Caged Cat

By Harriet Trenholm


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I didn’t intend to come home with a new cat. Really, I didn’t. I just went into PetSmart to get some cat food. I didn’t know it was adoption day until I walked past a long row of cages. A Manx cat caught my eye. He sat in the middle of his cage looking like a meatloaf. He was gray on gray with a black stripe running along his back to the end of his cute, little stub of a tail. His long, curved, white whiskers stood out against his gray. He almost filled the cage. His ancestors grew large on the isle of Mann. I looked at his bio. He’d been in the shelter for 11 months. He was 9 years old. He had a problem with crystals in his urine so he needed special food. In short, he was unadoptable.

He didn’t look around. He just sat like a meatloaf in the middle of his cage in the middle of PetSmart. It was as if he saw no point in putting forth any effort. He was who he was. A cat with no expectations. A cat who had been in a cage for 11 months. A cat who would be in a cage for the rest of his life. Doubtless the 11 months bothered me more than it bothered him. Cats do not share the human concept of time. Cats have only now. I’m hungry, now. I’m tired, now. I’m in a cage, now. But my sense of time overwhelmed me. What must it be like to spend 11 months in a cage, 308 days in a cage, 7,392 hours in a cage, the rest of your life in a cage?

The desire to get him out of that cage was mine, not his. I wanted him out, not because he looked mad or upset, but because he looked resigned. No living creature should be resigned to spending the rest of his life in a cage. He should have been banging his head against the bars. He should have been howling in protest. He should have been sucking up to every person who walked by. He should have been begging or threatening or demanding. He shouldn’t have been sitting there like a meatloaf.

Had he complained or demanded in the past? How long had he been in that cage before he gave up wanting? I needed to get him out of that cage. I needed him to want to get out of that cage even if wanting the impossible had been heart-rending. Because if he didn’t want to get out of that cage, how would he ever get out? If he couldn’t want anymore, I would want for him. I would be his surrogate wanter. I would want his freedom. I would want him to have a sunny window sill and a warm lap. I would want grass under his feet. I would take him home and teach him how to want and how to get.

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