In 2001 a feral mother cat wandered onto my property. I trapped her, two weeks later she gave birth on May 5th. The feral mother raised her 4 kittens in my second bath. After weaning the kittens, the feral mother was tested, negative, neutered and released. Theodore was adopted first, then Amelia, finally Alvin, the shy one. I kept Simon. I had to humanely euthanize him in June 2007, he had been diagnosed with FIP about 15 months earlier.
Thanks to Audrey at previously called “Alley Cat Rescue” located in Bradenton Florida and my vet at that time who also worked with Audrey.
In Loving Memory of Simon
May 5, 2001 ~ June 5, 2007
My life with Simon began the afternoon of May 5, 2001, Cinco de Mayo day of celebration. The kitten’s mother was a feral, described as a tortie color according to Audrey, then owner of Alley Cat Rescue in Bradenton. She loaned me the trap and told me how to set up a safe birth area. His mother, who I never named, lived in my guest bath for two weeks before finally producing the five kittens. I knew from her personality she would never accept living with us, she was a true feral. Looking back over the years, I spent with Simon I realized she was probably a good mother in spite of the foreign environment forced upon her at the time. However, my concern was for the kittens’ welfare guiding my choice the best chance they had in life was with my help. I often think back about the experience I had while she raised her young, wondering what caused one of the kittens to die before she had a chance to live. There are some explanations for why the kitten was left to freeze on the cold tub surface, but will remain one of the mysteries of living with animals.
This is how the next few years living with Simon began, thankfully knowing now he had the benefit from those critical weeks he spent with his mother. I am certain he learned some key behaviors that I could not have influenced as a human caretaker and perhaps that’s why all the kittens seemed well adjusted considering the circumstances. I will never forget the daily cleaning while she huddled her young in a corner, Simon you might have thought was the most fearful, sticking closest. It got interesting around the time I began forcefully removing them for human socialization, play and beginning the process of eating solid food. I used the word forcefully because kittens raised in a natural environment might nurse for months, while learning how to survive with moms help.
It was around this time I had to begin thinking of names, something I hadn’t thought about yet. Amelia was easy; she was the only female and named for the famous woman aviator Amelia Earhardt.
The boys, three I toyed with until the day I called Audrey and asked for some help, and then it came to me, Simon, Alvin and Theodore, the three chipmunks’ one of my favorite cartoons growing up. But if I had my way, I would have kept Theodore! But that’s another story.
I hadn’t planned exactly how well things would go finding all of them good homes. I was lucky, Amelia was picked first, and then Theodore, but Simon and Alvin, the shy one weren’t as easy. If only everyone knew how lucky the way things worked out. Because things were becoming difficult it was a huge help when Carol, then with the Manatee County Humane Society helped me by taking the two last boys so they could be neutered and adopted.
It was because a friend adopted Simon that he ended up with me. Alvin was deemed unadoptable at first by the staff, because he was shy, so weekly I stopped by to visit him to hold him and reassure him he would be OK. Finally, they moved him in to the adoptable area. I suggested a best fit might be a single cat home, perhaps an only pet. A few weeks later the staff had good news, a young woman adopted him making him her only pet. I felt this would be the best way for him to gain confidence, I hope things worked out for him. I often wonder how the others are doing, after all, I helped raise them and they deserved to have good homes and caring owners.
Simon is the black one, with his 1% white spot on his chest, Alvin was shy and uncertain, and Theodore, was beautiful, huge round eyes and a fluffy coat. He was surely the prettiest of all. Amelia had her mother’s coloring, but she was cute and friendly, unlike her mother. It was always funny looking back at these baby pictures, I often found Simon laying under or on top of the bed sprawled out on his back, he seemed to love lying that way.
Simon was doted on, protected from the outside for his first few years; I knew it was dangerous for cats to run loose, especially black cats. Gradually my fear gave way to the benefits of an outside environment, and slowly I allowed him to go outside but he had boundaries, the fenced yard. I kept watch on him and if he wandered out, he had to come in. I think for the most part, he learned if he wanted to stay outside, he had to stay within my designated boundaries, he loved being outside and always established his favorite resting spots. He grew into a large black cat he was such a stud. He actually strutted when he walked or trotted away.
Simon was a real clown sometimes, he loved to play, was outgoing and friendly toward everyone. One of the funniest moments but not so much for the squirrel happened during his illness, he was outside and when I went to get him, he trotted toward the door with a live squirrel in his mouth. Nothing seemed to bother him, he was so easy going, you couldn’t have asked for more.
Simon was lucky, he wasn’t the only cat, he grew up with the benefit of Golda always being there. Golda came to me around the same time as Simon’s mother, but was friendly, allowed petting and didn’t mind being inside a house. Perhaps she was even Simon’s aunt, it wouldn’t be unusual. She was named for Golda Meir, the first and only woman prime minister of Israel.
In late winter of 2005, Simon began losing weight with no other signs of distress or illness. In January, we took him to our new veterinarian Tammy Clarkson at Best Friends Animal Hospital. This was our first meeting with this new doctor. We decided we would stick with her, but she was unable to find the cause of Simon’s weight loss. We were referred to Dr. Heidi Ward, an oncologist well known here in Sarasota. She ran the usual tests, but nothing was conclusive and even though the vet costs were difficult I was determined to get what help, he needed. We took him to the University of Florida Veterinary Clinic for evaluation, they concurred with the suspected diagnosis FIP (Feline Infectious Peritonitis). Dr. Hackendahl gave me Dr. Addie’s information. At that time, she was one of the leading experts on FIP, an immune mediated disease. Unfortunately, Dr. Addie is located in Scotland!
I did what I could for Simon, he lived another 15 months before I had to make the decision it was best to let him go. His health was declining and it was obvious death was near, I didn’t want to let him go, I felt if only I could have done more. I will always have fond and loving memories of Simon, that’s all he provided to me, I’m just sorry his life was cut short; I was looking forward to him being with me for along time. I really miss him.
More about Feline Infectious Peritonitis and feline care
If you want to know more about FIP (Feline Infectious Peritonitis visit Cornell Feline Health Center and print out their brochurehttp://www.vet.cornell.edu/fhc/brochures/fip.html
For research help visit Dr. Addie’s website http://www.dr-addie.com/
The Cat Fancier’s Association http://www.cfa.org/index.html
The efforts of the Winn Foundation at The Cat Fanciers Associationhttp://www.cfa.org/articles/health/FIP-update-pt1.html
Your cat is safer indoors http://www.cfa.org/articles/safer-indoors.html