Tabby Wonder Cat Wilson July 22, 1996 – April 24, 2012

Tabby – Summer, 2011
We Almost Got a Dog Instead…

I’ll never forget the day my ex and I adopted Tabby and her “brother” Taz. We just moved in together a few months before and he decided he wanted a dog, so looked in the paper and found a beautiful older Alaskan Malamute. She had to be re-homed because her owner was moving into a nursing home.

We did a meet and greet with this beautiful, ginormous white gentle giant and I fell in love. She reminded me of a bigger version of my Siberian Husky I had growing up, Dipsey. Her owner was ready to adopt her to us ASAP.

I got home and really thought about it. We had a small one-bedroom apartment at the time and she was a BIG dog. I was a bank manager and since we had one car, I had to drive us both to and from work. We were gone most weekdays from 7am to at least 5pm, if not later.

Dipsey and Robyn 1977
Dipsey as a puppy and me in 1977. I was five years old.

Dipsey had her own doggie door and a fenced yard that she could go out and relieve herself anytime she wanted. This poor pooch would have been stuck in that apartment crossing her legs for over ten hours per day. That was no kind of life for a pooch. I had to call her owner and explain why our home was not the best fit for her.

To this day I hope and pray she found a great home to live out her Golden Years.

The Best $5 I EVER Spent!

We decided a cat would be a much better fit for our home. We saw an ad in the paper selling kittens for $10 each. Labor Day Weekend, 1996, we drove out to meet these kittens.

When we arrived at this private home, they brought out two carriers full of kittens. One was full of Siamese kittens and one was full of regular domestic short hair kittens. I’m writing this 22 years later and I don’t really remember all of the other cats besides Taz and Tabby! Of course, once I met Tabby I KNEW we belonged together and I didn’t really even bother meeting the other kittens.

I didn’t ask too many questions but I imagine these kittens were the product of two unspayed pet cats and the people just wanted rid of them. At least they were charging an adoption fee for the kittens!

My ex immediately fell in love with Taz. I thought he was adorable…but I was distracted by this little tabby thing who just came right up to me and sat on my right side like she had always known me. It was almost as if she was saying, “Okay, Mommy…we can go home now.”

Tabby's First Christmas
Tabby’s First Christmas, 1996. Watching the train under the tree. I wish I took better pictures back then!

Here’s the problem. We only had enough money to adopt one of the kittens. We argued back and forth for probably 20 minutes. But, thankfully, she got tired of hearing us argue and let us have both kittens for $10.

It was the best $10 I EVER spent!

We had no carriers, no litter box or litter, no food bowls or food…nothing. Nelson (ex) held them in the car while I stopped at the store on the way home to pick up litter, a litter box, food and bowls for them.

I think back now and realize how LUCKY we were that neither one of them got out of the car or got away while we carried them into our apartment!  We got them safely home and they promptly hid under the TV stand.

My Apartment Was Finally a “Home”

I set up their stuff and was so excited I called Mom to come over to meet them! I’m reliving that moment right now. I remember this as being one of THE HAPPIEST days of my life. I’ve always had pets. I couldn’t bring my cat Smidgen with me when I moved out of my folks’ house because Smidgen was an indoor/outdoor cat and I knew she would NOT be happy as an indoor-only cat in an apartment. Smidgen was very bonded to her land, and I couldn’t take that away from her. For many cats, their bond with their territory is stronger than ANYTHING, including their bond with their humans.

After we adopted Taz and Tabby, our apartment felt like HOME. Finally!

Those poor cats hid under the TV stand their first three days with us. Tabby wanted to creep out, but I believe she was responding to Taz’s fear and wanted to stay with him. I’m not sure if that lady had them together before we adopted them, but they were bonded from the very beginning of their life with us.

They were not blood related. I believe they were two weeks apart in age. Their birth dates were guestimates by me going by how old they looked when I adopted them. Tabby was only about 6 weeks old and Taz was 8 weeks old when we brought them home.

Taz and Tabby Christmas 1999
Taz and Tabby – Christmas, 1999
Miss Congeniality

As a kitten, Tabby was pretty independent and low maintenance. Honestly, she was low maintenance her entire life. She never demanded much attention and was a pretty healthy cat until her senior years.

And she never complained about anything.

Even when I had a frying pan full of hot canola oil in my hands and tripped over her and spilled it on her, she didn’t complain. I’ll never forget that night. Nelson grabbed a towel and put cold water on it and threw it on her to stop her from running like a maniac. We wrapped her in that cold towel and rushed her right to the emergency vet. Luckily, my quick thinking worked! She had no permanent injury from that oil, although she was oily when we got home. The vet felt it best that we wait a day or two before bathing her since her skin was tender.

