Ableism

Me and My Derp Cat

I have a derp cat.

Her name is [redacted], but I call her derp cat, because she’s quite derpy. She’s my cat’s sister, and technically, she is not mine, but I feed her and I care for her, and she spends most of her time up in my apartment. If I move, I intend to ask to take her with me. Since they’ve expressed a desire to have her euthanized when they move, I don’t think they’ll argue.

Derp cat is sitting on my lap right now, growling. This is progress. She spends a large fraction of her day growling. As a kitten, she fell and hit her head, and subsequently had 2 seizures. Her current owners have largely neglected her, resulting in a very thin cat that looks 10+ years older than she is.

It’s understandable. She growls and hisses for most of her waking hours, coming into our house and then running around like a bat outta hell, letting everyone know how pissed off she is to be in our house. She’ll occasionally take a swat, but usually won’t. That made me wonder why.

So I sat down with her for awhile, and I deduced several things that contribute to this behavior: she’s got limited vision, and does not seem to be able to discern more than light and dark moving shapes immediately in front of her face. She has some nerve issues (by coincidence, affecting several of the same nerves I have chronic neuropathy in due to my disability), and takes a very long time to eat. The neighbors do not give her wet food every day, and the days they don’t, she goes hungry. She has very poor coordination, so her swats tend to miss the mark by several inches and be somewhat delayed. And she growls. ALL THE TIME.

So the fact that she’s happily sitting on my lap for the last 20 minutes is a miracle.

I love this cat. It’s so easy to write her off as a useless, damaged-goods cat, but when she’s not scared of being in blurry world with poor reflexes and inconsistent access to food, she’s adorable. I have a picture of the time she decided to climb onto my backpack and ride me as I walked up the stairs into the house. When she’s got something safe to focus on, like the tip of a pencil in front of her face with auditory cueing (whistling, which she has a strong association with food because that is how I call my cat up for food time). And she’s just sitting on my lap tonight, enjoying being alive, enjoying being safe. And she’s not growling.

My partner needs a break from me, he said. My anxiety is too much. I lash out at people when my anxiety is really high. I know this. I regret it. I understand. But I am taking care of my little damaged derp cat because I want to believe that growling hissing balls of discontent deserve understanding and a warm embrace, just like I do.

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Yessenia

Yessenia

Yessenia is a graduate student studying to be a speech therapist with an emphasis on traumatic brain injuries. She spends far too much time correcting the wrong people on the internet, lifting heavy things and training her cats. She's a proud internet atheist and trolls only for the greater good.

7 Comments

  1. September 6, 2014 at 4:22 am —

    You, and she, both deserve the loving kindness. Dealing with the anxiety and stress of disability is an incredibly hard job.

    • September 8, 2014 at 1:44 pm —

      Thank you. Having her as a kitty, even if I’m not yet her official guardian, is very therapeutic for me.

  2. September 7, 2014 at 7:28 pm —

    I love that you’re taking such good care of a cat who needs it–is there any chance that you’ll take this cat in full-time?

    • September 8, 2014 at 2:07 pm —

      Yes definitely. I am just starting to look for a new place to live (grad school has constrained that) and when I move, I am definitely taking her with me. Since her owners have already expressed that they don’t want to take her with them if/when they move, and since she’s already basically my cat (I make sure she gets enough to eat, because they seem to just put the food out and make her compete with their other non-disabled cats, for instance; when I go out of town and come back, she loses weight), I don’t think they will object and will probably be happy to not have that responsibility to ignore anymore.

  3. September 8, 2014 at 3:14 am —

    Aww, that’s really touching. I’m glad you two have each other.

  4. September 10, 2014 at 4:48 pm —

    This totally just made me cry. In a good way. That kitty is so lucky to have you.

  5. September 17, 2014 at 2:23 am —

    I was just marvelling the other day about how our pets can be such an invaluable source of unconditional trust, love, acceptance and we need that warm embrace! I often think about my little soul-friend and remember the first time she trusted me enough to sit on my lap for 5 – 10 minutes. NOW she extreme snuggle pot. I love how I go out into the real world, get stared at, asked questions, put down, all sorts of “you’re disabled” business and then I get to come home to my fur soul friend. I don’t think people realise how important our gorgeous fur balls are for our hearts and souls and wellbeing!
    So glad this little darling has found acceptance and love from you and vice versa! šŸ™‚

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