The Miracle of Cubby
Instead, it was Cubby, a little gray and white kitten. My dad was still in the early stages of dealing with his heart problem, and during their visit to one of his doctors, my mom heart faint cries coming from a nearby window well. Inside was this little guy, with no sign of his mother or the rest of his litter. My mom had no choice but to rescue him, and she became his mother.
I wanted to name him Cerebus, after a gray aardvark whose graphic novel adventures I had been reading at the time. I showed my mom some of the illustrations, but they of course didn't strike a chord with her. She liked “Cubby”, even though I didn't think the name would always fit him. But he was her little kitten, whom she fed from a small bottle and kept healthy, whom she sang ”Hush, Little Baby” to every night. Even after he doubled, tripled, and quadrupled in size, he'd always lift his head and come running for that song.
I'd occasionally try to class the name up and upgrade it to “Cubbington”, sometimes add a “Lord” before the name, but for the most part my mom stuck with Cubby. And he stuck with my my mom. He liked my dad, and was usually a little wary or afraid of me, except for when I was feeding him. Then he was purring and bumping in to my ankles as I tried to put the dish down.
Almost one year ago, we discovered Cubby had gone blind. It started with circling, then bumping in to things, and eventually the vet confirmed what we suspected. He postulated the cat had suffered some sort of stroke, and was able to treat any brain swelling with various anti-inflammatory drugs such as Prednisone. He'd never see again, save for possibly colors and light, but as a cat, it would prove to be a minor inconvenience. Animals compensate very well with their other senses, and since our cats are always indoor cats, he already knew the layout of the house pretty well. When he started getting soft tissue damage and weakness in his back legs, jumping up on the bed or the dresser proved dangerous at first, then impossible. Every 7 to 10 days, my mom would take him in for another shot, and he'd be like a new cat.
A few times this year we thought we'd lose him to a urinary tract infection, common in senior male cats. Every time he'd lose his appetite, stop using his litter pan, and try to crawl under furniture or into tight spaces. Every time we were ready to say goodbye, the vet would express his bladder, get him on antibiotics and medication to break up kidney stones, and he'd miraculously perk up. I've lost track of how many times I expected to come home and find he had passed away, or wake up in the morning to the same sad news. My mom has always stayed with her cats right up until the end, but this is one of the few she's had since he was a kitten. When I was a little boy, I believe her cat Cindy was given to her as a kitten, though that was before I was born and I only knew the cat as an adult. She knows what to expect, but it doesn't make it any easier. And the downside of my most hated human quality, the fact that our perception of time shortens as we grow older, is that Cubby's fourteen years genuinely don't seem long at all. Maybe it's his gentle nature, but we still see a kitten where this big old cat sits.
I thought for sure I'd be writing an obituary this week. They say cats have nine lives, but this cat has come back from near dead more times than that. One morning last week, my dad woke me and said he thought the cat had died during the night, but he was just sleeping in my mom's arms and perked up after a visit to the vet. Just this past Tuesday, he relapsed again, wasn't eating, and was lying stiff with his eyes open, tongue out, and taut skin. Even with a catheter, the vet couldn't get anything out of him. He gave Cubby a few shots and had my mom bring the cat back in the afternoon. He was a little more successful, but still the normally voracious animal showed no interest in food.
By Wednesday night when I came home, the cat was walking around. My mom said he had used the litter pan, and was devouring any food she put in front of him. His fur seemed shiny and soft again, and he was walking in a relatively straight line with hardly any sign of a limp. This year has been quite a rollercoaster. We know sooner or later he'll get sick again. And one of these times, the vet won't be able to help him. But we've got a damn good vet. Two years ago I was sure a respiratory infection would do in my pal Mr. Chirp, and today he's running around like a kitten, sometimes climbing up as high as the top of our refrigerator. At night when he gets bored, he sometimes leaves toy mice outside our bedroom doors as “gifts”. His “brother” Cubby has, of course, been getting most of our attention lately. So it's an interesting position to be in, emotionally, to avoid false hope while trying not to be negative, either. My mom sometimes beats herself up, laments that she's not doing enough, that she wishes she could help him. If he was in the care of anyone other than my mom, he might have been dead a year ago. And, truth be told, while he's still relatively young compared to her past cats, without her intervention, he might have been gone 14 years ago. So whenever his time comes, it will be that much later because he had the miracle of having the same mother I do.