Ashe Elton Parker

A Writer of LGBTQ+ Characters in Speculative Fiction

Category: Family

The New Cat

I’ll be honest here. The weeks leading up to Einstein’s euthanasia were stressful for me, but I was still marginally creative. Mainly with crocheting, but a little with my writing. After he died, though, I entered a severely depressive state wherein I didn’t feel like creating. This was from Wednesday the 4th of October. I came home numb, out of sorts, and depressed. The only reason why I created at all though was because I got out of the house and went up to the pride center to hang out to escape my empty home. Frankly, my apartment wasn’t the same without a little bundle of fur around. It was depressing. Honestly, I wouldn’t have believed how much a little cat could fill a home, no matter how small, if not for my experience with Einstein, and losing him was absolutely devastating for me.

Even with all that, though, I wasn’t sure about getting another cat right away. I kept telling my mom that I’d wait on getting another cat. Maybe a month or two. But I spent time on various pet adoption sites browsing the pics of their cats. Mom sometimes joined me, and we’d repeatedly go through the cats posted on the Salt Lake County Animal Services website. By Friday, I’d worked up a list of cats and kittens I was interested in checking out, should they be there still. Oh, and I’d made tentative plans to go with Mom to the shelter if my friends and I didn’t game, and Mom said she’d go with me to pay the fees for the new cat.

One of the things Mom did on Thursday was contact the Salt Lake County Animal Services about Einstein’s death. According to Mom, the head of the office (whose name I can’t spell based on how it sounds and can’t find anywhere on the website) was dismayed to hear of Einstein’s death and the reason for it. She even asked Mom for the name of the illness that took him, and Mom thinks that’s because the other kittens who were in the kennel cage with him also had Feline Infectious Peritonitis. As a result of that call Mom made, the director of Salt Lake County Animal Services agreed to waive the adoption fee, even offering to allow me to adopt two cats free of adoption fees if I wished. But Friday proved to be a wash for the trip. Mom and I both had rough nights of sleep, so even though my friends couldn’t game, we agreed to go Saturday.

So, on Saturday, Mom came over and helped me clean and disinfect my apartment to ensure my new wouldn’t come down with the same disease that took Einstein. By two that afternoon, we were on our way to the shelter. This required a trip by commuter train and a brief walk. When we arrived, I checked in and received permission to go look at the cats, and Mom and I went back.

Leery of getting a kitten as young as Einstein was when I adopted him, I didn’t spend much time looking at the younger kittens. Mom and I had agreed that we wanted one old enough to have had its rabies vaccination already, if I did get a kitten. For the most part, though, I looked at the adult cats, one year old and older. This time, there were a number of people in the cattery: An older couple who were in one of the cat colony rooms when Mom and I entered and a family with kids. It was quite busy back there, a lot of activity with the kids opening kennels to play with and cuddle the kittens in them.

I eventually moved into a little offshoot room where cats in individual kennels were. Nearly all these cats were at least one year old. After some observation and careful “testing” by tapping the bars of the kennels, we discovered a pair of neighboring cats who seemed interested in us. One was a black-furred female cat who was about two years old. The other was a white and grey-and-brown patchwork cat we’d seen online. The black cat was vocal and stuck her paw out the cage whenever we took our hands away. The patchwork cat was also female, and she was around nine years old, if I recall correctly; she tucked herself right up against the bars of her cage for attention, wanting to be touched. I honestly didn’t know which one of these two I wanted, but Mom suggested I not be hasty—she wasn’t going to rush me—and to look around some more.

Since I couldn’t decide on either of these two cats, I agreed, and we left the little offshoot room and returned to the main (brief) corridor where the cat colony rooms were off of. The family with the kids had moved on to a different kennel with kittens, and the older couple had moved to a different colony room. Noticing that the cats in the first two colony rooms weren’t really interested in Mom and me (or the older couple, who moved from the middle room to the left-hand room while I watched), I decided to go to room three, on the far right, close to where a staff entrance was.

The cats were more lively in this room, and two were right by the window beside the door. Both of them meowed (I couldn’t hear through the glass, but their mouths opened), and the smaller of the two started climbing this funky looking cat tree that seemed just to be wide rods covered in carpeting that stood beside the window. I looked into the window in the door and saw the other cats were interested as well, so opened the door and stepped in.

