A Healing Feline to the Rescue

Arthritis had really slowed her down. Then the right medicine came along...

by

Mary and her cat, Rainbow, who plays fetch like a dog

“Donald, can you get that?” Where was my husband when I needed him? I’d just gotten settled in my recliner and now the phone was ringing. I braced my feet against the floor and gingerly pushed against the armrests to stand. Spasms knifed through my back.

Lord have mercy. This arthritis was going to be the death of me yet. Years of working as a secretary—all that sitting—had done a number on my lower back. I’d taken to sleeping in my recliner. It was more comfortable than my bed. Medication had helped dull the pain. But then I’d started having intestinal issues.

“It may be a side effect from the pills,” my doctor told me. “Try going without them. For now, your best option is to keep moving, even if it hurts. It’ll help in the long run.”

Keep moving? It hurt like the dickens just to stand up! It was so much easier not to get out of the recliner at all. I had everything I needed with me—a good mystery novel, my devotions, my puzzle books, the TV remote. Lately my hands had been aching too. The weather—it was pouring—wasn’t helping any.

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I shuffled to the phone. “Hi, Mom.” It was my daughter, Jill. “I found a darling little kitten behind the grocery. It looks just like the cat we had growing up and, well, I couldn’t leave it out in the rain. I thought it would be perfect for you.”

“You know I can’t take care of a cat,” I said. “Don’t you bring it here.” Jill had two dogs. She wouldn’t be able to keep the kitten, but I wasn’t going to let her guilt me into this.

“Okay,” she said. “I’ll be here at work for a few more hours if you change your mind.”

I hung up and made my way back to the recliner. Donald—now he shows up!—was watching TV.

“Of all the crazy ideas,” I muttered. “What would make Jill think I’d want a kitten?”

Donald was glued to the TV. I eased myself into the chair and picked up my puzzle book. But all I could think about was that kitten. Drenched. Hungry. Abandoned. I sighed. Donald looked over at me.

“Mary, if you want the kitten, then get it,” he said.

“I don’t want it, but...oh, all right.”

Jill sent our granddaughter over with the kitten and a bag of litter. It was a girl, a tan tabby with black stripes. A cute little thing, I had to admit. So tiny. I didn’t hold her too close, for fear of fleas. I stroked her fur, still wet from the rain.

“I’ll call you Rainbow,” I said.

I opened a can of tuna and filled a bowl with water. I stooped to put them on the floor, holding on to the counter for balance. Rainbow sniffed at the tuna, then walked away with a swish of her tail. “You’re a picky little thing, aren’t you?” I said.

A second later she leaped onto the curtains and scampered up. “Rainbow, no!” I shouted. I cupped her in my hands and sat down to inspect her fur for fleas. Rainbow nestled against me and purred.

“Looks like you’ve made a friend,” Donald said.

I just shook my head.

The next day I bought some cat food, flea shampoo and two catnip mice. Rainbow went crazy over those mice, batting them. She got them stuck under the china cabinet or the couch. Then she’d meow until I retrieved them for her, using a stick to slide the mice out.

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And fetch. That, she loved more than anything. She was like a dog. She’d bring the mice to me and demand that I toss them for her. Over and over and over. She couldn’t feel the shooting pains in my back. What did she care?

I had to feed Rainbow twice a day, make sure her water bowl was filled. Every couple of days I changed her litter, carrying the pan to the woods near our house and dumping it. Donald helped some but mostly he left it to me. “You’re the one who wanted the kitten,” he said.

Rainbow constantly got into things. She knocked over my aloe plant, scattering dirt all over the carpet. I, of course, had to clean it up. She broke two vases that I’d had for years. My back and my hands ached with all the ups and downs—literally!—of trying to keep up with rambunctious Rainbow. But what was I supposed to do? I couldn’t bear the thought of taking her to the pound.

One night, after dinner, I collapsed into my recliner, ready to go to sleep. Rainbow hopped into my lap. “You’re gonna be the death of me,” I said. I hadn’t had even 10 minutes to sit down that day. I was going to pay for it in the morning.

The next thing I knew, there was something wet on my cheek. Rainbow, licking me, wanting breakfast. “Okay, I get the message,” I said. I braced my feet against the floor and pushed against the armrests to lever myself up. I winced reflexively, expecting pain to radiate from my hands through my body. But it didn’t. Just a little soreness was all.

I felt better than I had since I stopped taking the medication. Maybe better than I had in years!

I don’t know who made it into the kitchen faster, me or Rainbow. I bent down and picked up her bowl—without having to hold on to the counter. She looked up at me and mewed, as if to say, See? I’m just what the doctor ordered!

Three years later, Rainbow still keeps me moving and keeps my arthritis at bay. I didn’t want a cat. But Someone knew I needed one.

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Tags: Cats,Healing,Pets
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