Two Cats That Changed the World
“Until one has loved an animal, a part of one’s soul remains unawakened.”
― Anatole France
I’ve written about some of the funny interactions between me and animals namely the Angry Birds of Albuquerque. And I’ve probably mentioned, at some point, my cats Simba and Nalla in passing. But what I would like to share is how two cats changed one part of this big world….MINE. They changed me through their unconditional love.
In June 2000 I was working at a local vet clinic in the Hattiesburg, MS area. Specifically, I was over the adoption center they had there. I would take in puppies and kittens and find homes for them. There was a lot of work that went into that job but I loved working with the animals. This became a place of catharsis that was a nice break from the daily emotional abuse of my marriage.
One day a gentleman walked in with a box and inside it were two little kittens barely a week old. He told me that the momma cat was killed attempting to move these little kittens across the road. We typically didn’t take animals this young so, I took them on as a personal project. From that day forward that box and those two kittens went everywhere I did.
My days and nights included bottles every two hours for these little beings. I hungered to be a mother but deep in my soul I knew that bringing a baby into that volatile situation was not smart. And these kittens were filling that void for the time being. During some of those long nights and sleep deprivation I said to them, “Six weeks and you will be finding a new home.” Tube feeding, bottles, antibiotics and ringworm later and six week old playful kittens would be taken in that same box to the adoption center.
I made their cage extra special and comfortable. These cats would be going to their new home together as the loving sisters that they were. I watched every visitor to see if they were interested in these cats. I was going to interview anyone who was interested with a fine tooth comb. Secretly, I hoped no one wanted them because somehow I had formed a connection that I never thought possible. No one came in and met my unachievable standards for these cats. So…..they came home with me where they would live out the next 15-16 years.
I would find solace in these cats that had no expectations of me. They loved me unconditionally and new when the perfect time was to want to cuddle. Always on their terms of course. If I cried in silence as I usually do, they could hear me from any dark clothes draw, closet or clothes basket in the house. They came running and meowing almost as if saying, “Momma let us love you.” I could be having a true snot crying moment and as long as they were in my lap or touching me somehow they were my own personal sponge to absorb my tears and often heavy emotions.
Simba and Nalla would become the original “Battle Buddies” our fight to survive abuse both physically and emotionally. The emotional and psychological abuse from my husband and brother-in-law could be intense and dangerous. Somehow, though, as long as Simba and Nalla were there I seemed to be engulfed in a bubble that no abuse could reach at least for that moment. This seemed to be that extra bit of protection that I used to my advantage. As long as they were determined to be by my side, I was determined to one day find a way out. That day would eventually come.
There were nights when he would angrily get up with a belt and going into the room where all my animals slept and began hitting anything in his path. My cats were terrified of his anger just like I was. He would hit torment them with a broom which they never get over. As much as I wanted to protect them, it was just too dangerous, for both me and them, to intervene.
My and “my girls” eventually left that relationship with PTSD intertwining our emotions and thoughts. I would take them into my relationship with Melody with all of our scars both visible and unseen attached. Anytime one of us had to use a broom to clean Simba and Nalla would run for cover. And loud noises and even mild arguments and you would find them tucked away in whatever haven of safety they could find nearby.
My girls were quirky as hell just like me. The ultimate form of loyalty I experienced with them and it was beautiful to say the least. A couple of years ago I walked into our living room in Albuquerque to find Nalla, our black and white, overweight kitty sometimes called our “Gateway Kitty,” rolling around on the floor in obvious pain. I looked into her eyes and knew that she was suffering in a way that was not visible. We made eye contact and a feeling from her that said, “You know what to do. Please stop my suffering.” I’ve always told pet owners that when it’s time to put a family pet down you would just somehow know.
This was the day that I had feared since they were very young kittens. My heart was breaking for this beautiful creature that through love had propelled me to safety. The years of intense love for both she and her sister was now gathering for this one moment. With tears streaming down my face and Mel looking on I said, “Get the laundry basket comfortable for her….It’s time.” Trying to comfort Nalla knowing that I really couldn’t physically she seemed to know that my heart was breaking. I kept looking into her eyes needing the reassurance that what I was doing was the right thing. And she looked back at me as if to say, “It’s ok.”
Simba was meowing not really knowing where Nalla was going. She went to her place of solace which was a pillow next to mine on my bed where she slept every night. The ride to the vet was one of the longest rides I had ever taken. My heart was breaking even if the right decision was being made.
I handed the laundry basket with one of my best friends in it to the tech. With tears falling I kissed Nalla and told her that I loved her. A few minutes later I would receive the her collar with the bell on it. A couple of weeks later I would receive her ashes. Simba seemed lost but still tried to comfort me at all costs. Somehow a the survival of an era seemed to be coming to an end.
Exactly one year to the week I would go through the same process with Simba my grey and white tabby. It was like their job had been done and it was time for me to fly on my own. These beautiful animals were with me through a horrible time in my life. They expected nothing other than treats and junk food. There job, as they saw it, was to be with me in whatever way needed or possible. And through their undying compassion I was beginning to heal. Those two little kittens were more than house decoration. They changed my world.
“An animal’s eyes have the power to speak a great language.”