Immediately the smaller of the two talkative cats reached out for me. I turned to say something to Mom, and the cat first put both forepaws on my backpack (a type with one strap, meant to be slung crosswise over the body), then hopped up to climb up me. This was the last thing I’d expected, but I was amused and let the cat twine up over my shoulders and around the back of my head—by the way, this was before I even shut the door. Mom looked at me and said, “I think you’ve got your cat!”

Agreeing wholeheartedly, I asked Mom to go get an employee and shut the door so the other cats wouldn’t escape, remaining in the room. While I waited for the minute or so it took an employee to come fetch this cat, it continued to make loops around my head. Mom returned, and she pointed out some pictures hung on the wall perpendicular to the entrance, within view of the window, and opened the door to ask me which cat it was. I honestly could not determine from the pictures on the cards which cat had chosen me. It must be said that everyone who saw how this cat glommed me was amazed at its behavior; nobody had ever seen anything like it.

When the staff member came to fetch the cat, she said she was glad they’d finally been able to move him to the adoption rooms—he’d been in seclusion because he got into an altercation with another cat and ended up wounded and they had to keep him secluded to ensure the wound would heal. She told us the cat’s name was Hendrix and they thought he was seven months old; she’d bring him out to us if we went out to the front desk.

So Mom and I went back out to the main room. There, I signed the paperwork, Mom paid the licensing fee, and I received my new cat!

Hendrix!

Hendrix on Home Day 7 Oct 17

Einstein

Einstein in a Republic of Tea box.

I’ve had a tough few weeks with Einstein. It started about two weeks ago this past Thursday, when I took him in for his leukemia booster shot. He had a fever, so they refused to vaccinate him and told me to bring him in again in a week. I brought him home and over the course of the week noticed his belly grow. When I brought him in again, they said he still had a slight fever and thought he had worms. After administering the dewormer I approved, the tech who’d brought it out showed me how to take his temp under his forelegs and advised me to get a thermometer, and to bring him one week later. I took him home and hit the store for a thermometer that day. Over the course of the next week, his temperature fluctuated, dropping then rising again. And when I got home from my volunteer shift on this past Tuesday I saw how big his belly was. Since I had an appt on Thurs, I’d scheduled his next appt for the Weds before, so I took him in.

The prognosis wasn’t good.

He had Feline Infectious Peritonitis, also called Feline Coronavirus Disease. It had caused fluid to build up in his abdomen, and the vet told me it would move to his chest next. In all but one case of kittens with this illness, she’d seen only one survive, and I thought, One out of how many she’s seen? and made the hard decision. Einstein’s quality of life had already suffered. He spent a lot of time curled up in the Republic of Tea box he’d made into his bed, or tucked up by his food and water dishes. I think it hurt him to hold him because he’d stopped cuddling as much as he used to. I didn’t want to watch him deteriorate or force him to suffer an awful suffocation/drowning death, so I let the vet euthanize him.

Einstein was a happy, active kitten until the disease took him. He loved cuddles. Almost every time I made a cup of coffee or tea, he’d hop up on the table in my kitchen area to watch my process with my Brita pitcher—he tried so hard to understand what happened to all the water. Nearly every morning, he’d serenade me awake at eight o’clock or so, and he’d sometimes join me to lie on my hip or abdomen if I unclipped the hose from my CPAP mask and called his name, and we’d lie there together taking comfort in each other, dozing.

There won’t ever be another cat like him, and I miss him.

The Cat, Pt 2

I’ve lived in this building twice before, and previously, I had to go get a form for my psych doc to sign stating that I needed to have a companion animal, so I contacted my landlord about it. During a conversation in the laundry room while he did his laundry, he told me that such things aren’t required any more and that all I’d need is proof of licensing and shots. Needless to say, I was happy to hear this. I explained that one of the places I could adopt from required a note from the landlord stating that animals are permitted on premises, and he got that to me.

When I called Anita to ramble about the cat some more, she offered to take me to PetSmart. I picked up everything I thought I’d need and took it home. The first thing after getting in, I put together the carrier/crate I’d gotten for my future cat.

So, on Tuesday, the 11th of July, I went to get my cat.

My original intention was to get an adult cat, maybe a couple years old. I was, however, keeping my mind open. When we arrived at the Salt Lake County Animal Services, I handed in the application I’d already filled out and the note from my apartment’s manager. The receptionist had a minor issue with the note—it lacked a letterhead. She stated that she’d have to contact the manager to verify, and I said that was fine and completed the applications process then went back to look at the cats.

