The three-legged cat.
I feel a bit sheepish now, writing about how I went to see her. In the back of my mind I hear people saying: she’s just a cat. And it’s true, she is indeed, just a cat…
Jo, the woman from the rescue league who helped us adopt our kittens, calls and leaves a message on our machine. “I’m bringing that cat, the one who lost her leg, to the adoption event tomorrow,” she says. “Just wanted to let you know.”
She first told me about the kitten months ago. She’d just had her leg amputated and was being fostered by a woman who specialized in the tough cases. Jo told me she’d let me know when the cat went up for adoption, so I could come and see her.
I’m impressed she remembered to call. It seems one more reason I should go, so I head out on this busy Saturday. Gray and blustery, it’s a stereotypical pre-spring day, the wind chilly, the not-quite-thawed ground looking raw and naked after being under snow. Inside the mega-pet mart, though, it’s warm and kind of dark, in a warehouse-y way.
I make my way to the center of the store where there are two tiers of cages set up on tables, each holding one or two cats. I don’t see Jo right away so I chat with another of the volunteers while I look into the cages: two longhaired kittens snoozing in a pile—brothers, the woman tells me; a petite tuxedo cat that reminds me of Josephine—except this cat has the tiniest of white mustaches on her upper lip. In the end cage, on top, is a big gray and white bicolor, looking bored. The volunteer tells me he’s been here more than once before.
And Peggy. Jo told me her name in the message she left on our machine, and I see it typed on the info sheet attached to the cage. All I can see is Peggy’s small face, peeking out from the fleece coverlet in which she’s wrapped. She’s a calico, pastel; lots of white with pale caramel and gray patches. Her eyes are very green—not so amber as our cats’ eyes, and I think: how pretty, the green color, how serene.
Jo comes over then and as we talk she takes Peggy, still wrapped up, out of the cage and hands her to me. I speak to her in my highest-pitched, softest tones, but even so she tunnels into the fleece, squirming in my arms as if she would burrow her way out, dig an escape route. Jo takes her from me, lets Peggy settle a bit, then pulls the fleece away to show me. “They took most of her leg,” Jo says, and I can see that where Peggy’s back leg used to be there is nothing but fur.
I think of the person who set the trap Peggy got caught in. Leg hold traps are legal for catching game in Michigan, but I can’t imagine they’re allowed in the suburban community where Peggy was found. Probably illegal. The person who set the trap may not have meant to catch the likes of little Peggy—or perhaps they did, she was a feral cat. I don’t know, but I feel anger and impatience. What were they thinking?
I stroke Peggy’s cheeks with a fingertip as she snuggles against Jo, the second of her foster moms. “For the first two weeks she wouldn’t come out at all,” Jo says. I shake my head and say awwwww…
Jo puts Peggy back in her cage, wraps her up again. As we’re talking I see the little cat has turned herself around and is looking out the back of her cage, watching some dogs, also up for adoption, who are playing with prospective families. “She’s watching the dogs,” I say to Jo, with a chuckle. I imagine she’s finding them far more interesting than she does us.
Soon after I take my leave, ready to get to my other errands. Even as I’m walking out I wonder what, exactly, I am doing, making a trip up to the pet mart just to see a three-legged cat. I hear those voices, naysaying: what’s the big deal? She’s just a cat.
And of course it’s true, Peggy is just a cat. But in her story I see so much of human failing: cruelty, selfishness, carelessness, callous indifference to other living beings, to the world around us. The worst of human nature. And then the best—Jo and her friends at the rescue league, stepping in to care for a badly wounded cat.
Sometimes the problems of the world can seem so overwhelming. This cat’s story, maybe not so much. I don’t like thinking about what happened to Peggy. But I do like seeing what is happening to her now, as Jo and the other volunteers at the rescue league slowly get her to trust again, and to heal.
When I think about it, no story of healing and compassion is too small to be worth my notice. I guess that’s the real reason I made a trip to the pet mart to see Peggy, the three-legged cat.