Life

The Cat Who Chose Me and the Junkyard Cat

I’ve always loved animals but was never too fond of cats while growing up.  When I was really young, I had a severe allergic reaction to my friend Kevin’s cat that caused my throat to close, so while I appreciated cats, it always had to be from afar.  Until my family adopted a beagle, Benny, in 2001, the only pets I ever had were guinea pigs and cannibalistic goldfish.

With my allergy to cats and my prevalence for hanging out on the internet, my only interaction with cats was watching their crazy antics in Youtube videos.  I held the stereotypical belief that cats were off-putting and independent, miserable and mean.  Meeting my cousin’s cat while helping him move only drove that stereotype home; Thumper was cruel and vicious.  Witnessing her attack my cousin’s feet (from a distance where I wouldn’t have an allergic reaction) just reaffirmed my belief that cats, well, sucked.

Benny the Beagle died in 2012, leaving us with only Daisy, our half-Alaskan Malamute/half-Great Pyrenees puppy.  At the time, I was very good friends with someone who had two cats she absolutely adored.  Through her, I started to see that cats weren’t necessarily the evil little hilarious creatures I had thought they were.  They had their own personalities and were just as capable of love as a dog.  If they wanted to be, anyway.

Benny the Beagle in 2011
Benny in 2011
“Puppy,” sure.

The Cat Who Chose Me

I eventually decided to look into adopting a cat.  In late November 2012, I asked my mom to bring Daisy with me to Providence Animal Rescue League to see if she’d get along with a cat.  If my allergies allowed me to and Daisy could get along with one, I intended on adopting a cat if I could find one I liked.

I knew I wanted to adopt a black cat.  At the time, I was under the belief that black cats aren’t adopted as much cats of other colors (which is, apparently, a myth).  I only ever believed the superstition that black cats were unlucky when I was young, and at 21, I had no problems adopting a black cat.  I wanted to do my part to help an animal out.

After arriving at PARL, I let them know that I was looking to adopt a young black cat but wanted to see if I was still allergic to cats first.  I also told them that I wanted to make sure Daisy would get along with a possible adoption, which was why she was there.  (They initially thought we were putting Daisy up for adoption when they saw her enter the waiting room.  I’d rather lose a limb than give Daisy up.)

The staff told me they had a number of black cats available for adoption and led me to a room where I would be able to meet them one-by-one to see which one was a match for me, if any.  I sat on the chair in the room and waited for the first cat to be brought in, nervous to see if we’d get along (or if I’d suffer an allergic reaction and need to go to the hospital).

The first cat that was brought in was a little older than I had hoped.  He was called “Big Boy” and was a recent in-take, and at six years old and all black, wasn’t likely to be adopted for awhile, if at all.  The PARL staffer put Big Boy down on the floor and said she’d come back in a few minutes to see what I thought of him, so I sat cross-legged on the mat on the floor and bid the cat over.

I was surprised when Big Boy came over to me, plopped down onto the floor, rolled over, and let me rub his belly.  When the PARL staffer came back into the room a few minutes later, she gasped in surprise.  “Wow, he doesn’t let anyone pet him like that!  He must like you!” she said to me.

“I guess he chose me then,” I said.  My decision had been made for me.

"Big Boy" choosing me to adopt him.
“Big Boy” choosing me to adopt him.

Daisy got along alright with “Big Boy”, so PARL began getting him ready for adoption.  As PARL sorted out the paperwork for “Big Boy’s” adoption, my mom asked to see the dogs available for adoption.  “Just to look,” she said.  Of course, among all the dogs in kennels, there was a beagle.  And PARL had a special.  $11 adoption fees for senior dogs, and this beagle was a senior.  That’s how we ended up adopting a cat and a dog on the same day.

Needless to say, my father wasn’t too happy when we arrived home with both a cat and a dog (especially a beagle…in the words of my dad, “Beagles suck!”).

Big Boy (who I renamed Maximus) completely decimated any stereotype of cats.  He had a near-instant affection towards me and for the first few years I had him, essentially refused to even let me out of his sight.  He’d lay on my desk while I gamed, sleep beside my pillow when I slept, and spend all his time near me.  He was never once cruel to me the way Thumper was to my cousin.  And for the most part, he and Daisy got along fairly well.

