid helped her comfort for about a week. After that, I did a taper and then took her off. The pain med helped. She continued to lose weight. The hardest thing was balancing and recognizing when her quality of life wasn’t there. And making that phone call to the vet that it was time.
The best thing about our vet, is we didn't have to go back. They came here to us, to Pirate. She was able to have a peaceful death here, at her home. With me stroking her head and talking to her as she took her last breath.
She really liked food, and wanted what I was having.
I miss my shadow. She was almost always with me.