Chester

Q. Was our pet fatally wounded by a crossbow?

A. What am I, a coroner?

I’m not. But this article by Rhiannon Horrell of the Central Leader makes me think that my kitten, Chester, could have been the victim of a crossbow attack last year.

According to the story, a cat named Kevin was taken to the vet in December with “puncture marks near his back legs…(and) a broken pelvis and dislocated tail.” Nobody knew how the cat got injured. The vet was stumped, but said that she had heard of crossbow attacks in the Mt. Eden area.

What struck me and Jacquie was how Kevin’s injuries seemed to parallel Chester’s:

There was blood around his rectum and under his tail. He had trouble walking when the vet put him on the floor…It was becoming clear that Chester had suffered major trauma. An x-ray showed that nothing was broken, but there (were)…massive swelling and gashes on his leg…

…Chester was apparently leaking urea from a puncture or tear somewhere along his urinary tract. Something or someone had given Chester this serious internal injury. He couldn’t pass urine from his penis due to the swelling. It was flowing into and building up in his leg instead.

Our vets were puzzled by Chester’s injuries and nobody landed on a satisfactory theory to explain them.  Unlike Kevin, Chester had no fractures,but I seem to recall the vet saying the tail had been yanked. Of course, we’ll never know what happened, but given Chester’s injuries, a crossbow in the hands of a burgeoning psychopath is emerging as a leading candidate.

Memorial to a Kitten

Jacquie and I had to put down our cat Chester on Tuesday. He was just under seven months old.

We’d adopted him from the Auckland SPCA back in January. He was about 11 weeks old at the time and the last of his litter to go.

He was in a cage by himself. The volunteers said that he was shy, but he  just kind of seemed confused to me. He wasn’t sure who he could trust.  (Here’s my account of the adoption.)

Chester, about a week after we brought him home.

Chester’s Life in Mt Eden

Jacquie and I argued at first whether to let him outside at such a young age. We decided to keep the cat-door locked for the first few months.

Then he started using the sink as a toilet. Every day I’d go to brush my teeth or wash my face only to find a few bits of pooh in the drain.

We were impressed. Chester had the right room, just the wrong location. Nothing we did encouraged him to use the litter box. So we began to let him out a few hours a day. He was getting big, after all.

Chester in April.

He spent a few hours a day poking around outside. Indoors, he tried to be as annoying as possible. He liked to break things, things that the customs officials and cargo handlers of three different countries tried to break but could not, for all their efforts. We lost a lamp and two vases. He was just being a kitten.

When he was small, he needed a lot of stimulation. As he grew older, he found the outdoors much more interesting than playing with us. We didn’t mind him going outside as time went by because size seemed to be on his side.

A week or two ago.

Chester liked us. He slept on the pillows between our heads every night and he often took naps on my lap as I wrote at the computer. He got very excited whenever we came home after being out for a while. If he heard the car pulling up in front of the house, he came to meet us. I think he was working on “the long con.” Something to do with getting as much food from us as possible. He had a tremendous appetite, being as young and active as he was.

It rained hard for two straight days last week. But a little weather never stopped Chester from anything.

Last Friday. Chester didn't mind getting soaked.

The Gory Details

On Saturday morning, Chester seemed fine. But later, around noon, he didn’t want to have anything to do with us. We thought he might be constipated or suffering some minor illness that would work itself out, Chester being young and healthy.

We went on an overnight trip up north with some friends (more on that in a future post).

When we returned the next day at 11:30 a.m., Chester was waiting for us in front of the house, curled up in the mud. He was in pain and very guarded about his hindquarters. He had limited mobility.

Inside we found a little vomit and what appeared to be a rodent’s tail. We thought that maybe he’d eaten a poisoned mouse or rat.

It was Sunday. I took Chester to the emergency clinic, the Veterinary Specialist Group on Carrington Road.

(I’m not sure how many emergency pet clinics there are in the area, but I highly recommend VSG to pet owners living in Auckland. I also recommend getting pet insurance, but that’s another story).

In the examining room, we could see that Chester’s abdomen and anus were swollen. There was blood around his rectum and under his tail. He had trouble walking when the vet put him on the floor. I was still puzzled by the vomit and rodent’s tail. But the vet ruled out poison. It was becoming clear that Chester had suffered major trauma. An x-ray showed that nothing was broken, but there was his massive swelling and gashes on his leg.

We took Chester to our regular vet, the Auckland Cat Practice, also highly recommended to people around Mt. Eden. (Note: Limited parking. It’s often best to find a spot on Grange Road and walk across the street.)

They did everything they could to alleviate Chester’s pain and to find out what was wrong with him. Chester was apparently leaking urea from a puncture or tear somewhere along his urinary tract. Something or someone had given Chester this serious internal injury. He couldn’t pass urine from his penis due to the swelling. It was flowing into and building up in his leg instead.

The Long and Short of It

We were now looking at a choice. We could put Chester through extensive and costly surgeries to locate and repair the damaged internal tissue while Chester’s pain increased on a daily basis. Or we could euthanize him.

On Tuesday morning we visited Chester for the last time.  Jacquie held him as the vet injected him with the drug.

