On my very first day volunteering at Friends of Animals, I walked into the washroom to get a bottle of cleaner or roll of paper towels or some such thing. There was a cat perched on the windowsill, and she immediately jumped down to the lid of the laundry hamper and started headbutting me, purring like a little helicopter. I took a few moments to get acquainted with her — her name is Lacy — and in those few moments I knew: I belonged to this cat.
The great truth of cats: We don’t choose them, they choose us, if we give them the chance. This is why I prefer adult cats to kittens — their personalities and temperaments have solidified, so getting to know them is more like getting to know a new person. Maybe you’re compatible, maybe you’re not. Combine that with animals’ ability to figure out who gets them and who doesn’t, and I think the odds of both human and cat being happy together are pretty terrific.
As it turns out, my new feline overlord [overlady?] isn’t the most outgoing of creatures. She’ll occasionally greet new people, but if it gets too crowded or noisy in the cattery, she retreats into a cupboard that only she — out of fifty cats — knows the secret of getting into. One of her preferred napping spots is on the top of a very high cupboard, just inches from the ceiling… the better to supervise everyone. But damn if she doesn’t jump down from her perch, or even greet me at the door, when I come in for my shift.
Lacy is a pretty, feminine little cat: fluffy-soft as a bunny, round and cuddly with deep green eyes and very long whiskers. Her eyelids are dark grey, giving the appearance of black eyeliner/lashes. Basically, she’s a Disney cartoon come to life. But appearances can be deceiving… if you reach out to pet her and she doesn’t want to be bothered, she will slap your hand three times, very fast, usually accompanied by a decisive “MEH!” She even does that to me, and she likes me better than anyone (at least as far as I can tell). I have lap time with Lacy before I do anything else — most of the time, when she sees me she climbs right down and waits for me to settle onto the floor — but when she’s done, she’s done. This could be either because she’s tired of sitting in my lap or because another cat has disturbed her… usually the latter. Woe betide any cat who tries to interrupt lap time.
Of course, like many shelter cats, Lacy has a sad story. She was found at about six months of age, foraging for scraps behind a fast-food restaurant. Currently six years old, she’s lived almost her entire life in the cattery. As far as I know, she’s never encountered a couch, or a bed, or any other accoutrements of a human dwelling besides a countertop or cupboard. It hurts me in my soul that I can’t provide these things for her… but for now, my personal circumstances make it impossible for me to adopt her. So I visit whenever I can, on my usual volunteer days and random shifts or drop-ins here and there. I bring her leftover chicken, as long as it hasn’t been cooked with onion or garlic (both toxic to cats), and watch her turn into a single-minded predator akin to the Cookie Monster as she seeks MORE CHICKEN! OM NOM NOM NOM! And while I know it’s my responsibility to help the shelter cats find forever homes as soon as possible, I can’t help hoping that she sticks around long enough for my circumstances to change. Our head volunteer once said that Lacy “knows who her mama is”, and I think she’s right. Here’s hoping.