I saw a friend and animal lover catch sight of me from across the room, give a big wave and make a beeline for me, weaving through the crowd at the gathering we were both attending.
“I know of two cats who desperately need a home,” Betsy said before she even reached me. “They’re going to be put to sleep if someone doesn’t take them!”
Now, among those of us who are known for rescuing cats and dogs and other things, how many times have we heard that?
I will always listen to the story, though. This woman was not one of those constantly threatening me with cats about to be euthanized, and not the type to make idle threats. I decided whatever story she had to tell was probably true.
Left behind when an owner died, a common story
As it turned out, her good friend and neighbor had died, leaving behind her two 15-year-old cats with no instructions for care. Betsy was distraught at losing her friend and neighbor of many years. Because the woman had no family in town, only a son in Chicago who could only stop by infrequently, she had undertaken to clean out the woman’s house and care for her cats as a last act of friendship and respect for the things her friend had loved so much. She had dogs and couldn’t take the cats but was in the house frequently enough to be able to feed and water and look after them until she could figure out what to do.
She and the son had initially discussed a few options, and he had decided to take them to their veterinarian to see what he thought and to likely have them put to sleep. He couldn’t take mother’s cats and who wanted to take two old cats to a shelter?
Apparently the veterinarian told him they were healthy and friendly and advised him, if they had someone to care for them in place, to just hold onto them until they needed to leave the house. A little more time wouldn’t hurt.
So back they went, and for about two months Betsy kept an eye on them while she visited the house daily and cleaned and sorted and organized things for the estate sale and realtor visits. When the house was up for sale, the realtor advised to remove the cats, and that’s when Betsy magically saw me, knowing she could appeal to me.
I already had four senior cats
At that time I had seven cats, including four in their teens, Stanley over 20 and in chronic renal failure, and I was determined not to add to the household knowing somehow the senior health issues would be mounting. I loved each of these cats intensely, and I really wasn’t interested in taking in two 15-year-old cats, no matter how nice they were.
Sometimes I can steel myself against the knowledge that a cat who needs a home may not meet a good end if someone doesn’t help it along somehow with a temporary home. Already being at my limit of cats and caring for that time reinforced that steel, but when Betsy called and said they had to leave the house and were bound for a shelter, I knew she was serious…and something told me to give them a chance.
Back up to nine cats, my magic number.
But I had always had some luck placing cats, even adults, so I planned on fostering until I could find a home.
Their own little marketing campaign
My little June kitties came in with different names; Peaches was “Rosebud” and Cream was “Angel”. Cream was mostly white with a few clear black or orange spots, one resembling the AC Delco logo on her shoulder blades, interchangeable orange ears and a detachable black tail—this last a reference I always made to cats whose extremities were colored as if intentionally setting them off.
I know Betsy would have been diligent in feeding and providing water, but possibly they didn’t care for the food and water provided in the self-feeding and self-watering containers because they were both a little dehydrated and had a few bowel issues when they arrived. I was already dosing Stanley with sub-Q fluids and watching for other symptoms of renal failure, so I just added them to the list. Peaches responded right away, brightening up, but Creamy needed fluids every few weeks and then more often and always seemed to be a little tired no matter what I did for her.
Well, I’ve been in advertising and marketing long enough to know that I needed a really catchy name to get attention for two 15-year-olds who should be kept together, and “Peaches and Cream” came to mind and stayed there.
Both were nice cats, very friendly and social and actually mingling pretty well with my household, though Creamy decided right away she owned me and chased everyone away, which didn’t do well when I had to keep an eye on my two oldest, Stanley and Moses. So Peaches and Cream had the run of the house during the day, but stayed in the spare cat room overnight.
Cream was so friendly that I began taking her to the personal care home where my mother lived to visit the ladies there who had lost their kitties when they entered personal care. I would visit my mother in the evening, and Cream would wander around the living room, choosing one woman and then another to rub her face against and curl upon and purr.
