On the Pain of Kindness
I have been trying to get back into walking around the block on a steady basis.
About a week ago, I stepped outside and saw movement over by the parked cars, and recognizing it as the movement of a cat, I clicked my tongue to see if the cat was interested in being petted.
Most times nothing happens (the cat keeps walking, sometimes after a short look in the direction the sound came from), sometimes the cat will sit and wait to be approached and petted. In this case, the cat shot towards me at a dead run and proceeded to emit that shortened "mew" cats make when they are distressed and something is not right.
While petting the cat, I noted that, while not skin and bones, it had obviously missed more than a few meals recently, even though otherwise healthy and unmarked (no notches in its ears, no scars on its face, coat generally thick and in good condition). Its paws (which were all four white) were dirty, and its pads were scuffed.
I felt sympathy, but there was nothing I could do about it, So after petting it for a bit, I stood up and began my walk, in the hope that when I returned the cat would have moved on. At first, that seemed to be the case, but as I approached my door, I heard the repeated low "mew" of a cat in distress. The cat had moved out of direct sight into the breeze way and stayed at the corner where it could see around to where my door was.
My apartment complex under the current owners does not allow pets. But I have "remnants" from the days when I had cats. In the hopes that I would find the cat's owners, I let it in. I pulled out the one remaining litter box and set it in the bathroom and showed it to this cat, which, while not immediately using it, gave an indication of knowing what it was for. It religiously used it every day. I had some dry long storage cat food, and set this out in a styrofoam bowl together with another bowl with water. It was in good health (except for the obvious lack of regular meals recently), with no fleas. (Conditions locally have not been conducive to the annual flea outbreak, so the only real source of active fleas are those associated with the warm places of man, often ruthlessly suppressed by biologic and chemical means, and the dens of various animals.) Its ears were clear of mites, and other apparent health issues did not appear extant . . . except an apparent head cold.
A little unsure at first (an indication of at least some bad run ins with people in its recent past), by the end of the second day it was flopping down to allow its tummy to be rubbed. While it spent time in my lap while I watched TV, its big thing for most of the time it was with me was to at least be in the same room. (It decided that I toss and turn too much to share the bed with me, but slept on a pad near the bed.
I could not keep it, and got Jean to advertise for its owners. (Everything about this cat screamed "pampered house pet.") In the end to no avail.
The problem is that there was no way I could keep the cat, as much as I wanted to, not least because it had the colors (gray and white), length of fur (not really long, but definitely not short) and general build (if not the clubbed hind paw) of the cat who had last been my longest companion. Still, I knew enough not to give it a "formal" name. But I could not keep it. Sooner or later management would discover its presence and bad things would follow. And that basically meant that on Friday, the cat would have to go to the pound, even though that is a certain death sentence. But it was obvious this cat had no capability of surviving on its own, i.e., whatever had caused it to be running around loose, it had no hunting skills and anything it had eaten in the interim was scavenged. Not taking it to the pound would not really be an act of kindness, but an act of cruelty as the cat's life might be longer, but it would also be more brutal and full of suffering.
Turning the cat in would break what little is left of my heart once more.
As it is, the cat had good fortune to find me, and doubly good fortune that it happened that today the local ASPCA shelter had an opening for a cat.
I have had to give the cat up, and will have the sorrow of going home once more to an empty space, after the brief period of its greeting me every evening in thanks that it had been taken in and food and water were plenty, it was petted as much as it desired, and its coat frequently brushed as it sat in my lap. Even though I know it now has a chance of a longer and healthier and happier life than what would have been its lot at the pound, and would reclaim the cat immediately were I to learn I had won tonight's lottery drawing, for now, I will have to nurse the new emptiness in my life for its having been in it, however briefly. And thus the title of this blog, the pain of kindness.