A salute to Mr. Romeo on this feline Friday

I’ll just say it. Before the day is out, Romeo will have joined the twenty or so Chesney-Lind cats that have graced our lives over the decades. Last year was difficult as Romeo’s health and weight declined precipitously in the face of failing kidneys, a tumor in his intestine which is probably cancerous, a growth in his mouth and painful arthritis in his hips, and a breath heart that developed into a galloping arrhythmia. But his gaze remains as strong and expressive as ever. We have waited longer than necessary to make this difficult decision. In the end, we couldn’t avoid it. We’ve said a long goodbye to each other since we made the decision yesterday.

This sent me digging into posts from a long time ago here on this blog for the story of his arrival.

Here it is, snippets that tell the story of its emergence and eventual adoption 17 years ago.

Please join me for a walk through this Hall of Memories.

January 2, 2005
Now we have a New Year’s refugee, a beautiful gray cat looking for food and shelter after the fireworks, or so it seems. So far I’ve only seen the cat, who left the first clue when she broke into my bag of dog biscuits on the bridge. I took out some food last night, which quickly disappeared. And just a few minutes ago, Leo was facing the visitor under the house. Lots of moaning and crying but no movement to attack on either side. I don’t know how we’re going to polish this scene.

January 11, 2005
I thought the “visiting” cat that showed up on New Year’s Day seemed relatively benign and potentially able to find a place in our pecking order, but we don’t have three injured cats on antibiotics (Harriet, Leo and Silverman ) to challenge this initial assessment. So now I have to go into hard-hearted mode and actively encourage the visitor to move on. Maybe he can find an under-chatted household. If that doesn’t work, I’ll have to consider the trap and delete option. I’ve only done it once and hated it, and would prefer almost any other option. But sometimes reality and wishes refuse to coincide.

January 14, 2005
I admit to being a bit concerned about the stressful scene here among the Kaaawa cats on Haahaa Street. The intruder is still there. He is a gray tabby striped male cat, which our vet later estimated was at least two years old. Not fixed. Origin unknown. He looks a bit like Silverman, but without the blue eyes. And a bit like Lindsey, my favorite, who passed away a few years ago. He is looking for food and shelter. I can’t hold it against him.

There were several skirmishes, possibly fights, which left three of our cats injured. Relatively minor, but nevertheless worrying and requiring medical intervention.

The “shoo cat” routines did not work. The visitor can sense that this is a cat-friendly property and return. I hate turning to the Humane Society solution. A few of our best cats were originally strays like this, but we’re really about at our population limit. And, in any case, the Humane Society doesn’t expect a cat trap to be available for at least a week.

Yesterday I checked with our vets at the VCA in Kaneohe and was referred to one of the no-kill shelters. No room in the inn, but they offered to help free the traps. The catch is that they release the cat in the same place it’s trapped. The positive potential is that without these hormones on an ongoing basis, aggressive behavior will decrease and we may all be able to come to terms with it. The downside, of course, is that it’s back under our house.

So right now we all have our “regulars” inside. It’s all eight, including Silverman. Most stayed overnight, except for Leo, whom I let out about an hour earlier in the morning. The visitor is outside, howling around the perimeter with the occasional foray onto each of the decks in turn. The trap is under the house, baited with a dollop of Friskies Liver & Chicken from a fresh can, along with a handful of the latest crunchy Whiskas.

Silverman, primarily an outdoor cat, paces around the house and signals his urgent desire to escape.

But we wait. I do not know why. I’m hoping for an option not yet apparent.

January 15, 2005
Our cat saga continues. At around 10.45am yesterday morning, the stray cat went to get the food and set off the trap under the house. After a few very brief moments of confusion, he calmed down. I draped a few towels over the cage, which is supposed to help calm it down further, and after a while I moved the cat and the trap downstairs to the newly finished bathroom.

With the image of the kind people at the no-kill shelter, Joey’s Feline Friends, in my mind, I hatched a plan.

Head to the vet, though that required waiting for Meda to return from UH with the car. Test the cat for the scariest of feline viruses. So positive, goodbye. If negative, proceed to sterilization, then integrate if possible or place if possible. If socializing proves impossible, goodbye. There were enough potential good endings in this scenario to lessen my guilt at the built-in possibility that he might finally end up in the Humane Society anyway. The plan involves spending money, but it’s well spent if we can get lucky and find a good solution.

