First of all... I've been going to bed earlier. And by "earlier" I mean "before 3:00." I don't know if this is because I've been in an adrenaline slump and have been super tired, or maybe my circadian rhythms are becoming more even, or maybe I'm just trying to have more face time with that silly boy. Or all of the above. But for whatever reason it might be, that's why I haven't written in a while. Which is a sad thing to realize - I only write when I'm awake by myself after midnight. How productive of me. Bah. This has also thwarted several personal short story assignments I've wanted to complete. Go me.
Now, with that out of the way, I'll get to my real story. The Tale of the Foster Kitty; OR; How I Learned to Hate Everything Again.
So, two days ago, I was awakened before my alarm went off, by our across-the-hallway neighbor pounding on the door. I stumbled out in my robe and the old lady greeted me with, "You wanna come get your cat??" She wasn't mad, she was scared. This woman has a phobia of cats. A serious phobia. At least once before, my kitty has managed to sneak from our porch over to hers, where he then proceeds to sit on her porch and yowl at her door as if he thinks that's his sanctuary. While I see this as a combination of "aww" and "silly kitty," this old woman sees it as "he's trying to kill me." Fortunately I've convinced her that if she sees my kitty, she can come over and tell me and I'll "get him" for her, so she doesn't have to cower until he goes away, or worse, do something to make him go away.
This morning, as I looked at her manic expression, my brain was racing through a sleep induced cloud, thinking, "Wait, wasn't I just asleep with my kitty?" As I try to grasp this, Chai wanders out of the bedroom and confirms my suspicions. The woman sees him, flinches automatically, and says, "Oh, it's not yours? Oh, I'll just get rid of it then, you go back to sleep." Now, having heard her say things like, "I'll stomp it if it gets in here" about cats before, I quickly volunteered to rescue whatever cat was on her porch for her, whether it was mine or not. The woman was glad and hid in her bedroom until everything was safe again.
The kitty on her porch was a very young calico, thin and desperate, yowling to be let inside from the cold. My heart instantly broke as I lifted the little thing in my arms and took it to my apartment. She seemed very tame and loving, and since she was begging to be let in to an apartment, I figured she just had the wrong apartment. So I took her back outside and set her down, hoping she'd see her apartment and run home. She proceeded to jump to the nearest porch and start yowling, desperately, at the door again. I knew the person at this apartment was not her owner, so I coaxed her away and took her to a different building, hoping she'd find her way home from there. She ran up to another door, and then another, yowling and frightened. She was obviously lost. And what made matters worse was that she kept coming back to me in between doors and hiding near my feet, looking to me for comfort.
I knew I couldn't just go inside and forget about it, knowing there was a one percent chance that she'd discover her way back home before someone unkind discovered her first, plus the temp was dropping below freezing and it was starting to rain. She seemed miserable. So I took her back inside my apartment to think. Meanwhile, she was very happy inside my place, and purred loudly while weaving between my feet, thanking me for my kindness. Of course my kitty, Chai, was less than happy at this intrusion and there was lots of hissing and grouchiness, but the new little kitty didn't seem to mind and was happy to take a place in the bedroom to stay out of his way. I called the rental office to see if someone had reported a missing cat, or see if someone had recently moved to the complex with a cat, but the answer was no on both accounts. Then I took her to the vet (where Brian works) and they scanned her for a microchip, but there wasn't one, of course. Then the folks there were kind enough to test her for FIV and give her a little booster shot so I could take her back home and not worry that she was going to get my kitty sick. New kitty in hand, I headed back to my place.
The night passed and the little kitty slept on the bed with us, purring loudly. She began reaching out happily when I would enter the room, and enjoyed stepping up into my lap and rubbing my chin. Chai hated her, but was actually starting to get used to her, amazingly enough. "Behold the power of tuna," I texted, when I was able to feed him and the new little girl within two feet of each other, simply because they were both too hungry to care.
That's when I finally got around to making "found kitty" posters. I spent an hour tracking down a copy place that was still open last night, then almost froze my fingers off (no kidding, scarily enough) posting up seven of the signs on the apartment building doors. I had made forty signs and was going to complete the job the next day when it wasn't below zero outside.
