A very special anniversary… ❤️

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Just a quick post to mark that it was two years ago today that we adopted our cat Mara from the SSPCA. As Mara is a rescue cat we don’t know when her birthday is or even how old she is but we like to celebrate the day we adopted her, and this is a very special anniversary as we weren’t sure that she would even still be here to celebrate it at all.

Back in January when our vet diagnosed the lump we’d found on her tail as a mast cell tumour, they had warned us that she might only have six to twelve months left. The vets amputated her tail to give her the best chance of survival, but the next six months were full of blood tests, ultrasound scans, x-rays and fine needle aspirates to ensure the cancer had not originated or spread elsewhere. It was a relief for all of us in July when the oncology department at the small animal hospital finally gave us the all clear, and we’re so grateful to all the vets who have helped us.

We all still miss that fluffy, tabby tail crooked like a question mark when she walked around, thrashing from side to side when she played or curling round our wrists when she was asleep, but nowhere near as much as we’d miss Mara if we hadn’t found the lump in time. Mara has been so brave and resilient throughout it all, she made a full recovery and adapted with no continence issues or loss of balance and mobility, and she is still every bit as affectionate, mischievous and curious as the day we adopted her.

Back then, we were newly-weds just back from our honeymoon, when we visited the rehoming centre to look for a potential new addition to our little family. I still remember seeing the tabby and white cat pressed up against the door of her enclosure and rearing up on her hind legs to let us stroke her when we went in to say hello. Bringing her home, we were almost as nervous as we were excited, as she was the first pet either my husband or I had had since leaving our family homes, and it seemed like such a big responsibility, yet Mara easily settled in with us, quickly becoming the centre of our world and the beating heart of our home. Now, two years later we are happy to have an excuse to spoil her a little more than usual today – even if she steadfastly refuses to let me take a photo of her wearing a party hat. Have a lovely week.

At Home with Mara-cat

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Our evenings and weekends lately have been spent at home as my husband and I tackle various projects around the house and garden, before changing out of our muddy, paint splattered clothes to play games on the rug with our cat Mara or snuggled up on the sofa with her stretched across our laps. Mara is recovering well from her recent operation, and is almost back to her scampering, chatty and cuddly self.

So many of our daily rituals revolve around Mara: our mornings invariably start with the sound of her plaintive mewing for breakfast, and our evenings end with her wishing us “goodnight” in her own way by nuzzling her face against each of ours in turn before she settles down to sleep by my ankles. Mara is almost always there waiting behind the front door to welcome us home when we’ve been out, and she often follows us around the house like a little shadow as we go about our routines and chores.

I’ll never forget the day we brought Mara home from the rescue centre: When we released her from the cat carrier into our bedroom, after a quick exploration of the room, she jumped up on our bed and began affectionately butting heads with us. Mara was timid and unsure, but seemed overjoyed to be out of the cattery and eager to bond with us. Since then, our home has very much become her home with all her countless toys, dens and miscellanea scattered everywhere, and scratch marks on the upholstery to prove it. Many of our friends (even those with pets of their own) think we spoil Mara, but from the moment we adopted her, she has given us so much love, affection and companionship that it always seems like a fair trade.

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Hanging in pride of place on our living room wall is a framed picture of the three of us drawn by web-comic artist Li Chen. My husband commissioned it shortly after we adopted Mara and it was our Christmas present to each other that year. To us, it represents that no matter what happens or where we go, Mara will always be part of our little family and home.

We often lament that we have no photos of Mara as a kitten, though we imagine she must have been very cute given how kittenish some of her mannerisms still are. We knew so little about her when we adopted her, only that she had to be rehomed because her previous owner died, and even her age is estimated.

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Mara has had such a lot of upheaval over the last couple of years from losing her previous owner and everything familiar to being adopted by us, moving house with us at the end of last year and most recently having her tail amputated after we found a malignant tumour near the base of it. Yet throughout everything, Mara has shown such bravery and resilience, and given us her unwavering trust and unconditional love. Whatever the future holds for us all, I’ll always be grateful for Mara, and I’ll cherish every moment we’ve spent together. Have a lovely week.

Our purr-fect patient

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Mara before the operation

A little while ago, my husband found a lump about 3mm wide and 8mm long near the base of our cat Mara’s tail. Our vet took samples but didn’t seem particularly concerned. About a week later, the vet called us to advise that the lump was a malignant tumour and they recommended operating to remove it, because this type of tumour was particularly invasive and reactive; they also apologised that they hadn’t recognised it at first as they never see tumours at such an early stage. We were warned that the location of the lump meant tail amputation might be necessary. It came as a shock because in every other respect Mara seemed perfectly healthy; eating, playing, grooming and cuddling as normal.

It was painfully reminiscent of when my family’s cat Peach died of cancer. It was me who took Peach to the vet when he stopped eating, became lethargic and breathless, and I also brought his body home after the vet called to tell me Peach had died in his arms.

My husband and I took the day of Mara’s operation off work. Signing the consent form warning us that some animals don’t wake up from the general anaesthetic and about the risks of unexpected complications during surgery made leaving Mara there difficult. We spent most of the day driving, as there were too many reminders of Mara at home and it was too quiet there without her. We tried to distract each other but couldn’t stop ourselves from anxiously checking our phones every few moments. My husband answered the vet’s call, they had unfortunately had to amputate Mara’s tail as they found a second smaller lump next to the first, but she had woken up from the anaesthetic and we were able to have her home that evening. We both shed tears of relief and sorrow.

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Mara slept on me every night for a week after the operation

Our world shrunk as we wrapped ourselves around Mara to make sure she was as comfortable and pain-free as possible in the days after her operation. Mara has been a purr-fect patient, she’s a very special little lady, and she was soon back to affectionately butting heads with us (albeit awkwardly because of the cone she has to wear to stop her from licking her wound), squeaking for her food that she gobbled up despite the medication hidden in it, and sleeping stretched out on my torso every night after the operation.

It’s hard to explain to those who don’t have pets just how much love and joy they bring to a home, but also how much we worry when our animal companions are injured or unwell. Many of us consider our pets to be members of the family, and often it is the daily routines of feeding, petting, playing with them or even washing their bowls and litter trays that ground us in the here and now when other personal and global events seem overwhelming.

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Enjoying some cuddles with the cone off

We’ve been touched by the messages and calls from well-wishing family and friends, and we’re so thankful to our vets who acted quickly and decisively to give Mara the best chance of survival, and for all their advice and after-care. There are unfortunately more procedures and tests on the horizon for Mara, but for now we are just relieved and grateful to have her recovering at home with us.