My $1,500 cat

We now have a gold-plated cat.

The 66-cent eagle (give or take $1500).

The problem began when Happy, our 4-year-old kitty, started puking. I didn’t panic. Cat puke and carpet cleaner is standard issue around here. But on Day 4, she didn’t come out to have her morning milk. I knew this to be her first serious symptom. By 10 a.m. she was under an x-ray machine.

“This is the happiest cat ever,” I told the vet. “She never stops purring.”

“Ever,” the vet confirmed, taking her temp.

The x-ray showed some inflammation in her intestines.

“Looks like there could be a blockage,” the vet said. “Could she have eaten something unusual?”

Happy likes to chew — plastic, rubber, foam. I figured there was a Nerf bullet battalion in her stomach.

The first course of action, to the tune of just 20 bucks, was to give her “magic beads” — metal ball bearings in a dissolvable capsule that would travel her digestive system to be revealed by x-ray the next day.

The boys with Happy post-surgery.

All I could think was “50 Shades of Grey.” To which one (male) friend pointed out that my cat was indeed grey.

However, we weren’t home two hours before I watched her puke and roll metal balls across the linoleum floor. Very sci-fi.

But, come morning, one bead had remained in her stomach proving the (financial) worst: There was an obstruction.

“We’ll have to go in,” the vet said grimly.

I’d braced my wallet for this very conversation. OK, I’d told myself: it might be $500, $600 tops. I could do that. It couldn’t possibly be much more. I was confident in my worst-case scenario decision as I carried my sci-fi cat into the office.

Now, though, the vet’s face showed a figure much higher than my initial estimation.

“It’s a lot,” the vet warned. “At least $1,200. Maybe $1,500.”

I had a crisis of character for a split second. Was I the kind of person who could put down her cat? Not a chance. Was I the kind of person who had $1,500 to spare? Not a chance. The room got very small and very hot in a matter of moments.

Happy looked up at me, soft, weak and purring.

“We have to do it,” I said.

I beat a hasty path to the minivan. I climbed in and cried. I wasn’t sure if it was for the cat (who, they’d assured me, would be fine) or the fact that Christmas was just around the corner and the old Christmas Club savings account (and then some) had just set sail.

Four hours later I got the verdict: a hard plastic figurine in her small intestine. A one-inch tall eagle. A 66-cent toy.

(If you read my column, you know that my son Nelson loves his eagles. You might also guess that the eagle worship around this house took a swift and serious hit.)

It was duly noted that the bill came in at $1432.66.

At first thought, there is no way you would guess a cat could eat something so big and unbendy and plastic-y. It seems far more likely that I would have come home to find her tapped-out under the Christmas tree with a true Heimlich rescue at hand.

But no, she had probably spent the better part of a day proving that nothing was off limits. First the corner of my yoga mat, followed by a Nerf bullet and then, the crème de la crème — the tiny yet regal eagle on the narrow shelf in the living room. Getting to it would be half the fun.

“Why?” I cried to anyone who would listen.

“Because it’s a bird,” was the resounding answer, my gold-plated cat purring all the while.

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