Growing up, our family always had pets, such as a thick-furred light brown dog named Tin Tin, whose breed I did not know, or an unusually stout grey cat that loved to sit by the fireside, minding his own business, seemingly lost in thought most of the time. These two, among others, were family pets and were collectively owned by everyone in the house, from my reclusive grandfather to the youngest member. Some of us doted on them more, some less. But I never had a pet that I could call my own.
A couple of months after I turned twenty-five, I brought home a kitten from Bameri’s house. Then, we had just begun seeing each other and one of the things I discovered about her and her family was that they were cat-lovers. It’s quite amazing how a man will suddenly develop keen interest in some things he hardly gave second thought to before simply because he is in love.
Since the cute little thing was still very young, I kept her in a cardboard box laid with cloth inside my bedroom and would feed her milk a few times a day. Before going to bed each night, I would check on her and bring her back to my bedroom from wherever in the house she was.
About two weeks later, one evening after returning home from work, before I had fully entered the front door of our house, my mom said: “I am so sorry son, your kitten fell into a pan that was half-filled with hot burning oil. While the oil was heating, I was doing something else and only realised too late that the poor thing had foolishly jumped into the pan or slipped into it or what I am not sure.” And then she added, “she probably won’t survive.” I was devastated.
I rushed to my room and found her in the cardboard box where my mom had laid her. She was a mess. Her light fur was burnt and parts of her exposed skin looked roasted. She was hardly moving and once in a while I would hear her faint, feeble whimpering. It was obvious she was in a lot of pain. In fact, I could see that she hardly had any life left in her. Distraught and clueless about what to do to help her, I simply stared at her for a long time, disbelieving the sorry sight before me.
That night, when everyone had gone to sleep and the house had settled into that familiar nocturnal quiet, I sat on the floor of my bedroom next to my dying kitten. I was disappointed that I was about to lose my first personal pet. Once every few minutes, I would look in her direction and there were a few times when she had become completely still, making me think that she was already gone. But at the same time, there was something within that seemed to nudge me towards hope. And then unexpectedly, almost instinctively, I found myself carefully placing my hands on her body as a prayer for healing started to rise from a place somewhere quite deep inside my heart.
It was a prayer mixed with agony, compassion and a faith that seemed to increase every few seconds. It was also a prayer mixed with the free flow of tears, an unashamed expression before the God whom I had only recently come to know. It was a strange new experience. If I had heard someone praying for an animal six months prior, I would have dismissed it as a religious bus that had fallen off a steep cliff. But here I was, doing the very thing I would have laughed at in the past. I don’t remember how long the prayer lasted but when it was over, there was an unexplainable peace, a calm, that seemed to have settled inside.
The first thing I did as I awoke the next morning was to check if she was already dead or somehow still alive. Part of me expected to see a lifeless cat but there was another part that somehow had faith for the impossible. As I peered into the cardboard box, I saw two eyes staring at me, parts of the exposed skin that had healed significantly and a baby cat that was no longer whimpering in pain. I was overjoyed. After giving her some milk, some of which she drank, and wiping her body with a moist cloth, I started to ready myself for the day.
When I returned home from work that evening, I saw that she had further improved. She was even walking slowly in my bedroom. From then on, her healing accelerated and it must have taken only three or four days for her to get back to normal, running around and being her playful self again.
Over time, as I reflect on what had happened, I am certain that what I had witnessed was a miraculous healing. Jesus had certainly touched her and caused her to recover very rapidly. Since then, only in one more occasion did I again see miraculous healing of an animal take place. It was in a high-caste community in a small town in Nepal, during the height of the Maoist insurgency in 2003, when Bameri and I were asked to pray for a sick cow that had stopped producing milk, which recovered overnight after we did. But apart from my cat and the cow in Nepal, I do not remember animals, whether pets or domesticated livestock, being healed as a result of my prayer.
Over the years, Bameri and I and the kids have kept pets at home including a pair of birds that our son Hamesan named Kikwi and Julian at a time when he was six years old. We also had a pair of cats, Coffee with thick, smooth fur that was black like night and Ceaser who seemed to have had an anxiety problem, who didn’t like staying indoors and finally died homeless in the streets of the our city. I remember a puppy we named Tipri, who was not easy to train, who shat all over the house but nevertheless brought us a lot of joy but who, unfortunately, died prematurely and never recovered even though Bameri and I did all we could to save including praying earnestly for its healing.
These days, with the kids away at university and college and the two of us traveling so frequently, we have decided to take a break from having pets in the house. But we look forward to a time, hopefully in a future that is not too far away, when we can bring home some new furry friends, allow them to bring some added joy, give room for some rejection complex as well when the cat is too proud, learn about faithfulness and loyalty from the dog that will never give up on its master.
Photo credit: Kelly Sikkema @ https://unsplash.com/photos/n-OTA3WgL4I