Life After Kuno

Readers who have been here for a while will know that my cat, Kuno, and I have had some difficult times since she moved into our new house last fall and that she left to go live with my parents a little while ago. I’m glad to say that it’s been for the best. 

Since moving back to the countryside and returning to life as an indoor/outdoor cat, Kuno’s chronic illness has gone into remission. She got a disease as a kitten; I think the vet said it was feline herpes, but it’s been nearly 8 years since that appointment, so my memory is rusty. It doesn’t affect her day to day, but when she gets stressed, it flares up and she gets respiratory infections. If her stress is alleviated or she adjusts to the change that stressed her out, the infection dissipates, and she recovers. If not…

Kuno was sick from November through June. Constantly. Her coughing spasms would almost knock her over sometimes, as she would lean further and further backwards, trying to clear her sinuses. Her eyes watered. Some days, she just looked tired. I took her to the vet at the beginning of it. I was worried because she had been ill for 14 days or so. They gave us pills and medicated treats to help her recover, but they didnt help. She stayed sick.

The two of us would watch the feral cats from the windows, Kuno’s tail swishing wildly in anger. I hoped that the house was airtight (smellproof), but knew it wasn’t. She could smell the cat colony, see them in her yard, yowl at them, but never interact with them. Never chase them away or claw at their faces. I was happy that she wasn’t spraying the house or defecating in the hallways. I bought her a pheromone diffuser. It helped, but it wasn’t enough.

And so, my cat lives with my parents now. Not with me. But she is the only cat for several acres, the only cat claiming territory. She can feel secure and rest well. And I… I just enjoy and mourn the silent days and empty house. She is doing better. No one is pulling down my curtains, breaking my posessions, or crying and scratching at 3 am. But no one is purring on the couch, coming over to see me, or calling when I enter the room. 

It’s bittersweet, but I will be ok.


Just Like That…

She’s gone.

Kuno is not my cat any more.

I had to send her back to live with my parents, who live in the countryside. She couldn’t stand being trapped in our small house and I couldn’t stand her crying and breaking things. We both reached the end of our wits.
I cried once I knew that I had to let go of her- that she needed to be able to hunt and explore again and I couldn’t give her those things. I cried when I realized that I couldn’t be enough for her. I had tried so very hard to give her everything she needed. There was a darkness I couldn’t breach.

So I let her go. 

We packed the van with all of her (my) cat things and put her in her harness for one last walk in the yard. Then she went into my brother’s arms and they pulled away.

I still feel the dark clouds hanging over me. It happened yesterday, and I didn’t try to write about it at the time. Today, though? So many little moments when she should have been here… Sounds that she always ran to, places she always slept, doorways she always waited by. So many echoes of her floating around my head, as I cry and cry because I couldn’t make my cat happy.

The cat that I rehabilitated from being a terrified feral into an occasionally social cat- I took so many scratches in stride because I knew she was terrified but I needed her to feel safe around people and I was willing to give her time to learn to trust.

The cat who lived with me when I was suicidal- I got up to feed her because I couldn’t let her starve to death, even if I was allowed to die.

The cat who I let live on the shelf in my closet for almost a week because she was so scared of our new home- I truly tried to transition her to our current house well.

The cat who I took on walks in the yard to expand her world… And it worked. She wanted more, needed more than I could give her. She’s been wild before. She will never truly belong in a cage, even one with couches and catnip.

I understand why she needed to be an indoor/outdoor cat again.

So, why do I still feel so awful? 😔

Some Time Alone

I came to the point where I had to shut Kuno in a different room for a while. She wants outside constantly, and she’ll scratch at everything she thinks might let her out. The doors. The blinds. The Windows. The screens. The curtains. The couch (but I don’t know how that one will help).

We went out with the leash and harness for a while, and it was fine until she started to work her way free from the straps. I had to carry her back to the house, and of course, she tried to attack me over it. Because she hates me for the horrible crime of not wanting her to be hit by a car and of not wanting her to be attacked by the neighbor’s dog, since they’ve told me that she’s usually not good with other animals. 

