The Worst Advice I Ever Received
By Laura Bickle
Hands-down, the worst advice I’ve ever received is this little gem: “You don’t need any more cats.”
There were cats in my life off and on, when I was a child. My mother would let her cat, Sam, sleep in my crib when I was a baby. Consequently, the purring of a cat is the greatest sound in the world to me. I am certain that Sam whispered into my ear what was expected to me later in life, in my role as Cat Servant.
Cats have come and gone in our house. They always turn up. Some have stayed for a short period of time, as I’ve been successful in fobbing them off on friends and relatives. Others have stayed, due to circumstance or luck. There are, sadly, a whole lot of homeless animals out there. And they seem to find us, like they have little antennae strapped to their heads, searching for the Mother Ship.
Our most recent acquisition, Gibby, came by last August. He was a skinny tomcat, all beaten up from getting in fights (and clearly not being very successful at it). He was clearly a tame cat – he approached my husband as he was leaving the house for work and howled at the top of his lungs for food. We fed him, and he decided to make our back porch his home. My husband named him “Gibby,” after a favorite baseball player. He loved to be petted and sit on our laps. When I’d stretch out in a chair, he’d crawl on my chest and fall asleep. I felt around his neck and found scabs from where he’d been in fights. There was a sore lump on his ribs, where I could only guess that someone had kicked him. He had clearly been someone’s pet, and he desperately wanted a home. He would sit on our back step and meow at the door.
He wanted IN.
Poor guy was skin and bones. Gibby was clearly a massive cat, but starved. He began to plump up, and we frantically began searching for a home for him. One of my husband’s co-workers was amenable to accepting another barn cat, so we took him into the vet to be neutered and checked over before we took him to his new rural life.
Gibby, unfortunately, tested positive for FIV, Feline Immunodeficiency Virus. In good conscience, we couldn’t turn him loose on a population of barn cats. Nor were we able to find an indoor adoptive home for him. I contacted every rescue organization that I could find, fully aware that he was going to be a tough adoption. And we had no luck.
Since we already had FIV-positive cats, we decided that fate intended for us to keep him. Our other cats with FIV have been with us, asymptomatic, since 2003. I am hopeful that Gibby will have the same experience of a long, happy, healthy life.
During this time, I received all kinds of unhelpful advice, mostly from relatives. It boiled down to: “You don’t need another cat.”
Probably not. We already had five cats, and Gibby would be the sixth. I spend a whole lotta time scooping cat litter, washing dishes, and keeping track of vet appointments and medications.
But you know what? He needed a couple of humans. We had the room. The bed gets a bit crowded with our current crew of cats. But, as any cat owner knows, cats can defy the rules of physics and squeeze in.
And as Gibby snuggled up to us and began to fill out, we realized that we did need him, after all. We needed him to stretch out on the couch while we watch television, to sit in the co-pilot’s chair while my husband plays video games. We needed him to sit in the windowsill and trill at those scary squirrels outside. He’s needed to hold down the quilt at the edge of our bed. And he definitely is needed to cuddle when we have bad days at work. And I love to listen to him purr when I put my head on his chest. The most soothing sound in the world, that is. Like coming home.
So, to all the folks who say we didn’t need another cat: No one can ever know what anyone else needs.
- Laura Bickle
Laura Bickle’s professional background is in criminal justice and library science, and when she’s not patrolling the stacks at the public library she’s dreaming up stories about the monsters under the stairs (she also writes contemporary fantasy novels under the name Alayna Williams). Laura lives in Ohio with her husband and six cats. THE HALLOWED ONES is her first young adult novel. For more information about Laura’s work, please visit her website at http://www.laurabickle.com/.
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