my littlest valentines

For Valentine’s Day, a post in honor of those best at unconditional love…

I never was a cat person*, until I met Roy. At six months old, he had run away from home and got run over by a car, ending up with a broken jaw and a wonky eye (I have no idea what was wrong with it, but his 3rd eyelid was down for the first month or two). He landed in the animal hospital around the same I did – I met him on the 3rd night I worked there. I had to give him eye drops, and he was so good and so sweet for it, I was immediately smitten, and took him home a few days later.

He has always been a perfect cat, possibly the gentlest soul I’ve ever known. He’s almost never missed the litter box** and, like all cats, he’s meticulously clean and tidy. He’s unfailingly pleasant and polite to friends and strangers, human and animals alike – he makes friends everywhere he goes. He’s sweet, but not crazy affectionate – if you shoo him away, he’ll be content to stay away (for a reasonable amount of time). He purrs while sitting next to me on the couch, watching birds, in his sleep – he’s always happy. He’ll hiss if seriously provoked, and he doesn’t realize the strength of his claws when he’s jumping away from you, but I’ve never, ever known him to bite or scratch.

Martin came along two years after Roy, at the worst possible time. I had just lost a cat and wasn’t at all interested in adopting a new one. But he was 4 weeks old, weighed less than a pound, and someone had accidentally dropped a dresser on him and abandoned him one night at the hospital. He was THE cutest kitten I have ever seen, ever, hands down, with the most enormous blue eyes and gorgeous tiger stripes. He started the night wobbly and still, but ended it markedly improved; however, he was too much work for the over-taxed shelter, and so I could either take him home with me, or hold off his little vein so that he would be euthanized. As if.

Home with me he came, still recovering from his injuries, spent the day and night in his little box. I tried bottle-feeding him some kitty formula, but he wasn’t having it. He spent the night curled up over my collarbone, purring furiously; in the morning as I started to gently check him over to decide whether or not he needed to see the vet, he flung himself off my bed and raced to the kitchen, planting himself squarely in Roy’s bowl of dry kibble and chomping away ravenously. Ever since, he’s been a healthy, if fat, cat.

Marty I’m afraid doesn’t have quite the same sweet soul as Roy. He’s always been extremely sweet with me, Roy and select people, but has always vehemently hated dogs, and been quick to distrust anyone (i.e. people near dogs. or people talking too loud. or people who move too quickly. etc.). If he were a child, I think he’d just be called ‘special needs’ – he’s not a bad cat, but he does require a certain finesse and attention.

Anyway, most animal hospitals have an animal blood donor program, for when patients need a transfusion (it happens often, for the same reasons human people do). Its a very good cause, and though you generally don’t get rewarded financially, there are perks like free medical care, vaccines, preventatives and food. So, being the cheapskate that I am, I immediately signed my cats up at the hospital I worked at.

Roy, of course, was perfect. Marty…not so much. Too “fractious” to donate. So the good cat got trucked into the hospital every month or two to earn his keep while the mean one got to stay home and sleep on the couch. It’s not always easy being the good cat.

So, when the hospital here at school sent out an e-mail saying they were looking for new donors, I again signed up my good little cat. Today he went in for his initial screening and he was SO good. I know I’m queer, but I was SO proud of him. He had an echocardiogram just to make sure there wasn’t any hypertrophy or myopathy, and while he was squirmy and a little bit vocal (he is feline, after all) he was really very sweet. And he was good for his physical exam and he was good when they drew blood. Everyone loved him, of course. He’s such a good cat.

Of course, my intentions are a little bit selfish as he bought me a good excuse to spend time in the hospital. In two years I’ll look back at this and laugh and laugh at myself, but for now, it’s a novelty to actually be exposed to any medicine. I helped out with his echo and the cardiologist and tech were great about explaining everything to me (even if it’s still mostly just shadows…).

But the best news is that Roy can get a dental for free! Which he needs, badly.

When I checked in with the front desk today, a man standing nearby heard that Roy was in for a blood donation and said, sincerely, “That is such a nice thing to do on Valentine’s Day.” Roy responded with a low, mournful cry. It may be that he’d rather have spent Valentine’s day on his perch by the window watching birds, but for now I’ll fool myself into thinking that he was happy to get out and make some new friends, too.

* I’m going to be a vet. I’m a dog person. I’m a cat person. I just kind of like animals, is all.

** This one time I changed his litter to an organic brand with a saw-dust consistency. It thoroughly offended him. THOROUGHLY. So much so that he used my laundry basket as his new litter pan. Which was bad. Changing his litter back rapidly corrected the problem though. Sometimes pet owners just have to compromise.

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