I smacked my alarm clock. Time to get up, and I wasn’t ready nor willing to. But my cats don’t take sleeping in. Well, my cats... they’re my “job” cats. I like my job. I don’t really do it for the money, although Mom, Caroline, and I could sure use some extra income after Dad died. I love all the cats I handle, although it’s hard to let them go after I get attached to them.
As if he could read my mind, Peanut jumped onto my bed and began kneading his paws into my bed. Mrrow! The cats were impatient for breakfast.
It was Monday, seven days before the first week of school. I quickly summed up my schedule for the day. I really had to get working on Cashew, Ms. Brown’s cat soon. The poor kitten was traumatized by a car crash, but neither she nor her owner was hurt at all. As I was thinking, Peanut indignantly shoved his whiskered face up close to mine.
‘All right, you little Peanut. Give me some space!’ I laughed, throwing my bedsheets aside.
I stumbled down the stairs to the delicious aroma of warm, buttered toast. Mom wanted me to be in a good mood this week, so I could start the new week of school with a “fresh mind”.
‘Phone for you, Ellie!’ Mom called even before she saw me. ‘A cat.’
‘This early?’ I asked. Mom shrugged. I was slightly surprised. I don’t get called at the weirdest times—it’s not like I’m an emergency vet!
I took the phone and sat down at the table, secretly hoping it would be an easy cat to cure. I had too much work already. Usually I only take two cats at a time.
‘Hello?’ I spoke through the phone.
‘Hi Ellie! It’s Ms. Garner,’ said a lady in a hasty voice, as if she was getting ready to go to work while talking to me. ‘Could you take this job? I have a cat that’s completely wild! She’s beautiful, but she won’t let anyone touch her. She scratches and bites anyone near her.’
‘Do you know what happened to her?’ I asked. ‘Animals always have a good reason.’
‘I’m afraid I don’t have accounts of her history,’ said Ms. Garner.
That was going to be hard. A cat’s past always influences the way they behave, if no one tames them.
‘Maybe she’s been abused?’ I suggested. ‘Where did you get her?’
‘I don’t know. A friend gave her to me, said the cat was from the Animal Rescue Centre. Anyway, I’m bringing her over around noon,’ said Ms. Garner. ‘Then I’ll pick her up again next Monday, so we can take her to my parents’ house when she’s behaving.’
In 7 days?
‘What!’ I exclaimed, nearly falling from my chair in shock. ‘No! I can’t tame a cat in one week!’
‘This time you can. With Kali you can. She’s a real sweetie at heart. Well, goodbye, and I’ll see you soon!’
And Ms. Garner hung up. I stared at the phone in my hand, as if it could tell me the answer to my many questions. How was I going to do this?
Ms. Garner has gone crazy, I concluded, shaking my head. Well, she probably didn’t know much about cats. She must think I’m some sort of cat-whisperer!
I finally decided to work on Cashew in the time I had. Ms. Garner’s cat, Kali, would probably take up all of my time. I felt slightly frustrated at Ms. Garner for just butting in and claiming all of my free time for her misbehaving cat. I knew she would pay me later, as always, but still.
I had Cashew securely in my arms while I walked past a red parked car. Cashew bit my hand in the struggle to get away, but gave up as I stood next to the car for five more boring minutes. I gave her a treat and walked on to the next car. I knew it was nothing professional, but I thought that if I did this every day, she’d get used to cars gradually. I hoped that one day she could simply sleep in a car without tearing it apart.
I’d lingered long enough from home to escape meeting Ms. Garner. I knew it was rude, but I desperately didn’t want to encounter her and argue about the time-frame. I wanted to keep my expectant client on the good side. Like all clients. Mom had Kali in a spacious cat cage on the porch. The cat was meowing loudly and scratching at the wire, as if we were torturing her.
I studied the cat carefully. Tabby brown pattern, white socks and chest, big yellow eyes. No outward injuries as far as I could see. She was pretty cute to look at.
‘Hey, girl,’ I crooned as I neared the cage. Kali eyed me suspiciously, refusing to budge. When I gently poked a finger through the thin wire, she slashed at it with her little razor-sharp claws. Tiny knives sliced through my skin.
‘Whoa! Calm down, it’s all right.’ I said, sucking my smarting finger. I ignored the tiny drop of blood welling up on my finger and started to plan a different approach.
I got out a bag of cat treats, greatly favored by Peanut, Spike, Willow and Tobacco. I tossed one treat through the bars, keeping my hand well away from the wire to make sure my fingers would make it back safely this time. Kali paused, then pounced on it and took it to the farthest corner of the cage away from me. I laughed.
‘Wanna play?’ I bounced a tinkling ball into her cage. She ignored it but growled fiercely at my hand’s movement. Sigh. So that’s how you want to be. Fine. Inwardly I wanted to give up already, I realized. But what about my rule and motto: Never Give Up On Cats? Although she did need some time to calm down and settle in her new environment. I always left new cats alone for the first few hours. I ignored the voice nagging at me. “You already gave up...on a cat!” I left Kali some cat treats and walked back inside.
I went up to my room, having had quite enough of this business already. I tried to relax myself and looked around my small, cozy room. Posters of cats were tacked up to the wall, partly covering the soft yellow paint. A shelf full of books looked down on my neatly organized desk. Willow, Tobacco, Spike and Peanut were curled up in a friendly kitty pile on my bed.
I sat down on the bed and stroked my sleeping kitten Peanut. His fluffy orange fur brushed my arm as he woke up and left the cat-huddle to sprawl on my lap.
I soaked into the memory of loving him, caring for him; Peanut beginning to trust me after those difficult days as a kitten runt. What a challenge it had been, and how delighted and happy I had been when he decided to be my friend. Peanut was certainly a very special kitten. Would he stay this special to me forever? I knew he would, and hoped it could stay this way.