We spent the rest of the day in the seven stages of grief. But we kept getting the order wrong.

It still troubles us that we don’t know what happened to him. Theories range from a bad fall to an altercation with a dog to human malice. It made us angry to think that somebody might have done something to Chester. But we’ll just never know.

We’re getting over it. Writing about it helps.

In a couple weeks, we plan to go back to the SPCA to adopt another cat.

Bye Chester. You were a cool dude in a loose mood.

Signs and Wonders

SIGNS

Auckland has its tiny share of businesses named for parts of New York City.

The Brooklyn Bar and Lounge on Queen Street in the Downtown Business District.

The Bronx on High Street in the DBD.

Harlem, also on High Street.

WONDERS

A recent sunset.

Chester at 11 weeks. (Photo by Jacquie)

Please Stand By

Hello, friends. I am planning to post something here very soon. I’ve been busy with other things and we just had a three-day holiday weekend so I wasn’t on the computer very much. But, for those who care, there will be something in the next few days. In the meantime, here are some more pictures of Chester, named after Parkchester, the housing development and neighborhood near where I grew up in the Bronx.

See you real soon.

Jumping the Shark, or “Everyone Loves a Kitten”

It’s been a busy week, so I haven’t had the time to post as much as I would have liked.

But then what do you care? That’s what I told Jacquie the other night when I showed her the blog statistics. Our readership was at an all-time low. I didn’t know you could get a number below zero visits. Obviously, we’d sprung a leak somewhere along the way. There were tough decisions to be made.

“Jacquie,” I said, “We’ve had a good long run. We’ve had a few laughs, a few tears, and a few dozen whip-its. But maybe it’s time we tossed in the towel. Maybe these stats are a sign to shut the lights off on this ‘Basement’ we call ‘Life.'”

“You could shut down the blog,” Jacquie said. “But who would notice?”

“Exactly. So what do I do?”

“I have just the thing that will boost readership.”

“What is it?”

“Shhh, come here.”

Jacquie opened her arms and gave me a hug but before I knew it, she managed to cover my nose and mouth with a damp handkerchief, and by the count of 10, I was unconscious. My wife had chloroformed me, just like on our wedding day.

I don’t know how much time passed, but when I woke up, I found us standing inside a long, brightly lit corridor with 25 cages built into the walls on either side, and a couple of strange people with ID badges, smiling at me.

“Feel free to ask us any questions,” one of them said.

“Who are you horrible people?” I said.

“It’s the Auckland SPCA,” Jacquie said. “We’re going to adopt a cat.”

“Damn it.”

The volunteers showed us several models to choose from. We learned that Auckland had just gotten through one of the biggest “kitten seasons” on record, but there didn’t seem to be many in the cages so I assumed that most of them had already been culled by licensed hunters or adopted, whichever applied to “kitten season.”  We didn’t mind so much, anyway, since Jacquie and I were accustomed to adopting old cats. Norman was four or five when we took him in, and Puffy was probably 14 or 15, and Graeme, well, we’re not so sure because, as it turned out, Graeme had probably been dead for several years before we rescued her.

But the older ones at the SPCA gave us the creeps, to say nothing of the cats they were showing us. We were none too impressed.

Until we met this young buck.

Ladies and gentlemen, for the first time in public, Kitten #102358. I mean, Chester. (Yes, observant reader, he is part blurry.)

A volunteer told us that Chester was the last of his litter to be adopted, because he was “naturally shy.” But that probably had nothing whatsoever to do with people constantly lurching at him with their big grubby hands. From my perspective, the nine-week-old seemed more than eager to come home with us and destroy our furniture.

So the volunteer took Chester out of his cage and whispered something into the poor guy’s ear. “I speak cat language because I’m an honorary non-feline member of the Cat Council*,”  the volunteer informed us. “I want you two to know, we all think you’re doing such a great thing.”  (“We” referring to said Cat Council, presumably).

Jacquie and I made for the exit as quickly as we could, but not in time to escape another volunteer who tricked us into buying thousands of dollars worth of unnecessary junk, like a scratching post, catnip toys and food. Then as we were carrying all this crap out to the car, I looked into the carrier.

“Hey, this carrier is empty,” I said.

“Oh, ha-ha, I must have unknowingly exchanged your carrier with an empty one while you weren’t looking, by mistake,” the volunteer said. “How did that happen?”

Chester tended to amuse himself with the scratching post before he discovered our credit cards.

Chester has been home with us now for three days, and I have to say he’s behaved like a perfectly normal kitten, playing with his catnip toys, smashing precariously stored plates and glasses, and scratching my corneas out with an X-acto knife. And the blog? Did Jumping the Shark by shamelessly and lazily exploiting the biological hardwiring of humans to take interest in all things small, doe-eyed and vulnerable, did that help bring our stats up?

Well, it’s too early to know. For now, let’s just say that if you don’t get everyone you know to read this blog right now, the kitten just might have an “accident,” if you know what I mean.

*This is a reference to a very old inside-joke in my family. With apologies to my sister, the lawyer, and her gracious decision to never pursue litigation against me, Jacquie or Basement Life and its subsidiaries, licensees, franchisees or partners, in perpetuity throughout the known universe.