Today in therapy I discovered a whole entire trauma bucket that I realized I had successfully blocked from my memory until recently. Until we adopted a kitten.
I need to get the story out of my head because I had this moment in therapy where I was shocked by the cruelty I’d almost successfully forgotten. TWs for animal & child abuse and gore.
Growing up, my family tried to have pets and pets never lasted very long. They would either die by neglect or be driven far enough away that they would be lost. My parents never took animals to the shelter or the vet. The front yard of my childhood home had become a full on pet cemetery by the time I was 11. My parents would let us get animals by scouring the classifieds for free pets because they didn’t want to pay money or sign a form saying they’d care for the pet’s health by going to a vet. After all, vets are doctors and doctors are evil.
When I was between 3 and 5 we had two tiny Chihuahua dogs that my parents got rid of because they misbehaved. I don’t remember what happened to them. In 2000/1 right after G.W. was elected for the first time my parents got us a puppy who was named Cheyney after the VP (because of course). Cheyney was an Australian Cattle mix I think. He was an outside dog, meant to guard the chickens and bunnies maybe. My parents made training and caring for the puppy the responsibility of me and my brother. they got upset with us for not training him well enough, but they also never explained to us how to care for and train a dog. We did our best but were flying completely blind with parents who basically abdicated themselves from needing to care beyond buying food. I don’t currently remember the lead up to why he had to go, just that it was our fault for not training him better. I remember dad took the dog on a long drive to the woods and left him there.
But what I remembered today in therapy and the several hours after is the story of my first kitten, April.
I really wanted a cat. I had been drawing cats almost exclusively for a year to drive the point home. I read books about cats, I talked to people about cats and what their cats were like, and I tried to prove to my parents that I knew enough to take care of a cat. Eventually they said yes, I could get a cat, but only if it was free and if it would be entirely my responsibility. I was told we couldn’t get one from the shelter because they would make us take it to the vet. So, armed with my library books full of knowledge I checked the classifieds in the (actual, physical) newspaper for free kittens.
One day in April of…between 1998 and 2000ish I found it. Someone had a whole litter of kittens and they were free to good homes. My mom had me confirm with the person that they would not make us sign anything that said we had to take the cat to the vet and the person (who was probably really confused) said no, they just need to get rid of these kittens.
So I looked into the kitten box and found the runt. I said I wanted that one. The person asked if I was sure, because it was the runt, and I didn’t see why being smaller than the others would make a kitten unwantable but clearly it needed to be rescued from here. I thought I was taking her home to a safe place where she could eat all the kitten food and have treats and not be stepped on and ignored by 8 other cats and people who don’t like smaller animals. I didn’t know how wrong I was.
In retrospect I’m not sure if the person was trying to hint that they knew she was sick, or how long I had her before I realized she was really sick. But regardless, April got sick. I didn’t have her for very long, I don’t think she reached adulthood. My memory matches the symptoms up with FeLV, which at the time I didn’t know existed. I remember her vomiting, not eating, having diarrhea and telling my parents. They prayed for her.
I remember my parents being frustrated at me for April not making it to the litterbox and how helpless I felt cleaning up her bloody stools. My cat was sick and dying and there was nothing I could do for her. No one even mentioned the possibility of taking her to the vet, but she couldn’t keep having accidents in the house, so I had to put her in the garage that smelled of oil and laundry. Somewhere out of the way so she wouldn’t inconvenience my parents. I brought her food and water and gave her pets as moving got harder and harder for her to do. I made her area as comfy as a 7-9ish year old can. No amount of prayers or anointing her with oil made her better, and because vets were evil, euthanizing was off the table, and painkillers for pets were just as full of witchcraft as tylenol.
I was forced to watch my cat go through a slow, agonizing, painful death… just because ????? reasons????
I was between 7 and 9.
I was devastated and heartbroken.
She was buried in the front yard.
That was fuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuucking cruel.
And that’s not the only memory, but it’s the one I needed to talk about because Farid is my first kitten since April. Farid was adopted from the same shelter we adopted Perri from.
I paid $125 and signed a contract that said I’ll take him to the vet.
He already has his shots for this year sans a booster.
He’s healthy and tries to steal Perri’s food.
I won’t ever let either of my cats suffer the way I was forced to watch April.
I’m not fucking cruel.