Six Years of Ki’o

kio in garden 0820

Today is Na Ki’o’s foundling day. He came to live with us six years ago today, which we think makes him about 12 1/2 years old.

Since we don’t often know our pets’ origins, figuring out an actual birthdate is often a challenge. Guessing at Marrakesh’s birth year comes with wild swings, since the animal welfare league put him around 10 at the time of our acquisition but his vet guessed closer to 5. Never mind a birth day. So we go with foundling days, the days the animals took up residence with us.

For Oz we were given a single-page vet record, which listed both a birthdate and year, but we still ignore his birthday in favor of his foundling day, which is in October.

None of our pets came with some of the awful stories of other adopted pets. Kara’s sister recently rescued a hairless guinea pig (apparently the hair has been bred right off their backs for the amusement of rich people) that was turned into a Denver shelter after being found on a street in a box with a gaping wound in its back.

Kara herself has ended up with a developmentally disabled duck, rescued from an attack by dogs. Wilma is blind and moves in circles, but she has a very cushy life in Kara’s backyard (and sometimes in Kara’s living room).

Na Ki’o came to us with a host of health issues, primarily diabetes. As we understand it, his early life was spent at the foot of the bed of an elderly woman, and he had ballooned up to 23 pounds by the time the woman went into some sort of group living where she couldn’t take Ki’o, a black male cat whose name once upon a time was “Honey.”

Probably because he was 23 pounds, he developed diabetes while under the care of the animal welfare league, and then he precipitously lost about half that weight as they tried to medicate without insulin. In fairness, insulin can be expensive and intimidating to administer, particularly in an organization that at the time relied on an exclusively volunteer force.

Ki’o had been in the care of welfare league for 18 months when we adopted him. I’d seen him on an earlier poster outside the door at my shop, where they noted, “This guy has been with us for a long time and we can’t figure out why.”

By the time Lynn and I decided that Khonsu was missing her littermate Qenti, lost to kidney disease, the poster was now reading that Ki’o was diabetic. A cat in their care for a year and a half who was now diabetic? Who else would take him? Lynn and I realized an obligation when we saw one. After all, we were practically professionals at feline diabetes.

My first diabetic cat was Admiral Tiberius MacDuff, who clearly had many people interested in naming him. He started life as my sister Tia’s cat, but defaulted to me when the family up and left the two of us in Gunnison as everyone else moved. (This happened when I was in my 20s, so my claims of abandonment probably aren’t going to get me very far.)

MacDuff, whom I usually referred to simply as “Gato,” got sick when he was 12. The vet who diagnosed him as diabetic gave him six months to live; I finally said good-bye to him six and a half years later.

When Lynn moved to Gunnison, she left behind a pair of cats in Wisconsin, cats she was sure wouldn’t have survived the car trip. (She did not abandon them any more than my family abandoned MacDuff and me — they went as a pair to a good home.)

I hadn’t had a cat since MacDuff died, being more of a dog person, but I felt bad that Lynn didn’t have her cats. And when my friend Marty found out, she just happened to mention the kittens her cat had. We went to get one and came home with both, Khonsu and Qenti, whom I called Squinty. And then both of them developed diabetes.

We could wonder if it’s me, but it turns out that diabetes is quite common in house cats. Perhaps, like their human counterparts, their lifestyle and food lead to obesity which can get to diabetes, although both Khonsu and Squinty were indoor-outdoor cats who hunted, and Khonsu, the bigger of the two, checked in at seven pounds.

In Ki’o’s case, however, his lack of exercise and fondness for gustatory delights are pretty obvious culprits in his health issues.

There he was, a ward of the welfare league which didn’t have either the financial or human resources to properly care for a diabetic, and Khonsu seemed rather at loose ends without Squinty around. We went to try to meet Ki’o at his foster person’s apartment.

Like women everywhere (in a gross generalization), his foster person felt compelled to clean her apartment before we arrived, and the vacuum sent Ki’o into hiding under a bed. To this day he is still not a fan of the vacuum, and more likely than not to make a run for it if strangers enter the house.

Our meeting thus wasn’t going well. Technically, it wasn’t going at all, although it was clear his foster person had quite a fondness for him. She was on a fixed income, though, and caring for his medical issues was beyond her means.

After a second attempt at a meeting in which he scooted back under the bed, the welfare league volunteer suggested we just opt for an in-home trial. We left; they waited until Ki’o calmed down and crated him; and then we brought him to our house.

There’s a whole protocol you are supposed to undertake to introduce strange cats to each other, putting the new cat in a closed room, letting the cats test each other out through the door, then putting their food dishes on either side of the door . . . weeks down the road you opt for a nose-to-nose meeting.

We did put Ki’o in an upstairs room, but I think the door remained closed for a couple of hours. He and Khonsu hit it off about the same as Khonsu and Squinty, born of the same parents. Which is to say they generally ignored one another, although every once in awhile they would interact in a manner mostly playful. (It’s how Ki’o and Marrakesh get along too.)

But Khonsu perked up and no longer seemed bereft, and once we got Ki’o’s insulin stabilized (he was badly out of control, blood sugar wise) and determined he also had pancreatitis, he made himself right at home.

We did have some feeding struggles, because Ki’o is never — I mean never — to be trusted with readily-available food, and Khonsu had spent all her years eating at will. It worked for awhile because Na Ki’o didn’t like going to the lowest level of the house, but once he learned there was food there he overcame all his qualms.

He still wasn’t fond of the garage, however, and since Khonsu spent hours hanging out at the top of a set of shelves (Club Khonsu), we just put her food and water up there. Marrakesh has the same issue. We bought him a hugely expensive feeder, but he would rather take his food in the garage (Club Marrakesh) where Ki’o so far hasn’t been anxious to explore. He’s starting to figure out there might be food there, though.

For a food-mongering, puffy (gentlemanly girth) cat, he’s been a great addition to the family, six years along now and hopefully many more ahead of us.

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