Healing Power of Kittens

Lately I’ve been in a rough patch. Things with my partner have not been great. The stress of it has been suffocating. About two weeks ago, when the arguing was the worst, I hit the point where I wanted to kill myself. A feeling I haven’t had in years.

Obviously I didn’t since I’m here writing. I had an emergency appt with my therapist, it helped some. What keeps me going is my children. They need me and I can’t abandon them. Even when I am at my worst, at least I am still here.

So I made a decision on Monday that I was going to catch the kittens in my neighbors garage. So now I have 4 kittens I need to take care of and find homes for. I also caught their mama and took her to the Trap Neuter and Release program.

There are two boys Chewy & Parker. Two girls Meera & Mrs. Harvey. Chewy was first, he is black and white. His tiny nose is black and he has a patch of fur that looks like a flame. He is a cautious adventure. Then came Meera, she is white with the black and grey tabby stripes. She is sort of shy but she curled right up to our old man dog Dan when we put her next to him. Third was Peter Parker, so Parker. When we put him in the crate he climbed the side of it and hung on for dear life. Something is up with his eyes, so we will need to watch him carefully.

Last came Mrs. Harvey. She was a suprise. I thought there were only three kittens. But I set the trap again just to be on the safe aide. As I sat out back next to the fire pit I hear the sound of frantic cat crying. So then there were four. Mrs. Harvey was my music teacher for most of my life. She believed in me when I didn’t. Made me sing when I was scared. Listened when I needed her to. She saved me more than she ever knew. She was stubborn, cranky, and a bitch! When you got to know her she wasn’t as bad, she was kind. But she was still a bitch when needed.

It started with “What are the names of the witches in Hocus Pocus?” When Donna told me them and came to Winnifred, that was it. Winnifred Harvey. Mrs. Harvey. I do not think I will be finding Mrs. Harvey a new home.

When I catch them I feel good. It makes me happy and sad. Happy I can take the adults to be neutered and prevent cat over population. Happy that I can give kittens a temporary home. That I can socialize them with children and other animals. It makes me happy to clean then up and care for them. I have a hard time feeling happiness. This is a happy sad. The kind where you are so happy you could cry, happy I can love them but sad I will have to let them go.

Goodbye, My Best Friend

So tomorrow, I lose my best friend, someone I love more than anything in this world. I’m talking about my cat, Max. I’ve had this cat for almost 20 years, that’s all of my adult life. I don’t really even remember the day she was born, I was so little. The story goes, one night it was raining really hard, and my family must have been watching tv, because we were all in the living room. We hear a knock at the door, we have no idea who it was, it was late, we lived in the middle of nowhere, and we weren’t expecting anyone that night. It was a young couple, it must have been their first time on the mountain, because they seemed very unfamiliar with the area, and the customs of the people who lived there. It was very common for the pets of the residents of the area that I lived to be outdoor animals, that were allowed to come and go as they pleased. So needless to say we were surprised when this couple held a small kitten that was only a few weeks old. They said they found it wandering the road, in the darkness and the rain. Instantly, being children, my siblings and I begged our parents to let us keep the kitten, and we somehow won them over. That cat’s name was Tiger, or so we named it. We had tiger for a few years, she was our family’s first pet. That was until, somehow tiger became pregnant, most likely from one of the next door neighbors cats (the neighbor probably didn’t watch The Price is Right, because he didn’t believe in neutering). It was around Easter of 2000, that Tiger gave birth to 7 kittens herself, even though she was only a few years old (we didn’t really like spaying our animals either). I still remember, she gave birth in the closet of my sibling’s and my room, underneath an antique chair that had been in storage. It was wonderful, and even though my parents didn’t let us keep all 7 cats (they put some up for adoption) we ended up keeping 4 total. 3 girls and a boy, their names were Mrs. Whiskers, Mrs. Angel, Maxine, and Mr. Precious. We named the other 3 as well, but their names I don’t remember as well. It was soon after that, that we got a puppy, a collie named Cassie. Not long after that, the mother, Tiger, ran away, never to be seen again. It was a sad time for my family, but like I said, all the animals were more or less left to roam the surrounding area on their own, Tiger just never came back one day. I was lucky enough to have the one boy cat of the litter, which I named Mr. Precious. Unfortunately for me, when they were all about a year old, Mr. Precious ran away too, never to be seen again. This broke my heart when I was a kid. Luckily, we had an extra cat that no one claimed as their own, Maxine. So I, no longer having a cat to call my own, began to treat Max as my cat. We had those cats for many years before tragedy struck, Mrs. Angel, my brother’s cat got hit by a motorcycle while we were on vacation one year, killing her almost immediately. Needless to say my brother was heartbroken, and still is I think to this day.

