Animal Writes
1 April 2001 Issue
The Story of Octavia, My Little "Lab Cat"

by Psych [email protected] 

Many years ago, when I was growing up in a small town in New York State, my mother was known as the "cat lady," as she could never let a hungry cat pass by without offering it a can of food. As you can imagine, the word spread among the neighbors and the felines, and our property was decorated with beautiful, shiny, mysterious cats of all shapes, sizes and colors. They all had names of course, ranging from the regal to the downright silly. Each name remarkably fit the unique personality of each, and I still remember them all (with the help of a photo album). One cold October night, my mother got a phone call from a whispering young woman who apparently worked at a local facility that did animal experimentation. She told my mother that there was one cat who "broke her heart," as she is "so human"
and "really deserves better than this." After running the idea (of rescuing this cat) by my father who loudly stated that "if another cat comes into this house I'm leaving!" (he always said that but he never did)! my mother apologized, and suggested that the woman either bring the cat home herself, or bring it to the local shelter for adoption.

Then next evening, as my mother and I returned from an early dinner, the car headlights reflected the green eyes of a Burmese looking cat, sitting and waiting in the driveway, as if she had always belonged there. She was a polydactyl, also known as a Hemingway cat, and had big mitten like paws, which were the cutest thing I had ever seen.

She showed no fear as the car pulled into the driveway. When we got out of the car, she immediately ran to me yelling, "wah wah" like a human baby. I looked down at her dark brown little body and her baby like face, and fell immediately in love. After keeping her safe from the other kitties in my room overnight, it was discovered that she had a urinary problem, and was brought to the vet immediately the next morning. Upon examination, the vet shook his head sadly. "This poor cat has about 6 healed incisions on her abdomen, I'm not sure what's going on here." My mother was immediately reminded of her phone call a couple of nights before, and they concluded that this in fact was the "lab cat." The vet painted a grim picture of her prognosis, as she had kidney problems, and was bloated. He suggested
that we could put her to sleep, as she was probably 6 or 7, and with her past, it wasn't likely that she would life a long life. My mother's answer was a quick, "NO, she came to us for a reason, and she deserves a chance." After some pills and a shot, Octavia came home with us, and she took up
permanent residence in my room. Over time, a couple of the other more mellow house cats were invited in and befriended her, and she was able to leave my room to venture out and explore the rest of the house. "Witty Wat" was her best friend, and this pale pink nosed calico girl was the best body guard a cat could ask for, using her own body as shield against the other more rambunctious cats during their outings. "Picky" (AKA Licorice Nose) was a big panda looking male cat that was as sweet as sweet can be, and also appointed himself Octavias body guard. Nobody messed with Picky, so she strutted confidently when he was by her side. Over time, the medications started to work, and the urinary problems ceased. Occasionally they would resurface, but a trip to the vet for some cortisone usually zapped the problem within a couple of days. She was well worth the effort, as my friendship with her grew deeper as each day passed. She seemed to understand very well that she had been given a second chance at life, and that her luck was amazing to have not only left the lab, but to have fallen into a home where the cats were treated like royalty. Octavia was my best friend for 15 more years, and passed away after suffering a stroke which left her paralyzed. Her last amazing act was displayed on her last day on earth when the veterinarian told me that there wasn't anything left for him to do. I decided to bring her home to pass away, rather than having her put to sleep, as he told me that she was not in any pain, and was mostly, drifting in and out of consciousness. She laid on my lap in the living room, and I spoke softly to her about all of the love and wonder she had brought into my life, and I thanked her for being such an unbelievable friend through the years. She looked up into my eyes, and gave me one last "wah." Without thinking, I told her that it was all right for her to "go," and through my tears, I watched her beautiful eyes close, and the purring begin. This remarkable being waited to pass on until she knew that I was going to be able to handle it. I shall always remember that dear, intelligent
soul with the deepest respect and gratitude

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