By Elizabeth Prata
I’ve had pets continuously for 35 years. Then my last cat, Murray, died five months ago. I was content to take a break from pet ownership and not have any more cats. (I’d had 2 dogs in the 1980s, and my husband had a dog in the 90s, but I discovered I’m a cat person).
I was enjoying, for once, having the apartment the way I liked it. No pet toys to step on. I could put flowers around and they wouldn’t get eaten. Nothing was swiped off any surface onto the floor, meaning I didn’t have to tape my coasters down and I could display my knick-knacks. And best of all I didn’t have to deal with the litter box. Ahhh, peace at last.
I was enjoying the financial release, too. No litter, food, beds, cleaner, or toys to buy, which was better on my weekly grocery budget. Best, were no quadruple digit vet bills. For once I had some discretionary income.
Then one day recently I emerged in the pre-dawn to go to work, and a kitten was on my stoop. He tried to get between my legs and go inside! Stray cats don’t act like that! Nor do feral cats. They’re skittish of people and stay away, hovering in interest at a distance, maybe, but certainly not attempting a home invasion!
I brushed him away with my foot but he followed me to the garage. He ran inside and would not come out. It took a while to coax him out, all the while trying not to run over him when he did. He was meowing. Little, cute scrawny thing. He watched me sadly as I backed down the driveway, huddling against the garage door.
I hadn’t seen this cat in the yard. There are some strays that live under the shed. It’s where Murray lived before I tamed him and brought him inside. A black cat lives there now. There are also some neighborhood cats. A Butterscotch that likes to sit on the roof of the shed and sun himself on the tin roof. An orange cat that’s a bully and yowls around the yard all night. I’d never seen this little gray kitten before the moment he appeared on my doorstoop and tried to come in.
I thought about him during my day. The unusual behavior. The friendliness and willingness to be near people. His little body, a bag of bones, really. He was young, and also a handsome cat.
I was feeling worse and worse about the situation. I decided that when I got home, if he was still there, I’d bring him in. It was obvious to me that the Lord had sent him. Well, pretty obvious, as obvious as you can read into circumstances. I was still dithering, but when I got home I called out all over the yard. Kitty! Kitty! No kitty.
I poked my head out and continued to check periodically. No kitty. After a few hours, it was getting dark, so I tried one more time. There he was! KITTY!!
I went over to him and he about leaped into my arms. He sure was friendly! Also unusual for a cat. Normally it takes some doing for them to be held, but he was purring and loving it all. I could see he was socialized. His tail was mangled and had been bleeding. Deciding to get him some water, I put him down on the patio table and went the few steps to the front door. As I opened it, HE RAN IN.
Now is the time I must concede the point to Jesus. It’s obvious He sent me another cat.
Long story short, the cat was not coming out. He sat there just out of arm’s reach for me to pick him up to get him out. He was in and he was staying. I took a chance and left him, an unknown stray animal, in my apartment while I ran to the Dollar Store just around the corner. I came back with kitty litter, a litter pan, and some food. And a flea comb.
The next morning I called for a vet appointment and they said they had nothing for a week and a half. I was sad because that tail was bleeding and a chunk was taken out of it. Then suddenly they said, “Oh! There was a sudden cancellation just now! We can get you in today.” (Jesus).
The vet said later that it was good to get him in then, because the tail was “broken” and would have become a gangrenous mess before long. They had to amputate. He also has two ear infections and he’s really skinny, but otherwise OK. (They confirmed it’s a ‘he’). It’s been two weeks tomorrow since I brought him home from the vet. He is still wearing his cone and I’m still giving meds for his ear. His hunger and food insecurity make him go bonkers whenever I cook anything in the kitchen or prepare to feed him. I hope that settles down soon, and I think it will. He’ll realize that food is always coming and he doesn’t ever have to go hungry again.
Mulling over this unexpected change in my life caused me to ponder the Lord’s hand in this. I know it is not a huge change. Other people have lost their children to illness or death, have endured dread diagnoses, gone bankrupt or lost their homes, real traumas. Having a cat thrust upon me doesn’t sound like a very big change, especially since I’d had cats continuously since the 1990s. But it is a traumatic change for me, because any change is traumatic for me. Especially unexpected change. Most especially unwanted change.
What have I learned from this? What life lesson is the Lord teaching me? We learn about Him through the Bible, the only place there is inerrant truth. But we do not live in a doctrinal vacuum. We live lives, have things happen, work to please the Lord, and learn from our experiences. The Spirit teaches us from His word, but also from circumstances. Paul was blessed enough to have the Lord explicitly state why he had to go through so many circumstances, (to suffer for His name’s sake, Acts 9:16; and so he would not become conceited, 2 Corinthians 12:7). But unlike Paul, we are not so blessed to have direct correlations about events
Since I’m not so blessed as to have the Lord explicitly tell me why this or that is happening, I have to learn life lessons through circumstances, and go from there.
So far this experience has reminded me (and in a gentle and graceful way) that my life is not my own. My time, my money, and my energy is to be poured out for others. Even if it’s a cat.
Patience…lots and lots of patience. Every time I eat or prepare food I’m literally under siege as he meows, climbs, and tries his best to get at whatever food I’m eating or cooking. I protected the kitchen counter with cardboard covered with double sided sticky tape to deter the kitten from jumping up there, including a hot stove (which he has done). The kitchen is not pretty looking and it’s hard for me to navigate the small space when I have to move the cardboard, wash a dish quickly, and put it away before the cat gets a clue there is a bowl I’d emptied with food somewhere. I mean, he even got up on the counter and tried to eat the steel wool scrubbing pad! I found it on the floor one morning. It had had an oatmeal flake on it. (No, he does not have parasites).
Finances. I think this is the main lesson. Every time I clear a debt or come into money, something happens to force me back. My tooth crown breaks. I pay off the dentist and the day after, my car breaks down. I pay off the mechanic, and the cat gets sick. I pay off the cat bill and the car breaks down again. Literally happens that day or the next day after I clear a big bill. Every time. I used my $1,200 stimulus money to pay off the vet bill from Bert’s last days, and the $600 stimulus came in and went out a week later, to pay for Sully’s tail amputation. I cannot get ‘ahead’ and accumulate a cushion to save my life.
I believe the Lord wants me utterly dependent on Him financially. And you know what? I’ve never gone hungry. I’ve never not been able to pay a bill. I’ve never gotten behind on rent. I live close to bankruptcy every moment. Any little emergency could send me off the cliff. But it never does. I need to remember the Lord is sovereign King over all, but that also He is a good, good father who takes individual and perfect care of His children.
So those are some things happening with me lately. Life lessons, under the sun in a world where the Lord providentially manages the circumstances of my life to the good of those who love Him.