You ate cat food?

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Maya phoned. After a few pleasantries, she asked, “What are you doing this weekend?”

I replied rather warily. “Dunno. I’ve got a few things going. What’s up?”

“Actually, I’m phoning for a favour.”

It was Tuesday. My calendar looked clear. I waited. A piece of advice? Always make sure you know what you are signing up for before you say yes.

Maya continued, ” Devorah’s in the 300K cycling fund raiser this weekend. I’m signed up to assist –  to register everyone, to hand out water when they need it, to help cyclists that get into trouble along the way. We had a cat sitter all lined up, but she’s no longer able to come. I know it’s short notice….”

” Thing is: Gus would be OK by himself. He’s old enough. The next door neighbour will drop in and feed him twice a day. But we are fostering orphaned kittens. They’re too little. They have to be fed every four hours. They need someone to talk to them, to handle them and to stay with them. ”

“They are so cute!. You can’t believe how cute they are. And they are no work at all. I’ll send you some pictures. You’ll see.”

I’ll do it!” I said with an enthusiasm that I didn’t really feel. I had nagging doubts that I hadn’t put something on my calendar, but if it wasn’t there, then perhaps I didn’t.

Besides, I’m getting to be such a home body. I really didn’t want to go anywhere, but Maya is like a sister to me. She’s been a close friend for over thirty years and she has been so very good to me many, many times in my adventurous and often rocky life.  I have seldom been able to return the favours in any shape or form. She and her partner were in a fix; it was payback time.

On the  plus side, I could go do a few things in Vancouver without having to drive in and out each morning and night.

That was Tuesday afternoon. Mid-evening, my sister and her husband arrived back from their visit to their son Whistler who is working in Golden, B.C.

“What time are you leaving in the morning?” I asked.  I wasn’t being funny nor trying to push them out the door.  I love these two people and they have carte blanche to stay at my house any time they want. I honestly thought they were going home on Wednesday.

“Didn’t you read your sister’s e-mail?” asks Dauntless husband, a bit amused. I think he thinks I’m a bit of a dithering, forgetful fool.

“Yeah. Well, so?”

“We are staying until next Tuesday when she has her specialist appointment. ”

Later that evening, whilst reading the local newspaper, I saw my name on the advertisement for the “Artist Day at the Farmers’ Market” ( I already told you about that yesterday).  I needed two days to prepare for the market. Also, on Thursday my cousin whose mom just died a few weeks ago was coming for tea in the morning. She’d never seen my new house before. I’d have to have it tidied up a bit. With a sinking feeling, I realized that I had completely double booked my calendar. I had visitors coming, visitors already here,  and I wouldn’t even be home! It was too late to change anything; I could do it all if Heather and my brother-in-law would forgive my absence Saturday, Sunday and Monday, but getting it all done would be very tight.

As God sometimes does, he arranges things for me when I really, really need it. For one, my sister and husband were super-understanding. “Just go do what you have to do. We’re adults. We can look after ourselves,” said Heather, encouraging me not to worry, only too glad that when they had medical appointments they didn’t also have to pay for accommodations.

Then Cousin Maria sent an e-mail to say she couldn’t make it on Thursday. She had double booked and had absolutely forgotten that she was committed to lead a Girl Guide hike and couldn’t get out of it. Could I forgive her and let her come another time? I gracefully let her off the hook without letting her know that I, too, was overbooked.

Perhaps things would be alright after all. On Friday, the hospital phoned for my sister to say the doctor would not be available on Tuesday next. Her appointment was cancelled. He had another meeting.

But don’t get me started on this rant. Heather seemed resigned. I was furious for her. Her trips down from Sechelt always cost so much and she’s not well these days. The specialists so cavalierly cancel appointments without any regard for the time or expense that a patient has put out in order to be there when the doctor sets an appointed time. Nor do they think about the energy that is sapped by the process of travelling and living out of a suitcase to attend to them while they are ill. Now Heather and her husband would have to come back in two weeks for the replacement appointment.  It was unconscionable! They left on Saturday morning just after I left for the Market.

