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In which I post the news of Sugar's death to one more community to which I belong that may care about her passing. Go here for the entry.
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posted by [personal profile] cathyr19355 at 06:12pm on 23/04/2014 under
I am writing this after coming home from our last visit to the vet's office. Sugar, our beloved cat, is no longer with us.

For those of our friends who knew her, or wanted to know her (which I figure is most of our friends), and for my own consolation, I would like to present you with a biography of a special cat.

Sugar, as I've said before, was my mother's last pet. She and my stepfather, Jerry, had only owned dogs. But they were open to the idea of a cat for a pet, and as they became older and sicker themselves, they figured it would become harder to deal with walking a dog several times a day, but relatively easy to care for a cat.

The first cat they adopted, Tiger, was a beautiful little gray tabby. Unfortunately, he died a short time after they got him, of feline leukemia.

Then they adopted Sugar, from a woman in Pottstown (where they lived) who operated a cat rescue service called Furball Farms Feline Rescue. I don't know much about Sugar's background, but it's my understanding from what Mom told me then (and what little [profile] esrblog found out from the woman, many years later), that Sugar's mother was a rescued cat and Sugar was born at the rescue facility. It was the woman at the rescue facility who named her "Sugar", and she told [profile] esrblog over the phone, many years later, that "if I named her Sugar I must have noticed, even then, that she had a sweet disposition."

At the time Sugar was adopted, Mom was battling cancer. She had very little strength, so she spent her days lying on the sofa, watching TV, while little Sugar lay on her stomach, being petted. Jerry did most of the chores, including feeding and tending to Sugar. Since those were the days when I had more money than time, I bought Sugar one of those enormous pieces of cat furniture--a three-story cylindrical tower on which to climb and hide and which can double as a scratching post. (The tower looks a lot like this except that it's blue.) Since she preferred having a separate scratching post, I eventually bought her one of those, too.

Then came the day when I got a call at the office, from the visiting nurse association with which Mom and Jerry had made arrangements to look in on them, given their mutual ill health. The nurse told me that she had found Jerry dead on the bathroom floor and she had no idea where Mom was. That was at the very end of July in 1994.

Horrified, I made my way to Pottstown with [profile] esrblog, where I eventually learned that Jerry had taken Mom back to the hospital the night before; she had been having trouble breathing because large amounts of fluid were accumulating in her lungs. We broke the news to her, and in her condition, that was a terrible thing to have to do. We all cried, and she told me "Take care of Sugar."

Since there was now no one at the house in Pottstown where my parents lived, and I did not want to stay there overnight, we gathered Sugar and her belongings--her food, bowls and litter box, her tower and scratching post, some toys--and drove back to Malvern. Unfortunately, that drive was far from peaceful. A series of tornadoes was ripping through the county, pretty close to our path home, creating a tumult of thunder, lightning, and rain. Sugar cried and cried for the entire 45-minute drive.

By the time we got back to Malvern, the rain had settled down to a light drizzle and all three of us were exhausted. We brought in Sugar and her belongings, settled the belongings in suitable locations around our home, and showed her where her food, water, and litter box were.

Then we trudged upstairs and went to our waterbed to collapse. Because it was a full-flotation waterbed and we were a bit leery of having a cat's claws near the mattress, we shut and latched our bedroom door.

It wasn't long before we heard a tiny scratching noise at the bottom of the door and a soft "Meow?"

[profile] esrblog and I consulted. I reasoned that we could always keep a layer of thick covers on the bed, and if a puncture happened, well, a waterbed mattress can be replaced. But how many times do you get a chance to win the heart of a cat? He agreed.

So I opened the door, and Sugar bounded in, leapt up on the bed, and promptly started to explore the window behind the bed.

And that was the beginning of our relationship. After that night, Sugar treated us as her people, and we reciprocated in kind. We learned that Sugar had many traits that made her a wonderful companion for us, namely:

* She enjoyed human company, even the company of children, though she especially enjoyed the company of men. Since many of our visitor were [profile] esrblog's computer-programmer-geek friends, this worked out exceedingly well for all parties.

* She was unusually tolerant, for a cat, of breaks in routine. Since we like to travel to science-fiction conventions, and would be gone for an entire weekend every other month or so, it was wonderful to have our companion waiting for us with cries of greeting instead of busy wrecking some item of furniture in revenge for our absence. She didn't enjoy our absences, though. Often we'd find her looking out the front window, waiting for us. In more recent years, she would lie under the coffee table near the front door, reproaching us with loud cries as we entered, until we petted her back into equanimity.

* She disliked scratching leather, which means that our expensive sectional sofa saw little damage from her claws (though the fabric-covered sofa bed in the basement got brutalized).

