15: Paperwork

15: Paperwork

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


It is impossible to keep a straight face in the presence of one or more kittens.

~Cynthia E. Varnado

All we needed at the pet store was a bag of cat food and a box of litter. “I can get it — you two just go to the other stores, and I’ll meet you in a few minutes,” I advised my wife and daughter. But they wouldn’t listen.

Together we entered the store with me taking a cart to collect our cats’ needed items and the girls going to check out the newest additions to the adoption center at the back of the store. “We are not getting another cat!” I proclaimed. “We already have five and that is plenty!”

“We’re just going to look, dear,” my wife insisted, rolling her eyes. She quickened her pace to keep up with my little girl.

“No more cats!” I yelled after them. “I mean it!” Of course, the only people that heard me were an old man and his wife walking their Airedale, and a mother and her young son checking out the caged rats and guinea pigs. The senior citizen laughed and said, “Good luck, mister.”

Quickly I picked out our items and threw into the cart a set of play mice from the clearance bin as an extra treat for our feline quintet at home. I hurried to the kitten display. “Okay, time to go. We need to pay now,” I announced.

“Look, Dad,” my daughter squealed pointing to a tiny, rambunctious orange tabby. “Can we get him?”

“I said no more cats! We’re done. Let’s leave.”

“But he’s so cute,” my wife added. “Look how playful he is.” I should have been stronger, but I looked. The kitten was jumping on top of his cage-mates and spinning around trying to catch his tail. He stopped and looked me in the eye, laughing.

“Can we get him?” I heard from behind me. Another little girl looked up at her father, tears forming in her eyes. Be strong, I warned him telepathically, but the message was not received.

“Let’s go find your mother,” he whimpered. “Let’s see what she thinks about the cute little kitty.”

“What a wimp!” I seethed under my breath.

My wife jumped into action. “Hurry!” she whispered. “Before they get back. Let’s ask to hold him. He’s so cute!” Obediently, I followed her to the little waiting room where the squirming ball of orange fur was handed to us. He hopped on our laps, rubbed against our chests and purred loudly. He looked me in the eye as if to say, “Listen to your wife, buddy. Take me home!”

As we filled out the necessary paperwork, the man returned with his daughter and wife. The girl took one look at us holding our new cat and burst into tears. Her father hung his head and mumbled, “Maybe we could get the little gray one?” I turned around and completed the forms, afraid to look him — or worse, his daughter — in the eye.

We took Buster home, and soon he was a part of the family. He jumped on the table and swatted the breakfast vitamins to the floor. He hopped on the counters and on the back of the sofa. He chased his new brothers and sisters around the house with the same intensity he exhibited at the store.

One Saturday morning — laundry day — I was moving the freshly washed towels into the dryer. The phone rang, and I went to answer it. When I returned, I closed the dryer door and pressed the “on” button. A loud banging came from within. I quickly opened the door, and a befuddled orange kitten stared up at me, shook his head and hopped out. He scratched at the machine in an attempt to bury it. Eight lives left, I thought.

Buster spent the next few months happily exploring the house, tormenting the other cats and jumping into our laps for some human attention when he was tired. He bumped our heads with his own, purred and generally made himself at home.

The ornery cat loved rummaging through the trashcans for paper to eat. We purchased garbage cans with lids. He pulled tissues from their boxes. We turned the boxes upside down. He unrolled the toilet paper. We flipped the roll so that it rolled under instead of over. Still, in the middle of the night, we could hear him pulling the toilet paper across the bathroom.

Late one evening, my daughter came running into the living room. She shouted, “Buster looks sick! He’s not moving!”

We rushed to his side. He was lethargic, panting laboriously. His abdominal muscles clenched and heaved, yet nothing passed but tiny bubbles of mucus. With the vet’s office closed for the evening, we decided to take him to the nearby emergency animal clinic.

He looked me in the eye and purred as I handed him off to the intake assistant. “We’ll do a few tests and call you back as soon as we can,” she said as she held him to her chest and left for the back room.

I sat in the lobby and noticed a former student and his mother nervously waiting for the assistant’s report on their Cocker Spaniel. “A patio lamp fell on Chico’s head,” Benny whispered. His mother reached over and squeezed his hand.

Thirty minutes later, I was called to one examination room and Benny and his mother were escorted into an adjoining room. As I waited for news on Buster’s condition, I sadly learned of Chico’s through the uncontrolled sobbing of mother and son.

The veterinarian soon entered my room with my listless kitten. “We don’t know what’s wrong with him,” she said. “We could open him up and do some tests. That would run you about $3,000. Or we can euthanize him so he is not in any more pain.”

With a lump in my throat, I called my wife. We decided to bring him home, and if he died, he would be surrounded by those who loved him. The vet said she understood and handed me eight vials of painkiller — enough to suppress a St. Bernard. “In case he is uncomfortable tonight,” she offered.

It was 2 a.m. when I finally brought him home. We woke up our daughter so she could say goodbye. Together we held him through the early morning and cried.

The next day, we took Buster to the vet. He informed us that the kitten’s intestines were obstructed. “Probably something he ate from the trash,” he said. He administered some medication and allowed Buster to rest in his office. That afternoon, we received a call telling us to come pick up our cat. He ran toward us purring and rubbed against our legs.

Deep in the night, we were awakened by the toilet paper being pulled from the roll. I took the roll off and hid it in the cupboard. “Bad boy!” I said petting his head. He purred.

“We don’t need any more cats!” I hollered to my wife. But she didn’t listen. A few months later she brought home a little black kitten — she said Buster needed a friend.

~Tim Ramsey

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