04 April 2012

The New Cats (from 2 years ago)

Blogger just changed it's format, and while looking around, I found this story in my list of draft blogs. I wrote it two years ago, but for some reason, never posted it. Maybe because it's so long and wordy. But it IS a good story, so I'm posting it now...

Ok, so if you read my story about Lucy, you know that the best thing for a cat-lover to do in the aftermath of losing a beloved cat is to get a new one when the time is right. Well, I decided not to wait until the time was right. Stupid me, I went to the local shelter right after Lucy died. I mean, not the same day, but it was so soon after that I'm too embarrassed to admit exactly when it was. Alright, it was the next day, OK??

I only went to LOOK at the cats and kittens, to see what was there. My husband said that we should get two kittens (because we all know kittens come in pairs, right?)  But after having very docile adult cats for many, many years, I didn't know if I wanted to deal with the insanity of having kittens. They'd get into everything, climb the walls and furniture, keep us up at night, and generally wreak havoc on our peaceful home that has known only old pets in recent years. Plus, my thought is that kittens will be placed easily. Older, full grown cats are not as appealing to most people, and usually get overlooked. But with an older cat, you can know what you're getting; with kittens, you never know how they'll turn out.

Our local animal shelter, it turns out, has THREE rooms dedicated entirely to cats. Grown cats (kittens are kept separate). In each of these rooms, the cats run free. There are litter boxes, bowls of food and water, and many beds, shelves, toys, and towers. Walking into one of those rooms is a bit daunting as a couple of cats will run over to say hello, a couple more will sniff you warily, several will wake from their naps and look at you menacingly, and still more will ignore you outright. But basically, all the cats are there, living in relative peace, just doing their thing. Some are friends, some are enemies, but they all seem to get along well enough.

Walking into those rooms can be heart-wrenching on one level, as you see cats that are antisocial and clearly will not be adopted out (though this shelter does not euthanize it's animals, so for that I'm thankful). But the cats are so well-cared-for, and the staff of volunteers obviously love their jobs; it gave me a whole new perspective on shelters. I can actually see why people who have to give up their pets, give them to that place. While I never imagine myself giving a pet to a shelter, if I ever had to, I know it would be ok there.

So back to the story.

A friend told me that the friendliest cats in the world are orange males. Although experience has shown me that males are generally more outgoing than females, I wondered what the color has to do with it? So on the day my son and I first visited the shelter on that fateful day, I figured I'd look for an orange cat. Not that I'd get one for a few weeks, but I'd just look.

When we walked into the first cat room, we saw about 20 cats in various stages of play and sleep, all around the room. One very friendly black cat ran up to us and tried to climb up my son's leg. It was friendly to a fault but almost a little creepy. After spending a few minutes checking out the cats in that room, we went on to the second room, which was pretty much identical to the first.

Then in the third room, we walked in and the first thing I noticed was a skinny orange cat lying on a shelf that was eye-level with me. Anyone who knows anything about cats knows that you don't go touching a strange cat. But there was something about this cat. I went up and started talking to it, and it rolled on it's back. When I pet it, it started purring and asked for more. This was one friendly cat. And yes, it was a male. An orange male.

My son came over and the cat rolled around for him, too. When I asked the volunteers about the cat, they all agreed that he's a sweetheart. Then we started looking at the sleeping cats. One huge grey long-haired cat was sleeping with it's back to us. I gingerly touched it's back, and it whipped its head around and gave me what I perceived to be an evil glare. I spoke softly to the kitty and told him how pretty he was. Soon I heard faint purring, and when I walked away, the big grey guy jumped off his shelf and followed me. It turns out the big grey guy is a big grey GAL and the volunteers thought she was part Maine Coon. Her markings were beautiful, and although the marks on her face made her look angry, she was very friendly.

I had to get out of there. But first, I put a hold on those two cats - the friendly orange male and the angry-looking Maine Coon mix. I was told that they could only hold them for 24 hours, at which point, they would be available for someone else to adopt. 24 hours. My family, especially Molly, would never go for that.  It was too soon.  Molly had just lost her beloved cat.  IT WAS TOO SOON.

I took one last look at the two cats, and left. The first thing I did was to phone my husband and tell him I'd found two new cats. After asking me why on earth I ventured into the shelter THE DAY AFTER LUCY DIED, he told me not to go back - that it was too soon.

