A few years ago, my partner decided it was time to make a difference in the life of another being. Unaware that we would meet for the first time only a few weeks later, the trip was made to a local animal shelter with the objective of saving an animal, while increasing the element of life within the condo that would eventually become ours, together.
My partner was overwhelmed by how many animals were in need of a healthy home, and knew that a house cat was most ideal at this time. Already holding a preference for Maine Coons, the staff were surprised to hear him take interest in this breed given the one example that they had.
An anti-social, unclean cat known by the staff for having a lacking appetite and a temperamental nature. She had been removed from her previous home due to conflicts with small children and dogs that were living with her. I can only imagine what she may have done that would have constituted as the last straw.
“How long has she been here?” My partner asked.
“Seventeen days, most foster cats here usually last sixteen before they are euthanized, not really sure why she’s still here,” responded the distracted volunteer.
“Then I will take her” said my partner.
And to the shock of everyone associated with the shelter, the nasty five-year old Maine Coon had a home.
When I arrived a few weeks later, Xyla was meek and not very sociable. She had neglected her cleanliness so much so, that she sported patches from where the shelter had to shave out knots that lingered in her fur. I wasn’t fazed by this, as I had never had a pet, nor had I many good experiences with cats. She would hide under the bed or blankets to evade any form of acknowledgement, and would only adjust to eat or visit the litter box. She would meow longingly through the night, and would try to rip the carpet up with her claws.
After a few weeks, she came a bit closer, in sitting next to me on the couch. As someone who had never experienced the wonder of pets (unless sea monkeys somehow count), I was so enthused and curious by her movements, and eventually had the guts to pull her body across the couch towards me until we touched. At first, she seemed very uneasy about being against my leg, but stayed and eventually fell asleep there. I was enthralled by this achievement, and immediately felt a deeper bond with her. It seemed that she too, developed a bond with herself at this point, as she began to clean herself again and eat properly. She gained a healthy amount of weight and her fur looked glossier, creating a majestic stance as she walked.
Now it has been a few years, and we do many things together. When she’s tired of chasing invisible nothings in the darkness of our condo, she leaps onto our bed and burrows herself against my frame, on top of our covers. I often wake up to her snoring and cuddling in, her length matching me from my chest to just above my knees (to give you an idea of how big she is, I am 5’8″). She likes to play chase games, and can somehow recognize when I am ill or sad, expressing what I assess to be sympathy in the form of exaggerated nudges and long stares. She tries to scare me sometimes by popping out of absurd hiding places, she chases me and also runs to greet me at the door when I come home from work – which I thought was more of a dog thing, but who am I to categorize.
Although she is only eight, the thought of losing her moves me in ways that I don’t typically identify with internally. Not much gets to me, but the bond that I have with her creates a bizarre auto-sad response at the thought of it. If I could clone her, I really would.
Who knew that such a fugly cat with such a bad attitude and reputation could have turned out so well? Would we have picked her had I been there? Would I have sneered in her direction out of ignorance, having never owned an animal before? Would I strike against cleaning myself if I was condemned to live for a few weeks in a small cage that smells of urine? And how often does this happen, where for trivial reasons, we decide that certain animals are unworthy of living with us, that we otherwise may have loved wholeheartedly had we given them the chance?
Later, I would truly realize how complicated and harsh this system is within a pet store near our place, as a family of four chose to forego a beautiful golden retriever in front of me, based on the fact that he had already lived two of the expected 15 years he would live, thus “losing value,” according to the parents. I was only there to buy cat food, but left feeling scarred and sorry for that dog.
Before you decide on an animal, make sure you are serious and try not to judge too quickly. Often times as we have learned, animals simply require respect and love to feel healthy and happy. Just like humans.
What have your adoption experiences been like? Let me know in the comments!
Also, if this article made you feel things, you may enjoy: ‘What to Consider Before Breaking Up‘.