Meet my feline family: EssPee, part 1
Today (well, approximately, could be a day or two off) is my little boy EssPee's fifth birthday! He'll always be my little baby boy though. He's been with my ex and I since he was six weeks old. The first couple of weeks were horribly sad and difficult. More about that below. But at least there was one happy ending in the survival of our wonderful little Speedle.
EssPee, aka Spee, Speedy, Speedle, SP Penuche, the Emperor, Sébastien-Philippe and Solomon Phineas, among other names, is a very special and remarkable little cat. In my mind the expression "full of piss & vinegar" will always be associated with him! In some ways he's kind of like a little dog; he loves to play fetch, he wags his tail a lot, he doesn't mind visiting new places (and even enjoys the vet's office), and used to take walks on a leash. He normally lives with my ex but I bring him over for week-long visits on a regular basis. (Or as I joke sometimes, "Emperor Spee visits the colonies!")
His name comes from the initials SP of his original nickname Salt & Pepper (because at that age, amongst his black fur there were lots of longer white hairs all along his sides). He and his family were fosters so we just gave them nicknames rather than "real" names.
They came to live with us because I had met someone online who would do last-chance rescues of nonhumans who were going to be killed in the local Montreal-area shelters. She posted asking for foster homes for mother cats with kittens, since she had a couple of these families to place. I agree to take in one of the families.
And so, EssPee came to live with us along with his Mama and seven (yes, seven!) brothers and sisters. As far as we were told, they had been about to be killed because of feline herpesvirus which gives them congestion, eye infections, and other cold-like symptoms (and while it can sometimes be dangerous in small kittens, generally isn't a big deal and many if not most cats are carriers of the virus). EssPee was the second smallest at about 600 grams; his brother Baby was even smaller, and the rest of the kittens were all similar in size at about 750 grams, if I recall correctly. At six weeks old, the kittens were still nursing, and for the first five or six days things seemed to be going relatively well for Mama, Baby, Alpha, Beta, Booger, Jumper, Grey, Eyeball, and Salt&Pepper.
Then Alpha started to get sicker and became quite lethargic. At first we just thought he wasn't feeling well because of the virus we knew they had, which seemed to explain why he was breathing through his mouth. But then he started losing control of his bladder, and generally looking even worse. It was about 11pm when we realized that there was definitely something other than herpesvirus causing his discomfort and rapidly deteriorating health. We called a cab to take us to the emergency vet, which was unfortunately about a 20-30 minute drive from our apartment. It seemed like forever, anyway...
At the vet clinic they did some tests on poor Alpha and then we learned the awful news: he had panleukopenia, a very deadly contagious disease in cats. The vet regretfully informed us that Alpha's prognosis was extremely poor, as was that of the other kittens since they had most likely already been exposed. The fatality rate among unvaccinated cats is around 90% in kittens and cats under 2 years, and 50% in cats over 2 years.* The virus can survive up to a year in the environment (and some sources say even longer in certain conditions). The only way to get rid of it is with bleach.
In full mental freak-out mode, we left the clinic with instructions to do whatever they could to try to get Alpha through this, got in another cab and went home, stopping on the way to pick up several large bottles of bleach. Did I mention the full mental freak-out mode? What horrible, devastating news...
Back at the apartment, we moved all the cats from the bedroom, where we had been keeping them, to the study. We proceeded frantically to wash the floors and furniture in the bedroom and bathroom (where we had put Alpha earlier in the evening) with bleach, and removed the bedding to be bleached as well. I'm sure the neighbours below must have been disturbed by all the moving of furniture in the middle of the night, but they didn't come up to complain - not that we cared in the slightest at the time, anyway.
I think it was around 2:30 am when the dreaded sound came - the ringing of the telephone. Little Alpha had lost his fight with the panleuk virus.
There's a lot more to this sad story but I think that's enough for today. I'll continue it next time. Right now I have to go make a birthday cake out of hummus and peanut butter, two of EssPee's favourites. With a side dish of water; he loves water. Sometimes he drinks right from the tap:
*Sorry if some of my virus facts are off. This is just what I remember. To get more information about panleukopenia, do some research from reputable sources and/or speak to a vet.