You are trying to read the morning newspaper when your cat begins pawing at your leg. You brush it away, but it jumps on the table and begins meowing. Finally, the cat speaks. What does she say? Write this scene and what she is trying to tell you.
* * *
My head whips over to the source of the sound. Maya has her front paws on the table, her 18-year old black kitty face tilted so she can see around my laptop. Did she just talk?
Definitely her. She blinks like she’s trying to focus; she’s been nearly blind since that infection a few months ago.
“Maya, is that you?”
She corrects the direction she’s looking.
“Human, come. Help.”
“Maya, what? When did you learn to talk? What’s going on?”
I try to pick her up, but she pulls away and limps towards the back door as fast as her arthritic legs will carry her. She slips through the cat flap just as I get there. She hasn’t been this spry in years. By the time I get out the door she’s on the edge of the steps looking back.
I grab for her, but she takes off. I can tell every step she takes is agony. Still she avoids me.
“No touch. Come.”
I follow her through the back yard and into the alley. Morning brings sunshine but no warmth. I feel silly going outside in my bathrobe and slippers, but if Maya thinks this is important enough to break the laws of nature I don’t care.
She looks back to make sure I’m following, but I can see where she’s going. Mr. Pilchard’s yard. He’s the local pet hater, always going on about dogs and cats running loose in the neighbourhood and getting into his garbage. Whatever Maya wants is in his back yard.
As we approach the foot of his back step I smell it. It’s sickly sweet, like candy syrup with an undertone of alcohol. Ethylene glycol. He was caught doing this once before and Princess Isidore, Mary’s cat from up the street, paid with her life. He said the fine and the scorn of his neighbours was worth it to have one less cat around.
There’s a kitten here, about four months old, pure black and scrawny. Its paws are coated in blue syrup and it’s licking them. There’s no collar, so it’s most likely a stray, but no animal deserves the fate it’s playing with. I scoop it up quickly and pull its paws away from its – her – face.
“Come on, Maya!”
I run back to the house. The kitten resists, but I manage to clean the gunk off her. Years of experience helps. A little while later she’s in a box with a towel, a bowl of water, and some of Maya’s cat food. I’m going to have to take her to the vet later. I hope there’s no major damage. I hope Maya doesn’t mind another cat around the house.
Finally I go over to Maya, sleeping peacefully in her cat bed. I reach down and pet her, but she’s cold. She must have died last night sometime.
As I put the blanket over her I hear a tiny feline voice.
A point of clarification for those who don’t know about this particular danger.
Ethylene glycol is an older form of anti-freeze; it is very sweet-smelling and fairly toxic. There have been a number cases of pets and young children drinking it. The poisoning can usually be treated if (a) it’s not too much, and (b) it’s done fairly quickly. Nowadays in North America it has to be sold with a “bittering agent” added, but that doesn’t do much to stop pets from drinking it.