Our Sadie is a sweet, lovely lady cat who I think knows very well how good she has it in
our her warm, comfortable, safe house. Never one to shy away from affection, she’s a lap cat extraordinaire and most nights will be found on the bed snug up against my ankles.
It wasn’t always that way.
She was, at the tender age of one (our vet’s best guess), a street cat. We’ll never know if she once had a cozy home or if she spent her entire first year prowling downtown Lansing. What we do know is that one April day in 2009, she made her way to the parking lot beneath the overhang at Impression 5 Science Center, a marvelous children’s museum and The Wife’s workplace.
This parking area was cold, hard, dirty, unforgiving, and no place for a cat. Certainly not a cat about to… have kittens. Yet, it was the best place she could find, a la the stable in Bethlehem, and so she settled down that morning and presumably got as comfortable as she could. The Wife, as it happens, parks there every day, and on that day parked at the end spot, just in front of where Sadie made her makeshift birthing room. The Wife arrived that morning, got out of her car, and was greeted with meows by this beautiful little black kitty. She (The Wife) thought perhaps this cat was injured, but had her hands full of work bags and purses and (gotta figure) coffee mugs, and so didn’t make any attempt to pet her or pick her up. One of her colleagues mentioned seeing a black cat roaming around the property, and the two of them found some sardines to bring to her. The Wife went out, and carefully gave the snack to Sadie, who wasted no time snarfing it up.
Later in the day, when it was time for a run to the bank and some lunch, The Wife came back out to the car and saw sweet Sadie still in her spot. This time, her (Sadie’s) leg was in a weird pose, and Sadie, still meowing, was all contorted in a strange position, so The Wife approached her and reached down to see what might be up with her weirdly-posed back leg. It all became clear when The Wife realized that this cat was having kittens.
At this point, The Wife’s concern grew to epic proportions, and she knew she couldn’t let this beautiful momma cat and her kittens stay in that parking lot. It was, then, at this point that she telephoned me and asked if I would “do her a favor.” Sure. With two cats in the house already, I hesitated when she told me what her scheme was, but I can just as much say no to a momma cat and five kittens as I can say no to my daughters when they turn on their Puppy Dog Eyes.
When I arrived at Impression 5 with the cat carriers, one of the kittens had already died. Ugh. I don’t take the death of any animal very well, but a kitten? A couple-hours-old kitten? Oy. That was tough. I don’t recall how we got Sadie and her four remaining kittens home, much less her lost kitten, but we did. We set up a basket, furnished with enough blankets to supply a neighborhood of cats, on the front porch, and attended to them as well as we could.
Warning – stop reading now if news of the first kitten was any kind of traumatic for you.
I should mention that, not surprisingly given her circumstances, Sadie came home to us not in the best of shape. Her fur was thin all around and even missing in spots, and she herself was thin and clearly undernourished – a bad enough situation for any cat, but downright scary for a new momma cat. Undernourished and weak as Sadie was, she was unable to provide as much milk to her kittens as they needed in those first few hours and days. This was one of those times when love just wasn’t enough. Despite a number of hurried visits to the veterinarian’s, each day for the next three days, another of sweet sweet Sadie’s kittens died.
This hit us all hard, Sadie included I’m sure, but it hit our Anna with the most brutal force. We lost one of the kittens on the way to the vet’s office, and I don’t remember what we did with the first kitten to die. We did, though, bury the third and fourth in a spot in our back yard, with at least one of the burials preceded by a little ceremony. The Wife and I thought it would ease the pain for poor little Anna.
We were wrong.
Anna sobbed and sobbed when we buried the last kitten. That girl is petite by any standard – easily the smallest in her class at school – but she has a heart the size of North America. I suppose she knew, at some level of intellect or reason or something, that it was going to be hard to keep more than three or four cats in the house, but that just couldn’t compete with the emotion of seeing the little fellas die. Her big sister Audrey, while not nearly as affected by the kittens, comforted her as maybe only a big sister can.
Anyway, over the next few weeks, we made a few more trips to the veterinarian’s to get Sadie back in good health, and watched her one remaining kitten get stronger and more awesome. Milton – named for the hero of the Hayde Ardalan book that we read to the girls over and over when they were little – was a cute little squirt of a kitten, and has grown up to be a charming, handsome young tom.
We still think of the kittens that left us those first four days, and it still makes us sad, but Sadie and her Milton are part of our family now. We love them, and, from all indications, they love us.
And that… is Sadie’s story.