Patina, the oldest cat in our foster system, passed away the night of June 13 at the advanced age of 24 years. She was in good health and good spirits until about a week before her passing.
When I took her in as a foster cat, she was 18 years old. An apartment manager called to report that a cat had been left alone after her owner went to jail. After she was in our shelter for a week or so, a man called to claim her, saying that her name was "Stinky" and that she was 18 years of age. We knew she was a senior but were surprised that she was that old. He said he was going to come and get her.
A couple more weeks went by, and Patina was miserable in the busyness of a cat shelter. The shelter atmosphere is often difficult for older cats to adapt to, and she really disliked other cats. She'd probably spent her life as an only cat so it must have come as a huge shock to her to find herself in a large room with about 20 other cats, separated from them by only the metal bars of her cage.
I had talked about fostering 'sometime' when I had a larger place or if there was a great need. Our foster coordinator asked me if I could take Patina because she was so unhappy. I agreed without thinking and brought her home with me on July 4, 2002.
She wasn't much happier in my place, at first. I had a two-bedroom apartment, which should have provided ample space for Patina and my other three cats, but Cleopatra (FR alum) was determined to make the new cat's life miserable. Lying in wait for Patina to come out of her hiding place in my closet and try to use the litter box, Cleo would race over and chase the poor cat away. I finally ended up closinig Patina in the bedroom, which seemed sad to me but Patina immediately perked up.
Cleopatra tried to burrow under the door during the day and cried and howled at night when I shut her out of the bedroom. The first month or so was absolutely horrible. I felt sorry for Patina and there wasn't anyone else who could take her. It was clear that she would be happiest in a home without other animals.
Fast forward to the summer of 2007. Patina is now 23 years old and I have three foster kittens in my home. Patina still keeps to herself a lot, but Cleopatra has long since stopped harassing her. Patina was curled up in the cat hammock that hangs from the windowsill in my home office. Next to her was Teddy, the orange tabby kitten. I was pretty confident that she had been there first and he had made himself comfortable next to her, but still. She hadn't growled and chased him off.
Earlier this year, I bought an overstuffed chair for my office so I would have a place to read or do paperwork that was more comfortable than the computer desk. I have used the chair about twice. It was instantly taken over by several of my female cats. And there with Samantha, Cleopatra and Nimue was….Patina. Relaxed and happy, cuddled up with her feline friends.
I had tears in my eyes as I grabbed my camera to record the momentous event. Whenever someone tells me that they have to find another home for their cat because it doesn't get along with another animal, I think of Patina and how she was able to overcome her dislike of other cats and finally become one of my pride of cats. Of course, you have to be willing to stick it out for 3,4,5 years but it is possible.
Patina liked to sleep on my pillow, with her front paws on my neck or upper arm, so I learned to sleep in position so she wouldn't be disturbed. She gave wonderful massages with her tiny declawed paws. She loved her canned cat food and was always willing to eat a hearty meal. She was bold at the vet's office, willing to get out and walk around to check things out. She learned to tolerate other cats and even more amazingly, large dogs. I think basically she felt they weren't really worth her notice.
The last few days of her life, when she was unwell and I knew it was a matter of time before she would leave me, she was sleeping elsewhere, on a towel on the bathroom floor, in a laundry basket , on top of the wooden chest at the end of my bed. The last two nights, though, she came and slept with me again in the old way, snugly purring in my ear.
I am sad that she is gone, but I am so happy that I was the one who was asked to take her and so happy that I took the chance on her. Six years goes by so fast, but it was a good ride while it lasted.
Here are some photos of Patina (dilute tortie) snuggled up with the friends she made.