Well, I’ve just realised that although she is my number one co-author and she’s been mentioned a number of times on my blog, I have never really written about my dear little Amber’s story here. I guess it’s because I wrote about Sidney once, having started the blog after she died. Birding and blogging was something that helped me get through losing her. One of the first times I finally left the house after she died was to go for a birding walk and I remember how watching chickadees hop around in the trees and mallards at the lake brought me some tiny morsels of happiness again. I felt my spirit lift just a little bit.
Its been two years now since Sidney died. Not long after that, Amber showed up unexpectedly. It’s a long story, but she’d been the neighbour’s cat and she had basically lived outside most of her life. She’d had free rein to go in and out and she pleased through her cat door, but spent most of her time outside.
We wound up finding her with her eye crusted shut and seeming to be in pain as a result. I took her in to the emergency vet (of course it was a Saturday!), where I’d last been with Sidney when she was diagnosed with cancer. Just being in the waiting room and going in the same exam room brought all the memories back. It was not easy, but I had to help Amber!
Amber was diagnosed with a corneal ulcer. Ouch! Treatment involved wearing a cone to prevent her scratching and damaging the eye further, pain medications and eye drops three times a day. And staying confined inside for at least two weeks. Soon, after a check with her regular vet, two weeks became a month so it could fully heal. You just don’t mess around with eyes!
Amber hadn’t used a litter box since she was just a wee kitten and at this point, she was 11 years old. She’d probably never had to stay inside for a whole month before. While I was still deep in grief over Sidney’s death, I now had a completely different kind of cat to take care of. At first, it was not easy.
The first night, we closed Amber in a room with a litter box, food and water, hoping it would help her adjust to a new life. We hardly slept that night between her constant yowling to get outside and scratching at the door and bumping her little coned head on it, trying to escape. The next couple of nights proceeded similarly and I was beginning to wonder how we were going to get through…
I filled up the litter box with dirt and leaves from outside to make it more like the outdoors she was used to. She picked it up pretty quick after that. I tried taking her outside on a leash to let her get some fresh air and grass she was used to, but she wasn’t the ideal candidate for leash training after being free-range for so long. She tried to dart away many times and I worried it stressed her out too much, so I shelved the idea.
We let her out of the small room as soon as she mastered the litter box, and she started getting comfortable with the rest of the house, and us. I think she warmed up to me a little more slowly; probably because I got upset every time she sat in Sidney’s bed or did something that reminded me of her. It wasn’t easy; I wasn’t anywhere near being ready for another cat and I’d planned to take some time before adopting another.
But life throws us the unexpected sometimes. She still meowed at the door to be let out and tried to escape every time we came and went, but she came leaps and bounds from those first few nights. Once she was better, I hesitatingly let her back outside. I worried about her getting in trouble, hunting, getting cold, all the bad things that can happen to kitties outside.
Mostly, she proved to be a smart cat from all her years outside. I never let her out at night despite her cries. She came back to our house to eat and slowly, over time, she started spending more and more time inside with us. With her little scratchy meows and headbutts (and being a cat), of course, I fell in love with her.
The first summer she was with us, she presumably got into a fight with another cat. I got home and saw one of the neighbourhood regulars darting away through the front yard and then found Amber crouched down on the ground making a strange meow. I didn’t realise anything was immediately wrong until I brought her inside and picked her up. My partner yelped that she was bleeding and I took action, immediately going for my pet first aid kit.
As I waited at the hospital for her to get stitched up, I cried and cried, only realising then just how much I loved her. Again, I was her nurse, giving her medications and taking her to her check-ups and soon, she became my baby, too. She’s a very different cat than Sidney; being quite adventurous going outside, totally content to hang out on her own but also enjoys being near people, too. Unlike Sidney, she is a spry 13-year old now. She has her own personality; she loves climbing up high, she loves getting head scratches and she loves pushes around boxes like a bulldozer. She is quite talkative and her favourite colour is purple.
Now, she sleeps in our bed every night. Two years ago, I would never have predicted that. She wanders a lot less than she used to and spends a lot more time inside than outside now. She’s stolen our hearts, too, and I wouldn’t have it any other way! Looking after her helped me heal from Sidney’s loss, even though it wasn’t always easy, I will always be thankful for that. I am so glad she accidentally wound living with us and becoming our beloved kitty!