“Hi, may I speak to Mike please?”
“Oh, hi. Someone else called earlier… I… I just ran over a cat.”
Perhaps a little background is in order.
It was late, after church. My flatmate had asked me to buy some groceries on the way back, I guess it was around about half-past 10.
I had just managed to de-fog the windscreen and had turned down a familiar stretch of road: finally, almost home.
Suddenly, I see a streak of pure white flash in front of the car. Before I can even register what this might mean I hear a sickening thud. With a shock I realise what I have done.
“Oh Lord Jesus, no, please God, no.” I say to myself over and over as I drive a block and pull over into a deserted side street.
As though intentionally mocking me, my phone starts ringing. It’s my mother calling for her weekly catch-up. We talk a little and I manage to keep my anxiety out of my voice. As soon as she’s off the line, I throw down the phone, get out and look at the car.
Now this may seem cold-hearted to you, but I had visions of bloody entrails covering the wheels and bits of flesh trailing behind me. As it was, the wheel and front of the car were completely clean. No sign that anything living had ever been in contact with it.
What to do, what to do? Forget it? Keep on driving? No. I have always been revolted by hit & runs. The least you can do is check to see if it’s dead, maybe find an owner, show some remorse.
So, I turn around and head for the scene. “Please God, let it be gone, or let it be a rabbit.” Rabbits are not well liked in New Zealand. If it was a rabbit, at least I would know its passing had been of some benefit to our fragile ecosystem.
I pulled up opposite the little white body and I can see it’s a cat. I walk up closer and peer down, expecting to see a gruesome scene, with viscera and bone ground into the tarmac.
Nothing, the cat is miraculously whole: beautiful, white with patches of black. It’s probably important at this point for me to point out that I love cats. I can’t have one of my own because my flat-mate is allergic, but I have one in Hamilton who I visit with the rest of my family. My immediate desire was to pick him up and give him a cuddle.
“Oh… kitty!” I lamented. I put my hand on his soft fur. Completely unbroken. I couldn’t feel breathing. Could I feel a pulse or was that just the blood in my own veins?
I picked him up and moved him to the side of the road. His body was very limp and felt fragile. I was afraid of breaking him. I laid a hand on him and said a little prayer. Yes, I know, I am both sentimental and religious.
I stroked him a few times tearfully and got into the car. What was I going to do? Who should I speak to? I needed answers. I needed Google.
I got home and explained the situation to my flatmate. I called my family to let them know what had happened and asked them to look up vets. I then started looking for after-hours vets myself. I spoke to one young lady on the North Shore and she gave me the addresses of all three after-hours vets in Auckland. None of them anywhere near where I live.
My mother called back with the number to the SPCA and that’s where we pick up my conversation with Mike.
“I… I didn’t see any breathing, I mean, what’s the process? Is it like people? Is there a Golden Hour?” I asked hopefully “what are the chances that it’s survived”
“Well, it’s probably passed on, to be honest” Mike responded kindly. Cats normally bounce back pretty quickly so if it didn’t get up when you checked it, it’s probably dead.
So, I confirmed the phone number of the after hours clinic nearest to me and called them.
“Hi, I just hit a cat and I would like to bring it in, please. I don’t know if it’s alive but I didn’t see any breathing.”
“Is this your cat?”
“No, no, not mine”
“Whose cat is it?”
“I don’t know I hit it, can I bring it in? What’s your address?”
I confirmed the address (over half an hour’s drive on the motorway) and ran out the door, forgetting the address on the table in the process, of course.
I came upon the scene again. This time I checked for breathing more closely, and for a collar. No collar, but he looked too well fed to be a stray. I lifted the snowy-white cat gently and put him into the boot on some news-paper. He felt so real, I didn’t want to believe he was dead. I took a single snapshot of him (which I will upload later) and closed the boot. I turned quickly to watch as a car passed by. I felt like a murderer with my victim in the boot, about to tip them into some river somewhere.
As it was, I headed for the after-hours vet. There were road-works on so I had to take a detour. I started getting tearful at this point. As though in sympathy with my emotions it started raining heavily and I was so glad I had taken him from the side of the road. I couldn’t stand the thought of his corpse becoming sodden there on the grassy verge.
Thankfully the address of the place was etched into my memory. I found it easily and buzzed impatiently at the buzzer until a middle-aged gentleman appeared.
“How are you tonight, sir?”
“Good, thanks… Uh, I mean, no, actually quite bad… You see, I called earlier. I hit a cat.”
“Aah, yes. Ok, let’s see it.”
As I opened the boot he looked at me quizzically.
“Is it in a box?”
“No, no” I replied quickly. “It’s all perfectly intact.”
He shook his head
“No, you see, in situations like this, you see, they sometimes jump straight out of the boot.”
Well, I would have really liked that to happen.
We opened the boot and there he was, still prone on the newspaper. “Oh kitty!” I exclaimed again.
“Definitely gone I’m afraid” the vet said confidently as he picked the cat up by the scruff of his neck. He took the cat inside and took down some details about where I’d found him. “My, you’ve come a long way” he exclaimed. “Well, there’s only three of you in Auckland”.
“Ok, so what happens now, what’s the process?” I asked. I was quite willing to front up for a kitty funeral if his family couldn’t be found.
“We’ll take it from here. Looks like a stray, but if anyone calls, we have the details”
I looked at him incredulously, an unspoken question forming in my mouth.
“We cremate them” he answered quickly.
“Oh. Ok then.” I turned to leave.
“Thank you for bringing him in, it was very kind of you.”
“Yeah, sure.” My voice broke and I got back into the car.
I was really tearful driving home. I kept going over the scenario. I had probably been driving about 55km/h surely no more than 60. It was standard fare for that stretch of road. But it was night and had been raining, the fog on the windscreen had distracted me for a while but I had cleared it.
A cross. I needed to put a cross on the side of the road. It’s a tradition here in New Zealand with road accident victims.
I came once again to the place about 20 minutes later. I stood at the curb for a while. There was no sign that anything out of the ordinary had happened.
I took a little cross out of my pocket. It was Palm Sunday and part of the church service had been to bless these little palm crosses (a ritual that I personally find unnecessary but hey, it’s religion, it doesn’t have to make sense).
I placed the cross where cat had been lying and drove away. This is not a night I will very easily forget.