I knew this. I KNEW it was too soon. It was obscenely too soon.

But I also knew that my little girl was heartbroken and that we all needed a kitty to snuggle under our chins. We needed to hear a purr and feel the soft, kitty fur. We needed healing from our pain and while much too soon, these cats could fit that bill.

Early in our marriage, I often disregarded my husband's advice. As a result, we acquired new dogs and cats while our children were still babies and we were still moving around a lot. Not a great combination, though it all worked out. In recent years, I've been more inclined not only to listen, but to take his advice, which is always good and usually right.

But in this case, I lost my head. I had to have those cats. My little girl was hurting and since she was no longer small, and since I could no longer sit her on my knee and kiss away the boo-boo, I had to do so something. This seemed like THE THING TO DO.

Later that evening, I took Sam, my older daughter, back to the shelter with me to see the cats. She didn't want to go. She told me it was stupid and WAY TOO SOON. I took her anyway, and when she saw our two cats, she fell in love with them, just like I knew she would. She told me that if only Molly could see them, she'd love them too.

I asked the shelter if there was any way I could go ahead and adopt the cats, but keep them there for another week or so. The answer was no.

So how was I to bring this up to Molly? Molly, who had lost her best friend, her special kitty, her childhood pet?

Later that night, I confessed to Molly that I'd gone to the shelter and that I'd found two new cats. She didn't say much, just that it was too soon. There were tears in her eyes.  Sigh. Much as I wanted those cats, I couldn't hurt my girl more.

The next day we talked about it a bit more, and I explained the dilemma to the kids, that if we were to get these two really good cats, it had to be today.

Ok, I recognize that those two cats are not the only two good cats in Maine. But remember, this was no ordinary time in our lives. In my mind, these cats had been sent to us by GOD to help us through our grief, and I had to act soon or I would lose them. Yes, I am good at justifying just about anything.

We discussed it further, and although my husband was still not fully in favor of it, all three kids, even Molly, agreed to consider getting the cats.

I took Molly to the shelter with me when I picked them up. When she walked into those rooms full of cats, she smiled for the first time in about three days. I took her to see our two cats, both of which she loved, and then one of the volunteers asked if we'd like to see a new cat which had only been brought in the day before (we hadn't seen him because he was being neutered when we had visited). Sure, why not - let's see the new cat.

The new cat was a skinny grey number who rubbed against Molly's leg as soon as we walked into its room. She picked him up and he immediately put his little paws around her neck and started nuzzling her ear. Yes, really. She laughed and tears came to her eyes. She hugged and snuggled the friendly little guy for several minutes, and then you can guess what she said.  "Can we get this cat, too?"

Now, imagine pausing this little scenario for a moment so we can take a look at all the factors.

1. Our cat died two days before.
2. My husband told me we shouldn't get the new cats so soon.
3. Molly was unsure about getting new cats so soon.
4. I made a unilateral decision that we were getting the cats.
5. Suddenly Molly, who had not smiled in three days, was smiling and wanted a third cat.

Let me ask you, what would YOU do in a situation like that?

Yes, I adopted the third cat.

Copyright © 2012 - Paulla Estes


Carolyn said...

I love this story. We have also: a) lost beloved cats, b) adopted new cats WAY TOO SOON, and c) adopted WAY TOO MANY. We now have three, ages 7, 8 and 13. In the past, we adopted an orange male because our vet told us orange cats are the most loving and even-tempered. This cat pretty much ignored us. When he died, we adopted an orange and white female (Kinsey, after Kinsey Milhone, the fiction detective) who somehow got the idea that it's okay to bite, ALL THE TIME. She's never been mistreated so I don't know what her issues are. She's the meanest cat we've ever had. We have another tabby female (Zuzu, from It's A Wonderful Life) who is very moody; she's the middle child but definitely my cat and lots nicer than the other female. Our male tabby (Tommy - how original) is the sweetest, most loving, funniest cat we've ever had and I absolutely love him to death. Our kids are grown and gone but we've got the cats...who somehow are going to have to travel to Maine if (when) we move!

Sorry, another long "comment." I love your blog so keep them coming! My only real contact with Maine!

Paulla said...

Carolyn, what a great story! And I love the names - especially Zuzu. I think it just goes to show you never know what you're going to get. But those cats do become your babies once the kids are grown, don't they? :)

And don't worry about the long comment - I love it!