For most of my life I’ve had one cat and one dog. These days I find myself with two cats. That’s not a reflection of changing preferences. Its because when my puppy and best friend of fifteen years passed on, my vet asked if I would adopt a kitten. How could I say no to the man who had made the last years of my best friend’s life as easy as they could be? So I said sure even though I knew Feline Overlord would be Unhappy (with a big capital U) with any kitten I brought into her domain.
This is the story of how I got Cowardly Boy Cat. He had a rough beginning in life and the details of which may bother the more tender-hearted of my readers. But here is what I say to that: if he can suffer it, live through it, you should be able to read about it.
So to my vet I said yes, I’ll take a kitten off your hands. He said, great! Go to the emergency vet clinic in North Austin. We work with them and they have an orange female tabby that will be just perfect for you.
Okay, I thought. I can handle another female. I told Feline Overlord that I loved her, that she was absolutely in charge of everything and always would be, and went to go pick up our new girl kitty. However, girl kitty had already been given away. A helpful and very intimidating Vet Assistant plopped a grey and white boy kitty in my lap instead. She told me his name was Eddie (which I instantly though was a terrible name). Eddie was so scared. I don’t know if I’ve ever seen any creature cower that completely. There was shaking and very, very soft whimpering. Petting him seemed to make it worse. While I tried, and failed, to do something with that terrified little creature, the vet assistant told me his story.
Eddie was thrown off of an interstate overpass one evening. He landed on a moving car, bounced off, and went flying off into the darkened shoulder. The couple in that car, stopped and searched with a flashlight until they found him. His skull was cracked open. His brain was showing. One eye had popped out of its crushed socket and was hanging from the optic nerve. But he was still alive. So they wrapped him up in a jacket and drove him to the emergency vet clinic where they offered to pay to put him to sleep.
Vet Assistant tells me (I kid you not) that it was a slow night and several interns were on duty so they decided to use Eddie as “practice surgery”. They put his eye back in, cauterized several arteries in his skull and did a bunch of other things I didn’t understand. And he survived it. Even though he was still young enough to be nursing, he survived all that. I guess they were pretty surprised. After the surgery they kept in him a cage, largely immobilized, for the next six weeks. He was only touched to be fed, given medicine, and fresh bandages.
Vet Assistant summed it up. Eddie was essentially a feral cat who had brain damage and while they managed to save the damaged eye, he seemed to be mostly blind. She looked at me like I was supposed to say something. I told her Eddie was a lousy name for a cat. Vet Assistant slapped her hands on her thighs and said “Good! Then you’ll take him.”
I said… sure. I’m not certain my agreement was considered necessary by her but I threw it out there all the same.
Vet Assistant stood up, took two steps and then turned back to let me know that he also had a heart murmur. Of course he did. (He grew out of it btw, and I’m very grateful for that.)
A few reams of paperwork later I took my terrified, feral, mostly blind, with a dingy heart, kitten home to meet Feline Overlord. Feline Overlord took one look at him and decided he was the scum you scrapped off the bottom of your shoe. He took one look at her and decided she was a goddess. (They have relaxed around each other quite a bit since those early days. They occasionally even take naps together. But even so she finds him mostly annoying and he mostly worships her. That’s their relationship and it seems to work for them.)
I promptly re-named him and started teaching him to accept human touch. I did this with food. If he wanted his food he had to let me pet him. Cowardly Boy Cat (CBC) likes food so he tolerated two pets (no more) if it got him fed. For months the only time I was able to pet my cat was before breakfast and dinner. Then he would run and hide.
I remember our big break through. It came when I realized that if I let him into the linen closet he would make a nest out of my clean towels and I would be allowed to reach through the door and pet him. From then on I got to pet my CBC and all my towels were covered in cat hair.
Its been several years since then. Today CBC sleeps on the bed instead of in the linen closet. He occasionally walks up to me and asks for pets even if I don’t have food. He is nowhere near as affectionate as Feline Overlord, who is in my lap purring and flicking her tail in an irritated sort of way as I type this out. He still dashes under the bed every time there is a loud noise. He still cries when I pick him up. He yowls at the top of his lungs when I trim his claws with a nail clipper. He will always be my Cowardly Boy Cat.
But he can do this:
He can lay on a not-so-clean-anymore towel while I baby-talk and brush him. He’ll even purr. You know what? I’m the only person on the planet who can do this. Just me. He won’t purr for anyone else and probably never will. And if he is fat and overfed, sue me. He is happy and safe. CBC deserves to be happy and safe for the rest of his life. The overfed part is just a bonus.
This post got pretty long so if you stayed with me this far, thank-you. I hope you’ll agree that damaged animals need loving, safe homes too. Pure-breeds, animals with lineage and pretty unscarred-faces are just fine too. But shelters are full of less-than perfect (and older) cats and dogs that go un-adopted. Please consider reaching out to your local shelter, or your vet, and taking one home. Those kind of fur babies may require more work on your part but they are worth it.
If you can’t offer a place in your home, shelters always need volunteers and donations. Blankets, towels, food, your time… any and all of that will be put to good use.
Some day I’ll tell the story of how I ended up with my Feline Overlord. I didn’t adopted her though. She moved in like an invading army and took over and I’ve been doing my best to satisfy her demands every since.