We met over a basket of filthy linens (neatly folded, what the fluff?). Our eyes did not lock from across a crowded room. We did not experience love at first sight. To be truly honest, what I felt was a weary sort of dread, and I don’t believe he felt anything at all. He simply lay there, in the home of my friend the hoarder I was trying to help. His tired, sunken eyes were partially open, his breathing barely detectable. For several moments I just stood there, paralyzed. He was the mirror image of my girl, Mina, a cat I lost to FIP nearly 10 years ago to the day. The sight of this kitten so still and strange, with Mina’s precise position and expression, staggered me, another in a long series of posthumous punches to the belly.
When I lifted his tiny body, he didn’t register any change, just hung limply across my forearm. Tiny bones jutted up from his gray coat, which was silky soft but too cool. I performed the skin turgor test at the scruff of his neck, and the flesh didn’t spring back. After 30 seconds of waiting I smoothed it back down, just to stop seeing it. He did not register my fingers probing in his mouth, examining his gums, which were nearly pale enough to be called white. I stuffed his little body unceremoniously into my purse, then rushed him to my vehicle when the homeowner took a bathroom break from this, our most recent foray into the deep-cleaning and exhaustive organization of the hoard.
The next hour crept by in an outrageously slow fashion. It was the slowest hour to have ever passed in the history of cat kind; it was utterly maddening. I didn’t dare make some feeble attempt to mumble excuses and dash away from my paranoid acquaintance; to risk upsetting our cautiously friendly relationship would compromise my access to so many animals. It was a risk I couldn’t take.
Finally, a miracle! My phone rang! I prattled merrily away while the recorded voice of the cable company reminded me, again, that there would be sinister consequences if I didn’t get my act in gear and pay the bill.
“Oh yes, I’m on my way right now! I’ll be there! Oh no, thank you!”
With a polite exit established, I beat a hasty retreat to my vehicle. The cat was exactly where I left him, lying motionless on the passenger seat. He looked over at the sound of the car door opening, but only with his eyes. I raced through another punishingly slow hour, hands shaking on the steering wheel under the weight of my faux calm. I alerted a friend to prepare subcutaneous fluids and, in the spirit of positive thinking, calorie paste. Being a saint, my friend promptly did these things.
The kitten stank of the hoard. It was a powerful stench, it was stench as a verb. The odor had penetrated down through his fur, like a foul tattoo. I always try to name crisis cats as quickly as possible, so they don’t die having never belonged to anyone. Even if it’s only for 15 minutes, I need them to have a name, and a family. I laid my cheek gently on his side and snickered darkly, through a mouthful of stinking fur, “Let’s call him Reek.”
We stretched him out on a clean towel and hoped. What followed was a beautiful miracle that, though I’ve seen it a dozen times over, continues to inspire me and give me hope. Within minutes of the fluids entering his body, he came to life, so suddenly it looked like an ancient magic. He lifted his head slightly, opened his strange, muddy eyes, and began to purr. I never think to take photographs in the midst of a crisis, but I’d give much and more to have a photo of Reek coming to life there on the living room floor that night. Often, it takes so little to bring about an enormous change in the life of someone less fortunate, it can be so easy, it can be the easiest thing you do.
Reek (who we call Theon now), has continued to purr for the majority of the past four months. He’s either laboring under a developmental disability, which is entirely possible, or he’s a seriously laid-back guy. When he’s not inhaling huge quantities of food, he enjoys chasing Stasi’s most treasured toys, peering at Stasi from around the furniture until she howls in protest, and positioning himself in the most dangerous possible positions on the stairs.
He doesn’t care what you do to him. Scratch his belly, grab his feet, bite his ears, wear him like a stole. He’s happy to eat, sleep, and most of all, I think, just be clean. My poor Stasi loathes him and reports back to me on his every movement. I’m eager to find him a family of his own, though I haven’t yet figured out how to best go about it. If you have any ideas, I’d be happy to hear them in the comments below.
Here are some links that can help you in a crisis situation. You will never regret learning how to administer SQ fluids!
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