Wednesday, March 26, 2008

A Feline Challenge

Satya — how could a creature so lovely suddenly metamorphose into a hissing, growling spitfire? Her family tells me she is really very sweet. I’m sure she is, with them.

She is my charge for ten days. Along with “the boys” Spock & Socks, and, I must not forget – the fish. They are upstaged by Satya’s medical needs. She is alert, active at times like any other kitty, and her coat and eyes look healthy, even with hyperthyroidism and diabetes. Another case of deception by appearance.

The first visit was pretty much routine, so it did not prepare me for what was to come. The next time I showed up, though, Satya made it quite evident that my presence was not welcomed. (After all, I am NF: Not Family.) Call me optimistic but I assuredly decided to wait her out. Several hours passed; she remained vigilant. She let me know it would not be pretty if I stepped an inch closer to touch her.

Evening arrived, and I had not made progress getting the second medicine into her, though she gladly ate the first medicine, disguised in (yummy!)baby food. Reluctant to use the towel method (which would only further antagonize her), I realized I had been outsmarted by a cat. Dispirited, I finally left, hoping for better luck the next day.

Sunday morning dawned, and apprehensive about the visit, I said a prayer to Mother/Father God and St. Francis. I’m not sure if I believe in an intercessory God, yet I do believe in miracles. It does seem, at times, that prayers are indeed answered. And I may not be Catholic, but I feel a connection to the simple man of Assisi.

Luck was with me. Maybe my prayer was answered. Or maybe it was the element of surprise and my no nonsense attitude. A quick dab, a few scratches behind her ears, and the medicine was in her. A second later, though, Satya became fully alert. Hissing and growling, she lashed out. Even for an experienced professional, it can be intimidating encountering a frightened or angry animal.

Satya reminds me of another kitty. Henri tolerated, maybe even loved my Mom, but she loathed everyone else. When my Mom was no longer able to care for her,I thought there was no choice but to put Henri to sleep. My then-boyfriend intervened and took her in, even though he decidedly was not a cat person. Amazingly, within a few weeks, Henri’s more lovable side became apparent. When I asked how he did it, he responded, “I let her know who was boss.” (For those of us who know cats, we know how bizarre that answer is.)

You may have rightly gathered by now that this profession is a lot more than hanging out with the cute and cuddly. With our companion animals, pulling rank (the superior human) really doesn’t work in the long run. It’s more a matter of respecting the animal’s inherent nature, and its place, along with ours, in the great web of life.

My confidence and capability allows a small window of time where I can get close enough to medicate Satya. She has an equal right to be unhappy. She is ill, and her family is away. I respect her right to feel grumpy, particularly under these circumstances. On some level, she may sense my respect, my empathy. That’s my hope, and my prayer.

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