* She was not fond of leaping from heights, and thus did not attempt to reach the tops of tall pieces of furniture. Instead, she was extremely good at climbing. In her early days with us, I saw her bound from the ground to within 5 feet of the top of a telephone pole in seconds after a squirrel (while she was on a leash!). More importantly, she climbed back down the pole nonchalantly with nearly as much ease as she had ascended it.

* Although Sugar was always willing to walk on desks or tables, she rarely shoved any object over the edge, and she seldom stepped on computer keyboards (a relief to [profile] esrblog).

On the other hand, she never got over her dislike of the car, and she would not tolerate having her claws trimmed (so the vet had to do it, with an assistant to hold all four of her legs).

As she matured, Sugar became even more outgoing. She became vocal, adding loud calls, tribbling noises and trills to her sound repertoire. She learned to enter a room as if she owned it, nodding or meowing a polite greeting as she met our visitors. Sometimes, she would make a noise that sounded uncannily like the word "hello!" She learned to enjoy lying in our laps while being petted, and she even learned to tolerate being picked up and held (so long as she ended up getting petted).

During her youth and middle years, I took Sugar outside as much as I could (usually but not always on a leash), and saw a different side of her. Outdoors with the wind in her fur, she was a cool hunter, listening, smelling, watching her targets. I saw her watch the neighbors' tom for 15 minutes at a stretch, creeping closer almost imperceptibly until she finally committed to the chase. She seldom missed a chance to assert herself against dogs, either.

Three years ago this September, we came home from a gaming convention to find Sugar miserable and ill; I wrote about that illness here. She already had diminished kidney function then, but this illness was different; a severe infection in both kidneys. Surprisingly, once a correct diagnosis was made and the proper treatment administered, she bounced back to her usual self, friendly, loving, and curious but not too curious for the good of our house and furnishings. :-) We began giving her subcutaneous fluids shortly thereafter, but other than that our life together continued pretty much as normal. Things stayed normal even when we started bringing her to the vet for the fluid treatments.

Shortly after the beginning of this year, Sugar began losing weight more noticably; we could feel her bones under the still beautiful, thick coat. After February (the time of her putative birthday, according to the vet's records), she began eating markedly less than normal, and by late March, my darling cat, whose mature average weight was between 9 and 11 pounds, was down to 6.7 pounds. She began spending less time with us--though she continued her long-standing habit of spending at least part of the night with us on the waterbed. That's when we knew her days were numbered.

Last night, we lifted Sugar onto our bed--the same waterbed she had first leapt onto, nearly 20 years ago--so we could spend some time in our mutual favorite place for one last night. When I got up to go to work this morning, she was in the basement, lying in the bottom level of the cat tower I'd bought for her long ago, looking tired, ailing, and miserable.

This evening, I was prepared to have to pull her out of her tower but she surprised me; she came to the foot of the basement stairs and called for me. I brought her upstairs and petted her for some time before we took her for that final vet visit.

There's more I could say about Sugar, but I'll stop rambling on now. If you met her, you know why I loved her so much, and if you haven't, I don't have the words to properly explain to you why she was so special. All that I ask is that tonight you spend some time with a pet or, failing that, a human friend or loved one. Do something nice for them, and think, just for a bit, about how much they mean to you and how you will feel when they are gone.


Sugar, in 2001, in a characteristic pose.
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posted by [personal profile] cathyr19355 at 10:43pm on 21/06/2009 under ,
Some of you know that I have a pet cat, named Sugar. Sugar is going on 16 years old, and, according to our veterinarian, has greatly diminished kidney function, for which I need to give her a special kind of cat food.

On Saturday, Sugar had her annual physical checkup. The vet was extremely pleased with her liveliness and physical condition. The vet's assistant was also pleased with Sugar's (relatively) polite behavior, even while having her claws trimmed--an act which has, in the past, sent Sugar into a struggling, screaming frenzy.

I am pleased to see that it continues to be true that, in some ways, Sugar is healthier than I am. We hope to have her with us in good condition for as long as that is possible.

EDIT: For those of you who haven't met Sugar, she looks pretty much like this, even though the picture under the link was taken nearly 8 years ago. I'm sorry about the size, and lack of quality, of the photo; if you want to see smaller photos of her go here. I'll be happy to supply explanations of what that page is about upon request.
Mood:: 'pleased' pleased
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posted by [personal profile] cathyr19355 at 09:37pm on 13/12/2007 under ,
If my life were a Fluxx game, that would be my current game victory goal. "You win if the only Keeper on the table is Sugar, the Cat."

I posted, back in November, about how the anti-flea goop my cat's vet prescribed is supposed not only to kill all the fleas on her, but to turn her into a Mobile Flea Extermination Unit. I reapplied the goop early this month, per the vet's instructions.

