Yesterday, as Zakat was sitting on my desk in the sunlight, watching cars go by, butterflies in the garden, whatever catches a cat’s eye, a ray of sunlight caught his skull and I saw tiny hairs covering his scars. I whooped for joy! Coming to us, one of his most distinguishing features was his scars, almost entirely circling his face.
We have had many cats through the years, most of which have stayed with us for 11 – 14 years. We have loved them all, but AdventureMan and I agree that this is the sweetest cat we have ever owned. There isn’t a mean bone in his body. He exists to love and be loved. Best of all, he is truly AdventureMan’s cat. He follows him around like a dog, sleeps touching him at night, and yearns, always, to be in his lap. I don’t mind. It is so adorable how much he loves AdventureMan.
The veterinarian, who treated him before we ever knew him, had told us it might happen. He said Zakat was in such poor condition that he hesitated to treat him, it almost felt as if it would be kinder to just put him down. His face was so infected, it was huge, distorted and swollen. But as painful as it must have been, Zakat was always a sweet cat. By the time we got him, his face was healed, the infection gone, but the scars were still fresh and raw.
We continue to go to the same vet. He has become an important member of our community of friends. He sees us often. Zakat is also FiV positive, which means he has the cat equivalent of AIDs. He is immuno-deficient, susceptible to infections other cats could easily fight off. In contrast to our sweet Pete, the Qatari Cat, we have to make sure Zakat eats; he needs good body weight to help him through the fevers and infections.
We got him through a good friend, who rescues abandoned and stray cats, neuters them, gets their shots and houses them while they search for a good home for these cats. We give thanks for their mission on a daily basis; one of the things they did was teach Zakat to take pills. It’s a good thing. He takes pills almost every day.
He pretty much stays on anti-biotics, so we also give him pro-biotics, to help his digestive system. He gets fevers. His skin breaks out in huge patches of itchy oozing pustules, which drive him crazy. He looses teeth. Sometimes one eye gets red.
Two weeks ago, the vet gave him a shot of cortisone to help with the itching, and a new course of antibiotics and pro-biotics. It was like a miracle. Within a week, there was no compulsive licking, no more outbreaks, no teeth loss, and this scars are starting to fuzz over. His coat is gorgeous. We are learning to dance for joy for every small gain, but this gain is monumental. For all appearances and behavior, he is a perfectly normal, healthy cat. We’ve had five wonderful days. It’s amazing just how good “normal” can be.
We know it won’t last, but for five days he has been totally well, thanks be to God.
No, no, I didn’t sleep in. But I slept well. Tired yesterday after a killer combination of water aerobics and a meeting held at my house (prep, execution, clean-up) I was ready for bed earlier than usual, but Zakat was ready to party, and was exploring surfaces where he could play his favorite game called “knock things off.” I am heartless. I said no, a couple times, distracted him (briefly) after which he went right back to partying. Finally, I put him out of the room and closed the door.
Zakat is a sweet little cat, the sweetest of all the cats we have had. He doesn’t complain, just goes about his business elsewhere, and when he sees me in the morning, he is eager to love.
I slept wonderfully. I sleep better now than I ever slept when I was younger. I used to worry about things, wake up in the middle of the night and try to solve problems. I’ve gotten a lot better about letting things go.
Although I can sleep in, I slept so well that I was awake and ready to go at my regular time, and Zakat’s tummy doesn’t know it’s Saturday.
AdventureMan rolls out of bed; we are not in a hurry to get started. We are meeting up with a family group tonight for dinner, but we have nothing pressing until then. AdventureMan thinks he might plant a Limelight sage in a shadier corner of the garden, and I might do some quilting – or I might not.
When we retired, we had no idea how busy and compelling life would be, with our grandchildren and family, our church, our pursuits, our activities, and our friends. The weeks fly by, happy weeks, and we are all the happier for having a lazy Saturday.
Long ago, and far away, in the exotic Kuwait City, I started this blog, holy smokes, almost nine years ago in September. I met so many wonderful people, some of whom I’ve even become friends with in person. Others I still keep up with, in a comment here or there (LOL, Here There and Everywhere) or in a backnote, or on FaceBook.
Several months ago, I contacted one blogger, Aafke, whose very honest and very artistic blog I admired. We often commented back and forth in those days. I wrote about how outraged I was at a veterinary tech in Doha who told me my cat was the demon cat from hell, and I raged at how scared he must have been to have behaved so badly. Like, if you work with animals, you should know that! If you treat them roughly, they will respond! (Oops! I still get worked up revisiting it!)
