Shortly after Andrew and I got married, we decided our life was missing something: the pitter patter of little feet, or more accurately, the pitter patter of four furry little paws. It was time to get a cat.
To prepare for our new arrival, we bought Cats for Dummies, a book that, for all that it has a silly title, is filled with valuable information. Together, we read the book from cover to cover, soaking up advice on how to find the perfect cat, and then how to care for that perfect cat. We went out and bought everything we needed and then some. We bought a litter box and food bowls, a scratching post and cat bed, pet brushes and nail trimmers, toys and more toys. We set everything up in our guest room, making it nice and cozy. Our book had said it was best to set up a "safe" room for a new cat, a place where they could feel comfortable as they adjusted to their new living environments. When everything was ready and in place, we felt we were ready to go out and find a cat.
We went to a nearby shelter, to see what cats were available for adoption. There were several other families looking, and Andrew and I joined the small crowd of "oohhing" and "ahhing" potential cat families. We spent time peeking into each cage, watching the cats as they lazed about or paced back and forth. We spent some time in the giant cat room at the shelter where the older cats spent their days in comfort. Was there a perfect cat for us at this shelter?
We wandered around the shelter some more, and my eye was caught by a cluster of people around one cage. The "ooohhhs" and "aaahhhs" were much louder at this cage, and I was curious as to why. I peeked in a gap between the cluster of people, and saw a little kitten, a very little, itty bitty kitten, prancing about, preening under all the attention and admiration he was receiving. He was easily the youngest and smallest kitten at the shelter, which might have explained all the admiration he was receiving. I thought he was cute, but nothing about the little kitten really called out to me.
I was about to turn away from the cage when something again caught my eye: movement. There was another kitten in the cage. He was slightly older and bigger, with black and white markings. He was trotting back and forth behind the younger kitten, eager to get some attention himself, but the large crowd ignored him in favor of the younger, smaller kitten. Something about that older kitten, the way he eagerly moved about, looking adoringly up at the faces peeking into his cage, tugged at my heart. I couldn't believe no one was paying any attention to him.
I decided to move in closer to the cage, elbowing my way past the crowd. I managed to wedge myself near a corner, and immediately the black and white kitten came running in my direction. He butted his head against the side of the cage, trying to get closer to me. We had an amusing few minutes of cage play, with him rubbing up against my fingers and prancing about in pleasure. Before long however, one of the other kitten's adoring fans requested to hold the itty bitty kitty, and I had to move away as the small kitten was placed into the welcome arms of one of his welcoming fans. My little black and white kitten looked crestfallen. Why had his roommate got picked up but not him? I immediately tapped the shelter attendant on the shoulder and asked if I could hold the black and white kitten. My request was granted.
That black and white kitten just melted into my arms, with a purr starting up immediately. He seemed so content to just be held. He looked up at me with golden eyes and seemed to say, "Gee, I could get use to this!" As I cradled him in my arms, I continued to walk around the room, looking into other cages. My little companion looked about with curiosity as we moved from cage to cage, but he never squirmed to get away, never growled at another cat, never did anything but purr contentedly. I must have held him for twenty minutes before I reluctantly passed him over to Andrew. The black and white kitten didn't put up a fuss, just again snuggled right down into Andrew's arms, and then looked up at him adoringly, as if to say "I like you!" Andrew became smitten with the kitten, too.
As Andrew held the kitten, we looked at each other. We looked at the little black and white kitten. The black and white kitten looked up at us. We knew we had found our cat. Andrew passed the kitten back to me and tracked down an attendant to start the adoption paperwork. I held that kitten for a half an hour while Andrew answered question after question on the adoption form. The little kitten never stopped purring and never made even the slightest move to get down. He was just content to be held and continued to look up at me with an adoring look upon his face. He knew he had found his family.
Although the shelter was no more than 15 minutes from our house, it was one of the longest car rides Andrew and I had ever shared, that drive home with our new kitten. The shelter had let us take our new family member home that very day, tucked safely away into a carrier. Our new kitten cried like his heart was broken during that car ride. He had started crying as soon as he was placed in the carrier because we were no longer in his sight. We talked soothingly to him, but nothing helped. We knew all that kitten wanted was to be held and to see his new family. We were never so grateful to get home in our lives!
Up in his new room, our kitten showed just a passing interest in his surroundings, rather, he was eager just to get closer to us. Andrew laid down on the floor and I sat down on the futon in the room, and the little kitten spent an hour running between the two of us. He eagerly would run up to Andrew, go nose to nose with him, and give Andrew several adoring licks on the nose. Then, the kitten would run across the room, jump up onto the futon, crawl into my lap, up my arms, onto to my shoulders, so he could get nose to nose with me and give several adoring licks to my nose. He repeated this endlessly, until he finally fell asleep in my lap with a cute kitty grin on his face. He was definitely happy in his new home and he loved his new family.
Later that evening, conscious of all that our trusty worthy Cats for Dummies book had told us, we kissed and petted our new little addition, newly named Pompey*, goodnight, and left him to the safety of his "safe" room. We immediately regretted it. Rather than spending the time exploring his new space, relishing in the safety of the 'safe' room, our little Pompey begin to cry. If Andrew and I thought that the car ride home was unendurable, well, this was worse. After having spent several blissful hours with us, Pompey couldn't bear to be parted from us. He cried like the world was ending. Andrew and I stood outside the door, holding each other, willing each other the strength to do what the book told us what the right thing to do.
Within fifteen minutes, we had let little Pompey out of his room, and he was having a grand time running around our house, exploring every nook and cranny. He never strayed far from our sight. In fact, Pompey would constantly run up to us, just to look at us. He always had this look upon his face, one that said, "Yup, you guys are still there!" Everything our book had told us to expect- shyness, a little fright, perhaps, the need for a secure space- this kitten didn't need. Apparently, we were his secure space. As long as Pompey had us, he was fine.
When it was time to go to bed, Andrew and I were firm in our resolve NOT to share our bedroom with the cat. We were not entirely sure we wanted a kitten, a very playful kitten, bounding and pouncing on top of us all night long. We decided that if Pompey had the full run of the house, he would surely be fine. There was lots to explore. We once more said good night to our new little fur baby, and then shut ourselves into our 'safe' room.
Well, by this point, I'm sure you can guess what happened. Little Pompey sat in front of our door and just sobbed his little heart out. Where were we? Where had we gone? He missed us. We couldn't take it. It was too much, this pitiful cry of Pompey's. We opened our door, and Pompey leaped joyously into our room and up onto our bed. He promptly claimed his own space right above our heads, nestled on the pillows, and fell right asleep. Andrew and I drifted off to sleep ourselves, lulled to dreamland by the gentle kitty snores and sighs of Pompey.
It's been five years since that first day with Pompey, and each day with him has been a joy. Pompey has been an endless source of love and devotion for us. We adore him just as much as he adores us. To this day, Andrew and I look at each other, look at Pompey, and wonder what we would ever do without him. He's such a wonderful member of our little family, a sweet little person in a furry package.
*Names have been changed to protect the furry! Pompey is just an amusing nickname for my furry little baby.