On June 24, a hungry little cat showed up at our home begging for some grub to fill his belly. He was a very talkative kitty and loved to cuddle. I could hold him like a baby and he reveled in the attention. He was the friendliest cat I’d ever met. He even liked to give hugs like a human. When I leaned down to talk to him, he’d put his front paws on my shoulders and lean in to kiss me.
I decided to feed him, against my better judgement, and he was so appreciative. Eventually I set up a little house made of plastic bins for him to sleep in the shade of our back yard. We became very attached and he stayed on the deck 24/7. Sometimes I’d just take a break from my work day and go cuddle with him for a few minutes. That made everything better.
Our dog, Mrs. Anna Madrigal (named after the character in Tales of the City), was quite fond of the cat too. Anna always enjoyed giving him a lick on the forehead when she went out back to do her business.
We knew a cat this special must have an owner missing him. We checked online ads for posts about missing cats and didn’t find any leads. We even posted our own ad several times, but didn’t receive any responses. I finally decided that his owner must be nearby, so I drove around the local streets and neighborhoods near our home looking for notices about the cat. There were none. I decided that wasn’t good enough so I headed out on foot and walked a little over a mile and a half through the surrounding areas to see if I’d missed a sign. Nope. Lastly, we had him checked for a microchip, which he didn’t have.
Daniel diligently called 30 animal shelters in our area. Thirty! They were all full and would not accept an adult cat. The only option was to euthanize him and I just couldn’t stand the thought of that. So we took care of him while we could.
This morning, I had an appointment to take him to get his vaccinations, to make sure he was in good health, and my intention was to adopt him into our home. I knew our oldest cat wouldn’t be happy, but hopefully she’d grow to love him the way the rest of us (including our dog) had.
I got up at 6 AM and sat on the back step of the deck with him as the morning sun was lighting up the sky. He cuddled in my lap as I told him about the big day he would have, and assured him everything would be fine. By tomorrow, he’d be a member of our house and maybe I’d even wake up to find him cuddled next to me in the bed.
He didn’t enjoy the car ride in the crate, but I told him not to worry. He would be fine. We got to the vet and they examined him to confirm he’d been neutered. He was, so that was a relief. They told me they were busy with drop-offs, so just give them 30 minutes and they’d get his tests and vaccinations done. They suggested I go get some breakfast.
I drove to a nearby gas station, and while I was waiting, I decided to name him Michael “Mouse” Tolliver, another beloved character from Tales of the City. Mrs. Madrigal was so fond of Mouse, so I knew it would be fitting.
After 25 minutes, I started driving back to the vet. That’s when they called to give me the bad news. He had tested positive for FIV, which is an incurable disease of the immune system. It is called the AIDS of cats, as it has a similar effect. Cats with FIV are still capable of living relatively normal lives, but their immune systems are weaker and they are more susceptible to illness, just as humans with HIV/AIDS are.
FIV is not contagious to humans or dogs, but it can be passed along through felines via bites or scratches. Since we had no idea how Mouse would get along with our older cat, Purr Purr, it was a risk we couldn’t take. The vets agreed. They only recommend people keeping a cat with FIV if they are the only cat in the house and there is no risk of them getting out to spread it to other cats.
So it was settled. Mouse was going to be euthanized. I came back to the vet and picked up my cat carrier, where they gave me more detailed information about FIV and showed me the test results. I wondered if Mouse was already dead, but didn’t have the stomach to ask. The office was very caring and they even thanked me for giving such good care to a stray cat. I told them no baby goes without food on my watch.
That’s the story of Mouse, the cat, and fittingly enough, the character in Tales of the City also had HIV. I’m thankful for the short time I got to spend with him and I enjoyed our daily cuddles. I wish things had turned out better, but at least I know I did the best I could to take care of him, and gave him a peaceful exit. I wish I’d been able to say goodbye, but maybe it’s better this way.
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