Shakti: The Cat that Lived Up to her NamePublished March 11, 2010
I have always suspected that my dad's side of the family carries a dominant cat-loving gene. From all the information I have gathered over the years, I discovered that most of my relatives on his side of family are avid feline lovers, who are deeply devoted to their cats. But there is a downside that is related to our passion about which cat lovers are aware. When a beloved cat becomes ill or goes missing, we feel a depth of concern and sorrow which runs equally deep. So when I received a very distressing email from my cousin Judy several weeks ago in which she told me about the tragedy of her house fire, my heart strongly went out to her. I felt compelled to share the story about the fire and Shakti, my cousin's cat, who was named for the Hindu goddess who represents a powerful female principle. Photo courtesy of Cousin Judy An eleven year-old cat, Shakti was an indoor-outdoor kitty since she was adopted as a kitten from a farm stand near my cousin's summer home. A beautiful little kitty with a very short tail, my cousin immediately fell in love with her. After passing the farm owner's interview, the kitten was hers. Once settled in at home, Shakti had free access to their enclosed back yard through a cat-door. She enjoyed basking in the sun and romping through the grass. In retrospect, perhaps her safe outdoor experience helped to save her life. Last month on a freezing cold night my cousin's home was suddenly destroyed by a fire. My cousin and her husband had friends that opened their home to them but their beloved cat, Shakti was nowhere to be found. As soon as the fire broke out, the smell of the smoke and the confusion and noise of the firefighters frightened her into hiding. My cousin wrote," It was very cold outside. Once the fire was out it was getting dark and we had no hope of finding her. The firefighters, aware of our concern, told us that cats are resilient and survivors and reassured us that we would find her." The friends that took them in lived across town. My cousin's home was empty and boarded up. Their neighbors offered to look out for Shakti, and about two days after the fire they saw her and tried to approach her, but Shakti was much too frightened to let anyone near. My cousin turned to her town's extraordinary Animal Control center. They loaned her a huge cat trap with instructions to place something familiar inside it which would attract Shakti. They placed the trap, filling it with clothing impregnated with her scent. Her neighbors baited the trap with food each night and checked it every morning. But as the days went by with reports, "Sorry, no cat" messages, hope for reuniting was quickly diminishing. A kind worker at Animal Control reiterated, "Don't worry! Cats are resilient. Cats are survivors. It's tough love. When she gets hungry enough she'll go into the trap." And, incredibly, on day 16 after the fire, they received a very welcome early morning call from their neighbor."There's a cat in the trap!" Grabbing a cab and rushing over to the blackened house, there was Shakti meowing fiercely, saying, "What the hell is going on here?" Shakti was whisked back to their temporary home and upon her release from the trap, she began purring wildly, rubbing up against them with body language that could only be translated as sheer joy at being reunited with her family. She found a closet in which she felt safe and occupied it for several days. In a follow up email my cousin wrote, "Everything they say about resilience in cats is true. With lots of love and feeding and petting, she's recovered from her PTSD. She's come out of her closet and taken over a comfortable chair in the living room, where she can see what's going on. She's filling out and her coat is looking much better. In our present apartment she can't go out, but she doesn't seem to mind being an indoor cat now. " One of my cousin's friends, an expert in Hindu mythology commented that brave Shakti has lived up to her name. Shakti's story may give some credence to another myth that "cats have nine lives". Of course they have just one. What do you think? Share your opinion in a comment.