In the fall of 2005, my mom was diagnosed with lung cancer. Hannah, one of my best
kitty friends died in mid December of a stroke brought on by congestive heart failure. Her death was expected but none-the-less, it was very difficult. January arrived and the household was bereft. My mother was dying, my cat was gone and winter weather loomed on the horizon. We were living in a catless house, except for Cleo, my mom’s cat who hid anytime we got near. Bill and I decided we’d remain without another cat. We did have two dogs after all.
My beloved muse left me, tired of waiting for me to show up. I was too depressed for writing or painting. I needed something different, on a more happy note, to do with my time. I struggled until I figured I could get some cat-time and extra love by volunteering to help out at the local SPCA. They assigned me to the area’s Pet Smart, where half a dozen cats are housed ready for adoption. I was to arrive at 9 AM on Mondays, before the store opened; feed the kitties, clean the cages, let them run about in the tiny room. Then I’d sit there with one or two in my lap for two hours waiting for people who longed to take home a sweet, furry creature.
I did my job. For the first month not one cat was adopted when I was there. I think it was because of my early hours. Most people didn’t show up until well after I left and another volunteer arrived. I tried to switch shifts, but no one said, “I’m dying to be there earlier in the day.” So I hung in there accompanied by two constant companions.
There was the tuxedo kitty, who was about 6 months old. Every time I passed her
cage, she’d push a paw through the bars and hook her claws on my shirt, trying to pull me near. When I’d let her out to play, she’d rub up against me, then bounce off the walls hoping for freedom. She had been picked up on the street and seemed to be missing her former life.
Peppermint a quiet, ginger colored lady, had been in this facility for at least 3 months if not longer. She was an adult and had been rescued from a home where a hoarder had housed some 35 cats. She slept and occasionally played with a ball she had in her cage. Whenever I came close she’d start purring and looking up at me with huge yellow eyes set in a moon-round face.
I started talking cats at home. Bill knew what was coming. He sat there smiling as I chattered on and on about one cat or another. I hung in at Pet Smart for another month. I was getting more depressed by the minute. My mother was still dying, no cats were being adopted on my watch and I hated seeing them being confined to those tiny cages. I began to think that this SPCA volunteer thing just wasn’t for me.
After several more weeks, I gave notice that I was quitting. There was lots of trying to talk me out of it. “The cats need you. You need to get out of the house more. Volunteers are so hard to find.” I told Bill I’d like to adopt the tuxedo kitten. He smiled and nodded. Lily, short for Lilliput, came home.
During my last shift, a couple with several rowdy children came in. They wanted to play with all of the cats. The kids wanted to squeeze and chase and when it came time for Peppermint to let them handle her, she was afraid, tried to hide. I piped up and said, “I almost forgot! She’s already spoken for.” I just couldn’t stand the idea of her going home with those people. They went home without a cat and suddenly I had two.
Both cats are still with us and are delightful companions. Lily hunts big-time and I’ve had to take all of the bird feeders down. She is definitely Bill’s girl. She sleeps on his shoulder in the evening when he watches tv. Pepper, who loves to follow me everywhere is known to steal pens and pencils from desks and tabletops. She sometimes walks around with one hanging out of her mouth like a dangling cigarette.
Cleo joined the family when my mom died. After several years of hiding out in strange places and barely eating, she now spends time in my lap or curled up next to me. She is 15 years old and is in the early stages of kidney failure. She is happy though and doing well. She plays in the middle of the night, tearing around the house often chased by one of the other cats, sometimes both. Between these ladies and our two dogs there is never a dull moment. I know what it must be like to run a day care center.
I’m sure the SPCA had me pegged all along. My file must read: Big heart. Will do almost anything to keep kitties happy, maybe even take one or two home.
Just for the record, I rarely go to the SPCA now. I recognize that I already have too many pets. I do however take a bag or two of dry cat or dog food in as a donation once in a while. I drop it off then hurry out to my car before my heart-strings are tugged.