St. Frances de Sales’s advice, “Have patience with all things but first with yourself.” is no more so than with the three weeks’ heartbreaking ordeal to win back my cat Toro’s trust in me. His traumatic visit to the veterinarian now seems to dissipate across the feline Elysium slowly, or so I want to think. He is not hiding under the bed in my presence, becoming a sweet writing company on my desk once more.
I have recently watched a YouTube that goes viral about an unlikely friendship between a stray cat and a young woman, which makes me think of my relationship with Toro and what it means to build trust between two lives. The woman found a stray tabby cat around her house and began to acquaint him with food. She named him “Tiger,” not least due to his perspicacious tiger stripes and adorable feistiness, giving him a distinct personality and charms that were all the more endearing to the sensitive woman who was also in need of company in her solitude.
Thenceforth, they became complementary to each other for consolation, security, and most of all, love. Tiger is still his feisty self, and the woman is still trying to adjust herself to his whims and caprice. Still, they feel comfortable in their presence and love. The tears welled in the windows of her soul when she said that building trust between two took time and patience. You can’t make someone love you arbitrarily by force. You don’t need a love spell or magic potion to enslave someone into your desire of possessing the body and mind, as the ancient Greeks and Romans used to. Without Psyche, Eros would not/could not have culminated in perfecting the art of love as a primordial god of Love.
Toro is in some way like Tiger: his name means a little tiger in Japanese with his distinctive stripes, and M signature proudly marked on his little forehead. Although not as feisty as Tiger, Toro has a remarkable personality of adventurousness, curiosity, playfulness, and resilience, all affectionately wrapped in his good nature. But I don’t take for granted that wonderful Toro is my cat, and therefore, I deserve his trust and love. Animals, especially pets, also have hearts that pump up the blood and feel the feelings. I regard them as friends, companions to enrich our existential human lives with a touch of sentimentality that we hardly express when we are among our species in fear of being regarded as a sign of weakness. And I am always thrilled to feel his little heart at my feet as a friend.
When my eleven-months old cat Toro started drooling in white foams last Wednesday evening after swallowing a tiny flying insect in my bedroom, I was in a panic. I called nearby emergencies, describing the state Toro was in, but they told me his symptoms were not regarded as critical. Instead, they told me to monitor him, so I did. He stopped drooling the next day and drank a lot of water. Nevertheless, my concern was still growing, doubled with regret that Toro should have met an owner in a vast, spacious home with that which would make him happy. The pang of grief punctuated my already broken heart, and I was distraught.
Luckily, a vet to whom I had previously taken Toro for his difficulty in excreting in Little Tokyo said she could see Toro on Saturday morning. The waiting period until the appointment was an ordeal by the torture of the heart. My spirit was sunk in a sea of sadness, blaming myself for not providing Toro the optimum environment to thrive in his best feline nature. The bedroom is so tiny that it is more of a den, and the living room where my elderly infirm mother spends most of the day intermittently is off-limit to Toro by keeping him alone during the day when I am working. My evening playing with him might probably bore him to death because my lack of creativity fails to invent more stimulating kinds of play that will perk up his energy. I cannot help but think that I am becoming a bane of Toro’s existence, the cause of his unhappiness.
To pour lead on my open wound in the heart, when I finally took Toro to the vet on Saturday, she diagnosed him with idiopathic cystitis. She showed me a scanned copy of Toro’s mildly swollen bladders with information on the illness caused by stress. That’s it. The diagnosis realized my imagination and shattered a slim hope of something other than STRESS. I see all the cares I had given to Toro as best as I could beyond my measure by taking him to vets and telling him how much I loved him as much as I could dissipate into the elusive dreams of my little happiness with Toro. My happy moments with Toro vanished into yesterdays, bidding farewells to tomorrows.
It’s been a week since the diagnosis, and now Toro has changed. Toro now hides under the bed, doesn’t come up to my bed, and avoids me when I am home. Besides, he doesn’t eat as much as he used to, about which the vet told me to be patient because that could be the effect of changing his prescriptive diet from gastrointestinal to urinary care. What is strange about his sudden change of behaviors is that he was never like this from his previous visits to vets. Come what may, Toro seems to be unhappy, and I am very downtrodden for his changed behavior. He was the only one who showed me his affection.
I still remember his adorable, curious big eyes peeping out of an opening from a box carrier when I brought him from Ventura Animal Shelter last August at the age of nine weeks. Purring and kneading are long gone. My reason suggests that re-homing Toro is the best I can do for his happiness, yet my heart tells me not to listen to it and look for another place for a better living environment. Nevertheless, I yield to my heart’s voice and want to believe that there is still hope for us to be happy in a better living condition. I hope to see mirth wonton around us and happiness sparkle before our very eyes soon.