I got her inside, but then she wouldn’t let me take the harness off, and I don’t want her getting tangled up in the straps, so I had to force the issue. She attacked again. 

She was yowling at the windows and all, and I thought ‘Maybe she misses having them open. Maybe this extra stress is coming from me deciding to shut them last week.’ I opened them, and within a few minutes, she was clawing at the screens again. (That’s why I stopped opening them for her in the first place.) I swept her off the window sill, and she got her claws caught in the curtains, so the rod bent again. 

I couldn’t take it. I slammed the windows. Turned on the air conditioning. Tried to fix the curtain rod. Put the curtains back up. Got myself lunch. Pretended I couldn’t hear her crying at the window. Rinsed my dishes. Shut myself in my bedroom with some chocolate covered coffee beans. Watched her paw slide under the door.

Texted my parents to see if they would take her back. They said yes. And I cried.

Stupid cat. I try so, so hard to make her life better, because I look at her traumatic past and current struggles, and I see my traumatic past and my struggles. I try to be kind to her so I can learn to be kind to myself. I try to give her space to learn things (like cars aren’t dangerous monsters so you can stop panicking during rides, and not all strange sounds are dangerous so be brave and investigate the world). I buy her toys and cat furniture. Nice food. Treats. I try to play with her. I try to attract birds to the yard for her to watch. 

I do what I can. It’s just not enough.

Her stress-triggered chronic illness has been active constantly since October, which can’t be good for her. I’m losing sleep because she’s restless at night, and she likes to paw at the curtains at 3 am. And my nerves are becoming frayed the longer that this goes on.

I don’t know what to do. I still care about Kuno, and sometimes, she’s very sweet. Sometimes we get along too. So I cried when I thought about losing her, but I also don’t know if I can keep her.

Follow Up on Kuno

It’s been a little while since I had the panic attack over Kuno’s response to the poisonous flea medicine and I’ve been watching her constantly. Poor girl hasn’t had much privacy, but I needed to know if she was still being affected. 

There is still a small amount in her fur, which really bugs me, but the bath was so stressful for her that I wanted to avoid bathing her again if possible. It’s been a couple of days, but she seems fine. Actually, she seemed pretty normal as soon as she was dry- tired, but with her personality showing through.

Here’s some photos of her in case you were worried.

Just finished eating some treats

Taking a nap on the bed

Relaxing in the front room

When “Meaning Well” Backfires

My poor cat. Poor, poor Kuno.

I bought a topical flea treatment from Hartz, thinking “maybe this will clear up the troubles she’s been having and I can solve everything without taking her to the vet!” I read the directions, I applied it as intended, and I moved on with my day. A few minutes later, she started dancing around our house, trying to rub it off of her neck and generally being distressed. I talked to her, tried petting her back, thinking it was just annoyance at something new. She wouldn’t calm down. She liked being near me, but just kept doing those same things.

So I tried to wash it off with a wet rag, since it was clearly disturbing her. No dice. I got some off, but there was so much there, and her neck still smelled like the chemicals.

Soapy wet rag? More of it came off, but not much. Plus, now I’m making her a little mad.

I tried to rinse her neck in the sink to get rid of the soap and she freaked out and clawed and leapt away. But I got most of the soap first (which I don’t want her eating), so I was satisfied.

So I thought to myself ‘the box mentioned digestive troubles and other signs of discomfort; I wonder what everyone else is experiencing…’ Enter Google. Cue the website full of 1 star ratings written by people whose cats started freaking out and “almost died.” Vets. Baths. Cats pulling out their own fur. Spasms. Neurological damage. Weird pupils.

Naturally, I freak out. Which makes two of us. I chase down my dancing cat after drawing a sink full of dish soap water which is warm (not cold enough to chill or hot enough to burn). Fetch Kuno. Dunk. Fight. Scrub the neck fur with soap after compromising and letting her stand on the beach towel on the counter instead of in the sink. 

She settles down. Breathing slows. Hissing stops. I think I’ve finally got it off her skin. Try to draw rinse water? Goodbye kitty.

I should pause and explain that I was half sobbing this whole time because the whole situation is my fault. I did this to her and I am the one causing her stress as I try to fix things.

