Yes, it’s time for another cat column.
Three months ago, I adopted two kitties from Cat Tales Rescue of Solano County, an affiliate of Petfinder.com, and all in all, I’m beyond pleased. As “kitten season” is upon us, when thousands of unwanted cats will inundate animal shelters (and ultimately die there), besides begging, imploring and beseeching people to spay and neuter their cats (there is no justifiable reason to have an unaltered cat) I’m also making a pitch: If you’re thinking getting a cat, please consider a rescue kitty.
After my beloved Angelo died, I never wanted another cat. Losing him, and his brother Milo the year before, was just too agonizing. But before long, a strange, still, empty house seemed worse than the sadness. I started looking for a new cat. A black one, maybe. So sexy and mysterious. Ooh! Better idea! Yin and Yang cats: a white male and a black female — living symbols of the need for balance. Yes!
I found a cute little black girlie on Petfinder and, through sheer serendipity, the volunteer also had a white male. Both were snatched from animals shelters the day before they were to be euthanized, and taken in by a Cat Tales Rescue volunteer who diligently carted them off to Petco, weekend after weekend, hoping someone would take them home.
The male, Maxx, had “only” been doing this routine for about three months. The female, Minnie, had been passed over time and again for seven months. It’s easy to see why. When I first picked her up, rather than snuggle and purr, she hid her face and curled into a tiny ball, as if trying to disappear. The volunteer said she was traumatized by the Petco trips — hated the barking dogs and noise, and being handled by so many people. Frankly, I’d have passed Minnie by too, because she was so icy and withdrawn, she seemed almost autistic.
But there was her cagemate, Maxx, a joyful, rollicking clown, wrapping his legs around Minnie and licking her incessantly. He cuddled right up to me, purring like a coffee grinder, wiggling with delight. Who could pass up (let alone euthanize) a lovebug like that? Because he was so attached to Minnie, I adopted her too. She could be his pet. She’d keep him company while I’m at work or away on a weekend.
The first day home, Maxx was clearly enthralled with his new surroundings. Minnie just crouched in the corner, stared at the floor and ignored us, unless we tried to touch her and then she’d scramble away. My husband declared her “psycho.” I started to wonder if she was deaf or brain damaged. Although Cat Tales would have taken her back, no questions asked, I decided to give her a chance — quite possibly, her last chance.
Minnie mostly hid behind the couch at first, while Maxx romped around and charmed everyone with his antics and amazing array of vocalizations. He was an instant hit with the family. Minnie? Not so much. She finally did venture out from her hiding spot, but stayed in the shadows — just a pair of huge, glowing yellow eyes staring at us from a dark corner or under a table. But — at least she was looking at us. Progress!
I decided to just accept Minnie on her own terms. (My evil bunny had taught me well.) She’d reluctantly allow me to pick her up, as long a treat was involved. That’s the only way I’d give her one. And then I’d put her back down before she got the urge to struggle. Then one day, I picked her up and she didn’t struggle. She clearly didn’t like it either, but she didn’t try to wriggle away. Then, a couple weeks ago, a breakthrough! She purred! Just for a moment, mind you, until she regained her composure, and flattened her ears and went all stiff again, pushing me away with her front legs. But, I’d seen it! A glimpse of change!
Fast forward to the present: Minnie is swirling around my legs right now as I type, tapping me with her tail, making tiny, squeaky mews. She likes my company. She follows me around. She cries at my bedroom door. She still doesn’t jump onto my lap, but she will — in her own time, on her own terms. Won’t that feel satisfying!
Maxx, meanwhile, is currently hopping in and out of the wastebasket (I think he likes the crunchy sound), and pulling on the pencil sharpener cord with his teeth, to see if it will fall off the desk again — isn’t it amazing how it happens every time! — and will surely head next to the kitchen counter to see what mischief can be found there. Unlike lithe, slinky Milo, who could wind through knick-knack shelves undetected, Maxx is about as graceful as that Mr. Kool-Aid pitcher crashing through walls in the TV commercials. He’s a feline wrecking ball, sending books, wine glasses and picture frames crashing to the ground. After fat, lazy, snoozy Angelo, I’d forgotten that cats get into — and onto — everything. But Maxx is so damned cute, I don’t really mind sweeping up the glass.
The takeaway of my story is this: I just adore my little cuties, who faced execution for no other crime than being unloved. They’re beautiful, funny, entertaining little creatures, and there are thousands more just like them, facing the same cruel sentence. According to the ASPCA website, as many as four million cats and dogs are euthanized every year, and most are cats — just like Minnie and Maxx. Could you find room in your home, and heart, for just one? As the saying goes, “Saving one animal’s life won’t change the world. But it will change the world for that animal.”
You. Yes, you. You can change the world. Somewhere out there, your Minnie and Maxx are waiting.
— Email Debra DeAngelo at firstname.lastname@example.org; read more of her work at www.wintersexpress.com and www.edebra.com