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Goodbye to a spark of joy

zaiah calls kittens "little sparks of joy."

Before I met her, I'd always pretty much thought that a cat was a cat was a cat. I love cats, of course, and I've always lived with cats, but I pretty much thought that house cats were very similar to each other. Some are more friendly, some are more surly, but that's about it.

Her family raises tonkinese show cats, a breed I'd never heard of 'til we started dating. Tonkinese are what happens if you take an ordinary breed of house cat and you install "friendliness" and "joy" dials that go to 11. A middle-of-the-road Tonkinese thinks that you, as a person, are absolutely the most amazing and splendid thing that has ever happen in an amazing and splendid world; particularly friendly tonks are even more affectionate than that.

We often havetonk kittens going through our home. Her family breeds them, then they come to stay with us for a few weeks until they are sent away to whatever family adopts them. For the last several weeks, we have had a small litter of kittens, who went home last week.

Two of the litter arrived with FIP, a corona virus infection that's often lethal to kittens. We did everything we could to help them survive. One of the kittens made it. One of them didn't.

For a couple of weeks, the kittens seemed to be improving. They were happy and affectionate and enthusiastic about life; the little girl in the litter never seemed to quite shake her head cold, though. I woke up one morning to find her lying in her carrier, struggling for breath. I took her out and discovered she was very cold. I help her and stroked her for a couple of hours; she nuzzled into my arm, and even purred a bit. Then, suddenly, just like that, she was gone.

I have never really had to deal with death close-up before. I was, and still am, surprised by how much it hurt. zaiah and I buried her a day later. Even when I went inside to get her body, there was still a part of me that expected to find that I'd made some sort of profoundly stupid mistake and that I'd find her playing behind the desk and looking for something to eat, not wrapped up lifeless in a warm towel.

Goodbye, little spark of joy. I didn't get to know you nearly long enough.



( 32 comments — Leave a comment )
Aug. 30th, 2010 08:27 am (UTC)
I'm so sorry. We lost a whole litter a few months ago, and it was gut-wrenching. *hug*
Aug. 30th, 2010 09:55 am (UTC)
*hug* I've been there.
Aug. 30th, 2010 11:15 am (UTC)
I am so sorry that you had to deal with that. It is horrible when that happens and I grieve with thee.

However, what I'm about to say isn't going to help much, but it has to be said. Please, DO NOT!!! foster anymore kittens in your home for at least 6 months, better a year. FIP is contagious through the environment even after the source is gone. It takes at least 6 months for it to die, sometimes even up to a year, even if it doesn't have a host. At least this is what I was told 8 years ago when it was thought that one of my cats had died from it. Turns out it wasn't in my case, but we knew that if it was we wouldn't be able to have another cat in the house for a long, lonely while.

It's possible that more research has been done, so things might have changed. Please check it out so that you don't accidentally end up with more infected cats.
Aug. 30th, 2010 03:52 pm (UTC)
As long as the environment is throughout cleaned with a trifectant, litter boxes and food dishes are either sterilized or replaced, there's no real need to wait. It does also help to have a dedicated room where the fosters are kept, though quarantining isn't necessary as it is the MUTATED form of the virus that causes FIP

FIP isn't contagious in the way that coccidia or URIs are contagious.

FIP is caused by the Corona virus. 90% of cats in the world are exposed to that virus- generally prenatally or right after birth via the mother. In all but about 5-6% it passes through the intestinal tract and the cat remains healthy. In 5-6% it mutates into FIP.

Whether or not the virus mutates is determined almost solely by genetics. If the cat is not genetically predisposed to mutate the virus it won't do so even if sharing a litter box with a cat who is shedding the virus. The majority of cats who mutate the virus become ill in kitten hood, but some will be fine until they have some sort of health catastrophe in later life- surgery etc- that sparks the mutation.

There is some evidence that stress plays a roll in whether or not a genetically predisposed cat actually mutates the virus. The thinking is that the stress experienced by shelter cats may account for the higher numbers of shelter cats who develop FIP- as opposed to cats in the general population. Not exposure or litter boxes or carriers or other cats.

Aug. 30th, 2010 04:55 pm (UTC)
This is good news and it does seem that more research has been done. Glad to know and thank you!
Aug. 30th, 2010 11:51 am (UTC)
baby things do that. just die sometimes. it's really sad. on the other hand baby things, cats in particular, are such a joy to be around you have to withstand them dying sometimes to appreciate how wonderful they are.

anyway i'm sorry. best wishes.
Aug. 30th, 2010 12:16 pm (UTC)
She's waiting for you at the Rainbow Bridge. I know that does not help to bring back the joy, but it can make it bearable to know she's not hurting any longer.
Aug. 30th, 2010 12:47 pm (UTC)
I am sorry for your loss. May time diminish the pain and leave you with only sweet memories.
Aug. 30th, 2010 02:26 pm (UTC)
My condolences.
Aug. 30th, 2010 03:07 pm (UTC)
Poor little girl. Tonks are my favorites, and I wanted to reach through the screen and steal her away.
Aug. 30th, 2010 03:38 pm (UTC)
My husband and I are fosters for a local no-kill rescue and we live in constant dread of FIP. We've lost two so far, the last past away last week.

