The Story of Smirnoff

Smirnoff the CatIt all started with a cat. I knew very little about cats back then and my primary reasons for getting one were because 1) they make great apartment pets, 2) are fairly easy to take care of/are cheaper than dogs, 3) they’re adorable and I really wanted a fluffy pet, and 4) my boyfriend had broken up with me. So I entered the Animal Rescue League of Boston one Thursday afternoon with my roommate Cassandra in tow, eager to pick out the perfect cat. I wanted one that was sweet, friendly, female, and liked sitting on laps. What I got was Smirnoff.

He was banging on his cage door, spilling his food onto the floor. He reached his paw through the bars and Cassandra said, “Let’s look at that one!” In the visiting room, Bolt (that was his shelter name) was rubbing against us, putting his face right up to our faces, and purring like a motor. My heart melted and I quickly agreed to adopt him.

The first week he was home, he had an upper respiratory infection (URI); it’s a common thing for shelter cats to get once they leave the stressful environment. I took him to the vet, got some medication, and spent the week gently petting the calm, sleeping cat. He seemed perfect. Then he got better.

Smirnoff had a lot of kitten energy despite being a one year old and would tear through the apartment at full gallop, knocking things over and meowing loudly. He bit. His pupils would dilate and he’d crouch down, and soon he’d have his teeth right into the flesh of your belly. Or your arm. Or your neck. We’d push him away and then he’d pounce again, more eager. He had—although I didn’t know it at the time—a classic case of high arousal behavior.

I was afraid of my own cat. I cried because I didn’t know who this monster was and where the adorable, friendly cat went that I adopted. I even considered taking him back, but it was Cassandra (who was also thrown by his behavior) who told me I couldn’t. And while I could have returned him, I’m grateful for Cassandra’s stubbornness. Because what happened next changed everything. Continue reading “The Story of Smirnoff”