14: Not Our Cat

14: Not Our Cat

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: The Cat Did What?

Not Our Cat

Women and cats will do as they please, and men and dogs should relax and get used to the idea.

~Robert A. Heinlein

I am allergic to cats — violently allergic. Naturally, I found myself living with two of them.

My allergies used to be so intense that even as someone opened the door to their home I could tell if they owned a cat. The moment the knob turned, my eyes began to water and the sneezing would start. Once, when I spent the night at a friend’s house I had such a severe allergic reaction to his two cats that I stopped breathing for a few seconds.

That’s why I wasn’t amused when Joey decided she was moving in.

Joey officially lived next door, but even as a kitten she’d race up to anyone who walked by her house to see who they were and what they wanted. Her “owners” included a three-year-old boy who viewed the cat as a cute furry toy. Not surprisingly Joey spent as much time out of the house as she could.

Joey was endearing enough that when she raced up to my car, I’d risk giving her a quick rub before bursting into a sneezing fit. My wife, Darron, always did the same (minus the sneezing).

Then, one afternoon, Joey followed Darron into the house. And from that moment on, any time the front door opened Joey raced inside.

She was small, sweet and so determined to charm us that I’d swallow megadoses of allergy pills just so I could breathe during her visits. Suddenly I found myself with the best pet I never had. Joey would sit on my shoulders as I worked until she’d get bored and jump onto my desk until she’d get bored with that and casually stroll across my computer keyboard.

Then my allergies worsened — she’d rubbed against so many parts of the house that it felt like I was allergic to everything. We knew we couldn’t have her in the house anymore but Joey didn’t agree. Joey had discovered every possible entrance to the house — including a small third-story bedroom window she reached via a convoluted ladder consisting of a fence, a nearby tree and our roof. Once we discovered how she was getting in, we kept all the windows shut — and that’s when Joey started holding cat symphonies, complete with window scratching, each morning at 3 a.m. until we’d surrender and let her in.

That was about the time we noticed Joey — who our friends had taken to calling by the name we’d given her — “Not Our Cat” — was getting bigger. We knew Joey was a she — but it never occurred to us she hadn’t been spayed. Eventually the tiny black tabby looked like she’d swallowed a football. And the bigger she became the more determined she was to get — and stay — inside our house.

When we came back from a weekend vacation we discovered Joey was huge and furious. She looked so impatient that I suspect if we hadn’t reappeared, she would have broken the door down to let herself in.

The next morning at 5 a.m. “Not Our Cat” let loose with a howl and gave birth to “not our kittens” in the middle of our bedroom floor. I immediately dubbed the first one that landed on the bedroom floor “Excalibur” because my 5 a.m. logic was that birth reminded me of the sword being pulled from the stone.

Darron, who grew up on a farm and knew far too much about animals, quickly set out a box for Joey, which she leapt into as the next kitten began to pop out. A few minutes later there were five impossibly tiny kittens cuddled up to their mom on a soft towel in a cardboard box in the corner of our bedroom.

As I looked at these little balls of fluff I knew it was time to buy every allergy pill in the city.

On the second day, two things happened. The first was that one of the kittens — a howler — began looking sick. She didn’t make it through the night. The next thing was that Darron took all the kittens out of the box to insert a fresh towel.

“Look at this,” she said, holding up the beauty of the litter — a sweet-faced calico. Darron counted the limbs and each time came up with the wrong number — three. Instead of a leg there was something dangling from her rear right hindquarter.

We raced the calico puffball to a vet who told us that the leg had been accidentally severed just below the knee by the umbilical cord. The cut was clean but this was definitely a three-footed cat. Then the vet told us that if we’d nurse this three-legged cat to health she would find a good home for it.

Darron and I quickly fell into a routine of cleansing the stump with iodine and painting it with medication four times a day — while also handling each of the other kittens to make sure Joey didn’t think there was something wrong with her three-legged daughter (who we eventually named Scooter).

Aside from being the cutest of the lot, Scooter was everyone’s first choice to adopt until they discovered her disability. But when she lost her leg she gained her mother’s attitude. Scooter not only fought us as we tried to apply her medication — developing a way to withdraw her stump into her body so we couldn’t reach it — she was also the first kitten to move onto solid food and the first to climb out of the box.

Once when my parents came to visit with their two Shih Tzus, we shut the cats in a room with a glass door. All the cats, including Mom, hid under the bed while five-week-old Scooter raced to the door, puffed herself up and hissed at the dogs through the window.

Then one morning I picked up Scooter and her stump was covered with blood. I wrapped her in a towel and raced her to the vet. The vet assured me Scooter was fine but when I got her back to the house I called Darron to announce that even if I had to leave the house, Scooter was staying.

When we took Scooter for her first checkup the vet admitted that we were the “good home” she’d suspected Scooter would end up in.

We found people for two of the other kittens, but since Scooter would never be allowed outside (for obvious reasons) we decided to keep Excalibur as her playmate.

I’m not sure how it happened but at about the time the other two kittens moved out, my allergies went with them.

~Mark Leiren-Young

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