“Charlie” – The Story of Elizabeth’s Cat

CharlieWritten October 2012
She wanted a cat – something waiting for her when she got home, something lurking in the shadows defending her from the discomfiting silence as she unlocked the front door.  It would be soothing to hear a purr, to put out a hand to feel a whiskery nose.  She had whiled away a good year in her shared apartment thinking if a cat was a direction and a responsibility she wanted to take.  She had suffered the requisite time she had been told she ought to wait before she embarked on this decision. Now, she was sure that it was time. All her senses told her that a new kitten would be the way to go but she could not override a sense of responsibility for the plight of those many existing waiting purrs in the SPCA. Only a lucky few there would find a family and the chances for the older cat were poor. She was reminded of the tale of the man on the sandy seashore littered with beached crabs waiting to die. The man picked up one crab and threw it back into the sea. One crab amid a myriad but one crab to continue happily in its purpose – whatever that was.  One crab rescued was how it would be. She would rescue one cat from the SPCA and one cat would be saved, one cat would find a warm bed, a human lap, and the simple creature comforts that are the necessities of cats alone.

She felt a longing for this cat. She knew somewhere in this Pound there was a cat that felt a longing for her and her longing was as great as that of the cat waiting for her – a soul-mate, a living, breathing, furtively playfully moving creature, who would spare  time for her human company.

At the SPCA, it was not as she thought; she thought she would walk in and come out with a cat.  No sir!  There was a mountain of questions and forms. When she considered this, it was only fair.  Likely the cats now incarcerated at the SPCA had been with owners who had not been through this process. Their cats were theirs without considered thought – maybe a gift for Christmas for the kids, maybe a pal for the dog, maybe there was a sad economic story, or maybe the cat was wanted to solve all life’s dilemmas. Yes, caution was reasonable and legal forms important. She was told if you want to return your cat, you will have to have a good sound reason, a vet’s medical explanation.  All the formalities completed, she was taken behind to the inner sanctum which sheltered the cats. There were many all ages, all sexes – female, male and neutered – all sizes. How was she to know the cat for her?

She visited the SPCA on a number of times wanting somehow to create a process where her preference and the animal’s were in harmony. After all, the cat had a choice too.

She wanted a lap cat.  Her parents had cats and she knew cats, like people, have different personalities. Macavity had been a reclusive cat, but then she arrived as a kitten confronted by boisterous two, six and nine year old’s, she fled to those obscure and devious places where cats go.  Tika, her parents’ cat, was the sort of cat she wanted. Tika was definitely a lap cat. Together with her elder sister, they had found a stray kitten, and, on Christmas Day, they had brought this three-month kitten from the mainland on the ferry as a replacement for Macavity. They had brought her in a tote bag to Deck 5 and there was not a peep out of her. She had turned out to be a mischief, though – a good birder who got herself into neat places from which she could not extricate herself. She was highly sociable, loved to be rubbed behind her ears but, above all, she was the diva of all lap cats. Then, there was her sister’s cat, a ginger tom, “Zuma”, a loner, who took a pellet gun potshot once, a one-woman cat who didn’t like to be handled.

So there were almost as many personalities of cats as humans. Choosing would be difficult.

Most of the cats were confined. Those deemed to be sociable were allowed loose in a closed room. On her visits to the SPCA, for several afternoons, she sat on the floor in the middle of this room while cats walked around her or studiously avoided her. A black cat with big white whiskers, and white paws consistently stole her lap, his purr could be heard a mile away, not exactly a beautiful cat, he had odd dull eyes and stiff and sharp fur. Every time she sat on the floor in that room, that same black and white cat with the odd eyes came to her – asking for her.  She inquired his name.  “Charlie”, they said.  She asked his age “nine”.  She asked if there was any history – “He had been handed in by an elderly lady who had to go into care and could not take him with”.

It was Charlie among all the other cats who, each time she sat on the floor in the SPCA room, sought her out.  Charlie had sought her – she had not found him.  It was his decision, Charlie’s decision and it was to be Charlie, then – there was no doubt in her mind – Charlie and her, together. She went home with her new mate, Charlie.

Charlie settled in well. His green plastic milk jug caps were everywhere, flicked around her wooden floors as were the toy mice filled with catnip that he chased until he lost sight of them under the sofa.  He had likely been an outdoor cat and it was fortunate she lived on the ground floor. At first, she was timorous to let him out. The front door faced the main road. However, from the back door, there was a flight of stairs to the backyard car park which was safer.  On the one or two occasions, where Charlie slipped out the front door,  he came round to the back.  He was a canny fellow.

Though she shared with a room-mate, the lazy-boy in the living room was sacrosanct for her and Charlie.  Charlie loved the “blankie” and the warmth of her lap. At night, he slept on her bed. You could say that, in a cat’s world, he had it all – love, care, food, warmth, freedom and peace, a cat’s perfection, and they were both very contented with each other, indeed, a good match.

About one year later, Charlie had periods of vomiting and spurned food as cats do when unwell. He withdrew to seclusion to the dark recesses under the bed. He was lethargic and lifeless.

Late Sunday afternoon, is not a time to try to visit a veterinary office, most have closed by 5 pm.  There was one veterinary office which stays open until 8.00 pm.  It is a good drive away. She secured a driver and Charlie was transported to this veterinary office. There, he was meticulously examined and blood tests taken. The results were not good. Charlie had multiple health conditions. Even if she could afford to pay for treatment, the prognosis was not good and the veterinary doctor gently explained, there was little they could do for him. The young lady veterinary was told of Charlie’s history, how he had been a rescue cat from the SPCA and how his new owner had only had him for one year. She was exceedingly touched with tears in her eyes as she suggested it would be kind to Charlie to put him down. Charlie’s owner took the news with much grace as she agreed to euthanasia. She reckoned she had saved a crab for another year and Charlie had a good year. He could still  have been at the SPCA. For the last year of his life, he had received love, care, and devotion.  She did not want to watch while he was put to sleep. She preferred to remember Charlie as she knew him, playful, affectionate and a good pal. It was simply bad luck and just a year was hard to take. Things being fair, Charlie could have made a good few more years. However, the bond between them will remain forever.

The sensitive, caring, understanding, young veterinarian did much to ease the passage. She offered to take photographs of Charlie in his last moments and to email them which had been done even by the time she reached home.  In her email, the young veterinarian said how sorry she was and that she had tickled Charlie behind the ears as he passed and told him he was a good boy. The veterinarian also made a plaster “paw cast” for remembrance.

Charlie will be missed.  Some months hence, a new soul-mate will be chosen. This time, apparently, it will be a kitten whose only previous owner is his mother. For now, one crab is enough to throw back into the sea.

by Judy Bogod
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