I'll See You Again
by Alice Arnold
I had just finished the west side alley route and was heading over to a few key spots on the east side -- a storm was coming and I wanted to feed in as many alleys as I could before the rain started because animals won’t come out to us in a solid rain and the water washes away the food we leave for them. On my way across town I passed a vacant lot where I noticed a small cat picking through the garbage. When I pulled into the lot the little cat ran under the car, so I got out and kneeled down with a can of tuna. I tossed a few bits of the food under the car so she could smell it.
In a calm voice I talked to her, I told her I wanted to help her. She gradually cam closer and closer until she finally ate from the can of tuna I laid next to me. She was very hungry, so while she ate I felt under her stomach to determine whether she was a nursing mother. Unfortunately, she was. I couldn’t take her with me because I’d never seen her before and had no idea where her babies might be stashed. Worse than this, I didn’t know if I’d ever see her again.
I was looking around to find a safe place to start a routine feeding for her, a place away from the street’s traffic and out of view. I hoped to keep contact with her and that she would bring her babies to me when they were old enough to eat on their own.
A teenager came up to me, she looked to be 16 or 17 years old; she was carrying a cat that she said was hers. I asked if she knew the little cat I was feeding, and she said she’d seen her in the alley a few times. I asked if she’d seen kittens but she had not. Then I asked permission to feed the cat in her yard - it seemed the safest place. The girl agreed and also offered to feed the little one if I supplied the food, which I gladly did. We exchanged telephone numbers and I told her to call me just as soon as she sees the kittens. I had done all I could for the little mother cat at this point so I thanked the girl for her help and, as I turned to leave, I glanced at the cat (still eating) and said, “I’ll see you again.”
A week passed and I called the number the girl had given me. I called again and again but got no answer. The lot became a regular alley stop although the mother cat was not coming to my call. After a couple months of leaving food near the lot I started seeing another cat or two coming to eat, but not my little girl. I was glad the other cats were learning my call meant a small meal for them, but there was something about the tiny mother cat that kept me looking for her.
One morning as I was leaving the lot I saw a small cat dart under a car. I raced over with a can of food - I thought for sure I’d finally found my girl. I kneeled down and talked quietly to her, I threw bits of food under the car. She was very thin and very dirty but most of all she was starving hungry. The can of food was enough to bring her out to me, and then I realized this was not the same cat. The first cat had white feet and a white patch on her neck where this one was a brown tiger with no white. They looked so much alike I couldn’t help but think this was probably one of her kittens that had grown up; after all, many months had gone by since my first visit to the lot.
I checked the cat for nipples - had to be sure she was not another nursing mother. She was not. So I carried the skinny, dirty, very hungry kitty to the car and put her in a carrier. No more streets for you, little one.
Yes, I still return to the lot; I’m working on gaining the trust of the cats coming to eat there. I still look for the little one who first brought me to that place and although I should probably know better, I can’t bring myself to give up the hope that someday I’ll see her again.