By Lamat R. Hasan
Six months later, Beta is a superstar. He confidently walks across the house. All he has to do is stand at doors and meow to be let in
A friend told me about Beta in December.
Beta had been mauled by dogs, lost one eye and had a broken jaw. The person who had apparently rescued him a few days earlier had her hands full because she had a dog and also had to travel. December, you see!
I really had no place for Beta. There were nearly 20 cats at home, and I had just taken in two more cats two weeks earlier. Motu, our oldest cat, was critical and the vet visits were taking up a lot of time.
My heart did melt when I heard about Beta's condition, but I resisted the urge to commit. I told the lady who was fostering him to give me some time. But her calls were incessant and then one day mostly because I couldn't take her sob stories anymore I told her to drop Beta home.
A black cat with one eye I knew he stood no chance.
She came by in no time, with her husband, who dumped the carrier outside my house and vanished. The lady and I dragged the carrier inside, she handed me Beta's eye drops, indulged in small talks and vanished never bothering to check back on his progress.
The story about Beta's fantastical rescue sounded a little weird to my journalistic mind. A cat found sitting in the middle of the road in the middle of the night and rescued by a random stranger the lady asked a passer-by to catch Beta.
Beta was taken to a vet who refused to keep him for more than two weeks, and then he found his way into the lady's home who was in a rush to give him away.
Beta became my bedroom cat. He had a deep wound right under his ear, blood dripping from one eye, and the broken jaw almost hanging. He didn't seem friendly and I let him be in the carrier till he was ready to explore the house.
By day three, it was obvious that Beta was a blind cat. He could not see at all, a plausible reason why he got mauled by the dogs. I wondered if the vet treating Beta had been mauled by dogs too.
Beta's experience with humans hadn't been good. He would shudder when touched. So I decided to not touch him. I left him alone in the room and made sure he remained warm. I would come in and talk to him on and off, give him food, his medicines, and disappear. He would not eat until he was sure I was gone.
The only good thing going was that I did not have to worry about him not eating. He loved his food and quickly learnt to sniff his way around the food bowls.
A month later, Beta I started calling him that and now the name has stuck and I became friends. I was still not allowed to touch him though. He knew my smell and would come out to eat when I called out to him. If anyone else came into the room, he would hide. By now he had figured out where the litter box was, where the food bowls were, and where his bed was.
Two months later, when I would walk into the room with food, Beta would beat me to the spot where the food bowls are kept. And would excitedly reach the bedroom door before I could shut it. So I would stay and sit there till he polished off his meals.
By now he was looking much better, the cut under his ear had dried up, his jaw didn't hang anymore, his black coat was shining, he had been vaccinated, and also neutered.
Everything was going fine except that he still had not been integrated with the other cats.
By the third month, Beta had had enough of the bedroom and wanted to step out and explore. He would sit by the door and meow loudly. This had me worried as the other cats, some of whom are quite territorial, would not accept him.
I would escort him out of the bedroom once in a while and make sure he was not attacked. One day Beta surprised me by exploring the entire house as I stood guard. He even got up on the settee and the dining table it's another matter he didn't know how to get down. He started meowing loudly, as he had learnt to signal trouble. I wore a pair of leather gloves and got him down.
Six months later, Beta is a superstar. He confidently walks across the house. All he has to do is stand at doors and meow to be let in.
Of late, he doesn't like to sleep in the bedroom he wants to be with the other cats. The strange thing is none of the cats have tried to harm him, nor have the dogs. It's always Beta who tries to hit everyone he sort of punches in the air if he sniffs a cat in his way. The other cats and dogs have just learnt to make way for him.
Beta has his favourites though Snow, the Persian cat, for one. He lets her sniff him, he even lets her punch him. He seems to have taken a liking to a new kitten too and is quite patient with her when she plays with his tail.
Beta has come a long way for a cat who wasn't born blind. He has achieved all his milestones. Now, I am the one lagging with the leather gloves.