of 2018, some friends of mine and I met up at a shelter on the Upper East Side
in Manhattan to look at cats. The giant, brand new ASPCA shelter was closed
down for reasons the website wasn’t sharing, so we were at another city shelter
— along with everyone else, it seemed. I met up with my friend, let’s call her
J, and her two teenage twin daughters. The girls immediately went to look at
all the animals, and were already getting misty eyed about the ones that might
not be going home with anyone.
But me, I
was on a mission: I wanted to get a bonded pair of kitties, one of them
possibly being black since I’ve heard that black cats are still harder to adopt
out. (Though it seems that this may be a myth, there were a lot of black
kitties up for adoption.) I wasn’t sure if I wanted kittens or adult cats, but
I knew I wanted cats under the age of six. I was still grieving the loss of my
beloved Oscar, and wasn’t ready to take on senior kitties that maybe had health
there were lots of tags talking about bonded kitties, it was soon obvious that
the shelter wan’t actually focused too much on keeping them together. I was
told by a volunteer that if both cats seemed social, bonded pairs would be
separated and adopted out individually,
in order to give them their best chance at being adopted. I was also told that
if you wanted to get a kitten you’d better show up early, much earlier than we
wandered around trying to find what I was looking for, and I was starting to
think I was going to go home with a single cat (since, unless they are bonded,
most shelters won’t let you adopt two adult cats at once).
teen girls spotted them: two kitties, stuck in the less glamorous cages in the
middle of the hallway, where the “special case” cats were. Two cats,
whose cages had been connected, were curled up together, their backs to the
world, their ears flat, trying everything they could to get away from anyone
who tried to look at them. They were so terrified that the shelter volunteers
draped towels over their cages to give them some privacy.
the only intact bonded pair in the place, and one of them was a black kitty.
Here! the teen girls said. We found what you were looking for!
was, they were too scared to do any sort of visitation, and too scared to even
try to say hello to without hissing. Adopting these two cats would be adopting
A couple I
kept seeing around looking at kitties pulled me aside. Are you looking at those
two cats? They are our second choice. We’d be really happy to see them go to a
happy home. They are very sweet — we can tell!
So now I was
getting big teenage girl eyes, and mopey couple eyes (they ended up going with
a pair of cats that had some health issues and couldn’t be taken home that
day), and these two cats who scrambled at the back of their cages when I tried
to say hi to them.
course, I adopted them. Brooklyn, a tabby, and Savannah, a black kitty.
thing the shelter could tell me was that they were owner surrendered and about
four years old. Good health — a little overweight, and some teeth issues
typical of their age.
girls and my friend helped me carry them home to Brooklyn, no small feat while
holding two cardboard carriers that had to be held just so or they might fall
apart. When I got them home, they stayed in their open boxes until the next
day, when they found hiding places in the living room. I consulted a friend who
fosters cats who said to take them out of their hiding places and put them in
the bathroom — the living room was going to be too much for them. I did, and
it was a traumatic event for all three of us.
after trying to figure out if I should change their names, I landed on calling
them nicknames of their original names: B.K. for Brooklyn, and Savvy for
Savannah. Slowly, they started to come out more, and spend time near me more,
and eventually even let me pet them more.
When I went
to make sure their microchips were transferred over correctly in my name, I
found out that they were listed as lost. The shelter had updated all my
information, but hadn’t updated their status. I found out they were born in
2014, and listed as lost in 2015, and then owner surrendered to the shelter on
their birthday in 2018. As far as what happened to them in between or what
their lives were like, I have no idea. Savvy startles at the sound of an
opening can. Maybe that means something, maybe not. Both do not like to be picked
up (yet). It’s been four months and they are just now able to sit either on my
lap or curled up next to me, and they still run away if I walk in their
direction. Maybe this is all about the trauma of being relocated. Maybe they
are just naturally more skittish than some cats. Maybe something I will never
know about happened to them.
meantime, we keep working on building trust together. In a weird way, I feel
like we are all working through grief together, me getting over the death of
the cat I had before them, them getting over the humans they had before me.
Bonding wasn’t instantaneous for any of us, with me learning to love them as
unique creatures over time and getting used to their specific personalities.
Savvy plays fetch and curls up next to me in the bed but is more shy of
strangers. B.K. is more curious and brave in general, and likes to sleep by my
legs — she wouldn’t let me touch her the first month, but so far is the only
one of the two who can tolerate being on my lap.
I still wonder — and probably always will — about the life they left behind. But I am very glad that we all found each other, even when their sibling rivalry acts up, or they meow loudly in the night just for attention. Theirs is the kind of mystery I can learn to live with.