“Yes, there was a Cat Zero and yes the man, a former tenant, brought it on property as a gift to his girlfriend who didn’t want it and yes he may have set her free in the yard and maybe another cat came over the fence to hang out but everything after that was like fog rolling down a hillside. What can you do but watch? We don’t feed them or anything, except the woman living in the garage does so maybe that’s on her.”
Zelda appeared in the spring, a spindly black feline residing in the bamboo along the back fence, sneaking into the kitchen to loot unguarded kibble, belly scraping the ground.
We already have four cats. Additionally, Mrs. UpintheValley has for years fed a feral tribe off the front porch, veterans of the cat colony crisis of 2013, when she trapped, neutered and released 46 neighborhood ferals.
It took a decade for Darwin and Nature to reduce their numbers to a lone snuffling, arthritic, gooey-eyed survivor, who waits quietly in the evening for leftovers.
Things were back to what passes for normal around here, and suddenly this interloper, this furry child of Biafra had entered the garden.
Then Zelda disappeared for awhile. When she returned, the belly was gone, and praise Jesus, no kittens. I toasted the coyote, the raccoon, the neighborhood eating machine which intervened on our behalf. Thank you blessed nature, for your dispassionate cruelties.
One morning a few weeks later, four adorable kittens are cavorting on the back patio, mocking us. They had been living in the pocket of space between the back fence and the neighbors back fence. Ha!
Did I mention Zelda is less than six months old?
Two houses away, we have our own little slice of Appalachia in Van Nuys, a compound of trailers, junked cars and shanties owned by a mentally challenged man who rents spaces to a revolving cast of marginal characters, high functioning druggies, and from whence it must be said, we have heard the late night yowls of estrus.
Two dozen un-neutered cats back there, Mrs. U discovered. Four of them pregnant. Which would put us on the brink of leaving the fourth tier of the flow chart, which is to say Cat Crisis II: This Time It’s Math!
So she set to work, starting with the low hanging fruit, the kittens, who will walk right into a carrier and go to sleep if you leave some treats.
The East Valley Animal Shelter was not pleased to receive them: WHY ARE YOU BRINGING THEM TO US? WE HAVE NO ROOM FOR THEM. THEY’RE NATURAL PREDATORS. LEAVE THEM WHERE THEY ARE!
Things have changed since 2013, and not for the better. She put out an SOS on a feline trappers website only to be told: “I personally do not take in kittens any more, and the rescue I work with is stuffed full and has to turn away 20-30 requests like this every day. And that’s just the beginning of the bad news. There literally is not a single good option for them. Vet appointments are impossible to come by, spay/neuter clinics are booked out 2-3 months or more ahead. Three or more years ago, this situation could have been solvable. Now it’s not.”
As advertised, it took months to get traps and appointments. This summer has been a long slog of evenings walking over to West Virginia, setting/checking the traps and mornings driving to FixNation under the indifferent gaze of the feckless people who set so much chaos into motion.
White people, raised in California, living rent free in someone else’s house. This detail shouldn’t bother me, but I can’t get past it. Their indifferent selfishness feels metaphoric.
When Mrs. U brought in two pregnant felines at the clinic at one time, there was high-fiving all around.
The last pregnant cat remained elusive, and rather clever about traps. As the days ticked by, her belly spreading like a pig in a python, drama built. A veteran trapper was recruited from Silver Lake. She got the job done with a net.
We whisked her, bones and belly, to FixNation with her litter just about poking from her nether regions, on the last open appointment Mrs. U could get. The grace of small victories.
A cat does not have the ability to alter its thinking. It eats, and poops, and licks its paws and makes little cats. What does it say about us we are overrun with easily resolvable problems of our own creation? Who will rescue us from our own disordered belief?
It is magical thinking to believe we can maintain an equitable nation without a border and maintain cities without law enforcement. Yet here we are, coasting on assumptions of the world pre-2020. Arrangements which always worked before will therefore continue to work even though the structural underpinnings they rely on have been removed.
Spoiler alert: No one is coming. No blue-ribboned panel of government experts is going to descend to set the world right. We have only ourselves.
This morning little Zelda hangs out by the kitchen door, mewling, waiting for Mrs. U to break her resolve not to feed. It’s a test of wills. I know who is going to win this one.