| I have a cat. She is orange. I don't make much money so I had to choose between keeping her and spaying her. I selfishly kept her. With so many handsome tomcats out there, I don't really blame her for what happened. I am also allergic to cats. I think she's allergic to me. When I got home she was bleeding all over the carpet so I take her to the bathroom and lay down old ratty towels and sit on the floor with her. She hates it in the bathroom and so she cried and tried to hide under my hair. She bled more and more, lapping at it. At first I think I should stop her and then I remembered that she loses a lot of nutrients and so it's okay to drink her own blood. She mews helplessly, rubbing her body all over mine until finally her face is pressed against mine, contractions wracking her body.
I have a clock on top of the medicine cabinet. The minutes turn into hours. Still, I see no life emerging from her, only blood. I begin to wonder if I should call the vet, remembering what he told me a few weeks before. "99% of domestic cats give birth without a problem." I don't think he thought that all the way through. There are millions of cats out there, millions of domestic cats. I am fond of numbers and so I remember what the humane society told me. If all the homeless animals in the United States were adopted, every family would own seven dogs and twenty-one cats. That means out of every five families, one cat needs help giving birth. Maybe she dies giving birth. My mother-to-be lets out a screech and presses against me, purring through it all. The thrum thraa of her purr comforts me, though it's not really me who needs the comforting.
Thrum thraa thrum thraa thrumthraathrumthraathrumthraaaa&.
Her breathing is erratic. Her pupils are dilated and large in the light. I look down at my clothes and realize if I don't get them in the wash soon, they will be ruined. I don't want to leave the bathroom so I fill the sink with water and bleach and strip naked.
Now she climbs over me, her bloody paws marking my skin. She isn't licking her blood anymore, and she seems tired.
Thrum, thraa, thrum, thraa, thrumthraathrumthraa.
For the first time, a legitimate fear of her death strikes me. I live in this basement alone except for her. I go to work. I work alone. I have always felt alone, but as my orange cat places her paws on my chest and her hind feet claw into my thighs, I begin to realize that we're all connected, really. I can vaguely hear the traffic outside when she isn't meowing and wonder what the drivers are thinking.
The bathroom is cold without my clothes. My cat's meowing has become insistent. I put my hands on her, wishing to help but she seems to be in her own world now. She is pushing, and pushing, and finally I see a milky-white head. With a final heave, the kitten is free of her body.
My cat starts biting at her baby, and I almost step in. I almost pull her away until I see that she is simply breaking the umbilical cord and freeing her kitten from it's embryotic sac. She is licking the kitten all over and I think "thank god, it's over."
Then the contractions begin again.
Thrum thraa thrum thraa thrum thraa.
The kitten isn't moving. I wrap my cold fingers around the kitten and move it closer to momma. Momma is now on her side, shaking with every contraction and meowing painfully when she can't take it any longer. I think that she is the bravest creature in the world. The kitten still isn't moving. I don't think it's breathing. Momma starts desperately pushing the kitten with her nose, chewing on it. I start to cry.
She paws at the body, nudging it. Her mews have changed to a different pain. The body still won't come alive.
I wish that I could give momma the release of tears. She paces violently, the afterbirth sliding out onto the ground. Her cries have grown louder, sharper. I don't want to wake the landlord so I whisper, 'shhh baby, shhh& we'll get through this. The next one will be alive&' and she looks at me as if I came out of nowhere. Then she is upon me, rubbing her body against my skin, climbing up my chest and under my hair, trying to run away.
My tears come harder now. I would run away too; I almost do. I am standing and my hand is on the doorknob when momma digs her claws into the doors wood and I know that if she has to stay here, I have to stay with her. I press my back against the door and fold my legs. She climbs into the triangular hollow there, shaking. I can feel the next contraction against my bloody skin. The next kitten slides out, it seems almost easy this time. I am the first warm thing it feels in the world. I catch it with my hands so that it never touches the floor. Momma ignores this kitten, pausing instead to call to the dead body. She begins to eat the afterbirth and I am repulsed for a moment before understanding. Her orange fur is sticky with blood and her wide eyes are feral as she chews the slimy grey-and-red afterbirth.
I have wiped the newest kitten off with a cloth and it is breathing quietly. I admire the peculiar shape of it's head and the lovely grey stripes across it's body. Momma comes back over and lets the kitten nurse, resting for the first time since I got home.
I close my eyes for a moment to soak in the memory of this miracle, to burn the image of the gray kitten nursing into my mind. I open my eyes and there is a third kitten being licked off with a rough tongue. It is larger than it's living sibling, smaller than it's first. I look at the small wet body of the dead one and want to shake it into life. Before this moment, I had not understood such cruelty.
Thrumthraathrumthraa thrum thraa thrum thraa and life is truly beginning again; I can breathe.
I open the door and allow momma to carry one of the kittens to the closet. I carry the other one. We set them down and momma looks at me, purring.