So after the Market on Saturday, I gathered together a few overnight belongings, a good book and drove into Vancouver. For sure I would feed the kittens every four hours; but for sure I would not  sit all weekend in the apartment. I had friends to visit; I had some things for the framer; I wanted to get down to the art supply store on Granville Island and if time permitted, wanted to get down to the Vancouver Art Gallery to see the Dutch Masters exhibition.

I packed two lists of instructions Maya had sent me by e-mail. I didn’t manage to leave Richmeadows until five. I went to the discount gas station to fill up the tank and then joined the rush hour traffic to make my way to the city. Despite a twenty minute bad beginning with parking lot conditions right on the highway, the driving went relatively smoothly. It took less than an hour to get to Maya’s place on the West side of town.

When I arrived, Gus was waiting at the door, perched on the ledge, arching his back up and feathering his tail in greeting. He might have been an escape artist a few years back, but after his brother, Buddy, died three months ago, he’s been quite morose and house-bound.

As soon as I had all my belongings brought in from the car, I set about feeding the poor little blighters upstairs.  Gus’ bowl was still full.

There were signs all over the house for me. “Leave the toilet seat up. Gus is toilet trained.”

A large hand-painted ceramic jar with a locking mechanism like you see on old canning jars was sitting on the counter beside the phone  and was marked “Gus’ treats!” with an exclamation mark.

By the sink, there were special cans of cat food for the kittens with a message saying,”Food for the kittens. Feed four to five times a day. They eat one can per day.” That was easy enough. A sign beside it said, “Add a tablespoon of boiling water and mix well. They need to have slightly heated food.”

On the fridge, there was a sign saying, “Eat anything you want from the fridge. Forage in the cupboards for anything else you need.”

The little kittens had not eaten since four and it was getting close to eight.  I spooned out some canned food and took it up to the little tykes. The TV room had been blocked off with three wide panels of interlocking laminate flooring. A sign on these said, “Always keep this barrier up.” A sign on the cat kennel said,  “Put the kittens in the kennel if you go out of the house.” There were directions everywhere. I could not go wrong.

I watched while these little four week old kittens devoured the food offering in twenty seconds, aggressively shoving each other to see who could eat more. It reminded me of one of those pioneer harvest festivals where people sat at tables and stuffed their faces with pies to see who could eat the most pies in ten minutes.

When the little plate was finished, I picked up one of the critters, the grey tabby.  It had gulped its food and now, its little distented tummy felt like one of those wine skins, soft and pliable yet full. The other little guy, a white kitten with big black spots,  was the same. They staggered away heavily, but within two minutes they were bouncing off the walls, tearing from one side of the padded room to the other, hitting up against the wall then tearing across to the other side.  Every once in a while, they would cross paths and stand up, splayed out as wide as they could be, waving their little paws at each other in mock battle and then fall to the ground, roll over then wrestle for two seconds before starting all over again. They were up on the couch then down on the floor. They lept up onto the carpeted tree with three staged landings, then bounced back down across the back of the sofa, down my shoulder, back to the wall, then ran up the red cloth that was protecting the new HD television. Lordy, they were busy. Off the wall. It lasted a good twenty mnutes and then they fell in a heap and slept.

Our children should be treated as well as these little orphan kittens. Five square meals a day. Lots of exercise (no obesity problems here), a stay at home parent and toys you’ve probably never seen – including hand crafted ones.  There were the normal ones, like tails you could wave about in the air and they would leap for. There was a normal log scratching post; but there was also one contained in a plastic container much like a frisbee. At the side of this one, there was a channel for two balls with bells inside that they could bat round and round the track like ball bearings,  but the balls would never get lost. There was a hemp covered springy toy with a jingly bell at the top of it and another that had a ball made of  layers of bright coloured wools mixed with shiny foils and lamés. There were three different kennels.  The dinner dish was a Mikasa glass nut dish; and the water bowl was a Japanese porcelain one with fish hand painted on the inside of it. Nothing was too good for these cats!

