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My Pandemic Cat Had a Secret

I gaped and gaped, wondering if I was still dreaming. The longer I looked, the more hilariously terrible sense it made. Jinora hadn’t been sick, or obese, or dying. She was pregnant, and she had given birth, multiple times, because now there were real live kittens here. In my apartment. Where I was trapped for the foreseeable future.

The rest of the day passed in a blur of hysterical phone calls and emails (I fired her vet immediately), tabs upon tabs of research and a panicked trip to my nearby pet store. I paced and fretted and cleaned as quietly as I possibly could, stopping every so often to stare at my newest charges, to joyfully scold Jinora for withholding such an explosive secret.

Finally, I moved the couch away from the wall, inch by careful inch, so I could understand what was actually happening here. And I counted. Six. There were six kittens, all alive, all latched and eating well. Six new animals inhabiting my apartment in the midst of a pandemic that seemed to have no end. I’d been scraping at my yellow wallpaper for weeks, but I suddenly felt the walls closing in around me in a wholly new and fascinating way.

I watched Jinora nurse and stroked behind her ears, feeling foolish and sentimental as tears sprang to my eyes, caught in the grips of overwhelming nostalgia. “It’s sweet, but a little agonizing, isn’t it?” I murmured to her, as the kittens held her hostage, keeping her still, beholden only to their need for sustenance and sleep. I remembered being sprawled across the very couch they took refuge beneath, gazing listlessly at the ceiling, the walls, the quietly droning television, holding my tiny daughter to my chest as she drank and drank and drank and slept and woke up and drank again.

Aside from the process of giving birth, I’ve never felt more like an animal, stripped down to my basest biological parts, sweating and aching and grotesquely mammalian. I resented the midsummer heat, I resented my partner’s freedom to sit and stand and walk around as he pleased, I resented my own resentment; feeling monstrous for begrudging my darling daughter anything at all, with her so small, fragile and helpless. I felt elemental, powerful. I felt weak and scared.

My daughter returned the following day, led inside and roundly hushed by her dad, who warned her that the surprise waiting for her demanded silence, and a very gentle touch. I couldn’t help but marvel at her as she encountered the newborns. My beautiful daughter, whose baby fat solidifies into lankiness a bit more each day, her smile as blazing and sharp as her wit.

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