His gray paws hit the floor and it sounds like he’s galloping down the hall, all four pounds of him. He comes sliding around the corner and bounces off the wall – literally. He shakes his head a little, looks up at me, and then continues on, leaping through the air to pounce on Nox, the cat who shares this space and is nearly three times his size. With paws wrapped around Nox’s neck, it looks as if he’s trying to ride a mechanical bull.
He’s Corville, our COVID cat. As my children aptly describe him – “he’s crazy.”
I never expected to be a multi-cat household. Nox has been with us for over two years, and although he is handsome, with long black fur and striking green eyes, he is the epitome of aloof. He wants to be wherever we are, but rarely provides entertainment or affection. So, after being stuck at home for a couple of months due to the pandemic, I found myself considering the kids’ request for another feline companion. My daughter, Holly, was the one who kept asking, and the one who pleaded that we get a kitten and she get naming rights. She was willing to pay the rescue fees and even promised to clean the litter box. I knew the latter wouldn’t stick. Holly’s responsible, but she’s also 13 and words like “always” and “forever” are used frequently and loosely. But the other children agreed, so we began our online search and in just a few days, we found Corville through a local rescue.
The plan was for Corville to live in Holly’s room for the first few weeks so we could slowly introduce him to Nox. Once we knew the two of them could peacefully live together, we’d give him free rein of the house. During the first two weeks, Corville provided more affection and entertainment than we ever expected. He’d let anyone hold him, and frequently fell asleep in our arms or on our chests or laps. And he’d play for hours, chasing shadows, attacking feet, leaping three feet vertically up the wall to capture light from a laser pointer.
But this was a 2020 cat, born in the middle of a pandemic, and in order to be true to the nature of the year, things could not be easy or continue as expected. Corville was still acting the same – like a typical toddler full of boundless energy until passing out from exhaustion – but he was now struggling to poop and, instead of using the litter box, was “leaking” everywhere. Holly’s room had gone from the place where everyone gathered to play with the kitten to a war zone, where we moved carefully for fear of stepping on a landmine and the landscape was riddled with the aftermath of explosions. Just as 2020 turned into a total shitshow, so did the situation in my house. I was constantly cleaning up after Corville and giving multiple kitty baths a day. But as much as he didn’t enjoy the experience, he cooperated and spent hours afterward swaddled in a towel sleeping in our arms. He was literally full of shit and yet he never stopped playing or cuddling.
Within the first four weeks, Corville cost me over $1,000. Holly and I made multiple trips to the vet, waiting for him to be examined while we sat in the car (because in times of COVID, that’s what you do). After x-rays, bloodwork and an enema, the doctor was finally able to diagnose him with something called mega-colon. As Holly and I sat in the car talking to the vet over the phone, she explained the condition – but pronounced it “mega-co-lawn.” At first, we didn’t quite know what she was talking about, but when she said that his small intestine looked fine, and those words rhymed, we understood. We stifled our giggles and then spent the car ride home laughing as we tried to mispronounce other words with the emphasis on the wrong syllable. It provided some levity to a discouraging diagnosis.
Basically, mega-colon means that Corville’s colon gets bigger and wider as it fills up, but lacks the motility to push anything out. The condition isn’t common, and the vet had never seen it in a kitten before. But once diagnosed, we were at least able to move to the treatment phase – an expensive prescription diet and medication every eight hours. In other times, I might not have agreed to this. But these weren’t normal times, and this was no normal cat. Even the vet and technicians called him special. He was gentle and playful and forgiving and rambunctious – and you’d have no idea just how sick he was. The vet mentioned more than once how lucky he was to have found us. That any other family may have returned him to the rescue and he would have inevitably been euthanized.
It’s now been a few months since we got the condition under control. Holly’s room has been repainted, steam-cleaned and sanitized. Corville and Nox are co-existing. I have phone alarms set to remind me to feed Corville small meals throughout the day and give him his stool softener. In some ways it seems ridiculous to go through all of this for a cat who isn’t even six months old. But in reality, it makes life scheduled and predictable. Two things we could all use more of in 2020.
Corville actually has many names. To Holly, he’s just Corville, named after an invisible space cat from a silly lip-sync video on YouTube. To my husband, he’s Cor-Cor, for Corville the Coronavirus cat. Sometimes we fondly refer to him as Co-lon, making sure to emphasize the last syllable. For weeks I called him Shitty Kitty. But regardless of his name, he is the cat that has brought smiles to my children’s faces during a difficult time. He has given Holly comfort and companionship during a time of isolation and uncertainty. And provided hours of laughter at his crazy antics. He has reminded me of life with a toddler as I pull him out of the dishwasher and dryer and teach him that ice is cold and the oven is hot. He is a distraction from the uncertain world where everything seems upside down, reminding us to find humor and joy in curiosity, and that it’s possible to be loving and fun, even when you’re in a shitty situation.