The Spaying

Image description: a colour photo of Demi, a young grey and ginger cat with a white front, sitting on purple cloth.

The spaying was necessary after three sets of lockdown kittens, eleven in all. Two of the cats have already been neutered. Demi was the last. Demeter, my baby, who gave birth before she was one year old. My baby, who came to me when she was in labour and made me sit with her all night while she birthed four beautiful kittens. A cat going to the vets to be spayed isn’t a great and momentous event, but it felt that way to me.

The most memorable moments of today were standing in the kitchen knowing Demi was in the vets being spayed, and suddenly having that awful dropping feeling of dread, of fear for her life. Knowing it was just my love for her creating that dread, but afraid it was there for a real reason.

Image description: Demi inside a cat carrier in a car, with her face pressed against the bars of the carrier door and her paw through the bars, curled over the photographer’s hand.

Then waiting in the vets with the powerful scent of something in the air. Diarrhoea, I assumed. A dog, perhaps. The vet coming out into the reception, mask on, apologising for the smell, opening the windows. ‘We’re doing an autopsy,’ she said. Suddenly the smell felt a thousand times worse. ‘Is it the bowels?’ I asked. ‘No, just dead sheep. It’s a sheep,’ she said. And my mind became revulsed. My body wasn’t telling me to retch, but my mind was, the whole time I was waiting there for Demi to come out. I can smell it again now, recounting it, as if it’s here with me. I’ve smelt dead sheep before, but never a smell like that. The stench of real death, the dead insides of a being.

Then, sitting in the car with Demi, her paws coming out through the carrier bars, her wet nose pressing against the bars, pressing into my hand. Her paws wet and warm with sweat. Letting her out while we were parked, while my husband was in the shop, buying me a drink to push away the memory of that awful smell. Her sweetness, her purring, fawning over me, so pleased to be back with me, so loving despite my being the one who took her to this place that gave her pain.

Image description: Demi lying on a grey chair, wearing a cone which obscures her face, feeding her two tabby kittens and one older black kitten.

Then, having her home, and the purring. Letting, against all the rules, her kittens back to her, and the relief I saw in her as she climbed onto her usual chair, her nursing chair, and lay with the kittens, arm protectively over their backs, while they suckled. The resonance of the purring like the sussuration of wind, a reflexive thing that builds on itself in waves. Her happiness at being where she belonged again, with the ones that she loves. 


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