This here is Chicken-leg Al the Wonder Cat. You may remember him from such posts as An Elephant in a Day, Which Inexplicably Disappeared to Some Place Called Canada, Which is Weird Because Clearly it was Mine, Lady, it’s Raining, Would You Let Me IN Already, and A Brand New Thing for Me to Sit On.
A year ago, Al started to get sick. First, the old baseball injury caught up with him. (Due to a kittenhood injury, one of his knees is held together with fake ligaments and pins. That surgery is how he earned his nickname.) That was not unexpected; I’d been told he’d end up with arthritis from that injury, and here we were. There’s medication to help with the pain, and eventually he stopped limping.
Then the seizures started. Snapping, drooling, howling things that swooped in out of nowhere and coursed through him in waves, scaring the everloving crap out of both of us. While we tried to figure out what was going on, and the vet kept extending the Maginot Line of anti-seizure medication, I did what my people do when we’re worried: we’re knitters, therefore we knit. This sick cat needed a bed. Not a spot on my bed; not the Princess-and-the-Pea-like stack of afghans on the couch; he needed his own bed. At least, I needed to make him one, and he would like it when it was done, and that was good enough for both of us.
I started with some plötulopi, the unspun Icelandic wool that Al invariably transforms into plates of felt held together with cat drool. I made a couple of circles, knit a border on to those, and then made a long, straight strip for the side. By some miracle, the whole thing ended up perfectly Al-sized. Now I just had to make the bed appealing enough that he’d actually use it.
The lopi was a good start, now to stuff it with another of Al’s favourites: alpaca fibre. I don’t know what it smells like to him, but that cat will go from ‘Hmm, what’s this?’ to drooling fibre faceplant in seconds whenever that stuff is around. When I hid some in a cupboard, he almost developed opposable thumbs trying to open the door. I emailed my
dealer alpaca supplier, the lovely and generous Maple of North Star Alpacas, to see if she had any seconds — fibre that’s too coarse or unspinnable to sell — that I could buy. When she heard what it was for, Maple stuffed a large mailing envelope as full as it would get (seriously, that thing practically exploded on arrival), and wouldn’t accept anything more than postage costs. Bless that woman. It turned out to be almost enough for the whole bed, so I filled in the rest with some scoured trash from a fleece and some wool batting that I’d decided wasn’t worth spinning, making a bed that smelled like kitteh heaven. I think he approves.
A year later, Al’s still here. The seizures are at bay for now, and he still secures the perimeter every morning, keeping us safe from rodents, other cats, and small dogs. The bed sits on a table in my fibre room, where Al can look out the window or watch me work or sleep the sleep that only cats can sleep. This weekend, I am thankful for veterinary medicine, I am thankful for kind people like Maple, and I am thankful for this cat.