Oh boy! What a month … a few weeks ago, walking to the station, on the way to work on a lovely balmy summer’s day, the second week of my new job, I came across a friendly cat who was obviously malnourished and who had open sores or bites all over it. It looked to me more like an allergy that had been left to run wild in the cat’s immune system without treatment. I had my laptop, my bag and my lunch in hand and I knew that I would never be able to pick it up, hold it and walk home for 10 minutes for it. Everyone I called was asleep (it was very early) and eventually, I left a message for K and went on to work. K called me back an hour later and went down to try and find the cat, to no avail.
He tried again a few hours later, once again without a result. So I, rather heavy-heartedly, put flyers out all along the streets around where I had seen the cat. I thought I knew which cat it was. Three years ago, I came across two very young black and white kittens, playing in the street, in the company of an older, strikingly pretty, golden tabby cat. They looked fairly fit but too young to be out. I kept an eye on them, saw them on the way home from work and a couple of other people remarked to me that they were very young to be out. However, the older cat seemed to be looking after them well and for a while I saw them fairly regularly playing in the front garden of a particular house, so it appeared that they had a home.
Time went on and I didn’t see the golden tabby and saw less and less of black and white cats, but they stuck in my mind as the never seemed to get past the size of 6 month old kittens. Then I stopped seeing them. I wondered if this was one of the two cats.
I didn’t get any calls for the first few days. M put out more flyers in the surrounding streets and a week later, a call came through. It was from a man who, with his wife, was feeding a small, stray, friendly black and white cat, but this one had no sores. They lived two houses down from where I had seen the original two cats. Bingo! The same cats … or so I thought …
To cut a long story short, there were two cats, one of whom was six months old and who I went to fetch as L and his wife could not keep him long term, due to their dogs. Ardent animal lovers, they were also concerned as the cat spent a lot of time playing in the road and were worried that he would get run over. Moreover, three years before, they had taken in a stray golden tabby who had been dumped when his owner had moved …
This cat was cute as a button and seemed so pleased to be inside. He did appear to be a kitten, not a three year old cat. Within days, he had ingratiated himself with my cats and tonight is asleep on the mat in the hallway.
The other, injured cat was another story. When M was delivering flyers, a woman stopped her and said that she had seen the cat and been so distressed she had cried and phoned the RSPCA when she got home. She had not seen the cat since. We assumed that the cat had been picked up and I feared for it.
You see, at the moment, animal sanctuaries are facing their biggest challenges yet. They are overcrowded, the summer holidays means people do not adopt as they go away and animals are been dumped left, right and centre as the downturn in the economy takes hold. So even if the RSPCA had picked the cat up, given the state it was in, it was likely to be put down.
This did not stop me keeping an eye out every morning and every evening for two weeks. I called to the cat in my head, asking it to appear if it could, if it hadn’t died of dehydration or been caught in a weakened state by a dog or been taken to a rescue centre. I prayed for it every night, hoping against hope it was still alive.
Last Saturday, I had to go into work. Swearing, I did so, missing my cousin’s birthday party in the process. I got back to my home station later than normal and in the dusk I thought I saw a slim cat run across the road. Following my instinct and disregarding my common sense, I followed it and found the cat I had been looking for.
Thinner now, gaunt in fact to the point of starvation, it miaowed at me and I knew that I had to try and get it home. I called L and his wife and heard something very interesting. Both cats appeared to be owned by one person. L’s wife had spoken to the woman at that house who had rather defensively said that she had been feeding them and seen my flyer (which was rather uncompromising, saying that I had seen the cat, it was in a terrible state and if the owner was reading this, I was keeping an eye out and they needed to take it to a vet immediately) and taken the cat to the PDSA, which dispenses free animal care to those on benefits. She denied owning either cat. L said “look Sam, she obviously doesn’t give a fig, just take the cat”. They weren’t home so I couldn’t put the cat into their house and go and get a carrier to get the cat home safely.
I rang my neighbour who, bless her, arrived in her car a minute later. By this time, the cat realised I was trying to catch it and had gone into another road. S, my neighbour not only caught it, but handed the cat to me, got us into the car and got us home in record speed. She opened up my house, ran indoors, got my cats and the kitten into one room, ran back, opened the car for me and then ran ahead to open the door while I ran from the car into the house with a frightened, injured cat. The rescue, from start to finish, had taken less than four heart-stopping minutes.
I now have the cutest black and white rescue cats you have ever seen. Both of them starved for human attention, they love a cuddle. I was right about the second cat – it has a flea-related allergy which had never been treated and it had scratched and bitten its fur off, carving chunks out of its skin in the process. It appears to be one of the original two I saw three years ago. The first one I rescued is about six months old. To give you an idea of the state they were in, the first one has doubled its weight in two weeks.
I have no idea when I will be able to home them. The Cats Protection League is not only full, it has a waiting list of 100 cats sitting with foster carers, waiting for owners. All the rescue organisations are in the same situation. However, for now, two cats at least are safe, getting the treatment and love and care they need to thrive.
In the middle of all of this and over the past few months, I have been unable to do more than the basic of ritual. Ideally, I do a main ritual at full moon, when I always feel most called to it, and smaller, more meditative ritual in between. Lately, I have been so busy that I have missed several full moons and am lucky to get a meditative ritual in once a month. Whilst this has felt odd to me and made me feel a little disconnected, there is not a lot I can do to improve the situation. I struggle to work, look after the animals, have some sort of a life and conduct my religious rituals all at the same time.
Many has been the time of late where I’ve fallen asleep in circle – don’t try this at home folks, it results in an awful headache – or had just enough time to set up, whisper my thanks and ask for continued strength and protection for those whom I love before collapsing into bed, to get up four hours later to go to work.
And my struggle to keep things going, to keep my animals happy, the rescues cared for, give my job 100% and still try and have a home life and religious life in between, leads to me to the question – do the Gods applaud my actions or do they see them as an excuse? Do actions count more than hours spent connecting with Deity? Does my sense of disconnection come from true alienation of the Gods who have sustained me, or is it simply that I need to have that time to myself and I am missing the grounding it gives me?
The Jewish religion is all about acts – how you act towards yourself, your fellow men and to the animals in your care. The Christian religion is also act-based (although the loony fringe relies on grace and seems to think the way you act is almost irrelevant, so long as you are “saved”).
There is however, little liturgy in our religion and apart from books expounding the benefits of regular ritual and the dedications required, very little to say on, for instance “well, if you have three hours and you have a choice between helping or meditating, choose X”. As a Pagan and a witch, I believe it is my duty to help my fellow beings and I can’t turn away if someone is in need, whether that someone is a person or an animal. While I can say “No; when faced with proper need (as opposed to a want disguised as a need) I can’t say, sorry, its full moon, I can’t come out tonight and rescue you. I just do it and regret the lack of time to do ritual afterwards.
Without proper guidance on the matter, I can only hope that my Gods understand this and agree with me.