When I was a teenager and still living home with my parents, I dated this guy Bruce that owned a pet store. One day when I visited Bruce in the shop I noticed a little Siamese kitten that was in a cage without all the other Siamese kittens. The other Siamese kittens were all much larger than this one little kitten that couldn’t stand up and just kept crying and crying, trying to stand, and falling over and over.
I asked Bruce about this little Siamese kitten, and he told me he was sending the kitten back because there was something wrong with it, so it couldn’t be sold. After a big fuss (Bruce strongly did not want to give me this kitten), he finally agreed to let me adopt this little teeny tiny Siamese kitten that I named “Tiffany”.
I brought Tiffany right away to a vet that our family used for our other pets. They were shocked to see such a kitten with such severe defects. Tiffany’s diagnosis was a long name I don’t remember. She had severe neurological problems which affected her balance, sight, and movement and there was suspicion that the mother may have had distemper. The vet told me that a kitten like Tiffany is rare to begin with, and even more so since the mother cats typically will reject a baby that is found to have serious defects.
They even asked if they could study Tiffany to track her progress. Tiffany was not expected to live a long life. Tiffany could see but I was told she saw things in doubles and triples and wouldn’t know where things were in space.
At first she couldn’t eat because she couldn’t sense where the bowl was even if we held her body and put her face by the dish. When she tried to eat she looked like a woodpecker with her head and as she got close to the bowl she would be so excited to reach the food that she would squirm out of our hands and fall into the dish knocking her food or milk all over.
She couldn’t stand even at first so walking was out of the question. But she never stopped trying as we cared for her she kept getting stronger. Eventually Tiffany proved everyone wrong; she learned to eat on her own like a woodpecker, walk on her own like a drunken sailor, and even run like a snake because the back of her body which was weak would sway from side to side.
Of course, since Tiffany couldn’t see where walls were, she lost some of her front teeth when she was playing. Tiffany couldn’t jump so instead she learned how to climb up onto things with her front legs. As strong as Tiffany’s front legs were she never used them to scratch others.
Unlike most cats Tiffany would come to you when you called her. She would answer the door bell with her “friends”, our dogs. Actually Tiffany often acted more like a dog than a cat. When she was happy, which seemed like always, she would purr really loud and lick your face with her stinky rough tongue. People who hated cats actually changed their mind when they met Tiffany. She could win over anyone.
Tiffany wasn’t my child: she was my pet. I didn’t take her because I felt sorry for her, or because I wanted to punish myself, or because I thought I was so tolerant or special I could help her when nobody else could. I took Tiffany out of that pet store because I saw a kitten that wanted and deserved a chance just like the others. And that’s what I gave her.
Tiffany lived into her teens. Like most Siamese cats she never stopped talking. Having Tiffany as a pet was one of the blessings of my life. She taught me and many others much more than what we taught her.
Ironically while Tiffany never stopped talking, years later I became a mom to two children who were late talkers. The lessons Tiffany taught me helped me to help my boys to overcome, and to help others like them through the CHERAB Foundation which I founded.
Who but God is to say what type of life is right and what type of life is wrong? -as if there is such an answer!
By Lisa Fernandez Geng