by Cassondra Murray
Early in the summer of 2008, a lonely gray cat, skinny, in trouble, and so small she looked about six months old, wandered into a subdivision and arrived at the back door of a girl named Amy. Amy is a friend of ours, and works with my husband, Steve.
Maybe it was luck, coincidence, or an angel guiding Little Gray Cat, but let's just say that if you were a cat in trouble, Amy's door would have been the one you'd want to find. Because as luck, or the Divine, would have it, Amy had a soft spot for cats.
Amy cleared out an entire spare bedroom for the forlorn little cat, laid out old blankets, moved in a cat tree, litter box, and a scratching post. After a trip to the vet, Little Gray Cat took up residence, and in August, 2008, five little ones arrived. And no group of kittens had ever come into the world to more love.
They had everything they needed, and Little Gray Cat settled in to motherhood without a hitch.
A few months before that, we'd lost our beloved Max at age 17. He'd been lost in a field when his mom and siblings were taken by owls, and come to us when he was three weeks and weighed 3/4 lbs. Max was our companion for all those years, and we were devastated when we lost him. This is Max, engaging in his favorite spectator sport.
Our younger cat, Amon (pronounced Aaaahh-muhnn) was bereft. She sat around, staring out the windows, and although she made an effort to pick up and move on, no doubt she was lonely all day in the house when we were out at work. No more night stampedes through the house. Nobody to lie in wait for from the top of the armoire. It was time to find her some company. I'd always wanted a black cat, but we always seemed to end up with grays.
That's Max. on the right, with Amon, on the left. Amon came home with us after we coaxed her and her sister out from under a car in the parking lot of a Captain D's. She weighed a whopping one pound at the time. One of the employees took the sister, and Amon has been with us since.
As fate would have it, of the five new arrivals at Amy's house, three were gray, and two were black.
We went for a visit. We got to know the kittens in their first five weeks. And eventually we settled on a little black furball with big green eyes and a white snip under his chin. We brought him home and named him Umbra.
Umbra was the first kitten we'd ever brought home who had not been abandoned, and was not in trouble. He'd never known anything but love, and perhaps as a result, he loves everyone who comes to our home. Umbra knows no stranger. He's truly a laid-back cat. At sixteen pounds, he's now a hoss of solid, purring muscle.
Here's Umbra in the new kitchen sink during a construction phase just before Christmas.
Flash foward to the summer of 2010, and Amy found herself, as Little Gray Cat had once been, in the family way. Things were a little different for Amy, though. She had a fellow who loved her, and would love their baby. Amy already had her own house, so everything was set. There was just one problem.
Amy's husband wasn't fond of cats, and as time passed, turned out to be allergic to them. With a baby on the way, there was nothing to do but find a new home for Little Gray Cat.
We'd always told Amy that if Little Gray Cat couldn't stay with her, we'd bring her to our house, but Amy didn't want us to feel pressured, and we already had two cats. So we got the email three weeks ago. With the baby due in 8 days, and her husband sick from the dander, Amy was feeling the pressure. She'd taken Little Gray Cat, Umbra's mom, to the shelter.
We needed another cat like we needed a hole in the head. But sometimes that just doesn't matter.
It was 11:00 in the morning on a Saturday when we opened that email.
By the time we found Little Gray Cat on the shelter website and figured out what we had to do, it was ten minutes before noon. We needed a reference, and our vet closes at noon on Saturdays. We called anyway.
Joy, the sweetheart who works the front desk on weekends (and who loves cats, and has a few more than she needs as well) stopped everything to phone the shelter with a reference for us. We called a friend who volunteers there, hoping these efforts might help us jump more easily through the Nazi-like hoops of the shelter's watchdogs and allow us to spring Little Gray Cat from the slammer. Our friends rallied around the effort, and we drove too fast on the way there.
I have to tell you, I admire people who volunteer at the shelter. I can't do it. I cry from the time I walk in the door until I drive away. I cried a bunch, as usual, and apologized to the people at the shelter for doing so. Nothing makes me lose it like too many faces looking back at me through the bars. We sponsored another cat because we couldn't bring all of them with us.
And we brought Little Gray Cat home.
Her name is Holly (Amy had named her that when she first arrived), and it's clear that Umbra got his huge, pale-green eyes and laid-back ways from his mother.
She's obviously no longer a scrawny little cat, and is being put through laser-pointer chase drills for weight loss.
After some hissing, spitting and a bit of flying fur, the cat chain of command has been established and there seems to be a truce in the house, and Holly is taking her share of shifts on mouse watch.
She's fitting right in.
What about you, Bandits and Buddies?
Have you ever taken in a stray animal?
Have you adopted from a shelter? If so, how do you leave there without bringing them all with you?
Have you ever had too many already, but brought in one more?
How many do you have? If you don't have them now, did you have animals in your home when you were a kid?
Tell me how your furry friends came to be with you.