I don’t usually stop at a gas station past 9pm. My brother got robbed while getting gas some months ago and I’ve been paranoid of meeting the same fate (to be fair, it was supremely stupid of him to stop for gas at 3am when the gas station was completely deserted).
But on that one Saturday night, at 11pm, I was running nearly empty, and I wasn’t sure if I would be going out at all the next day. So when I saw that the Shell station just around the corner from my house was still crowded at that hour, I figured it would be safe enough to make a pitstop on my way home.
To this day I’m still not sure how I was able to hear it over the sound of so many cars, voices and the radio blaring over the loudspeakers at the gas station. But heard it I did: the squeakiest (and loudest) little mew. And as I looked around me, I saw, peeking from under the aluminum wall panels that separated the gas station from the enormous electricity plant next to it, a tiny little white face.
As soon as I had filled my tank, I drove across the station and parked as close as I could to the wall, where this little kitten was squeezing out from under the wall. She started stumbling about on the grass and mewing so loudly that I felt immensely sorry for her, so I ran into the station’s convenience store to buy some crackers to feed her with. But being a kitten and unaccustomed to normal food, she could barely eat any of it, so I did the only thing that popped into my head at that moment.
I took her.
I picked her up and dropped her into one of the eco-friendly bags I keep in my car, zoomed home to put down my shopping, and took her to the 24-hour animal hospital where I had first brought Offa and Costa when I suspected they’d ingested rat poison. The vet dewormed and defleaed her, and told me to keep her in quarantine for a week before bringing her for her vaccinations. So I brought her home and shut her in one of the downstairs bathrooms for a week, which I soon realized may have been a vast improvement from the wilderness, but also frustrating because she couldn’t run around as she pleased.
In all that time, Offa and Costa moved about the house in suppressed curiosity; they knew there was another feline being in the house, they could smell her, but they couldn’t see her so they didn’t bother themselves about it as much. Meanwhile, I paid enough attention to them that they knew they would always come first with me, even if a new kitten joined us and I had to take care of her. I was terrified that she would have some form of disease that Offa, with his FIV, would catch, and I wondered how I was going to find someone to take this new kitten in if I couldn’t keep her.
Finally, a week later, I brought her to the vet, where she got the shock of her life in the form of a needle to her thigh, and had her blood taken to test for FIV, FELV and FIP. Fortunately — and almost ironically, given that she was a stray — her blood work came back normal, and Allegra came home with me.
Yes, I named her Allegra. She has spent the past 11 days becoming acquainted with the house and the other two cats, and she seems to have settled in relatively well. She has an enormous amount of energy that I’m not used to seeing anymore, now that Offa and Costa have grown up, but when she’s calm she’s the sweetest little kitten to be around. I’m also trying to get used to having a female cat in the house now, as I’ve only ever had males. I’m in a constant state of trepidation that she may go into heat earlier than the average cat and I would miss my window to have her spayed before she ever gets the chance to become the village bicycle. It would be the absolute height of irony for all the neighborhood tomcats to come squalling outside my door, while my own two tomcats haven’t the slightest inkling of what’s going on.
Allegra’s chances of contracting FIV are ever present, as she has already begun sharing food and water with Offa and Costa, but I’ll deal with that if or when the time comes. Until then, I will take care of her as best as I can and keep her happy. And if there were ever a need for more proof that keeping cats is just like raising children, I have it: Allegra officiated her first night out of quarantine by wetting the bed. My bed.