Friday, 18 December 2009

Little Lost Cat

Almost a month ago, we found a kitten huddled by the trash heap in front of our house. The kitten looked lost and hungry. We have a No Pets clause in our lease, but we took the kitten home, promising my husband that we would take her to the local animal shelter as soon as we'd fed her up. Surely the owners wouldn't mind as long as we kept her on the balcony and didn't let her into the house.

It turned out that the kitten had a serious medical problem. You may have heard the expression 'As busy as a cat with the runs on a marble floor'. I can assure you that people who look after incontinent cats are even busier. We couldn't possibly take a kitten to the animal shelter in that condition -- even my husband agreed, though he was probably more worried about our car. We bought kitten chow for her, and we lined a box with newspaper and an old towel for her to lie on. As soon as the kitten was better, we'd take her to the animal shelter.

After two days, the floor of our balcony was so clean from constant scrubbing you could practically eat off it, but the kitten was no better. Her ribs and backbone protruded through her thin grey coat. We took her to the vet who told us that she would need to see the kitten every day for at least a week. She dosed the kitten with worm-killers, saying that she was probably full of parasites.

Boy, was she. I almost wished I had a microscope too, they were that interesting.

My daughter took the kitten to the vet every single day for a week, riding in the dolmuş with the kitten in a carrier bag. The kitten behaved impeccably. We gave her a bath after the worst of the diarrhea was over, and she began to get plumper. Although at first she'd done nothing but sit quietly, paws tucked under her, as though waiting for death, she began to get more playful as her health improved. We discovered that her meow was a little defective, a mere squeak. She started purring almost non-stop, a rich, grainy purr. We gave her a name, bought her a proper litter box and her own brush.

By this time, there was no question of taking her to any animal shelter. (Besides, we'd paid the vet's bill.) Like it or not, the kitten had made herself ours and we were all in love. We figured the owners wouldn't begrudge us one little kitten kept outside.

Three days ago, she disappeared from the balcony. Somehow, she managed to negotiate the roof and jump down to ground level. The entire household went out with flashlights, calling her name. It was dark. We tripped over roots and stones and felt like idiots, stumbling around, the beams of our torches flitting from corner to corner as neighbors peeked out of their windows at us. It was ages before we could bring ourselves to give up. None of us wanted to go back to the house without her.

The next day, my daughter searched for hours, but the kitten was nowhere to be found. Coming home from work to a cold, catless house was horrible. Coming back to a miserable, weepy teenager was even worse.

Every time we passed the litter box we got all misty-eyed. Just looking at the fur in her brush or the rubber string she liked to play with made us tear up.

Last night there was a storm. The thunder sounded like half a dozen giants wheeling trash bins across gravel, bending stainless steel sheets. The wind pounded the side of the house; it raged and whined and moaned. Lighting ripped across the sky; rain and hail lashed and pelted the windows. After midnight, we heard a cat fight outside. It sounded as though a big alpha cat was chewing out a smaller cat: we could hear a tiny squeak of a meow. In the morning we searched, but we could not see her.

This evening, my daughter went out again with her sister, home for the holidays. Half an hour later, they bolted upstairs, crying for joy. They'd found the kitten crouching under a pomegranate tree, hungry and thirsty and purring her head off. She smells like Clearasil and tuna. And she's obviously thrilled to be back.

Wherever we move next, that kitten is coming with us. Tomorrow, we're getting her a collar.


Vijaya said...

Hallelujah! Kittens make us theirs in a heartbeat ... we just don't know it until later.

I have seen parasites under the microscope and they are fascinating, with interesting mouthparts and whatnots.

New weightloss remedy: tapeworms.

MG Higgins said...

Oh, I'm so relieved this story has a happy ending! Yay for you and the kitty!

Nathalie Mvondo said...

Mary, this is such a hopeful and Christmas-y story...

I lost my thirteen year-old cat a few weeks after moving to my new town. It's been three months already, and I still haven't found him despite my efforts. I dream regularly of him. Two nights ago I dreamed that I was walking and he was waiting for me on the side of the road, getting up on his feet as soon as he saw. *sigh* :)

I'm glad Kitten found her way home. Assuming she's the one on the picture, she looks lovely. :)

Kappa no He said...

You made my day. I was almost afraid to keep reading. That is one lucky cat and I'm sure she'll bring you all lots of good luck and love in the new year. Ah, I'm so happy she was found.

Robert the Skeptic said...

Your story sounds like when we found Angelina. While stopped at a traffic light, I saw a guy try to kick a kitten on the sidewalk. I jumped out of the car with the engine running, scooped up the kitten, then tossed it onto the car seat just as the light turned green.

Similar story, she was sick and full of worms. But our big Persian "adopted" her. She eventually bonded to my wife and slept on her head at night for many years.

An indoor cat, she got out once and we thought we lost her but left the door open a crack. Lightening storm (like your story) and it scared her back inside. After that we could leave the door open and she never went out again!! Silly little things.

laura said...

You had my stomach churning! I'm glad for your girls (and you) that the little stinker was found! What is it with cats? You give them food and a place to live, and they do this to us!

Mary Witzl said...

