Loving the Stray Cats

Yes, I love rockabilly and even whatever it is you call the Brian Setzer Orchestra’s music. But that’s not what I’m here to write about today. This time I mean literal stray cats. The kind that show up on street corners and in shelters.

Sometimes you choose a cat. Sometimes a cat chooses you. At least that’s the way it is for us.

Shelters. When we choose a cat, it’s from a shelter. No fancy purebreds for us, with their snooty flat faces or impressive bloodlines or ability to pose for judges. No, we’ll take a cat who’s been abandoned, or whose owner died, or who was the runt of the litter. There are two wonderful no-kill shelters in our town, as well as the standard “Humane Society” one. Between the two shelters, they introduced us to Bijou, Anjou, Matches, Louise, Garcia, and Jasper – three tortoiseshell calicos, two orange tabbies, and a gray tabby.

Mind you, not all of them came with those names. We acquired the gray tabby when I went into a shelter and said I wanted a talker. They looked at each other and pointed.  “This one,” they said. The only problem was that his name was “Precious Bob,” which just wouldn’t do. We renamed him Jasper and listened to the many tales he told us in Jaspernese.

Julia and Laurel, a calico and a tortie respectively, both long-haired, were a bonded pair that could only be adopted together; the shelter, called The Tenth Life, would not separate them. That brought us up to five cats at the time, the most we’ve ever had at once.

Re-Homing. There was another time we adopted a pair of cats who weren’t bonded but came from the same source. Shaker, a tuxedo cat, and Chelsea, a black and white spotted, came from a woman whose daughter was leaving for college. We took them “temporarily,” which I guess you know is code for “forever.” Cat therapist Jackson Galaxy calls this process “re-homing,” but I like to think of it as informal adoption.

Strays. Other cats have found us. Maggie, a gray tabby, found my husband in a parking lot and instantly seduced him. Django, a robust gray and white cat, and lovely calico Dushenka wandered through our property and decided to stay. (I figured if Dan could have a Garcia, I could follow the musical theme and have a Django.  And for those of you wondering, Dushenka is a Russian word that literally means Little Soul but is used as an endearment like sweetheart. But I digress.)

Then we got the most stray cat ever. “How can one cat be more stray than another?” a friend asked. Toby actually arrived at my husband’s workplace on a delivery truck and lived in the stockroom for a few days until Dan brought him home. The truck had come from Michigan, so the little gray tabby was a long way from his original home.

Fosters. Twice we have had “guest cats,” or fosters. One was a black cat named Joliet. She stayed with us until one day she stole an entire steak off the plate just as we were about to eat it. Afterward, we figured out that we shouldn’t have named her Joliet, which is the name of a prison in Illinois.

The other foster was only known as “The Devil Kitten From the Crawlspace of Hell.” He was a tiny, adorable, pinky-orange kitten that we fostered until he was big enough to go to the shelter. He was completely unsocialized, with what in humans would be called an attachment disorder. That is, he was abandoned too young to have learned how to be a proper cat. As such, he reverted to his ancestral drives and attacked any meat he happened to see, which was primarily our ankles. And was he ever pointy! He ruined many a pair of pantyhose before we finally fattened him up enough to go to the shelter.

With two exceptions, Matches and Louise, all our cats have been adult cats or at least “tweens.” Shelters have a hard time finding families for older cats, but I like them. They come already potty-trained and don’t climb the drapes nearly as much. It’s my opinion that they make the best pets.

I know there are people who swear by purebred cats, especially Maine Coons. But our stray cats have given us as much joy, love, and distraction as a purebred ever could. And since we have no interest in entering them in cat shows, we have no need for cats with papers beyond their vaccination certificates.

Anyway, this is a plea for the old, the homeless, the abandoned, the infirm, the lonely, and the lost.

Stray cats may not rock this town, but they rock our world.

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