St. Francis’ Feline: A Miraculous Healing For Felix The Cat – Part Two
By Melissa Roberts
My Felix the Cat wears a Virgin Mary blue collar with a St. Francis medal. She is a Franciscan kitty, though I am not a Franciscan myself. Felix and St. Francis of Assisi, patron saint of animals, have a special relationship.
In 2007, Felix lived in a small St. Louis apartment while I worked as a hospital chaplain. Used to being an indoor/outdoor kitty on the grounds of Mum and Dad’s small town Kansas Victorian house, Felix had trouble adjusting to her new home and lifestyle.
Felix wasn’t happy, and I wasn’t happy. Together, we journeyed through one of those chapters in life full of stormy uncertainty and misery, waiting for the sun. I came home most nights with visions of patients’ pain and suffering blazed into my mind. When I was on-call, I left at any hour of the day or night to comfort the dying, fearful, and in pain. Felix used to sit on the slick black beepers that called me away, as though she had the power to resurrect the dead and heal the broken-hearted. If only she had!
Food was Felix’s great comfort. She cleaned the scent of her salmon-flavored soft chunks from her white whiskers with her white paws for at least twenty minutes after meals. When Felix stopped licking her whiskers and then started leaving most of her food, I grew concerned. When Felix’s fur started sticking to her back in unsightly chunks and her water remained untouched, I took her to the vet. The nightmare began.
“Your cat has end-stage kidney failure. She will die immediately without treatment. With treatment, she has six months to two years,” came the vet’s diagnosis. The vet’s office kept Felix for saline treatments, and I returned home alone with pamphlets about feline kidney disease and pet burial options for cold comfort.
A friend at work asked if I knew about the pet food recall. Cats and dogs all over the U.S. were experiencing kidney failure after eating food from an established pet food manufacturer contaminated in China. My body went cold. Felix ate that food.
I went home, checked Felix’s food pouches, and my heart sank. The plant number matched the plants for the pet food recalls. Empowered, I phoned the company and started filing a complaint. All I needed was the vet’s confirmation of Felix’s condition, and we would have justice.
To my disgust, my vet wouldn’t validate Felix’s condition. “She’s over ten. There’s no way to determine whether this wasn’t a pre-existing condition. I can’t confirm the pet food caused this.” Deflated, I dropped my claim.
Now I wish I’d tried another vet and another and another until I found one who would fight, but at the time I was so exhausted and scared about the mounting bills that I felt trapped. Indeed, it would take me three years to get Felix’s vet pills off of my credit card. Inpatient saline treatment for a day extended into a week. A battery of tests followed, my cat had better medical care than I did. Felix’s new protein-free food cost five times her old food, and when the vet tried to tell me Felix needed some teeth pulled I had had enough. Wasn’t she going through enough without a sore mouth, too?
Then the vet had even worse news. One of her techs noticed that Felix didn’t respond to movement on her left side. The vet speculated a stroke, or a more serious condition. She referred me to a feline ophthalmologist, one of a handful of feline eye doctors in the nation. Terrified, I booked an appointment.
On one of the worst days of my life, I navigated rush hour traffic with a yowling Felix loose in the car, desperately seeking the right strip mall in Manchester, Missouri. I tried to get her in her carrier, but she howled and twisted her body, claws extended like a Chinese dragon. I lived alone, and I had no one to help. Felix climbed up the dash and made a lunge for my shoulders. We’d had enough. And if I didn’t stop, rush hour traffic might kill us both. Quickly, I slid between two SUV’s into the left lane, and then into a near-by strip mall. Lo and behold – we had found the right strip mall for the doctor’s office.
Felix had the luxury of visiting the doctor who tended the lions, tigers, and cats at the St. Louis zoo. After a five minute exam, the doctor declared Felix had benign growths and no more chance of a stroke than any other cat over ten. Relieved, Felix and I fought the tail end of traffic home. We spent two and a half hours getting to the feline eye doctors for ten minutes with the expert.
By now, everyone at work had heard about Felix’s illness and my battle with her care. Sr. Sophia, a Franciscan sister, knew how much comfort I found from the saints. Indeed, I had written my undergraduate history thesis on St. Francis’s stigmata and the meaning of suffering in Christianity. Sr. Sophia asked me if Felix would like a blessing, a special prayer for God’s protection and healing. I gratefully said yes.
Sr. Sophia came by the next day, all but her glasses, face, and sneakers obscured by black habit and veil. Concern and calculated watchfulness shone through her hazel eyes.
“I have brought Felix a St. Francis medal,” said Sophia. “St. Francis loves all the animals, and St. Francis is suffering with Felix and all animals who suffer.”
My friend presented me with the small silver medal, an image of St. Francis surrounded by flora and fauna on one side, and the imperative “pray for us” on the reverse. Felix stared across the room at us, unblinking. Sophia stared back with a dog person’s confusion and hesitation. To break the ice, I approached Felix and bent down to coax her head.
“Thank you so much,” I replied with tears in my eyes. “Would you offer Felix a blessing?”
Sr. Sophia smiled nervously and reached down her thin, knobbed first and second fingers to touch Felix on the forehead, exactly where a priest would touch a person he or she is blessing. Felix didn’t move.
I don’t remember Sophia’s exact words, as I had my eyes closed focusing all my love and hope into my friend’s prayer for my cat’s life. When I opened my eyes, Sophia was petting Felix on the head, and Felix was squirming to escape.
“Well, your cat’s Franciscan now,” teased Sophia with her crooked grin.
Slowly, Felix began to recover from her bout with death. I placed the St. Francis medal on the wall above her food and water bowl, but she kept rubbing against it and knocking it off the wall.
I then put the medal on her collar, just like a person would wear a cross or other symbol of devotion. Months later, when I tried to change her collar, Felix thrashed like a fish on a line and ran away. I took that as a sign that Felix found healing in St. Francis and the love the medal represented.
After her maior battle with kidney disease, Felix knew better than I the suffering of St. Francis. Felix nearly died from dehydration. She was hooked up to an IV for a week. She ate dry protein-free food, her body refusing to work properly.
Felix is alive today, nearly four years after her diagnosis and two years longer than the vet projected. I rejoice in Felix’s recovery and in the power of love, concentrated in Felix’s St. Francis medal that has healed me and my cat.
Melissa Roberts Bio:
Melissa Roberts is a freelance writer who lives in Parsons, KS. She enjoys sharing stories, cooking, meditating, the beauty in life and people, time with boyfriend Mark and, of course, the presence of the elderly feline Felix. Melissa is a Feature Writer for Suite101.com, an online magazine, and enjoys sharing articles on religion, history, cooking, travel, and spiritual growth there. Here is a link to her website.
Back to Stories