While I certainly don’t condone their actions, my heart goes out to animal hoarders who genuinely believe they are helping - even “saving” - the creatures in their care. But it always seems to end in multi-species tragedy, as the hoarder is heartbroken when the animals are taken away, and the animals struggle to recover from the trauma of living in filthy, sardine-tight conditions (if they’re lucky enough, that is, to have a chance to recover).
Last week we had the privilege of giving four cats precisely that chance. This quartet was pulled from the infamous million-dollar, feces-filled home in Chester, NJ this spring, and landed in a public shelter overwhelmed by the influx of 100+ frightened new felines. When room opened up at Tabby’s Place for four Chester survivors, the shelter sent us two deeply bonded pairs of young cats: “the girls” and “the boys.”
When cats first come to Tabby’s Place, their initial reactions to us range from “I love you already!” to “I hate my life and everyone I see!”, with a vast range of timid, curious and hopeful reactions in the middle. These four precious survivors were, quite simply, terrified. For the girls, fear manifested as frozenness, while the boys were more inclined to thrash and kick everything in sight (quickly making their new abode look like a boys’ dorm room).
There’s going to be a long road ahead in getting the Chester Four to trust us. After all, why should they? Life hasn’t offered them many reasons to trust humans - yet. But, in what I like to see as an act of faith that sweeter days are ahead for this quartet, we’ve given the frightened four some of the yummiest names at Tabby’s Place: Twinkie (a tiny orangey-brown tabby girl), Cupcake (her black-and-white best friend), Trifle (a tabby boy with a Brando-esque big round head) and Strudel (Trifle’s BFF, a fellow tabby with a splash of white on his nose and chin).
A few days into their new lives at Tabby’s Place, the Chester Four (aka the Dessert Kids) are getting megadoses of “love therapy.” Even as the boys kick their food and water dishes around their “room” in terror, and the girls huddle at the back of their cages, our associates are building it into their schedules to pet, cuddle and just talk to these cats. I was especially touched when, a few days ago, Kelly came into the Community Room and announced, “you know, I just love Trifle.”
“Trifle?” someone asked. “That’s the really angry one, isn’t it?”
“Yeah,” Kelly smiled.
Now, to give you a sense of Kelly’s spirit, she was the one who wrote “I LOVE RUSTY!” on Rusty’s cage card when the little marmalade-and-white dynamo first arrived - this being an era of his frantically escaping his cage on a daily basis, biting wildly, and using his claws to leave his permanent mark on any approaching arm.
But that’s love, I keep learning: letting ourselves get smitten before our beloved cat can let himself believe our love is real, and before he or she can return it.
There’s no way to tell how long it will be before the Dessert Kids can finally trust that, this time, the humans are on their side for good. But, long before that day, they’ve got our love in abundance.
And ain’t love delicious?