Magnificent Marlowe Kitty

Marlowe: May 17, 2011 – March 28, 2022

According to her adoption paperwork, Marlowe was born on May 17, 2011. She was surrendered to the Seattle Humane Society for the first time on December 9, 2016 due to a “change in living situation.” Her intake forms note that she had runny eyes and a history of “eye problems” that had been treated at previous clinics. She was also beginning to have teeth issues and had developed a heart murmur. She was given medication for her eyes and was ready for adoption on December 19, 2016.

Marlowe was then adopted by a couple and their cattle dog who clearly loved her very much. In their surrender notes, they said that Marlowe “really is the best cat.” They noted that she loved catnip, cooked chicken, and sitting in the window seat (all things that we verified during our time with her). Sadly, they were shifting to a more nomadic lifestyle and had noticed that Marlowe didn’t do well with changes (aka … she peed on the furniture when stressed). Instead, they hoped Marlowe could find a calm family who would be around often, give her lots of attention, and be able to handle her health issues. They surrendered her back to the Seattle Humane Society in mid-October 2019.

After Betty passed in early November 2019, Garrett and I handled our grief differently. I was ready to adopt a new kitty almost immediately, but Garrett needed a bit more time. After a few weeks had passed, I started sensing that Garrett was warming up to the idea, and we spent a little while looking at the Seattle Humane Society webpage. I texted him a picture of Marlowe the following day.

Text exchange between Garrett (grey) and me (blue) right before we headed out to met Marlowe.

I had class at UW that afternoon (uh … sorry Mario for skipping that one day of Galaxies), but I decided instead that this was my chance. I picked Garrett up from his work in downtown Seattle at around 3:30 pm, and we headed over to the Seattle Humane Society on the Wednesday before Thanksgiving.

When we arrived, we quickly found Marlowe but were disheartened to see that she had a whole host of health issues including a heart murmur, stage 3 kidney failure, teeth issues, and a recent mass removed from her ear. However, she was friendly, affectionate, and we decided that we checked all the boxes of her perfect home. We knew that our time with her would be short (the initial estimate was around a year), but we were confident that we could give her the happy, calm life that she wanted. Granted, at the time we didn’t realize that we’d be at home 24/7 due to COVID, but we still knew it was a perfect match.

Adoption flyer outside her enclosure.

When we first got home, we kept Marlowe in the bathroom with a baby gate in front of the door. This allowed Marlowe to come out and explore as she pleased, but it also gave her a safe haven from Meg. While Meg was always quite friendly to cats, she took an initial dislike to Marlowe. We think that Meg simply wasn’t over Betty’s loss and was confused by the presence of a new cat. Marlowe, in return, spent much of her time in the bathroom and walking around the apartment in “stealth mode” trying to hide from Meg. It wasn’t necessarily the best start, but over time, Meg and Marlowe did grow to tolerate each other. They never quite became friends, but they at least would sit on the couch and sometimes even touch paws.

Meg and Marlowe touching paws on the couch.

Overall, Marlowe was certainly a character (as most cats are). She was a social eater (as it said on her adoption form) and initially she would only eat if we were in the same room and talking with her. When we first met her and went into her room at the Humane Society, the first thing she did was start eating and purring. She also loved catnip, somewhat aggressive face scratches, and butt-taps. However, if you went on for just a second too long, she’d go in for the kill. I’m used to cats swiping when they get annoyed, but Marlowe was 100% a biter. She also didn’t just playfully nip — she would bite. She only managed to fully get me twice during our time together, but it was enough for us to be apprehensive about her meeting new people or animals. Still, as time went on and she became more comfortable, the biting lessened and she spent a lot more time doing something else that she enjoyed — purring. Marlowe was always purring. While she’d always purr if she was happy or receiving attention, she’d also purr as a “self-soothing” mechanism when she was stressed or scared. This meant that she’d purr while getting sub-Q fluids, or while getting pilled, or even while at the vet (“uh … is this twitching normal? Oh, that’s purring??”). While adorable, it certainly made judging her emotions somewhat difficult.

Marlowe yawning after playing in catnip on her cat tree in Seattle.

Marlowe spent most of her time asleep either on her cat tree, in her window seat, or in her heated bed on the floor. Still, she’d always wake up with a little “meow” when I’d come into the living room and then immediately want to assume “her position” on the couch. She had very strictly defined rules of where she wanted all of us (Garrett, Meg, me, and her) to be and if we weren’t in those places, she’d meow at us … enthusiastically. Then, if that didn’t work, she’d start biting. We were generally pretty amenable to her demands, even though it meant that I spent 2.5 years sitting uncomfortably between two couch cushions so she could get the left-most edge of the couch (preferred order, from left-to-right was her, me, Meg, Garrett). I even have a nice sit/stand desk upstairs that I rarely used while working because she’d always pressure me into coming back down to sit with her on the couch. She also was never quite a lap cat (though, not due to our lack of trying), but instead always wanted to be right beside us.

