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The Stray

by Joan Cooper


Didn't want to get another cat. Didn't want him. It was Christmas time and I went to PetsMart on a weekend when they have those cat adoptions. Big mistake.

I, normally, mentally push myself beyond the cages because I don't have room for another. This day however, I hovered over the crowd looking at the cats and kittens. Everyone was frantically filling out paperwork for a kitten, which there were a lot of those. I noticed a fat, yellow cat in the corner cage that no one was looking at or asking about. I went into the windowed area and asked the foster Mom if I could hold this big guy. A big one he was. Almost 14 or 15 lbs. with yellow eyes and yellow/brown stripes. He nestled himself into my arms, was purring and then bit my thumb. I fell in love immediately.

No, no, no. I can't take another cat. I don't have room. I held him for 30 minutes. I told the foster mom I couldn't take him and good luck finding a home for him. He was a wonderful cat and I hoped he got a home. She told me his history. He was always a stray. Was taken in by this rescue group at least three times. They estimated he was about ten years of age but in excellent health. People adopted and took him back because he bit them.

Well, I don't need a cat that bites!

She told me they were opened until 9 pm. To please come back after I thought about it.

I went home, looked at my two cats and thought there was no way they would accept this old man. He was ten years old and my boys were only two and brothers at that. They would not like this.

After I knew the store had closed, I drove back for some odd reason. The parking lot was bare but, there she was. The foster mom, sitting outside on the sidewalk on a lawn chair with a cat cage beside her. It was about 10 pm. Why is she still there??? What is going on? I drove my Honda Civic up to her. She was drinking a glass of iced tea.

She cried when she saw me. She said, "I knew you would come back!"

She was one persistent woman who really loved this cat. I was a sucker. I got out of the car. She reached out her arms for a hug. I hugged her and asked to hold the cat. She had all the paperwork there and even the tools to take my VISA card. I think people like her keep those things in their cars.

She left me crying and telling me what a wonderful thing I had done. I was left with this cat. I got a cardboard box from her with air holes in it to transport him to my home, my cats' home.

I drove home. He yelled all the time and it was only a five-minute drive. I got home. I opened up the box and the cat slowly, very slowly, stepped out of the box. I think he smelled my other cats.

Bobby and Casey were very curious. They followed him around, not growling or hissing or anything, they just were curious and took turns batting at his tail. He, on the other hand, had some nasty hisses and sounds I never knew cats could make.

He immediately ate all their food. Drank and went right into the litter box my cats shared. Then, he planted himself in between the two king-size pillows I have on my queen-sized bed and napped.

Now what? I got on the Net and asked some cat lovers what to do. They said keep him away from my cats until they all get used to each other.

The cat needed a name. He sneezed about every 30 minutes so I named him "Snuffles."

I put him in my walk-in closet, which is a room in itself and he had his own litter box. I had some extras from exploring different boxes for my own cats.

I put toys in the small closet for him to play with but he never touched them. I put cat-nipped stuffed toys in there. He never touched them. He had his own food and water bowls and devoured every morsel of food given him. I gave him cat treats.

Bobby and Casey guarded the closet like good cats and sometimes I saw paws under the door playing a "tag" game. The cats were getting to know each other and "smells".

I take Snuffles or "Snuff" to the vets. He is in good health but has bad teeth and needs some taken out.

During his 'getting to know you period', Snuffles has climbed onto the top shelf of the closet and sleeps on my winter blankets stored. The doors of the closet are opened. Bobby and Casey want to sniff and smell him and play. He ignores them except for hissing and his personal growl. A month goes by.

I am hopeful that this will work out. .

I schedule the dental work - major work to be done. Teeth extracted and he has to be put to sleep for them to do it. I sign all the papers and just want this cat to be okay.

He dies on the operation table. He had a heart problem. The anesthetic did him in. I found out that sneezing and coughing were due to a weak heart after all the years of eating trash, no vet care, no vaccinations, etc.

I cried for weeks. I didn't think I was that attached to him, but apparently I was. Bobby and Casey still look to the top shelf of the closet for Snuffles hissing at them. They seemed to accept him and knew that he was older and wiser. When I think about what that cat's life must have been like living on the streets, eating garbage, having fleas, worms, infections that no one would help heal, I shiver. All that and he died in the care of a vet just trying to help him live longer.

Well, we haven't gotten any other strays. That experience was too much emotionally for me and my cats, but I don't rule out another visit with a persistent foster mom and an elder cat that no one will look at as being welcomed into our home.

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