The Bard must have been punctual like me in doing his business as an actor, a writer, and an entrepreneur, not least because of his perspicuous witty aphorism that “Better three hours too soon than one minute too late.” Yes, the Bard and I are connected, among others, by the number three (3) because when I went to Little Tokyo for Toro’s follow-up appointment with a vet, it was thirty minutes earlier than the appointed time. It seems too pat that gave me a mental jolt, while Toro was trying to get out of a new pet carrying tote I had bought from Amazon. The popular tote failed to serve the purpose of being a portable carriage of the ever Curious Cat preferring his humanoid sister as a moving tall cat tree. In fact, Toro always likes to climb on my back and shoulders, which I wish to be wider and firmer so that he can securely sit on either side of them. My wish was father to the thought unless I saved a fairy who would grant me the wish as a quid pro quo in bona fide.
Since coffee is my morning elixir, I wended my direction toward a nearby Starbucks with the Curious Cat on my right shoulder, making me look curiouser and curiouser. Maybe I should not have gone to the Starbucks but instead to the Seven-Eleven, where they also sold excellent cheap coffee. Or is it just my innately high-strung sensibilities that detect the vibe? Notwithstanding the famous green mermaid’s angelic presence, it was the surprise unwelcome reception at the mermaid’s coffeehouse. My Curious Cat Toro was sitting on my shoulder while I was entering the store, and the two lady barristers looked at us as though they were looking at freaks from a defunct circus closed due to the pandemic. One of them at the register began with a slight grimace: “Miss, you can’t bring a cat here.” I was surprised to hear such an announcement because having seen dogs at other stores; it was more than a mind blow akin to heartbreak. So I remonstrated as softly as possible with my futilely pitiful reference to the dogs at Starbucks stores near my work. Then the other woman who appeared to be senior in staff hierarchy explained: “Dogs are allowed, but not cats. Our district manager is very strict about that. But I will serve you coffee because you seemed to not to know of it.” What a mercy. Yes, I got the coffee, I took Toro to the vet, and at least all was fine. Yet, the incident made me feel sorry about Toro, a de facto discrimination subject, per se.
Thankfully, Toro didn’t know of the episode performed in human language, but my heart sank when I looked at his large green eyes innocently looking into my eyes from a backpack I carried him into. So I showered him with new feather toys and cans of chicken pumpkin soup from a Petco in the afternoon. The district manager’s policy of not allowing cats to enter the premise makes my head swivel in 360 degrees of wonderment. Whether or not such policy is personally motivated under the particular feline nature’s pretext is a mystery, but cats’ exclusion is hard to swallow. Certainly, Toro and his feline kind will be welcome in the coffee houses of Teheran, where their wild ancestors were an integral part of arts and religions. Is that why cats were burned with alleged witches in Europe? No? It makes me couriouser and couriouser.
The period of four months can be long or short, depending upon how you feel it, and to me, it amounts to a long time that has changed my life in every possible way akin to an epoch of revolution. My life with an orphaned kitten named Toro has become a fugue of meows and voices in multiple strands of more meows and voices that has no coda.
During the four months, Toro and I had anfractuous moments made of frequent visits to different veterinarians, displays of whims and caprice on both sides, tears and smiles, frustration and understanding, doubts and hopes, wishes and disappointments, all of which are crystallized into a virtue of acceptance. I still cannot believe that I have a cat when I still have a weakness for more domesticated, more trainable, and more approachable canine breeds. This doubt develops into a sense of guilt, a whirlpool of self-criticism of not being good enough to be a loving owner of Toro, who is particularly in need of love and kindness due to his sensitive nature and suspected traumatic postnatal experience. Those educative textual and visual information on raising cats dissipates into a gray area of reality and stay there amid my trials and errors in the course of being a terrific guardian whom Toro wishes to live with. Does Toro want to live with another owner who can make him happy in a bigger house where he can run like his wild ancestors or cousins in nature with his new playmates? I ask Toro, but he returns me with that pensive glance and grooms himself like nothing more is necessary than licking his legs and rectum.
My mother still wants me to return Toro to the shelter because his burst of pep and temper is unprecedentedly unbridled and insurmountable to be caught up with. Then I read other cat owners’ stories and watch their YouTube channels only to make parallels to their blissful lives with their cats and to descend to the labyrinth of gloom and sorrow without an exit. My previous post about my precipitated proclamation of a mutually beneficiary feeling of dependency becomes a public humiliation, a textual pillory of an incompetent cat owner who has no idea about the animal that does not like to be with her the first place. Or so it seems. Alas, woe to the one whose head is whirled like a potter’s wheel in the vortex of confusion, illusion, and discord in a da capo.
Notwithstanding all of the above, one thing is sure that Toro’s wellbeing, both mentally and physically, is what I care about the most. I have taken him to three different vets so far due to his frequent diarrhea, constipation, and anal pain repeating like Bach’s Toccata. Even if Toro may indeed secretly entertains a wish to meet a new ideal owner, I want to take care of him as much as I can to the fullest extent within my capabilities because I care about him and want to be happy together. His little heartbeat I feel in my hand and when he sleeps at my feet is the most precious thing I treasure that empowers me with a sense of purpose that I have a life depending on me.