Tish had lived at the Rescue Center since 2000, when she came from an extreme situation in Pennsylvania of abuse, malnutrition, and unbearable conditions living among feces and rotting meat. She and her cage mate, Goldie, fit in well at the center with similar stories to many of the cats housed here.
Unfortunately Goldie passed a few years back, before my time at the Rescue Center, but Tish was still there when I arrived. Basking in the sun on the top level of her climbing tower, eyes closed and a small bit of her tongue sticking out the front of her mouth, she looked down at passer-byers as if she were a statue of noble grace and beauty. Of course she was all of that. She would often lie along the fence side waiting for keepers to come by, rub her side while she most appreciatively 'ohmed' with thanks. ('Ohming' is a friendly lion noise...sounds like...ooohhhmmm...)
This past summer, Tish was no longer excreting waste. Keepers would scour the grounds in hunt of even the smallest fecal sample hidden within the long summer grasses. However, it was never found and her appetite soon ceased as well. She was taken in for ultrasound and found that she had a massive back-up in her intestines.
During surgery, over 10 pounds of feces, straw, and fur were pulled from within her. It was also, most obvious, that she was suffering from pancreatic cancer....in humans a very fatal type of cancer leaving only but weeks to live. The pancreas controls enzyme function in the small intestine, helping to breakdown proteins, fats, and carbs. With little to no function, Tish was unable to breakdown her meals, thus severely clogging her up.
However, Tish came out of surgery in remarkable shape. Returning to normal conditions: eating, drinking, and excreting waste. She ran around her enclosure, played on her tower, and waited for the keeper scratches through the fence. We still hunted for her feces, but normally one (very large) pile was found daily...no worries. She soon found the nickname 'Squish' from being so compacted with squish material.
In late December we had a harder time finding her feces...when we did they once again had straw and lots of fur in it. We started finding random piles of vomit as well and worried Tish may have fallen back into her summer ways....compacted because of pancreatic function. She would take her food, but the next day we would pull it out of her house untouched. We knew with her age (approx. 15) she would not be able to undergo another surgery nor would it be fair to keep her alive knowing her pancreas was slowly shutting down.
She ended up not interested in food and quit drinking water. She stayed in her box most of the day, seldomly coming out. She would 'ohm' when we called her name, just to let us know she was there, but the rubs not as important as they once were. Vomiting was a daily routine.
Unfortunately, this past Wednesday we had to put Tish down. Although sad, her life lived at the rescue was nothing short of fabulous, relaxing, and loving. A necropsy (autopsy for animals) will be performed to see the cause of death, although we expect nothing less than failure of her pancreas and another back-up just like the one this summer. She will be cremated, her ashes returning to the center just as every cat before her. Like it says on the website, the Rescue Center provides permanent homes for big cats.
...a young squish on her tower...