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It was more difficult, though, when I went to feed Gus. Gus was now waiting Sphinx-like beside the jar with Gus’s treats in it. He and the jar were both the same height. He was meowing pitifully, telling me that he had been starved all day and he needed treats to feel normal. He had eaten what was in his bowl but his stoic stance beside the treat jar made me realize that I had forgotten that essential ingredient to his daily rations. Would I please oblige, his pleading eyes cried out?

I looked in the fridge. I needed to be fed as well. I found a ready-cooked barbecue chicken, a big bowl of fresh cut summer fruits and the end of some prune-flavoured yogurt that would go nicely with it.  There were jumbo hot dogs with all manner of gourmet relishes, mustards and ketchup to go with it. There was an iceberg lettuce and a romaine one and half a dozen varieties of salad dressing.  There were two dozen eggs and a variety of cheeses, milk, cream and yogurt. In fact, the fridge was full and it was hard to see what was in it as a result. I could see Devorah’s hand in this. She was was spoiling me! I certainly would not starve.

I found what must be Gus’ meal – fresh chicken, ground into a mushy, fleshy substance. So that was there for his  next feeding.

For myself, I selected a loner thigh of breaded chicken that needed to be eaten. I found some kind of squash that had been pureed. There was a fresh French bread. I was tired. That would be enough. I put the chicken and the squash on a plate, covered it with a bowl so I didn’t end up having to clean the inside of the microwave before I left and put it in to heat. I found the cutlery drawer and extracted a fork. I went into the living room and sat in a comfy chair and started to eat my meal.

One mouthful told me my friends do not cook with salt. I went back to the kitchen and salted and spiced both the meat and the vegetable and returned to the living room.  I liked the chicken, but the squash left much to be desired. I fell asleep there. The day had been much too long.

I awoke at about eleven and went up to inspect my charges. It was time for their dinner again and I went through the process of cleaning the porcelain water bowl and the Mikasa pressed-glass cat-sized dinner plate. When the mixture complete with a tablespoon of boiled water was ready. I brought it up to my kitties. When they were finished, I tucked them in their spacious kennel for the night and locked them in.

It was late, but I was wide awake again. I went into the next room to use the computer. There on the desk was another note. “When shutting down the computer, say ‘Yes” to all questions asked!” and “Enjoy the kits! Don’t let Gus get too near them just yet!”

Below the note, there was a folder topped with the e-mail of instructions that I had received on Thursday. In handwriting at the bottom it said,”Look in this folder for more info on cats! Maya.”

I’d been too tired when I came in earlier to do a full sweep of the house for more directions.  Now, here was a sheet of more instruction if I should need to call the vet.  Inside the folder was information for warning signs of illness; and things to watch for like sneezing, ear mites, constant scratching, worms, etc

Constipation and bloating had an extra notation handwritten at the side. “ A teaspoon of pumpkin in food, morning and night.” Oh dear! Oh dear! oh dear! While trying to clear up the fridge of its bits and pieces, I’d eaten the kittens’ pumpkin puree for my dinner!!!!!!

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Sunday morning after another round of feeding, I went to visit Dorothy who only lives two miles across the city from where I”m staying. We shared gossip and the weeks events. I told her all about the kittens and then about eating their pumpkin “medicine”.

“Ee-ew!” she said, wrinkling up her nose and making a grimace. “You ate cat food?”

“It wasn’t cat food. It was pumpkin, ” I said defensively, “It was just pureed, cooked pumpkin. Luckily I didn’t like it very much and I left more than half of it. There’s enough for what I have to give them. And now  I realize why it wasn’t spiced up at all.”

“I don’t know….” says Dorothy. “Sounds like cat food to me.”

And so it goes. Today is Monday. I’ve fed the cat and kits and I’m off to do my city errands for the next three hours.

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