71: The Thousand-Dollar Cat

71: The Thousand-Dollar Cat

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

The Thousand-Dollar Cat

People who love cats have some of the biggest hearts around.

~Susan Easterly

The black kitten appeared out of nowhere on Halloween afternoon, only hours after we laid our sixteen-year-old dog to rest beside the old farm pond. I didn’t want the scraggly fur ball to stay because getting attached to another animal was simply out of the question. I fed her and hoped she’d find her way back to wherever she came from.

I noticed her watery eyes and the slight nasal wheezing noise as she gobbled down the kibble. Afterwards she sat on the porch near the front door washing her face and watching my every move, making no effort to leave. The evening grew chilly, so I decided she could stay inside overnight in the guest bathroom since she appeared to have caught a cold. I did not want her to come in contact with my other two house cats, Levi and Baby Bee, in case she was contagious. I called her Elvira because a black cat appearing on Halloween should have that name.

Next morning, I opened the bathroom door only to be greeted by a throaty meow and crusty eyes. I made phone calls to neighbors to see if any claimed her. No one owned up to it so I loaded Elvira into the carrier and took her to the vet. One hundred dollars later she sat comfortably in that same guest bathroom munching her kibble and purring. For ten days I would give her an antibiotic twice a day.

“Okay, Elvira, when you get better you must go live with the barn cats. I already have two felines in this house,” I told her as I closed the door for the night. However, as I was about to learn, she had different ideas.

Ten days later her eyes were clear, but she still wheezed. Another $100 trip to the vet netted more antibiotics and another two weeks of inside care. By the time those days ended, Elvira had already escaped the confines of the bathroom and made friends with Levi and Baby Bee. The three of them romped through the house like racehorses, but Elvira’s wheezing persisted.

A third trip to the vet brought more tests. This time a chest X-ray revealed chronic bronchitis. The vet wanted to try a different antibiotic. That trip cost $150, bringing my total investment to $350 for a cat I did not ask for, not to mention another ten days of required bed rest.

Bed rest? Did that include trips up the curtains, or hiding underneath the bed and swatting my toes when I got too close? Did it include trying to catch birds through the kitchen window as they ate at the feeder outside? Did it include using the house as a racetrack and a tumbling mat as she and the other two chased and attacked each other? None of that fit my definition of bed rest. The only thing that even closely resembled it had something to do with Elvira taking over Baby Bee’s favorite bed in the corner chair of the den.

The third round of antibiotics seemed to do the trick. She was wheeze-free for a week after the medicine ran out, so the coast was clear for me to put her outside. But first I wanted to have her spayed. I didn’t want any more mouths to feed in case Elvira decided to hang out indefinitely with the barn cats. Another trip to the vet added an additional $125 to my ever-growing Elvira tally, which now amounted to $475 not counting food and flea and tick treatments. The spaying also brought another week of indoor living to the already spoiled-rotten cat.

Finally I was able to say to her, “Okay, Elvira, I think it’s time for you to make your way down to the barn. You can bunk on the top hay bales along with the other outside cats.”

As I reached down to pick her up for the trip to the barn, she sneezed. And then she sneezed again. She sat perfectly still and looked me in the eye, then sneezed a third time. If she could have talked, I’m sure she would have said, “Okay, I’ll go to the barn, but this cough of mine could get worse out in that dusty hayloft.”

“All right, Elvira, one more day inside, but only one. Do you understand?”

She gave me her famous look of contempt and sauntered off to the bedroom, where she immediately attacked the curtains and knocked over an antique lamp.

Next morning her sneezing spasms grew more frequent, only this time green mucus came from her nose. Another trip to the vet brought news that she needed to stay overnight because she had a fever and her chest was tight with infection. She also needed fluids. I left her there.

That evening Baby Bee and Levi walked in circles looking for Elvira. They checked their favorite playground underneath the skirt of the armchair. They checked under every bed and in all the closets for signs of their playmate. They eyed me suspiciously as though I had done something with their little buddy. My heart sank. Had we all become hopelessly attached to evil little Elvira, the demon she-cat who dominated the house with her fearlessness? I had to admit the house was too quiet without her chasing people on the TV screen and climbing to the top of the ficus tree in the corner of the den. Even the birds at the feeder outside the kitchen window didn’t appear happy now that they had no one to taunt through the glass.

A call from the vet the next day brought grim news. Elvira had advanced pneumonia. She was seriously ill and needed to remain isolated at the vet’s office. I had to choose whether I wanted to pay for her hospital stay and treatments or euthanize her. The vet could not guarantee she would pull through.

What kind of choice was that? The little heathen cat had somehow stolen my heart when I wasn’t looking. I looked down and saw her catnip mouse, the one she carried in her mouth like a security blanket. Tears welled in my eyes as I realized at that moment just how much I loved her. Without hesitation, I told the vet to do what he could to save her. As I hung up the phone, it seemed that Levi and Baby Bee knew exactly what I had done. Within minutes the sounds of them running and chasing each other filled the house as though they were trying to keep in shape until Elvira returned.

Two weeks and $525 later Elvira came home, ready to do battle with the opposing forces. As I write this story she is in the chair with me, or rather I am in HER chair. There is no danger whatsoever of Elvira ever being relegated to the barn unless, of course, I make a bedroom down there for myself. My thousand-dollar cat has become priceless to me.

~Carol Huff

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