In 2011, just before Thanksgiving, my parents said goodbye to their beautiful cat Emma. My mother adopted Emma from the Silicon Valley Humane Society over 16 years before and she was a wonderful member of the family. As is often the case, my parents were having trouble adopting another cat into the family. I took one trip to the Humane Society with my Mom. But my father refused to go, despite the fact that his office is practically right across the street.
But then my parents heard a story. The youngest son of an old family friend was possibly neglecting his cat. He travels a lot for work and takes his dog with him. But his cat was left at home alone for days and weeks on end with only friends and family checking in to make sure she had food, water and a scooped litter box. As my parents were told, her coat was thin and dull, she was becoming solitary and she was obviously underweight.
Sometimes an animal comes into our lives unexpectedly. For my parents, this was one of those times.
Initially, the five-year old girl came to visit my parents’ house on a trial basis. She hid a lot, but also ate A LOT. She had obviously been underfed at her previous home. When asked for her medical records, all that was produced was notes of out-of-date vaccinations and there was no indication of her ever having been spay. So, I urged an immediate trip to the veterinarian.
Besides vaccinations, a combo test for FeLV and FIV and a more nutritious diet, the DVM agreed that she needed to be spay. Furthermore, the pre-surgical blood work revealed an infection. The doctor was afraid of a pyometra, an infection of the uterus found in unspay cats and dogs. During surgery, the pyometra was confirmed. So, not only was she neglected in her previous home, she was slowly dying of a painful internal infection. Had she not been removed from her previous home, she would have died there by herself and without the benefit of medical attention.
I was visiting my parents during the Christmas holiday last week and, for the first time, I was able to spend more than just a day with Maya – her new name to go with her new life. I observed and worked with Maya for a full week. She still needs help learning to enjoy being held. And she is neurotic about food and begs at her bowl when she can’t possibly be hungry. But I attribute this to a fear she developed while left home alone so often when she was young.
Despite these little problems, Maya is one of the most social, trusting and happy cats I have ever seen in a family home. She always wants to be in the same room as her new humans – my mom and dad. She sits on the arm of my dad’s TV chair, or in my mom’s lap, or wrapped around her scratching post with a collection of favorite toys always within a paw’s reach. She loves to play with all types of toys, she comes when she’s called and does not door dash. She has a sweet little squeek of a meow which she expresses while staring up from the floor with adoration at either my mom or dad. And when my dad goes to bed at night – always before my mom – Maya toddles along behind him and settles in for the night at the foot of their bed, rising only in the morning when it is time for her breakfast.
In addition to her friendly and sweet behaviors, she now looks like a very healthy cat. Her ebony coat is now shiny and feathery soft. She has put on just the right amount of weight. And if I can convince my parents of this and they start moderating her meals and snacks more appropraitely, she will stay that way. (Hint, hint, mom and dad.)
Every day that I played with Maya last week, I would marvel aloud at what a happy little girl she is. My parents are glad that she has come into their lives and that they were able to save her from her previous neglect. But Maya, everyday through squeeks, purrs and cuddles, is saying “thank you – thank you for helping me be safe and healthy – thank you for your love – and thank you so much for inviting me into your family.”
[The two photos above were taken by my mother just days after Maya returned from the hospital.]