Long story short. When Meda came home, we turned around and headed back to Kaneohe. At 6 p.m., we were seated in the VCA Animal Hospital waiting room. This cat proved to be a good patient, allowing herself to be poked and prodded with minimal fuss while hiding under a few towels. He seemed to like being touched and petted, so he’s not totally wild. He also tested negative for the scariest of cat viruses, although he has other illnesses (worms, infected wound, etc.). He reminds me of Kolo, a gray tabby cat with a stunted tail and the first country cat we rescued after arriving in Kaaawa. Can you see where this is heading?

We’ll try to get him home today if I can find a suitable cage. In about a week he will be ready for sterilization. One step after another.

January 16, 2005
The stray cat saga continues. A quick stop yesterday at Koolau Pets in Windward Mall revealed a medium-sized dog crate suitable for a cat (ka-ching!), and another stop at VCA added the cat after a night (ka-ching, ka- ching!). So the wanderer is now downstairs in a private suite and Meda says I’m playing Cat Whisperer.

In the end, the poor guy is really skinny and didn’t do very well in the territory battle under our house, and ended up being beaten more than any of our cats. He has an abscess behind his left ear and another on his back right leg. But he is tame, likes to be petted in general, particularly likes the “food pet” (petting while eating) and let me administer the antibiotics (ka-ching, ka-ching, ka-ching!) without problem.

January 22, 2005
For those wondering, Mr. Wandering Cat is still down there. He’s in a cute dog crate turned into a cat condo, with several opportunities during the day to wander around the room. He’s waiting for vet clearance to proceed with his life-changing surgery, but in the meantime he’s feeling well enough to start howling late into the night, apparently letting us know that nature drives him to roam. Even with the windows closed in this room, it’s enough to disturb sleep upstairs in our bedroom.

But with one brief exception, he was a very cooperative patient. He likes me and turns into a boneless doll when I hug him. At one point I had the fantasy that he had been declawed because he was so soft, but one look at those big paws quickly revealed evidence to the contrary. In any case, he has to pass his next check late today. I hope it will be cleared to take off immediately.
Voluntary pun.

January 28, 2005
Cat Update: Stray Cat now has a name. We nicknamed him Romeo. It’s apparently his search for women as much as the noise of New Year’s Eve that brought him to us, so that seems appropriate. And it can also be seen as Roam-eo, another reference to his wandering past. Or maybe Ro-meow? He has to use this certificate from the Humane Society on Wednesday morning. Not a moment too soon, I would say.

February 3, 2005
And for those (few) who would ask the question, Romeo is back home after his veterinary experience. He lost a few parts and some dignity, but it took several vet techs to get him back to his crate when we arrived to pick him up last night. Apparently he can throw a tantrum when approached by strangers. Once back here in Kaaawa, however, he was just lonely and hungry. He even sat on my lap for the first time. And I’m not at all sure that he’s really missing those parts anyway. Now we look forward to the adventure of his release from solitary confinement, probably on Saturday.

February 11, 2005
Martha from Seattle asked for an update on Mr. Romeo. Well, he survived the takeoff just fine, thank you. So this week we decided to start the next level integration by having him go upstairs at least part-time. So I stayed home on Tuesday to supervise the first round. I moved her cat box with a water dish and a food dish to our bedroom, then moved the cat. I put it on the floor in the living room. He looked around, sniffled, walked down the hall, sniffled, came into the bedroom, sniffled, then crawled under our bed and stayed there for the next five hours. After failing several attempts at whispering cat, I just closed the door and left him. He eventually got tired of crumpling to get under the level of the bed and also got hungry, so he tentatively reappeared for at least long enough to clear the food bowl. Then back under the bed. A little later he emerged long enough for me to pick him up and carry him downstairs.

Romeo spent the day yesterday again locked in our room, and again immediately crawled under the bed. There is a certain curiosity among other cats, so one or the other can often be found sitting outside the closed bedroom door. Once or twice there have been paw interactions under the door. But Romeo still prefers the cave under the bed. I’m considering a few more rounds, then we’ll open the bedroom door and see what happens. It may be difficult, but he certainly didn’t seem aggressive. So we’ll see.

February 13, 2005
We try to gradually introduce Romeo to the rest of the cats. Today was the first time he let him roam the house when other cats were also inside. He quickly found a few of the catnip toys and settled in right away.