When I get her from the pound she is just hours away from a scheduled euthanasia. As I leave with her in my arms a cold, soaking rain turns the world achromatic in shades of gray and white and black, a portrait of the face of winter. The leaves are long gone and the frightened trees have retired into somnolence. It’s Friday before the Halloween weekend and the day before a Witches’ Sabbath.
I put the cat in the passenger’s seat and drive slowly down the gravel to the road. The cat climbs over the seat and putties her nose against the rear window and stares back at the gulag-er, I mean the pound. She unleashes a torrent of cat talk whether cursing or forgiving I know not.
Dana had seen this cat’s picture in the paper. The pound actually did try to find a home for this one. Fortunately it succeeded. The cat’s previous owner had dumped Sparky at the pound because she was “too friendly.” Yes, that’s why. Today I went to the pound, filled out a ton of paperwork, and Sparky was ours.
Dana has already named the cat Sparky. Dana is at work when I get home. I put out food and water and a catbox. Sparky starts eating immediately, which is a great relief. When her former owner dropped her off at the pound she went on a hunger strike and would not eat or drink. That’s dangerous. After a cat doesn’t eat for 48 hours it becomes a medical emergency. You can starve a dog or a human, but not a cat. It will eventually develop Feline Hepatic Lipidosis and die horribly.
But this cat is eating a lot. I thought she would, since she didn’t seem sick. I’m sure it was an emotional reaction to being in the pound and now that she is “at home,” whatever that means to a cat, she’s eating and drinking again.
When you start collecting strays you are doomed, but we already have several, so what’s one more?
I note that this cat has the greenest eyes that seem to have an Asian tilt. And she is very vocal. Some cats are really quiet, but this one will not shut up. She’s very friendly and loves to climb across my shoulder and flop over on her back to have her belly rubbed. And she follows me from room to room like a puppy.
By now it’s four thirty and Dana is just coming thru the sliding glass door as I sit watching ESPN with Sparky in my lap. We live three hours away and go home to the farm on weekends and we decide that since Sparky is eating again that she’ll be okay if we leave her here with food and come back on Sunday.
It’s a very stupid mistake.
It’s rains all weekend and I curse a lot at the drivers on the three hour drive back to Newcastle. When we get to the apartment we see that Sparky hasn’t eaten since we left two days ago. I’d assumed the reason she stopped eating was because she was at the pound. It wasn’t. It was being abandoned that made her stop eating.
This one isn’t in trouble yet, and now that we’re at home again I assume she’ll start eating but I don’t want to wait. I pick Sparky up and put her on my lap. Dana asks me what to do.
Go to the deli and get a little of everything, I say. Thin sliced chicken, ham, roast beef, whatever. She’ll eat it.
While she’s gone I turn on the NFL and Sparky stares at me with those bright green eyes but doesn’t want to eat. I open a can of cat food and she turns her nose up at it. Either she is sulking or afraid of being abandoned again or both.
When Dana gets back I put a little of everything on a platter and give it to the cat. That does it. She eats like a hog at a trough. She eats so much her belly is swollen for a couple of days. Funny thing is, she never touches the ham. In fact she will never eat pork for the rest of her life. She’d get up on the table and stick her nose right in my plate but when I tried to give her a slice of pepperoni she wouldn’t touch it. Cats are funny, like people.
I begin to see what was meant by her being too friendly. She’s clingy and demanding but I don’t mind. I go out in the morning and run a few miles and she’s right at the sliding glass door when I get home, bitching for attention. After I do the housework there’s little else to be done so I watch TV and she sits in my lap. Sparky needs a companion.
Dana calls me from a pet store and says they have this sweet, wretched little kitten and is it okay if she brings it home?
Go ahead, Dana, I say. Why not?
Watch out for his tail, I hear her yell at somebody.
There’s a feline shriek.
They just shut the cage door on his tail, Dana says.
Can you bring him home now?
They want $5 and I don’t have it.
You don’t have any cash?
I just spent it on cat food. I saw the kitten when I was leaving.
Dana, go to an ATM and get some money and bring the cat home before those fools kill it.
That was the best $5 I ever spent. Since Sparky is an adult cat, a little kitten isnt much of a threat. Sparky goes bowbacked around the kitten and hisses and spits and bats at him and then goes off to sulk. The kitten stood there passively thru all Sparky’s posturing and now looks up at me and jumps in my lap. He purrs, nuzzles me, nips me on the chin, and goes to sleep.
What RU going to name this one, Dana says.
I think a moment. The kitten is thin and scrawny.
His name is Nathaniel, I say.
Because before we got Sparky we had fifteen cats at home. Sparky was the sixteenth, Nathaniel the seventeenth. Seventeen, Seven, House of the Seven Gables, Nathaniel Hawthorne, therefore Nathaniel.
Nathaniel is a mouthful to say, Erik.
Then we’ll call him Nat, I say. In that is a certain elegance.
Nat the Cat? She says.
Nat the cat, I say.
So, Nathaniel becomes Nat the cat.
After several displays of token hostility Nat and Sparky become constant companions, chasing each other across the apartment or curled up asleep together.
BTW the geniuses at the pet store were wrong. The vet informs us that Nat is female.
We cant call her Nathaniel, Dana says.
Fine, I say. She’s Natalie, which shortens to Nat.
Nat’s appearance is a stark contrast to Sparky’s. Sparky has a round face and beautifully classic features. Nat is dark gray and white and has a triangular face. After she gains some weight she looks like a slightly stylized statue of an Egyptian cat. Sparky is bossy and pushy. Nat is sweet and docile.
During the time we live here, this apartment is their home. It’s probably the happiest time of their lives. In January I am taking a class an hour from there when I get caught in a storm on the way home. I end up driving due west on the Interstate, right into the teeth of a blizzard. I get behind some big trucks for the light and turn my wipers on high and get off a few miles from home. Those last few miles in the dark are the hardest and I barely make it before the wind makes a complete whiteout. I’m glad Dana is already home at the farm.
When I open the sliding glass door they are waiting for me. Sparky cusses me out in cat talk and they both follow me to the bedroom while Sparky continues to verbally abuse me. It occurs to me that Sparky is a natural Jewish mother. IDK exactly what Nat is, yet.
It’s late when I turn off the lamp and get in bed. Sparky gets on one side of me, Nat on the other.
It’s nice not to be alone.