A short story with a happy ending

Happy now -- Little Guy takes a snooze on my bed

The New York pet is a particular creature — cosseted, primped, pedicured, brushed and tooth-brushed by its owner and transported around town in bags and on bicycle baskets. All this goes some way towards saying that I never expected to own a pet in this city. When a housemate was leaving for California, though, and suggested that she place her cat in my care, I couldn’t say no. (I was also somewhat scared by a neighbour’s reports of  rats.) Thus I became the proud owner of Little Guy (see left).

We had expected the handover to go smoothly — cats are independent after all.  I was away for a week when A. moved out but the plan was that other housemates would feed Little Guy in the meantime. When I returned, however, Little Guy had indeed made a new home, not in the comfortable surroundings of my bedroom, but in a dank, dark spot under the bathtub. He wouldn’t come out; nor would he eat, or drink.

The situation wasn’t helped by the fact that the person who moved into A.’s (and Little Guy’s) former room owned a dog. The new pet, which happened to be a chihuahua, barked and growled and generally made his presence felt.

Window kitty

A week went by during which I stuck my head under the bath regularly whispering, “Little Guy, Little Guy.” Eventually I remembered that he’d loved tuna in the past. When he devoured a spoonful of it, I decided that moist, tinned cat-food was the way to go. To my delight, he crept out from his hiding place and began to eat. This stuff seems to be a sort of crack-cocaine for cats: local felines would gather at my window and peer in soulfully when I dispensed Little Guy’s new food.

He still wasn’t fully well, so I took him to the vet. I’d expected the vet to make reassuring noises and when she frowned, my heart sank. The cat had gone two full weeks without eating or drinking, and was severely dehydrated. Because of his self-starvation and self-dehydration, the vet informed me, Little Guy might have suffered permanent liver damage. (Note to animal lovers — during that entire time he was never more than four feet away from food and water).

My choice was $140 treatment, $350, or deluxe care that I immediately rejected which would have cost upwards of $1,000. I explained to the vet that I didn’t even have health insurance for myself, and hadn’t spent $350 on a doctor’s trip in a long time (she eyed me piteously). I was tempted by the cheapest option, but called A. in California, who offered to pay the $350.

— On a tangent: my uncle has a friend who doesn’t like dogs that much but bought one for his daughter. Shortly after they got him, the dog took sick and was rushed to pet-hospital in the middle of the night, only to die the next day. Even so, the man was presented with a bill for $10,000, which he duly paid. Fortunately he was a lawyer. Pet care in New York is unbelievably pricey, and always prompts me to wonder whether we’d spend that much on humans (we walk past homeless people every day). I almost envied Little Guy: the vet was far kinder to him than doctors have been towards me, even when I had health insurance. —

Now I was traumatized. The cat had been making a slow bid for suicide, in the vet’s opinion because of stress. Chastened, I moved his food and litter box into my bedroom. Up until then, I’d deemed a feline bedfellow unhygienic, but now I allowed him sleep in my bed, which was what he’d always wanted.


Little Guy was on the way to recovery, aided by a rehydrating injection from the vet, but his return to health was not without some hiccups. The crack-cocaine food proved delicious not just to him but to the chihuahua, which snuck into my room one day and gobbled it up, and was sick later that night all over his owner’s precious Bedouin rug …

This story has a happy ending. The liver damage wasn’t permanent after all, and at his last trip to the vet, Little Guy had gained 2lbs. Every night he hops into bed beside me and curls up by my pillow (of course, I still think it’s unhygienic); indeed as I write this, he’s lying on his back on my bed, not a care in the world and limbs indelicately splayed. Even relations with the dog have improved. After an encounter earlier today, Little Guy didn’t retreat as quickly as he should have done, but instead peered at the chihuahua from behind my half-closed door. He’s no longer scared. After all, the dog weighs just 6lbs — Little Guy is more than twice his size.

An indoor cat still behaves like a lion

20 Responses to “A short story with a happy ending”
  1. Oh, what a precious kittycat! He is a credit to you. Does he have health insurance??

