Many residence of the Camarillo Oaks Apartment complex fed the stray cats. We were among them. I am not sure when we started to but it made us feel like we were helping out the unwanted cat population just a little bit. The “dumb-dumb kitty gang”, as we affectionately called them, consisted of just three or four cats.
La Luna was the oldest of the bunch. He was a timid, long haired, brown and white feline who liked to sleep on the neighbor lady’s chair during the day. According to the apartment lore, he was left at Paseo Camarillo more than 13 years ago and everyone just took care of her. Although the one with the most seniority, La Luna did not lead this gang of fur and preferred to just rest, relax and enjoy the sun.
Rosco was the cute little gray cat that was not really a stray as he was owned by one of the apartment dwellers. He was an inside/outside cat and enjoyed hanging out with the gang and eating the many meals that were left outside for them. Rosco was gentle-natured and would wander into anyone’s house if they let him. He proudly wore his little shiny collar and name-tag almost as a status symbol. Even with this fancy bling, he was not the leader.
Scardy kitty was the name we bestowed on the feral, silver cat that rushed away each time we got within six feet of him. He had gentle eyes but a timid personality. He too would not fight for the throne but would follow the pecking order for food and water.
Finally, there was the yet-to-be named black tuxedo cat that did appear to be the gang leader. This cat got to eat first, lead the traveling pack and even kicked La Luna out of her chair when it felt like it. Before we ever started feeding the gang, I met the black and white tuxedo unexpectedly while taking out the trash. We both startled each other and then continued on with our business. I never dreamed that this little tuxedo fuzz-ball would one day be my roommate and friend.
We fed this group of felines regularly for at least six months to a year before one day the little two-toned cat walked into out apartment and sat on our big red chair. My husband, Dave slowly closed the door after a few minutes and the cat did not even make a slight move for the door. “I guess we have a cat”, Dave said after the door finally closed shut. The neighbor lady later told us that she saw some local kids picking on this tuxedo and she thought that he moved in with us because the cat was aware that we did not have any children and he had enough with the kids outside.
We both enjoyed our new roommate. At first the cat was timid not even letting us give a pet. The tuxedo ate, drank and used the litter box but was still a little shy of touch. The day that my husband was able to reach under the table and touch the soft paw was one filled with jealousy and happiness for me. We had a pet! Soon after that we were both able to give affection to the new family member. Dave decided to name our new friend Sam, after a female lead in the 90′s TV series, University Hospital.
A few weeks passed and we noticed that the cat was putting on weight and that the nipples were really red and sore. We also found it odd that he suddenly moved in with us. After doing some internet research we came to the conclusion that the reason that Sam moved in was not the neighbor kids but pregnancy. Dave was in the Navy and had been given orders to move to New Orleans in December. It was now October. We knew that the animal shelters did not take in pregnant cats or newly birthed kittens. We made a very difficult decision to save one cat instead of no cats. Dave made many calls to various vets looking for someone that would do late term cat abortions. He located one place, about an hour and a half away, that could squeeze us in.
Early on September 20, 2005, we drove to the Animal Birth Control Clinic in Los Angeles, CA. We arrived early due to lack of traffic. Once the clinic opened we took Sam the cat inside for the appointment. The doctor quickly returned and told us that not only was the cat not pregnant, it was a neutered male. Would we like the 3-in-1 treatment? In tears of happiness, because we were not “kitten killers”, I told her “yes”. Before heading back we asked about the weight gain and she thought it was due to regular feedings. The red nipples? This was most-likely a flea allergy so we were given a flea treatment. We returned home filled with joy and relief.
We soon learned that Sam the cat LOVED his collar. We think that he associated a collar with being “owned”. He really was loving having a roof over his head and his collar was the key to this happiness. He became quite upset and vocal if his collar fell off often showing us where it fell and telling us about it with a loud meow.
Fast forward to February. We were supposed to move to New Orleans in December but due to lack of housing because of Hurricane Katrina the orders were delayed. (We would have felt awful if we did terminate the pregnancy now as the kittens would have been old enough for adoption.) Sam was now a member of the family and quite happy. Then the movers arrived. We put the cat in the restroom so he would not bet underfoot. When the movers finished taking all of our things we let Sam out of the room. He started having a panic attack complete with meows and shakes. He did not understand that he was coming with us. It took a while to calm him down but we were able to give him pets and comforts and he was back to normal.
The cross-country trip was successful. Soon we moved into our small one bedroom apartment in Metairie, Louisiana. Which is 30 minutes outside of New Orleans. Sam the cat adjusted to his new home quickly. In August 2008 Sam was having some problems with his teeth. Upon further investigation by the vet, we were told that he had lymphocytic plasmacystic stomatitis. (He was allergic to his teeth.) Apparently this was “good news” as the other things that can cause bad gums/teeth is feline leukemia and AIDS. We were given some medication to help with the inflammation and pain. We were told that one option to treat this is to remove all of his teeth. Due to his young age we decided that it would not be necessarily to do this yet. We decided to try the medicine first.
Living in New Orleans we knew we had to deal with hurricanes. On August 25, 2008 we evacuated to Dallas for hurricane Gustav. Sam the cat did not like traveling all the way to Texas. He cried almost the entire trip. Fortunately for him, we did not evacuate for hurricane Isaac in August 2012. Instead he enjoyed looking out the window at the harsh winds and rain. He was less happy about the lack of air conditioning.
In April 2009 we finally moved to our condo in Jefferson, LA. Sam LOVED his new home. It had two floors, stairs to run on and windows to look outside. He even got a second scratcher tree. Once we had more space, we started having people over weekly to watch bad, b-rated movies with us. (Bad Movie Night) At first Sam did not like company and hid under the bed when people came over. Over time Sam got used to our weekly guests and even started watching bad movies with us on his purple beanbag chair. He even would “yell at us” (meow) when our guests would stay too late in his mind. He would tell us, loudly, that they should leave and then he would “escort” our guests out by showing them the staircase and the front door. It was really cute watching him do this. He also established Joe as his favorite person next to Sioux and Dave. (Mom and Dad) After a few years of regular visits he enjoyed having our weekly visitors.
We learned that Sam loved both of us but had different ways of showing it. He head butted Sioux while he cheeked and cleaned Dave. He often rolled over to receive belly rubs from us both. He also enjoyed watching birds and squirrels both through the windows and on “cat TV” (Youtube)
In 2013 Sam was supposed to get all of his teeth removed due to his lymphocytic plasmacystic stomatitis getting worse. Due to his age, the vet felt that it was better for him to have the surgery now rather than later. It was a tough decision but we agreed to have this procedure. On the morning of his surgery the vet was doing routine pre-op blood-work and discovered a high white blood count. After confirming with a specialist it was determined that he had lymphoma and would only live two-six weeks. He would feel little pain and was too bad off for successful chemo treatment. It was decided to let him live his remaining weeks as spoiled as possible.
We did have to put him on some pain medication (Buprenorphine) as well as increasing the Prednisone that he was already on for his teeth. Even in his last few weeks he let Dave and Sioux rub his soft belly and he enjoyed watching “cat TV”. He even made it to the kitchen on Bad Movie Nights to try to escort the guest out. He was a cat and LOVED being a cat up to the very end.
R.I.P Sam the cat
Around 9:15 p.m. on January 6, 2014 Sam the cat left us. Both Dave and I were with him when he passed petting and comforting him. It did not seem like he suffered a lot – a few minutes of bad breathing and then nothing. He made it one day more than the vet gave him. (She said 2-6 weeks and he made it 6 weeks and one day.) What a wonderful companion and a very good cat. He is already missed.
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