Aafke loved the story, and did a painting, our sweet Pete as the demon cat from hell. There were some things I loved about it – moody purple background, a great representation of Pete. It sort of hurt my feelings that she painted him with horns and a forked tail, not my sweet Pete.
But as the months went by after Pete’s sudden and unexpected death following an operation that succeeded in its goals, but killed Pete, I thought about that painting so I wrote to Aafke, and asked if I could buy it. I thought it would make a good present for AdventureMan, for Father’s Day. She responded quickly, said she thought she knew where it was, and in the mean time, she also painted another, a really lush, beautiful portrait of a cat we dearly loved. She wouldn’t let me buy it, it was a gift.
So the paintings arrived, and I had them framed. They are small, exactly what I wanted. We don’t want a shrine; we want a sweet reminder. When I gave the beautiful one to AdventureMan, he wept. Aafke truly captured the sweetness of Pete. He hung it on his office wall, where he could see it from his desk.
When he came into my office, he laughed. I have my painting just behind my chair where I write these posts. “You’ve got the devil cat looking over your shoulder!” he crowed with laughter!
Yes! I do! We all have our sweet side, and our devilish side 🙂 Pete was no angel. He loved to escape, and he was fast. We loved him, warts and all, and this portrait makes me smile every time I see it.
Thank you, Aafke, for your beautiful heart that captures the nature of those we love.
It’s taken us a long time to get over the loss of our sweet Qatari Cat, sweet Pete. He was so special to us. For one thing, he was pretty. For another, he had some very winning ways. So many reasons to love that sweet cat and to regret his loss.
On our trip, we agreed that we are still not over Pete, and at the same time, it is time to bring another cat into our lives.
I had one in mind.
I have a friend. She has a ministry; she rescues abandoned animals, particularly cats. She tends to their wounds, she has them neutered, she gets them shots. She gives them boundless love, and teaches them to love and trust again.
She had put a photo of a cat on FaceBook. It was before our trip, and I couldn’t see adopting a cat and then putting him into a cat hotel, so I didn’t do anything. But my friend called while I was traveling, and I asked her during our conversation if that orange cat had found a home, and she said no.
So when we got back, we unpacked, we did laundry, we started to get back to our normal lives.
And we adopted Zakat.
Our friend brought him over. He was small, he was scrawny, he had a clipped ear, which I learned means he’s been taken from the streets and neutered, and . . . he had a huge circular scar around his face. He loved my friend, but AdventureMan and I totally freaked him out, and he ran into the cat room and hid (we have a lot of great hiding places.)
A couple days later, our grandson was staying overnight, with his Explorer’s tool (it has a flashlight, compass, magnifying glass, mirror, thermometer and whistle) and asked if he could see the cat. He’s a good boy, and he has three cats at home, so we took him to Zakat’s cupboard, and opened. Zakat didn’t run, and our grandson shone his flashlight and exclaimed softly in delight “Oh, I like his face! He has a sweet face!”
He didn’t even see the scars. All he could see was the sweetness of this cat. And I thought what a blessing grandchildren are, to help us see with the eyes of Jesus, to see sweetness where other see only scars.
Zakat has now discovered he is safe with us, and follows us around like a little shadow. He loves to sit in AdventureMan’s office with him, he loves to curl up with me while I am reading. He is fresh, and funny, and a sweet hearted little cat.
Zakat means tithe or alms in Arabic, but the truth is, we just love the double entendre, and love saying “Where’s Zakat?” We must be five years old, it takes so little to make us laugh.
His name was Pete. He died last night. The operation was a success, but the shock to his system caused his kidneys to fail. We are grieving, and having a very very bad day.
We are heartsick.
This little cat was a blessing to us for 11 years. He came to us a skittish little street cat in Qatar. While AdventureMan worked long hours, he kept me company, helping me quilt, entertaining my friends, almost always in the same room or close by. When AdventureMan would come home, he would play hide-and-seek with him and adored AdventureMan with all his little heart. I was the Mama; AdventureMan was the FunGuy.
He was not such a little cat; he was only a kitten in his own mind. He was a very long cat, and appeared much bigger than he really was because of his length, and his big long fur, which made him a fluffy cat. He was polite, always greeting us when we came in, and talking to us when we were sitting together.
He leaves a great hole in our hearts. Rest in Peace, Sweet Kitty.
******* WARNING ********* WARNING **********
If you are squeamish at all, do not read this blog post or look at the last photo, which is graphic.
