‘The righteous care for the needs of their animals’

The Creation story tells us God created the animals to be Adam’s companions. So even in this post-Fall world, our natural inclination to seek out animals, to love and care for pets, isn’t surprising. But giving them good care can be hard and mightily time-consuming; it requires commitment. There’s a reason shelters and rescue groups advise that pets not be given as presents. Too many come as a surprise, without the recipient’s eager anticipatory commitment to care for the animal. Many such pets are returned to shelters, or suffer from gross inattention.

Over our 26 years of marriage Ed and I have adopted numerous cats that had suffered abuse or neglect. Only five of the 14 we’ve shared our home with were kittens that hadn’t been mistreated. 

We were not blessed with children. In their absence we began to realize that our love of cats should turn into a kind of calling, and we should care for as many homeless, needy cats as we reasonably could. So we have. We have room for, and can readily manage, six at a time. I’m not implying that we see cats as non-verbal “fur children,” on par with God-imaging human beings. We don’t. But long experience has shown us what wonderful creations of God cats are in their own right. And when you have a “herd,” you get to marvel at what distinct characteristics and likes and dislikes each has. They are fascinating, entertaining – and frequently comforting – creatures.

Cats we’ve known
Dancer was rail thin and aggressive when we adopted her: starved and mistreated. (Later she went to work with me at the CC office. She loved it and was loved. She even liked the car ride. But most of all she loved old-fashioned plain Timbits – the small bites I’d allow her.) Golden-eyed Caspian had been dumped in the country but remained as sweet-tempered a feline as one might wish for. Hedwig had gone hungry, had been beaten, forced into living in sub-freezing cold, and lost a litter of kittens. She lived in comfort with us for only a year when she died of cancer. Doughal, also reserved and sweet-tempered, has a permanent limp, likely from a hard kick. Eustace was underfed while confined in a small apartment bathroom for seven months. He hadn’t learned how to be a proper cat, nor how to relate well to people. He’s now pretty normal except for one thing: he can’t purr; he never learned how, doesn’t know he can. Petite Roo came to our deck door a summer’s night 10 years ago, so emaciated that her head and back legs looked huge. Her fur was ugly, matted; a smelly, infected neck wound oozed; she was pregnant though probably five months old. She became our feline Ugly Duckling: smart, affectionate, beautiful after all, with an unusual comical personality.

Then there is long-suffering Lucy. On Feb. 29, 2012, she was 10 years old, the shelter said. Overweight and diabetic, her family had turned her in. She languished, unadopted, though there was no fee. She would need insulin for the rest of her life (they said). It wasn’t love at first sight, but we took her. We put her on a low-carb diet and had her off insulin in barely three weeks. That lasted four years until April this year when she came out of remission.

We now must check Lucy’s blood glucose various times a day and administer insulin twice a day as needed. That makes for an odd schedule. It means that, for the foreseeable future, we won’t be going away overnight. Some people think we’re sacrificing way too much for “just a cat.”  But we are living a blessed life here. Overnight visitors come to us, we can take day trips as we wish, and we have the resources to give Lucy (and five others) a fine life. The alternative would be euthanasia: we would lose a now much-loved cat who is not terminally ill. She’s a feisty, inquisitive creature, wholly trusting, who readily puts up with all the needle poking and prodding that the diabetes requires. She reminds me of this verse in Proverbs: “The righteous care for the needs of their animals” (12:10); and I shake off the implied criticism. 

Author

  • Marian Van Til is a former CC editor who lived in Canada from 1975-2000. She now freelances for journals and writes books. Marian is also a classical musician and the music director at a Lutheran Church. She and her husband, Ed Cassidy, live in Youngstown, NY.

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