After we got home from the vet and settled in for the night, she came over to lie on my lap. Taz jumped up and proceeded to clean her for at least two hours that night.

Her first 10 years, Tabby had to take a back seat to her much needier and not-as-healthy brother. Taz suffered with health issues his entire life. He was a super affectionate cat and hogged all of the attention, but he was also a very shy and skittish cat.

But, again, she never, ever complained. And she loved Taz as much as we did!

My Rock

Tabby saw me through some of my most trying times…active alcoholism and constant fighting with the ex, recovery, marriage, divorce, several moves. After my divorce I was gone even longer hours between work and a hellish commute and just my general need to run away from the house where I had so many bad memories with the ex.

Tabby and Me – Christmas, 1999

Yet she STILL never complained.

When Taz died in 2007, I didn’t adopt another cat. Tabby was 10 by then and I wasn’t sure how she would be with another cat in the house. And I felt it was finally a chance for me to make it all about her. And I did, believe me! She was my daughter and I DOTED on her.

Tabby lived indoor-only but when we moved to a house in the woods, we would take her and Taz outside for supervised outdoor time. In the beginning, she would scratch and protest when I picked her up to carry her inside when it was time to go in. But by the time we moved back to my folks’ house in 2008, she was very well trained. She would stay by my side and even stop, wait, turn around and meow for me in her quiet little way when I was lagging behind.

I had to move back home in 2008 when I was laid off and was one paycheck away from homelessness. By then, my folks were pet-less so it was a very easy transition for Tabby.

And it was actually a very good thing. Tabby liked people and I think she missed living with other people besides just me. Dad was a cat person and she knew it. She and Dad took to each other right away and he doted on her maybe even more than I ever did!

I always say Tabby turned cat haters into believers. My mom was always more of a dog person. Cats don’t like my mom very much..probably because she just doesn’t understand them and treats them like dogs. But Tabby was different. She was just SO good-natured and she LOVED my mom.

She showed Mom what the hype was all about!!

Her Brush With Death

Tabby was getting up there in age and she wasn’t on the best diet because I didn’t know back then how bad most commercial kibbles were for cats. I always fed half kibble, half wet food, but Tabby never really liked wet cat food all that much. She started having problems with chronic constipation when she was 12-13 years old.

In 2011, she had a bout of constipation that almost killed her. I didn’t catch it early like I would have now because I didn’t have much experience with feline health problems and honestly wasn’t paying attention all that much. Up until that point, Tabby was a very healthy cat.

But, she stopped eating and was very lethargic. I took her to the vet and we had complete blood work and a chem panel done. Her blood work showed full-blown fatty liver disease, which will happen when an older, overweight cat stops eating for over 24-48 hours. The vet did an ultrasound and felt strongly that it was liver cancer or possibly an infection.

The vet gave her a Convenia shot that day in case there was an infection. They sent me home with Denamarin, fluids to give her, and an appetite stimulant.

Great! But at the time, I was NO GOOD at medicating cats!

I took her back two weeks later. She still wasn’t eating and now was very weak. She also had some pretty bad jaundice.

Tabby while sick with fatty liver
Tabby – Spring, 2011. See how bad her jaundice is?

I was afraid it was the end. I thought maybe they should admit her. However, my vet is not a 24-hour vet and it was a Saturday morning, so there was a chance she could die in a cage alone. I couldn’t let that be her end. NO WAY. Instead, they had the vet tech show me how to give her fluids and syringe feed her. They gave her another Convenia shot and we brought home a bunch of supplies to save her life.

I was able to force feed her to a point with Mom’s assistance. As for the meds and sub q fluids? Forget it. Wasn’t happening. Remember, I was NO GOOD at medicating cats at that time.

Penny taught me how to become a pro at that stuff a few years later!!

I couldn’t shake the fact that the vets were missing something. This wasn’t denial. My gut was SCREAMING at me that this was NOT her end and we were missing something.

This is when I learned to play Dr Google and taught myself everything I could about fatty liver disease.

I took her back to the vet later that week and INSISTED they check her to see if she was constipated. She wasn’t well enough to have anesthesia, so I had to allow them to attempt a fecal extraction with just lube and a finger.

I bought some Wellness pouch food at Pet Smart later that day and tried feeding her.

And for the first time in six very LONG and stressful weeks, she ate on her own. She didn’t eat the food but she did lick all of the broth up! I ran back to Pet Smart and must have purchased 50 of those packets. Pretty much their entire stock. And I fed her as much broth as she would drink by squeezing the broth out of the packets. She was starting to blow through at least 8 packets per day.

