I cannot tell the story of my life in New York City without also telling the story of my adoption of Tiki, the world’s most unimpressed cat with the greatest number of nicknames.
In the winter of 1999, I had just moved from Boston to Brooklyn. My job was in Spanish Harlem, which, if you know anything about the geography of NYC, will make you wonder what I was thinking moving to Brooklyn. Good question, and one for which my only answer is, “Because we could afford it, and it didn’t have a chandelier made out of a wagon wheel.” But I will save the story of the wagon wheel chandelier — which really was hanging from the ceiling of a $1,700-a-month studio apartment in Midtown — for another time, because this is Tiki’s story in words and pictures.
I had a very clear and prescient dream about her before she came to me, one in which I found a tiny female cat and named her Tiki. When I woke up, I said to my husband, “We’re getting another cat.” We already had two cats at the time, and we’d already significantly downsized our living space. His response was something along the lines of, “Where would we put it?”
A couple of days later, I was walking to the subway after work when a tiny female cat came walking up to me, stood in my path, and stared straight into my eyes, as if to say, “Sucker!” I looked around, thinking she must be a deli cat, but there was no deli.
I bent down and held out my hand to her. “Are you Tiki?” I asked.
And I swear to you ÔÇô- really, this happened ÔÇô- she nodded at me. Just one little head bob, her eyelids at half-mast, looking unimpressed and purring like a maniac. Sort of a nonchalant, “how YOU doin’?” kind of nod.
I picked her up and nestled her inside my coat. What else was I supposed to do? It was late November, and she was thin and dirty. She not only didn’t move during the hour-long subway ride home, she purred the whole way. I would later learn that she prefers not to be held, but that night she let me hold her, no problem.
Although my husband wasn’t thrilled, I promised we’d only keep her until we could find someone to adopt her. We took her to the vet, who said she was approximately one year old, so I thought it would be easy. Young, cute cat ÔÇô- no problem, right? Sure enough, we had a call within a week of putting her picture on a pet rescue site. I got busy packing up her things ÔÇô- food and water bowls, toy mice, her kitten-sized carrier -ÔÇô and then took one look at her and burst into tears.
As if it were fate (and Tiki almost makes me believe in fate) the woman called last minute and backed out of the adoption. When I told my husband, he said, “Good, I was sad.” Case closed: She was ours.
Tiki and I are going into our 15th year together, and I can’t imagine my life in New York without her. However, in the fall of 2010, her health took a serious nosedive. Her appetite got increasingly ravenous, but she was rapidly losing weight.
When my wonderful vet, Dr. Jodie Smith (Astoria Veterinary Group, holla!), felt Tiki’s belly, she said, “Her intestines are thickened. I’m pretty sure this is IBD.” A sonogram confirmed it, and we started down the long road of steroids and grain-free food.
For those of you lucky enough not to have had to deal with it, IBD, or inflammatory bowel disease, causes intestinal inflammation and scarring. This causes kitties to eat constantly without absorbing nutrients. Besides medication, the only way to get it under control is with a grain-free, novel-protein diet. When your cat is a picky eater like Tiki, who often becomes unimpressed with her food and just walks away, you might find yourself spending approximately 90 gajillion dollars on wet meat you end up donating to the shelter. I hear the rescue kitties loved the venison.
As Tiki’s weight continued to drop and she continued to be unimpressed with healthy food (seriously, if she were a human child, she’d demand McDonald’s for every meal), Dr. Smith and I searched for solutions. A round of kitty chemo stabilized her weight, but she never gained more than a couple of ounces. Finally, in desperation, I decided to try feeding her a raw diet, which is not exactly fun when you’re vegetarian. And lo and behold …
Success! Within a month, Tiki went from a sickly five pounds back to eight pounds. When I heard Dr. Smith say the words “fully weight-restored,” I cried, and not just because I knew I was going home to eat beans and rice while my cat ate duck.
It’s now three years since her diagnosis, and Tiki continues to thrive. She’s off all medication and doing remarkably well on a raw diet. One thing I’ve learned from being her mom is that not only will I go to the ends of the earth to save my kitties, I will never feed them anything but raw food again.
I do not, however, expect them to be impressed.
Read stories of rescue on Catster:
About the author: Stacy Pershall is a constant traveler currently settled in Astoria, Queens, New York, where she lives in a Greek Archie Bunker house and loves it. When she’s not tending to the needs of her two street adoptions, Carbon and Tiki, she writes stories and teaches writing at Gotham Writers’ Workshop and the Johns Hopkins Center for Talented Youth. Her passion in life — besides cats — is her work as a suicide prevention speaker for Active Minds. She is the author of Loud in the House of Myself: Memoir of a Strange Girl.Find out more by following her on Facebook.