On Tuesday, I pulled a weed in my yard, and found this–a baby rattlesnake curled in the warm earth. I placed a flowerpot (no hole in the bottom) over it and tried to find someone to come get it, for relocation. Of course, where there is one baby rattlesnake, there may be others. When the wonderful snake rescue woman arrived that evening, we found that the snake had somehow escaped from beneath the pot which I’d thought was far too heavy for such a little thing to move. We looked around, carefully, but did not find it under any nearby shrubbery or weeds. I hoped it had gone for good.
On Wednesday, as usual, I let Meowington out of Lokabrenna Tiny Temple, where he sleeps during the nights. Days, he wanders the neighborhood and guards my yard against other cats. But he can’t guard it against wildlife. My property backs up against a ridge of oaks and pines and wildness. (We’ve had a mama bear and two cubs wandering the neighborhood this week as well.) Yes, I was worried about rattlesnakes, but he made it through last summer unscathed and so I hoped for the best. I wish now I’d just kept him inside the temple that day.
By early evening I was calling for him, as usual, to come get his dinner. I called and called.
Meanwhile, I fed Grey Girl, the far more feral cat that–along with Meowington and one other–had been left behind on my property last year by a troubled couple who up and moved to Tennessee on short notice. I recall this with some resentment. I already have four indoor cats, and these folks basically dumped three of theirs on me, saying they couldn’t take them and would I feed them and yes they’d send money every month for food. I didn’t count on that money of course. I knew better. But perhaps I should have made them take these three “spare cats” elsewhere? But if I had, I wouldn’t have had the great pleasure of getting to know Meowington.
I called and called some more. And Meowington still didn’t come. I began to worry. And then finally I saw him tottering around the corner of the temple, a cobweb and a leaf stuck to his face. I brushed the leaf away and picked him up. He was shaking, breathing raggedly and hard. He kept trying to meow but couldn’t make a sound. Normally Meowington is an extremely chatty cat. He follows me around when I’m working in the yard. He’s also great at head-butting and adores tummy rubs. He’s also usually anxious for his meal, pushing his nose and mouth into the bowl as I dole out the food. But not on Wednesday evening. He was an entirely different cat, shocky, sick, unable to eat, though he was thirsty. I was worried he’d been bit, but I saw no blood. I set him down on a clean towel and left the temple to get a cat crate. I wasn’t sure who would be open for emergency care, but I was going to get him some.
Had he been bitten? Or had he been bullied by the big black and white cat who occasionally has it in for him? The only other time I’d seen him in something like this condition was after a fight with that cat.
When I returned, Meowington had somehow climbed up to the small storage loft in the rafters where I could not reach him. I tried to coax him down. He wouldn’t come. So I kept the food and water out, and left the temple with forboding, locking him in for the night. I half expected him to be dead in the morning. If was rattlesnake venom, I assumed his death would be quick.
The next morning (yesterday), Meowington was down on the floor again, waiting by the door as he usually does. I was touched that he made this immense effort, though he was still obviously in bad shape. He has always trusted to our routine, to his knowledge that I will always show up in the morning to feed him and let him out. I immediately put him in the cat crate, meaning to whisk him off to the vet at the earliest possible time. Unfortunately, the vet couldn’t see him until 3 PM that afternoon. That was yesterday. I kept him in the crate all day, with food and water, but he only ate a little. I showed up an hour early for our appointment, hoping we could be seen earlier.
When the vet assistant helped him out of the crate. there was a little blood. And when the vet examined him, there was evidence of a bite on his belly, with tissue already going necrotic. The vet explained that a bite on the belly was worrisome–that internal organs may be quickly damaged by the snake’s venom. Still, she gave me reason to hope. Some animals do recover, she said, and she laid out a course of treatment. She did not recommend the antivenin as she said some cats have bad reactions to it. We went for something more conservative (and less expensive): pain medications, antibiotics, laser treatment to improve healing.
I brought Meowington into the house and set him up with towels, food, water, and a litter box, in the shower stall since it was the only small, quiet area away from the other cats. They’ve only interacted with him through the screen door. I didn’t bring him into the household as he is very territorial and I was afraid he’d terrorize the other male cat, Niblet, who has been freaked out for a whole year about the two “extra” cats who joined our post-Hawai’i household. A month or two ago, I had Meowington neutered and got him his shots, in the hopes of finding him a new home–a one cat household where he could be adored and adoring to his fullest potential.
I wish I’d done things differently now. I wish I’d been more aggressive about finding him a new home. I wish I hadn’t let him out of the temple on Wednesday. And I wish yesterday that I’d had the courage to ask the doctor to just put him to sleep.
Because this morning he hasn’t eaten, drunk, eliminated, and he’s clearly suffering. He is lethargic, his breathing is ragged. I’ve been checking on him off and on, ever since I woke up. He wants to stay in the (unused) litter box, not the towel. (He used to love to roll around in the dirt!). I gave him more pain medicine. He vomited it up shortly after. I’ve pet him, stroked him, sang to him, and told him that it was okay to let go–that we’ve loved each other but that now it’s okay… he can go.
Sometimes I think we give our best love to animals, because they love us so unconditionally. We can give to them (if we give at all), without our stupid human complications getting in the way.
I love Meowington. I procrastinated about giving him up to another home even though I knew I should. I hoped yesterday that he could rally, could beat the venom. It was a selfish hope.
Later this morning, I’ll take him to the vet again–he was supposed to get another laser treatment–and then I’ll let him go.
I’ve asked Freya, Bastet, and Loki for the best possible outcome. I ask them now to ease his passage.
Rest in peace, cat.