In 1992 my mother came running to me that she thought she heard a cat in trouble. Their home backed onto a creek with no houses on the other side. Only a dirt parking lot with farmland beyond a road. She’d been outside working in the garden and thought she heard a cat crying. We went outside and we waited and listened. Waited and listened. Eventually it came again, distant, from across the creek. We looked, saw no cars there and decided to investigate.
We drove around to the parking lot, went to the creek edge and began to call for the cat. Silence. We waited. There was a rustle in the bushes and a fluffy grey kitten poked it’s head out to look at us, then began to cry. The sound was heartbreaking. As I walked towards this lost little kitten, speaking softly, she walked out on unsteady legs to meet me.
I picked her up, wrapping her in a towel gently. She nuzzled herself against my chest and began to purr. I was instantly smitten with this ragged, vomit smelling, so very alone and desperate for comfort grey ball of fluff. We looked around to see if there were any more kittens, but she was alone. Abandoned.
We took her home and the first thing we did was give her a gentle bath. She shivered in the cold and was enraptured with the hairdryer as we dried her fur gently on a low setting. After a little fresh water and a little food she fell asleep in my arms. Every time I would try to put her down she would wake and cry, not even falling for a clock ticking beneath the blankets. She’d found a warm, safe place and wanted to stay in my arms.
I was alone, pregnant and again living with my parents. I already had a cat and a dog. Add my mother’s cat and I agreed that it was impractical to keep the kitten. After a few days when she’d gotten her strength back and we knew she’d be alright, we took her to the animal shelter. A piece of my heart stayed with her as I walked away.
I felt terrible, as did my mother. We raced back to the shelter the next day to bring her home. I walked into the office, full of hope, and told the man behind the counter that we’d really like to adopt her after all. He told me that they don’t give animals back to the people who handed them in, that they weren’t a veterinary service. I told him we’d pay for any treatments, adopt her the usual way. I tried to tell him how important it was. He checked the records, came back and told me she had been put down after her first vet check… mites in the ears.
I was told years later that the shelter would lie if it would stop people from trying to get animals back. Maybe he had lied to me when he told me she’d been put down. If so, he could have chosen a less damaging lie, like… she’s been adopted already.
I’ll never know for certain now, so the pain of his words still ring in my heart when I remember her.
Physically my pregnancy was really easy. My body thrived, blossomed. Emotionally, not so good. I went in to see my doctor for my check up, sat down in his office and promptly burst into tears… again. He listened to my fractured story, able to translate my blubbered words, as always and waited for me to wind down. He asked me… “Do you feel like you rejected and abandoned the kitten, in the same way that you feel you’ve been rejected and abandoned in your own life?”.
Yes. That is exactly how I felt. I felt I’d done to her as had happened in my life over and over again.
She paid for my rejection with her life.
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