Thimble, the little "silver" kitten, who survived Tuxie's previous batch of kittens before this one, went to the veterinarian today and the last I saw of him was carried to the back room in the big hand of the vet himself. It's a little purposeful death, not uncommon, but it raises a lot of questions that are often ignored because they are painful. Remember throughout that I live in a tiny village, thirty miles from any veterinarian, have an income at poverty level (which means I have no business keeping pets at all), and drive a pickup that is marginal -- to flatter it.
Valier, the town, has too many cats because people think that kittens can be dropped here as though we were a humane society. The upshot of so many cats is an epidemic, which is almost inevitable. Feline cat respiratory disease is said to be non-fatal, except maybe for small kittens, and has a vaccine that is 30% effective, assuming it is administered. The truth is that many of these cats are wild creatures, untouched by people, maybe fed, maybe given access to a sheltered spot. Their kind has evolved to be in and out of domesticity -- some confined to one or the other. There are many degrees and they change with the circumstances.
I have no business even "having" a cat. When I acquired two properly kept cats (spayed and vaccinated), I installed a cat door. That has meant access to the local feral cats-- I've written about them before. In twenty years, generations have come and gone, variously welcome and happy. Sometimes all the cats just disappear, usually summer. In winter I can't keep from putting rugs in the bottom of cardboard boxes and even adding pet warming pads, donated by Richard S. Wheeler, the writer. Then I find as many cats crammed into the boxes as will fit.
When the formerly feral cats are pregnant, warm is not enough. I wake up to find a mess alongside me in the bed -- and kittens. Sometimes totally unexpected. If I'm lucky, they will tolerate being moved to the bottom of the clothes closet in a proper box and not move into the laundry basket on top of the laundry.
"Pets," like everything else, are formalized and theorized and based on life in an apartment where cats don't go outside but stay alone all day and then are at the bidding of the humans. The recommendations of the owners, their cute YouTubes of endless saved hopeless abandoned kittens (so nice to play God), the equally endless things to buy, are misleading and corrupting, making living creatures with lives and fates into toys and puppets. But I have to admit that I'm tempted to buy a water-bubbler for the cats. And I wept at the vet's though I tried not to.
I've never seen an injury like Thimble's, the covering of the lower jaw torn off, exposing bone. There was no tissue the flap could be reattached to. I theorize a tomcat got him and tore it loose. Or maybe it caught on something and tore away but there was no sign of a hook. I tried to squirt water on it and into Thimble's mouth, with little success. I'm not a good nurse.
I should have taken the almost-cat to the vet last Friday, but the temp was 100º and the pickup was in the shop. The vehicle is not air-conditioned and the carry-cage is solid-sided so it can get hot inside. The cat would have died in transit. I thought about superglue to fasten the covering back on the bone. (The stuff can be used to close wounds.) Then I thought maybe it would reattach itself. He slept with the flap pressed back where it ought to be, and I hoped, but then he raised his head and hope turned away.
Now it's over and Thread, the sister, comes to occupy the niche that Thimble had filled. She doesn't quite fit. She's softer and plumper, but her disposition is restless and distracted. Attachments to living things are unique, not interchangeable.
The vet opened his computer to my account, which is entirely on credit card since I never have money. He goes by the names of the cats and it took him a minute to find Thimble. (I had called in ahead.) The last cat was the one I called "One Ball" because he only had one testicle and got beat up all the time. He was a very unhappy cat with no niche. An animal weed. I hope I called him something else for the sake of the veterinarian, who is a nice local guy.
The cats who are still here -- when they are hungry, since in summer they prefer to sleep in the abundant grass -- are Thimble's mother, Tuxedo, and the Blue Bunny, Tuxie's mom, who was so enamored of Finnegan -- that big bar-fighting stud who disappeared, thank goodness. I say to Blue Bunny, "bunnybunnybunny" and she says "mrphff." She'd smile if she could. We all miss the Thimble.