Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Angie, The Talking Kitten

I have three grown cats, all strays that I’ve tamed or rescued from terrible conditions. I live in a tiny 725 sq. ft house and for over three years I worked out of my home office. While I was still actively catching and rescuing feral cats, I was finding other homes for them or doing a neuter/spay and release program. I was absolutely not interested in bringing another cat into my family. Until my mother and I visited my aunt and saw the unbelievable conditions her 15 cats and kittens were living in.

One mother cat and her litter of 4 kittens were so undernourished and sickly I didn’t see how they could keep living. My aunt just ignored them. She didn’t feed them, she didn’t love them, she didn’t try and catch them to get them to the vet. Yet, they were her cats and she had an absolute fit when we suggested that it might be better to call Animal Control and have them come pick up all the cats.

We took all four of the kittens with us when we left. I was a little surprised at my aunt’s lack of resistance when we took them, since she professed such great love for them. But, I already knew that this was just another attention-getting device, because the babies were in such poor shape. Still, she refused to let us have the mother. It still breaks my heart that we had to leave her there. But at least she’s no longer trying to nurse 4 babies and can maybe regain some of her health.

It was difficult to catch the kittens, they were half wild, and we didn’t have much of a chance to assess their condition until we got them back to my house. We just knew that they were all very thin, constantly crying, restless and, of course, not well socialized. What we found when we got them home was shocking and heartbreaking.

The three boys were bigger and had quite a bit more body fat than the little girl, which isn’t saying much as even the boys were way, way too thin. But the one little girl was just a skeleton. She was the runt of the litter and had obviously never been as strong as her brothers. Her little face, once we were able to get a good look at her, was just a skull covered with skin and patches of fur.

Animal Control in my town works with several no-kill shelters and, fortunately, we were able to get the three boys into a shelter with their help. The little girl was so starved and sickly I was afraid that she would be deemed too far gone to save and I couldn’t bear the thought of her short little life ending when she had never know what it felt like to be well-fed and to feel good. So, I kept her and I called her Angie.

For the first few hours we had a tough time catching Angie to show her the litter box and the food. We fed her a small portion every hour and we’d have to chase her down and corner her every time we fed her. When it got time to go to bed I decided that she should probably spend the night in the bathroom because she hadn’t gotten acquainted with the other cats yet and because it would be easier to make sure she stayed warm enough in the bathroom. I chased her down and put her in her little bed and locked her in the bathroom. The minute the door closed on her she began shrieking at the top of her lungs. We let her go on for awhile thinking that she would calm down pretty soon and drop off to sleep. But Mom had to go to the bathroom and shortly after she went in things got very, very quiet. Then Mom called me to come look. Angie was sitting in her lap purring so loud I could hear it from the hallway.

I took her to bed with me that night and (except for one small accident in the middle of the night) she cuddled up to me and slept like a baby all night long. We never had a problem catching Angie after that. In fact, she would follow us everywhere we went and whenever either of us sat down she would climb up in our laps and cuddle and purr.

She was also quite the talker. She would climb into a lap, curl around and find a comfortable spot, and then meow at us for several minutes. If we answered her she’d just keep talking.

Mom’s visit ended and after she left Angie became my shadow. I was working from home at the time and I was never out of her sight. She would squeeze into my lap while I sat at the computer and when I talked to a customer on the phone she would talk, too. When she was awake she’d try and catch the mouse pointer on the computer screen and talk to me. Meow, meow, meow, meow. A constant stream of chatter. She was so tiny that she could sit right in between the computer monitor and the keyboard and never interfere with my typing or my paperwork.

It took several weeks for Angie to build up any strength and gain some weight. At one point she stopped eating completely and I rushed her to the vet, terrified that I was going to lose her. But her little tummy was just having trouble getting used to so much food. She was fine. The vet said, “I think you’re going to have a healthy little girl here – she just needs some patience and some feeding-up.” Such simple words, but music to my ears. Sure enough, she gradually gained weight and started feeling better. She learned how to fetch balled up cigarette wrappers and would wear my arm out wanting them thrown for her. She learned to climb curtains, hide behind chairs and jump out to scare me when I walked through the house, use a scratching post and ride in the car. She was my constant companion and it was such a joy to have her in my life.

I had fallen head-over-heels in love with Angie but my three big cats had not. They hated her, which is not unusual for cats. But, Daisy, who is still pretty wild, really hated Angie and kept trying to hurt her. She drew blood on several occasions and I kept a constant eye on the two of them. Angie was so small she still fit in my two cupped hands. I was afraid Daisy might actually kill her. It became such a serious issue that I began taking Angie to the neighbors when I had to leave the house, so that she would not be left alone with Daisy.

Then my company started another big reorganization and I was scheduled to visit 12 offices in 3 weeks. I’d be gone for at least a week at a time, maybe longer. I couldn’t leave Angie alone with the big kitties, even with a pet sitter coming in every day. And I began to have some serious doubts about forcing her onto the other three cats. All three of them came from very difficult situations. Daisy was a wild orphan, somehow separated from her mother when she was much to young to be weaned. It took me months to catch her while she lived in my back yard – a lonely, scared little kitten. Gibson and Tinkerbell were nearly dead from starvation and parasites when I found their orphaned litter. I had a lot of myself invested in those three cats and, after two months, they were all three still very unhappy about her presence. To be truthful, I was definitely paying much more attention to Angie than I was to them and it just wasn’t fair to them. I had to give Angie up.

Angie now lives with two little boys and a dog that she adores. I’ve visited her a couple of times. She still fetches balled up cigarette wrappers, jumps out from behind chairs and scares her little boys, then chases them through the house. She follows her new dog, Ernie Bear, everywhere and loves him dearly. She doesn’t pay much attention to me when I visit. She has a new family and a new life. She’s moved on. But, I still miss that tiny warm body curled up tight against me at night, and it’s so quiet with no kitten conversation to keep me company.

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