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Bertram was 6 months old.  He and Ophelia were the same age and came home from the Humane Society on the same day, but that was where the similarities ended.

Ophelia quickly put on weight and was radiant and sleek when I came on the scene but Bert was impossibly tiny and dull; I thought I was looking at a mother and her sickly child.  The family longed for him to play but he moved slowly and tired easily; he just didn’t have the stamina.  He’d been exhaustively examined by the vet.

Bert weighed nothing and his belly was distended in the way of FIP, or Feline Infectious Peritonitis.  The problem with FIP is that, by the time you see the symptoms, it’s often too late.

Then again, the only way to diagnosis FIP is by autopsy.   Now you have three problems, and one of them is a dead cat.  No one was to blame but nothing about the story looked positive.

“Remember Katie?” said the client’s sister.  “She communicates with animals–why don’t you see if she can help?”

The story unfolded:  the queen was a pregnant stray.   Brought inside by a well-intentioned soul, but the horror of capture and detainment was stronger than the mothering instinct and when the kittens arrived she set out to correct her situation.   One day Bert was found half-buried in the litter box.

The tiny cat told me that he was the cause of his mother’s troubles.  First she was fine, then she had kittens, then things were bad.   He was ashamed and depressed; if he hadn’t been born she wouldn’t have had a problem, and in that erroneous conclusion I saw a potential solution.

“Bert!”  I told him.  “That had nothing to do with you!   Your mom was so scared, she couldn’t be a good mom.  The truth is, cats are supposed to give their kittens love and food, and teach them things about being a cat, but you didn’t get any of that.  Neither did your littermates!  It wasn’t your fault and it shouldn’t have happened.”

She’s back in the wild and she’s happy now, I said.  The experience was over, and it was time for him to look forward instead of back.

We began to wrap up the reading.  But just as I was leaving, St. Francis stepped up with a suggestion.  We ended up running a cord of energy from St. Francis to Bert, and I understood that it would serve as a sort of umbilical cord.  Through it St. Francis would provide  Bert what he had missed in his more formative weeks.

Some weeks or months later I had occasion to talk to the client.

“Bert?”  she said.  “Katie, he’s fat.”  He was on a diet but he was way bigger than Ophelia and they thought they might try switching to a lite formula.  He spent half the day whacking toy mice across the kitchen tiles and half the night partying on their bed.  Ophelia had long since given up on keeping up.  The humans were exhausted, but amused.

“That’s just great,” I said.  “Now I suppose I’ll have to treat him for obesity.”

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