They were feral cats, living next to my work site at Kaiser. My daughter and I fed the mama cat every several days as her tummy swelled. As the weeks passed, she came to our call, knowing she would be rewarded with food. Finally, she was skinny and we knew the kittens were born. Several weeks passed. Each day we thought, “Today we will see the kittens,” but days followed days and we gave up and thought the kittens must have died.
One day, we saw the three skinny little waifs. The rose colored kitten and the black kitten both had sticky eyes. One of the black kitten’s eyes was completely shut. The third kitten, a tortoiseshell, looked like her mother. All had multiple toes on each foot. We fetched a cardboard box and filled it with towels. I crawled under the bushes, trying to catch them.
“Here kitten, kitten,” The rose-colored kitten came to me. I placed her in the box and went back for the other two. “Here, kitten, kitten.”
How could they know how their lives would be changed if they let me catch them? Toys, good food, immunizations, no sticky eyes, no fleas, and a warm bed to sleep in.
“Here, kitten, kitten,” and I had the tortoiseshell sister by the scruff of her neck. The box trembled with their mewing and insistent scratching. Their cries inspired me to go back for the black baby. I crawled further into the bushes, closer this time to the little black cat. The tips of my fingers brushed his soft fur and he scampered away. My lunch hour was nearly over and I had to leave him behind. I couldn’t help thinking how his decision to run could change his life forever.
Several months passed and the rose-colored kitten and her tortoiseshell sister became comfortable in my house. They frolicked up and down the cat pole, sprawled napping across my lap, kicked and fought mock battles, and attacked catnip mice. At night, with full tummies, they curled together on a soft bed.
“Here kitten, kitten.” The sisters hear my call and run to me, no matter where they might be. They reach up my leg, purring and rubbing their little heads into my hands begging to be picked up. They don’t remember the day I left their brother behind. But, I do and it hurts me to think of him, living in the bushes, perhaps hungry, perhaps sick, never knowing the joy of a human touch.
He’s still there, they tell me, those who catch a glimpse of him from time to time. He’s a feral cat now, one of the untouchables that scoot into the bushes at the sound of a human voice, frightened and hungry.
There is so much suffering in the world. I think of all the sick bodies I cannot heal, the hungry mouths I cannot feed, the people living in oppression I cannot free. I have no power to change these things. But, I have the power to heal this little cat’s body, a mouth I could feed, a life I can change. Because I cannot do even this simple thing, I feel a sense of personal failure.
And so from time to time, I return to those bushes, and with a prayer, I crawl beneath the stickers on hands and knees. Lord, this time, let me catch this little kitten. Let me change just one small injustice in this world.
“Here, kitten, kitten. Please come to me.”