We have two cats. One is Katie, a gray-striped, furry ball of affection. Nothing bothers hers. She rolls with schedule changes, house repairs, and guests with equal aplomb. She spends her days sleeping beneath our writing desk or lounging on top of the sofa in the sun.
The other cat is Zoe.
There is only one way to describe Zoe. She’s a maniac. Amazingly, she and Katie are sisters, found by construction workers in an abandoned restaurant four and a half years ago. As you can see, they look nothing alike, and, you can take it from us, their personalities are completely different. Zoe is the yin to Katie’s yang, a cat seduced by the dark side of the Force.
Zoe is the cat who leaps six feet in the air and turns somersaults trying to catch bugs. She climbs drapes, fights with her sister, and zooms around the house at something close to light speed. She is a member of the Society for Knocking Things Off Tables and The Cats Who Hide in Impossible Places Association. Trying to find Zoe in our basement is a true adventure. When she was still a kitten, we began referring to her as our wild and elusive Zoe. (See our posts about the time Zoe dislocated her jaw: When Greed Overshadows Compassion and The Kindness of Cats.)
This is a cat with an inquiring mind. She tests gravity everyday (a requirement, it seems, of the Society for Knocking Things Off Tables). She is trying to learn to fly. She has a fascination with electric light bulbs, dripping faucets, and anything that resembles string. This includes electrical cords, long hair, and the sashes of expensive dresses.
And what a talker! Every evening after supper, she gives a discourse. Sometimes she is explaining the scientific experiments she performed that day. Other times she is merely demanding playtime. She treats her leisure activities as seriously as her work.
There is no stopping her. When she has pulled off a particularly naughty caper (like the time she pulled the lace curtains down, rod and all, and then made a nest for herself and took a nap), we imagine how much worse it would be if she were a human child instead of a cat. And then we sigh and ask what has become a common question in our home.
Why, Zoe, why?
We’re not sure how many cats we have.
We thought we only rescued two kittens from the animal shelter. Two sisters, Katie, the gray tiger, and Zoe, the black and white. They were only a few weeks old when they came to live with us, too small to move beyond the bedroom door. But once they were older and did venture into that big world known as the rest of the house, a very strange thing happened.
The number of cats in our house multiplied.
The chaos and mayhem that has ensued over the last year has convinced us that we have more than two cats. It would defy all the laws of physics for two small cats to cause such commotion. Our evidence for this belief? The shredded curtains, the damaged blinds, the smashed glassware. The disconnected, well-chewed phone cord. The removal and shredding of all pieces of paper in our waste baskets. The sight of cats racing at a speed so fast they are just a blur, making it impossible to determine how many of them have just flown by.
We speculate that these cats come up through the drains. They creep in the open windows. They slither under the doors. The cat food bowls are always empty, the litter boxes always full. We are paying for far more cat food than two cats could ever eat. And as for litter box duties… Talk about job security!
Katie and Zoe deny any knowledge of the other cats. They stare at us with wide, innocent eyes when we make inquiries, as if they do not know what we are talking about. Sometimes they yawn, clearly indicating the questions are not important. And sometimes they casually saunter away, intending, we are sure, to warn the other cats to lie low because the food providers/box cleaners are getting suspicious. Then we laugh at ourselves. There cannot possibly be more than two cats in our house. Right?
We carry this false security to bed with us. We lie still in the night, listening to the sounds of thundering paws racing around the house, sounding like a herd of stampeding buffalo. To get up and investigate is dangerous. In the dark, a little, furry assassin will crack-block your ankles and then disappear, leaving you bruised and swearing on the floor. So we merely listen to the galloping, mentally calculating how many cats it would take to make that thundering noise. Calculating how much cat food we will have to buy. Calculating how many times we will have to scoop the litter boxes. We eventually fall into an uneasy sleep, each hoping that the rampaging hordes will not trample us in the night.
