In Loving Memory of

LEMON

2002(?) - June 4, 2015

 Picture of Lemon

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About Lemon

Lemon came into our lives at the beginning of 2007. We already had one indoor cat, Faith, when Lemon showed up tired and hungry near our back door.

We put out food and though she was fearful at first, she began to trust us as her food source. We named her Lemon because of her beautiful bright lemon-yellow eyes. At first I thought she was a feral cat, but she habituated to our presence too fast for that to be likely. I presume she was an abandoned pet, since she had no ID tag or chip.

We soon noticed that she was pregnant so it was too late to try to get her to our vet to be spayed. At the time, South Florida was experiencing one of our occasional cold spells and we were concerned that she would have her kittens outside in the cold weather. I looked on the Internet for information on cat birthing. I was confident Lemon could handle things herself if we could provide her with a suitable place to have her kittens.

We began to get her used to entering our garage for food. At first we left the door open so she could go right out after eating, but over a period of time we closed it while she was eating, then later let her stay in the garage a few hours, then overnight, and eventually she got used to spending more and more time inside.

Lemon on train table

She decided our model train table was a nice place to rest.

We started by letting her come into the garage for food and water, and added a litter box inside as well.

Lemon entering garage

Kittens Nursing

We built a box out of scrap plywood about three feet long and two-and-a-half feet wide to give her plenty of room. Sanding the wood to prevent splinters, and countersinking the screws to provent sharp edges, we lined the bottom with a piece of old carpet. We next added an old comforter that a neighbor's kid brought over, and then cut up strips of newspaper to provide Lemon with plenty of nesting material, as we could tell the time was near.

When she was about to deliver, she started looking for a place outside but we quickly got her into the box in the garage and she seemed satisfied with that. By this time it was quite late at night and though I wanted to monitor the birth, I fell asleep and woke up to see three kittens nursing.

Click below to see video of kittens nursing

The day after she gave birth, we noticed that Lemon was still bleeding a little and we were afraid there may have been another unborn kitten inside her, so we took her to our vet. Of course we also brought the kittens with her in the carrier, so she would not freak out. All the veterinary assistants wanted to see the newborns. The vet examined Lemon and felt for any problems but said she was fine and it was just a normal small litter. He cleaned up a bit of remaining blood and she had no further problems.

Click to see more video of the young kittens

 

The Three Kittens

Tux

Lemon had two sons and a daughter.

Here is one of the boys, a longhaired Tuxedo cat named Tux.

Tux

Onyx

The other boy is an all-black shorthaired cat we named Onyx.

Onyx

Little Girl

Lemon's daughter was like Tux, a longhaired Tuxedo. Her original name was Curly, but we usually just call her Little Girl. She likes to curl up next to a concrete lion decoration we have on the patio.

Little Girl

As the kittens grew, we had to add flattened cardboard boxes to extend the height of the queening box sides so that the kittens couldn't climb out and escape. It was obvious that the kids were quickly eclipsing their mom in size as they started eating solid food and grew rapidly.
 
 

Our First Cat

Lemon was not our first experience with cats. One day, a hungry stray cat wandered over to our house looking for food.

We started feeding her and she gradually habituated to our presence, even coming close enough to touch. She was obviously not a feral cat, since she eventually started coming inside the house, but insisted on going outside as well. I much prefer indoor-only cats since their lives are much safer, but the acclimation process to an indoor lifestyle takes time.

In late 2005 Hurricane Wilma struck South Florida and we had to keep the cat inside during and for a while after the storm. She was none too happy about this.  When we finally let her out after most of the storm damage had been cleaned up and debris removed, she seemed overjoyed.  We hoped that the experience of her brief incarceration would not prevent her eventual transition into an indoor cat.

Tragically, we never had the chance to find out. A few weeks later some jerk in a speeding car ran over her on a nearby street. We knew that she spent most of her outdoor time near our house, but evidently she had been wandering a few blocks away as well. A man who witnessed the tragedy said the driver didn't even stop and see what he had done. He told us he removed her from the street but there was nothing that could be done to save her life.

We were very upset and weren't sure we ever wanted another cat. One thing for sure: any new cat(s) would be indoor-only animals.

First cat when we found her

First cat in laundry basket

When we first found her

She loved warm laundry

Our Other Two Cats

After our first cat, and before Lemon came to live with us, we took in a cat named Faith. She had been rescued off the street by a friend of a friend, but since her husband was allergic to cats they had to keep her out on their patio, even though she would whine and meow wanting to get into the house.

They realized this was not fair to her, so they decided to find a good home for her. Missing out first cat, we agreed to take her. Though we provided her with a comfy bed, she sometimes preferred a simple cardboard one.

Faith

Faith

Our newest family member was found hiding under an old car in our back yard that I had been planning on restoring. He was small and very thin, obviously malnourished. We started feeding him and brought him back to health and then had him fixed, like our other cats. We were going to name him Sweetie because of his affectionate disposition, but instead usually just call him Little Boy.


We got him adjusted to living on the patio so we could introduce him to the other cats outside their house territory. The others eventually accepted him, except for Little Girl, who frequently looks for ways to harass him; so when we are not at home we put him with Faith in the back bedroom.

