55: Chosen

55: Chosen

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: My Very Good, Very Bad Cat

Chosen

Fun fact: Cats are very particular about people and will often choose a special someone to bond with.

All my life, my family and I have adopted things — people, wounded animals, strays (both the human and animal variety) — so it shouldn’t be any wonder that we currently have two rescue dogs and a feral cat that followed me home two years ago.

I can remember feeding baby raccoons when I was eight. I can remember researching everything from hermit crabs to baby rabbits to hamsters so that we could make a proper shelter for each and nurse them back to health. When I grew up and became a teacher, I remember carrying a baby squirrel around my classroom when my students brought it in to me after finding it injured.

People were no different… I can remember a Thanksgiving at which we had twenty people, some of whom we didn’t really know, but they had no place to go so we took them in. And there was the Thanksgiving at my sister’s with a mixture of Spanish-speaking immigrants, former inmates, and a couple of elderly people who lived in a nursing home. Both days were full of laughter and unexpected perspective. Then, there’s work. As educators, my mother and I were constantly adopting families and sending bags of food, clothes and books or supplies home with children.

That was my upbringing. The family motto was to leave things, people and places better than we found them. It makes for an unusual life, but it also makes life a rich tapestry of color and emotion and creates a family everywhere one goes.

Last winter was no exception. When I arrived home from work, there was a message waiting for me: “April, your sister has found three stray kittens. It looks like someone has dumped them, and it’s getting cold. We need to catch them and figure out what to do with them.”

I was a dog person and had no idea what do to with a cat. Did I need a laundry basket? How would we attract the kittens so we could catch them? Would they come if we called them, like a dog?

A half-hour later, I drove part of the way down the mountain armed with a laundry basket, towels, a blanket, kibble, tuna, milk, and water. I figured that something had to work. I parked and listened for the faint mewling sound. Nothing. It was cold, too. Really cold. I’d parked on a patch of frozen ground about halfway down the mountain and dreaded the cold trek back up. As I began to walk toward the woods, I noticed a little flash of white. I stopped in my tracks on the empty winding road and saw a small head peer out at me. It was black and white and about the size of my palm. I said, “Come,” and out popped this little ball of fur, maybe four pounds soaking wet. She walked across the street and sat down beside my feet as if to say, “I’m ready. Let’s go.” I tried this again to reach the others, but to no avail. I decided to put this little lady in the car so I wouldn’t have to chase her around later, and when I opened the car door, she climbed in and sat primly in the front seat.

My sister managed to catch another one of the kittens that day and gave her to an elderly lady nearby who was lonely. That cat has been wearing knitted, matching dresses and bonnets ever since.

I caught the final one, the tiniest, the next day, and he went to one of my students, a little boy whose father had recently lost his fingers in an accident. The boy’s mother and I had decided that a kitten would be the perfect new companion for the boy, and that evening, I managed to get the kitten out of the drainpipe where he’d been hiding with the remains of the food and the blanket I’d left after trying to coax him out for hours the previous day.

I still had to find a place for the first kitten we rescued, the prim little miss who was now residing in my home. I pulled out my cell phone and pulled up Facebook, asking for suggestions from my friends and family. I didn’t know anything about cats and wasn’t sure where to take her. The unanimous response was, “I’m sorry, but cats are different… it sounds like you’ve been chosen.”

Over the weeks, my little cat flourished. I named her Jane (as in Jane Austen) for her pretty manners, and I trained her like a dog. (As humans, we stick to what we know.) She can sit, never scratches, doesn’t eat treats, never snarls at the vet, and likes to have conversations. She likes boxes, loves the shower, talks to the neighborhood birds, and only chews on the dogs’ tails when playing. We travel together, and she’s learning to walk on a leash. Each night, as I fall asleep, she puts one paw on each side of my hand, and reminds me that I’ve been chosen.

~April Riser

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