Well, turns out only half the ad copy is true. Sugar seems to continue to be flea free, But now I'm seeing fleas in the house. Not on me, thank God, or I'd be storming my vet's office, right now, at this hour. Instead, I see them casually flying, in ones and twos, in the kitchen, or inside the dishwasher, or my room.

And late last night, as I went to scrape Sugar's covered litter box (admittedly the first time I'd done so in about 36 hours) I saw several dozen, flying around inside the box.

Though I am glad that my cat is no longer infested, I WANT THOSE DAMN INSECTS OUT OF MY HOUSE. I have a call in to the vet, and am hoping for good advice. Grrrrr.
location: home, where else?
Mood:: 'angry' angry
Music:: stock spy music from Eric's favorite Internet stream
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posted by [personal profile] cathyr19355 at 09:39pm on 24/10/2007 under ,
As I write, Sugar is still just fine. If anything, she's more affectionate than usual.

Because Sugar is climbing and descending the stairs as normal, and because I'm getting tired of treading on litter when I use the bathroom, I have eliminated the upstairs litter box once more; however, I'm leaving her food dishes in the kitchen. That is more convenient for me, she seems to prefer it, and it eliminates at least some of her need to use the stairs.

I called my vet this week, and although he could think of any number of reasons that could have caused Sugar's sudden, temporary distress, he readily agreed that she should get a looking over. I have an appointment for her for a week from Saturday.

Thanks to all who sent sympathetic words, or thought kindly of us.
Mood:: 'wondering' wondering
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posted by [personal profile] cathyr19355 at 05:04pm on 20/10/2007 under ,
It wasn't bad enough that [livejournal.com profile] esrblog spent a lot of last week sick. On Thursday, we had to take our cat, Sugar, to the veterinary emergency room.

[livejournal.com profile] esrblog and Sugar had been entertaining our friend, Ken, when I came home from work a little after 7 p.m. Since they had already eaten dinner, I took the liberty of heading to dinner by myself. Sugar, what little I got to see of her at that point, seemed fine.

As I was driving home from dinner at about 9:15, [livejournal.com profile] esrblog called me to tell me Sugar seemed to be in a lot of pain. She started yowling when one touched her left hindquarter a bit after I left, and now was sufficiently unhappy to be attempting to hide. Since Sugar is not the kind of cat that hides, [livejournal.com profile] esrblog took this as a sign of a serious problem.

So did I. We estimate that Sugar is about 14 years old, well into old age by feline standards. Had she fractured or dislocated her hip by jumping off something after I left? Such things happen to elderly human women, and often spell The Beginning of the End, even though it is much easier to treat bone injuries in women than in cats.

I gave [livejournal.com profile] esrblog my vet's number. Not that the vet would be open, but his answering machine, I knew, had the number of the local emergency veterinary care service, and we could get that and prepare to take Sugar there.

By the time I arrived home 10 minutes later, [livejournal.com profile] esrblog had talked to the emergency service people and told them to expect us in about 45 minutes.

Things didn't work out that way, because Sugar figured out we were trying to corral her for some reason and hid behind our waterbed, and it took awhile before we all chilled enough to get her to come out. Interestingly, the act of putting her into the cat carrier didn't elicit any howls of pain (though I took care not to touch her hindquarters), just the usual noises of protest.

At the emergency room, we hung out for about a half an hour while the vet on call examined Sugar throughly and took an x-ray. Finally, the vet came out to talk to us. She explained that there was no sign of broken bones or any cut or external injury to the skin. There was also no sign of dislocation; she had tugged gently on Sugar's leg, and physically examined her tail, without eliciting any signs of distress.

The vet theorized that it might have been a muscle sprain or pull of some kind. She said she'd give Sugar an injection for pain, and that we should discourage her from using stairs or jumping on things for about 48 hours. She also said she'd fax her report to our regular vet so we can follow up.

So we moved her food dishes to the kitchen, and put a spare litter box in the bathroom. Sugar limped a bit the rest of the night, but otherwise now seemed normal, if a bit confused because of the drug injection.

I stayed home from work Friday morning to watch her and be ready if another Emergency Vet Visit was in order, but by morning she seemed normal. A day later, she is padding around, jumping on and off our bed, and using both upstairs and downstairs litterboxes indiscriminately as if nothing had happened.

Though I'm relieved, I'm also puzzled. I think I'll call my vet on Monday morning and see what he thinks and whether I should bring her in for another examination.
Mood:: 'thoughtful' thoughtful
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posted by [personal profile] cathyr19355 at 09:41pm on 19/11/2006 under ,
On Friday, I returned Princess to my friend, and at the end of the work day Eric and I went to Philcon. (I'll write about Philcon in another entry, probably tomorrow).