  2. Frieda says:

    Good point! No, he doesn’t; nor do I. I’ve added a note about that into the main post …

  3. queenofparks says:

    Ouch! That’s a lot of money even for such a sweet kitty. I love that he looks so innocent and oblivious in the photos yet totally got his own way.

  4. Frieda says:

    We could all take a leaf out of his book.

  5. Brega says:

    I love Little Guy!! He deserves such a happy ending! You should try VPI pet insurance, I think it is around $20-something a month and is really good. Our dog clocked up a bill of around a grand the 1st year – which was all covered! It covers check-ups and shots as well. Loved the story- keep us updated!!

    • Frieda says:

      Huh, $20 a month sounds good! One of his ears is now pinker than it should be and I fear another vet-visit looms. This is a cat which, before I got him, and been to the vet just once or twice in his life.

  6. He is a lovely little guy! So clever by pulling heart-strings and hitting the pocket in an attempt to re-claim his bed – albeit in a different room…don’t feel too manipulated. It’s a win-win situation!

  7. Patrick says:

    10K for an overnight expedition.. incredible.

    I don’t have medical insurance in NZ either, but then in this country there’s a thing called ACC – which is basically state cover for all accidents.. also cuts (down / out) suing.. which is an added bonus.

  8. Trevor says:

    This is great, Frida, well done! I used to think that cats were cool, independent types, too, until I looked after a friend’s recently. I’ve never known any living thing so desperate for affection and company.

    She also really liked cockles for some reason but you’ll probably get funny looks if you ask for cockles in New York. I expect they call them “Roosteralls” or something.

    • Frieda says:

      I don’t really know what cockles are! Oysters, or a type of mussel? Cat’s are indeed needy and strange. To be honest I think there’s something a bit psychotic about them. Now the Little Guy is feeling better, he’s been sitting in silence, eyeing the dog, who is oblivious to him. I fear an attack.

  9. Paul says:

    I cat sat two cats in the East Village once. Owner even asked me to stay over to keep them company.

    I tried to be fair and stop the dominant one being so dominant with food and cuddles, but she was always the one that ended up in bed with me.

  10. Frieda says:

    I don’t get this cat + bed thing at all! It’s new to me. But at least this one will keep me warm through winter.

  11. Trevor says:

    I live in Spain so here cockles are “berberechos”. They still eat stuff that we’ve forgotten about. They’re sort of like mussells that have escaped their shell and got even uglier.

  12. Frieda says:

    I had no idea you’d moved to Spain! I thought you were still in London. (Now I remember you made a trip there — but I thought it was temporary). How fun to find that out via my blog. Do you have a blog?

    I ate oysters once when I was a teenager on a family holiday, and had food-poisoning as a result. I’ve since ignored all shellfish — oysters, cockles, mussels — they all look the same to me.

    • Trevor says:

      No, I don’t have a blog. I used to have a bit of a phobia about writing for nothing – I resent having to think of what to put in birthday cards even – but I’m starting to think maybe I should. There are occasionally things I’d like to say that nobody will pay me for.

      Your blog’s very good anyway!

  13. Frieda says:

    Ah, join the club. I resent writing for free (and don’t really do it, aside from a few internships when I first came over here — the US system is very exploitative in that regard). I feel differently about my own blog, since I have full control over what I say and can talk about exactly what interests me in whatever way I like. I have a fantasy that one day (soon!) I’ll be able to make money from it too.

  14. claire says:

    Get the insurance. My dad has a friend who (owns several cats and dogs in the country here) and has a strict policy that any vet that proposed anything over $300 for care – and the animal gets put down. Somewhere in the middle of both those things is the right approach.

  15. Frieda says:

    I don’t know about insurance … me, first, surely! I’m probably a horrible cat owner — I’m of your dad’s friend’s line of thinking. More seriously, I’m hoping the cat won’t get sick again.

    Another update: Little Guy has ‘issues’ with one of my housemates, who is male and tall — I might have mentioned he doesn’t like heterosexual men? The other day he snuck into this guy’s bedroom and peed on his bed. It was utterly targeted, since his litter box is in my room. He did it deliberately. Is that psycho or what?!

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