Vijaya -- 'Hallelujah' it was! We were all so happy and grateful, we were prepared to forgive her for breaking our hearts.

The worms I saw were of all types: segmented, round worms, little squiggly reddish ones. They were pretty awesome, but I'm glad she doesn't have them anymore. No wonder she was so skinny. Are there really people who would give themselves tapeworms to lose weight? I'll take my extra five pounds any day -- hold the cysts and abdominal edema and whatever else the parasites might give me. Blecch!

MG Higgins -- Honestly, we thought we'd never see her again. It was so wonderful seeing her little self huddled there under the tree!

Nathalie -- Thank you for visiting and commenting!

Your story makes me so sad; I know exactly how you feel. I've lost so many cats in my life and each one is an individual with quirks and a personality and funny little ways that make it wonderful and special. The cat in the picture is the last cat we had in Scotland. She was killed in the line of duty, bringing home a mouse. I'm seriously hoping this new kitten isn't a hunter.

Kappa -- I'm so glad this made someone else's day too -- it really made ours. My daughter just sat there with her face in the kitten's fur, crying for happiness. We're getting her a collar this afternoon: our mobile numbers will be going on it, just in case.

Robert -- I LOVE your Angelina story! Lots of people think of heroes as muscly guys in capes with Special Powers. For me, they are guys who stop their cars to scoop up kittens in distress. And you've made my day, too: our biggest fear is that the kitten will do something like this again. It's nice to think she might have learned her lesson. I don't think she was very impressed with her four days living rough out on the mean streets.

Laura -- After we picked her up, brought her back, cuddled her and fed her, we gave her a stern talking to. She looked suitably chastised, but we'll see. We're not trusting her on the balcony just yet.

Falak said...

Hey! So glad that you were able to find the kitten and relieved she wasn't hurt as a result of her little excursion. A happy ending at the beginng of a new year!

Bish Denham said...

Yippee! This sounds like a potential Christmas story.

debra said...

Yes! What was lost is now found! Or maybe she was never lost; merely wandering.

Marian said...

I'm glad the kitten came back! Christmas just wouldn't have been the same otherwise. :)

Kim Ayres said...

I was trusting you wouldn't write a blog post without a resolution - phew :)

Patrick said...

Glad to hear that the kitten came back. And you're really a kind-hearted person. =)

Charles Gramlich said...

I'm glad you found her again. What luck. Amazing how they can squirm their way in eh?

Robin said...

Yay! Happy ending! You had me going there for a while. I was sure you were going to rescue her from the alley cat.

Girls are so sweet and tender hearted. My boys might cry that hard for a lost video game, but that's about it.

Lily Cate said...

We thought we had lost our kitten after a move- couldn't find him for an entire day, and he was tiny, only about 9 weeks old. Then I opened my dresser drawer, and found him sleeping quietly in a pile of clothes!
He was still small enough to wiggle under the bottom of the dresser, and climb up behind the drawers.

Mary Witzl said...

Falak -- Even as I write this, the kitten is purring on my lap. She seems very happy here. And yet the crazy animal made another break for it last night and kept us on tenterhooks. She is definitely a cat who likes adventures.

Bish -- The kitten gets a kick out of chasing bits of ribbon and tinsel, so it's a Christmas-y story all right. Her Christmas gift will be her very own collar.

Debra -- If we weren't so close to a major road with maniac drivers, I wouldn't mind her wandering so much! But I'm really hoping she can quit her wandering ways.

Marian -- This was just what I thought. Having no cat is especially awful at Christmas-time. Christmas is all about a purring cat in front of a fire. And if we go all out and have a chicken, she'll cash in on the leftovers.

Kim -- Aw, I wouldn't have left you ou hanging! Go on and on -- that I WOULD do, but I wouldn't leave you with no resolution. (Not intentionally anyway!)

Patrick -- Thank you for saying that, but it's easy to be kind-hearted with kittens. It's a lot harder to be kind-hearted with big, lazy teenagers, but most of the time, I give it a go.

Charles -- Our house isn't far from a main road and it's surrounded by acres of pomegranate, fig, and palm trees and farmhouses with lots of low brush. The kitten could have been just about anywhere, so it really was lucky we found her! And yes, it really IS weird how you can fall so deeply in love with creatures who can't talk.

Robin -- Your boys might surprise you. I once knew a big, tough kid who cried himself silly when his cat died. Hope you never have to go through this, actually! Boy tears are just as moving as girl tears.

Lily -- What a great story! And what a nice surprise to find when you open a drawer too. We had a tomcat who used to sleep on top of the wheels of parked trucks. We had to nip that habit in the bud.

Angela said...

Oh you really grabbed my emotions on this one! It went from: Awwww, to Oh no! to Thank Goodness to GASP! and finally, heart happy.

Let's face it, with all the cat-related stories that crop up, your family are all Cat Whisperers!

Helen said...

Thanks Mary - I'm not sure I could have made it through the day if I didn't know you had her back. I was on the edge of my seat with everything crossed as I read. I'm glad that little one has made you her family - what a lucky kitten!

Charlie said...

From reading your previous posts, you would be the cat lady if it was possible.

