Thursday, March 19, 2015

The good news is your cat is not pregnant ... the bad news is ... (or How We Met)

To begin to understand why Bear has made such an impression on me (and qualifies for 'extraordinary' status), you must know the story of how Bear became a part of my family. Remember I said "begin to understand;" in later throwback posts, you will see that Bear has an attitude that almost rivals the size of his extra-extra-large heart.

After signing the lease on our new apartment (the basement of a house), the owner commented that if we liked cats (we had a 15 year old cat that was mentioned in the lease), there were homeless cats that came around that the owner occasionally fed. I gasped in horror because my first thought was, "OH MY GOD! I am going to want to save and adopt every single one of those cats!" I knew my husband (at the time) would never go along with that nonsense - and he was shaking his head at me to indicate he knew exactly what I was thinking. I casually asked how many cats there were and the lady said she wasn't sure because they seemed to come and go. Luckily, with all the stress of moving across the country, I forgot all about the cats.

Fast forward to three months later. 
None of the cats had really seemed to care much that we were there and I was relieved that it looked like I'd "escaped" from having to personally save a flotilla of cats. My 15 year old cat had several health problems and all of a sudden stopped eating the only variety of canned food she'd eaten for 5 years (I had to make sure she ate a little after each insulin shot so I fed her a small amount of wet food after each shot). And just to be clear, I kept trying to give her other varieties over the course of the 5 years, and even though she'd eaten them all at one point, for FIVE YEARS she stubbornly refused to eat anything by turkey. Of course, I'd stocked up on this one flavor, so I wasn't sure what to do with the extra cans and the few bags of treats she'd suddenly turned up her nose at. One day as I was carrying in our groceries, I saw this tiny kitten that had a black stripe down its back and stripes of black, brown, gray and white all over. For whatever reason, I thought, well, now's the time to get rid of the food. Because the kitten had hidden under the deck next to our door, I made sure it was watching and placed some treats on the stones next to the sidewalk. I could see it sniffing the air, but it became clear the kitten wouldn't come out while I was there. So I went inside and put a few of the groceries away and then checked outside. No sign of the treats - but the kitten was back under the deck and still watching. So I dumped out the rest of the bag and went back inside. After I got done putting everything away, I checked outside and all the treats were gone, as was the kitten. I felt the pull to befriend the kitten and worried that I wouldn't see it again. 

Little did I know that the kitten had been watching and it started coming around every morning at 5 am when my husband left for work, and every evening at 4 pm when he got home. I'd take out some food in the mornings - but it never wanted to eat while I was there - instead, it rubbed up against me and crawled in my lap and rolled on its back so I could rub its belly. I started to look forward to that 10-15 minutes of my day, in the peace of the early morning, where the kitten and I just enjoyed each other. I couldn't believe that this tiny kitten, who was clearly hungry, preferred love to food (it wasn't guaranteed it'd get it when I left because I quickly learned that as soon as I left, the other cats would come for the food and it'd back away and let them have the food). 

I fought a horrible battle with myself because I wanted to adopt the kitten, but knew it was a bad and dangerous idea because my 15 year old cat had medical problems that were hard enough to manage without bringing a new cat with unknown diseases into the mix. Plus, she'd been an only cat for 15 years so I couldn't imagine how it could go well. She BARELY tolerated my husband (when we moved in together she peed in my bed every day for at least a month), much less another cat. After going back and forth and dragging myself through endless battles, I decided I had to think of my 15 year old and say no. It was getting cold outside, closer to winter. Most of the excess food was gone. By this time, I'd decided the kitten was a "she," and named her "Lily" because it seemed like such a fantastic name for this loving, gentle soul. Unexpectedly, one night my husband came home and told me we were adopting the kitten. Even though I'd made the decision not to, it still killed me to think of what would happen to Lily once winter came, especially if we stopped feeding her. In retrospect, he clearly thought he was doing me a favor and rescuing me from the constant fight in my head. Since he promised to help with the cats, I agreed. But I decided that if we did this, I'd make sure to get Lily checked out at the vet before exposing her to Kitty (the 15 year old) - for all diseases and anything that could hurt my 15 year old. This meant I had to make an appointment and hope Lily would be around for me to snatch her. I also investigated how to introduce cats into a household and litter box train them, bought appropriate food and bowls, and set-up our second bedroom for the task of confining Lily until she got used to our household and was litter box trained. This time in limbo was hard because I was scared Lily would get hurt or disappear while I was trying to get everything ready. I finally made the appointment, but had to cancel when Lily disappeared for a few days. 

The second appointment we made. I put her in the carrier and went back inside to call the vet and make sure they had time. By the time my call was answered, I could hear poor Lily outside (LOUDLY) meowing up a storm and shaking the carrier, almost tipping it over (it didn't help that one of the other cats had come to watch the show). This made me wonder if we were making a mistake - could a cat that was outside and homeless for its entire life adjust to being just an indoor cat? We went to the vet and she was checked out. She weighed only 4 pounds and the vet determined she was about 8 months old. The vet indicated that her belly was distended and insisted on doing an ultrasound to check if she was pregnant. Again, in horror, I listened to her tell me I had a choice to make: do we take in the cat anyway and care for the kittens? Do we abort the pregnancy? Or do we do nothing and let her go outside and give up on Lily entirely? I had horrible visions of kitty abortions and wondered how I could honor my conscience without giving up on Lily (no judgment on abortions intended, but the thought of making the decision for her was hard to take). Five minutes later, the vet came back and told me they'd shaved her belly to do the ultrasound but found something they weren't expecting. She said, "I don't know exactly how to tell you this, but the good news is that your cat is not pregnant. The bad news is that she is really a he." My jaw dropped to the floor. I assumed a loving cat would be female and since I didn't see any obvious "equipment" (never bothering to look up cat anatomy), I just assumed Lily was a girl. Shocked. I imagined all kinds of horror: spraying, territorial battles, and general "maleness" (no offense to males, but I already cleaned up after my husband's messes and couldn't imagine another burping, farting, ornery male). So I sucked it up and assured the vet that we still wanted him and had the tests done - all of which came back perfect. So I drove home, still stunned into that place where you are lucky if you can even remember your name, and brought him home. 


Our kitten on the first day in HIS new home (and yes, part of his belly was shaved before the aborted ultrasound).

4 comments:

  1. Love this. Great learning how Bear came to live with you.

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  2. Sounds like Bear chose you ...often the case, Rosie did the same with us. Appeared in our yard out of nowhere and soon walked in the backdoor and made herself at home.

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    1. We got pretty lucky, didn't we? It's so weird that the cat you need at a certain time in your life just shows up out of the blue and changes everything!

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