Meet Weeny the Wacko – Nee Irene

Weeny in 2013
My favorite pic of Weeny in 2013
Her Beginning

“On the day I was born
The nurses all gathered round
And they gazed in wide wonder
At the joy that had found.

The head nurse spoke up
And said leave this one alone
She could tell right away
That I was BAD TO THE BONE” – George Thorogood & The Delaware Destroyers

She Couldn’t Find Her Forever Home

I first saw Weeny at my local Pet Smart when I was there buying food for Tabby.

Every week, I would visit the adoptable cats when I went cat food shopping. And week after week, Weeny was passed over even though the other cats were being adopted and new cats were coming in. I felt so bad for her. But at Tabby’s age and the fact that Tabby was an “only cat” for the past five years, I didn’t know how she would react if I brought a kitten home.

One week, shortly before Tabby crossed The Bridge, I asked a volunteer what will happen if Weeny doesn’t find a home. Will she be put to sleep? That’s when I learned that Jersey State Animal Rescue, a no-kill rescue, houses their adoptable cats there. I felt SO much better because, at that point, Weeny was up there for MONTHS and couldn’t find her forever home. The volunteer I spoke with said that she was shy and, therefore, had problems connecting with potential adopters.

When Tabby crossed The Bridge in April, 2012, I was devastated. I never took a pet loss SO hard. Tabby and I moved back to my folks’ house four years prior and after Tabby passed, it didn’t feel like “home”. I realized that Tabby made this place “home” for me.

It occurred to me that there was this cat who desperately needed a home and we had an “opening”, so why not give her a chance? I knew she could never replace Tabby and I wasn’t looking to. I just wanted to help this beautiful baby who deserved a good home.

Meeting Weeny for the First Time

That next weekend, I went to Pet Smart to “meet” her. She was a little shy, but very sweet. I was already “sold” before I even officially met her!

There was another cat there who was SO beautiful and was trying to get my attention SO badly that I studiously avoided eye contact with her because I didn’t know how the folks would react to having TWO cats in the house!

The next day I brought them to meet Weeny. My dad became VERY attached to Tabby and was just as heartbroken as I was when she passed, so I really wanted him to be okay with adopting Weeny, even though she was going to be my cat.

Weeny in Dad's Cooler
As SOON as Dad put his cooler on the table…

That day a volunteer was there cleaning out the cages and all of the cats were in the cat room playing. We watched Weeny play for a few minutes. She was a TOTAL PUNK with the other cats. She would ambush, then hiss and hide! That’s when I saw her little personality sparkling through! She LIVED to play.

And, boy, was she BAD!!

She won my heart!

I tried to hold Weeny and get her to bond with my parents, but she wasn’t very interested in us. That’s probably why she kept getting passed over. She was more interested in playing than she was in us. But I didn’t care. She was already coming home if my application was approved.

In the meantime, Penny attached herself to me and practically BEGGED me to get her out of there. By the end of that visit, I put in applications to adopt BOTH of them!

I Met Weeny’s Angel…

On May 2, 2012, we went to Pet Smart to bring Penny and Weeny HOME!

I was lucky enough that night to meet Weeny’s rescuer. She was a tiny girl, a vet, and had balls of steel. She used to go around Camden, NJ, the most dangerous city in the US at that time, and demand that gang members and drug dealers hand over their pit bulls that were being used in dog fighting rings. This lady was crazy and she was fearless…and absolutely wonderful!

She often tried to help this Hispanic gentleman who kept hoarding cats. Every time the authorities were called, she would broker a deal with them to let her take the cats to rescue so they wouldn’t be sent to a shelter. She rescued Weeny from this house on one of her trips. That’s how Jersey State got involved. They were often the recipients of these cats. This particular rescue took MANY a Camden cat off the streets over the years because they know just how awful conditions are for them in that city.

Weeny was just about a month old when she was rescued. They named her after Hurricane Irene since she they rescued her around the time that Irene hit New Jersey in August, 2011.

How appropriate.

Weeny TOTALLY lived up to her name!

Weeny napping in her favorite place, Grandmommy’s desk chair
Coming HOME

On the ride home, Penny was serenading us the WHOLE WAY, while poor Weeny sat in the back of her carrier, scared and shaking. She had NO IDEA her life was about to change for the better!

We had a plan to put them in an isolation room together since they already knew each other from the rescue. However, Weeny was so shaken and SCARED TO DEATH she kept hissing at Penny every time Penny went anywhere near her. Since Penny was so relaxed about the entire ordeal (she knew she was home already and was excited to explore), I decided to let Penny out so that Weeny could just calm down and decompress.

“Institutionalized”

Red, talking about Brooks in Shawshank Redemption…

“These walls are kind of funny. First you hate ’em, then you get used to ’em. Enough time passes, gets so you depend on them. That’s institutionalized.”

My dad and I quickly figured out Weeny was suffering from this phenomenon. She lived at Pet Smart for eight of her nine months. She didn’t know any other way to live.

