Ugly, the Beautiful Cat
Ugly came to live with us in the usual way. He was homeless and unwanted like so many cats. I wish I could say that we welcomed him into our home and our lives with open arms, but we didn't. It was more like, "Oh, no. What do we do now? We've already got too many cats. What if the landlord catches us? We can't afford any more cats. We can't take care of the ones we've got. Etc." Ugly made the ninth cat to join our household and I can tell you that if cats have nine lives, then nine cats make a life worth living.
We made Ugly a bed in the garage and opened the door about eight inches so he could come and go. We put out food and water. But we did not bring him inside. We hoped he would go away and find a home elsewhere. After a few days he did go away. He was gone for two weeks. We don't know where he went but I thought of him every day and hoped he was alive and well.
Then one day we pulled in the driveway after work and there he was waiting for us. I think we were both secretly glad to see him. But this time when I put out the food and water he wasn't interested. He looked terrible. He was filthy and emaciated. There was nothing to do except take him to the vet which we really could not afford to do. The news was not good. Ugly had FIV, feline AIDS.
This complicated matters and it was suggested by many that he be put to sleep right then. But neither one of us felt right about that so we didn't do it. We took Ugly home determined to get him proper medical care and find him a home. We had heard stories of FIV positive cats living long and happy lives and thought we could arrange this for Ugly too. We still did not take him inside because of the FIV. It is contagious and there is no cure or vaccine. We felt we could not risk the other cats' lives by exposing them to Ugly. It was so sad to see him out there looking in, wanting to be accepted into our family, wanting to be loved. He had done nothing to deserve this and he did not understand why he could not come inside.
I did some research on FIV and found that the risk to the other cats was minimal. In order to pass FIV there has to be an exchange of bodily fluids via mating or a fight. So I began to let Ugly come inside in the evenings when we were home. He settled right in and loved to trash the clean laundry by sleeping in it. Every night when we pulled into the driveway Ugly would come running from wherever he was to greet us. He was always so glad to see us, unlike the other cats. Ugly had a personality more like that of a dog than a cat.
He had a few really good weeks when he seemed as healthy as any other cat. He was on some medications to boost his immune system. He received a generous donation from a member of The Motley Fool who read about him on a message board there so his medical care was not such a financial burden to us.
But then our worst fear came to pass. The landlord called and said we had too many cats living here and would have to find new homes for five of them. That ordeal is a story in itself. We faced the agonizing decision of who should go and who should stay. I placed ads in three different papers. No one wanted poor Ugly.
Lexie's cat, Tom , was the first to be adopted. We hated to give him up. He was a great cat and I will be putting up a page for him someday. Then Pizmo's kittens, Tigger and Mask were adopted. Trigger went back home; he had only been staying with us temporarily. We were sadly down to five cats. But the landlord would not let us have more than four. We continued to try to place one more cat without any luck.
Then one day Ugly took a turn for the worse. He stopped eating again. He became dehydrated and lost control of his bladder. After three days and three different veterinarians it was determined that his kidneys were failing. He was not going to make it and he was suffering. We had to do one of the most difficult things we have ever had to do. Ugly was put to sleep on July 24, 2000. His ashes sit here on the desk next to me as I type.
Every time we pull into the driveway I miss him running up to greet us. I miss him soiling my clean laundry. Lexie misses him too. His picture hangs on our refrigerator and one day a few weeks ago she said, "Uggie?" when she saw the picture and started looking around the house for him.
I hope there really is a Rainbow Bridge. I can't wait to see him again.