This is Jonathan, a kitten I fostered who has had a complicated life. Now he’s back with me, after a particularly hard time, and he’s just as affectionate and bossy as ever.

Jonathan laying on top of my hand while I'm trying to type.
Jonathan is one of those cats who uses his paws to guide you into doing what you should be doing. Here, he makes it clear that I shouldn’t be typing.

In 2009, I thought maybe we could foster some cats or kittens to bring a little life to our lives. My cat Max had passed about five years prior, but Dan and I weren’t ready to adopt another cat. I looked into the rescue organizations in our area; Independent Animal Rescue (IAR) impressed me, partly because they were still going strong after their founder had left; they seemed exceptionally functional as an organization. They turned out to be a really good choice.

After our fostering application was accepted, we were assigned a case manager, Eliana. One night she brought us three kittens who had been born under a porch in Winston-Salem.

They were a little hissy and scared, but Eliana was confident they’d come around and trust us fairly quickly — and they did!

I named Jonathan first, then Dan named the other orange tabby Jack and the tortie Eliza. They were so cute! Jonathan was especially scared and afraid of hands, which is a thing with some cats, especially cats who aren’t used to people.

We did become attached to them. Jonathan especially became my baby, constantly jumping onto my lap under my desk.

It was hard letting them go, but they were adopted by an excellent family who I knew would take great care of them. Still, I worried a little whether I was breaking Jonathan’s trust by sending him away… it seemed like the right thing to do, though.

Something happened with the family, and IAR took them back as stipulated in their adoption contract. I’m so grateful that the organization was able to find another person to foster them; I was going through household upheaval and wasn’t able to.

After a trial adoption that didn’t work out, he was finally adopted again by a lovely young woman in Durham in November 2019.

On 10/7/2022, he was discovered alone in an empty residence. His adopter had died, very tragically.

Jonathan had been alone with no one feeding him, or holding him, for two weeks. He had lost a lot of weight — down to 9 pounds from a healthy 13 — and he looked pretty bad. I’d read the phrase “ragged fur”, but now I know what that actually looks like.

The apartment manager who found him found my phone number and left me a message. Unfortunately I didn’t get it until the next day, and she had to act immediately, so she called Wake County Animal Control.

As soon as I got the message, I called the apartment manager. She wasn’t completely sure where he’d been taken, so I searched and found two possibilities in Raleigh: the ASPCA shelter and Wake Animal Center. I called both, but it was Saturday and nobody answered. I left messages. I had an appointment to go to, but immediately afterward, after thinking it over, I drove the hour to get to the Wake Animal Center.

The front desk confirmed that they did have Jonathan — and they even had his name — but they have a ten-day hold period for legal reasons. They couldn’t even let me see him. I ended up asking someone in the hall if she’d take my phone and photograph him; I just wanted to see him to see how bad it was. That’s not true; I really wanted to hold him and tell him everything was going to be OK, but the photograph helped a lot. Thank you so much, kind shelter worker.

Finally, on October 20, I was able to go pick him up from the Wake County shelter. He meowed a lot in the car, but we made it home.

Unfortunately, he’s continued to lose weight, even after being brought home from the shelter.

Through all of this, even 13 years after Jonathan’s original fostering and adoption, IAR has been amazing. They helped me connect with the shelter; they gave me special food and supplies; they checked him over at their clinic; and my contact there has been advising me through e-mail and text messages.

These photos are all from the past few weeks, after I brought Jonathan home from the shelter. He’s still playing!

When it became clear that he wasn’t really getting better, my contact helped me find a vet that could take him the next day. The veterinarians around here are very solidly booked. Then, the day of the appointment, IAR made sure to tell me to have the visit and tests billed to them, which was a wonderful relief.

The vet we saw couldn’t find any clear issues through the usual exam and office testing and suggested that the next step would be an ultrasound. She said the most likely problems were irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) or…cancer. The ultrasound would be able to find obvious signs of cancer. She also said that just treating him with steroids without going through the ultrasound was a reasonable choice — we’d be rolling the dice that he actually did have IBS, though, as the recommended steroid treatment would make it harder to detect cancer.

So, there I was, not pressured to make a decision right that moment, but also … not sure what to do, how to talk to IAR, and needing to process the very real possibility that this incredibly sweet, emotional, bossy baby, who had already been through such a hard time, might not be alive much longer.

The vet kindly send me a written report which I forwarded to my IAR contact.

It’s worth mentioning here that I am sometimes not the best at handling emotionally heightened situations. My communications to IAR lacked grace.

Still, IAR paid for that expensive ultrasound procedure.

It was somewhat inconclusive; there were signs of possible cancer, but it wouldn’t be easy to do an aspiration to confirm it for sure. The necessary surgery for that was probably not a good idea for a cat that was already so fragile-looking.

It could still be that he just has IBS — although it would be a pretty severe case. He also has pancreatitis, and his kidneys aren’t in top shape and need to be guarded.

Currently, he’s taking an antidepressant/appetite stimulant; an anti-nausea drug; and prednisolone. I switched him to sensitive stomach food and will try to watch out for phosphorous to protect his kidneys.

I don’t think there’s a lot of confidence that he will get better, unfortunately, but I’ll do my best either way.

I keep thinking about the hundreds of cats that IAR takes care of every year. If this ends up being cancer, how much of their resources can they in good conscience spend on this one admittedly very sweet guy? Almost all of their kitties are very very sweet — I know, I met a lot of them at the clinic.

If anyone wants to donate to IAR, here’s that link.