, , , ,

I once had a young cat who didn’t run away. Mayzie was a crazy young kitty that liked to suck on earlobes and run headlong into walls. She was sweet and of little brain.

The night she was lost, she’d been sitting on the windowsill of my first floor apartment. It was 3am. A huge, stray tomcat threw himself against my screen at just the right angle, with just the right weight, and knocked the screen out. In the chaos, Mayzie was lost. I woke to the sound of cats and fear, screaming and crashing, and then a stunning silence. It was an abduction, and we were heartbroken. My son and I made flyers and posted these all over the neighborhood. I contacted the police and the shelters.

About 2 weeks later, I got a call from a woman. She said she’d heard I’d lost my cat, and was sure my kitty was in her yard. I described my cat, and she agreed this was she. The woman asked that I come quickly, since her family was afraid of cats and they were hiding indoors, watching the cat through closed shades. This right here? This should have been a tipoff.

Following her directions, I pulled into her driveway, leaving my car door wide open. It was drizzling, and there was a cat prancing through the tall grass. This was a cartoon cat, right out of Disney (think a black “Marie” from Aristocats). She bore absolutely no resemblance to my cat. None at all. And I’d been very clear in posters and on the phone with this lady. She’d assured me this was my cat. Nope. This cat was very long haired. My lost cat was short haired. This cat was mostly black with some white patches. Mayzie was a tortoiseshell; orange, brown, black, white like a 2year old’s finger painting. And this cat did not appear to be a stray.

The family who’d called me was holed up behind their mostly-closed front door. The mother spoke LOUDLY so I could hear her from a distance (no need to knock or approach, thank you). I could see at least one small face poking through the crack in the door, about knee height, and another at a window.

I called to her that this wasn’t my cat. She asked if I was REALLY SURE? I assured her, and turned to leave. The cat pranced over to my car and, without even a backward glance, jumped into the front seat. She sat down confidently and gave me the sweetest “Prrrt!” I’d ever heard. My heart melted. This was not my cat. I was not in the market for a cat, I was looking for my cat. This cat planted firmly and began to clean her luxurious fur. I invited her to leave. She offered a cursory glance, eyelashes blinking, then returned to her grooming. I’d been dismissed. And she was ready to leave. What the hell? I didn’t have the heart to shove this kitty out of my car, into the rain, onto the lawn of a family who’d prefer to eat canned food and rain water rather than come outside while she was on their property. I asked the cat what to do and she curled up on the seat. Decision made.

I brought this cat home to my young son and we named her Tasha. My other deeply loved cats were not at all happy with this new addition, but Tasha seemed oblivious. She pranced around her new home, announcing her arrival with a chirping “Prrrt!”. She was a very happy cat. For about a week.

I don’t know what happened to change Tasha. She became a tyrant. Her mood was mercurial. She became completely unpredictable and sometimes very violent. But, when she slept, she was so very beautiful. And it seemed she was happy then. She’d twist and stretch, purring loudly, making that sweet sound we came to love and fear. And then as she woke, she’d sit up, look around her, and remember she hated us. You could see loathing drop like a veil over her vibrantly amber eyes.
I could not imagine what had occurred that would make her so hateful. This mystery became my life’s work for the next 9 years. I am nothing if not loyal. I tried various forms of behavior modification, kitty therapy, medications, herbal remedies, homeopathy. I saged her and massaged her. Nothing helped, but I continued to work, believing I could love her into health. This last statement is a recurring theme of my life. More on that another day.

There is no happy ending to this story. After my last child was born, and then became seriously ill in infancy, I had nothing left for Tasha. My daughter required all of my attention. One night, while sleeping, Tasha was curled around my head. My daughter was snuggled at my breast. I don’t know what caused Tasha to flip out (there was never an obvious or consistent reason) but I woke to her ripping a gash into my arm. I could actually hear the flesh tear. It was crazy. And I was finished. Before that moment, I believed things could change. I had believed I could somehow heal her, or at least create a less chaotic emotional life. But this moment was a game-changer for me.

I came to the awful and complete understanding that Tasha had to go. I knew that if I gave her to a shelter, she’d be euthanized. She was not an outdoor cat. There wasn’t a human in the world that would take her in. I was now aware of the very sad bind I was in. So, I continued to try to help Tasha for another few months, like a last ditch effort, while I asked around for someone to take her in or give me ideas, but to no avail. A friend took her to a no-kill shelter for me and even they couldn’t be sure she’d be saved. I’d done all I could for her. Tasha’s lesson was a hard one for me: We cannot change others. We cannot instill insight in another. However, we are changed in relationship with others. Sometimes, this change moves us in directions we wouldn’t have chosen.

Life with Tasha symbolized my desperate desire to FIX. She was hope gone awry. Life with her was the embodiment of my Pollyanna-like need to believe “it’ll all be okay!”, even when faced with the glaring reality that it most certainly is not okay. The hardest lesson was learning that sometimes, we can’t be saved.