*** Sorry. I stopped writing so I could wash and bandage my cat scratches. My train of thought may be broken here.***

I filled a pitcher with warm water, scooped her up with my free arm, put her in the bathtub, and rinsed her off. A sopping wet Kuno slipped away from me, but again, I got most of the soap off first, so I didn’t mind. Followed her with the beach towel. Dried her off a bit. Let her escape to the other side of the house. Cleaned up the water trail in the bathroom. Cleaned up the soapy mess in the kitchen sink. Came to check on her.

She’s not happy. She eventually came out of the box a bit and sat near me to dry herself further. I brought some treats as an apology, and she ate them. She’s well enough to sort out her favorite brand from the mixed treats in my container, so that’s something. I keep looking at her, and she seems annoyed (probably the bath), but it’s not like she was at first. No more frantic running and jumping. No leaping up onto counters, sprinting their length, and tumbling down. Not winding in circles around the furniture, laying down for 10 seconds, then getting up to pace some more.

She just sits in one of the empty boxes and stares back. Not quite trusting me not to try to bathe her again, but letting me get close enough to sniff her neck. (I got most of that medicine off during this fiasco and she doesn’t smell like soap either.)

I hope she’ll be ok. I really do. 

Making the Call

I decided to take Kuno to the vet after all, and we scheduled it at a time that my husband could come along. Car rides are much easier with two people, because the driver can handle the road, and the passenger can hold and stroke the panicking cat. He drove, and I tried to comfort Kuno as she yowled and shifted and turned and tried to climb on the dash and so on.

Those scared, overstimulated little meows are so hard for me to listen to. I hate doing things that put her in that state of mind, but sometimes, it is necessary. At least this was better than our 4 hour drives- like the one where my car wasn’t fully secured, and she escaped into the snow, and I had to pull over and chase my terrified cat through a graveyard while we were still 2 hours from home. That was awful. 

Anyway, we just went to the vet a bit ago, and things went… well, normally. She was scared in the car, with a rushing pulse, diluted eyes, panting, and those yowling cries. We got inside and she was cautious about the environment and everything, but calmer than before. Nervous for the first few minutes of the appointment, and then golden for the rest of it. Scared on the drive back, frantic to get out of the car, and very happy to be back in the house. So overall, that’s a win.

I learned somethings too: Kuno has herpes, which is a chronic infection for cats. Once infected, the cat carries the virus for the rest of its life, and stressful changes in the environment cause flare ups. These flare ups are the respiratory infections that I’ve seen her fighting throughout her life, from the very first day we had her. It seems very likely that her whole feral colony was infected with the disease at once, and now, even 7 years later, Kuno still struggles against her disease.

This has been the most severe infection I’ve seen her with so far, but she’s got a bit of medicine now to back her immune system up and keep the viral load down, so hopefully, things will turn around. 

Hang in there, pretty kitty. I love you more than you know.

Watching Her Suffer

Kuno is sick right now. She has been sniffling and coughing for a few weeks, and I hate it so much. If she was any other cat, I would just scoop her into her case and tote her to the vet, but I don’t know if it’s worth it to make her suffer through the long car ride, the vet visit, and the second long car ride. (In case you didn’t know, I wrote earlier about Kuno’s intense fear of cars and the injuries she inflicts on herself while trying to escape from cat carriers.)

I’ve done a bit of research and found that respiratory infections are more serious in cats than they are in humans. For humans, colds are relatively common and may simply be a part of life, while many mild feline ailments actually manifest as digestive troubles or skin problems.

I have been going back and forth about whether or not I am a bad owner. Is it worse to give her two panic attacks in a single day or to let her body fight this infection alone? If I do take her to the vet, those panic attacks ware likely to weaken her immune system further (just like stress affects humans), but she has been so sick lately.

Being responsible for the wellbeing of someone else is hard, especially when I can’t communicate with her. I wish I could explain the car rides or ask her if she feels more or less energetic than she did yesterday. Instead, I just have to watch her symptoms, monitor her eating and digestion, and make my best guess.