Last week Zoe, our ten-month old cat, dislocated her jaw. To prevent her from re-injuring herself while she is healing, we have been keeping her confined to the master bedroom. We assumed that we would have to keep Katie, Zoe’s sister, away from Zoe during this time. We thought Katie would be upset because Zoe smelled like a vet’s office. Katie was used to rough-housing with Zoe and might inadvertently hurt her. She would hate being locked in the bedroom, etc., etc. So when we brought Zoe home, we whisked her into the bedroom, closed the door, and wouldn’t let Katie in.
Katie wasn’t going to put up with that. Zoe had been missing for over eighteen hours. (Katie and Zoe were found by a construction crew in an abandoned restaurant when they were one week old. They were part of a litter of six and no mother cat was in sight. The kittens were taken to the local animal shelter and bottle-fed. We adopted Katie and Zoe when they were five weeks old. They have never been apart.) She sat outside the bedroom meowing non-stop. She scratched the door. Her meows became howls. We tried to calm her but she had only one goal: she wanted to see her sister. We finally relented and allowed Katie into the room and braced ourselves for the inevitable hissing and spitting once Katie got a whiff of Zoe’s Eau de Vet’s Office.
Zoe was high on pain medication. Her eyes were dilated and she was walking sideways. We had tried to get her to lie down, but she was too busy marveling at how groovy everything was to relax. We placed her on the bed and Katie jumped up to see just what was going on. She approached Zoe, who was rolling around on the blankets, and started sniffing. We were ready to grab Katie as soon as the fireworks started.
And then Katie lay down next to Zoe and began to wash her. Zoe, amazingly, calmed down. She snuggled close to her sister. Katie put both paws around Zoe, hugged her close, and continued to bathe her. Zoe fell asleep. Katie remained on the bed holding her sister and purring.
It has been one week since we brought Zoe home. Katie has spent nearly every hour of every day with Zoe. She seems to prefer being locked in the bedroom with her sister than having free run of the house without her. What a world it would be if humans had the kindness of cats.
We recently had a very unpleasant experience with one of our local veterinary hospitals. Our ten-month old cat, Zoe, crashed into the stairs face-first and dislocated her jaw. It was ten o’clock at night and our regular vet’s office was closed and did not provide emergency hours. They did, however, give us a list of 24-hour animal hospitals, all owned by the same corporation, VCA Animal Hospitals.
The hospital was close to our home and they told us to come right down. Once we arrived, Zoe was whisked away from us. Unlike all other veterinary offices we have been to, we were not allowed into the examining room with her. After about fifteen minutes, a doctor called us in to the room. Zoe was not there. The doctor explained that it appeared the jaw was dislocated and it might also be fractured. She wanted to know if we wanted an x-ray taken. Surprised, we said of course. She then asked if we would “be okay with” paying $260 for the x-ray. Again, we said of course. Zoe needed treatment. How could that possibly happen without an x-ray?
The doctor disappeared for about half an hour. When she came back she confirmed that Zoe’s jaw was dislocated but did not appear to be fractured. However, she said, nothing could be done until a radiologist read the x-ray and a surgeon looked at the cat. Neither would be in until the morning. When we asked why she could not put the cat’s jaw back in place, she said the radiologist “might” see something she missed in the x-ray and the surgeon was really the expert at cat jaws. We looked more closely at her name tag and she was, indeed, a doctor of veterinary medicine, one who, for some reason, could not fully read an x-ray or work on an injured animal.
We objected to the length of time Zoe would be forced to endure a dislocated jaw. The doctor assured us the cat would receive pain injections, that is, if we were “okay” with the cost. Zoe would need to stay overnight and the surgeon would see her first thing in the morning.
Since we had no other option (a thing the animal hospital staff knew full well) we agreed and trudged out to the front desk while the doctor worked up an “estimate” for services. When we saw the bill, we were stunned. The estimate stated: “This treatment plan may range from $993 to $1241”. There was an induction fee of $83.70. A general anesthesia fee of $174.50 for the first half-hour. An anesthesia monitoring fee of $64.35. A miscellaneous surgery fee of $352. A hospitalized feline fee of $73.55. A general hospitalization fee of $43.95. And $200.60 worth of injections. A deposit of 75% was required or no services would be rendered. The woman at the desk curtly explained that if we did not have the money, we could apply for their credit program, funded by a third-party financial institution that we happened to know was currently under investigation in our state for unethical business practices, fraud, and several other things. The office did not offer payment plans. The woman told us bluntly, no advanced payment, no treatment. We paid.
