There’s a certain wall you need to build when you love as many cats as we do at Tabby’s Place.
It can’t keep you from loving them, and it doesn’t keep your heart from breaking a thousand times when they leave you. It’s good for just one, very necessary thing: keeping you from adopting them all.
But, however well-built your wall may be, sometimes one of them still gets through.
I thought my wall was sure. Hand-crafted by a well-meaning mason, it stood tall, silent and wise around Dibbles, Pippa and me. My wall was formed from the smooth, strong stones of reason and sanity and my landlord’s two-cat limit. One particularly steady boulder was called “finances,” and the biggest, sturdiest one of all bore the inscription, “Dibbles and Pippa’s happiness.”
I thought it was impenetrable. My wall had resisted some of the great loves of my life – Mittens, Drizzle, Angelina, Brando, Grady.
We had already decided, my wall and I, that the next cat to join my family would probably be many years and dollars away. He or she would be a hard-luck kid, an older cat, maybe a diabetic like me. Anything but one of those infinitely adoptable, effusively adorable kittens. They were sure to get homes elsewhere, and quickly. No, my heart and home would open to an older orphan
But sometimes it takes someone small to slip through a crack in the wall.
It had been, by all accounts, a rubbishy week. First China left us, then Nickey, then a brutal upper respiratory infection (URI) swept the Community Cats and human beans and left everyone pooped, snorkely and grumpy. Right around that time, I acquired a new lap fungus.
Now, before you race off to WebMD to learn about my rare condition, allow me to explain a lap fungus. Originally bestowed upon Lillian, this fond honorific describes any feline who spends long, luxurious stretches of time attached to a human lap, preferably while purring loudly.
My particular fungus?
A one-eyed wonder named…sigh…Flora.
And it wasn’t enough for her to just sit in my lap. She stayed in my lap…and stayed and stayed, all through the morning. With no need to bite or sprint or go buck-wild like the other kittens, Flora was content to remain a purring puddle of preciousness in my arms. Every so often, she’d squint open her eye, take gentle hold of the button on my sweater, and begin sucking on it, as kittens will often do when they’ve been separated from their mamas too early.
And the look in Flora’s eye?
“Are you my mama?”
Oh, mamma mia. I was in trouble. Dibbles and Pippa were in big trouble.
I’m not sure what got me into the danger zone. I’ve held numberless purry kittens and happily lost my heart to countless feline love-bugs. In nearly three years, I’ve weathered so many “oh-mah-goodness, I-must-adopt-this-cat” storms. Each had passed over me like a wave. Sanity always prevailed, and the selfish, spontaneous adoption was always averted. But something about Flora’s gentleness, her old-lady-in-a-tiny-body snooziness, was balm to my very soul.
“Angela…you can’t do this,” Sanity hollered in my ear. “There’s a great home waiting out there for Flora.”
Yes, my heart responded, mine! That’s got to be the reason she hasn’t been scooped up yet. It doesn’t make sense otherwise.
“But what about your landlord?”
I can wear him down!
“But your apartment is tiny.”
Not too tiny for three cats and one human bean.
“But…Dibbles and Pippa.”
Sanity had me there. And Sanity held me pinned there for much of the day, torn between the angel in my arms and the well-being of my faithful babies back home. Sanity held me back until an afternoon meeting with J, a wonderful member of our Development Council and an extraordinary rescuer in her own right.
I brought “my” Flora into our meeting, and she happily investigated Jonathan’s office as we talked. Sometime during our conversation, Flora found her way into J’s lap. After J left, I scooped Flora back up and held her as I shared my dilemma with Jonathan.
“I can’t believe I’m considering this,” I confessed. “I never thought I’d do this. I’m comfortable with two cats. I know I can handle any medical emergency Dibbles and Pippa have, but a third cat…I don’t know. I never want to have more cats than I can confidently give the very best of everything. But I love her.”
I poured forth my angst. Jonathan was quite patient.
And painfully, perfectly wise.
“My thinking,” he offered, “is that you’ve always gotta be loyal to the cats you have.”
So simple, but so true. It was just the caulk needed to seal the crack in the wall.
I returned to my desk, only to find an e-mail from J’s husband, R.
“Angela,” he wrote, “J just called and told me about a kitten named Flora she was playing with at Tabby’s Place. We want to adopt her. Will you put her on hold for us?”
Home found. Wall sealed. Heart broken…but that’s part of letting it love and be loved.
When I got home, weary from my heart’s convolutions that day, I was greeted by the two angelic faces I love more than words can ever say. I melted into a puddle of hugs and kisses and gratitude for Pippa and Dibbles. “I will always be loyal to you,” I promised them.
And so the tough, right answer prevailed.
Between now and the time she leaves for her forever home with J and R, I will make the most of each day with “my” Flora. I asked uber-volunteer P.D. to take some pictures of “my” kitten and me, as a memory of the real bonds we build in even a short time…and the tough, right choices we must make out of love.
Until the next one sneaks through the cracks.