Wednesday, September 30, 2015

How My First Cat Chose Me

No sooner had I set up my blog and told some friends about it that I developed the worst case of writer's blog known. Well, maybe I'm exaggerating, but I did draw a black - until I decided to write about how my first cat chose me.

It's true. She did.

As a child, I loved cats, dogs, and especially, horses. We weren't allowed to have a dog - my parents always said, "Too much work!" A horse was financially impossible and impractical in our urban backyard. But a cat? Cats were possible right?

Unfortunately, my mother was afraid of cats. She hated the sight of them and used to yell at me whenever I went to pet one of the various felines roaming around the neighborhood.

My dad, on the other hand, loved cats. He'd had a pet cat as a child. The cat lived in his father's butcher store in the Bronx and he fed it scraps from the shop. Unfortunately, it died having kittens, which always made my father sad...and he didn't want another cat because of that, and because my mom didn't like them.

So I had to make do with petting all the neighborhood strays. Most stayed away from me, but on the days when one deigned to allow my childish caresses? Happiness!

My mom died when I was in college, and shortly thereafter, I announced my intention of getting a dog or a cat to my father. My dad didn't want a dog. "You're never home! Who will take care of it? I'll end up walking it. No, thank you."

My friend Katie went with me to the Syosset animal shelter and I almost, just barely, escaped without adopting a pretty little Doberman mix I'd nicknamed Honey while in the shelter. Yeah, that's how close I got to adopting her!

The shelter had no cats, and it was near Christmas, so I waited until February. Finally, screwing up my courage, I called Bide-A-Wee in Wantaugh, a private animal shelter, which was just about half a mile from the county shelter. I figured if I didn't see a cat I liked at Bide-A-Wee, I'd find one at the county shelter.

Although Bide-A-Wee was a wonderful shelter with caring staff, none of the cats there 'spoke' to me. My dad had a saying: let the animals 'speak' to you, and you will always pick the right one for you. By that he meant to set aside your logical self and let your heart speak to choose a pet. It had always worked well for me, from choosing hamsters to fish. As I stood outside the cat viewing area at Bide-A-Wee, I knew none of the animals were right for me.

Disheartened, fearing I'd never find a cat I'd like, I drove to the county animal shelter a few doors down. There a man showed me to the 'cat room.' "We don't have many now," he said. What an understatement. There was a fluffy white kitten huddled into a corner cage, and a slinky young black cat prowling about her cage like a panther.

I was immediately drawn to the kitten. A kitten! How wonderful! But on closer inspection, the kitten had a runny nose, runny eyes, and seemed to be very sick.

As I was trying to decide whether or not take the kitten, I felt a tap on my shoulder. The black cat had reached out a paw and tapped me on the shoulder! "MEOW!" she demanded, and I laughed. She met my eyes boldly. She had beautiful emerald eyes and not a speck of white on her. I leaned over her cage, letting her sniff my fingers, and she seemed bold and friendly.

I turned back to the white kitten when a young couple came in to view the cats. They immediately went to the black cat, who turned her butt to them and sat down in the corner...staring at the wall. The couple moved to the kitten cage, and I went back to look at the black cat. As soon as she saw me, the black cat leaped to her feet, gave a happy chirp, and began pacing and rubbing her cheeks on the bars of the cage.

I knew I'd found my cat...or she had found me.

With shaking hands, I approached the desk. "I'd like to adopt a cat, please," I said to the man behind the desk.

"Which one?"

"The one in cage 29."

"The beautiful black one with the pretty green eyes!" The man beamed. He was so happy to see one of the animals get adopted!

Her cage tag said she'd been brought in as a stray from Oceanside, Long Island, two days before. It was Saturday. She was scheduled for euthanization on Monday if she wasn't adopted.

But she was adopted, and she came home, dove under the couch, and hid out until Monday when she deemed the house safe enough to emerge. That day marked the start of my 18-year old relationship wit Baloo, also known as the MagnifiCat. Many stories about her entertain my friends, and one story was published in Chicken Soup for the Cat Lover's Soul. She was truly as special cat. And although I like to think I picked her out, I'm not sure. I think she really did choose me from the pound that day.