In addition to my life, Squeek touched a lot of lives as a “SNAP Cat.” She was, and still is, an inspiration for what I do, how I do it, and why.
I’m writing this here because I don’t think that I can bare telling the “Squeek Story” over and over again as friends, and people I’ve never met, ask how she’s doing. So, for those who know the “Squeek Story” you can go to the last paragraph if you’d like. For those who don’t, or for those who’d like to be reminded of what a wonderful gift she was, please indulge me for a few, cathartic minutes.
In early June, 2014, I received a call from a woman who had brought a litter of kittens to her vet for exams. One of the kittens wasn’t using hers back legs and appeared incontinent. The vet, who’ll remain anonymous in hopes they’ve since changed their opinion, recommended euthanizing the kitten. The woman didn’t want to, so she called us. After discussing the situation with her, I decided we’d take the kitten, named Squeek.
Squeek was the first high-maintenance special needs cat that we rescued. Up until that point we were helping our local shelters network their special needs cats. You see, we were looking for a facility and I didn’t want to have to move a lot of cats and I was sure we’d find a facility right away and… You know that story! But honestly, we’d been facility hunting for a year, and I thought it was now time to start taking high-maintenance special needs cats at SNAP Cats.
Squeek was six weeks old. One of the cutest kittens I had ever seen. Her back legs, indeed, didn’t move much. Squeek had maybe 10% mobility in them. Her back legs were also asymmetrical – the right leg was a bit longer than the left, and bowed inward. Regarding her being incontinent, yes, Squeek was incontinent. Definitely incontinent! There was nothing that I could do about the incontinence, but maybe I could get Squeek to use her back legs more.
Since Squeek didn’t use them much on land, I decided to see how she did with them in water. We started hydrotherapy. Squeek didn’t seem to mind the water (too much), so we spent about 20 minutes a day together in the bathtub. I noticed that when buoyant, Squeek would move her back legs quite a bit, so I decided to start a rigorous physical therapy program to see what we could do. I knew that she’d never walk. Her asymmetrical back legs took care of that. But maybe I could get her to stand on them; climb with them; maybe even use them to jump one day. Now that would be awesome.
The exercises weren’t anything revolutionary. I made Squeek chase her favorite feather toy back and forth across the floor so she’d learn use her back legs to push-off when changing directions. I had her walk diagonally across a slanted board so she’d have to use her lower back leg to keep from sliding down. (Squeek, of course, thought sliding down was the best part!) And I made Squeek climb a scratching post by dangling that favorite feather toy at the top. At first she’d only use her front legs and get about half way up before giving up. But soon Squeek figured out that by using her back legs as well she could get to the top and get that toy!
The more I worked with Squeek, the more I fell in love with her. She was incredible. Nothing stopped her. Nothing prohibited Squeek from getting what she wanted. She wasn’t special needs. She was just, well, special. I couldn’t imagine why anyone wouldn’t want Squeek. Then, one night while I was watching her play, I realized why not: her incontinence. Incontinent cats are extremely high maintenance; very difficult to adopt out. I realized that Squeek may never be adopted. And there was really nothing I could do about it.
Well, maybe there was.
I adopted Squeek on September 7th, 2014. I’ll never forget that day.
Meanwhile, I took Squeek to adoption events with me. She was the best ambassador SNAP Cats has ever had. I had gotten Squeek some Fancy Pants diapers, and she’d scoot around the floor/area just looking for someone to hold her. (The picture associated with this post is Squeek in her Fancy Pants “hearts” dipes.) I would engage people in discussion about special needs cats, about how all too often kittens, kittens like Squeek, would be euthanized due to their physical condition. Telling them this while they’re holding adorable Squeek was, well, priceless.
With therapy, Squeek’s mobility continued to improve. Her incontinence, however, was now requiring three-to-four dipes a day. She was a poop factory. Never stopped. Honestly. Never. So, instead of investing in more and more Fancy Pants, in November of 2014, I decided to get Squeek her own line of dipes. Thus, SNAP Wraps was born.
When Squeek was about one year-old, she had about 80% use of her back legs. She was climbing, jumping and standing on them. I had her in dipes during the day, and crated her at night to control the incontinence. My only real concern now was with Squeek’s persistent urinary tract/bladder infections. Seemed like every month she was on antibiotics trying to fight ‘em off. As much as I hated giving her the meds, she needed them. So, we continued, together, to try to stay healthy and happy.
After we (finally!) moved into our new home on Petaluma Road, everything was fine until about two weeks ago when I noticed Squeek had lost some weight. Honestly, she was probably a little overweight, so a little loss was okay I thought. Last week I noticed she had lost some more weight. But she was eating regularly and pooping up a storm so I let it go. About four days ago Squeek stopped eating her fave wet food (treats). She had also stopped pooping which now concerned me. Three days ago I tried to express her poop manually, but couldn’t get anything out. She was really constipated. Her urine came out clear, though. A little blood near the end but that was common with Squeek. Two days ago, no change, so I contacted Dr. Erin. Yesterday morning, Dr. Erin came over to look at Squeek. We were also going to look at White Shoes, one of my other cats, who had a nasty gash on his ear, surely the result of his antagonistic approach to the other cats here.
I looked in on Squeek at about 8:40am, right before Dr. Erin arrived. Squeek was okay. A little lethargic, but okay. Since White Shoes was going to require sedation, we went after him first. Of course, he sensed this and hid where we couldn’t find him. So, at 9:05am we gave up and I went to get Squeek. I knew the moment I walked into my bedroom that something was wrong. She always looked at me, with her big, round, beautiful brown eyes, whenever I came into my room. But she didn’t move. I wanted to think that she was just sleeping. In thought, maybe. But something told me it was worse than that. A sick feeling came over me; the same feeling that I had when I saw Pumpkin earlier this year. When I grabbed Squeek she was limp. I rushed her to Dr. Erin in the kitchen… but it was too late. Squeek was gone. Just like that. In just that short period of time, minutes, I had lost my little girl.
There are always so many whys. And so many maybes. Why didn’t we look at Squeek first. If we had maybe she’d still be alive. Why didn’t I do something sooner. Maybe she’d still be alive if I had. Why did this happen? We think that Squeek’s kidneys simply gave out. Too many infections. Too many unknowns.
As I mentioned in the first paragraph, Squeek inspires me to do what I do. And yes, with what I/we do here there will be a lot of heartbreaks. But, as one of my best friends reminded me yesterday, “You signed up for this.”
I only knew Squeek for a short time. Much shorter than I ever expected to. But she’ll live on, in my heart, forever.
I miss you, Squeek. And I love you very, very much.
My favorite Squeek video