“How do you not want to take them all home?”
It’s a common question I get while working in the adoption center. And truth of the matter is, I just don’t.
Maybe it’s because I know that they’re all going to get adopted eventually, most of them going to homes far better than my own. It’s not sad for me, seeing all the caged cats in adoption. For me, it’s a place of transition. Once a cat is in adoption, they’ve gone through the worst of it—abandonment by a previous owner, or a heartbreaking farewell, or life on the streets, or abuse, or whatever led them to be in a shelter. Things can only get better from here. So I don’t feel the need to take every animal home, because they’re already on their way home.
Sure, there are always favorites—cats that you try extra hard to get adopted (currently, mine is Princess; update: Princess has finally been adopted!)—and it’s always extra satisfying when they finally make it out the door.
But then there are the select few, the ones that really take your breath away, the ones that you’d take home with you in a heartbeat, if only you could take them home. It’s different than the cats that I would happily adopt, if I didn’t already have two cats. (Between Smirnoff’s hatred of all cats other than Bacardi and my own allergies, as well as being a poor graduate student, two is all I can manage.) Those are cats you miss when they’re gone, but in a happy way. No, what I’m talking about is something else: the cats whose lives really touch you, who you’ll never ever forget for as long as you work at the shelter. Cats that you try really hard in your head to figure out a way to take them home and make it work, even though it’s impossible. There have only been two of these cats for me over the past two years, and they both hold special places in my heart. Continue reading “Whiskers, the “Old” Cat”
Once I started to find the joy in owning one cat, I could hardly wait to have another. My roommate Cassandra was extremely skeptical, as the thought of two Smirnoffs running around seemed like stress overload. She had a point.
I started volunteering at the Animal Rescue League of Boston in October 2011, but I worked only with the dogs—it was the only training session I had been able to attend due to my graduate course schedule. But I’d still wander around the cat adoption area every now and then and take a cat out to play with in the visiting runs (even though I technically wasn’t supposed to).
One day I brought a friend to the shelter to show him around and I was looking for a cat that we could both sit with for a while. I noticed Halibut in a bottom cage, sitting quietly and staring out with bright orange eyes. In the run he was calm and friendly, allowing us to pet him and playing a bit with a toy. I read his story of how he had lived with another cat and was playful and talkative. Then we left, and I didn’t think about him. And then I did think about him.
Occasionally at the shelter, I’d stop by his cage to say hi. All through November he was still there, no one having adopted him. I noticed his skin had a couple small scabs on it—one on his chest and one on his head—but the staff assured me it was just stress-related. He went to an adoption event in early December and came back unadopted. I tried mentioning to Cassandra that I was thinking about a second cat, but she would quickly brush it off, saying something like “Smirnoff is bad enough” but also, “I’m not going to say no” (while clearly saying “no;” but if she wasn’t going to be upfront about it, then I was going to ignore her implications). Regardless, I was going home for two weeks for Christmas vacation and there was no way I could adopt a second cat before then; Smirnoff was coming home with me and my parents were barely on board for one cat, let alone two. So I made the decision to wait and see: if Halibut was still at the shelter after Christmas vacation, it would be a sign that it was meant to be. But then I couldn’t wait. Continue reading “The Story of Bacardi”
It 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”