We were just getting ready for bed, preparing for another night with the little girl when my phone rang. It was a woman saying she recognized the cat in the picture, and thought it might be hers. She lives on the floor above us. I said, "Is your cat missing?" and she said, "Well, I didn't see her around yesterday but I thought she might just be under the bed or something." Ahha. Then she said she was out walking her dog, but would be up in a couple minutes. Sure enough, one minute passed, and there was a knock at the door.
There was the woman. With her dog. And I swear to god, the little kitty literally turned around mid-stride and growled while walking quickly back into the bedroom. Then the woman's dog kept trying to run into our apartment and she yelled at it and yanked at it cruelly, and the kitty started hissing FROM THE BEDROOM. I picked the kitty up, and she looked at me, horrified, and I carried her out to the hallway again, and the woman said, "Yeah, that's her, how did you get out?!" And the cat clawed her way up and over me to get back into the bedroom to hide.
The woman then said she was going to put her dog back and would come back down for the cat. When she closed the door Brian and I looked at each other, then at the kitty, who was panicked. Brian said, "I think I'm going to cry." Then the woman came back down and we handed the kitty over, and she thanked us, and once again said, "How did you get out, Pooky?!" The cat scrambled in her arms trying to get away, and she put a vice grip on it and left.
We closed the door and looked at each other, knowing what the worst part of it was...
Are you ready? The worst part of it was:
IT WAS THE WOMAN WHO WENT TO JAIL FOR LETTING HER BOYFRIEND BEAT UP HER DAUGHTER LAST YEAR. Yeah. It was the same woman from upstairs that I wrote about in a post from many months ago, who's daughter came down and knocked on our door, looking for sanctuary and a phone to call the police the night her mother's boyfriend beat her up.
Good christ... it really can't get much worse than this. Not only did she not even know her cat was missing, but the cat obviously was TERRIFIED by her presence, and wanted nothing to do with her. I swear the little thing even looked at me, pleading for help, and I couldn't do anything.
I want to die. The idea that there are suffering pets all around me all the time is something that burns in my brain; an idea that I literally have to BURY to make it through each day. And usually I'm good at burying the idea, because there's just nothing I can do about it. Nothing real. Sure I can volunteer here and there, I can donate to causes, I can even be a super-bitch and constantly call cruelty agencies that can't do anything because there isn't any recognized cruelty occurring (because "cat is so unhappy" doesn't count as cruelty, unfortunately. Not even "cat is underfed and lives under the bed and probably never gets any love or attention." The fact that she's alive and is not being kept chained to a tree or in a box with no air holes is somehow enough to let her suffer through. Yay. YAY), but short of donning a superhero facade and attacking people by night, there's really nothing I can do.
I try not to think about it. And usually I succeed. Until things like this happen; until I get stared in the face and asked for help by a cat I saw smiling at me seconds earlier, knowing I'm turning it over to a bad person to live a miserable life until she either runs away again or dies...
So there's my story. I feel miserable. I hate people. How is it so hard to love an animal? How is it so hard for some people to understand? I would save an animal before I would save a kid, and especially before I would save another person, if only for the fact that there would already be fifty heros lined up to save the kid or the person, but no one there for the animal. "It's just a cat." "It's just a dog." People that say that should die. You're just one more person, and MUCH less important to me. In fact, your presence is more likely to be detrimental to my life than the presence of that animal over there, so please step aside if you don't mind.
Animals don't understand cruelty, they don't understand revenge, they don't understand that they are considered less important than us. Animals in need look for kindness and get shooed away or yelled at, and they don't understand why that is the reward for their devotion.
Poor kitty. My only consolation is that, if she thought she would get help by yowling at an unfamiliar porch, then she must think there is some kindness in people, which means she must have been treated at least slightly decently. And she was thin, but not skinny, and she didn't have any obvious diseases, so she was being somewhat cared for. And the woman was at least the type of person to go out and walk her dog, instead of just opening her door and shooing him out on his own, or even worse, putting him on the porch and just expecting him to crap in the corner because she's too lazy to go out with him. I'm hoping the kitty was just freaking out at the suddenness of the situation and is actually happy to be home.
But I can't forget her smiling little face when I was scratching her chin, and her wide terrified eyes as she tried to free herself from that woman's arms.
(Originally posted on February 28th, 2009)