Benevolence knows no boundaries


As humans, we often think our actions are the result of our choices and decisions.  If we’re honest with ourselves, we admit to the influence of others.  But most of us would not want to acknowledge that pets guide our actions.  Yet that is exactly what happened to me, under the influence of two black cats—one beloved and on the other side, and another live but totally unknown.

Those of you familiar with my posts know that Beauregard, a deceased black cat who had initiated me into animal communication, was the impetus for my adoption of Jasper, the Russian Blue, and Orionthe Siamese.  Beau’s love for me is all-encompassing and includes his certainty that he knows what is best for me and our household.  He was a companion of my heart and left me with an abiding fondness for black cats.  Yet I had resisted adopting another because I was concerned I would see one as a substitute for Beauregard, rather than being a cat individual in its own right.  Beau saw this as a challenge for me, one he was certain I should learn to overcome.

About a year after his adoption, Orion, a high-energy Siamese, was beginning to settle into our household.  He was however, years younger than the other two resident cats, Elph and Jasper, and was constantly on the move by himself.  I had wondered if he might want a younger playmate.  I asked.  He opined he was fine, for the moment.  Again, Beau had other ideas.

About two weeks later, the call to action came from the other side.  “Go to Petfinder.  Look for a black, male, shorthaired kitten.  I’ll let you know when you’ve found the right one.”

I dutifully fired up the computer.  I had long learned not to balk when I got instructions from Beau; things always seemed to work out for the best when I followed his suggestions.  I entered my search criteria into the application with a twenty-five mile search radius, and began to scroll through the long list of cats.  Black cats aren’t always popular rescues and there were quite a few to choose from.  Surely I would find the right one easily.   Beau thought not.  I increased my search radius to fifty miles.  There were lots more black cats, but still sign of approval from Beau. 

“Beau, what’s up?”

“Expand your search, again.”

I sighed, increased my search radius to one hundred miles, and kept scrolling.  Finally, I reached the picture of an adorable six-month old black kitten with huge gold eyes and the shelter name of Houdini.  Beau gave me the spirit’s version of a thumbs up, and I was smitten.   I called the shelter and made an appointment to visit.  Nate, my partner, thought I was insane; surely there would be plenty of black cats at area humane societies.  But he kindly humored Beau and me, and the next day found us driving ninety-five miles to the shelter.

On the drive there, I reached out to Houdini.

“I’m coming to visit you today.  I’d like to be your friend and perhaps to take you home to live with me and my other cats—there are three.  Let’s see how we get along with each other.”

Houdini clearly wanted me to be impressed with him.

“Talking to you like this is strange, but I’m willing to try, he said  ‘I want you to know I’m very fast and graceful, and I caught a mouse and ate it.”

At the shelter, I found him housed in a cage with a tortoise shell female kitten.  He was part of a litter taken on by the shelter and had two other black brothers there, also up for adoption.  Yet there something about him, just him.  I watched him play, wrestling and chasing with other kittens and cats of various sizes and colors.  He was obviously very athletic and a bit of a show off.  After I few minutes, I scooped him up into my arms.  He nestled in against my neck easily and laid there and purred for the next hour.  I was in love.

When I asked to fill out the adoption paperwork, I found he came with a caveat.  The shelter had experienced a bad bout of FIP (feline infectious peritonitis).  A number of cats had died.  Houdini had been exposed and the kitten he bunked with had tested positive.  I was chagrined; this was not what I expected.  It was not what Houdini had expected either. 

“I thought you were going to take me home today.  Why not?”

I tried to be as tactful as possible.  I didn’t want to tell him he had been exposed to a disease and might be seriously ill.  I told the shelter director I needed to do some research and Nate and I regretfully left.  Nate thought we might work things out somehow (he is an eternal optimist); I knew that FIP can sometimes be quite serious and had the welfare of three other cats at home to consider.  On the drive home, I checked in with Beau.

“Why did you send me to look at a sick kitten?”

“He needs you.”

“What about Elph, Jasper, and Orion?”

“They’ll be fine.”

I arranged to have Houdini taken to a vet and tested for FIP, at my expense.  He tested positive, on the lower end of the scale.  I had hoped somehow he would test negative and was downhearted.  Beau’s confidence remained unshaken.  I researched thoroughly and found a protocol of vitamins and supplements that might help protect Houdini.  We drove the ninety-five miles back to visit him, along with a month’s supply of pills and special food.  He instantly recognized me and snuggled in tightly. 

“You came back for me.  I knew you would!”

I felt horrible telling him otherwise, and spent a couple of hours playing with him and loving him up.  I arranged to have him caged apart from exposed  cats and promised to visit again soon.   

Meanwhile, my vet had adamantly stated that I would risk Elph’s health—he was seventeen years old and had kidney issues—by bringing in an FIP positive cat.  Exposure to FIP might kill Elph.  Beau was unfazed.  I wrestled mentally for another few days and decided to have a serious talk with Beau. 

“Why do you think this isn’t a risk for the other cats?”

“What if they already had been exposed to FIP?  Have them tested.”

My vet also thought I was insane.  There were plenty of black kittens up for adoption locally, but there was no harm in testing my other cats, so she agreed.  Elph and Jasper were easy to get blood draws from.  Orion got blood out of the five humans holding him down, but we did not get blood out of him.  I decided we’d get our answer from the tests on Elph and Jasper.  Orion could take his chances.  The test results were surprising: Jasper’s titer was normal, but Elph’s was off the charts for exposure and much higher than Houdini’s.  The little black kitten would pose no health risk to Elph.  Beau smirked.

“I told you so.”

I had Houdini tested once more at the end of his month-long regimen of supplements.  His results showed high normal readings.  His health had improved and his adoption was a go!  I let him know we would be picking him up in a few days.  He was happy, but countered that he didn’t like his name.  It reminded him of his time at the shelter.  He wanted to be called something else.  His real name began with the letter “M.”  I spent the next few days sorting through appropriate names.  Melchizedek, Maurice, Matthew, Masterson; all these and more sprang to mind.  But nothing seemed to fit him quite right.

We brought Houdini home on a snowy winter Saturday, after getting stuck in a ditch on the drive there (Beau was still unfazed).  Once home, I sequestered him in our largest bathroom by himself, in preparation for slow introduction to the other cats.  Orion had other ideas and promptly pawed open the bathroom door, charging in at the newcomer to show him who was boss.  Houdini charged right back at him and chased him under the sofa.

“You said I would get a little kitten brother.  I didn’t think he would be quite so big!”

This had all been great fun to Houdini, but I determined to try to keep to the protocol of gradual interaction with the other cats, at least for a few days.  That night I felt guilty about him sleeping all on his own.  I grabbed a pillow and blanket and bunked down on the bathroom floor with him.  About 3:00 am, I woke with a start to find a huge pair of gold eyes staring at me from about six inches away.

“My name is Makhota.”

I tried a couple of the names I had pondered out on him.  He turned his head and walked away.  Perhaps, he wasn’t used to the idea of coming when called.  I tried a few more names out on him.  No response at all.  Finally, I caved.

“Makhota, come here boy.”

He trotted up immediately, tail held high and proudly erect.

“I told you that was my name!”

Beau looked fondly on from above.  I would be safe in earthly black paws again, with a kitten who was in no danger of being mistaken for anyone other than himself, and Houdini had made his great escape.  Beau’s plans had succeeded, again!

Black feline partners across the great divide