Rescuing kittens comes with a bigger price tag than I anticipated. No, it’s not all monetary, although that part can add up quickly. It’s the pieces of our heart that these furry bundles so easily and quickly claim. Especially when we lose one. When they go, even if they’ve only been with us a short time, they take a piece of our heart with them.
This past May, Herman got sick. He got diarrhea and was listless, just lying there. We rushed him to the 24/7 vet’s office. They ruled out feline leukemia and HIV, and a few other possible causes. Unfortunately, we had a cap of $350 that we could spend and that was gone within the first half an hour. Without further testing which we didn’t have the funds for, the doctor was leaning towards a bacterial parasite. Herman came home with a super-strong dose of meds. But even with the meds and forced hydration and food, he worsened more each day. About three days later, his sister, PJ, got sick.
Now, Herman and PJ were two special kitties in the household. They were now about seven months old and were the last two kittens from a litter of six. Four of the six had already died, much younger. The whole litter was a sickly bunch. We believed that the small colony of ferals outside was becoming inbred.
When this new litter was just a few weeks old, they all became sick and were on antibiotics. They all had bad eye infections. One little one was worse than the others. Her eyes were so bad that even her inner eyelids were shut. When I saw her simply sitting by the side of the cage, while the others were playing and frolicking, I realized that she couldn’t see at all. She simply pulled away from everything and would just sit, afraid to move around.
I wanted to keep PJ socialized, so I fashioned a sling from a long scarf and carried her nestled against my chest for most of the day. She got extra helpings of formula and lots of TLC. From that day on, I was Mama and once the kittens were bigger and out on their own, she would follow me around the house like a puppy. A few months later she had another bout fighting an infection and it took over 30 days of antibiotics before she recovered. When she recovered she’d strut around with a little wiggle and sway to her prance. I’d joke and call her ‘Miss Priss’. We were a team, the two of us. I love all of our cats, but there’s a few that have an extra-special place. PJ had the biggest of the extra-special places.
When she got sick too, I was devastated. We lost her and her brother on the same day. It was a Sunday. We woke up that morning and Herman was gone. I was out back digging a burial place in our memory garden. I stopped to take a break and wandered across to the garden area on the other side of the yard. A gray streak flew by me. It was a tabby from a litter the year before. As I turned to scan the yard, I saw a tiny black puddle on the ground. Moving closer to see what it was, the black blob scurried to the back fence as fast as it could go. I was right on its tail, but not quite fast enough. It would have made it through the fence back into our neighbor’s yard, but it misjudged which broken spot it came in through and ended up trapped in a small spot between two boards.
When I went back inside, a tiny black and white tux was wrapped in the bottom fold of my t-shirt. Later we named him ‘Stache for his little milk mustache.
Usually, I get all goo-goo over the newest kittens. But I couldn’t with Stache. I was losing PJ and several hours later she died in my arms. I bawled. For weeks. Writing this, I’m crying again. I loved that little girl.
I had a heart-to-heart talk with Stache. I told him that he couldn’t take the place of my little girl. She didn’t take a piece of my heart. She took a whole chunk of it. I didn’t think I had any left.
But, of course, I kept taking care of the little guy. And pretty soon it didn’t even matter what I said. He didn’t care if I said I didn’t have any room in my heart for another one. He just wormed his little way right in there. Now when I walk in the door from work, the little pitter patter of footsteps that go running to answer the door sports a little white mustache on them. And he’s already claimed his very favorite napping spot. It’s nestled the crook of my arm. And if I’m busy and he decides he wants to nap…he’ll climb my legs to get there.
So even though I miss the ones we lose – and if you rescue cats you’re going to lose some – I’ve discovered that our hearts are huge and will grow and expand to love any new ones that enter our lives. And once you’re hooked on these little fur balls, the mission to save as many as you can won’t go away. I want them all, even if I end up crying over some that we can’t save. And then I wonder why my sister calls me The Crazy Cat Lady.
And now…if you’ll excuse me…I’ve got a kitten commanding my attention.
Trisha Faye is the human interpreter for Scooter Pie’s story. He tells his tale of a rescued kitten in Scooter’s Tale, available on Amazon. You can find Scooter, and some of the newer rescues on Facebook at Scooter Pie’s Family.