The first time I have ever interacted with a cat was when I was five or six years old. My brothers, who are both two years older than me, had horse therapy two days a week, and my parents took me there with them. The boys rode on their horses while I usually wandered around the facility and tried to find something interesting to do.
One day, I walked into the recreational room, and all I really remember of that room was it had toys and coloring books. Those did not interest me, though. Something else captured my attention, or shall I say someone. He was lying with his striped body stretched out on one of the tables, with his front paws poised perfectly in front of him and his green eyes gazing across the room. He was the resident cat of the barn; his name was Tigger, and he was a gray tabby cat. I spent many days there petting him and trying to get him to play with me. I am pretty sure he did not like me since he scratched my hands on multiple occasions. But no matter how many times he was annoyed with me, I loved him. I admired his whiskers and his tail and the touch of his soft fur. And that was when my love for cats started.
I bought and borrowed many books about cats, fascinated by all the different breeds and fur patterns. I watched countless hours of informational videos on the purpose of whiskers, the Jacobson’s organ, and how to take care of Sphynx and other hairless cats. In school, even among the teachers, I was known as the quiet and shy girl who was obsessed with cats. With all of this newfound information about felines collected in my brain, I begged my parents to get me a cat of my own, and I was eventually able to convince them.
So when I was seven years old, we went to a foster home, intending to adopt a black female kitten named Mouser who I had found online. However, when we arrived, the woman who was fostering the kittens told us Mouser was having health problems and was probably not ready to be adopted yet. Instead, she led us into the living room and introduced us to Mouser’s brother.
“This is King, the oldest kitten in the litter,” the woman said as a little gray furball on the carpet meowed. As my parents sat down on the couch to observe the kitten and the mother cat, I picked up one of the stick toys and moved the string down the carpet. The kitten chased after it, and I knew at that moment he would be mine, or more likely, I would be his.
I learned later from the paperwork and photos the woman gave us after we adopted him that King was born in the laundry room, he had a fish hook surgically removed from his paw after it got stuck during a fish aquarium adventure gone wrong, and he was the first of his siblings to do everything from using the litter box to trying his first solid food. He also loved all kinds of human food from corn to cherries to butter. Needless to say, his name fit him, as he was ready for adventures as well as the finest care from his humans.
Two years later, we got another kitten, a Siamese with gray tips and beautiful light blue eyes. We named her Candy. This moment in life was the first time I noticed that each cat has a distinct personality, just like humans. Unlike King, who was a confident goofball, Candy was timid and terrified, at first, of her new surroundings. She huddled in her cat tunnel bed all day and refused to eat solid food, which led me to bottle-feeding her every day with formula until she learned how to eat by herself. It taught me that not all cats have the same needs; each animal progresses through life at different speeds, and that is perfectly okay.
Candy eventually learned how to eat solid food, and although she is still not fond of most of my family, she learned to trust me. King and Candy were my best friends throughout my entire childhood. No matter how stressed I felt after coming home from a long day of school with piles of homework to do, I knew I could always feel calmer by checking on my cats and listening to their soft purrs. Being able to feel the benefits of having cats around helped me value them even more.
One day, when I have a place of my own, I would love to foster kittens and cats so other people can experience having this wonderful pet in their households. I know shelters across the country are in need of foster homes for their animals, and I can use my love and experience for cats in order to help them get adopted. I also would like to help shelters encourage people to consider a cat who is historically less likely to be adopted such as elderly cats and black cats. After all, every cat should get an equal chance of going to a loving home, and I want to help make that a reality.