My family only had 2 cats left. Soon after that, we lost my dog, Cassie, and the whole family mourned. It was not much longer after that, my parents got divorced, my mother, my siblings and I moved to the house we are in now. However, we left our 2 cats, Max and Mrs. Whiskers, at the old house, because my mother always hated cats, and saw this as an opportunity to be rid of them once and for all. About a year after we moved in, my mother finally gave way to us kids, and let our cats move in the the house with us. They were horribly malnourished, and infested with fleas. Those first few weeks were terrible, as they looked so sickly. As a quick side note, my cat Max, has had a tumor on her side for the past 10 years or so. The vet told us that operating was impossible as it was fused into her rib cage, and there was no guarantee that even after it was removed that it wouldn’t grow back. Luckily it was cancerous, and she didn’t seem to be bothered by it, the opposite in fact, she loved to be pet on it. Back to today, she once again is horribly malnourished, the tumor is now stealing all her nutrition, and she’s growing more sickly by the day. It is now, that I’ve decided that I’m going to put her to sleep tomorrow. It was a very hard decision to make, probably one of the hardest in my life. Like I said, I’ve had this cat for all of my adult life, and I’ve loved her more than anything. It is now, out of love, that I need to end her suffering. I’ve put it off for too long, in the hopes that she would get better, and she has only gotten worse. My selfishness has only caused her to suffer more. This is the hardest thing that I have ever done, when I decided earlier this week that I would put her to sleep on Saturday, I’ve been in a state of sadness and anxiety. I don’t want the day to come where I have to say goodbye. Saying goodbye to any pet, especially one you’ve had your whole life, is incredibly difficult. Experts say that sometimes it’s even worse than losing a human family member. Yet, the time has come, regardless of whether I wanted it to or not. The last thing I can do for her is show her how much I love her, and send her off peacefully. So tonight, I’m making her a handmade dinner as her last meal, a shredded tuna steak, covered in catnip with a side of milk. In the hopes that when tomorrow comes, she can leave happily, knowing that even up until the end, she was loved dearly. I just hope that for her sake, I can make it through this difficult time. I want to thank you all in advance for your love and support that I’m sure will be pouring out.

Yours,

Wolfgang

May Max Rest In Peace.

Creature Comforts

I did not have a pet growing up. My mother hates animals, and my father knew how to keep the peace. Not having a pet growing up, I didn’t know what I was missing.

When I met my wife, however, she came with a cat. His name was Shelby. This is him:

Shelby (Profile)

He was a proud, aloof, and very British cat. He liked me, but he loved my wife (he would drool when he picked him up). He was strong and independent, an outdoor cat, and fought like hell to protect his territory. But when it came time for us to leave England for the United States, we had to leave him behind. Although he went to a good friend of ours who we knew would give him a good home, it was still a sad parting. A few years later, he died.

Over here in the U.S., we were renting for quite some time, and couldn’t adopt a new pet until we were able to buy a house. When we did, it wasn’t long before another cat became part of the family: Pia. Here she is:

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She couldn’t be more different from Shelby: intensely social, very vocal, at times psychotic, and with a deep intelligence that covers knowing how to open doors to what her humans want from here at any given moment. And she adores me.

We have a routine. Every morning I pick her up and we cuddle for a few minutes. She doesn’t leave me alone until this happens. Every night when I come home, I lie on the couch and she jumps up on my chest, settling in the crook of my arm, and falls asleep for an hour or two. This happens every day without fail.

There is a point to this, too, beyond sharing essentially my entire social life (yes – two cats). In the decades since I left home, I’ve learned a great deal about myself, and about people. My day job keeps me in the service industry, and I help dozens of people a day. Often, I see people come into my store with animals: most often dogs, although the guy with the parrot is probably my favorite. I know these creatures for what they are: service animals. Some are for blind people, some are in training, but many more are therapy animals, there to help that person cope with something in their life: a great, unknown weight that drags them down and stops them from the simplest of things, like going out in public.

I feel for these people deeply, because I’m one of them. My depression, my bipolar, manifests in drawn-out waves of intensity, and there are times when I can’t get out of bed, either – never mind going out in public or making it to work. I know what it’s like.

And since getting Pia, I know exactly why these people have therapy animals. As much as they are a tool for coping with loss, trauma and mental illness, there are so much more than that: they are a symbol of something so many of us are missing in our lives.

You see, while animals most certainly possess a wide range of emotions, there is a level of self-awareness they lack. As D.H. Lawrence once said:

“A small bird will drop frozen dead from a bough without ever having felt sorry for itself.”

Animals get their love and care from others, and reciprocate in kind. Their lack of self-awareness translates into a lack of self-pity, which in turn translates to something we so desperately need: unconditional love.

Pia will love me whether I am happy or sad, high or low, ecstatic or depressed. She will love me when I’m there every day, and she’ll love me when I return from a week’s vacation. Pia’s love depends solely on how I treat her, and not on the fickle whims of human self-absorption. And why would I treat her with anything but love in return?

Whether I’m happy or depressed, Pia is a reminder that there are things in the world that are wholly good. That despite what people do to each other and have done to me, there is something – some creature – that loves me anyway.

That gives me worth when I feel worthless. It gives me hope when I’m in despair. And it gives me love when I feel abandoned by everyone around me.

So why am I telling you about my pets? Because I believe everyone in the world can benefit from socializing with the incredible creatures we share our planet with, and for those of us who struggle with our mental health, they might just change our lives.

Or maybe even save them.

Photo Credit: unsplash-logoAnete Lūsiņa