Copyright © R. Kossover, Avi Kossover, 2001, 2011
Our cat, Flash is a very valued member of the family. Let me be more specific. It cost us $89 to bring him on the El Al flight here. It cost another $89 for the box that held his stuff, a box additional to the twelve we were allowed to bring. It cost $20 for a veterinarian’s examination, $22 for the USDA to certify that he was fit to travel to Israel based on that examination, and $30 for the kennel to carry him on the plane. That totals to $250, which is what some people in the States make in one week. There is also the additional fact that we smuggled him into the Absorption Center and keep him here against its rules. So for me to come to dislike cats takes some doing. Israeli cats have managed the task.
When I learned over the Internet that cats are considered a nuisance here, I had trouble understanding why. Let me share my education with you. The average American street cat is a very lazy animal compared to his Israeli counterpart. He sleeps under spacious cars parked on wide streets. He goes after garbage tossed into dumpsters and feeds languorously on the many mice, rodents and birds that abound in the moist flower laden soil. Not so for the Israeli cat. There may be mice or geckos, but they are hard to get at. The birds are huge and raucous, like hawkers in a market, and just too big for the average cat to handle. The streets are narrow, the cars small, and they rush by at 70 or 80 km/hr on city streets. For those of you who have trouble with metric measurements (like me), 80 km/hr is equivalent to 50 mph and 70 km/hr is equivalent to about 43 mph. The soil here is not rich and soft, but hard, rocky and dry; buildings are made of stone and built into hills. There are steep climbs and tall ladders. I haven’t seen any squirrels in the trees here. In Jerusalem, the cats leap like squirrels. All this in and of itself does not make the Israeli cat a nuisance, just strong and lithe. But when you factor in the lack of window screens in most apartments in the Absorption Center, you have the recipe for the nuisance cat.
Looked at from the viewpoint of a cat, Jerusalem’s apartments are a series of dumpsters piled on top of one other, each one holding food and other delights. Because the cats can leap far distances, if there is an open window, the cat can jump from ledge to ladder to open window and just sort of drop in for a visit. If there is no one home, so much the better. The garbage, if available, becomes a meal opportunity. And if there is cat food laid out for the resident cat, then a feast awaits. We made the mistake of setting out Flash’s cat food in view of a window. It wasn’t entirely our fault. We arrived at 10 at night and could not see a ledge under the window. Our first concern was to lay out the litter for him and some food because he hadn’t eaten or drunk anything for over 20 hours. Also, we knew nothing about the abilities of the Zionist wonder cats living in the country. We assumed that the felines at the dumpsters were like the American alley cats and did not give them a second thought. One cat, though, gave us a second thought and checked out the window
where she could see heaven laid out in front of her eyes, there for the taking.
Once, I saw her in the apartment and I chased her out. It did not dawn on me (or the rest of us) at all that the sight of the Science Diet was like a magnet guaranteed to draw in a hungry street cat. After several days of chasing her out the apartment and worrying about what she might do to Flash, it finally dawned on us that her interest had nothing to do with Flash at all but everything to do with his food, which we saw her eating.
So we moved the food and water to the kids’ bedroom where it was not within view of a window. For two days we saw nothing of the black and white cat stalking Flash’s food dish. Then a few nights ago, Avi reported that a cat jumped on him and was pawing his shirt. He petted the cat, thinking it was Flash and then opened his eyes and saw that it was the stray. This is his account of the incident.
I slapped the cat across the face. The cat fell on the floor, landing on her feet and meowed loudly. I ran after her into the living room (where Adina and I sleep) and it jumped out of the bedside window. I went back to sleep but before I fell asleep I saw the cat jump in the living room window” (which Avi can see from his window). “I ran into the living room and saw the cat chasing a moth. I threw one of dad’s slippers at it. The cat jumped, startled, looked back at me and jumped out the bedside window. A few minutes later, I saw the cat’s head and front paws in the bedside window, preparing to jump, but this time I was prepared for it. In my hand, I had a hunk of dried mozzarella cheese and some bubble wrap. When I saw the cat, I threw the hunk of cheese in the middle of the floor. The cat jumped in and sniffed the cheese. As she put her mouth over the cheese, I threw the bubble wrap on the cat. Before she knew had happened I scooped her up and pushed her outside the bedside window onto the deck and she didn’t come back that week.
The next day, when returning from shopping, I felt like hissing at the cat, who was sitting at her usual haunt near the garbage dumpster.
So consider the following. The night before last one of the other residents of the Merkaz Klita, Moshe, stopped by to tell us that a small cat was laying injured on the sidewalk near a school. He asked me for the number of a veterinarian which I gave him readily. About ten minutes later Moshe returned telling me that all the veterinarians he had called except one refused to answer the phone, and that the one who had lived all the way in Beit haKerem, which is all the way across town toward the west, a cab ride away. He asked if I could come with him to Beit haKerem. Immediately, Avi wanted to come along. I shrugged my shoulders, put my shoes on and we went down to find the cat.
When we got to the cat she was laying on the ground, her left leg obviously out of place I told Avi to get a couple of towels to wrap the cat in. When he returned a few minutes later, he set the towels on either side of the cat and spoke gently to it. Once the cat seemed convinced that Avi meant her no harm, she started to meow very loud with all her soul, her pain coming out very clear. I went off to hail a cab while Moshe looked for a box to put the cat in. A few minutes later, all was ready. All that was lacking was the cabbie. By the time one came, the cat was very weak and some boys had told us she had been bitten by a dog.
It was 11:30 at night by the tine the cab got to Beit haKerem. The vet lived at the end of a road called Sha’ár haGai. He was outside waiting for us. Moshe laid a hundred shekel note on the cup holder and the vet told the cabbie to wait. I waited with the cabbie. I could see Avi, Moshe and the vet in the vet’s house. After some minutes, Moshe went outside with Avi, I think to explain to him that the vet had to put the cat the sleep.
Some minutes after that, the vet gave the cat a shot so that it wouldn’t suffer any more. Avi and Moshe came back without the cat, both silent. Avi started to cry. There were tears on Moshe’s face. I told Avi that he had done a good deed, a mitzvah, comforting a cat so that it would not die abandoned in the street. I told him this was a mitzvah of a high order – bringing comfort to the dying. I don’t think it consoled him any, but I was very proud of my youngest boy that night.
It was almost one in the morning when we returned to the Merkaz Klita. I had to get up early and go to the doctor by nine a.m., the day before Yom Kippur.
Labels: Family History