This is how I feel today. Because my sweet, fiesty, loving, cranky Martini kitty has cancer. Low grade diffuse alimentary lymphoma. Cancer of the white blood cells (lymphocytes) in her GI tract – hers is in her small intestine. Low grade means slow growing (a good thing, relatively) and diffuse means instead of tumors she has cancerous cells – in her case throughout the lining of her intestine.
I got the news yesterday afternoon, and then went to pick up some meds to get her stablized. An anti-nausea med to stop the vomiting, and a med to coat her GI tract to settle it down. They seem to be working; she hasn’t thrown up since early Saturday morning (unless I haven’t found it yet!). I’ve been peering under the bed with the flashlight and under other furniture every couple of hours – yes I know that might make me a wacko.
Martini (front) and Oliver Demanding Their Breakfast
But maybe I should back up and tell you about Martini, because she is more than a cancer diagnosis… Martini came home on February 5, 2004. I had been looking at PetFinder ads and noticed her, well, because she is just so cute. I saw that she had been at the shelter for awhile, and at the urging of a friend, called about her. The shelter didn’t have her anymore, because just the day before they had transferred her to the Alternative Humane Society, a no kill shelter. I found out later that this was a reprieve from death row for her, because she had developed kennel stress and started biting people. She was going to be put down if the alternative shelter didn’t take her. Biting your new potential mommy or daddy… not the most effective way to get them to adopt you…
She was not spayed and she was found as a stray, so they really didn’t know much about her. They named her Allie (as in Allie Cat – gag…) and she was 3-4 years old and had had at least 1 litter of kittens. If you know cats, you know age is just a guess in adulthood. She could have been 4 or even 8, which makes her 12 or even 16 now… A world of difference in an elderly cat. She was small – about 8 pounds. They brought her over fresh from her spay surgery, and Martini (I couldn’t keep calling her Allie, that was just too dumb) hid in my closet for the next 3 days. On the third night, she crawled up onto my bed and slept next to me. I remember reaching over to pet her and being a little nervous that she would bite me, because she had been biting people at the shelter, but she never did.
She did however, immediately set about asserting her dominance over my 16 year old male cat Zorro. Zorro didn’t have a mean bone in his body, and she was ruthless. She would hide around corners and jump on him when he walked by, and she would smoosh in between Zorro and me if he was sitting next to me on the couch. She growled at him, pounced on him and chased him relentlessly. About a week in, I even called the shelter and talked to them about giving her back, because I didn’t want Zorro to live out his days being bulled by this little pipsqueak! She was half his size! They convinced me to give her just a little more time.
Finally one day, Zorro laid down the law. He was sitting next to me on the couch (his favorite place) and she jumped up and squeezed in between. Then I heard this strange, unearthly high pitched growl from him (mind you, it was very strange because in 16 years I had never heard him growl). Martini looked over at him, but did not move. He growled again. She stood her ground. Then he reached over with one big paw and brought it down on her back so hard it made an audible WHOOMP noise. No claws, no hissing, no fight. Just one huge thump on her back. She jumped down off the couch, and they never had a major problem again. His spot next to me on the couch had been secured, along with his dominant position in the house. I was so proud of my boy!
Zorro passed away a year later, and Martini has ruled the roost since then. I’ve gotten two more cats, Oliver and Oscar, and even though she is smallest by far, she is clearly the matriarch. And she loves me. She loves to snuggle. She loves to sleep on the bed, and under the covers if she gets cold. She snuggles right up against me. She has never bit a person since her time in the shelter.
But, she is super cranky about being brushed, and gets mats in her thick hair very easily. She is pretty easy to pill, but it took awhile to get to where you can trim her nails easily. When you brush her or trim her nails, she emits these yowls that would make anyone within earshot think you were cutting off her leg with a dull, rusty knife. She loves to be pet, but not for too long, and if she is sitting on your lap and you move around too much, you run the risk of pissing her off. And she will tell you all about it!
And then there is her meat obsession. Ever since her food allergy was diagnosed, she has been a fiend for meat. She trolls around looking for scraps, and will steal whole steaks or breasts of chicken that are defrosting on the counter. Size is no object, she can haul off something almost so big you wouldn’t think she could get it off the ground. She stole a piece of pizza once and had it all the way up the stairs and under the bed before I could grab her! And the time she had the strip of prosciutto hanging out of her mouth was hilarious! But all kidding aside, as much as she wants that meat, we always have to wrestle it away from her, because it makes her so sick. It seems so odd for a carnivore to be allergic to protein.
She starts her chemo Monday – the goal is not a cure, but an attempt to give some time while maintaining a good quality of life during the time she has left. I hope she can fight this with as much zest for life as she has approached everything else.