The next morning the surgeon called to confirm that the jaw was only dislocated, not fractured.(How about that? The doctor had read the x-ray correctly the night before. Amazing!) She wanted to know if we wanted the cat treated. (Unbelievable question, but true.) We said of course, refraining from adding the words “you moron”, and she told us she would work up an estimate and call us back. We had a feeling we knew what was coming.
Sure enough, the estimate was a range of $921 to $1151 in addition to what we already paid! We authorized the treatment and said we would have a check for them when we picked up the cat. Five minutes after we ended the call, another person from the animal hospital called and informed us that they would not treat the cat until we paid the estimate in full. We were beyond stunned by this point. We had given them a check for $691 the night before. It had already been over twelve hours since Zoe had been injured. Did they really intend to let her sit there with a dislocated jaw until we got them another check? They did and made that clear to us in no uncertain terms. We rushed down to the hospital and paid.
Zoe is home with us now and is healing. Her jaw was not fully dislocated and while they surgeon was examining the cat prior to the official procedure, Zoe’s jaw moved back into place. Although we were grateful it had been so easy, we were also incensed. The jaw could have been repositioned the night before, saving Zoe hours of trauma. Because the treatment took less time than anticipated and they did not use the anesthesia, the cost was less than estimated. The staff of the hospital seemed to feel they had done us a favor by coming in below the inflated estimate.
Cost to fix a cat’s dislocated jaw: $1308.64. Lack of compassion on the part of the employees and the corporation that runs the animal hospital: Beneath contempt.
While experimenting with GIMP (GNU Image Manipulation Program) we created the following book trailer for Time’s Edge.
Last winter, Katie, our beloved tiger cat, died at the age of seventeen. It broke our hearts; we found her when she was five weeks old and she was such a part of our lives that we couldn’t even imagine how to fill the gaping hole that was left when she died.
She was an amazing cat. One year after we adopted her, our daughter was born. We brought the baby home and placed her on our bed, not certain of what Katie would think of the situation. Katie circled the mysterious bundle, obviously wondering just what it was. The baby made a movement that startled the cat. She had not been expecting something alive. To our amazement, she didn’t run. She sniffed the baby from head to toe and then lay down next to her. She then looked up at us as if to say, “Thank you for bringing me this baby.” From that day on, our daughter was Katie’s Baby.
After Katie’s death, we were divided about what to do. Our daughter wanted a kitten. We weren’t so sure. It is so damn hard losing pets and with the pain of Katie’s death fresh in our minds, we weren’t certain we wanted to do it all again. But as time passed, we gradually weakened. We began to talk about getting a kitten. A friend mentioned that two kittens would be an even better idea. They would keep each other company and entertain each other.
In May we adopted two kittens from an animal shelter. They were only four weeks old, part of a litter that was discovered on a construction site when the kittens were only one week old. There was no sign of their mother so they had been bottle-fed by the shelter staff. We dubbed them Katie and Zoe and brought them home. We were ecstatic. We were no longer petless. Happy days!
They were so young their eyes were still blue and they each only weighed 1.5 pounds. We quickly discovered they did not know how to drink out of a bowl. They did not know how to use a litter box. They could not even wash themselves. It was like having newborn babies. We turned the little bathroom off our bedroom into a kitten nursery and lay in bed that night wondering what we had gotten into.
What we had gotten into was two furry, purring little bundles of pure happiness. They learned quickly. They grew fast. They became our obsession and our joy. We plastered Facebook with photos and videos of our darlings. We knew we had the smartest, prettiest, most delightful kittens in the world.
When we see the antics of our kittens, we remember our first Katie when she was a kitten. We no longer cry about her death. We laugh in joy at all the good memories.