On July 6th, before my alarm had even sounded, I got a call from Brian (who wakes up for work long before I do). As he was leaving our house, he had found a sick cat on our block. "You gotta get out here babe; she needs your help." I threw on my clothes, grabbed a cat carrier, and found myself looking at this weak, pathetic little creature covered in dust with a crinkled right ear.
She let me approach her and was having labored breathing. I scooped her up and put her in the carrier. A quick physical told me she was at least 12 years old. Shortly, she was on the way to work with me at Caring for Cats. I talked her through intense car-sickness, petted her head the entire drive, and immediately felt a bond. Working with cats every day and loving every single one of them, I know when there is something more. I felt that spark with this little white cat. I found myself calling her Snowflake.
After a more thorough physical at work, it became clear that this cat had had an owner at some point. She had a spay scar but no microchip. She was deaf. She was clearly a senior kitty and wouldn't have lasted on the streets of Philly out on her own for that many years. From her physical I suspected she had chronic kidney disease and hyperthyroidism at minimum. She was very thin and her heart was racing. I imagined how worried her owners must have been and my heart broke.
We drew some blood, gave her a bath, some food (which she chowed down on), and she promptly went to sleep.
Needless to say, she came home with me that night and snuggled with Brian and I in our guest room bed. We put up fliers, posted on our neighborhood forum, and hoped to find her owner.
The next day, her bloodwork showed that she did have hyperthyroidism and kidney disease, so we started her on treatment. Her high thyroid hormone could have explained her fast breathing, but after a few days of treatment, it didn't resolve. Being the worrier that I am, I took some x-rays of her chest and found that she had two tumors in her lungs. I started her on a steroid for the inflammation. Still no responses to our lost cat posters, but our little girl was eating great, gaining weight, breathing better by the day, and snuggling better than ever. We were starting to selfishly hope we wouldn't find her owner...
Brian had made a post about her on the ACCT Philly Lost and Found Facebook page. In 24 hours it got over 2000 views.
After a series of phone calls...we found the owners! Thanks to the post, we were able to track down the kind, elderly 83 year old Italian lady who cared for the kitty for 17 years after finding her as a tiny kitten in her garage. The cat started acting different a couple of months ago, and she was voraciously hungry all of the time. She became extremely difficult to manage, and she ended up escaping out the back 2 weeks prior to when we found her. She and her son searched for days, but it is hard to summon a deaf cat! She wandered 0.8 miles due north to land on our street. It all began to make sense; the reason she was acting differently and escaped was because she had hyperthyroidism. After explaining to her owner her various diseases and that she would require medication twice a day and bloodwork monitoring for the rest of her life, her owner concluded that she would be unable to care for her, given that she was elderly and disabled herself. We promised to care for her and love her as our own. Thats how we ended up with an open adoption. We learned that her name was Bianca Neve, Italian for Snow White.
By this point Bianca was very happy and had already gained a pound. She was making herself right at home, but our cat Beeb hated her. We also had discovered that one of her great joys in life was peeing on soft things. In my line of work, I deal with cats peeing outside the box on a daily basis. We did every work up for a medical cause. We tinkered with her litterbox options more than I ever thought possible. We had four boxes with clay litter, one with wheat litter, one with a pee pad in it, and various pee pads all over the floor. She used all of them, but because her kidney disease caused her to pee about 7-8 times daily, she also would gleefully pee on pillows, blankets, towels, mattresses, papers, you name it. At the end of the day it really just came down to Bianca loving to pee on soft things. Loving it.
So we decided that she would move into Caring for Cats and become the first clinic cat! Caring for Cats was the perfect place because she would have people to hang out with every day, and given that its a hospital, there aren't a ton of soft things around. She also wouldn't have to suffer through her intense motion-sickness every time she needed her bloodwork checked.
She settled in right away and quickly promoted herself to office manager. She had gained two pounds since we found her (from 6 up to 8). She gave the best lip rubs you could imagine. When she was in the mood for hip hop, she liked to be known as Lil' Baby B. She made herself busy checking on the boarders,
and doing the laundry.
Christine, Kortney, Renee, and Dr. Guth loved and cared for her just like she was their own. She received an exceptional level of compassion and attention. She got to dress up for Halloween,
As we got deeper into November, her appetite started to wane. She got what we think was a paraneoplastic skin reaction and infection that required weekly medicated hot tub soaks. Without her baths she would quickly become dirtier looking than the day we found her and became affectionately known as our little grub.
She was becoming more and more picky since her nausea was hard to control and she was getting food aversion to everything she would eat. She started losing weight and recheck x-rays showed that her lung tumors were growing. Dual anti-nausea therapy, more steroids, and antibiotics helped her some but it wasn't enough. She still felt like herself but was just disgusted by food. She had lost so much weight that she was actually thinner than when we found her. We decided to do a quick anesthetized procedure to place a feeding tube so we could give her nutrition without having to force her to eat. It also allowed us to deliver the medications directly into her GI tract without having to pill her multiple times every day. Not only did she get a bit more energy, but she looked adorable in her fashionable new collars.
The tube gained her two more happy weeks of no pilling. She would still eat temptations treats on her own. This past weekend she started to show signs that she was no longer feeling herself. All she wanted to do was sleep, her breathing seemed worse, and her purr changed from her content purr to what I perceived as a self-comfort purr. After discussing with her large adoptive family, we made the decision to peacefully put her to sleep. She was surrounded by friends, she crawled into my lap before falling asleep for the last time, and that was it. It was beautiful and dignified, just like her life. She was the queen of Caring for Cats, and I'm sure she was the queen of her house for the 17 years before that.
Brian and Bianca got to have one final FaceTime date.
Bianca, Princess of the Grubs, you have brought so much joy into our lives. We knew from the moment we fell in love with you little old lady how hard this would be and that our time would be limited. It was worth it.