“No,” was my firm reply for the last five years each time Malcolm asked for a cat. "No!" It wasn’t because I disliked cats, it was the itchy eyes and sneezing I disliked. This all changed one warm July evening when Perry entered our lives. After a busy weekend at the hospital, I walked to my car on the third level of the parking ramp. From a distance, I saw little white feet on the rear tire. My brain immediately spinning, “what animal has white feet?”
Once I got to my car, I squatted down and looked underneath all the wheels. Nothing. Weary from my long shift, I shrugged my shoulders and climbed into the driver’s seat. Whatever it was, must have scampered off. All the way home my mind repeated the question, what kind of animal has white feet? A possum? A skunk? I kept thinking some wild creature had spent all day underneath my car.
I arrived home and our dog Jack, a West Highland/mini-Schnauzer mix, greeted me at the door, tail wagging. Then, we went out to the backyard to play fetch. My twelve-year-old daughter, Emily, came out and we threw balls back and forth.
“Mom, there is a kitten on the back tire of the car.”
“What?” Before I got any closer, Jack ran around the corner, and the kitten shot out of the garage. After a long search, we gave up. I thought the kitten had run down the street. Perplexed I looked under my car, how could the kitten have ridden all the way from Rochester to Zumbrota underneath my car? 25 miles! Sure enough, there was an opening along the axle that led up into the wheel well where the extra tire is stored. A small creature could squeeze into the spot, it appeared we had a stowaway.
The next evening, we again played fetch with Jack. After a couple of tosses we heard a muffled meow. “We have to find that kitten!” After putting Jack in the house, Emily and I increased our search. Following the cries, we turned the canoe over and underneath sat the sweetest ball of black and white fluff with saucer eyes. His cries grew louder, he huddled against the ground, but didn’t run.
“Oh Mom! We have to keep it,” Emily said.
A cat! My allergies! How can we keep a cat? My husband went inside to heat milk in a small dish. As he did this, I thought about my co-worker, who fosters animals for Camp Companion. “We can foster the kitten until we figure out what to do,” I said. John brought the milk out and at first the kitten refused it.
As a NICU nurse, I was confident I knew how to coax a reluctant milk drinker. I stuck my finger into the milk and brought it to the kitten’s mouth. A little pink tongue came out for a taste, then another and another. My daughter picked him up, we made a box for him in the basement with a warm water bottle, and fresh blankets. Throughout the night, we checked on him. The next day, we called our vet, bought kitten formula, and scheduled a checkup.
Shortly after, I learned a group of abandoned kittens were found in the parking ramp the same week Perry crawled into our car and came home with me. Camp Companion was looking for placement for all of them. That meant Perry had no owner searching for him. Throughout the following weeks, as he stalked us, pounced us, and slept in our arms, his sweet bounding energy won our hearts. When Jack, our lover of chasing all things small and rodent like, accepted him, I knew he was here to stay. I increased my allergy medication and I seemed to be able to tolerate a cat after all.
I have adopted the life philosophy as a pet owner, you search for your ideal dog to join your family, but cats are another story, they find you, showing up in your life letting you know you needed them after all.