LIVING WITH ADDICTION: ONE CAT’S STORY

Nikita was a child of the streets.   No one knows how long she’d been surviving out there on her own– sleeping in makeshift shelters, rummaging through garbage cans for food– before the foster system took her in.  She was living at a group facility when  we first met.

There were younger kittens at the SPCA, there were even cuter kittens.  But the moment Nikita’s green eyes surveyed me,  we connected.   She came home to my little red house as soon as the paperwork could be completed.

Nikita’s transition from stray to house cat was a bit shaky at first.  Suspicious, cautious, protective of her personal space, she was slow to accept ear scratches and chin rubs.  In time, however, the luxuries of regular meals and piles of laundry just waiting to be tunnelled through brought out the purr that had long been suppressed.

But Nikita’s story has a dark side, and its name is catnip.

I blame myself.  After all, I was the one who gave Nikita her first catnip mouse.  It seemed harmless enough–I mean, what cat doesn’t have a catnip mouse?  How was I to know that, 13 year later, she would have nippy mice stashed all over the house, that she would spend much of her day completely nip-faced before sleeping it off, bloated and belly-up, across my bed?

I’ve seen the concerned looks from visitors when, during parties, Nikita wanders into the living room with her eyes wide as saucers and her mouth stuffed full of nippy mouse.  She’s loud too; caterwauling repeatedly until all other conversation ceases.  Then she opens her mouth and lets the toy plop to the floor before wandering out again, most likely to the kitchen to satisfy her munchies with a few bits of cat kibble.   Sometimes that’s as far as she gets, and we’ll find her collapsed and snoring right there near the dinner bowl.

In the wee hours of this morning, I was awakened by Nikita’s now-familiar scavenging.  She’d climbed to the top of my dresser to sort through a pile of well-worn nippies.  Finding just the right one, she jumped down with a heavy bounce on our bed, and carried her stash through the house, yowling all the way.  All sleep activity was disrupted while she got her nip on, and only resumed once she was sufficiently blazed and mellow.

Does it matter?  Doesn’t a cat of her advanced years deserve to recreate as she pleases?  Since her days on the street, Nikita has earned her place in the household by mousing, coughing up hairballs, shedding profusely, breaking in three subsequent back-up cats, and making sure every last bit of ice cream is cleaned from my bowl.  What more could I ask?

Absolutely nothing.  Nikita can burn one down as often as she likes, and I’ll say no more. 

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