By the next morning she came out of hiding and was eating. She was very afraid of my dad when we would go into her room to visit and let her get to know us. That’s when I figured out she was still semi-feral. She was my first experience with a feral or semi-feral cat. She wasn’t mean….just extremely afraid of people and fearful of change or new conditions.

I had Mom and Dad sit on the floor with her so they would seem less intimidating and I had them feed her treats so she could associate positive things with them. We all played with her and that was the absolute BEST way to bond with her.

It took her WEEKS to come out of her safe room “for good”. The first time I opened the door to let her start exploring, I chose a night that my parents were out since the house was quiet. Weeny started by sniffing near the door, then running back in and hiding. Then she took a step out into the hallway, got scared and ran back in. A few more steps, then back into her safe room. And so on and so forth.

Eventually she got comfortable in the rest of the house, but it definitely took some time and patience!

She Finally Found Her Way!

Like I said…she LIVED to play! So we had every toy imaginable in her room. Linda, the rescue’s director, told us her favorite toy was the Turbo Scratcher, so we made sure we got one for each of the girls. I never really got the whole point of a Turbo Scratcher until I saw Weeny in action with it! She played with it for HOURS and HOURS. She ate her treats on it and slept on it. That thing was her bestest friend!

Weeny sleeping on her Turbo Scratcher
Weeny napping on her beloved Turbo Scratcher on Cat Beach-2013

We brought Penny in for many visits to allow them to get to know each other. Penny was only up at Pet Smart for a couple of weeks before I adopted her, so I suspect that they really didn’t know each other all that well and were not friends at Pet Smart. For a while there, I was afraid they wouldn’t get along. After having Taz and Tabby, who were as bonded as two cats could possibly be, I was a little worried that these two would never bond the way Taz and Tabby did. But, in time, they forged their own little friendship.

Penny Became Her “Mentor”
Penny & Weeny on Cat Beach, 2013

Weeny learned EVERYTHING about being a house cat from Penny. The first time Weeny saw the cat water fountain, it scared her. She had NO idea what it was or what to do with it. One day, she watched Penny drink from the water stream. I could almost see her taking out a notepad and pen and scribbling notes down…”and then you stick your head near the water, then you stick your tongue out, and then you lap the water…” After Penny was done, she went over the fountain to try it herself and proceeded to spill water all over her bib.

She didn’t like that.

She shook her head “no” and ran off! To this very day, I hold that memory near and dear to my heart and WISH I took video!

Weeny drinking from water fountain
Weeny drinking from the fountain-2012
Weeny the Comedian

When my dad was dying from cancer in 2014, Weeny provided very much-needed comic relief for all of us. My dad had bilateral cataracts and couldn’t see very well near the end. But he could HEAR. And Weeny had a habit of running through the house at random times for random reasons, or for NO reason, all the while squeaking and making this trilly chirpy noise. When she ran, it sounded like someone was doing demo work in the house! Dad would hear her and just laugh.

It takes a very special cat to make a dying man smile!

My mom doesn’t understand cats very well. She bonds with dogs much more easily. Yet Weeny, who had trouble bonding with people, and Mom, who had trouble bonding with cats, became really close. Mom spent hours playing with Weeny on her favorite computer chair with a feather or tossing a plastic milk carton ring for Weeny to chase. She even set up cat videos for Weeny to watch on the computer!

Weeny watching cat TV
You thought I was kidding? Grandmommy setting up Cat TV for Weeny – 2013

Weeny also loved to chase bugs. Mom spent many summer nights catching miller moths in a plastic cup to bring in for Weeny’s amusement. Sounds sick and morbid, I know. But what Weeny wanted, she got, especially from Mom! Dad always warned us that Saint Bugnacious was watching and would make Mom repent when the time comes…

On the rare occasions that Weeny wasn’t playing, she spent her time sunbathing on Cat Beach by our glass slider door in the kitchen, where we had direct sunlight for nine months out of the year. She liked to take shady breaks behind my dad’s NJ State Police jacket that he always had hanging on one of the kitchen chairs. After he passed, we had to leave it up on that chair for her. I buried Weeny with that jacket. It’s what Dad would have wanted, I’m sure.

Weeny with her favorite jacket
Weeny and her beloved NJSP jacket. On Cat Beach, of course!

Weeny actually turned out to be a pretty affectionate cat when she was in the mood for love. She absolutely LOVED belly rubs! She had the softest fur of any pet I ever touched. Her fur kind of felt like velvet.

It Wasn’t “Just” a Lump

In May of 2015, I noticed a lump on her side. Around the same time I noticed her ten hours of play each day was slowing down a bit. At first I chalked it up to her hitting maturity. Weeny was coming up on 4 years old, after all!

She also started vomiting every so often, which was not like her AT ALL. Weeny was always very healthy and she was still so young. We took her to the vet and he diagnosed the lump as a sebaceous cyst. He drained it and gave her an antibiotic.

