Where I lived in San Francisco there were many stray cats that came into my care. Eventually they were adopted, and they lived happily ever after. The two that stayed with me the most were Cricket and Guber.
As I was walking home from the subway one day, an orange striped cat began walking with me. It was clear that she was pregnant. I invited her to come home with me, where she could have her babies and then we would find her kittens and her all homes. Others had accepted this invitation, but this one plainly had her own plans.
Over the course of the next few weeks, I fed her and kept an attentive eye on her. One day, as she began walking with me, it was clear she had had her litter. I asked several times where they were, but I was met with only silence. One day I didn’t see the orange cat any longer. I looked for her for days, concerned about her and her litter. Then one day as I was walking home from the subway, out of the corner of my eye I saw movement. It was two little kittens playing in the empty lot where I used to find their mother. As I approached them they disappeared like a cloud of dust. I immediately brought food to the lot and hid. Instantly they were devouring the plate of tuna.
I decided to get a humane cage from my vet, trap them, and bring them home. It took days of patience, but eventually I captured them. Initially I kept them in a very tall, large box. They were too small to jump out, and I had two of my own cats, and needless to say or not, they were not happy with their new roommates.
Cricket was a little calico and Guber was the color of striped orange sherbet. Anytime I came near without food they were full hisses and growls. I wondered what would be the bridge to abet their fear. It turned out to be toys. Once I began playing with them, all things changed, human and rescues became friends.
It took a bit longer for the feline residents of the flat to warm up to these tiny kittens. In fact, only the other kitten in the house, Rocho, began playing with them. My adult cat, Raj, just pretended they didn’t exist.
Cricket and Guber’s acceptance of human love couldn’t have happened at a more perfect time. Suddenly Cricket became very ill. I immediately took her to my vet where it was determined that she had distemper, and it was touch and go as to whether she was going to make it. She received medicine there and I took her home. She responded quickly to the medication, and it was clear she was going to make it.
However, Guber got sick as Cricket was getting well. My vet gave me more medication since it was clear that Guber had the same disease as Cricket. When I picked him up to give him his first dose I have never held anything so small and so close to death in my hands.
I took him to bed that night. I honestly didn’t believe he would make it through the night. Rocho came up on the bed with me along with my other cat Raj. Guber was on my bed right next to my head, and Rocho curled himself around Guber. Neither Guber or Rocho moved that entire night. I did because I was constantly waking to see if Guber was still breathing, and also giving him more medication. Raj stayed on the other side. Around dawn I fell into a deep sleep.
When I woke the next morning, Rocho was still curled around Guber, but Guber was awake, alive. I tried to feed him some cat food, but he wasn’t interested. Rocho was there cheering him on as well, but to no avail. Then I remembered I had raw ground turkey in the refrigerator, and tried that. Instantly, Guber was not only interested, but eating like he had the first time I had left food for him in the empty lot down the street. It was clear that Rocho was also excited about Guber’s recovery until he realized he wasn’t getting any turkey. He looked at me as if to say “I need turkey too”, which I gave, grateful that he had saved Guber’s life. I know it was teamwork, but it was Rocho that wrapped his body around Guber and stayed there until morning.
During this time a neighbor that lived in the house next to the empty lot told me that the mother had been hit by a car. She had tried to save the kittens, but she could never get close to them. She fed them, but one by one they had died. The mother had had a litter of five, and a mystery was solved. Their mother had not abandoned them.
Guber and Cricket stayed with me for three more months. I always knew that I was going to find a home for both of them. Ideally it would have been great if they had gone together, but that didn’t work out. I put a sign in our neighborhood pet store. The first person interested was a neighbor that lived across the street. He took Cricket. He had another calico, and felt Cricket would make a good companion.
Because Cricket and Guber were initially feral, they were never going to be extremely social cats with humans, but Cricket, renamed Emily, hid the first two days from both human and cat. My neighbor asked me to come over and be with Emily for awhile. I sat with Emily and told her the story of her life, and how this human was going to love her as much if not more than her mother, me, Rocho, and Guber. I could feel her calm down, and then I said goodbye. A few weeks later the neighbor left a thank you card. He said how grateful he was for the love and light Emily had brought to his house, and that he was so appreciative that I had saved her for him.
A few days later a couple came by to see Guber. The minute they saw him they were in love, and so was Guber. All three of them bonded instantly. The interview went well, and it was clear that they would love Guber as deeply as Emily was now loved. The couple gently put Guber into the crate they had brought, and that night the three of them left.
Of course, I had a great deal of explaining to do to Rocho. Raj was basically saying goodbye and good riddance, but Rocho was sad that his two companions were gone, and perhaps wondering about his fate. Once I sat down and told him their story he seemed to understand; still sad for a few days, but eventually back to his normal self. Of course, part of that story was how Rocho saved Guber.
Denise Naughton is an author, a public speaker, and an ABD Ph.D. Candidate at Union Institute and College. She is completing her dissertation on Jungian archetypes related to stock characters in Australian film.