Tuesday, February 2, 2016
The first time I got the idea to rescue an older cat, I was on a business trip at North Shore Animal League in Long Island, New York.
Before then, it never occurred to me that there would be cats in shelters that would never get adopted. But at NSAL, the ones who have been there for more than 30 days—usually the ones that are a bit older—get to live in their own open space condo, sponsored by Purina.
Because if they haven't been adopted by now, they probably never will be.
That was 10 years ago, and it broke my heart.
Ever since then, I haven't been able to get out of my head that I wanted to adopt a cat—not a kitten—so that it would really be a rescue. But over the last 10 years, I've worked too late, or haven't worked enough, or partied too much to be able to take care of myself—much less of a little creature.
So I've been alone, mooching off my friends for their cats and dogs, wondering when I'll finally be able to get a little companion of my own.
In the last couple of years, my awareness of my PTSD has become clearer than ever—and with it, the realization that I really need some emotional support from the animal kingdom. But more importantly, that I need to be needed. I need to feel like I'm making a difference in someone's life, even if that someone is of another species.
I needed to rescue as much as I needed to be rescued.
So once I knew I was up for a job that would require me to work full-time from home, I promised myself that if I got it, I would get a cat. I just can't stay in my apartment all day all alone.
After I got the job, I kept saying, "I'm going to get a cat," but it didn't feel real until I'd actually parked at the shelter, walked up to the front desk, and declared, "I'm interested...in a cat."
"Is there a specific one?" they asked.
"No...I'd like to...browse."
I was going to be a very awkward cat mommy, if my demeanor upon arrival were any indication.
I started to peer into the cages at the kitties, almost all of whom were sleeping and couldn't care less when I walked up to say, "Hi baby..."
But then I saw this one black cat, his yellow eyes wide open staring up at me. He didn't seem to have any hope of getting adopted, but he took note of me. I checked out the name tag on his cage—"Joshua"—which stated that he was a great lap cat and very affectionate.
"You're on the list!" I told him, snapping a photo so I'd remember him, and moving on to the rest.
All told, I picked out four cats that I wanted to meet—all over two years old, all less likely to be adopted once the newborns arrived.
But, for some reason, Joshua was the first one they chose to introduce to me.
And once I found out that I was the only one who'd requested to meet him—in the weeks since he'd arrived from the city shelter (where he'd been surrendered by his previous owner back in November)—I knew he could be the one.
As kids, my sister and I had begged our mother for a cat to no avail; but one summer, there was a friendly stray black cat that Mom took in with the promise of keeping it. It had reminded her of some cat from her own childhood, so—for a moment—she was willing to make a concession, despite her fear of fleas and fur.
But then after just a couple of days, that little black cat took a nibble on the cord to the iron, and suddenly he was shipped off to the neighbors' house, where we'd catch an occasional glimpse of him through the window.
In the adoption room, I learned that Joshua had turned three years old back in November, and that he was a bit skittish when it came to a change of environments.
"What's going to happen if somebody adopts him?" I asked.
"Well, we don't know, but I guess we'll find out."
It didn't take long for me to realize why Joshua was a staff favorite at the shelter. At the lightest touch, he would melt into a puddle, offering his belly for rubbing. He was mellow for sure, but he warmed up right away.
So, I decided to take a chance on him, my new little boy.
The adoption proceedings went by incredibly quickly, and the next thing I knew, I was toting my new furball home in a cardboard carrier. He'd occasionally mew out of confusion or distress during the ride home, and I'd try to calm him with my voice—but who was I to him?
He's only been here for a day or so, and he's still figuring out where he is and who I am and what the hell is going on. I've gotten him to eat and poop and enjoy a good brushing; but last night he slept under my bed rather than on it with me, and he's spent quite a bit of time under the couch today.
His mews are becoming more conversational and less distressed, and he's venturing out to explore more. He likes to look out the window and play with the pullstring of my window blinds. He's not an early riser, and he seems to really hit his stride after the sun goes down.
He's like the boy cat version of me.
I have no idea why his previous owners gave him up. Maybe somebody died, or got sick, or moved, or who knows. He doesn't cower away from me, and he knows how to use the litter. He doesn't claw the couch and doesn't care much for toys or playing.
He seems to just want to be loved, but he gets a bit anxious when he can hear the neighbors running water or some other disturbance in the building. That's when he bolts for under the bed.
I never realized how dusty it was under my furniture until my black cat started turning gray. So now there's a reason for me to keep the apartment clean, and warm, and free of perils.
He doesn't know that his name is Joshua, a name that the shelter gave him when he arrived like a prisoner, assigned with only a serial number. I hope to find something else to call him. I think I need to get to know him a little better so I can pick something that really suits him.
I hope he lets me get to know him. I hope he lets me love him.
And I hope he finds a way to love me, too—no matter what has happened to him in the past.
A Different Start to a Different Day
To Not Be Alone