One special cat changed this late-blooming cat lady’s life

My love affair with cats began on a cold, rainy May afternoon in 2008. Before then, I had never really been around cats. Growing up, we always had dogs. I knew nothing about cats except that I thought they didn’t like humans. How wrong I was.

On this dismal Sunday, a friend had been visiting and was making a dash to her car when she stopped in her tracks. I couldn’t imagine what would cause her to hesitate in a downpour. Just then, we spotted the saddest looking little kitten under my car, crying.

That’s the day my friend shoved “Eli” in my arms and with tears said, “Oh, you’ve got to help it, Amy!” The kitten was so sickly, and his eyes were crusted shut. I had no clue what to do but call my neighbor who also rescued animals. In a flash, she was at my door with antibiotics and words of encouragement.

“I don’t know anything about cats,” I whimpered.

“That’s OK, he doesn’t know anything about you,” she smiled.

My mission was to at least see this kitten through the night. I made a makeshift litter box, grabbed warm blankets, a can of tuna and a bowl of water — the extent of my cat supplies.

I cuddled the frightened kitten and wiped his eyes with a warm cloth until he could open them. He looked up at me. I was in love.

The next day, a vet explained that this little guy was infected with both FeLV (feline leukemia) and FIV (feline immunodeficiency virus) — both highly fatal conditions. I’d put that kitten to sleep, he said.

As sick as he was, Eli was also a fighter. Eli deserved a chance, and I was going to give him the best one I could. I switched vets and learned some cats can live a long life with FeLV and FIV.

Over the next 19 months, Eli grew from four to 14 pounds. We fought monthly respiratory infections and found a nutrition supplement to boost his immunity.

Eli treasured the simple joys of each day. He was the friendliest, kindest, most gentle creature I had ever encountered.

Eventually, Eli got a respiratory infection he could not shake.

Right before New Year’s 2009, I had to have my boy put to sleep. I was blinded by my tears as I held him close. He finally found freedom from the sickness ravaging his body. I, on the other hand, had a broken heart, but my love affair with cats was aflame.

It wasn’t long after that I found BoBo, then Gracie, then Grayer, Odilia, Katie and Krusher.

Perhaps I am a late blooming crazy cat lady (with three dogs, too) but I’ll tell ya, if you aren’t certain you like cats, just give one a chance.

They are the most intelligent, underestimated, humorous pets. They’ll steal your heart with the very first head butt.

Amy is the author of “Have Dog Will Blog,” editor of the Central PA Pets magazine and director of the Central PA Pet Expo. She can be contacted at ahanna@altoonamirror.com or by mail: Paws and Re-flect, c/o Amy J. Hanna-Eckenrode, Altoona Mirror, 301 Cayuga Ave., Altoona, PA 16602.

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