Sunny is what we often called her; one of the names that was considered for Maple, before we decided we couldn’t let anyone else have her. We didn’t love that they wanted to name Maple, Sunny so that gave us just the little push we needed. But regardless, Sunflower needed us, and we didn’t care what her name was by the time we got to the point of taking her in, but we kept the name, nonetheless.
I received a call from this relative one day with an ultimatum. “You have one month to come get this cat or else!” Why was I responsible for this cat’s welfare? After all, I lived 13 hours away, had nothing to do with the adoption or raising of this kitten, but for some reason, I suppose since I worked with cats, I was now responsible for her life? Okay… Sunflower was, you guessed it, urinating outside of the litter box.
Sunflower’s name came from our family theme, we have historically named our calico cats after flowers. My mom started this trend with one of my childhood cats, Pansy. Sunflower was a dilute or pastel calico, some people only know the black, orange and white, but they can be muted like this as well. So, the name offers a little hint as to where she came from and how she became ours, a blood relative who also embraced the flower naming theme gave up on her.
Problem was, I had zero intention of driving to Delaware anytime soon to go get this cat and of course, the time, effort and finances involved to bring her to me was not at all an option on the part of her current pet parent. I was still knee deep in my “save all the cats of the world” mode, so I devised a way, thanks to the offering of one of my very bestest friends! My friend Anna was going to be headed up to Delaware to visit her family and offered to pick Sunflower up and bring her home to me, to safety. What a very kind gesture indeed! Sunny sang the song of her people on the drive home; this was long before the days of premedicating with Gabapentin to decrease stress. She was set up in the only bathroom in Anna’s house in Athens, Georgia. Cozy! I drove to get her and brought her to the vet clinic where I was working at the time.
She was a classic "loaf" position kinda gal as you can see from all of these photos! But that is good, means she felt safe, relaxed and comfortable.
I’m sure you’ll be anxious to hear about her exam findings, yes? Why would this cat be avoiding the litter box? This cat that was given up at the age of two for “behavioral” elimination outside the box! Come to find out she had struvite crystals in her urine for starters, a very common urinary problem in cats. Combine genetics with the bottom of the barrel grocery store brand foods and this is what you get. This relative never heeded my advice and my attempts to educate were completely futile. One of their cats had previously died of a urinary obstruction, but they still keep feeding crappy foods and maintaining filthy litter boxes to this day. Isn’t that the definition of insanity? Repeatedly doing the same thing expecting a different result. Perhaps a different result isn’t expected, they just don’t care? I don’t really know or understand it.
We got her urinary crystals under control by switching her over to foods to help them dissolve and then maintained her on healthy foods to prevent recurrence. She lived at the clinic for a while, I even thought that we might put her up for adoption, after all, we did not “need” another cat! But the urinary crystals were not the end of her medical problems, oh no! Sunny had severe gingivitis/stomatitis and had to have a dental with many extractions, which allowed her mouth and gums to heal up quite nicely. We noticed as she meandered around the clinic that she would “hug” the walls and often leaned, she had a funny gate. We discovered this was because she ALSO had bi-lateral luxating patella’s, which is just a fancy way of saying her knees dislocated. It’s a bit challenging to posture in a box of sand to eliminate when both of your knees are dislocating, it burns when you pee and basically you just hurt. But what do I know!
I decided at this point that adopting her was the best option, she just had a lot going on and would be hard to place. I took her for a surgical evaluation at my favorite orthopedic surgeons and the plan was to monitor to see if she worsened because she basically needed surgery on both of her knees. She integrated quite nicely into our family as she came from a multiple cat household and was socialized to other cats. She LOVED spending time on the screen porch, couldn’t get enough. She also used our BIG, CLEAN, litter boxes, all 13 of them, just fine. We set her up for success.
Overtime, I could see her knees worsening, you could watch them pop as she walked. I related entirely as I also have a dislocating knee and know just how scary and uncomfortable of a sensation this can be. After a lot of debate, we decided to do surgery on the worst knee. The cost of the surgery was a fortune for us at the time and my employer decided that she would pay for half of the cost of the surgery as my Christmas bonus that year! How nice was that!? No help from the relative that gave her up though, not that I expected it, but after all the effort put forth to help this cat, obtaining her, bringing her into my home, fixing her medical problems and now TWO huge surgeries…I’m pretty sure the mentality was that she was a lemon and should have just been euthanized. This was an incredibly sweet cat that deserved a chance at life, you do not just kill them when they inconvenience you. Sunflower deserved better.
I honestly do not recall, and the records are buried in the crawlspace (because apparently, I need to keep those but not reference them in times like these! Sheesh!) but I do not think she was even five years old when we said goodbye. I’m sure the stress of the knee surgery unleashed some evil demons early, it would have all happened the same way eventually, but I think the stress pushed things along. She was the first cat I had to make the decision to euthanize. The fur on her leg had not even fully grown back in by the time she had to go. It was very hard knowing how young she was, how hard her little life was and all she had been through. She was also totally in there mentally when it was time, but the mass was huge, and she stopped eating, so we had to do it.
I hope in the end that we helped her feel better, at least for a while. Most of all we gave her stability, a family and hopefully a really fun place to be a cat and thrive if even for just a little while.
We did our best for you Sunny Sunflowers. We will continue the theme in your honor when and if more calicos come our way.
So, we proceeded with the knee surgery, and she was on “bed rest” in the bathroom, not allowed to jump or climb. Our infamous bathroom of rehabilitation. Everyone gets to spend some time there at some point. Those who know me well know exactly what I am talking about, you’ve seen it and squeezed in there for a visit a time or two. She was recovering well, eating, pain was controlled and she enjoyed all of the extra attention and nursing care. Then, one day she started having really bloody stools. Everyone freaks out when they see blood in the stool, but blood is not diagnostic of anything in particular and typically means that the GI tract is simply irritated. Intestinal parasites and inflammation can cause blood in the stool. I did not freak out. But then the stools got softer, and she wasn’t eating great, and looked thinner. I was still super new to this profession compared to where I am now, but when I palpated her abdomen, I felt something funny, hard and knobby. Up to the clinic she went, and x-rays showed a mass in her abdomen. Knowing what I know now and seeing how very fast it grew, I’d place bets it was large cell lymphoma. So that was that, no more bathroom confinement to recover from the knee surgery, she needed to have as much fun as she could have, there wasn’t much time left.