If At First You Don’t Succeed …
This is about cats. But really, it’s about one of those “life lessons”: If you make the wrong choice, just cut your losses and move forward. Don’t lose sight of your goal.
Anyone who’s talked to me for more than five minutes knows that I adopted a cat last summer, my first in 15 years. My previous cat had been put to sleep at age 21; what with a new job, two moves and two kitchen renovations, and a long-distance relationship, it never seemed like the right time to get another. I had gone through putting four cats to sleep within nine years (since I’d had three at one point) and didn’t think I could face that again—plus, after catering to and cleaning up after an elderly kitty for years, I seriously needed a break.
But last year I began to feel the pull of furry, whiskered little faces. I told myself that cat-sitting for neighbors was enough to get my “fix”—but late at night, I found myself browsing Petfinders and the ASPCA’s website (which felt like an online dating service, with its perky, first-person descriptions and little videos of prospective matches playing, being petted, or shyly blinking at the camera, all seeming to beg “pick me, pick me!”). It was just too overwhelming.
When the New York Cat Coalition held an adoption event in front of a local pet supply store, I told myself I’d wander by “just to look” and was taken with a youngish male brown-striped tabby, though I was hesitant. I’ve always adopted cats directly from previous owners who can tell me quite a bit about them, so I know I’m getting an “apartment cat.” Rescued felines are a bit like a “mystery gift”—you never know what you’ve got until you open the box at home.
Fostering for a rescue group is a good option: you can see if you’re really up for this, and can “test-drive” the kitty in question to make sure you’re both happy. (Some folks believe you get what you get, like having kids; I think of a cat more like a partner you wouldn’t marry without dating first.) So I took the plunge.
The tabby, whom I too-presciently named Nudnik when I thought I might keep him, turned out to be like that cartoon version of the Tasmanian Devil, tearing insanely around my apartment, biting my ankles, leaping up from behind when I least expected it to sink his claws into me and then run away. He’d go from purring on my chest to gashing my arm within seconds. After a month, I’d had it. I felt terrible—like somehow I’d failed—but my friend Carole reassured me that I was making the right choice. “You’re genetically programmed to love cats,” she said, “and there’s some deserving kitty out there who really needs you and will appreciate you.”
To my relief, the woman from the rescue organization understood completely … but the night before Nudnik was retrieved, she begged me to try another brown tabby, same age, who’d been found on Fordham Road in the Bronx and just neutered about two weeks ago. “He’s a love!” she assured me. Poor Billy was skinny as a rail, and they had no room for him; he was sharing a cage with two kittens. So call me a sucker.
Long story short, as they say: Billy is my constant companion, often stretching out beside the computer with his paw on my arm as I type; he waits until my feet hit the floor in the morning to yowl for food. He charms visitors, shaking hands for a treat, and sleeps curled up against whatever body part of mine he can rest his chin on. My friend Liz’s reminder echoes in my head: “Don’t give up just before the miracle occurs.”