Doctor Wagner rips the top page from her prescription pad and hands it to me. “Petie Arslanian” it says scrawled with blue ink in cursive along the top. I stare at it with a total lack of recognition, disoriented by the mash-up of names. As it slowly registers, a giggle escapes my lips.
It’s only after I lug all 20 pounds of my grey tuxedo cat home that the enormity of it hits me. Without legal proceedings or consent, the two furry creatures living in my house have assumed my last name (having been neutered, I couldn’t even call my Mom and tease her about the family name carrying on). These two live beings are completely under my care.
As I reflect on life with my two furry sons, it’s fair to say they’ve given me a glimpse into Motherhood of the more traditional kind. Heck, maybe Petey and Kip are my dry run.
When younger, I was convinced my mother needlessly tortured herself by concocting obscure scenarios that could befall my sister and I. Then I got cat (s).
Early into my fostering gig, I brought home three brownish-black kittens. A few hours into their stay I noticed things had gotten unusually quiet. Closets were emptied, furniture turned over, screens double-checked. No kitties. I even got down on my hands and knees to check the baseboards for holes around air conditioning units and heaters. The kittens were AWOL.
I told myself not to panic and assume the worse. Setting wet food out as bait, I went out to dinner convincing myself that by the time I got home the bowl would be licked clean and all three kittens would be scampering about. They had to use the litter box at some point right?
3 hours later:
Returning from dinner I found the food untouched and the litter undisturbed. I’d been level headed up until this point, but hysteria was creeping in. My friend E_____ was unlucky enough to be with me and together we turned the apartment upside-down.
Kip and Petie, the resident cats, sat in the living room as if nothing were amiss. At first I watched them thinking they’d tip their hand and reveal the location of the kitties, but now I was reduced to begging them to “take me to the kitties!” not surprisingly I received blank stares in return. I was chastising myself for ever letting them out of the cage even though the cat people had assured me they would be fine.
My worst fears were: a) They had found a hole and burrowed into the walls of my apartment and I’d start smelling rotting kitty flesh in the coming days. b) They’d found a hole leading outside and were out on the streets of New York City.
Neither scenario was comforting and both meant I was not to be trusted with young lives.
It was close to midnight. Up to that point I’d managed to suspend reality, keeping my fears at bay. Drained and defeated I sat at the edge of the sofa dropped my head into my hands and began sobbing uncontrollably. “It’ all myyy faaault. They’ll never (sob) let me (sob) foster again!”
Poor E___ stood frozen on the staircase unprepared with how to deal in this particular situation. Finally he came to his senses, sat down next to me and putting his arm around my shoulder told me it would be okay. I drank myself to sleep.
I barely slept that night, waking up frequently in hopes of escaping my tormenting thoughts only to realize they weren’t dreams at all. Finally the sun rose and summoning my courage, I slowly walked down the stairs convinced I would find three little kitties eating or napping. Nothing. No kittens in sight.
With a pit in my stomach I sat on the top step and knew what I had to do. I couldn’t put it off any longer. I picked up my blackberry and dialed the cat people.
“Hi J____, sorry to call so early but…I’m not sure how to say this…I’ve umm…I’ve lost the kittens.”
“Ohhh, those little guys are such rascals, they probably just found a good hiding place. They’ll turn up in no time.” she replied.
“Um…no, you don’t understand,” I persisted. Just as I settled down to convince J___ of my crime, I saw something move from the corner of my eye. I looked down and saw a tiny head peaked out from under the sofa. “Oh,” I said into the phone. “Let’s pretend this call never happened.”
I hung up and ran to the sofa just in time to see three kittens scamper into a hole in the upholstery leading into the back of the sofa. Now, this was the same sofa I’d sobbed on and, at one point had turned up on its end in an effort to find them. They must have been swinging by their little claws terrified, but not making a peep!
Initiated into the Club
My only job was to protect them and the possibility of having failed them made me sick to my stomach. Because of cats, in my life, I was allowed a sneak peak into the paranoid world of furless-baby-moms everywhere:
What if the screens in the window become loose and they inadvertently lean against them, plummeting to their death?
How many sneezes constitute a cold?
Am I endangering their lives by brining fresh flowers into my apartment?
What if they eat the clumping litter and it solidifies inside of them?
I can’t even fathom the thought of losing your own flesh and blood. Going over the possibilities again and again – how it happened, where they could be, what you missed or could have done differently. It seems like a miracle as many of us survive past toddlerhood. So the next time I’m on a busy NYC sidewalk jostled aside by some aggressive stroller-pushing mother I’ll take a deep breath and remind myself they’re just moms too.
Thanks Mom, for taking such good care of us.