I remember the day.
It was the day my newest family members came home. The day I adopted two kittens from my local animal shelter.
I had been wanting a kitten for a while now and our last furry family member had died about a year prior. It was time.
So off I went.
I’m now in my car driving to the local animal shelter which is only a short distance away. I know that it’s a no-kill shelter so there will be a lot of kittens for adoption; it’s also spring.
I don’t care what sex this kitten is going to be, although I prefer male. Actually, it will be simple. He or she will pick me. I’m leaving it up to the universe and the “cat” to decide its home and who he or she will be leaving with.
I arrive at the shelter filled with excitement and curiosity to see who I will meet. I walk through the front doors into the waiting area where I am greeted by a young shelter worker named Lindsey. She is polite enough and is dressed in khakis and a T-shirt that reads “Save Lives—Adopt Don’t Shop.”
She asks me what I would be interested in seeing, and I tell her kittens. “Ohhh, she says, we have plenty of cuties back there!” She asks me to follow her to the back of the building to a room where they keep the cats and kittens separated from the barking dogs.
As I walk in, I notice the rows of cages lined up one on top of another. It’s clean and bright with yellow walls and big, bright windows facing me. There are a couple of toys laying on the floor and cat trees scattered about. I glance over and I can see some of the kittens hiding in their cages, looking frightened as they peer out at me from their little corner of the world.
I want to pet all of them and love them. I want to give them a little holdover love as they await their forever home.
I think to myself how sad it must be to live in such a small place. No human connection other than the shelter workers and visits from people like me. Rarely, but sometimes, they are sharing this tiny place with one or two other kittens or cats. I can see, especially with the older cats, the fear in their eyes as they peer out.
I would love to adopt them all. But realistically, I know I can’t.
I hear some meowing and crying and I keep walking from cage to cage. I look at one cage that has just a little, fluffy kitten all huddled in the corner. She is a white and gold tabby. Her hair is long and she looks to be about six weeks old. She is so tiny.
I think to myself, why is she in this cage alone? I give her a little pet between the bars of the cage, but she cowers even more, backing herself away from me. Poor thing. I think how scared she must be.
At that very moment, Lindsey comes up to me saying that I wouldn’t want her. “Why?” I ask.
Lindsey replied, “They had her in a cage with other kittens and she was so terrified with them. She’s a loner…doesn’t really like to socialize or play.” But she’s only a baby, I think to myself.
Yet I know these shelter workers know what they are doing. I want this tiny, little creature, but I hesitate. I still want to look at more kittens. I continue walking down the row of cages.
I start to hear this meowing in front of me. Where is this cat that is crying? I continue walking past the cages looking for this persistent and vocal kitten, and finally, I see him. He is a striped tiger kitten. He looks a bit older, and he’s rubbing the front of the cage incessantly with the side of his body, crying and crying as he walks back and forth, back and forth.
He obviously wants to be out of that cage! Like now! There are two other cats with him all about the same age, maybe 8 to 10 weeks old. “Wow, look at him! He really wants attention,” I say.
I start to feel badly for him, so I ask Lindsey if I can hold him. “Can you take him out of the cage for me?” I ask.
I know he just wants attention and love, and he’s using his voice to tell me so.
Lindsey unlocks the cage door and this kitten practically leaps out. Lindsey picks him up and instantly he starts purring. He is crawling up her arm, over her shoulder, nudging her face. He is soooo happy to be out! I notice his long body, and his big head. Oh my, he’s a little funny looking. He’s really not that cute.
“Are you ready to hold him?” she asks.
“Sure,” I reply. I’m still not quite sure if I even want to adopt him or even like the looks of him. But I take him from her and he instantly starts purring again.
“He is kinda cute,” she says. I look down at him as he tries to climb up my chest and I notice how big his ears are. He is scrawny looking with a long body and a head that is too big for it. I think to myself, he doesn’t look that cute but he does have beautiful markings on his face with multi-colored stripes, mostly black, tan, and white, and he does have beautiful green eyes!
He keeps purring, and then meowing…purring, then meowing. He certainly wants to be heard. Yes, she checks, he is a little boy. He is full of energy and spunk, as most kittens are, and at this point, he’s starting to win me over as he gently starts kneading his little paws into my neck.
He’s practically crawling on my head when Lindsey says, “You should adopt him. He needs a home. He’s been here a couple of weeks, and he cries a lot. He doesn’t like being in this cage.” My heart sinks. Why did she have to tell me that? Now, I feel even worse for him.
After a little bit of thought, I decide to adopt him and I also adopt his soon-to-be stepsister—the shy gold and white tabby four cages down from him.
I’m bringing them home in a cardboard box. She is crying the whole time, and my little striped tiger isn’t even making a peep. Well, this is strange. He was the vocal one in the shelter. Her head keeps popping up through the little hole in the top where the four corners of the box meet. She doesn’t manage to squirm out, but I am thankful to be only a short distance from home.
I finally arrive home, and bring the box in my kitchen. I can’t open the box fast enough, and out pops my little tabby, and my striped boy jumps out after her. She runs and before I know it, she’s under my bed. He, on the other hand, is calm as he struts his stuff with his tail straight up high. As if saying to me, “Well, it’s about time you came for me!”
He is calm, cool, and not frightened at all, jetting about the house like he had been there before—unlike his sister, who, by the way, hid under my bed for three days before coming out to be with the family.
I named my new babies Jet and Mindy. Mindy was my timid girl. She was my special needs kitten who would, for the next 12 years, be our special girl. Mindy was always tiny, but grew into a beautiful and loving cat. Although she hid a lot, her time with us was special. When the house was quiet and we were in bed, it was she who would climb up on us and want her love.
Jet, on the other hand continued to voice his presence, and he became my forever cat. He was my boy. His body grew in proportion to his head, his ears stopped growing, and he became the most beautiful cat. He had the most beautiful green eyes. He would sit and chat with me and meow.
Jet loved to talk!
He would lay in front of the fireplace and socialize with everyone that walked in the door. He was people friendly and everyone loved him. Everyone. He was a special cat. He somehow always knew when I was in deep thought. I don’t know how. But he did. He would come and find me and just sit in front of me and meow. As if to say, “I hear you, but enough of your daydreaming, you have stuff to do.”
He loved his catnip and his toys, and we often found him sitting on the top bunk of the cat tree. He loved his home and his life.
As with most cats, Jet became sick in his older years. He developed a thyroid condition. We put him on medication and for the most part it worked. We changed his diet and had his levels checked every six months.
As the years progressed, especially the last year of his life, I noticed Jet was not eating as much and had lost some weight. I also noticed his stool was tiny and irregular. I knew something was wrong. I made an appointment with my vet to take him in to be checked. I’d gotten worried.
The day of the appointment was a day I will never forget. After taking X-rays, they discovered a blockage in Jet’s intestine. “Most likely a tumor,” said Dr. Roy, “and at this age I wouldn’t do anything. He’s 18 years old. He’s lived a good life.”
I was completely heartbroken. The tears were falling and even though I knew something was wrong, I didn’t know nor did I expect it to be something like this.
Jet became my forever family member and lived a long life of 18 years. I buried him under the catnip bush that he loved.
He was my best photo model, and to the very end, loved with me with his whole being. Unconditionally.
He chose me and I will be eternally grateful for that. He will always be my forever cat.
“One day the angel bridge will appear to you, and all the animals you loved on earth will be by your side to light your way home.” ~ Christine Davis