One time when Daisy got a little too rambunctious with Max, he turned to her and punched her twice in her nose.  Since then, Daisy gave Max a wide berth whenever she was near him so as not to frighten him.  They’ve even cuddled together since Max showed her he wasn’t afraid of her or her paws that are the size of his head.

Snickers the beagle
My brother walking Snickers

In October 2015, I was finally living on my own for the first time, in a relatively empty apartment, with only Max to keep me company.  I was employed as a merchandiser at Pepsi working 12-hour days on a good day.  I felt bad leaving Max alone for so long (there were some weeks I worked 80+ hours a week) so I decided to adopt another cat to give him a buddy.

Getting a Friend for Max

Every time I’d go to PetSmart, I’d always go to the back of the store where cats were available for adoption.  I’m not sure why I’d do that, because it would break my heart to see all the cats waiting for someone to adopt them, but I guess I’m a glutton for punishment.

There was a little black kitten there named Felix that I kept seeing for over a month, available for adoption by PawsWatch.  Since Max was starting to get a little older, I figured adopting a kitten would help bring him some energy and much-needed socialization, especially as I worked long days.  I got into contact with PawsWatch and inquired about possibly adopting Felix.

I was informed that adopting a kitten wouldn’t be a good idea for Max and they’d more than likely not get along well, but that there was another cat available – Rocky, he was called – for adoption that Stephanie, the PawsWatch volunteer, thought would be a great fit for Max.  A date was made for Stephanie and Rocky’s fosters to visit my apartment to see how Max and Rocky would get along and, if so, proceed with the adoption.

The Junkyard Cat

Upon arrival, Rocky was let out of his cat carrier and proceeded to poop all over the pristine white carpets of my apartment.

AWESOME!

Once the mess was cleaned up, Stephanie told me a little bit about Rocky.  Part of what PawsWatch does here in Rhode Island is to trap and spay stray cats to control the feral population.  Once they’re spayed, the cats are released back into the wild.  However, every once-in-awhile, some feral colonies are discovered to be the home of cats that aren’t feral.  Perhaps they’re runaways or simply abandoned by monsters who shouldn’t have pets in the first place.

Max and Rocky on day 1: a tense peace.

Rocky was one such cat.  Found among a feral colony at the Johnston Landfill, Rocky was discovered to not be feral like those cats he was wandering with.  He had supposedly attached himself to the colony and wandered around the dump, severely injuring the pads of his paws in the process.  Amy, his original foster, took excellent care of his paws and helped them heal by applying ointment, as well as getting him chipped, vaccinated, and spayed, all out of her own pocket.  Contrast that kind of love for animals with the types of people who abandon their pets…

Max, with his typical hermit ways, didn’t really seem to care one way or another that Rocky was in my apartment.  Stephanie and I both decided that I’d keep Rocky for a few days and see how the two cats got along; if there were problems, I’d let her know and, sadly, give Rocky back to her.

Thankfully, the two cats got along well…really well!  Max remained a bit of a curmudgeon, but seemed happy to have company when I wasn’t around.  Rocky kept him busy, too.  Rocky’s only 3 years old or so, so he’s still really playful and energetic and keeps Max on his toes with his antics.

Adopting a Cat

I didn’t know until half-way through writing this post, but this weekend is apparently “National Adoption Weekend.”  I’ll take this opportunity, then, to persuade you to consider adopting an animal if you’re looking on adding an addition to your family.  There’s so many animals in shelters or with foster families that are in need of furrever homes and of the three pets I’ve adopted now, I can promise you, you’ll love them as much as they’ll love you.

The bond I have with Max is something I never realized a human could form with an animal.  Even in the worst days of my battle with depression, these two cats give me a reason to smile and on more than one occasion, a reason to keep on living.

If you don’t want to or can’t adopt a cat right now but are feeling charitable, consider donating to your local animal shelter.  The animals there need all the help they can get and I’ve seen first-hand what donations are contributed toward.

Max Hugging Me



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