****** END WARNING *********************
Qatari Cat Before
The Qatari Cat is home now, quiet and relaxed, stretched out in his favorite area. The Vet told us, as he scratched his head, that they would really like to keep him for another day, but he wasn’t acting normally. He’s all groaning and moaning and biting anything around him. They were at their wit’s end, and hated to see him so unhappy. Did we want to leave him or did we think he might be better at home?
We didn’t hesitate.
“We’ll take him home,” we said, knowing home is a quiet, safe place where the Qatari Cat can calm down and focus on healing.
Who knew? Who knew cats could bust their anterior crucial ligament? Who knew that it doesn’t repair itself, and that it would put stress on the other leg and that one would eventually tear, too?
We are learning all the time. In the old days, cats didn’t live long enough to get diabetes, to need a knee replacement. Cats went outdoors and had fatal run ins with cars, or racoons, or bad dogs, or mean people, or poisons. We’ve had five other cats in our lives together, and the Qatari Cat is the one we expected would not live so long, a tiny little street-cat with an infection when adopted.
We’ve kept him indoors (except for the rare instances, in Qatar, when he escaped, but not for long). Once, when he escaped, he climbed a tree. It was a very skinny tree, and as the wind blew and he got frightened, he kept climbing higher, until he was swaying back and forth, back and forth, and yowling at the top of his voice in pure panic.
Good thing he had that set of lungs, so I could find him. It took me another hour to talk him down out of that tree. “Qatari Cat” I said, over and over, “You are OK. You can come down,” and I would pat the tree. Over and over – you have to keep it simple for a scared cat. At long last, we locked eyes, he turned around and slowly edged his way down the tree, head first. I think that was a very scary thing for him, but he trusted me, and he came down. When he would hesitate, I would pat the tree and say “Qatari Cat, come.” He still comes when I call him and pat.
While we were still living in Qatar, he jumped from somewhere and developed a limp. From time to time, especially when the weather is cold, the limp, always the same leg, would become more pronounced. Recently, as he was trying to make a sharp turn, he screeeeeeched in pain, and after that, he had a serious limp.
The vet showed us his x-rays; his knee was totally torn. We waited until we were back from Alaska, so we could be here exactly for his reason – the Qatari Cat does best at home. He also does well at We Tuck ‘Em Inn, but he does not do well when he can smell fear and when he is fearful. When he is fearful, he is a fearful and awesome creature, spitting, hissing, biting and twisting. He instills fear in the most stalwart heart.
When we first saw him, at the vet’s office, (they were SO glad to get rid of him) he was growling and snarling, and he settled down in the car, a little, growling only now and then.
As soon as we got him home, we opened the carrier door and left him alone. Then the moaning began in earnest. He wanted to come out, but when he would turn to get in leaving position, his leg hurt, his wound hurt – a LOT, and he would let out a long, low, pitiful GROOOO-AAAAAAAA-AAAANNNNNNNNN. We had to leave him be. We had to let him do it himself.
AdventureMan had a special treat for him, canned catfood with SALMON. It helped him move himself out of the carrier:
And this is what his leg looks like. The instructions say it should heal in 10 to 14 days. We’re hoping he feels a lot better before then.
It is the sweetest, quietest morning in the year; the Qatari Cat awoke me early – well actualy, he awoke me often as the temperatures have dropped dramatically and he wanted my body heat. He is a BIG cat, and takes up a lot of room wherever he stretches out, so I end up sleeping cramped much of the night, LOL. He is such a sweet cat, who can complain?
Yesterday, our church started a new service, a noon service, to help drain off some of the 4:00 and crush of good Episcopalians wanting to start Christmas with a moment of holiness and order before the chaos. Noon was a perfect time for me, and it was a perfect service, full of great readings and music, a goodly crowd, many people I know, and cold enough to wear one of my vintage German coats, coats I considered ‘investments’ when I thought we would be living in Seatte after retirement. If I get to wear them one day each year, they still look new at the end of this century.
A little later in the day, the festivities began, friends arriving from out of town, a family gathering and Christmas Eve dinner where my beloved daughter in law made some of the best crab cakes with Remoulade sauce I have ever eaten, the children were adorable, and the conversation full of laughter and memories. This morning has dawned clear and cold, the Qatari Cat is fed, AdventureMan still snoozing, and I have a few minutes to share a Psalm from today’s lectionary with you. Life is sweet.
Happy, happy Christmas to all!
1 Why do the nations conspire,
and the peoples plot in vain?
2 The kings of the earth set themselves,
and the rulers take counsel together,
against the Lord and his anointed, saying,
3 ‘Let us burst their bonds asunder,
and cast their cords from us.’
