This morning as I write, there’s a sick feral kitten on the bathroom floor breathing its last. I’ve wrapped it in towels; surrounded by warmth, that’s the only thing it needs now except the kindness of euthanasia. Its mother, who is also sick, has made several rounds of the yard looking for this kitten, but she is too wary to let me show her my attempts to help.
She has one other kitten left from a litter of four born two months ago, and she has shown it the way to the community food bowls, ready for it to be on its own. It looks just like her, white with gray patches on her head, and though its eyes are goopy it is otherwise energetic. Barring encounters with the neighborhood dogs, it may survive.
I don’t exactly know why I’m telling this story. In most quarters of American society, women with large numbers of cats are suspect. Men love to make jokes out of us (out of jealousy, I think.) But I know that I’m in this situation, tending two flocks of cats (one indoor, limited and shrinking in size, the other outdoor with no boundaries except those provided by mother nature) in part because it’s a way of participating in God’s great art project, of seeing myself as a member of His generous, expansive community. Because to do anything differently would be to break the covenant.
I noticed the kitten late Friday afternoon, the time when many animal emergencies arise because the veterinarian offices are closing and they’ve had all the emergencies they can stand for one week. The kitten was yelling its head off, not hard to find in the tall grass where its mother and white sibling were also lying. An ordinary tabby, the kitten’s eyes were glued shut, its nose covered in snot and grass seeds; it was lost except for what it could hear. When it heard me, it moved toward me, not away, as if it sensed its last resort had arrived.
It was a replay of the time 14 years ago when Pearl arrived, Pearl Of Great Price. It was April 15 and I was bemoaning my decrepit state of being when I heard a kitten crying outside. It was alone, lost in tall grass that was wet from rain, and when I spoke the words “where are you?” it bounded toward me, rescuing me from the verdict of uselessness I’d placed on my head. Pearl is nearing the end of her days now, but we still re-enact the moment of her coming when I hold her.
So I picked up the sick kitten in the grass Friday afternoon and started cleaning its nostrils and eyes. Mixed up a batch of kitten formula and tried feeding with an eyedropper. I made a safe place inside the smallest cat carrier and it went to sleep, comforted, until the middle of the night when it awoke alone and afraid. The next morning I was repeating my ministrations when its mother showed up and growled at me, for manhandling her offspring I suppose. I set it down and walked away. She carried it off by the neck with difficulty, dragging its body across the entire back yard to her hiding place behind the garage. By afternoon she’d given up getting it to respond, and I took it back to some kind of safety, perhaps a peaceful death.
It seems imperfect, you know, this life—at least from the perspective of romantic notions like Camelot. How we participate is all that matters. I’m still learning that.
Trudy Wischemann is a feline flock tender who lives and writes in Lindsay. You can send her your animal rescue stories c/o P.O. Box 1374, Lindsay CA 93247 or visit www.trudysnotesfromhome.blogspot.com and leave a comment there.
– This column is not a news article but the opinion of the writer and does not reflect the views of The Sun-Gazette newspaper.