Marlowe in a very-much-not-preferred position on the couch. A disgruntled meow was likely uttered soon after this photo was taken.
Marlowe in her preferred position on the couch. Note the lack of meowing.

Marlowe also had some other strange quirks including:

We’re convinced she was a lefty, and she’d always sit with her left paw out in front.
Her tail had a mind of its own. It was incredibly twitchy, she’d wag it like a dog would, and she’d also often forget that it existed (as is shown in this photo).
She’d usually sleep with her head in her paws, or her paws over her eyes as if her surroundings were just too much to handle.
But on the rare occasions when her eyes weren’t covered, she’d often sleep with her eyes open. (note: she isn’t asleep in this picture, but her eyes sure are open …)
She also *loved* human food. Soon after we adopted her, I put a hand full of chocolate chips in her face to sniff with the intent of showing her that it wasn’t something she was interested in. Instead, she lunged and tried to eat one. While we can’t be sure this is where her kidney problems came from, she certainly was used to eating human food at some point in her life.

While Marlowe was quite happy in Seattle, she really enjoyed the “wildlife” in Colorado. Living on the ground floor with ample trees and bushes outside the window allowed for many new woodland forest creatures to show up right outside. She’d spend hours watching the rabbits, squirrels, and birds in the trees. We weren’t always convinced she could see them (we actually think she had poor vision … she could never tell if there was water in a bowl and would put her foot in first to test the water level), but she still enjoyed sitting in the window and watching what whatever was moving around outside.

Marlowe watching a rabbit outside our window in Colorado. Also note her window seat …

Through all of this, Marlowe was also dealing with a myriad of health issues including (in order from most to least damaging):

  • Kidney failure
  • Heart murmur
  • Irritable Bowl Disease (IBD)
  • Idiopathic hypercalcemia
  • Severe gingivitis
  • Arthritis in her back spine / legs
  • Various skin tags / bumps (that were potentially un-tested mast cell tumors)

While treating any one of these issues takes time and effort, treating all of them at the same time was … complicated. It would have been great to give her a dental, but she couldn’t go under anesthesia due to her kidney failure and heart murmur. Similarly, there were many kidney-friendly foods that were out of the question due to her hypercalcemia and IBD. Towards the end, we tried increasing her sub-Q fluids to help her kidneys, but her heart wasn’t able to cope and we had to back off. Finally, we were never able to determine if her severe nausea and food sensitivities were due to IBD or something worse (intestinal lymphoma … like Betty) because we couldn’t do a biopsy without anesthesia. We were lucky enough to have two very wonderful vets (one in Seattle, and one in Colorado) to help us through the process, but treating Marlowe really added another level of excitement. We did sub-Q fluids with her every other night for two years as well as rotating through various nightly pills and injections to help manage her conditions as best as possible. While obviously we always wish we could have done more, both Garrett and I always appreciated Marlowe’s tolerance to both pilling and fluids. She never held a grudge, and (mostly) made the process easy on us.

Marlowe being purrito-ed before being pilled. Her enthusiasm is palpable.

Marlowe started slowing down in October 2021. While she was still eating well, and her kidney values were stable at early – mid Stage III kidney failure, she was quickly losing weight. We re-checked her bloodwork in early December and again found that her kidney values weren’t horrible, but she was already down to a little under 7 lbs from the 10+ lbs she had been that summer. We tried a few other treatment options, but it was clear that she was starting to decline. We had been giving her an appetite supplement every three nights that generally had the rather humorous side effect of making her *super* talkative for a few hours (we’d then call her Meow-Mo). During the last few weeks, she started reacting to it rather strongly and instead of increasing her appetite, it would also make her rather anxious and jumpy. The night before she passed, we gave it to her as normal but she never quite recovered.

Marlowe sitting in the window the Saturday before she passed.

We had always expected her decline to be slow, as it often is with kidney failure. However, due to all of the complicating issues, it became very obvious to us over a short period of time that she was ready. We already had noticed her poor reaction to the appetite stimulant on Sunday night, but we decided to wait and see how things were in the morning. On Monday morning, March 28, 2022, she still wasn’t eating and had hit her eye overnight (presumably attempting to jump on the couch or up to the window). We made an appointment for Tuesday morning for a mobile vet to come help her pass, but within a few hours she started shaking uncontrollably and we rushed her to our local vet.

Marlowe was ready. When we got to the vet, she let me hold her without struggling, something she would never normally let me do. She passed peacefully in Garrett’s arms at 1:47pm on Monday, March 28th, 2022 at Lafayette Companion Animal Hospital.

Marlowe was a wonderful kitty who lived too short a life. We’ll never fully understand why she developed so many health issues at such a young age, but we know that we gave her the best last 2.5 years she could have hoped for. Marlowe was the first animal Garrett and I adopted together, but she certainly won’t be the last. Marlowe kitty, you will be missed.