I'm still raw from it.
Aug. 30th, 2010 05:17 pm (UTC)
past = passed, obv. Pre-caffeinated LJ'ing is a bad idea....
Aug. 30th, 2010 04:12 pm (UTC)
I lost a kitten to FIP back in February. It was horrible and heartbreaking. I actually had to make the decision to put her down. It was horrible. Just ghastly. I sympathize with what you're going through right now.
Aug. 30th, 2010 04:31 pm (UTC)
I'm really sorry. This is a beautiful testament to her impact on your life. ::hugs::
Aug. 30th, 2010 04:41 pm (UTC)
My sympathies. Sometimes I think I should never have any more cats, because of this pain of their loss. But never again having those little sparks of joy in my life is vastly more intolerable.
Aug. 30th, 2010 04:56 pm (UTC)
FIP is just awful, I lost a cat to it in 2004. I'm so sorry. *hugs*
Aug. 30th, 2010 05:36 pm (UTC)
I'm so sorry for your loss. I know it may not be a help to you at this moment, but know that you provided that kitten with comfort to the end.
Aug. 30th, 2010 05:38 pm (UTC)
aw. :-( So, so sad, Franklin. It is hard to lose a beautiful spirit. . . . even when it's tiny and not human.

*big hugs* to you and A also.
Aug. 30th, 2010 05:40 pm (UTC)
So sorry man, we lost one of our cats (Beaker - http://scootz.net/~travis/gallery2/d/7247-2/DSC00007.JPG) last year, and one of our dogs (Pepe - http://scootz.net/~travis/gallery2/d/7253-2/DSC00050.JPG) the year before that.

It's hard, and it sucks. I can't say it gets any better, I still miss them both so much. But it does get easier to move on day by day.
Aug. 30th, 2010 05:41 pm (UTC)
Re: :(
That was from me, I thought I was logged in.
(Deleted comment)
Aug. 30th, 2010 06:48 pm (UTC)
/me is sad now. Awww, kittenah!
Aug. 30th, 2010 07:53 pm (UTC)
I have had the good fortune to have two Tonks , and they were ( and are ) both exactly as you decribed, friendly and joy dialed up to atleast 11.

**gentle hugs** Losing a spark , no matter the legnth of time known, is never an easy thing.
Aug. 30th, 2010 08:50 pm (UTC)
I'm sorry to read this. This April I lost my Mikey-cat right after his 17th birthday, and I thought maybe I had made some mistake and he wasn't really dead, too.
Aug. 30th, 2010 10:09 pm (UTC)
Aw, poor little kitty. My condolences.
Aug. 31st, 2010 03:49 am (UTC)
I'm very sorry. I lost my first kitty to FIP when she was far too young. ))hugs((
Aug. 31st, 2010 07:59 pm (UTC)
So sorry Franklin, I know it's just devastating to lose such a treasured pet, and even more so to see it happen right in front of you.

We had a part-tonk/Birman from a shelter, and he was so much fun, more like a puppy than a cat in the way he played and loved to ride in the car.

We had a succession of cats for many years, and every house we've lived in has at least one buried in the back yard. After the last one died of some kind of cancer a few years ago, we finally said no more. I get sorely tempted now and then, especially seeing photos like yours, but we're sticking to our decision.

Hugs to you and Zaiah.
Aug. 31st, 2010 11:43 pm (UTC)
Across the rainbow bridge
Sorry for your loss, especially of one so young and obviously very special. My Raul is probably grooming the little one now, as he did with his beloved calico who was his baby (who lives with us at the advanced age of 17), now he has another Spark of Joy to love.

We lost Miss Alex and Mr. Taffy, litter-mates aged 14, last year within six months of each other. They were not with us long, but I cried as the vet put them to sleep in my arms. They are now across the rainbow bridge with my beloved Raul Rufus, keeping him company. At this point we were down to two girls 17 and 14, and I had no plans to get another or replace them, but there was a post on my cat Meetup about a declawed male tabby who needed a home. I have missed Raul and Taffy, and longed for another sweet boy, for our girls.

When I saw the new guy I burst into tears as he looked just like Raul! They lady asked what was wrong and I showed her the photo of the one I had lost. Guess I was not ready for a look alike (had wrongly assumed the new guy was a red tiger tabby, Taffy was a pale cream-colored tabby). They have similar looks but different coat patterns and personalities.

Now Count Dracula Casanova lives with us, he was an Italian Alps climber in a former life (loves climbing high at age 10) and has bitten me (hence his new title). He is a sweet boy and loves his mommy but lets you know when he has had enough.

Had hoped Casanova would hook up with my calico (who was the mate of Raul, my late gray tabby), but alas he as managed to win the heart of Pip, my black beauty. Guess he knows how to pick 'em!

I only had one cat die on me (the rest have had to be put to sleep) when I was still at home, one I had adopted (dumped when a neighbor moved out of the apartments across the street). He was found in the middle of the kitchen floor, so he must have gone peacefully in his sleep (he snored and we suspected respiratory trouble), the way everyone should go. We gave him a good life after his homelessness, a good home, a warm bed. Even after he broke his foot, he managed on three legs, he was so beautiful to watch as he floated down the stairs as if on air or a magic carpet.

Sep. 1st, 2010 02:18 am (UTC)
Heavy heart
Brings me right back to that day. Little Girl tried to fight the good fight. It was heartbreaking to hear she passed. I
she was glad to be in your arms, to be able to comfort her when her time came.
Sep. 1st, 2010 08:45 am (UTC)
So sorry to hear that. It's heartbreaking to lose any companion.
Sep. 1st, 2010 04:49 pm (UTC)
I'm sorry to hear about your kitten.
Sep. 21st, 2010 12:13 am (UTC)
I've been so preoccupied on fetlifethat I missedthis entry?? geez!
( 32 comments — Leave a comment )