I also had a little retail space at the time and had an open house so people could meet them, and I wrote about them on my website (no blog yet) and contacted everyone I knew who might possibly be interested in the two, or even one of them.
The biggest objection
The biggest objection to adoption of either one or both was, very simplified, “they are old, they’ll die soon, and that will hurt.”
I could hardly argue with that. We can never know how long they’ll be with us, and it hurts no matter. That didn’t change the fact that, for however long they were alive, they needed a home, and perhaps one where they’d get more attention than in mine.
And we did lose Creamy the following March to kidney failure. She was trying to hold on, even to the point where her skin would leak from previous treatments when I gave her a dose of fluids; she was holding on for her person who I’m sure she always thought would come back. Feeling Creamy’s reluctance I had no idea what to do with her after she died, knowing she wouldn’t be happy in my yard with the cremains of my others. Deb Chebatoris of Chartiers Custom Pet Cremation suggested I find her person’s grave and scatter her ashes there. (I still haven’t found where the grave is, but when I do I will follow through.)
I had lost my 19-year-old Moses just a month before; Creamy was the second older cat of the four I lost in the space of one year, and I will always connect her with the beginning of these events.
Peaches goes on
Peaches, on the other hand, seemed to find a new youth, and five years later still looks like a young cat, her 5.5 pound figure unchanged, her clearly patched peach and gray and white fur soft and shiny, green eyes clear and round, and very little unsteadiness to her gait. When people come to visit she is one of the favorites with her petite good looks, quiet friendly face rub and round-eyed welcoming expression, and her curiosity never ceases to surprise me when she goes exploring a bag or a box or the newly-renovated bathroom.
My household has changed over since she’s been here, and she went along with all of it, letting others have the attention when they needed it. She didn’t let four boisterous kittens bother her, and in fact they love their older sister very much. She finds them very useful in the winter when she can snuggle in among them and they give her a bath.
And not only has she settled firmly in the household, but she’s also settled firmly on the internet! She corresponds with others through our blog and on Facebook, and she even applied for a job as an office assistant finding a best friend, Eva, and regularly corresponding with her!
And it never even occurred to her I might not love her to pieces, which I do. Her little silent meows, hopeful looks, prompts for dinner and slight weight sleeping on me when I awaken have all become a part of my life. I guess it’s really not hard to fit another cat into the household or into your heart.
Where would my portfolio be without her?
I’ve always painted and photographed my cats, but nearly as soon as Peaches entered my house she became one of my most regular subjects. Perhaps because I’d been working with the others for so long and she was new and very different from all the others, but she continues to be one of my favorite subjects.
I painted “Peaches and Peonies” in 2008 from photos I’d taken in 2007. Some cats have to wait a lifetime before their portrait gets done, and I still have a few waiting!
Too bad for those who wouldn’t adopt her
So as Peaches approaches this milestone, I still celebrate her every day. I’m glad she ended up staying with me for all she’s given me and all I could give to her. Anyone who chose not to adopt her lost out on a great kitty with just a few little issues!
Don’t let fear of loss stop you from adopting
But I hope this is a lesson for anyone uncertain about adopting an older or senior cat. Even though they don’t have a full lifetime with you, you never really know how long a lifetime will be. Right after I lost my fourth senior cat in that awful year, my Stanley at about 25, I lost a kitten I’d adopted, my Lucy, to FIP at 15 months. Still, in Lucy’s 15 months, and Stanley’s 25 years and Peaches’ five with me, we’d shared enough to last a lifetime. The moment you love, it’s forever.
Celebrating Peaches’ 100th Birthday, and bid on the painting
Please add your comments on your older cats, and please read about blog auction for a signed print of Peaches and Peonies. All proceeds from the highest bid go to FosterCat. I’ll also be featuring other articles on Peaches and other senior cats, and so will friends of mine and Peaches on their blogs. Stay tuned!