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10/10/2006

While the Cats are Quiet


I am seated in our living room caressing an evening cup of coffee, anticipating The Gilmore Girls, listening to rain lightly drum on our ancient A/C unit, and watching sunlight peek shyly from behind maternal clouds. Milo is sleeping soundly in his crate in the bathroom, and Harley is sleeping soundly in our bedroom. He demanded "his" rocking chair with a loud meow, so we played musical rooms and switched he and his little brother.

I never dreamt I'd be this sleep-deprived until we delivered a soft, human newborn, but Milo is a newborn, just a furry one. He is now four weeks old, weighing .14 oz. - twice the size from when we picked him up in a cardboard box at Amy's house - and two oz. away from one pound! Last week we fretted like first-time parents at his swollen tummy fearing he contracted the dreaded fatal disease, FIP. It turns out he is merely roly-poly which we should have known since he is always hungry, and sucks down food with impressive speed and dexterity. His pretty blue eyes are changing, the blue is fading, and today I saw black pupils stare back into my brown eyes. His ears are more floppy and pointy, and he continues to be ridiculously endearing. I realize the picture is fuzzy, but that is precisely what he looks like to me when I stumble out of bed at 3:00-4:00 am for feeding time. OK, actually, I rarely stumble out of bed lately, not because I'm cold-hearted lacking motherly instincts, but because I sleep much sounder than I used to, and I can't hear his chirping. Johnny is fabulous; he rolls out of bed, feeds and cleans Milo before I figure out what's going on. When we do have a human baby, I must own a seriously loud baby monitor. Johnny won't be able to handle those feedings, if you know what I mean.

Even with Johnny's kindness, I am sporting dark under-eye circles trying to catch up on sleep since he was in Wisconsin last weekend (I set our loud alarm clock), and now Harley Cat is sick. Due to Milo's tiny stature, the vet recommended updating Harley's shots to protect not only his health, but also Milo's. Harley loathes shots as much as I do, and he received vaccines for rabies and the upper respiratory infection virus. Both vaccines produced a bad reaction, and he has not been himself for a week. He's run fever high as 106 (101 is normal for cats); had a weak appetite, lethargy, weight loss, and as of two days ago, green eye goop and nasal congestion were added to the mix. He sneezes often and shuns most food, even froofy Fancy Feast which he never gets, but we want him to eat anything at the moment. And though he is a sweet cat, he is not typically [overly] affectionate, but the past two nights he hopped onto our bed for snuggling - first with Johnny, then with me. Last night Harley melded his body to my sleeping position, rested a paw on my shoulder, and his face right next to mine. He was finally sleeping so soundly that I could not move, even though I quickly became uncomfortable. My neck started to hurt, but I waited 'til he shifted positions so I could do likewise. Thankfully, we received prescription medicine from the vet in cobalt blue bottles, so hopefully Harley will resume his zany antics soon.

We are not Crazy Cat People, but God created these animals, and we have a responsibility to care for them well. In Proverbs God says, "A righteous man cares for the needs of his animal, but the kindest acts of the wicked are cruel." This verse comes to mind often; for instance, during Milo's cleaning after feeding, burping, and excretion. Milo hates excreting and cleaning with feline passion. I hold his strong wriggling body with my left hand while I douse cat wipes with warm water using my right. My poor left hand still looks like one of a masochistic cutter, so Johnny scored again, offering cleaning duty as much as possible until he trims Milo's sharp miniature claws. It might sound trite to say it's all worth it, but the saying is true; even when I'm tired as hell and frustrated Milo and I don't speak the same language, I eventually regain composure and nuzzle his forehead with my nose.

This entire experience seems like pre-baby preparation. Apparently, I was destined to be a royal screw-up Mom and needed tangible lessons before giving birth. Well, I am destined to screw up - no parent is perfect - but I am getting a glimpse of both the joys and trials of motherhood. The miracle of day-to-day life on three hours (or less) sleep. True and proper gratefulness for coffee; for your cats' healthy appetite and digestion; clean clothes minus streaks of kitten formula or eye medicine; a kind husband who offers to take on cat duty so you can attend the Poetry Bus reading and write at a coffee shop afterwards; sleeping cats in any other room besides the laundry room so you can wash a mountain of dirty laundry; slices of quiet during the day to read and drink COFFEE; and cute, furry, aromatic faces to kiss and wipe off eye goop. Nurturing life is beautifully messy.

2 comments:

Jenni's Mom said...

My grandcats are the cutest grandcats in the whole wide world and I say that without apology or objectivity.

Chris said...

I still haven't acquired 'mommy ears' for those midnight calls. When you have your baby - Johnny can bring him/her to you to take care of. :-) (EliQing still wakes up every night for 5 min to 2 hours after being home 4 months.) Thankfully Scott hears her...when he is out of town I don't hear her until she has a full mad going and is inconsolable. Maybe she should cuddle with me while he's gone...Hmm....