For as long as I can remember, there have always been cats in the family. As a young child, I found it quite normal that if my grandfather or mom saw a stray cat they would do their utmost to befriend it and bring it home. In fact, this was more of a delight than my grandmother would care to admit, as she clearly favored the dog, and would not allow the cats to set paws in the house when she was home. To me it seemed like the most natural of things to offer food and shelter to any cat, and this is a trait that has remained with me since early childhood.
The first time I picked my own stray to bring home was in the fourth grade. It was the last day of class in late June and I had walked the three blocks home in the drenching heat and humidity of New York. I sat down on the front stoop with my schoolbag on my lap and watched the world unfold before me. Up the stairs came the dirtiest, flea riddled and most beautiful grey and white tabby I had ever seen. He had these green eyes that radiated kindness, and everything about the cat reminded me about my grandfather. It had been almost two years since I had left my grandparent’s house and far too long to go without feline companionship, but New York apartments are a far cry from the huge house with a backyard that I had grown up in.
Nevertheless, my mind was just as determined as my heart, and I scooped the cat up, and ran up the three flights of stairs with him in my arms. I held him so close to my 10-year-old heart that the poor cat probably felt suffocated but I was set on making a good plea to my mother in order to keep him. Surprisingly, it wasn’t hard to convince her, which allowed me to relax and let the cat inspect his new home. It wasn’t until the evening that he began to pace around the front door and meow pleadingly to be let out. My mom saw the worried look on my face, and assured me that the right thing to do was to let him out, and that if he indeed had no home, he would come back. It was one of those many moments in time where life asks that you do the right thing but something slightly selfish stirred inside of me, and I was desperately afraid that this cat I had come to love instantly would never be seen again. But I knew it was not right to keep him against his will. So, I opened the front door, walked all the way downstairs with him, and slowly inched the last door open. My cat sprang out and disappeared into the night, receding into the shadows as if he had never been there at all.
I came back upstairs prepared to face heartbreak. My mom reassured me that he would come back, but I was only half listening to her. I was already lamenting the loss of my new companion. I went to my room, sat on the windowsill and cried. I sat there for a bit, but every once is a while, I would try calling out for him. I didn’t hold out much hope, but it was enough that every few minutes I would attempt to call my yet unnamed cat home. I was getting tired and probably more desperate by the minute, but still held vigil for the possibility of his furry shape reappearing. At the end of the street, where the street lamp cast its most magnificent glow, I saw my cat, tail held high in the air, four paws marching quickly along and heading into the direction of the house. I screamed with joy, and ran downstairs, picked him up and for the next ten years he remained one of my best friends and the family’s devoted and beloved pet.
It is said that the more things change, the more they remain the same. This saying can most definitely be applied to my relationship to cats even at the age of 32. This summer, my boyfriend and I went to visit my grandmother in Romania for two weeks. On one of the few evenings we had to ourselves, we went to have a picnic at the fortress in the city. We brought ingredients to make sandwiches and some beer. We settled down on a bench to enjoying the last rays of daylight and my attention was drawn to a beautiful old, ivy-covered staircase. I love to photograph and immediately took off to get some shots before the lighting changed. As I came to the staircase, I saw something even more beautiful. There stood a gorgeous cat and she regarded me with both patience and interest through her gorgeous eyes. She was utterly and devastatingly beautiful and I loved her instantly. I picked her up in my arms and carried her over to my boyfriend, but by this time her fearful instincts had kicked in and she jumped from my arms and retreated back in the direction from where I had found her.
I picked up a large piece of sausage and walked over to where she was. She eyed me with caution. I placed the sausage down and waited for her to come and eat. She stepped back into full view timidly, but the smell of food was enough of a draw. She placed one paw on the sausage and began to devour it all within seconds. She was ravenous and I remembered that as I held her in my arms, I could feel her bones. I went back got more sausage and brought my boyfriend with me. We fed her three more times, and by now she willingly came to both of us to pet. It was important for me that she trusted him as much as she trusted me. I looked up at my boyfriend and announced that if the cat allowed me to pick her up, we were going to bring her home with us. The park to the fortress was closing and it was a now or never type of situation.
I picked her up and held her in my arms, and we walked with her like this for an hour and a half until we reached my grandmother’s apartment. The fact that my grandmother would not let us in with the cat is another story all together, but we took our new cat to my cousin’s house where she immediately became friends with their dog and the cat adoption began. We had thought that our new and lovely cat was a kitten because she was so small. The next day we went with her to the vet to get her rabies shot, a checkup and to have her spayed. It was during her checkup that we learned a lot more about her. It appears she had a fresh wound on her right leg, probably from a dog. She had an ear and pulmonary infection for which we got her antibiotics. According to her teeth, our cat is no kitten at all but somewhere between 8-10 years old. She was very used to people so at some point she was someone’s beloved pet. How she ended up on the streets, we can only speculate, but she retained her loving nature and placed her trust in us, and she is a permanent member of our tiny family.
The next day we went to get her a cat passport and she became official. Our Romanian kitty would travel and live with us in Norway. Some people believe that we don’t pick our pets, but that they actually pick us, and I must confess that it has always felt this way to me. Of course, when adopting a cat, or any pet for that matter, there are many things to keep in mind. Will you have the time to devote to it? Do you have the space? Can you afford the pet? Do you live with others and how will they feel about it? Do you travel a lot, and if so, is there someone who can care for it? Ultimately, knowing that you may create the difference between life and death may override most other reasons for not having a pet. When adopting, try to adopt strays as their lives are in constant peril, as are the lives of those who are brought into shelters and are usually extinguished within 72 hours if they are not adopted. Kittens have a better chance of being adopted, while adult cats face a much harder time. The truth is that you have to be able to envision your life with the cat even if you adopt a kitten, because like a child, they will need you always, and give you unparalleled joy and love in turn.