While Sox was over-nighting at the vets, we prepared the laundry room for her recovery by arranging a bed, litter pan, food bowl, water bowl, and whatever else we thought a newly three-legged cat would want. But when we brought Sox home, she didn’t want the room we had prepared; instead, she hobbled to the coat closet in the front hallway where she crawled to a corner against the back wall and laid down.
“I wonder if she blames us?” I said.
“For her cancer?” Karen asked as she kneeled down to reach into the closet and slip a blanket beneath Sox.
“For the amputation of her leg,” I said. “I would blame somebody if I woke up with one less leg and looking like I’d been dragged across a kennel floor.”
“Her fur is going to look messy after not being able to groom herself.,” Karen said. “The vet said we should keep an eye on the surgery site and look for unusual drainage.”
“What is usual drainage?” I asked. “It isn’t like we have experience caring for a cat whose leg and shoulder have been taken off.”
“We’re supposed to get the pain medication in her every four hours,” Karen said, but even that task was more difficult than we expected, for to get a pill down a cat’s throat who isn’t eating would normally involve grasping the cat firmly, but when the entire cat’s body is like a wound, there’s little to grasp onto, and we were not able to get enough pills down Sox’s throat to offer her any meaningful relief.
Sox spent three days in the back of the closet; and for the first time in her life, the touch of our hands did not immediately elicit a purr, and that lack of response was strangely alarming, as if we were on the ocean’s shore and discovered that the waves, crashing in front us, were soundless; there was, in other words, an unsettling nature to Sox’s silence.
“She doesn’t want us to bother her,” I said to Karen after two days, and I started to think that we were going to have a cat permanently in the corner of the coat closet.
But the third day after the surgery, Karen wet a washcloth, retrieved Sox from the closet floor, and arranged her onto her lap. Then, with a touch that looked as soft as the landing of snowflakes, Karen began to clean Sox’s fur. I watched without comment as Karen soundlessly wiped the cloth across Sox who remained silent until, almost imperceptively, she finally begin to purr, having reached that point when she was ready for Karen’s touch.