I’m going to put it out there: I suck at hospitality. Even for a modern person, I am not the ideal. I barely remember to bring a gift when I’m staying at someone’s house, or wine to offer with dinner. I don’t like unexpected guests, and sometimes even dread the expected ones, or at least I do in anticipation. Xenia, the relationship between host and guest, is not exemplified by my behavior. In that way, I’m probably a bad Hellenist.
Yesterday, we had a shabby visitor. He first tried to jump into my wife’s car as she left for work, then made an impression on each other person in the household as they went outside. Our first impression, mostly from body language, was that this old cat was female, and extremely friendly. She would go to any human she noticed, and was particularly interested in coming through the door into the house. She made an impression on the two cats who sometimes go out; the adventurous boy regarded her with suspicion, and the cautious girl, our senior queen, was miffed that this interloper had taken her favorite place underneath the bushes, and refused to go outside at all.
This cat had large mats of ungroomed fur, drooled enough to make it obvious there were problems with her teeth, has a ring of displaced fur where a collar had been, and we later discovered she’s been declawed. It was obvious that she was an inside cat, used to human company, and that she couldn’t survive long without help. Whether she had been separated from her humans by accident or design, we couldn’t tell. What we could tell was her incredible affection, particularly a desire to crawl into any lap that held still long enough.
Her reluctance to eat dry food — unadulterated kitty crack, terrible for them but universally accepted — proved to me that this girl had some mouth problems. We gave her wet food, and left the porch open overnight. I don’t think she went in except when someone was there, at least until it started raining. I was set on bringing her to the SPCA, but a small voice encouraged me to call our vet instead. That was a good move, as they have an animals-in-crisis fund, and agreed to check her out and provide some treatment in return for a donation to the fund.
We learned that we were wrong about her gender, and I started switching to “he,” although my sense is that this cat is transgender or intersex, so another pronoun entirely might be more appropriate. His age could not be determined, because the infection in his mouth is bad, so bad that it was the only fuss he made to keep hands away from there. This from a cat that allows people to pet his fur-mats, and walked into a cat carrier simply because I put it down in front of him with the door open. It must really hurt in there. The vet dosed him with antibiotics, dewormer, flea prevention (he didn’t seem to have any, which says something), and a rabies shot.
After talking to my wife, and confirming that we cannot afford another cat, we agreed to have this guy tested for FIV and feline leukemia, because if he has either of those, he’s a danger to our animals and has to be brought to the no-kill shelter. If those come back negative, we might take him in anyway, even though we’re not sure how we will pay the $400-500 it will cost to get his mouth back into shape. I’ve started a GoFundMe campaign and the kitty launched his own Tumblr, and the outpouring of support has been truly heartwarming.
At that point, my wife turned to me and said, “He doesn’t have only one eye, but don’t the gods disguise themselves to test hospitality?” I’m no Heathen, but I understood perfectly. Perhaps there is hope for me embracing xenia, after all.
If he stays, I may name him Somebody, as a subtle homage to the far-traveling Odysseus.