“Honey, I’m home!” My husband’s voice echoed through the hallway. Under my blankets in the bedroom, I barely shifted. I heard his approaching footsteps, the creak of the bedroom door, and then felt his weight on the mattress beside me. “Honey? You alright?” This wasn’t the first time over the last several weeks that he had come home to find me here.
The overwhelming feelings of sadness and lethargy that were controlling my life pointed to clinical depression. A stress filled year including surgery, long hours at the small business we own, and an emotional roller coaster stemming from issues in our extended family, had taken its toll on me. At the end of my day all I wanted to do was crawl in a hole and pull a cover over the top.
I am normally a calm, happy go lucky individual who feels my life is blessed in many ways. I view our business - a Curves fitness center - as a ministry to the women of our small rural community. We had even tried to minister to the stray cat that lived in the brush behind our building. Because of this, a small feral kitten became an unexpected source of joy in the midst of my melancholy.
We tagged the cat ‘Grace’ after a favorite verse from scripture. (2 Corinthians 12.9). “My grace is sufficient for you; my power is perfected in weakness”, was a promise we’d gained encouragement from as we built our business. Grace never came close enough to tame, but she did eat the food we left for her. In return, she thanked us with a litter of kittens left in our storage shed.
With patience we set about catching the kittens, planning to have them fixed and placed in good homes. We were successful with all but one. As autumn approached, I worried about the cold nights and the disappearance of Grace from the kitten’s life. It was tiny – skinny-- with runny eyes. Not a very attractive looking thing. Pitiful really. “Sort of how I’m feeling these days,” I thought, watching it cower under the edge of the fence in the yard.
I thought about the kitten when I went home and determined that I would catch him, tame him enough to be able to interact with him and then he could live at the club and be our ‘Curves Kitty’. I came back to the club that afternoon with a cat carrier in one hand, a can of tuna in the other. I laid a trail of tuna into the carrier and waited. I didn’t have to wait long. His scrawny black frame soon appeared under the fence. He ventured forth tentatively, sniffing the air. I held my breath as I watched him gobble his way up the tuna trail. Into the carrier he went… I moved in as quickly and as stealthily as I could but I wasn’t quick enough. With lighting speed he darted out of the carrier and under the fence. Three times we repeated this. Three times he escaped. By this time I was chuckling at our shared determination.
After the third try I gave up for the day and went home. But as I pulled into the garage something about that frail little body demanded I give it one more shot. I returned to the club with a carton of cream. Cutting a Dixie cup down to saucer size, I poured the cream into it. I placed it as far back in the carrier as I could. With the carrier sitting close to the fence, I crouched down nearby and prayed; “Lord, I don’t know what it is about this cat but I know it needs help. Please help me be quick enough to catch him.’’
As before, I didn’t have to wait very long. At the entrance to the carrier he wavered. Hunger over took fear and he crept inside. As fast as I could, I swooped in and banged the door shut. Just as I closed it, his little body slammed against the door. Holding firm I clicked the door into place. The carrier went into the car and I drove home feeling both exhilarated and cautious at the same time.
We already had a cat. Latte is a Siamese mix with plenty of what we laughingly refer to as ‘cattitude’. I didn’t have to guess what her reaction might be, let alone my husbands. As I removed the carrier from the car and sat it down on the garage floor I peered inside. The kitten was hunkered down in the corner, paralyzed with fear. My throat tightened. “You look exactly like I feel little guy. Just want to hide in a corner and not have to deal with anything.”
For the time being I left the carrier in the garage, offering more tuna in a small bowl and adding a soft old towel. I worked slowly and cautiously trying not to spook him any further. The whole time he never budged from his corner. Reaching out with one finger, I touched between his ears gently. “It’s going to be alright little guy.” He didn’t flinch. I took that as a hopeful sign.
Several times throughout the next day I peeked in on him. My husband, Bruce, wasn’t thrilled with the prospect of another cat in the household even though I was quick to assure him it was temporary. “Just until he gets familiar with people, then I’ll take him back to live at the club.” I said. “I’m just worried about him. He hasn’t eaten since I brought him home; I don’t think he’s gone to the bathroom, or even moved!” Bruce just shook his head.
I poured more cream into a small bowl and slid it into the cage. He sniffed at it and then, finally, began to lap it up. “Good boy” I said softly. He finished it off, then chilled by the cold cream, started to tremble. Gingerly, I reached in and picked him up with one hand. He was so little! Wrapping a clean towel snuggly around him, I laid him against my chest. Maternal instinct kicking in, I sat in the living room rocker, rocking gently, humming a lullaby. Bruce walked by and glanced in at me but didn’t say a word.
Suddenly, a funny little sound came from inside the towel. Almost like a chirp. Followed by another. Then, like an engine cranking till it catches and starts, the motor on this kitten started. He was purring and purring loud and clear! I gazed down at him, enchanted, as he relaxed in my arms.
I made a cozy place for him in our spare bedroom, with food and litter box. I purposely kept the door closed, to keep Latte out and my little guy in. I named him Toddy and each time I came in to check on him, he had to be coaxed out in the open. Once out however, he’d cuddle up in my lap and purr and purr and purr.
Every day when I came home from work I would slip into “Toddy’s room.” He started coming out from under the bed on his own and soon cuddling in my lap lead to playing and pouncing. He was so shy and skitterish however, that he often spooked himself with his antics. I’d laugh out loud which would send him scampering back under the bed.
By this time I had been to the doctor and had started taking anti-depressants but there were still dark days. I would still want to curl up in my bed and escape the world, but on those days I would take Toddy with me and he would crawl under my chin and lick or nip me. It was pretty hard to stay in a funk with his playful behavior.
As time went on I let him out of the confines of his room to adjust to wider open spaces. Toddy would follow me from room to room, even waiting outside the bathroom door for me. If I sat down to read, he was immediately in my lap. At bedtime he’d curl up in the crook of my arm and purring loudly, lull me to sleep. Latte was not happy but once it was established who the Alpha cat was, she seemed, for the most part, to tolerate him. It didn’t take long for Bruce to notice that Toddy showed no signs of going anywhere near Curves, but he also noticed the positive changes in my mood.
Toddy’s been with us over 2 years now. He has grown from a scrawny looking runt into a beautiful, sleek, playful cat. He is still on the shy side, but the purring never stops. My depression is under control and I love to share with my Curves members how God sent me my “Curves Kitty” at a time when I needed an extra dose of his Grace.
This was very well written. Your sister told me you were here and I'm glad she did because I was reminded that sometimes gifts hide in cold places and come in scrawny packages that are so worth opening.