I didn’t care about the cost. WE HAD HOPE!!

She Made a FULL Recovery!

It was a few days later that Tabby started to eat her regular food on her own again. She was becoming more active. Gaining weight and looking less jaundiced as each day passed.

Three weeks later we took her to the vet for a follow up and did another chem panel to check her liver values. When the vet called me the next day, he was AMAZED! He told me that her liver values were almost completely back to normal. Her bilirubin went from “off the charts” to “mildly elevated”.

She was on the road to a FULL recovery! And earned her new nickname…Tabby Wonder Cat Wilson.

I will get more into this with another post, but I did switch her to better quality, all natural food after that. Knowing what I know now, it still wasn’t the BEST diet for a feline, but it was progress and it did make a difference! I also added Miralax to her wet food every day. I gave her 1/8 tsp once per day but if she went longer than 24 hours to defecate, I increased her to 1/8 tsp twice per day. And I PRAISED her every time she pooped!

It worked like a charm.

Tabby Spring 2011
Tabby on one of our walks together shortly after she recovered from fatty liver disease – Spring, 2011
Our Last Year Together

She had another great, quality year after that. I remember her last Christmas was her best one yet. She was playing with all of the ribbons, bows, tissue paper, and had a blast with her new toys. It was like she was a kitten again. She must have known it would be her last Christmas.

The following Spring, she developed some really bad breathing problems. I had her checked by her regular vet and my current vet (who was my 2nd opinion vet at that time). We tried steroids and an asthma inhaler with a spacer, hoping against hope that it was only asthma and not something terminal.

But it was something terminal. We found it was a tumor pressing on her trachea. Likely lymphoma. The steroids worked temporarily but I didn’t want her on long-term steroids to put her at risk for Feline Diabetes (go figure, right?). Knowing what I know now, steroids would have only worked for so long, anyway.

The weekend before she passed, I knew it was time. She wasn’t really eating. She would only lick water off of my fingers so I spent the better part of that weekend dipping my fingers into water for her to lick off. The poor girl couldn’t breath to be able to drink or eat. I had her litter box up on the bed with her because she couldn’t make it to the box and kept having accidents. I slept on the floor since it was a twin bed. To this very day, I wish I could have made room on that bed to sleep with her on her last night.

Her Final Good-Bye

About an hour before the vet arrived to put her to sleep, she actually got off of the bed for the first time in four days. Dad and I were like, “Omg..what do we do NOW? Maybe it’s not time?” Remember, Tabby was the Comeback Kid! She was a fighter!

Tabby used the litter box in the other bedroom and walked around the entire house. By the time she got back to my room, she had such trouble breathing that she collapsed on her side and it took her 10 minutes to catch her breath. That’s when I knew for sure it was “time”.

The vet arrived a few minutes later. This vet, who has since passed on, had a bedside manner like no other vet I ever met. He went in to my room where I put her back on my bed and I knew by the way she reacted to him that she was ready to go. She just wanted her suffering to end. And so did I.

She passed very peacefully, although it took him some time to stop her heart. That last little part of my strong daughter was holding on. But I know in my heart of hearts that I could not have let her suffering go on for one more minute than I already did.

After the vet left, I was BROKEN. Inconsolable. So was Dad. There were many, many tears that week.

Her Last Gift To Me

I went into the bedroom where her litter box was in the corner.

Remember I said that I always praised her when she pooped? When I looked in her litter box, I realized she left me her last little gift. I totally lost it when I saw that. I know now that when she got up to walk around the house that last time, she wasn’t rallying. She was doing one last check of her home before she crossed the Bridge.

She took a large chunk of my heart that day. There’s always that one Special One. And that was my Tabby.

Tabby wrapping gifts
Tabby – Wrapping gifts with me in 2009

July 22, 2012 would have been her Sweet 16th Birthday. Tabby sent a stray balloon to my side yard. None of my immediate neighbors had any graduation parties or BBQs that previous weekend. I know that Tabby sent that balloon to let me know she was okay, flying free, yet still with me. And celebrating up at the Bridge with her beloved brother, Taz.

Keep flying free Tabby. Til we are together again… I love you!

SONGS:

“You Are the Sunshine of My Life” – Stevie Wonder

“Pretty Little Angel Eyes” – Sha Na Na

“If You Only Knew” – Shinedown

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Any treatments, food and supplements I mention in this post are the result of my own research and experience. Please consult with your vet as necessary.