Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Kit Kat

Kit's grave, and the view from it of the ocean.

A few weeks ago I decided to take a mini vacation up along the Puget Sound. I went for a walk on the beach and made something of an unusual discovery. Most of the time when I am at the beach I find seashells or seaweed or the shells of dead crabs (none of which I take home, by the way - I am not a fan of beachy smells) but that day I came across a cat. Or rather, the cat found me. And, as you may have noticed by now, I can not resist an animal, especially an animal in need. So I scooped her up and took her with me into the house. (Was there ever any doubt?) As soon as I picked her up I realized just how much trouble she was in. She was covered in fleas, had enormous mats in her long fur, and she was light as a feather - I'm pretty sure that you could see just about every bone in her little body, and she was extremely dehydrated. She must have been trying to survive on her own out there, without any food - and probably precious little fresh water as well. As I had not planned on finding a cat I neglected to bring with me the basic necessities: litter and a box, as well as food. Every cat - every animal, for that matter - needs a name so I dubbed her KitKat (the inspiration was a KitKat bar that I found in the house sitting on the kitchen counter), secured her in the bathroom so that the dogs wouldn't bother her, and took off in the car for the 12 mile drive to the nearest market to pick up some litter and much needed food. I got back to the house and spent the rest of the day neglecting my homework in order to take care of Kit. I gave her some food - she couldn't eat much though, as her stomach must have shrunken during the weeks she had been without food. The dogs, being fairly accustomed to my habit of bringing home strange creatures, took little notice of Kit after the initial introductions, although they were careful to give her space on the couch or bed and not crowd her. I set up a litter box and showed Kit where it was, although she hardly needed it - she couldn't have let out more than a tablespoon of urine. A couple hours later I decided that Kit needed a bath. This was somewhat of a difficult decision to make - on the one hand, getting her wet might force her to use more energy to stay warm, but on the other hand, she had so many fleas on her that I worried they were sucking out any nutrients she might have and weakening her further. In the end I decided to try the bath - I soaped her up in the kitchen sink, washed her down with warm water and wrapped her in soft towels to try and dry her off. When I noticed her shivering I put her under the covers in the bed and snuggled her next to my chest to keep her warm. I tried to get her to eat something later in the afternoon but she wasn't feeling up for it and her movements became less coordinated. I let her sit on the couch with me when she didn't want to be held, and cuddled with her when she did want to be. Her breathing became a bit labored in the evening and I let her rest against my chest and cuddled her to try and comfort her. Around 10:30 that evening I felt her stretch and was relieved that she was finally feeling better, and that her breathing was finally quieting. I took me a few seconds to realize that I wasn't feeling her breath much at all. I shook her gently and said her name to get her attention. Once. Twice. A third time. But she was gone.

Usually, I am not much of a crier, but when it comes to animals I have a soft spot, so I will admit that I did cry for about an hour after she died. Partly because I felt guilty that maybe the bath had pushed her over the edge, but mostly because I didn't want her last weeks of life to be so miserable. I wanted her to be safe and warm and loved and happy before she died. Full of good memories to take with her. I wanted her to have enough good life that it would make this hard time a distant memory. Instead of being cold, hungry, thirsty, lonely, and looking for help but unable to find it. I can only imagine her going from house to house, looking for someone to help her, but at that time of year there are fewer people at the vacation homes. And even worse - what if she had found someone but they had refused to help her?

I wrapped her in a towel and, because it was beyond dark out, put her on the bed in one of the back bedrooms and shut the door. I couldn't bring myself to put her body outside for the night, all alone, but I also realized that I needed to separate her in some way from the dogs because the fleas would start jumping ship now that she was gone and I had to protect them from the fleas as much as possible. In the morning, I found a spot on the hill above the house, in the sun, with a view of the ocean and dug a hole as best I could in the rocky ground. I laid her inside and covered her back up, feeling guilty that I would be leaving her there on her own when I went back home again.

Had Kit lived, I fully intended to bring her home with us and make her a permanent member of the Unfarm. After what she had to go through, trying to survive out there on her own, looking for help but unable to find any, until me, I wanted to
know, without a shadow of a doubt, that she would never have to go through anything like that again. The only comfort I could take in the situation was in knowing that she was, on her last day, warm, and safe, and very, very loved.

And so I have decided to add her, posthumously, as a full fledged member of the Unfarm family. In addition, because I was unable to save Kit, I decided to make a donation in her honor to a local cat shelter. I have recently started drawing pet portraits for friends as gifts and so I decided to give a gift certificate of a pet portrait to the cat shelter, and they would choose one of their less adoptable cats to give the certificate to. The certificate would be an added incentive for someone to adopt the cat, giving that cat a chance at the life that Kit should have had.

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