“So the man gave names to all the livestock, the birds of the air and all the beasts of the field.” (Genesis 2:20)

We’ve got a cat named ‘Baby’.

Let me back up. We’ve got four cats, six dogs, somewhere around fifty fish (the kind you feed, not the kind that feed you), and we’re house-parents to a horse.

‘Baby’ is the kitten of a stray who showed up at our house about twelve years ago to give birth to her first litter. We found homes for all the kittens but one. The stray became ‘momma cat’. The kitten, by default, we named ‘baby cat’. We have two more recent arrivals down at the barn. They were dropped off by someone who apparently didn’t mind the idea of allowing cats to reproduce, but wasn’t keen on taking responsibility for the product. The gray kitten is ‘gray kitty’; the black kitten is ‘black kitty.’ Now you’re getting the drift of our naming system.

Most of our animals are strays. Let me clarify; they’re not really strays, they didn’t wander away from home – they’re drop offs. Our property is far enough off the beaten path to be ‘attractive’ as a one way bus stop for unwanted pets. So their arrival doesn’t reflect the animals so much as their previous owners. Because we know its probable fate Elaine and I can’t ignore a drop-off. We can’t let it die of starvation or predation (the two choices available to strays out here), so we take it in, feed it and, usually, doctor it. Once the animal is reasonably healthy, we can’t find it in ourselves to take it to the Animal Shelter (that lottery ticket doesn’t usually pay off for the animal).

And that’s how ‘Baby’ and most of the rest came to live with us. She, along with ‘momma cat’, is a deck cat. That’s an ‘outdoors only’ cat; she can roam where she wants but usually hangs out on the deck. It’s a step up from a barn cat, but definitely not house cat status. It’s a casual relationship but we’re all okay it.

Baby got sick a few weeks ago. She started dropping weight dramatically and by the time we figured that her condition was beyond a home remedy she had one paw in place cats don’t come back from. I took her to the vet and the prognosis wasn’t good. Her liver had pretty much shut down and her own body fluids were poisoning her. At this point, we had two options; a practical one and an expensive one. And the expensive one was a gamble at best.

We had to make a decision. This is a cat we’re talking about … technically, a stray cat. At twelve years, she’s a pretty old ‘baby’; it’s not like she’s in the prime of her life. And we’re not on the Fortune 500 list of America’s richest couples; we had already dropped a significant chunk of change at the vet’s just finding out what was wrong. Option A would be practical (cheap) and humane. Option B would be expensive and, as the vet put it, “like a roll at the tables in Vegas” – a gamble at best.

We didn’t (don’t) have the money to spend on ‘Cat ICU’ without some pretty heavy consideration. I asked God to give us wisdom about what to do. Elaine asked God to heal the cat. That’s Elaine– if you’re going to ask God for something, you might as well ask Him for what you really want instead of what you’re willing to settle for. He’s God; healing a cat isn’t a huge request. She teaches me some amazing lessons.

This was one sick cat. There was a pretty good chance it wouldn’t make it through the night. By the next morning, I thought, our decision might be made for us. But the sun came up and the cat was sitting on the deck. Not well … not any worse … but not dead. We gave it another day. The next morning the cat was sitting on the deck. Not well … not any worse … but not dead. Time to make a decision.

I called the vet. “Look,” I said, “This is a twelve year old cat – a deck cat. If the cat is going to die and there’s nothing we can do about it, I’m okay with that. But if the cat’s going to die because of what we didn’t do, then I’m not okay with that. If the cat’s still fighting, I’m not going to throw in the towel just yet.” We brought the cat back to the vet’s for four days of ‘Cat ICU’.

That was a week ago. The cat’s back home. Not well … not any worse … but not dead. Every morning we medicate the cat (against its will) and force feed it with a syringe and a teaspoon several times a day (really against its will). She’s not giving up, so we won’t either. And we’re still praying for her. Healing a cat isn’t beneath God (I prayed for a roto-tiller once, but that’s another story). God cares about cats.

God made us in His own image (Genesis 1:27). God made animals for our sakes (Genesis 2:18-19). He made us to care about animals because He cares about animals (Matthew 10:29).

Without making too much of this, how we care for our pets, may be a shadow of how He cares for us. A stray cat is a stray cat, not a lot of intrinsic value associated with that. But there’s something in us that makes us take it in. Maybe because we know what’s going to happen to it if we don’t. We care for the stray, give it food and shelter, love it – not because it’s lovely or valuable, but because it needs love – it needs someone to value it.

John 3:16 says, “For God so loved the world that he gave his only son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.” ‘Loved’ in this passage is the Greek word ‘agapao’. It describes a love that requires action or a love that assigns value to the object being loved. In short – God loved us because we needed loving and any value we have is derived from the fact that He loved us enough to act by sending His Son to save us.

So, in a way, we love Baby and our other strays because, initially, they needed loving. And by demonstrating our love for them by giving them a home, feeding and doctoring them, they take on value in our hearts.

Like I said, I don’t want to make too much of this, but it helps me see God’s love for me; not that I deserved it, but that I needed it. And it cost something.


About the money:

The money for ‘Cat ICU’ was there when we needed it. It always is.

I quit believing that I was my own source a long time ago. I work to make a living, people buy books or pay me for my time; I know that. But I’m not my source; neither are the people who write me checks. God is my source. That’s not just spiritual lingo (I hate spiritual lingo), it’s reality. And I didn’t come to realize it by some leap of faith or holy epiphany. It’s come by experience. We do what needs to be done and whatever is required to make it happen shows up when we need it. That’s how it is … and certainly not because of any particular goodness on my side. He’s faithful to provide even when I’m not so faithful in holding up my end of the relationship. I guess that’s ‘agapao’ – loving me because I need loving.

Until next week,

Steve Spillman