They had three rooms with adult cats, two sets of kennels with individual cats, and one kennel-cage with a bunch of kittens. Since I didn’t know if it was okay for me to go into the rooms with the adult cats, I only peered in at them through the windows. None of them seemed to care I was there. The individual cats in the kennels didn’t take much note of me and my friend Anita, either, though one took a swipe at her and managed to scratch the back of her wrist; I definitely didn’t want that cat. And honestly, none of the kittens seemed to take much note of us either, but there was one who was trying to play with its kennel-mates. I watched it for a few minutes, then decided that I wanted it.

Back out to the reception area of the building to tell them I’d chosen. The receptionist told me to meet another employee back there to tell them which one I wanted, so I hurried back to do that. Out came the rambunctious kitten, and the employee scanned his chip and told me to go back out front to receive him. I went back to the reception area to receive my kitten. By this time, the receptionist had verified that pets are permitted where I live and made a copy of the note Tom had written. She commended me for coming prepared—with a carrier—as the employee who brought him out to me tucked him inside.

 

My cat, Einstein

Einstein the Cat

The Cat, Pt. 1

I moved into my current apartment, in case you don’t recall, sometime in August or September of 2014. It took me about a year to settle in and when I did, I went through a nesting period. I hung things on the walls, organized my books, etc. And one of the things I wanted to add to my home was a pet. Specifically, a cat. At the time, I didn’t feel quite emotionally—or financially—ready for the responsibility. I had a bunch of financial stuff to clean up, and I still balked at the idea of taking responsibility for another life. I still had a bit of growing to do.

Fast forward to this year—yearning over the duration—to the mental health group I was convinced to join. Some background here. My regular therapist attempted to get me to go, but I refused, even though it was only temporary. This was before I started budgeting the month’s transit fees with the rest of my bills, so I really had no idea how much money I’d have left for “extra” transit trips each month. So I said no. Well, the primary facilitator of the group called me directly and reasoned me into going. I forget what she said about it, only that the way she explained it made it sound like it would be worth a try.

Besides the point, I’ve made mental health progress in that group, and had a number of epiphanies about my personal and interpersonal lives through it.

One of those personal epiphanies was realizing how much I wanted a cat. This occurred during our group session last week, when it was only the primary facilitator, her assistant, and me and one other patient. I forget how we got on the topic, but he passed around his phone with a picture of him with a Husky puppy hung over his shoulder. The yearning hit hard right then, and I mentioned wanting a cat.

Everyone looked at me and the facilitator asked, “Why don’t you have one?” in disbelief.

And I realized something. I’d been holding back for bogus reasons for the past couple years. I’d managed to straighten my finances out enough to where I still had a bit of a savings even after a bunch of spending I’d been doing. I felt emotionally ready—in other words, the thought of taking responsibility for another living creature didn’t scare the living daylights out of me—seriously, this was almost an anxiety issue before, and still is in some respects.

The remainder of the group was spent discussing how pets can enrich our lives. By the time we left, I was high on the idea of getting a cat. I even had it all planned. I’d get a young adult cat, maybe one or two years old. Preferably black, but I’d take any who seemed eager to leave the shelter with me. Male or female didn’t matter; as I discovered over the intervening days, I was as likely to refer to the expected cat as “it” as I was as “he” or “she,” I really didn’t care.

I wrote little, slept poorly due to excitement, one or two nights not even sleeping at all—especially that first night when I was so full of the thrill of giving myself permission to get a cat. And I talked almost incessantly abut the cat I wanted to get to my closest friend—to the point where she’d joke about how obsessed I was. I made a list of cat supplies and accessories the cat would need, considered names (in case the name the cat came with was unappealing to me), researched shelters where I could go to adopt, and set the ball rolling on getting permission to bring the cat into my home (I thought I needed to have my therapist or psych doc fill out a form for my manager). Also, I researched prices on expensive items, ingredients in the various foods I learned my local Smith’s store carried, and polled cat-owning friends on what to avoid and what to do for my cat. I even typed up a list of Kitty Care Questions for me to ask the veterinarian I planned to take my cat to (the same one my mom’s dog goes to).

So, as you can see, I went from ready to prepared.

To Be Continued . . .

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