Spending precious moments with O.J my cat in his last days.

by Mary
(North Carolina, USA)

O.J when first rescued

O.J when first rescued

This is difficult for me to write but O.J is so worth the effort.

I submitted a rescue story last year about a beautiful buff colored tabby whom I rescued and socialized (he was semi feral).
To re-cap his story, I noticed a semi feral male cat on my land over a year ago.
He would come around my rescue shed where I was feeding and caring for another feral and her two new born kittens.
He was a big beautiful tan colored tabby(about 15 pounds)with the most alluring YELLOW eyes that I have ever seen. He would not allow me near enough to touch him but would sit among the trees in the bushes and watch for me to fill his food and water bowl just inside the open door of the shed.

I soon noticed he was sleeping at night in the shed so I laid a bed of hay there for him to sleep on and a nice soft comfy blanket. He soon developed his schedule to visit the shed and wait for his bowls to be filled daily and when I would call to him, he would retreat back a bit to keep his distance but would never take his eyes off of me.
I named him O.J (after orange juice, not the football player) ha ha.
With each passing day and week, I noticed he would come alittle closer and I vowed to gain this beautiful boys trust. I would sit on my back porch steps and talk to him from afar while he was eating , all the while looking back to see if I was getting too close for his comfort.
Then one day he shocked me completely. Out of the blue, when I was in the shed filling his bowls, He WALKED THROUGH THE DOOR and up to my feet and meowed at me!!!!
I gently bent over and patted that ever elusive head for the first time.
I was over-joyed! But at close range, I could see that my sweet O.J had lived a hard life of fighting for territory (He was an un-neutered male tom cat)
His ears was all torn up and bloody from fighting and he had fleas and terrible ear mites. He had a bad respiratory infection and you could hear him sneezing out in the woods from afar at night.

I was determined to take this beautiful boy off the street and bring him into my home to live a peaceful, HEALTHY life for his remaining years.
As the days passed and the crisp fall breezes began to blow, I soon knew I needed to get him inside before winter came. He needed to be vet checked, neutered and vaccinated and tested to be free of any dangerous illnesses before I could bring him in to my feline home with my other healthy kitties.
In October 2009, I found my chance one morning while feeding him he took his eyes off of me just long enough for me to grab him up in my arms and into a carrier.
Oh, he was NOT happy in that carrier and I felt bad that he thought I had betrayed him but this boy had to be saved and I was going to see he had a good life OFF the street. So, off we went to the vet and all tests was negative and he was neutered and vaccinated. After his neuter recovery, I bought him inside my home to live with my other cats and never to be allowed outside again.
Again, he was not happy. He paced the floor for days crying at the door and windows to go out. I stood my ground and did not allow him to go out and soon he gave in and adjusted. He became a very loving lap cat who loved my attention and got along terrific with the other cats. Life was good and my sweet O.J was off the street and safe from all outdoor harm. (Or so I assumed)
Then about 3 months ago I noticed O.J (Whom I had
begun calling J.J) had developed a sniffle, then a cough. So we went to the vet to get him on meds so as to not start an epidemic of URI (Upper Respiratory Infection)among the other cats.
The vet then suggested we RE_CHECK him for Feline Leukemia and FIV (Feline AIDs)
I know from years of rescue that sometimes you get False Negatives on these tests and so I agreed to have him re-tested.
My heart sunk as the vet revealed the results. My precious O.J had FIV (AIDS)
This was a result of the years of fighting with infected cats in the wild.
FIV is passed from infected cats to other cats in a bite wound or fight that draws blood.
My heart ached for this poor boy who I had hoped for a long healthy life.
Now it was evident that he would not have the long life I had hoped for but that I would go out of my way to keep him as healthy as possible for whatever time he had.
Some FIV cats live 5 years or more after their diagnosis and this is what I hoped for with O. J
Since his diagnosis he has become severely weakened, and lost more than half of his original body weight. Despite all the antibiotics and medicine, he has not been able to fight off the respiratory infection that we are now told is pneumonia.
I held him awhile this morning and wept as I see him fighting for clear breaths of air in his infected lungs.
I am having to gently wipe his clogged nose every 2 hours with a warm wet cloth for him to be able to breath and his poor nose is so sore and swollen.
I looked into his weak but ever so beautiful yellow eyes this morning and I see my boy is fading fast. His spine is bony and he is losing ground rapidly.
My vet say's he is quickly losing his battle and I must choose to let go.
I do not believe in keeping a suffering animal just for selfish reasons of not wanting to let go and quality of life is important to me.
but I so am struggling with this as I am wishing for a miracle that I know in truth will not come. He looks at me as if to say: "I love you. You helped me when I needed you most and made my last year a happy one filled with love and lots of good food and attention, but now I am very sick and it is time to help me one last time."
I know what must be done and I am going to do right by this precious boy who deserved so much more in life. But it hurts so much that I got to him too late.
It hurts worse to accept that I could not save him no matter how hard I tried.
This has been a TERRIBLE year for me as I have lost 5 cats due to old age related illnesses and to lose 5 in one year is devastating. And to know that O.J will be number 6 is tearing me apart. I will post on the memorial site when I help him cross the bridge, but for now, I just want a few more days with my precious O.J before saying our final goodbyes. This is the part of rescue that I HATE.
The joy of rescue is abundant but the loss of a rescued animal is heartbreaking.It is a pain that never leaves you.
Learning to let go is never easy and never hurts less, only more.
Today, I am going to hold O.J and kiss him and carry him around in my arms like a baby and cherish every moment I have left with him as the clock is ticking.
But for this very moment he is alive and will remain so in my heart, long after he is gone.
I love you and always will My Precious O.J
I love you always and forever My sweet O.J

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