A cat tale with a happy ending

Next week, I get my bathroom back.

Seriously. I’m thrilled.

For the past five or six weeks (I’ve lost track), I’ve shared my bathroom with a sick cat.

Tigger is in the final days of recovery. He is my parents’ cat. One of two. Smokey is his brother.

Anyway, Tigger has a great back story. I call her a wonder cat. She has used up two of her nine lives.

One day … maybe six years ago .. we found Tigger, Smokey and three siblings in a storage shed in my yard. They were just days old, but mom had either abandoned them, or had died.

These newborns were not in good shape. Growing up near Heise Park, we were always finding strays. And had adopted some of those strays. So, why not these five orphans? We didn’t know what would happen. We didn’thave a lot of hope, nor experience with kittens so young. But we gave it a try. We also knew it would be a good life lesson for my nephews Nick and Nate Eachus. I think they were 6 at the time.

Despite the combined efforts of six or seven of us, one of the kittens died the first day. The second died a few days later. My mother, Nancy Kent, move the three remaining cats — Tigger, Smokey and a pure white one — to her home. She fed them for several days with an eye dropper and just loved them. Unfortunately, the white one — I think we called her Snowball — died.

But six years later, Smokey and Tigger are doing great, living the good life and getting all the attention they want at Ma and Pa Kent’s home. They got fat, sassy and spoiled. Considering how their lives began, a little spoiling was OK.

One day, two or three months ago, Tigger ate something he should have ignored. A whole bunch of something. Eventually, he quit eating, started to lose weight and was lethargic., far from his usually playful self. It was Tigger, who each time I came to visit stretched beside my chair so I could rub his belly and fight with him.

Tigger ended up at Galion Veterinary Hospital. He was so sick. An X-ray showed a big clump of something in Tigger’s stomach. In fact, it had distended the stomach so much and done enough damage that Tigger’s liver had pretty much shut down. Tigger had lost about a third of her body weight in the week’s preceding the surgery. He was close to death …. again.

Dr. Stepanie Parr said she could operate. But there were no guarantees that when she got inside Tigger’s belly, that she would be able to do anything to help. But there was a chance he would get better.

My parents decided to try to save Tigger’s life. Dr. Parr operated on Tigger the next day. She removed a big clump of straw or grass for her abdomen. The surgery left an incision maybe 4 inches long in his shaved belly. But it was a success.

And then the waiting began. Dr. Parr explained that livers have a marvelous capacity to repair themselves, if given the opportunity. Because Tigger has not been eating for weeks, and to give his liver a chance to heal, a feeding tube had been inserted in his neck. For a few days — up to 14 times a da —, the staff at Galion Veterinary Hospital fed Tigger through the tube in his neck, via a big syringe. Each time he was fed, the tube was washed out with water.

And then, I became Tigger’s caregiver.

Dr. Parr gave me instructions for Tigger’s home care. Tigger would stay at my house until he actually started to eat again and gain some weight. Well, I have a rescue pitbull I adopted in November (Thanks Hallie Elliott). I also have two cats that my friend Jill King talked me into adopting about eight years ago.

But Tigger’s recovery required privacy, and quiet, and he needed to be away from the other animals in my house. In the 1930s-era Sears, Roebuck Home I live in, there is not a lot of extra space. So I moved the shelves out of my bathroom and set up in their place a large dog cage we had borrowed weeks before from Lindsay and Joylyn Finch. (You’ll get that back soon, I promise). Part of Tigger’s recovery plan was to keep her someplace where she wouldn’t be able to catch her feeding tube on something and accidentally pull it out.

Anyway, for the next 10 days or so, I fed that cat through the tube in his neck, up to 10 times a day. For the first seven days or so, Tigger didn’t come out of the cage, so I crawled on my belly into the cage, syringes and medical tape at hand, to feed him. Tigger slowly got better. My back still hurts.

I took Tigger back and forth to Galion Veterinary Hospital every 3 or 4 days. They wanted to check on his progress, but I also think the staff knew I needed an occasional break from the feeding ritual.

One day, I stopped after work at the vet’s office to bring Tigger home. I got home, parked my truck, grabbed Tigger and his cage with one hand, and my laptop computer and phone and lunchbox with the other. I stepped onto my porch, where I was promptly attacked by several bees. As I tried to unlock the door, I tried to step on a couple of angry bees.

That’s when I lost my balance and fell off the back porch. I saved the cat and cat cage and computer and phone and lunch box, but used up my available hands in doing so. With no free hands remaining to cushion my fall, I landed on a big stick my pit Beatrix and I used to play fetch. It didn’t cut me. Thankfully, it was laying flat on the ground when I landed on it. My ribs landed on that stick. I bruised or cracked at least one rib.

And bruised ribs hurt. Every time I moved for three weeks a stabbing pain shot through my body. Coughs and sneezes were the worst. I stifled every sneeze for weeks. The coughing I could not stop. The ribs still hurt, but are much better.

About a week ago, Tigger’s demeanor changed. Almost overnight, he became affectionate and social again. He even cozied up with the girls who fed him at the vet’s office on my days off. He started to eat some real food, via his mouth, which is what we all were waiting far. Dr. Parr came up with a plan to wean Tigger off the feeding tube. It would take several days. And then for a week, I would flush out the feeding tube with water four or five times a day. After a week, if progress continued, the Tube would come out.

On Wednesday afternoon I came home and fed Tigger. Sometime between that feeding at 7 p.m., Tigger managed to pull that feeding tube out of his own neck. I walked into the bathroom we have been sharing for more than a month, and it was out. I called Dr. Parr, who said it was nothing to worry about. She asked me to take the bandages from around his neck and to bring him to the office the next morning.

So, a week ahead of schedule, Tigger’s feeding tube is out. He kind of forced the issue. He will keep living in my bathroom until his next appointment, which is Wednesday. At that time, if he is eating well and healing well and continuing on his path to a full recovery, he is going home to Ma and Pa Kent’s place.

I was chatting with Dr. Hamilton at the vet’s office a couple days ago. We were discussing Tigger’s recovery, and how far he had progressed. I teared up talking to her. I did not expect that emotion.

So if all goes well, starting next Thursday, Tigger and I will no longer be sharing a bathroom.

Beatrix and my cats, Jack and Jill, will be glad Tigger is gone. For more than a month, they knew there was a visitor in my bathroom, but they’ve not seen him. They can smell him, and hear him, but they’ve not been allowed near him … and it’s driving them nuts.

As for me, I’ll miss the little devil.

But more than that, I’ll be happy to not have to squeeze past that dog cage, and navigate over and around a tray of cat litter, a little cardboard box Tigger likes to sleep in and his food and water dishes.

It will be nice to have my bathroom back.





Russ Kent

Inquirer Editor


Russ Kent is editor of the Galion Inquirer, Morrow County Sentinel and Bellville Star. If you have a comment or story idea, email him at rkent@civitasmedia.com.