My Cat's Life
The power of love to change bodies is legendary, built into folklore, common sense, and everyday experience ... Throughout history, "tender loving care" has uniformly been recognized as a valuable element in healing.
I fell in love the instant I saw him. He scooted across the room and hopped into my lap. With one little eye open, he fit in the palm of my hand. He was the cutest, tiniest, most mischievous-looking, pink-and-black nosed tuxedo cat that I had ever met. The kitten was the last remaining of a litter that had lost their mother, and my friend, who wasn't much of a cat lover, was looking for a home for him. That summer I worked full-time, and, because my home life was so miserable, I took on as many extra shifts as I could, often working six or seven days a week.
My live-in boyfriend, John, stayed home every day in our secluded, three-bedroom house. His only hobbies were playing video games and consuming drugs in an attempt to drown out the desolation and emptiness of his life. The more he was alone, the more depressed he became, and in turn, this only made him seek isolation even more. It was a vicious cycle. It was lonely in our big house, and the kids were away, hiding from the angry, empty atmosphere my partner and I had created. I thought of all this as I climbed into my van with my little passenger curled up in my lap for the drive home.
He was so tiny, and with no mama cat to feed him, he was voraciously hungry. I was the only mother he had, and he did what any hungry baby would do—he looked for something to suck on. He found my thumb, and my heart melted. I was floating with happiness when I introduced the kitten to John. With a scowl, he told me that I couldn't keep him. I convinced him to at least let me wait until after work the next day before taking him back. I was nearly heartbroken, but glad to be allowed to keep him for one night.
The kitten seemed to think that he was a furry little person. He followed me everywhere, and copied me while I watched TV, sitting on his rear end, front paws at his sides as if they were his arms. That night he stayed in our bedroom with us. The night was long since the kitten woke me up every couple of hours, trying to nurse, sucking my hand, telling me it was feeding time. John grumbled every time I got up to get the kitten's milk, and complained that it wouldn't be soon enough when I took the kitten back to my friend.
However, something changed in the morning as I was leaving for work. When I popped my head into our bedroom after my breakfast, I announced, "Okay, I'm going now." As soon as the words left my mouth, the kitty scooted to the end of the bed with a frightened and sad look, and emitted the tiniest and saddest little meow, as if he understood. It was irresistible. John's face softened for a moment and then he smiled.
"Awww, that's so cute, he's crying for you, Betty," said John.
It was the first genuine smile I had seen from John in months. Right then I knew my little tuxedo cat was staying. When I arrived home that evening, it was to an excited John telling me all about his day with the kitten. Happily demonstrating all the games that they played and how the kitten would hunt John, thinking that if he stood very, very still he was invisible and John wouldn't see him. John announced that we should come up with a name. I thought for a few minutes, watching the kitten race around the house chasing him.
"Skooter. He's a Skooter-cat," I said.
That summer was long, lonely and difficult until Skooter came along. He helped us both smile at least once a day, whether it was because I couldn't break him of his sucking habit—he salivated at the sight of any exposed human flesh, and he mauled me when he had the urge to suck—or his fascination with watching the water in the toilet swirl around. He loved it so much that he figured out how to flush the toilet himself just so he didn't have to wait for a human to do it. John spoiled Skooter, feeding him only the best cat food we could find, and caring for him as if he really were an actual human child. And Skooter saved John. I knew John's drug use, chronic depression and self-imposed isolation were driving him crazy. On more than one occasion, John has told me that he had been suicidal before I brought Skooter home. Then, in this tiny kitten, he could see the beauty and wonder in life again.
John and I have since parted ways, healthier and happier. John went off to a rehabilitation program and cleaned up, and I'm enjoying a peaceful life with my two kids, who no longer need to escape their home to find love. When Skooter came into our lives, he fit in the palm of my hand, not even weighing one pound. Today, he is three years old and weighs a whopping twenty-five pounds. He isn't fat—he's just a big healthy guy who still thinks he's a baby. Yup, he still tries to suck on my thumb.