You know that fantasy about finding a kitten? Like one magically appears in your yard and it’s the perfect age so it doesn’t need the mother cat anymore. It’s healthy as can be so it’s not going to die as soon as you name it. Also it’s just as quirky and special, but well behaved as all your other cats who accept it as one of the clowder. It just needs a home. Your home. That fantasy? (I cannot be the only person who thinks things like “wouldn’t it be amazing if I found a kitten right now?”)
My fantasy came true and I screwed it up hard! To the point that I discussed with a friend whether or not I was missing a message from the universe because “when the universe gives you a kitten….” you’re supposed to lean into it.
I blame Birdie. She was the one who spotted her.
Birdie was relaxing on my bed more or less unsupervised for the first time in weeks because she had just had her sutures removed from her feline mastectomy, so she was cleared to jump and cat again. I was in and out folding laundry or something exciting like that because whhhooohooooo it was spring break! It was also April Fool’s Day which did not occur to me at the time. but seems important now. (The universe is sending you a cat! HAHA April Fools) I saw Birdie alert to something out the window so, of course, I looked too. A small cat was emerging from under the fence. I tapped on the window and we all made eye contact. Is kitty!
Because I am an idiot, I walked through the house to the garage and opened the side door. Through cat witchcraft, the small cat immediately materialized on the doorstep, bounced into the garage, climbed me like a tree, drooled in my ear, and promptly broke my heart with her love.
I texted all the crucial people the video of the cat rubbing her personal stink all over me with the all important question: “Well, what the fuck do I do now?” I posted a non-explicit video in my neighborhood Facebook group thinking that this healthy looking, loving little girl had to be somebody’s Torbie baby. Across the board, they all came back with: “You have a cat now.”
No, I had 5 cats now which made even me a little nervous. My theory is that my yard grows calico based cats. It just takes about 10 years in between each one. Birdie showed up in the yard when she was about one. I can’t help but look at that splotchy nose marking and consider the connections.
However I had invited the cat in like a tiny snuggly vampire and it was now late at night and because it was Ohio, there had actually been snowflakes earlier that day. I could not toss her out the door if I ever expected to live with myself. Small Cat ***spent her first night in the garage in a nest on top of my recycling so she wasn’t directly on cold concrete. She did not vocalize which played into my theory that she was street smart, but had a gigantic purr. She ate and drank heartily. When I set up a litterbox for her, she immediately took the longest cat pee ever while maintaining eye contact and telling me that she had been running through yards looking for a bathroom. She was really glad that I had one she could use.
***Here’s the thing. I named her in my head. I thought her name all the damned time, but I never said it because if I solidly named her, then she was absolutely staying. The vet referred to her as Found Cat on all her paperwork. I called her Small Cat at home as in “You guys, (the other cats) what did you do with the small cat?” and “Small cat, your booty smells musty. Take care of that.”
Because the most likely outcome was that I did indeed have a fifth cat who would be interacting with my other cats, we headed to the vet the next day where I invested money in some tests and round one of vaccinations. The vet pronounced her healthy; loving, but not in heat; and roughly a year old. We scheduled for a spay appointment at the end of the month. If she stayed that long and I paid for the spaying, she in the family for sure. Small Cat moved to my small bathroom where she chilled happily for about 24 hours because the shots knocked her for a loop.
In the mean time I had started in on her adoption campaign partly because I was a little stressed and partly because the socially acceptable amount of cats plus middle aged single female is one cat and after that you just become a stereotype that people “worry about.” Aside from the peer pressure, I was also looking at finances and the mental health of the other cats who got along and did not feel compelled to lodge complaints in the form of peeing on things. Birdie had just had an operation and we were heading towards her first chemo treatment which was, of course, more expensive than estimated. Additionally, I had no idea how she would handle the chemo, but I did know that she would be the least tolerant of a new addition to the household. Birdie gave me a demo of her feelings when, despite my best barricading efforts, Small Cat escaped her new residence the spare bedroom.
Apparently when cats meet their doppelganger, the space time continuum gets screwy and nothing good happens. Birdie briefly nose booped Small Cat and then went from perfectly silent to full jungle cat scream! I’ve heard Birdie scream about may things over the years, but this was a terrifying new level. Small Cat dropped into a tiny ball, I scooped her up, and we ran for cover.
At the other end of the spectrum, Miles was like, “Hello, you are a lady so I am down. More importantly, I understand that food is being brought into this room so I want to monitor that situation. Beyond that, please have a nice day.”
Olivia and Sookie landed somewhere in the middle alternating between hissy and curious. Small Cat was on lock down while I was out of the house, but by about the fourth night, had the run of the house from when I got home until the next morning when I left. This is not an ideal cat introduction time line, but I also value sleep and if she wasn’t quietly crying and banging on the door, Miles was opening it from the other side just fuck with me. So in the evenings, I got to watch her attempt interactions and explore the house. She would start at one end of the room and then seconds later meerkat up at the opposite end( cat witchcraft!) Eventually she would settle in to hang out with me because I was the most amazing person she knew.
She even offered to help with bedtime reading, but Birdie shut that down pronto.
Possible adopters came up and fell through. I wavered between stress that she would be staying and relief that she would be staying. I was confident that her loving and sweet personality would ultimately blend with my crew, but Birdie’s level of stress and expenses were still a concern.
I’ve been looking at dates on pictures while writing this. Small Cat was only in my house for 10 days! Just 10! At the time it felt like forever because I wasn’t sure of her fate or what I should do. The day her adopters came to meet her, every cat in the house was completely calm and accepting of her the whole morning. Even now I have some regrets, but I know she found a good home.
Ultimately a connection was made through a friend. A young couple was looking for a companion for their two year old cat. Small Cat was uncertain about them which did not help my state of mind much. I had not thought about the fact that I was the only human she knew and certainly new people in the house were scary. She retreated to her room, but the couple was willing to spend time sweet talking her and offering toys to introduce themselves. I got a report back that their cat immediately started following Small Cat around and there was some snuggling. I’ve allowed myself to ask my friend for an update only once, and reportedly things were going well.
When they left with her, I cried and vacuumed for an hour. I don’t know how fosters do it. She took up so much of my mental and emotional head space for the time she was with me then tore me up when she left. I guess if you are fostering through a shelter, there’s a bit more certainty to the process and you know the end goal. I cannot praise enough the fosters who are able to open their homes, hearts, and minds to regularly connecting with animals so they can find their furever homes.