Every Life Counts: I Rescued A Double-Positive Cat
I saw him during one of my walks. I was going in one direction and, suddenly, for no reason at all, I changed course and there he was. Whether it was fate or pure chance, when he looked at me and meowed, I simply couldn't look away. He was in very bad condition. Too thin, covered in dirt, fleas and flea eggs; a thread of drool hanging from his mouth, which was missing quite a few teeth. He was extremely friendly and kept asking for cuddles. He had clearly been domesticated but everything indicated he had been on his own for a long time.
I had to make a plan. The next day, I bought a cat carrier and canned food to try to catch him. All the neighbours in the area watched as I encouraged him to step inside the carrier with the help of some food.
"Why are you trying to catch him?", a woman asked. "He's sick."
"I know", I said. "That's why."
"You want to cure him?"
"I'm going to try."
She thought he had a tumour and needed to be put down but wished me luck anyway. Eventually, I managed to close the carrier door behind him and took him with me as he protested. After a vet visit, he was de-flead and began taking antibiotics to treat a painful mouth infection. Day after day he started looking better until I noticed he wasn't breathing properly.
Another vet visit revealed Maru (which is how we named him) was a double-positive cat. He has both immunodeficiency and feline leukaemia, a very unlucky combination. These viruses are very common among cats who live outdoors and have never been vaccinated. They are also incurable, at least for now. The vet explained his immunodeficiency weakens his immune system and the leukaemia shoots it. Not a good prognosis.
Many cats infected with these viruses manage to live long, happy lives. Immunodeficiency is less damaging as long as they're well looked after. With leukaemia, often their lifespan is not very long after they're diagnosed, although some cats are luckier. But to have both of them is a cruel joke. I went home with various medications, determined to make the best of our time together, however long it was.
When I first took Maru, my heart was racing. I didn't know what to expect. What if he was really sick? My dog died a year ago and the experience was a bit traumatic. I still get flashbacks sometimes. Was I ready to do this all over again? Was I ready to invest time, money and energy in trying to heal a cat that perhaps couldn't be healed?
These thoughts crossed my mind as I took Maru home but the thing is, no one is ever ready for this. You just deal with it. You do what needs to be done. Maru needed help. He was asking for it. You can't turn your back on that.
I know many people wouldn't understand. There are so many healthy cats that need help. Why bother helping one that might not make it? Positive cats rarely get adopted, even when they show no symptoms. But let's not forget healthy cats get sick too. They all deserve a chance.
Maru loves simple pleasures. His favourite thing is lying in the sun. He enjoys canned food more than anything. And he really, really loves to cuddle. As soon as you look at him, he starts purring. He's the most grateful cat I've ever met. He's sweet and patient. I'll never know how old he is or the struggles he's gone through but I can make sure the time he has left on this planet is filled with the love and comforts he's probably never had before.
It's been three weeks since I took him in, a rollercoaster of ups and downs. I give him medication three times a day. I sit him on my lap and stroke him until he stops purring as he falls asleep. He lifts his head to look at me sometimes, blinking in that special feline way that says, "I trust you". His trust is something to treasure.
Living in a rural area means I often see animal abuse and neglect. Dogs perpetually guarding properties with a chain around their neck. Abandoned cats. Hens that get thrown in a cage as punishment for doing something humans don't like, or that are left to die when they get sick. Cows that will end up in a slaughterhouse. It's a cruel world for all of them. These images haunt me, but if I can give at least one of them a second chance, I will.
We all deserve a second chance.