Baby Nico Fenton, 1991-2009

March 30, 2009

Against All Odds

Peaceful Paws Pet Memorial

The odds were overwhelmingly stacked against the scrawny orange tabby picked up by Hawaiian Humane Society workers. Found in one of the worst sections of Honolulu, the kitten somehow managed to avoid the dire fate of his mother and littermates, who did not survive. However no one expected his stay at the shelter to be anything more than a temporary reprieve from the inevitable. Like most shelters, there were too many cats and too many kittens, far more attractive and appealing than the gangly orange striped guy. As if aware of his impending fate, the orange kitten tried to befriend everyone he encountered, flinging himself into laps and rappelling up to shoulders, but still largely overlooked by potential adopters.

I went to the shelter in search of a companion for my young cat, Princess Mewsette (see prior tribute) who would be alone during the day when I returned to work after an extended medical leave. Sitting in the cat house, surrounded by all types of felines, I was overwhelmed by the choices. Ultimately I wanted to choose a cat buddy who would make Mewsette happy-not necessarily the cutest or most beautiful. At a loss, I asked the young volunteer sitting next to me which of two kittens he would choose in my position. Instead, he pointed to a skinny orange cat sidling up to us. I asked why and he said simply, "Because it's his last day." Of course, he went home with me and I named him Nico, after a tough early Steven Seagal character - never realizing how resilient he really was.

Arriving home, Baby Nico immediately fell in love with the beautiful and ultimately unattainable Princess Mewsette, who loathed him on sight. He didn't care and spent the rest of his life trying to win her affection. Besides persistence and optimism, his other special talents included REALLY high jumping and back flips, grooming human females' hair and actually catching a big Hawaiian rat that made the fatal mistake of falling though an exposed section of roof during repairs.

But it was his sheer toughness which impressed me the most about Baby Nico. When he was a year or two, a large kitty condo toppled over onto him, paralyzing his rear legs. I feared for his life but the vet suggested we maintain him on strict bed rest and see if the swelling on his spine went down. It did and he regained all normal functions, although he never again exhibited the super cat jumping prowess.

Then a year later, Nico developed a terrible urinary tract blockage due to struvite crystals. None of the conventional treatments, including catheterization, worked. In kitty ICU, we were losing him when our vet suggested a new surgical treatment which would modify his plumbing from male to female. We had nothing to lose and in days Nico was discharged, never to have urinary tract problems again while leaving his ardor for Mewsette intact.

Peaceful Paws Pet Memorial
We moved to San Diego in December, 1995 and by then, there were 4 cats, two younger than Baby Nico. For reasons unknown to me, he remained low cat on the totem pole, sometimes picked on and sometimes excluded by both the cats and the dogs who later shared our home. He never seemed to take it to heart. He remained outgoing, fearless and affectionate. Nothing scared him and no one got the better of him. He grew into a very handsome cat, with distinctive stripes and tabby markings and large golden eyes. His paws were surprisingly delicate. Every night, he would curl up on my pillow, next to my head, shielded from the others.

Harley passed in October, 2007 due to liver cancer and Princess Mewsette died in February, 2008 from cancer as well. After she died, Nico would try to run into the garage - which he'd never done prior to her death. I believe he was looking for her - last seen in her carrier, going to the car for her ultimate trip to the vet. Over the past 9 months, Baby Nico began losing weight, despite a ravenous appetite. Always lean and muscular, he became thin and gaunt. His checkups and lab work remained normal. His thinness became pronounced and his episodes of vomiting more frequent and unfortunately copious. Again, in July of 2008, he went to the vet. Again his lab work was good. Over the holidays, I was convinced something was terribly wrong but I dreaded finding out what it was.

Back to the vet in early February and he'd lost another 2 pounds since July. We tested again for hyperthyroidism, an easily treatable disorder, but no such luck. All symptoms indicated cancer or another type of internal growth. No longer hungry, Nico went to the vet for the last time on February 26, 2009. He was quiet and without protest when confronted with the hateful kitty carrier. He didn't even care that I used Mewsette's, the pink one, instead of his manly green one.

The short 5 minute trip was somber. The exam confirmed the worst-another week, another pound lost. A mere 6.5 pounds, handsome Nico was truly skin and bones. After much discussion and emotion, it was agreed to end his earthly suffering. At 18, he would not likely survive surgery and chemo was not really a better option.

The first injection, intended to relax Nico, was administered. It had the opposite effect, provoking violent nausea and vomiting. Eventually he calmed down and slept in my shaking arms. Then came the IV administration of the fatal dose-or so we thought. After a few minutes, the vet checked his heart and discovered he still lived! Tough little guy that he was, Nico had not yet given up the fight. I of course second-guessed my decision (He's not ready) but ultimately Ok'ed the second dose which finally released him from us.

I've no doubt the first thing Baby Nico did when he crossed the Rainbow Bridge was to find his beloved Princess Mewsette, his one and only true love. She, on the other hand, was probably really annoyed, "That damn orange cat is BACK!"

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