Stef dela Cruz chronicles her love story with her darling Mimi.
Text and photos by Stef dela Cruz, MD
It is not like walking, which connotes casualness. It’s not like jumping, which implies intent. It is nothing at all like flying, which signifies freedom.No, falling has neither poise nor premeditation.
When you fall, it happens by accident—you won’t see it coming—and you are likely to get hurt.That was exactly how it came to be with me and this kitten named Mimi: perennially playful, undeniably kind Mimi with the beautiful cow spots.
When I met Mimi, I did not expect to fall in love with her.She was relentless: she climbed our screen door just to get my attention.
She was persistent: She meowed endlessly until I opened my door. She was pushy: she pried my window open just to get into my humble apartment—and into my life.When I met Mimi, I just fell.It was unexpected. And it hurt.Mimi, after all, already had a human. A neighbor took Mimi from the streets, hoping she would scare away the rodents in our building.
I had a cat of my own—the regal and kingly Merlin—so I tried to tell my neighbor all about deworming and spaying and not feeding table scraps to the poor kitty.He was a kind human to Mimi but he found my determination to a care for a puny little animal quite baffling. “Mimi is just a stray cat,” he said.
I knew she wasn’t mine. I didn’t even try to make her mine. That was why I didn’t change her name, Mimi, which was rather sinfully uninspired and predictable.Oh, the many names I wanted to call her! But I didn’t. She wasn’t mine. I simply had no right.
Then, one day, the unthinkable happened.
Mimi went missing.
“Mimi! Where are you?” I called out, backed by my boyfriend and our trusty Chihuahua named Topper. They both loved cats. We made an odd, and sadly ineffective, search team.“Mimi! Mimi!!!” I called her name as we walked around the neighborhood, stopping hopefully whenever we thought Topper caught a whiff of her scent.Predictably, we did not find her.
When I lay down in bed contemplating what to do next, I realized I would miss the missing Mimi, the kitten who would scale my screen door just to say hi, the sweet but mischievous princess kitty who would meow in that little voice of hers right by my window just to get me to say hi back.
Oh, I cried and cried! I didn’t know which made me feel worse: that I was grieving a cat not my own, or that I missed Mimi more than her human did.I yearned for her to come back. I closed my eyes and said, “God, if You make her come back, I swear to make her my own so that she will never go missing again.
”Only a few minutes had passed when my boyfriend called out to me. “Stef, there’s something you need to see.”It was a small kitten whose white fur had big, black, beautiful spots. Her face was dirty and her fur was muddy, but there was no mistake.
It was Mimi.
I wasted no time. I borrowed Merlin’s pet tag and tied it around Mimi’s neck so that if she got lost again, whoever found her would know how to contact me.Not happy with Mimi’s lack of a healthcare plan, I took it upon myself to ensure she was seen by a vet. I gave her a makeshift bed lined with my clothes. I gave her a litter box. I gave her two bowls: one for food and another for water.
I gave her a warm bath.At the back of my mind, I knew I couldn’t call her my own—at least, not without committing theft. She was still someone else’s kitty.But did that stop me from loving her the way I did? Nope, not at all.Besides, it wasn’t as if I had a choice. When she went missing, I realized that I had been denying what I knew was already happening: I had fallen in love with the naughty, window-scaling, door-climbing, adorable, little Mimi.
A week after, she was ready for her first Christmas gift; it was Christmas Eve, after all! But something unthinkable happened.
Mimi fell ill.
My boyfriend and I found her sitting by her bowl, staring off into space. She could barely stand. She could barely even move.She threw up. It was then that we realized that the mysterious puddle by her water bowl was her own vomit.
Oh, no. Something was terribly wrong with Mimi!
Is there a vet clinic open at 3AM on Christmas Eve? I wondered. Yes, there is—if you’re willing to pay the hefty emergency fee, that is.
To hell with Noche Buena. To hell with the gifts I planned on buying for my family back in the province after the Christmas rush! I knew they would understand that I had to spend my holiday budget to save Mimi’s life.
After visiting two different vets, the verdict was finally in: Mimi had a potentially fatal infection. She tested positive for feline calicivirus.
Calicivirus. High death rate. Highly contagious. Carrier… forever. Those were the words the vet said regarding Mimi’s illness, the words that kept swimming in my head long after.
What would happen to Mimi? How about the regal and kingly Merlin?
Would Merlin get infected?
Would Mimi die?
The world came crashing around my ears.“Merry Christmas!” the vets at the clinic said cheerfully as we left. “Merry Christmas,” I echoed. My greeting sounded hollow and empty, because it was.
Christmas did not feel as merry as it should.
I spent the holidays feeling dejected. I forgot to feel grateful for the blessings showered upon me, all because I was hurting. All because Mimi seemed to be waving goodbye just when I had started showing her how much I loved her.
Oddly enough, it was in my grief that I had an important epiphany. I realized that through the hellish rollercoaster of emotions I went through, Mimi remained an angel.
Yes, Mimi was an angel. No, Mimi did not need to die to prove that she was divine. She will live to tell about her adventures. Without having earned her proverbial angel wings yet, she has demonstrated—true to angel form—that to reap love, all that was needed was to sow it.
The day after I brought Mimi home from the vet, I had a chat with her human. I told him that because Mimi was infected with a virus that could persist in the environment for a long period of time, all the cats in the building were already exposed to the virus. I encouraged him to tell all the cat purrents within our vicinity to update their fur babies’ vaccination.I narrated Mimi’s narrow escape from death. When he found out how much I had spent on vet fees, he said, “Because you’ve sacrificed so much for Mimi, you can have her.”
The Happy Ending
Yes! I can finally call Mimi my own angel! I am officially her ‘hooman’!
However, even when I still wasn’t, she had already convinced me that I could love her anyway. You see, with Mimi, I wasn’t just falling.I was also walking down a road I would not have taken, if not for my newfound feline friend.I was also jumping over hurdles, something I couldn’t have done if not driven by Mimi’s unconditional love.
Too bad I did not learn how to fly. But on the day she crosses over the rainbow bridge, I will not be afraid. Yes, I will grieve like a parent who has lost a child—and my heart will break all over again—but I know that when the fateful day comes, I need not worry.After all, my Mimi will have the flying skills of an angel.
Did You Know?
Severe forms of feline calicivirus infection can be fatal. The virus persists in the environment for a long time, resistant even to disinfectants. Protect your fur-babies from this virus by having them vaccinated regularly!
About the cat slave: Stef dela Cruz, M.D. is a columnist and blogger. She was conferred the 2013 Health Media Recognition by the Department of Health. She is now the proud human of two cats and a dog whom she treats not as pets, but as family. Connect with her on www.stefdelacruz.com or via Twitter & Instagram (@StefdelaCruzMD).
This appeared in Animal Scene’s February 2016 issue.