I grew up around dogs. Every other family on my block had a canine running around their yard — ours included. Thus, it’s no wonder I was a “dog person” for the first two-thirds of my life. In the past decade, however, the feline floodgates opened and the Internet almost buckled under the weight of cat videos, pictures, and GIFs. That is when the cat dad seed was planted in my mind.
Getting Adrienne onboard the kitty train took zero effort. We bonded partly by exchanging cat pics/memes in the years before we started dating. My second Valentine’s Day card to her was a cat I drew and cut out of construction paper. We were both cat fans, but our experience with them was limited. Few people in our friend/family circles had kitties in their own homes. Still, we knew we wanted one and whether or not to buy from a breeder or adopt was never a question.
So, we hopped in the car one faithful Sunday and drove over to the animal shelter. The plan was “just to look.” The shelter itself (Plano Animal Services in Plano, TX for those wondering) was clean and well-run. Each of the staff members cared deeply about every animal. Though most of the staff were volunteers, they ran their operation better than most for-profit businesses. It was refreshing, really.
With confidence in the facility in-tow, Adrienne and I walked down the cat aisle. The kittens immediately caught our eyes (and hearts). A gigantic mixed-breed named Sugar also caught our attention — for a different reason, of course. Yes, we did also take a walk down the dog aisle and, yes, that also tugged at the ole heart strings. Every animal we saw deserved to come home with us and that’s what made the trip difficult. If I had a farm with a giant barn, I would have got a U-Haul and took as many cats and dogs as I could legally take. The funny part about that flood of feels is we weren’t even planning on taking anything home that day. That was the plan, anyway.
He was a tornado in cat form. The one they called “Simba” rolled around his cage strewing newspaper in every direction. “That one!” Adrienne exclaimed as she pressed her face against the glass. They locked eyes. Simba reached out a single, puffy white paw and pressed his pink jellybean pads against the glass. As you can guess, we called over a volunteer and asked for some one-on-one time with our prospective roommate.
“That one!” Adrienne exclaimed as she pressed her face against the glass. They locked eyes. Simba reached out a single, puffy paw and pressed his pink jellybean pads against the glass. As you can guess, we called over a volunteer and asked for some one-on-one time with our prospective roommate.
The playtime was uneventful, for the most part. Simba was tolerant of our petting, but he mainly wanted to play with the toys in the room. We let him do his thing while we watched in admiration. After about 15 minutes, we decided to see if there were any other cats interested in meeting us.
Neither of us remembered exactly where Simba’s glass-front enclosure was, so we both jumped when he rammed his little head into it as we passed. We thought for sure he knocked himself out. I mean, the entire shelter heard the crash. He was fine, though. Another newspaper tornado ensued as he kicked his paws in all directions.
A somewhat stupid thing came out of my mouth, “so… how serious are we about this whole cat thing?”
“You’re kidding, right?” Adrienne was perplexed.
The question was rhetorical. “How much for Simba?” I asked the volunteer.
“Well, he’s a VIP (very important pet) so $15 altogether.”
“What???” Adrienne and I both shouted in surprise.
“You heard right.”
“Why so cheap?”
“Well,” the volunteer sighed. “He’s at least 3-years-old. A lot of people come here looking for kittens. They generally don’t want older cats because they’re afraid of ‘baggage’.”
I couldn’t believe my ears. This sweet, energetic little monster was a victim of ageism. The tag on his cage said he’d been there for at least 4 months. Four months of him reaching out to passersby. Four months of him thinking “are these the ones?”
“What about his last family? What happened?”
“They returned him after thirty days,” the volunteer lamented. “They said he was shy and aloof.”
“I don’t believe so,” the volunteer said. “No more than other cats, anyway. The family also had two young kids and two dogs so… there was a lot of activity in that household.”
Unbelievable. Somebody brought a cat home to a house full of dogs and kids and then returned him to the shelter one month later for being “shy and aloof.” Well, no kidding — I’d be shy and aloof too. Something inside me boiled over. My apprehension disappeared.
“We’ll take him.”
We had to pick up some essentials before we could bring our little buddy home. Since our shelter visit was only supposed to be a recon mission, we weren’t prepared. A quick trip to the local pet store got us everything we needed. Adrienne and I looked at the hot pink pet carrier we bought on sale. “Should we bring it with us?”
“Nah, I’m sure they’ll have a box or something.”
They did. It was literally a box with a handle kind of like a giant Happy Meal. A small, perforated square populated one side. Our guess was that was there for an easy exit when the cat got to its final destination. That was the idea, anyway.
Adrienne held the boxed Simba on her lap as I drove. We barely got to our first stop light when genuine terror kicked in. After some panicked meowing, a fluffy white paw burst out of the cardboard door.
A series of profanity a mile long came out of both our mouths as our passenger burst out.
“Keep him in the box!” I shouted.
“YOU keep him in the box!”
After wiggling out of the entrance, he bounded over the center console and into the back seat of my sedan. Simba dove underneath the passenger seat and dug in. Shocked, we drove home while thinking how exactly we would coax him out. We didn’t have a garage, so we would definitely need to get the beast in the pet carrier to get him in our apartment.
We spent 2 hours in the parking lot. Everything from cat toys, tuna, and catnip was used to try and lure out our little stowaway. We called every cat person we knew for help. Nothing worked. Turns out, ole Simba was fast asleep, oblivious of our attempts to “rescue” him. That’s when we decided to drive back to the shelter.
The staff’s confidence in us as competent cat owners waivered, to say the least. An animal control officer came out and “scruffed” Simba, allowing her to pull him out from under the seat. We immediately put the pet carrier under his body and had the officer lower Simba in. We thanked the staff profusely and assured them we weren’t terrified of this animal that almost caused a 4-car pile-up.
That was almost two years ago. We would happily relive that day again.