Little Boy

Little Boy

Lemon was fortunate in that she got to spend her adult life with her beloved kittens. She would frequently lick and groom them and they would reciprocate. It was almost comical when big longhaired Tux would follow her around wanting attention. He loved his mommy and had severe separation anxiety whenever he was away from her for any length of time. She was usually very patient with him and seldom chased him away.

 

Click to see Lemon still cleaning grown-up Tux

Kitten Playtime

Onyx seemed to like trying to grab toys waved on a line in front of him, while Tux was just as happy playing in a plain old cardboard box.

Click to see Onyx and Tux having fun

One of the favorite toys for our cats is a track containing a ball to swat at and push around. Starting with a simple ring, we added track to make a more complex layout. With the longer track we also added more balls since the cats really seemed to like the clicking sound they made when hit together.
 

Click to see them playing with the track toys

All Grown Up

Tux and Lemon on bed

Lemon would often find a comfortable resting spot near one of her kittens.

Tux and Lemon

Lemon Wrapped Up

Onyx and Lemon

Lemon Wrapping Herself Up
 

Onyx and Lemon

Little Girl on Ladder Like all cats, Little Girl likes to find high places from which to watch the world.

Onyx with Lemon

Little Girl on cat scratcher

Lemon with Onyx

Little Girl on Cat Scratcher
 

Little Girl on Desk Three Kittens
Little Girl on Desk
 
Onyx, Little Girl and Tux
 
Tux Long Tux
Tux Relaxing

 
Tux Stretched Out
Christmas Kitty During the Christmas season, we had to tie the top of the Christmas tree to a hook in the ceiling so the cats could not tip it over. We also did not put ornaments on the lowest branches so that they would not become cat toys.
Tux Under Christmas Tree
 
Onyx Wrapped Up Onyx Wrapped Up
Onyx Likes to Wrap Himself Up In a Blanket
 
Lazy Faith
Faith Prefers to Just Lie On Top of One

The Years Go By

As time passed, we could see that Lemon was starting to slow down, but continued to enjoy lying in the sun and watching her kids. We are fortunate to have a nice screened-in patio and pool, so the cats can hang out and snooze either in the sun or shade, as they prefer. They have the benefit of being outside with the safety of being enclosed. Anytime we leave the house, of course, we bring them inside. While they have not fallen in the pool, we do not take chances by leaving them unattended.

Each day would begin with a familiar routine. After breakfast, as long as the weather was good they would head outside. Tux was almost always first in line at the patio door, since he wanted to look for lizards, though we tried to rescue them whenever the cats caught one. Little Boy was the best hunter, most likely because before we found him he probably survived on them.

On rainy days they were allowed to stay out if it was a light rain, because part of the patio is covered by the house roof. But if the electric field alarm at a nearby park sounded (indicating a chance of lightning), we got them in immediately.

 

Problems

While Lemon had always been found to be in good health during her vaccinations and veterinary checkups, in the Spring of 2015 we noticed her sneezing rapidly. It appeared to be an upper respiratory infection and we took her to our vet, who prescribed antibiotics. She had normal appetite and elimination, so we were not too concerned until it continued and got worse. We did not know for sure how old Lemon was, though our vet had estimated that she was at least 13 years old based on an examination of her teeth.

When we took her back to the vet he was concerned about a growth that was now visible in her palate, possibly growing into the nasal passages and probably a metastasis from tumor(s) elsewhere in her body. She was probably in pain, since she started hiding under the sofa as cats may do when they feel vulnerable. We suspected that this was not going to end well.

Even though the love and companionship of pets over the years more than makes up for anything else, there is nothing more agonizing than having to consider whether or not their quality of life has deteriorated to the point where euthanasia is the most humane option. There is seldom a definitive indicator; rather, one has to try to evaluate the current condition of the pet by examining their behavior and comparing it to how they acted when well.

No one wants them to suffer, but neither do you want them to be deprived of the joys of life prematurely by an irrevocable decision. If only they could talk and tell you whether or not they are in pain! Instead, you have to look for signs that they are suffering, many of which are extremely subjective.

In Lemon's case she still wanted to eat and drink, and she had no litter box problems. She continued to enjoy going out on the patio each morning. Yet she obviously had pain after eating, since she would paw at her mouth and we could see some blood on her paws afterward. While she did not vocalize or meow in pain, the fact that she hid in various places led us to believe that she was not enjoying her usual quality of life. She did continue to enjoy being petted and rubbed (avoiding the upper mouth near the growth); but we knew we could not let her suffer. It would only get worse.

Peace At Last

After a while, it became obvious that we had delayed the inevitable long enough. Lemon gazed up at us for help, obviously in distress; so we had her painlessly euthanized as we petted and reassured her. As the drugs took effect, she just totally relaxed and you could see that her pain was now gone.



Our friend and neighbor Marty made a beautiful memorial stone marker, which we placed at the spot in the back yard where we had first seen Lemon.

Memorial Stone

Rest In Peace, Lemon


Page created June 27, 2015

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