It’s New Year’s Eve, a perfect time for looking back and forward, all at once. Introductions are needed. I’ll begin with Scout today. In our current family of cats, she has the most seniority—five years living in our home. She arrived when Kobe, Bennie and Finnegan were still alive. Some of you reading this know Scout from her Facebook page, Scout Club, so I’ll keep her backstory brief.
In July 2013, I went for a walk the morning after a derecho blew into Pigspittle. I wanted to see how high the river had risen. As I turned the corner onto Compromise Street, a kitten walked into the middle of the road, sat down and meowed. Compromise is one of those crumbling and neglected side streets you find in small towns, not much traveled by cars, no sidewalks. I really had no choice but to stop for this kitten and talk to her. As I got closer, I saw that she was soaking wet, her eyes were goopy and swollen, and she was malnourished. I looked around for other cats but saw none. Pigspittle has hundreds, probably thousands, of stray cats. But no momma cat was in sight to claim her. So I picked her up and walked the mile back home, all the while struggling with her sharp claws and high-pitched meows and neighborhood people cleaning up the fallen branches from last night’s storm staring at me, knowing I just made a commitment to this pitiful kitten.
I took her to the vet and they cleaned her up but couldn’t do anything except give us drops for her eyes and pat her on the head. If the drops worked, she might be able to see someday. It was likely she was born with the infection.
Husband and I stocked up on kitten supplies and diligently used the drops, which each day were harder to get in because her eyes, covered with a brownish layer of mucous or something, kept swelling bigger and bigger. The drops just rolled off them. I was terrified that her eyes would pop like a balloon. This went on for weeks. Our vet decided that she needed an operation but she was too tiny. Finally, after two months, she weighed enough to be given anesthesia and the vet removed both eyes.
Blind cats are amazing creatures. Sometimes I close my eyes and try to imagine Scout’s world, how she navigates, what she hears. But I don’t have whiskers, nor do I have particularly good hearing, and I haven’t any practice at memorizing minute details of how each rug, chair leg, wall, bookcase or door smells and feels to the touch. Scout can walk over to the crate filled with toys and pick out her favorite, a small blue stuffed tube we call “tubie,” even if it is at the bottom of the crate. She just knows.
I don’t have children. Scout is my baby girl. She is fierce and stubborn and funny. She is affectionate on her terms, expressed with deliberate head bonks, interrupted by marching on the bed and soft purrs until she locates your face again. She lets you know that this is a ritual and it is special; it means she loves you.
Now that we have five cats in the house, Scout’s world has been upended. She isn’t quite sure which cat she can trust, with the exception of Waffles. Everyone has started to spray (except Bob), and Scout’s heightened sense of smell is probably on overload, with territorial demands coming from every wall. And then she is attacked without provocation by Dru and Sisu, and smacked on the butt by Sheriff Bob for no good reason.
About two months ago, she started peeing on the bed. Our bed. (Prayer to the laundry gods: I am eternally grateful for our washer and dryer and will never take them for granted.) She has peed on the dining table and the couch. She has targeted (ironically–I said she was funny, didn’t I?) the air purifier in the living room. We’ve upped the litter boxes, moved them to more convenient spots, bought expensive litter, installed Feliway plug-ins, sprayed Feliway, cleaned every inch of urine with enzyme-based cleaners. We’ve closed the door to the bedroom during the day, with mixed feelings because that’s her safe zone.
Husband made a scarecrow out of his pajamas for the bed. Honest. Scout can’t see that it is a scarecrow so that part is lost on her, but she can smell it.
I took Scout to the vet last week to make sure this daily outpouring wasn’t a medical issue. It isn’t. “Well, you know, after you have more than three cats in a house…,” the vet started to say and trailed off. I know how the sentence ends: Chaos, barbarism, holy hell breaks out when you have more than three cats.
I’ve become a Jackson Galaxy devotee. I fall to sleep on the couch with My Cat from Hell on Roku playing into my subconscious. I will admit to sending a video to the show, begging for help.
For now, Dru is in the basement so that we can catch our breaths and figure out how to reintroduce her to the house without more drama. Waffles sleeps under the woodpile next to the fireplace, stalking Dru and waiting for her to take the five steps from the basement to the backdoor where she is allowed fresh air, like a prisoner. Bob comes and goes, and smacks each cat on the butt when he decides they’ve crossed some line (no one knows where the line is–not us, not the cats). Sisu paces, letting us know we have not sufficiently catified the house as he climbs onto the fireplace mantel where I have placed glass vases, ornaments, ceramic candleholders, and a clay pitcher full of fragile, dried ornamental oregano. I hold my breath as he totters in front of these precious things. I cringe.
Scout, on the other hand, is doing her best to adapt, better than the rest of us. She hasn’t peed on the couch for at least a week, and the bed has been dry for several days. She bounces back from attacks quickly, eager to play with the bird wand or tubie. She listens for stink bugs and sleeps in sun spots and grooms Waffles.
I have so much to learn from her: most of all, equanimity. And naps.
Coming soon: The Story of Waffles