Your kitty sounds either feral or a world traveler; how do you plan to keep her on the balcony?

I worry about things like this, you know.

angryparsnip said...

Lovely Christmas story. You received the best gift ever.

They have very small GPS trackers that you can put on shoes, why not a cat collar ?


Martha Flynn said...

If it hasn't been said already - you and your daughter are AWESOMENESS

Mary Witzl said...

Angela -- If only! Being cat whisperers would have been useful those four days she was missing when we were outside, calling, "Kitty, kitty, kitty!" I wonder if she was sitting somewhere, watching us with narrowed eyes as she licked her paws and snickered.

Helen -- We keep telling her how lucky she is, so she'd better believe it. We see so many scrawny cats here, scrounging out of trash cans with no place to scratch; she has a warm balcony with her own food dish and litter box. And eight eager hands to pet her.

Charlie -- I am definitely a frustrated Cat Lady. My two sisters are the real thing, as was my mother. If I had more time and space, I'd be up to my chin in cats.

And although she's bolted several times now, I'm pretty sure it was from nerves and boredom, not wildness. You could tie a knot in our cat, she's that sweet. But God knows how we're going to keep her from bolting again.

AP -- Oh, I would LOVE GPS trackers for this kitten! We're just hoping that a collar with our name and number on it will suffice, but I wonder how we're going to understand the Turkish phone calls we get...

Martha -- Aw, shucks, we are not. But my girls will be thrilled that you said that!

Danette Haworth said...

I'm with Angela!

When I was a kid, our dog, Cuddles, got lost (escaped, really). My dad didn't tell me at first, but I knew something was up by the fishy way he and my sister were acting.

We drove all over looking for him, shouting out his name. It was dark and snowing. When my dad finally drove us home, I was beside myself with grief.

Just a few hours later, he was scratching at the back door. There was no snow on his fur (he was a little dog), no ice packed between his pads, and he was warm as hot water bottle. It was always a mystery to us where he'd been.

Anyway, dropping in to say Merry Christmas!

Chocolatesa said...

Oh I'm so glad you found her!!! The poor thing... I would have been crying myself had that happened to me. Both my cats are strays that I've picked up, and they're some of the most amazing wonderful cats I've ever known. There are so many strays outside of my building, but they're all feral and won't let anyone come near. My heart breaks for them on nights when it's -20 Celcius outside, I'd take them all in if I could! My second one, Licorice, was found outside in the winter, meowing constantly. Luckily all she had was a bit of frostbite on her heels, which bled for a bit but then healed quickly. This makes me want to move to the country and become a cat lady taking in all the strays :P

Anne Spollen said...

I didn't dare ask -- wonderful news, Mary!

And I tagged you -- maybe that's not such wonderful news...

Barbara Martin said...

Once you start nursing a sick kitten or puppy back to health, it's very hard to give them up after. I'm glad you found your little lost kitten. I love it when they purr.

Carolie said...

Oh, Mary! I'm so happy she found her way back to you. I feel the same way about Koimo and Taro, neither of whom I planned to keep, but both of whom (idiot cats that they are!) are now family.

Sorry for the silence -- it's all frantic packing and readying for our move to Virginia, and saying goodbye to Japan. Have a new box packed up and ready to ship next week -- any last requests before we leave this marvelous country?

Oh...totally apropos of NOTHING, I had to share this line with you from a book review I read recently: "They were more 'real' in part because Sacks, as a narrator, never forgets what he cannot know; whereas the characters of the novels I was reading seemed pinned to the walls in their own garments, so omniscient was the authors' tone." Something about that just left me breathless, and I had to share it!

Mary Witzl said...

Danette -- It's almost guaranteed that Puddles got a free lift from someone; while you were driving all around looking for him and crying your eyes out, he was probably being fed tidbits and made much of. But what a great ending to your story.

Merry Christmas to you too!

Chocolatesa -- I hate seeing cats out in the extreme cold. People claim they're wearing fur coats, but they're BAREfoot, for pity's sake! And I can imagine that in Quebec it's fiercely cold in the winter -- much worse than it is here. Good for you for having taken in strays too. And I agree: being a full-time cat lady would be great as long as you had the money to do it. Cats are an expensive habit.

Anne S -- It's a little pathetic, but I actually love being tagged. Even if I never have a chance to play, I just feel so included. Whoever said that we carry our teenage years around with us is right.

Barbara -- I think you're right. Something about caring for a sick animal (or child) really bonds you, always despite yourself. The kitten is now frisky and full of mischief -- and health -- but we're totally hooked.

Carolie -- Are you taking those cats back with you to Virginia? If so, I hope they know how lucky they are!

'Pinned to the walls in their own garments' -- that is an interesting way to think about the protagonists in a story with a heavy authorial presence -- I believe that's the same thing as a narrative with an omniscient overview that reduces the characters to mere puppets. I hope I'm not still doing that when I write -- I know for a fact that I once did.

I will e-mail you soon. Don't worry about sending me anything -- the mail service here is terrible and packages from foreign countries seem to be viewed as perks for postal employees, not things to be delivered.

Deidra said...

This story is wonderful and heartwarming! Thanks for sharing.