4 He who sits in the heavens laughs;
the Lord has them in derision.
5 Then he will speak to them in his wrath,
and terrify them in his fury, saying,
6 ‘I have set my king on Zion, my holy hill.’
7 I will tell of the decree of the Lord:
He said to me, ‘You are my son;
today I have begotten you.
8 Ask of me, and I will make the nations your heritage,
and the ends of the earth your possession.
9 You shall break them with a rod of iron,
and dash them in pieces like a potter’s vessel.’
10 Now therefore, O kings, be wise;
be warned, O rulers of the earth.
11 Serve the Lord with fear,
with trembling 12kiss his feet,*
or he will be angry, and you will perish in the way;
for his wrath is quickly kindled.
Happy are all who take refuge in him.
“Fractious” isn’t a word you often hear. Clearly the veterinary tech had just read the word off the record, perhaps there is some warning in there about the Qatari Cat.
The Qatari Cat was born on the streets of Qatar, and had a bumpy start with another owner. While the man and his daughter liked him just fine, the wife and her mother did not. When the Qatari cat came to live with us, he was very wary of me. It took a couple years for him to fully trust me. He watched my feet all the time. He quailed in fear, ears back, if I used a loud voice. He was terrified of the sound of plastic bags.
Slowly, slowly, we built a relationship. Today, ten years later, he is a sweet cat.
He is a sweet cat every single day of the year, but he still has his street instincts. AdventureMan has learned that you can’t play rough with the Qatari Cat; you play rough, you lose. I never speak loudly to him; it just won’t work, it just gets his back up. Because he knows I am the boss, I speak sternly, but softly to him and he will do just what I ask him to do.
Our first visit to the vet went badly. You can read about it here. He was fine until the buzzing razor hit his bottom and then all his survival instincts kicked in. He’s been back twice, and he has been as good as gold, but somehow . . . that notation has stuck.
“No!” I replied, maybe a little bit too loudly.”No! He is a sweet kitty! He is snuggly and loving and quiet and good! But if he is scared, he wants to defend himself.” I told the tech about the Italian vet the Qatari Cat fell in love with in Kuwait, she snuggled him and told him how beautiful he was and how much she loved him and he was putty in her hands. I was almost jealous. I thought maybe she distilled some catnip and mixed it with her perfume or something, Qatari Cat’s eyes glazed a little in sheer adoration when he was around her, and he even drooled a little. She could take his temperature, give him a shot and check his innards and he never complained, just looked at her adoringly.
The tech shot a skeptical look at me and exited the room. I could hear her repeat this to the vet, and muffled laughter before she entered the room again.
So the vet came in and snuggled Qatari Cat, and told him he was pretty, and while she did not say it with an Italian accent, Qatari Cat was clearly intrigued – and on his best behavior. It doesn’t take much . . . he’s a male. Snuggle him a little, rub his fur the right way, chat him up . . . it doesn’t have to be rational, it’s all in the tone of voice and the flirtation. He totally digs it, he eats it up. A little grope here, a quick look at the teeth, a quick injection and he’s finished, not a fractious moment in the entire visit.
On the way home, we laughed thinking of our sensitivity at having our cat called “fractious.” We remember the indignant response of friends whose cat was annotated as “vicious” by a German vet. The cat was diabetic and objected to the roughness with which the vet wanted to take his blood. I think if you are a veterinarian, you might have an understanding that a sick animal, or a scared animal, might act unpredictably or defensively, there are big thick gloves you can wear if an animal seems wired up.
Does this look like a fractious cat to you?
First, you have to go to this BBC Science Website, where cats in a Surrey village were tracked by the Royal Veterinary College to see where they would go during 24 hour periods. You click on each cat to see the route they followed – some are amazing – and then you can click on a video to have a glimpse of cat life, usually including the underside of a cat chin. It is fascinating and hilarious.
This morning, driving to the commissary, about ten feet apart on the highway, I saw the smooshed bodies of three little kittens. They must have been about five or six weeks old. I felt sick; I still do. What kind of animal would throw little kittens out the window of a car to let them die in terror on a busy highway? Who raises these people who could act with such cruelty?
I am a believer; I believe God put each one of us here for a purpose. I think we often misunderstand some of God’s intentions; I think sometimes we get it very wrong. I fantasize that maybe these little cats and dogs we adopt are really our guardian angels, who will speak up for us on the last days and tell the Lord Jesus how we treated his little ones. Imagine the punishment for hurting a helpless animal! Imagine the penalty for hurting an innocent, defenseless child!