"What you have once enjoyed you can never lose...All that we love deeply becomes a part of us." - Helen Keller
My husband called me on Saturday night. He had run over to my mom’s house to let her dogs out while she was at work.
“I’ve got the black one,” he said.
On Friday, he’d seen a small herd of kittens running around my mom’s yard as well as her neighbors. The black one was much smaller than the rest and I was concerned for its health, but we couldn’t catch any of them. Saturday evening, the kitten was sitting in a lawn chair at my mom's and Aaron picked her up.
I drove over to Mom’s house and peered into the window of Aaron’s car, where he was waiting for me. A tiny ball of fluff sat on his lap, looking back at me with beady green eyes.
She let out a little squeak and I typed up a message to Jenn Porter-Milne, who seems to be the go-to for these kinds of things. I sent her photos and she guessed the fluffball was between 6 and 8 weeks old.
She was skin and bones and we couldn’t bring ourselves to let her go. Jenn got us set up with some of the essentials and we brought her home.
She got a bath in Dawn dish soap in an effort to rid her of fleas (and prevent them from jumping onto our dogs). We wrapped her into a kitty burrito and snuggled her so she’d dry; eventually the blow dryer came out to speed up the process.
Sunday morning, we awoke to the sounds of tiny little meows coming from the spare bedroom where we’d put her kennel.
She’d tromped through her water bowl and her litter box, prompting the need for another bath.
The dogs seemed to like her. Gracie, our youngest and worst behaved, was apprehensive at first. Eventually, she was absolutely in love with the fluffball. The other two alternated between curiosity and indifference.
We ran to Walmart and bought some extra cans of food. I asked Aaron if he thought she’d like the marine mix better than the chicken and he told me he didn’t think she’d care.
I asked him what we should call her, and he said, “We can’t name her, because we can’t keep her.” I have a habit of naming things, though, and after throwing a few suggestions at him, he sighed and settled on Sadie.
On Monday, I took my lunch break to take Sadie to the vet. She was too small for flea medicine, not meeting the weight or age requirement - she didn’t even weigh a pound. She looked healthy other than that.
She rode home in the passenger seat of my car, chattering away with her tiny meows. I can only assume she was trying to tell me about her adventures as a stray, but I don’t speak cat. In fact, I don’t even like cats all that much.
She peed on my seat, but I couldn’t be upset about it. It’s not like she had anywhere else to do her business in the car.
I went back to work and returned home that night to find Gracie lying on her back on the couch and Sadie sleeping on her stomach.
“I guess she thinks it’s her baby,” I laughed.
I lay down on the couch with Sadie on my chest. Gracie crawled up next to me and laid her chin gently on my shoulder, her nose a couple of inches away from Sadie’s head. We stayed there for a long time before I realized it was time for bed.
Tuesday morning was quiet. My mom texted me and said she’d come across a dead kitten. Probably a littermate of Sadie’s. I passed the message on to Aaron.
“I’m glad we picked her up, or she probably would have died too,” I told him.
I opened the door to the spare bedroom and flipped on the light, but it remained silent. As I unlocked the kennel door, there was no meow, no squeak, no rustling around. Instead, Sadie just lay there.
“Aaron,” I called into the other room. “Aaron, I think - I think she’s dead.”
I stood in the doorway of the spare bedroom and cried as he reached in to check on her.
She had been making progress, getting more of a personality, and now she was gone. We were no longer faced with the question of “Do we keep her?” because there wasn’t a cat to keep.
Aaron had to go to class and I just sat on the couch waiting for him to come home. Gracie stood by the door to the spare bedroom, whining. She came over and crawled into my lap and kept whining, mourning for a baby that wasn’t hers.
Sadie didn’t die without knowing love. For a few days she was well fed, warm and a little less itchy. Many cats don’t get that.
That littermate didn’t get that. Hundreds - maybe thousands of cats in our area won’t know love before they die.
There’s been a set of kittens at the animal shelter for a few days - cute little black fluffballs who should have been snatched up by now. But the number of available adopters is dwindling while the pet population keeps growing.
Despite the efforts of rescuers, it’s impossible to save them all.
Recently, the animal shelter saw more than 20 adoptions in one week. Those adoptions are so, so wonderful but they don’t come close to filling the gap, and frankly even those kinds of numbers probably never will.
Strays that haven’t been picked up still roam the neighborhoods creating more kittens and furthering the problem. It’s not just limited to strays; animals with homes may meet up with the resident alley cat and walk away with a litter of kittens.
I admire the work that people within our community do to try to combat the problem of overpopulation, but we can’t rely solely on them.
Programs are offered regularly to help minimize overpopulation, and campaigns promoting spaying and neutering are nothing new. You know the things you’re reading here - I’m not breaking any sort of news.
You don’t have to adopt. You don’t have to give anyone money. It could be as simple as encouraging your friend to participate in a program that will spay their cat for less than a week’s worth of drive-thru coffee.
I don’t know if it’s apathy or ignorance, or a little of both. I don’t know if it’s possible to get a grip on a problem that’s so out of control.
All I know is that my precious little fluffball died with a name and a full belly - she mattered enough to be missed. Her brothers and sisters and hundreds of others won’t be so lucky. Instead they’ll die cold and unnoticed.
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