Now, [livejournal.com profile] esrblog and I are back home, with Sugar. She greeted us at the door, and insisted on my following her into the basement for a grooming. After a bit of concern that Princess might rematerialize when I asked her to come back upstairs, she has settled in beside [livejournal.com profile] esrblog, who is lying on our bed reading. The natural order of things has been restored.

Still sorry it didn't work out though. When they were willing to share us, it was nice having two cats around.
location: home
Mood:: 'relieved' relieved
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posted by [personal profile] cathyr19355 at 09:49pm on 15/11/2006 under , ,
[livejournal.com profile] esrblog called me at work today to tell me he couldn't take it anymore. Couldn't take watching Sugar slink around our house, looking for opportunities to dart upstairs to see us, acting for all the world like a member of the Resistance during World War II evading the Nazis. "I'm sorry, but we can't keep Princess," he said.

I was saddened too, but not surprised. My morale was flagging from having to track down my beloved older cat just to spend time with her, and my energy level was dropping from all the effort I spent trying to intervene. To say nothing of the fact that I had come to feel guilty about spending time in my comfy room with Princess, when Sugar was crying for me from the basement.

So I went to the friend I got Princess from and told her where we stood. She was unhappy too, because she wants Princess to have a good home but already has four cats and cannot take Princess on a long-term basis herself.

However, my friend knows more local cat owners than I do. She made phone calls. Turns out that a friend of one of the other attorneys in our office is interested in Princess. If she commits, we can take Princess to her Friday. If not, it will take us a bit longer to get her placed, and my friend suggested that her son could take Princess in the meantime.

It's a shame. [livejournal.com profile] esrblog and I will both miss Princess. But while she stays, we fear we will be missing Sugar even more. At least if this works out both cats will have a good home, and I will have gotten my peace of mind back.
Mood:: 'sad' sad
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posted by [personal profile] cathyr19355 at 10:57pm on 09/11/2006 under , ,
I am being defeated by a cat. A young, seven-pound, gray-and-white cat.

It's Princess, of course. Princess's campaign to keep Sugar on the margins of our lives is succeeding once more. She haunts the main hallway in our house, because that allows her to successfully patrol the basement doorway as well as the main bathroom, Eric's office, and all of the bedrooms, and she can charge Sugar and chase her back to the basement when she pleases. (And since we don't sit in the hallway all day, we can't always catch and stop her.) She has even gone so far as to charge Sugar *on our bed* to drive her away.

Worst of all, Sugar is tolerating this treatment, with only occasional token hissing.

My guess is that there were confrontations between the two of them when I was in Texas, and thus was unable to soak down the bedrooms with calming cat pheromones every night. Whatever the reason, we won't be able to keep Princess if she continues to try to monopolize me (much less of this behavior goes on when I'm not home, according to Eric) this way.

I have had enough of feeling as though I need a license just to be with my beloved older cat. So now, when Princess chases Sugar away at night, I shut Princess in my room, which is where her food, water and litter boxes are, leaving the path to the master bedroom clear. At least that way Sugar is willing to come upstairs and up on our bed with us again. Though Sugar's stopped waiting for me in the front window (Princess now does that) and coming into the bathroom to wait for me while I shower (Princess is usually patrolling the hallway in front of the bathroom door at that time of the morning). This is a less than optimal solution, because when Princess gets hungry, around 6:30 a.m. (my normal feeding time for the cats during the work week), Princess starts meowing loudly and clawing the hallway carpet under the door.

I am also trying to discourage Princess from hanging out in the hallway (by picking her up and moving her, if necessary). That often results in her nipping me, which she doesn't do hard enough to draw blood but does do hard enough to hurt. My efforts to discourage her from biting by hissing at her (or squirting her when I have the spray bottle handy) are not being any more successful than my efforts to keep her from gratuitously harassing Sugar.

The worst part about it is that Princess isn't really trying to hurt Sugar; she just wants to be our primary cat, and force Sugar onto the margins of our home and our lives. I don't want to keep Princess from spending time with us, or deny her the affection she obviously wants. But the current situation is wearing us out and sapping *our* morale, not just Sugar's.

Any suggestions for other things I might try to alleviate this situation would be greatly appreciated.
Mood:: 'frustrated' frustrated
location: home
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posted by [personal profile] cathyr19355 at 05:45pm on 22/10/2006 under , , ,
Yesterday afternoon, I was in my room, answering e-mail, and Princess, my newly-adopted second cat, went up to her food dish (which is still located in my room) to munch some kibble.

Suddenly, I sneezed, rather loudly. Princess was so startled she jumped back a foot, tipping over her dish and sending kibble flying.

It was funny to watch, but I felt a bit sorry for her too. She's a bit jumpy, since Sugar has been coming in to steal her food.
Mood:: 'amused' amused
Music:: techno-dungeon music from Eric's "Batlle of Wesnoth" game

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