50: For the Love of Fish

50: For the Love of Fish

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: I Can't Believe My Cat Did That!

For the Love of Fish

The problem with cats is that they get the exact same look on their face whether they see a moth or an axe-murderer.

~Paula Poundstone

When I first moved to the little town of Portage La Prairie, Manitoba, I was lonely. I had my family and a few friends, but it was the first time I had lived alone. Although my place was lovely and had almost everything I needed, it did not have companionship.

After a month or so, I decided to get a pet. I went to the local pet store, but it only had fish. Although lovely, a fish was not what I was looking for. However while looking through the tanks, I saw an injured-looking Betta fish. It was a magnificent shade of royal blue with crimson spots on its fins. The poor thing was quarantined in a little net on one side of the tank.

The shop attendant explained that the other fish picked on it, but there was no room for it elsewhere. My heart went out to it. As a teenager, I was often the object of ridicule. I decided to take the Betta home. On my way home I chose the name Anshin, which is Japanese for peace of mind.

The following few weeks went more smoothly. I would come home and spend time watching Anshin swim around. I chuckled every time he puffed up his fins upon seeing his own reflection in his mirrored exercise floater. This was fine for a while, but there is only so much companionship to be gained from a fish.

I quickly fell back into feeling lonely and wondered what to do. By no small miracle, I overheard someone in the market speaking about abandoned kittens. When I asked her about them, she explained that she had found a box of kittens on the side of the highway. There had been seven to start, but five of them had died from starvation. I felt sick to my stomach just hearing about it.

She continued to tell me that she wanted to care for them, but she already had three dogs and four cats. My first instinct was to tell her that I would take them, but I was not sure I was ready for the responsibility. The only cats I had lived with belonged to my previous roommates. And I didn’t know the first thing about caring for kittens.

My thoughts must have been transparent because the woman asked me if I might consider giving a home to them. The look in her eyes was desperate, and I thought she might start crying if I said no. When I told her I would, she burst into tears and hugged me tightly, right in the middle of the produce aisle.

Two days later, I was the proud and utterly terrified caregiver of two precious kittens. They were practically twins — all black fur except for one little spot of white on their tails. The only difference between them was one had one white toe. I named them Mika and Kyo.

I spent hours over the next couple of weeks researching proper care for kittens. I fed them special foods, took them to the vet, and litter trained them.

While similar in looks, they had very different personalities. Kyo was content to snuggle with me while I did my writing, but Mika always had to be doing something. She would seek out anything that moved, and unfortunately that also meant Anshin.

Fortunately, though, she did not appear to want to eat him. She was happy to watch Anshin swim around his bowl. Sometimes Mika would bat at the bowl if Anshin wasn’t active. I worried that Mika would scare poor Anshin to death, but they soon grew fond of each other. Mika wouldn’t even have to bat at the bowl to make Anshin frill his fins.

We had settled into a routine. When I came home, I would play with Mika and Kyo and brush them. Then I would sit down to write. Kyo would curl up on my shoulder and purr heavily into my ear. Mika would jump onto the desk beside Anshin’s bowl and watch with wide eyes as he swam around.

Come summertime, my apartment became too hot to handle. I did not have air conditioning, and even with a fan in every room, it was way too hot. I opened all the windows, but noticed that one of them didn’t have a screen. I didn’t think much of this.

After opening the windows as much as possible, I went to take a cool shower. Upon returning to my living room, I was shocked to find a big purple pigeon waddling along my floor. I thought for sure Mika or Kyo would attack it, but they weren’t fazed by its presence. Kyo sat perched on the couch giving herself a bath while Mika sat and looked out the window. I was so shocked that I didn’t even move. I was trying to think of a way to get the pigeon out of my apartment.

After what felt like hours, Mika jumped off the windowsill and pranced over to the bird. She playfully nudged it with her face. It was as though she were trying to make friends with it. The bird was not put off, and instead wandered around my apartment. I assumed it was looking for something to eat, and that’s when it spotted Anshin.

The bird flew onto my desk and waddled over to Anshin. Mika joined and watched closely. The bird started flapping its wings, and that was when I realized it was going to try to get Anshin. I was about to step in and try to scare the pigeon away, but I heard Mika hissing.

I stopped, as did the bird. The bird looked sideways at Mika and Mika stopped hissing. As soon as Mika stopped, the bird started attacking the bowl again. Mika began to growl this time. The bird backed off, but only for a minute.

This went on until, clearly, Mika had had enough. The pigeon had stuck its beak into the bowl and Mika took a fast swipe at it with her claws. The pigeon was none too happy and lunged at Mika.

Again, I was going to attempt to scare off the bird, but Kyo beat me to it. She had soundlessly left the couch and found her way to Mika’s side.

The two of them ganged up on the bird and were winning. The bird retreated and started to fly madly around the living room. I hit the floor and covered my head until the noise had settled down.

When I looked up, I caught sight of the pigeon making a hasty escape through the window. I sat there, dumbfounded. When I looked over to see if my cats were okay, I found them purring and brushing up against Anshin’s bowl lovingly.

The next few words came out of my mouth without even thinking: “Oh, for the love of fish!”

~Jazmyne Rose

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