By mid-July, she was itchy all of the time and was vomiting more frequently. We took her back to the vet. This time a more experienced vet looked at her. She still didn’t think it was anything major, but just as she was finishing up her exam, she felt it.

A swollen lymph node under her forearm.

My heart DROPPED.

I knew.

She pulled some tissue from the lymph node and the skin lump to biopsy.

The results came back as an aggressive, malignant mast cell cancer. Typically, cutaneous (skin) mast cell tumors in cats are “in situ”, meaning they don’t spread. There are more rare forms, like this one, that spread to the lymph nodes and spleen. This cancer is usually more common in dogs than in cats.

Quality of Life v. Quantity

Most veterinary cancer treatment is not curative. The majority of the time the goal is to extend their life a bit. Treatment of aggressive mast cell cancer has a 50/50 shot at working to extend life for maybe a few months. If it was in the spleen, removing her spleen would have bought Weeny maybe a year, at most.

I know Weeny. Going to the vet scared her so much she shook uncontrollably. Her favorite activities in life revolved around playing and running. To take that away from her by making her undergo surgery and chemo, just to possibly extend her life for a year, would have been for ME, not for her.

I firmly believe with our pets that the goal should ALWAYS be quality of life over quantity. So I opted for palliative care until I couldn’t keep her comfortable anymore.

For the most part, we did a good job of that. I kept her vomiting in check as well as her itchiness. She possibly ate more while she was sick than when she was well because the medication she was on for the itching also works as a mild appetite stimulant in some cats.

As her illness progressed, she wasn’t really herself anymore. She would still play and chase bugs sometimes, but not near as much as she used to. She didn’t feel well despite our best efforts to keep her life as “normal” as possible. Her lymph node tumor turned into a big gaping, oozing wound that I did my best to keep clean. At this point, she was also on pain medication and antibiotics for the tumor.

Playing with her plastic ring on Grandmommy’s desk chair – 2013
Weeny Told Me She was “Ready”

The day before she died, she gave me “the look” just after I medicated her. Her eyes said it all.

People say your cat will TELL you when they had enough. Tabby did, albeit subtly. When I looked into Weeny’s eyes that day, she told me LOUD AND CLEAR…”I just can’t do this anymore.” She just wanted freedom from her pain.

It was Saturday evening and my only choice was to take her to the emergency vet. I couldn’t do that to Weeny. Not while she was still stable. I promised her right then that we would call her vet first thing on Monday so they could come out and free her from her pain. Since the going to the vet terrified her, I wanted them to come here instead.

The next day, she seemed a little better. She ate very well and even played a little. She ate her 4pm meal with no problems…clean plate and everything.

Just about an hour later, she was sitting on her favorite afghan by the picture window when she actively starting dying. She started projectile vomiting and pooped while she tried to jump off the couch. She was scared and you could see it.

Then the seizures started.

It was a Sunday evening. Our only options were an emergency vet a half hour away or Lap of Love out of Philadelphia.

I Had to Honor Her Wishes

She was going to die that night. I saw my dad during the active dying process and I know what it looks like. I called Lap of Love to see how quickly they could come out instead of allowing her to suffer all night.

Penny kept trying to approach her to check on her and comfort her, but it was just freaking Weeny out. I had Mom take Penny down to the basement to occupy her.

Lap of Love called back within a half hour and the on-call vet was on his way out to assist her in crossing The Bridge.

While he was en route, Weeny’s seizures finally slowed down and she settled in the kitchen on Cat Beach. She was still terrified and struggling to breathe. I wanted so badly to put her on my lap, but Weeny was NEVER a lap cat. She was a “next to you” cat. I had to honor what I knew she wanted by just sitting next to her and talking softly to her.

She took her last breath on Cat Beach with me by her side just about five minutes before the vet arrived.

Bird Watching – 2012
I Meant “FOREVER”

Weeny was a cat who deserved to live life on her terms.

And she deserved to die on her terms.

I won’t lie…it was heartbreaking to watch her in those last hours of her life. However, I did not want to terrorize her by rushing her off in a carrier to go to the emergency vet in her last moments.

For a shy cat who waited SO long for her forever home after being in the public eye at Pet Smart for nine months, to this very day, almost three years later, I’m still glad she got to cross the Bridge in her very favorite spot in the whole world with her very favorite person by her side.

On Cat Beach. AT HOME.

I promised her a forever home when I adopted her. And I never broke that promise.

NICKNAMES: Weener, Weeny-Schnitz, WeenerSchnitzel, Booger, Boogie Board, Der Veener Schnitzel, Wacko, Squeaky McGee, Bad Bad Weeny Brown

SONGS: 

“Rock You Like a Hurricane” – The Scorpions

“Bad to the Bone” – George Thorogood & The Delaware Destroyers

“Bad, Bad LeRoy Brown” – Jim Croce

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