Yesterday, after a strenuous bout of writing sex, I walked out of my house to feed the tomato plants and commune with weeds and appreciate my air conditioning.
I noticed a small gray tabby cat lying on my front step—right in front of the front door—as if she owned it. If I’d left by the front door instead of the back, I’d have stepped on her.
I’d never seen her before. Our yard is visited regularly by three black-and-white cats, two black cats (one minus front claws who can nevertheless catch squirrels and jays, although not kill them), a long-hair white cat, and a tricolor. No gray tabbies.
After I’d fed the tomatoes, I came to the front steps, put down the can, and offered the cat a finger to smell. We conducted the usual civilities. She permitted me to scritch the back of her neck. She was fussy, and not afraid to hiss at me if I moved too fast, and she corrected me when I did it wrong. (Hence my assumption it was a girl cat. I have my prejudices, like everyone.) I noticed she didn’t seem to have a voice or any front claws. She felt skinny—may have weighed all of two pounds. She had a tattered ear. I thought, hm.
I went inside and cut a couple of bits off a slice of bacon and brought them out to her. She pounced on them. I noticed that she could stand, but she swayed when she stood. Her mouth opened but no sound came out. Uh-oh, I thought, she’s either very, very old or she’s a sick, abandoned stray.
And I got that feeling you get. My own cats died last winter. Cat-free house. Lonely to come home to. I could probably get used to her bossiness.
Then of course the inevitable second thoughts. She’s not cute, she’s sick, she’s old, and we just went through this, vet bills and all.
Anyway I brought her the rest of the slice of bacon snipped up on a plate. If we’d still had cats I could have offered her proper kibble or treats. She sure liked bacon. She ate what she wanted and then got up and swayed fragilely down the front steps and sprawled on the front sidewalk, doing that, “Go on, pet my stomach and see what happens,” thing.
Well, I didn’t fall for that. I did scritch her neck and take her picture a few times, trying to get a closeup of the tattered ear, because if I did take her in, I’d want to post pictures on the neighborhood telephone poles, “Found Kitty.” She walked really badly. I thought about rabies. I’ve seen squirrels and possums with rabies—they staggered like that. Hm.
At about this point, I made the wrong move and she bit me on the hand, nice and deep. I cussed. Then I said, “Okay, that’s earned you a trip to the vet.” I scooped her up—she yowled then, oh, so you can talk—brought her into my house and shut her on the porch, where she couldn’t do too much damage. Then I washed out the bite with bleach, then peroxide, then bandaged it up with some fresh-smashed garlic juice.
I brought her the rest of the bacon, a bowl of water, and a small cardboard box full of cat litter.
Then I called the ER. That rabies thing worried me. The nice young man suggested that I should come in right away. I said, “What are you going to do for me?” He said, “Clean it out and give you some antibiotics.” Well, I’m allergic to 99% of the antibiotics they’d use on me, and I’d already cleaned it out, thanks. I asked him about rabies. “Cats don’t tend to carry rabies. You could get cellulosis.” I didn’t ask him what that was. I just thanked him and hung up.
I went to the porch window and gave the cat a look. She was inspecting things. Okay, baby, detente. You don’t go to the vet. I don’t go to the ER. But I’m rather off you, adoptionwise. You can stay in my ferns for a day or two and if you’re still hanging around for a handout in two days, we’ll revisit the topic.
I let her out the front door, and she exited with dignity but again, slowly and wobbillily. She gave me a See if I let you pet me again look over her shoulder, went around the front of my weeds so I couldn’t see her, circled back, and lay down under the ferns three feet away from my front steps as if she owned them.
I rolled my eyes, but I went and got the rest of the bacon bits and tossed them near her in the ferns.
Then I did a more thorough job of cleaning the wound, re-garlicked it, which stung like hell thankyouverymuch, bandaged it, and headed for my car to go to the grocery.
My next-door-neighbor was just getting into her car. I gave a holler. “Do you know this cat?” She said she had two, a black-and-white and a little old tabby who doesn’t get out. I said, “You sure?”
She took a look at Miss I-Own-All-This. “Hosannah!” she cried. Okay, I’m fond of cats, and I know my neighbors are religious, but really?
No, it’s the cat’s name. She’s twenty-five and doesn’t get out much. My neighbor and I had a cat chat, during which she assured me that Hosannah didn’t have rabies, and I assured her I’d been scratched and bitten all my life and wasn’t worried about cat-scratch fever.
Last night the hand swelled some. It hurt like the dickens. I took aspirin, re-cleaned it, iced it, and worried until I fell asleep.
This morning it feels fine. A little stiff, but hell, she bit deep.
Next time she sprawls all over my front steps like that, however, Hosannah is getting a distant hello.