What looks like disaster is often a miracle.

As I watched the brothers eat this morning, I remembered my precious cat Hope, who died of diabetes a few months before Jack and Joe came. My daughter had found Hope under a bush out front, from where she had heard what she thought were little bird peeps that turned out to be from a very tiny kitten. We fed her with a bottle until she bit off the nipple and almost choked on it, and then she went to real food. Eventually we made her an indoor-outdoor cat.

One night Hope didn’t come home. It was unusual and I was distressed. The first morning after she went missing, there was a real cold snap. Then a freezing rain poured down in heavy sheets off and on all day. I was surprised it didn’t hail, it was so cold outside. As I watched through the window, suddenly I became frightened and began to cry. I visualized delicate little Hope wandering out there, lost, freezing, wet, developing hypothermia. I cried on and off all day, like the rain.

She was gone for a week. I was heartbroken, and hopeless, when the neighbor around the corner called to tell us Hope was under her house. She had jumped through an unscreened vent and couldn’t get back out. We fetched her and when we got her home I realized that the rain had been, in truth, a miracle. Remarkably, she was not at all dehydrated; plump skin bounced right back when I poked it. I was surprised. She had been under a house, with no nourishment or water, for a week. Or so we thought. That pouring rain the first day she was missing, that had made me cry, must have streamed under the house through the vents, providing plenty of water. Probably there were mice and other critters to eat. God sends me proof time after time, and still I cry and worry about things, like rain, that call for joy. When will I ever get it through my thick head that appearances are not truth? Geez Louise.

Jack and Joe don’t know it, but it was Hope’s food that I fed them when they first started coming around to the backyard. The food that she left when she died. I wonder if “the boys” would be grateful if they knew. Somehow I don’t think so. Gratitude isn’t big with cats. 

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Love, loyalty, and play among the ferals.

Recently Jack and Joe stopped coming in at dawn for breakfast, a routine I trained them into so painstakingly. “Now what?” I thought glumly. What was I thinking when I took them on? It’s a battle just staying one step ahead of them. Without their regular schedule of being in the house in the morning, I can’t plan for taking them to the vet or giving them medicine or anything because I can’t catch them when they’re outside. And knowing they’ll be inside early in the morning helps because if I have to transport them it’s a very light traffic time. Silicon Valley is total gridlock just about any time but then. 

I was just about to try switching to Sheba instead of Fancy Feast, but this morning they came in the house to eat. Thank God for Fancy Feast, and that Jack and Joe are foodies, and snobby ones. I gave Joe his monthly flea-heartworm dose, and picked some wicked burrs and foxtails off of Jack.  

Their health care is not the only issue that sometimes makes me question the soundness of my mind when I trapped them and took them to be neutered and vaccinated. (And chipped!) They’re frightfully expensive, and it’s not just the Fancy Feast. I pay through the roof for vet services. Ferals don’t make appointments. I bring them in whenever I can get them in, without a regular appointment, and pay emergency rates. To thank me Jack and Joe usually poop in their carriers on the way home so I can spend more hours cleaning up the mess after spending hours at the vet’s office. I wish they’d do that on the way to the office instead of on the way home. The technicians would clean up the mess. The things we do for love. 

I get disgruntled about all of it at times. It’s a lot of work. Then, suddenly, I’ll look through the glass sliding door and see them grooming each other in their patio bed, or wrestling and tumbling on the grass, or nuzzling and kissing. Often an old swayback female lurks at the patio’s edge, and Joe comes to the porch and looks in at me and acts hungry. When I put food out the old cat comes and eats while Joe patrols nearby until she finishes. I believe she’s their mother. Joe makes sure she eats, just like, early in our relationship, he brought Jack around and made sure I fed him. Did somebody say animals, and especially cats, don’t have feelings? I am witness to noble love and loyalty among the ferals, and their absolutely delightful sense of play. I wouldn’t have missed this for the world. 

I knew all along I had a good reason for taking them in.

 

It’s 5 am.

What in the hell am I doing up?

My formerly feral cats, Jack and Joe, are brothers. Through masterful scheming and tricking, I trapped them both in August 2012 and took them to a veterinarian for neutering and the requisite shots. They were about a year old, according to the attending vet’s best estimate, who thought they are almost certainly brothers. Somehow they had managed to stay together out in the neighborhood feral colony after leaving the litter. That day at the clinic, they were wild things, and petrified, but the job got done. Today they’re tamer and enjoy being petted, but still very human-shy except for me and my husband.

They come inside for breakfast every morning at 5:00 am. And I mean every single damn morning. They get their wet food then, to which they’ve become addicted, an addiction I purposely cultivated. The reason is because they must be in the house regularly in case I need to bring them in to the vet again, for their rabies or other shot, or if one has an injury, and for their flea-tick-earmite medication, and whatever. Outside, I don’t have a chance of catching them. So there I am, in the wee hours, often wondering “What in the *)#@%! was I thinking?!”

The other morning, exhausted after not sleeping well, I was buried in regret. But in my sleepy fog of self-pity and resentment, as I listened to the sounds of wet food being slurped I realized they’ve enhanced my life immeasurably. Five am is now when I do my spiritual reading, and meditate, and generally get myself centered and grounded to meet the coming day. It’s a very real need for me, and except for the rare morning that I’m exhausted or not well, it has become a lovely interlude. When they came into my life I was newly retired and feeling isolated and unmotivated and rudderless. I had trouble getting out of bed. I was a lonely empty nester. Now my precious morning time, while they eat wet food and I read and meditate and write in my journal, has given me a new outlook and a different, deeper perspective on life. Never a joiner, always a loner, I now belong to a church and a writers group, and I do some volunteering. My life is fuller and richer. And I even get all the sleep I need. I’ve learned to spot tucked-away places around me when I’m out and about where, sitting up, I can take very short naps. The front seat of my car, which is usually not far from me, is a prime spot for these mini-rests. It’s ironic that they are, most aptly, called catnaps.  

Realizing how much Jack and Jose have changed my life for the better, I now discern the profound spiritual truth about this situation: when cats take over your life, as they so often do, it’s always for a reason.