Archive for March, 2011

Sam-kitten, Hannah's little brother

March came in like a wild-cat lion. In the garret, perhaps the more accurate description is a smaller kitten version. On the eve of March, as I brushed a purring Hannah in her cat tree, I thought it strange that Sam was not in the room attempting to climb up and interrupt Hannah’s quiet time by stealing my attention.

“Sam?” I called, checking the bedroom, where he likes to jump on top of the bureau and throw to the floor any stray clothing, books, or tissue boxes he can find. Usually Sam comes when I call him, but now he was nowhere to be seen. I walked down the short hallway towards the kitchenette calling, “Sam!”

I found him on the bathroom floor, his big-boy white paws shuffling around a small pile of kitten poop, which he was attempting to hide under a fallen green bath towel, or eat. “Sam –” I tried, but his attention was on the poop. His face furrowed, frowned as he tried to get rid of what was supposed to be inside, rather than outside, the litter box. As he turned his body, I (and he) noticed there was a long string-like piece of poop hanging from his bottom. Sam began to chase it as if it were a second tail. Around and around Sam went, the spaghetti-shaped piece of poop whipping around with centripetal force. Sam was determined to catch as catch can.

Sam became increasingly frantic and desperate with each try, and I began to feel frenetic about the predicament myself. I decided to act. Despite Sam’s scattered movements, I was able to place my hand on the thick, loose skin on the back of his neck. I gently grasped him there, causing Sam to stop and be still, to become relaxed. He tilted over onto his side. I always disliked the idea of scruffing a cat – I thought it was mean-spirited to dominate another being like that, and, in fact, when I volunteered at the shelter, I was afraid I’d get bitten if I tried. But now, I saw the necessary, humane reason for it. I was surprised by my own ability to do it calmly: with one hand I held Sam, and with the other, I quickly removed the dangling piece of poop with a spare piece of toilet paper.*

Then, I let go of my grasp on the back of Sam’s neck. Sam stood, and ran free. I heard his paws pound the hardwood, then carpeted, floor as he sped from the bathroom down the hallway. As I looked down at the toilet paper, I saw it was not exactly poop that Sam had expelled: it was a tassel from the blanket I had on my bed.  Sam, apparently, had eaten it. The piece of fabric had gone through his entire digestive system, intact. I was relieved to see it had made its way out, rather than becoming caught in his intestines, which would’ve been life-threatening, not to mention costly.

After I cleaned up the poop and mopped the bathroom floor with disinfectant, I made my way to the living room, my arms shaking slightly from adrenaline. There, I saw Sam happily playing with a mouse toy. Hannah was sleeping soundly.

Sometimes, as I watch Sam, I wonder what Hannah was like as a kitten. Was she as playful and as curious as Sam? Did she eat non-edible materials? When did her trauma begin? When did her uncensored self go under?

Now, at eight months old, Sam is taller than Hannah (who will soon be eight years of age). Hannah, however, is still the alpha cat. When they wrestle, Sam instigates but lets Hannah take over. He shows her how to play with abandon, and, sometimes, I catch her imitating his behavior. Some days, Hannah quits the Sam-scene altogether as if she’s above such childishness. But, secretly, I think, she loves it.

The other day, I caught her joining Sam on the windowsill, where they both gaped for hours at the birds. Hannah wouldn’t like to admit it, but I know Sam is teaching her a lot about life. About going back to basics. About the simple joy of starting again.


{* Note to the reader: after speaking with my veterinarian about the incident, I learned that it is not a good idea to remove anything from a cat’s rear. Should you ever find yourself in the above-described predicament, vet instructions are to “clip” the dangling material so that it is no longer “dangling,” and allow it to fall out in nature’s course.}


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