It is my belief that being raised among animals is healthy for children. Therefore, years ago when my son came home from school with a dog in his arms and a pleading look in his eyes I did not say no. Since then I have opened my home to a number of pets, more dogs, once a donkey, and for short periods of time chickens, rabbits, gerbils, and fish. One animal I refuse to adopt, though, is a cat. My maiden name may be Katz, but that is an abbreviation for Holy Cohen and has nothing to do with the sly, sneaky animal.
I have never liked cats and part of the reason, I am sure, is because I am allergic to them. I forbid my children to feed stray kittens because, as everyone knows, once they get a saucer of milk they are as good as adopted. Unfortunately, my next-door neighbors did not share my view. When she was little, their daughter delighted in offering food to a vagrant cat. That cat gave birth to two kittens and those three feline creatures considered our yard as much their home as it was ours.
That did not bother my youngest son who loved all animals. Even I have to admit the kittens were cute until one of them bit my son. Now, as I have written before, (see How I Took on the Israeli Army and Won, April 21, 2011) “When a cat bites there is the immediate suspicion of rabies. If the cat is someone's pet or can be caught, it is locked up for ten days to check for signs of the deadly disease.” So we decided the prudent thing to do would be to catch the kitten, put it in a box, and keep an eye on it for ten days. There was a problem, though. The two kittens looked alike so we had to put both of them in the box with some milk and cat food. We thought we had everything under control until that same evening one of the kittens died. Could it have died from rabies?!?
It was close to ten o’clock on a Thursday night and we had had visions of an early night so we could get up Friday morning with lots of energy to prepare for Shabbat. The kitten’s death ruined our plans. Instead of a nice shower and comfortable bed my husband packed up the dead kitten and took off for Beit Dagan, where the national rabies institute is located. Being a supportive wife I accompanied him
Beit Dagan was over an hour drive away and we did not have air-conditioning in our car. A heat wave was coming in and it was not a particularly pleasant ride. By the time we arrived there was one lone clerk working. He accepted our corpse, took down our information, and promised to call if there was any sign of rabies.
Although we did not get an early start the following day we managed to prepare a nice Shabbat. Despite the heat wave, everything was quite pleasant. That was until our youngest son announced that the second kitten had also died. With our ninety-plus degree temperature we were afraid it would decompose before we could get it to Beit Dagan when Shabbat was over. My husband made an executive decision. He put the dead kitten in a bag and stuffed it in the freezer. The thought of the dead animal totally repulsed me and I did not open the freezer for anything, not even an ice cube, for the rest of Shabbat.
Our oldest son came to the rescue. He needed to be in the area of Beit Dagan the following morning and if we would loan him the car he would be happy to deliver our second corpse. Although I wanted that animal out of my freezer as soon as possible it did make sense to wait until the morning.
It was early when my son loaded up the car, said good-bye, and took off. I gave a sigh of relief as he left. However, ten minutes later he was back, with the bag from the freezer and a sheepish smile.
“I took the wrong bag,” he told me. “This is a bag of fried chicken! Boy, am I glad I looked before I got on the highway.”
He was not nearly as glad as I was. I can’t begin to imagine what would have happened if I had taken out what I thought was a bag of fried chicken for dinner only to find a dead kitten. Yuck!!!!!
We never heard from the rabies institute and, Baruch HaShem, my youngest son was fine. I still believe it is healthy for children to grow up around animals. However, I have decided there need to be some serious guidelines for dealing with those animals. We are still working on the guidelines.