In mid-September of 2010, my family took two kittens into our home. One was a tiny brindled calico, whom we decided to call Olive; the other was a striking black-and-grey tabby who had some trouble finding a name. After much debate, we settled on “Jinx” because of her tendency to “redecorate” the meditation room with her exuberant leaps and kittenish curiosity.
Sadly, Jinx had been kept in solitary confinement for nearly two months because the shelter hadn’t bothered to test her for feline leukemia and didn’t want to risk her infecting the other kittens. By the time we got her, she was on a hair-trigger, wanting affection, but too fearful to approach her humans for petting (my husband will probably have a nice new set of scars from his attempt to pick her up).
So, I set about the “neglected cat protocol” described in Anitra Frazier’s wonderful book, The New Natural Cat (aka The Cat Bible). By the end of the week, after a lot of slow, gentle work, I could finally scratch Jinx between her ears for a few seconds before she over-loaded. I was pleased at her progress and hopeful that she would be able to integrate fully into our family.
But then on Sunday, I noticed something was wrong. Jinx sat listlessly in “her” papasan chair. Her breath wheezed in and out, and she felt way too hot. Soon, she had to breath through her mouth because her nose was so clogged with mucous. She clearly had a full on upper respiratory infection.
By Monday morning, she was even worse. My spouse, a chiropractor, gently adjusted her spine to help remove interference from her nervous and immune systems. Jinx perked up after the adjustments, but still refused to eat or take water. A visit to the vet was in order.
The vet confirmed what we had already suspected: the combined stress of being spade, getting all her shots at once, and then moving to a new environment had completely hosed her immune system, leaving her susceptible to a viral and subsequent bacterial infection. The vet prescribed some antibiotics, but warned us Jinx’s chances weren’t good. While these sorts of infections are fairly common in cats, they are more often than not fatal in kittens.
As Jinx got sicker and sicker, we were faced with a variety of difficult choices. Should we go all out on her care, sparing no expense, but taking her away from the comfort of her new home? Should we euthanize her? Should we not interfere at all and let nature take its course? Was there another option somewhere in between? How could be honor her wishes, and make her the most comfortable without arrogantly assuming that we knew what was best for her? There’s a scary line between doing everything in one’s power to help an animal survive, and needlessly prolonging suffering in a hopeless case.
We ended up putting all of our effort into a home-care regimen, so Jinx could stay in “her” chair until the end, if that was her choice. I firmly believe that it is Nature’s way to fight tooth and nail to survive, but that death is neither friend nor foe when it finally comes—it simply is. We chose to try to give Jinx the best care possible while being minimally invasive. I finger-fed her specially prepared food every four hours to keep up her strength; my spouse adjusted her regularly; and we administered the antibiotics provided by the vet. But the rest we left up to her.
Happily, Jinx has decided to stay with us. She’s now a mouser par excellence and will take walks with me down into the conservation land behind our house. I am so grateful she made a full recovery, but I certainly can’t take the credit for it. She matched my stubbornness with her own will to live. And I am honored that she continues to choose to grace me with her presence.
About the Author: Catriona lives in New England with her family and aforementioned tabby cat. When not gardening or writing her blog on Druidry, which you can access here, she enjoys knitting and smashing Quillboars in the Barrens.
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