Sunday, July 14, 2013

Moment of Truth

This is Stray Cat #A. (Also known as Kitty Friend, Sweet Kitty, Honeybaby-Sugarmonkey-Kittypie-Darlingkins the First).

Thus sayeth the vet, thus goeth the rest of us.
Stray Cat #A came into my life about a month ago.

I was sitting outside my office in our little courtyard trying to gather my thoughts.

It was not easy. All my thoughts were broken into pieces and they did not want to fit back together. It had been a rough day.

Then, the heavens opened and God dropped a cat into my lap. Literally.

I sat there on the low wall alongside the building, trying to pretend I wasn't just counting ants, when I heard a cute little husky meow. I looked up right in time to see a sweet-faced fluffball of a cat jogging toward me. She jumped directly into my lap and rubbed her head into my chest. "Purr," she said. "Purr and coo and mew and purr again," she went on, more or less.

I forgot all about my ants and I melted into a syrupy puddle of instant cat-love.

Before I could drip and run all the way into the gutter, I had to pull myself together. This beautiful, friendly, polite (if a bit forward) creature had to be someone's beloved pet who had wandered away from home looking for a little adventure in the big city. I couldn't fall in love; it wasn't my place. Someone else had to already love this cat. They had to.

She stayed outside at my office for the next week. Every day I checked on her and played with her, gave her water in a paper coffee cup, and sneaked her food from the bag of cat food I hid in my trunk. I watched her lounging on the steps, ignoring the baby birds that were perched in a low nest practically on top of her head. I was grateful she didn't try to eat them, but still. She's a CAT. They're supposed to WANT to eat them anyway. She didn't. She didn't know she was supposed to. This was no outside cat, and she wasn't going to make it if she stayed out there much longer.

Husband and I did all of the things people told us we were supposed to do with a found pet. We did the found pet report, went through lost pet listings, put her all over the internet, slapped up some fliers. No calls. She was homeless.

Not a bad driver, if you don't count the pedals.
Finally I couldn't stand it anymore. I loaded her up in my car and decided she had to live somewhere, so she could visit with me. I wasn't committing, see. She might have still been someone else's kitty, and all I could think was that if something like this happened to Boo, my Teacup Panther, I would hope that someone would be kind to her and take care of her until I could track her down. (Of course, I'm fooling myself to think so. If anyone even tried to be kind to her, the poor sap would probably end up in the hospital for their trouble.)

I took her to the vet (or she took me, one or the other), to get checked out before I took her home. "What a great cat!" they all cooed as she tucked her head under my arm and purred, ignoring the beagle who was NOT ignoring her. "Are you going to keep her?" the receptionist asked.

"Umm, I don't know," I said. "She might be somebody's."

She made sad eyebrows. "Honey, I think she sounds like a drop-off. If you haven't found the owner yet, you probably won't. Don't you want to keep her?"

"I don't know," I said again, chewing on it a little longer this time. I didn't know. I wanted to, but she wasn't mine. Someone could swoop in and take her from me at any time and it would break my heart. But maybe, just maybe, it would be a little less if I didn't admit I wanted her to be mine. "I'm going to foster her," I said. "Then if nothing comes up, we'll see."

Stray Cat #A got the all clear to come home with me to be "fostered." By "fostering," I mean that I made desktop wallpapers of her cute face:

I took endless snaps of her doing mind-blowing things like yawning, drinking, sleeping, or not sleeping. I cuddled with her, bathed her, brushed her, and sweet talked her. I bought her a bed and toys and a little purple collar.

The one thing I didn't do was name her.

I tried. I thought of options, but I just couldn't do it. Somewhere deep inside, I knew that if I named this cat, she would be mine. Once I name a thing, it is mine forever and ever and I will love it down to its tiniest cells and walk to the ends of the earth for it. It's a big step, and try as I might, I kept tripping over it.

Then she got sick.

She stopped eating. At first we thought that she was depressed. Boo has been less than hospitable. She had been somebody's and now she was living in a house with new people, but she was nobody's. Maybe she knew it. Maybe she knew that I was hiding a secret behind all my sweet words. The secret was that I was afraid to let myself love her, at least not all the way. Maybe I had made her sick with my half-love which was not what she deserved, this good good cat.

She slept all the time. She wouldn't eat anything. She stopped hopping up to greet us with her goofy little cat-smile when we came in the room. Then she stopped bothering to put all four paws in the litterbox. Her bones poked through her skin like a cat suit on a hanger.

Husband and I took her back to the vet. They remembered her. "What'd you name her?" the friendly receptionist asked, happy I had apparently decided to keep the cat.

"I didn't," I said, guilty.

The cat specialist, heretofore known as Saint Vet, took two seconds with Stray Cat #A and said, "Looks like liver failure."

The heavens opened up again, but this time it rained bricks instead of kitties. "Liver failure?" I asked. "Like, her liver is failing liver failure?"

She nodded gravely. "Maybe," she said. "I just want to prepare you for the worst. It could be [some giant medical word that sounded like something from Harry Potter], but since she was negative for FIV and Feline Leukemia, that would be very unlikely."

She brought us an estimate of what it would cost to do all the tests necessary. If it was her liver, she would need hospitalization, a blood transfusion, several Harry Potter-sounding tests, fluid IV, and lots of expensive medicines. There was a lower priced option and a higher priced option, but for my social service worker budget, they were both astronomical. I looked at Husband and he made sad eyebrows.

"Don't do that," I told him. "Do not look at me with sad eyebrows. We have to take care of her. We do not let things die, not if we can help it. We can sell things, but we cannot let our cat die."

Because she was. Ours. I looked at her lying there, skinnier than a runt kitten, and I knew that I'd sell the shoes on my feet to keep her breathing because name or not, she was my cat. The moment of truth had come. I loved her. All the way.

No sooner than that poignant thought had crossed my mind and stung my eyes, Saint Vet came back in with a little more color in her own cheeks. "She has Harry Potter-itis. I can't believe it. She is eaten up with Harry Potter-itis, and it could have shut her liver down if it wasn't caught, but I think we caught it in time."

Words do not exist, even in Harry Potter, to tell you how relieved I was. She was going to be okay, I wouldn't have to sell my fillings, and she was my cat. She figured it out, too. She crawled in my purse and looked at me all like, "Let's go!"

She has to take a lot of yucky medicine that is NOT easy to give her. We follow her around with a Cat Buffet so that she can have a choice of what to eat as long as she is EATING (and she IS!), and she
has to go back in a week to see Saint Vet.


 She still isn't named, but it's because I have to find one worthy of My New Cat #A.

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