Today’s post is written by my friend and web designer Amanda McCormick of Jellybean Boom, the company that redesigned I HAVE CAT. Amanda had always thought of herself as a dog person – she rescued her pup Juniper from the Brooklyn ACC – until she met a certain cat…
She slunk into my life on a warm evening in late summer. Around Labor Day, give or take.
A tiny black cat with glowing gold eyes perched in the middle of the wild unruliness of our backyard courtyard.
Anyone who knows me or reads my blog knows that I’m definitely a dog person. But she came right up to me, rubbing up against my hand and flopping down when I scratched her ears.
In other words, she did not seem like a cat who should be living in the backyard. She was too bold, and too people-focused. But she had no collar, and it seemed like no home.
I saw her again and again each night when I went out into the garden. She’d pop out of the overgrowth and flop over in front of my outstretch hand.
I had good reason not to want to get involved. But something about that cat got to me.
I decided that I would do something.
I grabbed my camera, took the shots that you see above, posted them to Facebook with a title that said: this cat needs a home. I will take her to the vet, get her ready for you, does anyone out there need a new buddy?
The problem? When I went back out the next day to snatch her up, she was gone.
By this point, my request to the social media world had been answered in abundance. I had all of I Have Cat behind me. I even had a friend who had a viable adopter.
But no cat.
Did I mention I should not have gotten involved?
In the days that followed, the cat’s absence weighed even more heavily on me than her presence, wiggling around in the garden. I thought worriedly about something I had read about rescuing stray cats.
On the streets, a nice cat is a dead cat.
She was so little, so slight. I had waited too long. In my mind, I made the cat a promise: if you come back, I’ll make sure…
Make sure of what? I’m no cat person.
A day passed, and then another day. I got pinged by the friends who had seen the pictures on Facebook. What happened to the cat?
I didn’t know. I asked my neighbors. You seen a cat? Little, black, super bold? No one had any idea.
Then, after a week, I heard something extraordinary. The cat had reappeared!
This time, I sprang into action.
I scooped her up and brought her into the apartment. Of course, this was quite a surprise to our resident canine.
In my home, the cat was a strange presence, and I’ll admit that I felt ill-equipped to take care of her. I had become so attuned to the rhythms of dogs, who are themselves so attuned to humans.
You treat a dog like like a very young child–like very young children, they need you all the time, to keep them company and think up games for them to play.
Cats I was less secure about. I wondered if I was in over my head.
Somewhere in there was a sense of panic. What if I can’t find her a home? I had visions of putting her on a plane with my mom back to Kanab, UT. I thought, maybe Best Friends Animal Sanctuary will take her.
At the same time, I liked having her around. I liked seeing how excited Juniper was to have her slinking about, and what a good girl my dog was being. Sitting when I told her too, restraining her intense enthusiasm for our new houseguest.
I liked waking up in the morning and having meows greet me. Seeing kitty’s petite but lithe body stretched up toward the window.
Seven days went by, and each day, kitty became more accepting of Juniper’s doggy enthusiasm.
I was the ambivalent one. I didn’t know why we had come together, this kitty and I. Was I meant to take her forever, or was I just one stop on the journey?
Meanwhile, my social media efforts had born fruit, and I had located a friend of a friend who wanted a new cat. All that remained was for me to take kitty to the vet to get checked out.
Off we went with kitty in a wooden box from IKEA.
The vet’s office asked me so many questions: how old is she? I didn’t know. What’s her name. Cuddlesworth, I said. The people in the waiting room laughed.
Turned out we had fleas! And she had a nasty ear infection. The vet took a blood test, and soon we would know whether she had FIV or feline leukemia.
Something about taking kitty to the vet changed my mind about her. I found myself growing more attached. When I thought I could lose her, the stakes seemed suddenly that much higher.
I thought about all the people that I know who dedicate so much time to fostering, like Tamar, and Badass Brooklyn Foster Dog. How do they do it? Take in a vulnerable little thing and then let it go?
Still, I didn’t like the litter box. I did like having her in my lap, purring. I didn’t like not knowing her language–knowing that she was trying to tell me something with her meows but not knowing what.
But what broke me was waking up in the morning to see kitty and Juniper snuggled up by my feet.
Waiting for the test results to come back, my ambivalence became more pronounced. What if she had FIV (I knew by then I would keep her), or feline leukemia?
At the same time, something about the potential adopter I had lined up, a woman who had lost her beloved cat at six to cancer a few months ago, felt right.
So what was our destiny together, this cat and I? I kept going back and forth.
There were times when I wanted to call the prospective adopter and say, oh wait, I am keeping kitty.
I had also been in her shoes, hoping to adopt a new dog, just at the beginning of imagining how my life would change with a new companion animal in it.
If you’ve taken in a stray or adopted from a shelter, it’s fun to play the game of “where did you come from?” We still have Juniper’s sheet from Animal Care and Control; it’s tantalizingly opaque. Beside her health and behavioral status (“NO CONCERN”), it tells you that she was an “owner surrender,” stated reason “too many dogs.”
My boyfriend Josh and I always laugh about this–the idea that anyone could look at several of their dogs and pick Juniper, who is a champion dog, clearly the best dog in the world, and decide she is one dog too many.
We never forget how lucky we were that they did.
You get to a point where you absolutely can’t imagine your life without your animals in it, and you overlook the extraordinary circumstances that brought them to you.
I was tentatively writing our story, kitty and mine’s. Tentative because I wasn’t sure what my role in it would turn out to be.
Here’s what I knew to be true: Cat appears in backyard. Meanwhile, somewhere unconnected, a woman who lost her beloved cat at age 6 to cancer a few months ago is maybe getting ready to let another animal into her life.
And me — the ambivalent rescuer. The pivot point. Fate, decision, and intersecting paths all happening out of my backyard.
So the thing about the cat was that maybe I was meant to be the person who carried her through.
But I never stopped changing my mind up until the last second. I put the cat in that same IKEA box to take her to her forever home.
All day, as the drop-off time approached, I kept thinking about that movie, Central Station. Its about the unlikely alliance between an old woman and a young orphan who meet in a train station in Rio de Janeiro. Each has something the other lacks, and they band together, in search of his real family, and grow very close over the course of the movie.
Finally, they come across the boy’s family, and a sense of refuge for him. In a moving late scene that always makes me burst into tears, the old woman is sitting with the child on a bus, lifting him up to the seat so he can pretend to drive.
Always remember I was the one who put your hand on the wheel, she tells him.
When I opened up the box in kitty’s new apartment, she looked around curiously and then plopped herself on the floor, Sphinx-like.
I gave her a kiss. It was hard to say goodbye.
But when I was leaving, I felt a sense of contentment about the cat.
I knew that for the rest of her long life, she’d be loved, and be warm, and never be hungry.
Of that, I had made sure.