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Strategies to Survive in Chaos: What I Learned from Oliver the Flying Cat!

By Karin Bellantoni

On a hot summer night, on July 22, 2011, I was having dinner on my community deck on the sixth floor of my building in Lower Manhattan. It’s a beautiful area to relax and share a meal. Nice chairs, tables, loungers and plants. The funny thing is I never sat out there, especially late at night. Not for any reason, just not in my routine.

Let me preface this story by saying I am not particularly a big animal lover. I like certain animals, like people. My cat of 20 years named Sable had died 7 years ago. When friends wanted to replace her I was horrified and remained pet-less for 7 years. A realtor in my building called me regularly with foster pets. “Karin,” she would say, “I have a 17 year old cat with a little kidney disease.” My typical response was, “No, thanks Alexis.” Another time she called me and asked, “How about this beautiful 7 year old dog? He only has seizures once in a while???” And once again, I said, “No, thank you Alexis.” My excuses went on and on. I admire Alexis’s concern for these strays but I travel, work a lot and thought I had no time. Basically I was closed minded.

Back to July 22: I was just finishing a late supper with a friend and at about 11:15 p.m. I heard a crashing noise and horrible scream. It was the kind of noise I frequently heard when I lived in Laguna Beach and a coyote got hold of a cat. I knew there weren’t coyotes walking around downtown New York and I couldn’t imagine where the cat came from. I got up and upon further investigation saw a little ball of white fur with gigantic gold eyes looking up at me and shaking. He was on the very edge of the deck. Another few feet and he would have gone down 6 more floors.

He was so terrified and shocked. I looked up and he could have come from anywhere. My building and the one next to it are 40 stories each and we were on 6. I crawled toward him slowly and eventually, with the help of friends, rescued Oliver.

By 4:00 p.m. of the next day I had brought him to various veterinarians. At the third stop (the first vet wanted me to put him to sleep), the big pet hospital here in NYC, he was diagnosed with a dislocated femur and maybe handicapped for life.

Finally, the owners called. They had seen his poster on their mailbox where my friends had helped tack them up. I was very relieved, although I was getting attached. “Laura,” I said, “Come right away and by the way what floor do you live on?” “Nineteen,” she answered. He had fallen 13 stories. My stomach turned.

Oliver had impressed me. This little 8 pound being was all man. He made it 13 stories down and he never cried once.

What else did he teach me?

  • Being fearless is the only way to survive. When faced with a 13 story drop, cats as I’ve learned, go into a parachute position to protect themselves. They could scream and cry the whole way down, but they’d never end up surviving.

  • Listen to your intuition even when an expert advises you. If I hadn’t, the first vet ...well you get it.

  • Ask for help – When you are in a crisis and you aren’t dealt a good team call in your own. I hate to say it, but my fellow neighbors on the deck that night disappeared and I called on the friends and neighbors I knew would help. They were there in a flash and together we got through it!

  • Don’t judge what you don’t understand – Oliver’s leg dragged for months. A friend suggested Reiki. I am pretty open-minded, but energy work for a cat’s damaged femur? One treatment and he walks totally normal.

  • Things happen for a reason – The owners are a lovely young family with two dogs a young child and family in the hospital. They hadn’t noticed Oliver missing right away and felt bad about that, like maybe they had a bit too much going on.

One week later, when I visited my new friends, we decided that maybe it was best for Oliver to be in a home where he was more or less, the main attraction.

And we are living happily ever after.

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