Although, I cherish all of my cats, there is one who stands out. I am not sure why that happens. Maulee was my heart cat.
Maulee was my first Bengal. In 2001, we drove into a remote area in Oregon to adopt her. She was seven years old at the time. The woman who owned her sent me loads of pictures. In all of them, Maulee looked very pissed off. Who in their right mind would drive hundreds of miles to another state to rescue a cat who obviously wasn’t friendly?
She was originally part of a breeding program but was retired after one litter due to a congenital problem. Her original name was three words too long and did not describe her personality. We renamed her Maulee. She lived up to her new name.
Maulee did not like people and she had IBD (Inflammatory Bowel Disease)—not a great combination for a cat who would have to be medicated. Whenever anyone came within 10 feet of her, she would start foaming from her mouth, hissing and spitting. What had I gotten myself into? Maulee and I had a rocky beginning together.
The first few weeks were traumatic for everyone. Then I found a secret weapon—chicken. Chicken along with the art of non-action won her over. I sat on the floor a short distance from her, making sure that she was never cornered. She needed to be able to retreat. I called her name and tossed her a piece of chicken. And, I sang to her. She sang back. Whenever I paused in my song, she chirped and chortled. I always reinforced her responses with pieces of chicken.
With time and patience, I slowly earned Maulee’s trust. Play helped too. I discovered she loved pole toys and would wait by the door for our daily sessions to chase toys around the room. Of course, I always gave her either a meal or a piece of chicken after each play session.
Because of her IBD and food allergies, it was important that she develop a good relationship with her cat carrier. Trips to the vet had to be as stress-free as possible. I kept the carrier in her room, made it part of the furniture. It lived with her. Sometimes I fed and threw treats in it. I also put toys inside and made it a comfortable place to sleep. After about one week, Maulee voluntarily hung out in it. The little Bengal loved her carrier. It grew to be a safe place for her to go. She would seek it out when she was startled by a noise or sudden movement and when she didn’t feel good.
Maulee had severe IBD. I tried many different diets and proteins until I finally found a diet she tolerated and loved—canned Venison and Pea. Thankfully, she could also eat small pieces of chicken without getting sick. She also needed a cocktail of medications—twice a day. How does one medicate a cat without traumatizing both the cat and the piller? Especially a cat who does not fancy being touched. Positive reinforcement of course! I will write a follow up blog about medicating Maulee. She will continue to teach, even after her death.
From anti-social to social butterfly
Who knew? Within a few years, Maulee became a lap cat. She also enjoyed hanging out with my friends who came to my house specifically to socialize with her. She had to be an active part of whatever was going on and always had lots to say.
Maulee in the media
In 2005 Maulee and I discovered clicker training. She was 12 years old at the time. Maulee was a fast and eager learner—quickly learning to sit, stay, shake hands, find my keys, follow directional hand signals and jump through hoops. A year later we were contacted by Ken Bastida, the news anchor at CBS. He wanted to come over and do a segment on purring. Since Maulee was big on purring, she was perfect for the segment. She wowed Ken and the camera crew with her beauty, inquisitiveness, her singing voice and personality. Maulee was a natural. This was the start of her media career. She was featured on many other programs, including Animal Planet’s Cats 101.
A couple of months ago she was in a segment about hybrid cats, hosted by Monte Francis on NBC Live.
Maulee helped me write my book Naughty No More! as well as my articles. While I wrote, she usually slept either in my lap or between my keyboard and my monitor.
She helped in other ways as well. Maulee’s antics caused me to develop creative solutions for specific challenging cat behaviors. Additionally, because of her, I started to work on ways that seem to slow down the symptoms of feline dementia.
Can dementia be reversed?
Maulee’s behavior started changing when she was about 16 years old. Sometimes I found her facing a dark corner, crying and calling. Other times she wandered aimlessly around the house, disoriented and lost. It was heartbreaking.
The vet did a thorough exam and found nothing medical that would cause the concerning behaviors. He agreed that Maulee was suffering from feline cognitive dysfunction. Maulee and I started to experiment until I found a combination of specific activities along with slight changes to the environment that seemed to decrease her symptoms. Once again, she was my bright, mischievous Maulee. Although the disease probably cannot be stopped or reversed, perhaps its progression can be slowed down.
Now, other elderly cats suffering with feline dementia are benefiting from the plan I developed for Maulee.
The last days
Maulee’s IBD got the better of her, as it does with so many cats. The last year of her life, she no longer tolerated commercial food of any kind. She also could not eat raw. Since the only protein she did not react to was pork, I cooked a special diet of pork and peas with added supplements for her. She was not thrilled with the diet, but she ate it. I made her meals more palatable by sprinkling powdered chicken on top. Her medications were adjusted and we went to holistic as well as western veterinarians. I did everything possible to slow down the progression of the disease and I lost.
I helped Maulee cross the bridge on Sunday, September 15th, 1:45 PM. I miss my Maulee. Although she is no longer here, her legacy continues through the lessons I learned from her and can pass on.
February 14, 1993–September 15, 2013